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Working Together for the Common Good ~real practical life in action! February 12, 2016

In December, our kindergarten and elementary students were invited to participate in a program called ‘Kids Give.’  This program is organized by a local group, “The Alternative Giving Market of the Palouse,” and in 2015 the money to fund the ‘Kids Give’ program was donated by our local Food Co-op through their ‘dime a bag’ giving program.  Each time a shopper brings reusable bags to the Co-op, a dime is donated to a local non-profit.  So

already you can see a large group of people working together for the common good ~ a local non-profit, a local Food Co-op, and all of the shoppers who donate their dimes.

The Kids Give program gives each participating class $50 to donate to a local non-profit.  The children learn about what each charity is about, and then through small and large group discussions, the children come to consensus about how to donate their $50.  This is a kid friendly introduction to the concept of philanthropy.  And children are so naturally generous and excited to get involved.  This is a second year for our school to be involved, and both times the children have responded with, “What else can we do?”  In 2014, the children decided to work for donations at home by completing extra chores, and some also brought money from their own piggy banks and ‘tooth-fairy’ money.

This year, the children have been enjoying cooking meals together, so they decided to cook and serve a lunch for donations.  This project involved so many skills – choosing a menu, setting the date, advertising the event, lots of food prep work (slicing, dicing, stirring, whisking, measuring, timing, mixing, serving . . .), setting up our ‘pop up café’, clean up, money work (donations – cost of ingredients = amount to donate), and more group discussions and decision making about where to donate the money raised.

The children prepared penne pasta with made from scratch creamy garlic alfredo sauce, salad, chocolate brownies and strawberries.  The food was delicious, and the whole school smelled like an authentic Italian restaurant.  The children served about fifty lunches, including serving themselves!   You can see from the photos how busy they all were.

This project fitted in so well with our values – child-centered, love of learning, community, diversity and dignity.  The children were excited, proud and enjoyed all of the tasks involved.  They worked together in teams, building their sense of community.  The project was the kids’ idea, and they were deeply involved in every step, so it was definitely child-centered.  I really love it when children experience the dignity of real work and are able to work together as a community for the greater good of the larger community.

As a side note, several families have told me that their child is now cooking dinner for the whole family on a regular basis.  Scrambled eggs, made-from -scratch macaroni and cheese, English muffin mini-pizzas, salad, grilled cheese sandwiches . . . all made with love by a child.  What could taste better than that!

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What Moms Can Do May 8, 2015

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We recently celebrated Mom’s Day at school, and what an invitation to work this was for the children! Gifts to make and wrap, cards to draw and color, name tags to write, songs to learn, decorations to make for the windows and walls of the room, centerpieces of flowers to arrange, shortbread to bake, cream to whip and strawberries to slice, tables and chairs to carry and move, tables to set, and finally, lots of clean up. Our elementary aged students provided a lot of community service to the school by working as servers at the teas for the younger students and their Moms.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! One Mom told me that her child counted down the days until the tea. “Mom, only two days to go.” “Mom, only one more day!” He told his Mom that he wanted to dress up, including wearing his church shoes and tie, and asked Mom to dress up, too.  The children were all buzzing with excitement – and the Moms were, too!

The children were provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their grace and courtesy – remembering to say please and thank you, to pass the small bowls and plates of cookies, whipped cream and strawberries around the table, to use the tongs and small spoons for serving, to drink from china or glass tea cups. to take turns conversing . . .

One of our school’s values is ‘community.’ This was a true community effort, with all of the children, teachers and classes pitching in to help. And when I saw Moms and children lingering in the afternoon sun, sitting on benches outside of the school and conversing, I realized that the tea helps build community by providing parents an opportunity to meet and converse. The tea also builds our communal memory of shared events.

The children in the classes for 3 – 6 year olds even wrote two community poems. Each child contributed a line to the poem, based on ‘What Moms can do.” I love the way the children have captured the very essence of what it means to be a Mom ~ all of the love, caring, fun, learning, strength, responsibility, and yes, even vulnerability. For sure the poems show that the children are watching and appreciating what we do!

Enjoy!

What Moms can do

By Aspen Class – spring 2015

Grocery shop

Feed me

Give me food

Pack lunches

Bake fish

Cook us breakfast

Make me pancakes

Bake yummy stuff

Clean the dishes

Take me to school

Take me to the park

The pirate park

The playground

Take me bowling with my family

Take me to Zeppoz for the very first time

Color with me

Write

Tape my pictures up on the wall

Buy me new toys

Play with me

Build an igloo

Plant flowers

Snuggle me up in my bed

Snuggle with me

Snuggle

Tuck me in

Give me goodnight kisses

Take care of me when I am sick

Wake me up

Give me hugs

We thank you for all of the wonderful things you do!

Mom, I love you!

“What Moms Can Do”

Willow Classroom

Spring 2015

Sew and needle.

Knit me a scarf

Wash dishes

Clean the walls

Cook dinner

Make something that I want

Teach me how to write

Write things for me

Help me do arts and crafts

Play piano with me

Put on a show and put on music

Turn on “Rooftops step in time”

Play a game with me

Let me play with my toys

Wash the car on hot days

Pick up a couch with my dad

Ride her bike with a helmet

Put the recycling out

Use a pitchfork

Juggle anything

Some things are too heavy for her

My mom can get sick

My mom can come back to me

and she can kiss me

My mom can

My mom loves me

And I love my Mom!

 

Ms. Colleen works her magic! August 10, 2012

 Change is difficult, so I can quite understand the rollercoaster of emotions Ms. Colleen experienced when the school board decided to expand our school to include a class for two year olds.  The plan is to convert our former After Care room into an environment especially prepared for children aged two to three years of age, and move our After Care program into our largest Montessori classroom.  Ms. Colleen has been running our After Care program since 2001, and she has a lot of materials to move . . . so, it is no surprise that on Tuesday she felt like quitting!  By Wednesday, as she organized the After Care activities on mobile shelves and storage units, that can be wheeled easily out of her storage room, directly into the classroom, she started to get excited, and by Thursday, she was talking about having cake and ice-cream to celebrate!

I love to watch people ‘do their stuff’ . . . whatever it is they are good at, whether that be cooking, gardening, painting, dancing, working a room . . . Ms. Colleen is so good at preparing an environment that is magical and inviting to children.  Dragon puppets peep down from a higher shelf, a fleet of emergency vehicles are lined up to race to the rescue, dressing up clothes are hung, tea sets and purses and suitcases are ready for games of make-believe, there are art materials galore – paints, crayons, colored pencils, glue, papers of various colors, and so much more.

Now I can’t wait to see our new After-Care program in action, with the children all engaged in the wonderful activities that encourage creativity, group interaction and help develop social skills.  Ms. Colleen’s goal was to prepare an environment that is attractive, inviting and magical.  Thanks, Ms. Colleen . . . you are a magician!

 

Let’s talk about food! August 4, 2012

 

Our children have never been picky eaters.  Partly this might be because their parents had such healthy appetites they knew that if they left any food, our response would be, “Oh goody, more for us!”  I was also lucky to work at a childcare center owned by a nutritionist.  She gave me lots of tips on healthy eating for children, and her advise really fits in well with the Montessori practices of following the child, allowing the maximum amount of freedom within a very structured environment, and allowing children to make their own choices and develop their independence.  Here are some suggestions for healthy eating:

  • Serve all of the food, including dessert, at the same time.  Then there is no opportunity to bribe a child with dessert for finishing eating the main course.
  • Make sure all of the food served is healthy, including dessert (fresh fruit, canned fruit in 100% fruit juice, apple sauce, yoghurt, milk pudding, rice pudding – dessert can be an important source of vitamins and dairy for a child).  This allows the child to only make healthy choices.
  • Serve food family style and allow your child to pass food bowls and serve him or herself.  If a child has control over the food on the plate, he or she is more likely to try a little taste of something new.  Never force a child to try something new, but remind him or her that it can take four or five tastes on different occasions before a food is liked.
  • Involve your child in food preparation – growing, harvesting, grocery shopping, cooking, serving.  We are growing cherry tomatoes, squash, radish, corn, ‘jack o’ lantern’ pumpkins, beans and strawberries at school.   Strawberries and cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden, warmed by the sun, are unbeatable for taste!  The children have been gobbling up all of the produce they have grown in their gardens.
  • When you are at the grocery store and farmers’ markets, allow your children to choose some of the items you will buy and serve to your family.  Ask them, “What looks good to you?”
  • Have a standby that your child can prepare for him/herself as an alternative to the meal.  Our children could always fix a PBJ sandwich or have cereal and milk as an alternative.  This prevents mealtimes becoming a battle scene between parents and children.  There is no pressure to eat the meal as the child can always fix the alternative.  The child can still sit at the table and enjoy the conversation and does not have to go to bed hungry.
  • Involve your child in lunch preparation.  We had a chart of food choices for lunch.  Our kids could choose a fruit /vegetable (fresh or juice or apple sauce or canned fruit, dried fruit, salad, vegetable sticks), a dairy (cheese stick, pot of cottage cheese, milk, yoghurt), a protein (peanut butter – in a sandwich, or for dipping fruit into, or spreading on celery – now we would use tahini or almond butter, hard boiled egg, cheese, chicken) and a carb (crackers, cereal, bread, bagel, muffin).   So a lunch might be bowl of cereal, pot of blueberries, thermos of milk, cheese stick . . . or tahini sandwich, yogurt and apple juice . . . or cheese and crackers, grapes and milk . . . or salad and cottage cheese and canned peaches . . . or leftover slice of vegetable lovers pizza and fruit juice . . .rice/pasta salad with hard boiled eggs and cheese . . . the combinations are endless!
  • Prepare lunch the night before.
  • I always made the salad first for dinner and left it on the table as I prepared the rest of the meal.  Our children were at their after-school hungriest and would graze through the salad as dinner was prepared.  For many years, all that was left of the salad for my husband and I were leaves.  All of the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, celery, mushrooms, etc., had already been eaten.  This was a small price to pay for knowing that our children had eaten a lot of raw vegetables.
  • When your child says, “I don’t like onions, peppers, mushrooms,” etc., try using the blender to disguise the unloved ingredients.  We served so many of the unloved food items in spaghetti sauce just by blending them until they couldn’t be recognized!  My husband and I ate the unblended version for texture!
  • Invite your children’s friends over for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Make mealtimes fun.

My family still loves to grocery shop, cook and eat together.  All of my children love to cook.  They continue to eat very well.  I love this photo of one of my daughters inhaling the smell of fresh produce.  We love the smell, texture and taste of fresh produce!

 

At the heart of family life – practical life activities March 19, 2012

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Ah, when I see photos like this, they bring back such happy memories.  They also occasionally make me feel like a bad Mom!  What was I thinking – allowing my baby boy, then aged about fifteen months, now twenty-four years old, to stand on a chair, washing dishes at the kitchen sink.  But he never fell, and he loved the time he spent at that sink – playing with bubbles, pouring, rinsing.  With help, he was already participating in the daily life and chores of the family.  My daughter Anna was even younger when she loved to help make soup.  She would sit on the counter and transfer the vegetables I chopped – onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, zucchini, celery – into the big soup pot.

This photo was taken in our family home in Arlington, Texas.  The home had a large kitchen, connected directly to the den.  This was a favorite hangout of all of the neighborhood kids.  They loved to come to help cook and bake.  We made individual pizzas, peeled and sliced carrots, and baked bread and cookies together.  Another favorite activity was to play laundry.  I would set up a few bowls for washing and rinsing dolls’ clothing, and a clothes horse out in the yard for drying the clothes.  After the laundry sessions, we would wash and dry the floor of the den.  Thank goodness it was linoleum.  On good weather days (frequent in Texas), the whole laundry was set up out of doors.

You know how when you have a party, it’s hard to get people out of the kitchen?  There’s a reason for that.  The kitchen is the heart of a home.  Invite your children to spend time with you in the kitchen, on worthwhile chores.  That will make good memories for you for the future.  Even now, when my grown up children return home for a visit, we spend a lot of time shopping, chopping, cooking and eating together.    The kitchen and practical life are still at the heart of the family!