Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bare Bones

Welcome back!  I delivered my third daughter a few weeks ago and everyone is happy and healthy.  My two big girls- G and g - are thrilled to have a baby in the house.  I was a bit concerned about g, being that she's used to being the baby, but she's the most gaga out of us all!  Happy days ahead with three beautiful girls.

Here we are mid-summer and I'm already thinking about school.  I've planned out a third of the school year and I've started making some new work for the fall.  About this time of year, I start getting itchy to get back into the classroom.  I'm taking it easy and enjoying being at home, but my classroom is my passion!  If only everyone can say that about their work- I'm truly blessed.

At the end of every year, most Montessori teachers put away all of their materials.  They are cleaned, polished, and tucked away for safe storage.  (Check out the prices of the materials and you'll know why teachers treat them like gold.)  I've always wanted to get the children involved in that process, providing them with closure for the school year.  However, my school runs a summer camp and many of the materials are used during that program.  This means that I have to spend many hours in the classroom the week before school starts putting most of the materials away.  That's right, they stay away when the children come on the first day.

Why the bare bones for the start of the school year?  We like for the children to come into the room with a fresh start.  Full shelves can be very overwhelming for a young child.  Montessori children are taught the first days of school that they must have a lesson on a work in order for it to become a choice.  It is very difficult to police that rule when there are so many choices available.  It's also exciting for the children to see how many activities are gradually put out over the course of the year.

So, what then, do we put out those first days of school?  I know of some teachers who put out a bin of toys.  The children are free to choose from the bin.  New work is gradually put out on the shelves, and the teachers notice that the bin of toys is typically left untouched after a few days.  At that time, the teacher takes the bin away and continues adding Montessori materials.  I have never tried this method, I just don't like the thought of an unorganized bin of toys sitting in the middle of my classroom.  Instead, I usually put out Melissa and Doug-type puzzles and activities, gradually removing them and replacing them with "real" Montessori work.  I experimented last year; however, and was very surprised.  I put out play dough, simple art projects, and a few beginning Montessori materials.  I gave many lessons that first week on the Mont. materials and the children were very enthusiastic about the work.  I think I'll try that again this year in hopes that it wasn't just a fluke.  I wish I had a picture of the bare classroom to show you.  I'll try to remember to post one in September when school starts.  I'd love to post a before and after in June too!

I'm hoping to post more often now, so be sure to check back soon!

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