Learning with Play

Botany~ Flowers

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Well this is it! I am officially here to let you know that our school year is over! Ok…for right now! 😉 I have grand plans for an ocean study before we head there on vaction, but for all intensive purposes we are all done! This week we wrapped up our botany lessons by talking about flowers! Honestly it was a really fun lesson and great way to end the year! Bunny loved it and so did Pup! We even threw in a field trip to the Botanical Gardens! Bunny really seemed to absorb all the information that she needed to. We started off by talking about the parts of a flower. I was so excited to have received a beautiful boquet of flowers for Mothers Day. It had Lilys, Crsanthimums, roses, and carnations. It was the perfect way to explore all different kinds of flowers. We started with lily since it is the perfect flower to see the all the parts. After we diseceted the flower, Pup matched the parts of the flower to the nomenclature cards. Bunny and I labled them and added the parts of the the pistil and the stamen. Bunny really like this and we ended up dissecting about 6 flowers! While Bunny was working on the flowers we were able to talk about the different kinds of flowers, like the compound flower and the perfect flower, since we were working with so many different varieties.

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The next day, I pulled out some q-tips to tlk about pollination of flowers and what flowers are for! The idea came from here and the q-tip was colored yellow to represent the bee. We then moved the bee from flower to flower to show how the pollen needs to move from flower to flower. The girls loved this. We talked about how the pollen travels down the pistil to form a new seed. It was fun to “see” how this happened. I was able to go out to our garden and see the overy of the daffidols swollen up and the flower dead after it was pollonated. We also cut one open to see the seeds starting to form. Don’t you love it when the perfect learning materials are right where you need them?

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We ended the study with a trip to the botanical gardens! There wasn’t too much in bloom yet since the bulbs are mostly done and the preneinals are just getting planted, but there was tons of great stuff to look at! We had some friends join us which always makes it more fun! 🙂

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Here is our friend discovering a robin’s nest in the tree! There were eggs! We quickly left after that, but I did manage to grab a picture! 🙂

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As you can see we had a great time! With their interest in the flowers we managed to cover quite a lot our Botany album in a very short amount of time. It was a really fun way to learn and play at the same time! Happy Schooling (and almost summer)! I linking up over at the Weekly Kids Co-Op, Virtual Montessori Fair, and The Ultimate Homeschool Link Up!

PS: As you can see, I am still having some issues working out the pictures! I promise to get it worked out soon! 🙂

 

Practical Life Potato Fun!



Yes you read that right, Potato fun! Today Bunny had her standardized test and it was my job to help keep Pup and my sister happy and occupied! Well while I browsed for ideas and found that potato flakes make awesome sensory play material! We we just had to try it, plus it is something that works really well for most practical life activities! So I thought that they would love pouring, scooping, transferring, and yes…dumping these flakes! They loved it! They worked together serving each other, they poured from big containers to smaller one, they scooped into a cups and bowls, and so many other things! It was so fun, the other kids just had to play too once the kids were all done with their test.

 
Fun right! It was, as you can see a huge mess! However the hose seemed to clean it all up! Simple, messy, easy fun! Plus you get some awesome practical life practice!
On the testing, it seemed that Bunny did really well! She got a wee bit tired, but didn’t seem to think it was awful! I am so proud of her!
 

Happy Schooling (and playtime)!


Montessori Holy Week~ Monday

 
It is the beginning of Holy Week and many Christians are preparing to think about and reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. However, when you are thinking about it with small children, its hard to know what to say so they can appreciate it and yet not much that they are disturbed or scard! Sofia Cavalletti came up with a brilliant idea that allows the children to think about the story. We have in the Atrium we have a city of Jerusalem map. The map has a main board, a control map, and movable pieces. The work is out only during lent and the Easter season. Here are a few tips on using a work like this at home. I have adapted the traditional presentation for home use. Please know that going to an Atrium and seeing the work first hand can never be substitute and many Atriums are more then happy to have you stop by for a visit or even join! If you want to find an Atrium near your, you can visit http://www.cgsusa.org/. Now on to the practical points of the presentation.
 
Preparation:
This presentation require a small map of the city of Jerusalem. In the atrium, we have a city on a board with a control chart to move the pieces to. There is a wall around the city, the Tower of Antonio (where Pilate lived), the Temple with a wall around it, Herod’s Palace, the House of Caiaphas, the Cenecle (or upper room), Garden of Olives, Calvary, and the Tomb of the Resurrection. Now I figure that you are all not going to have this work laying around your house. So it is more then possible to make it up with whatever you may have! Use building blocks, Legos, wood scraps, heck, even use the red rods! What you want to to create the walls of the city like the ones in the pictures above. Then you will need some buildings. The Tower of Antonio is part of the  top right of the wall. The temple is across from the Garden of Olives and the Cenecle is at the far end of the city. Just set it up according to the pictures above. Then you are ready to tell the story.
 
Presentation:
1. Using the sandpaper globe, point out where the Land of Israel is to the child. “This is the land of Israel. This is where Jesus lived when he was on earth. Now we cont see all the mountains and roads and towns can we? No, So here is a map of the city of Jerusalem. This was a very important city because Jesus came here to teach and pray. It is also where he died and rose again.”
 
2. Next start to point out the different pieces of city and walk the child through the city following Jesus. If you have a control chart, move the pieces after you mention each piece. Here is an idea of what to say.
“Why do you think that the city is surrounded by walls? Yes it helps to protect it from bad things. There was a big wall around Jerusalem to keep it safe. There is also a wall around the temple. The temple was a really important place for the Jewish people to come pray. The wall protects the temple too.”
“On plan Sunday, Jesus came into the city. Maybe he came in on one of these road. On Holy Thursday, Jesus went to the cenecle with his disciples to celebrate the Passover. While there were there he blessed the bread and told his disciples that this was his body. Then he took the wine and gave it to his disciples saying this is my blood. After singing a song of praise to God, they left for the Garden of Olives”
“At the Garden of Olives, Jesus prayed. While he was praying, the soldiers came and arrested Jesus. They thought he was a bad man.”
“So they took him to the House of Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the priest who was a leader in Jerusalem. He asked Jesus alot of questions, but Jesus didnt answer them. Since Pilate was in charge, Caiaphas sent Jesus to him.
“Pilate lived in the Tower of Antonio. It is the tallest building in the city and build into the wall so he can look down and see everything. When they brought Jesus to the Pilate, Pilate talked to Jesus and realized that there was nothing bad about him. So he decided to send Jesus to King Herod who was in charge of land where Jesus lived.”
“So off to King Herod’s Palace they went. King Herod had always wanted to meet Jesus and see one of his miracles. But when King Herod asked Jesus questions, Jesus didnt say anything, so Herod told the people that he saw nothing wrong with Jesus. So he sent him back to Pilate.”
“Pilate told all the people again that He saw nothing wrong with Jesus. The people didnt like that. So Pilate gave Jesus the cross to carry to Calvary.”
“Jesus walked the road to Calvary with his cross. When he got there, he was put on the cross and died.”
“When Jesus died, they took his body and buried it in the tomb. It looked like the light went out of the world forever. But did Jesus stay dead? No! That’s right, he rose again! (Light a candle) and the light came back into the world! What a wonderful thing. What do you think we can say to Jesus while we think about this? (allow time for the child to offer a prayer or thanks to God). This is why Easter is a celebration, a happy time! You can use the map to think more about the story. You could draw your own city or you can write a prayer.”
 
This is a simple version of what we do in the Atrium with the children. I love this because there are things to do, things to touch and see, and the children can connect with the story of salvation without worrying about the pain of death. I hope that this will give you a way to live the story of Jesus with your children this week! It is amazing to me that each time this work is done, I can see the story come alive for the children and their little tiny prayers are always ones of thanks and love for Jesus! It is a beautiful thing! Again, if you have the opportunity, go to your local Atrium and see the work that allows the Lord to speak to their hearts!
 
If you want to see more amazing Montessori fun, be sure to stop by the Montessori Monday link up! I am there partying, so you should to! Happy Holy Week!

Montessori Monday~ Playtime and Montessori



Last week Pup was working more on her Cheetah project and as I worked with Bunny I realized that she was crawling all over the room with her stuffed cheetah in her mouth. She told me that it was her cub and she was the momma cheetah. She then proceeded to hide her cub in the tall grass and go hunting {Which was too cute}. She crept along the floor and then started to run on her hands and knees as fast as she could! She then brought her cub back some of the gazelle she caught. It was really sweet, but it got me thinking about play in the Montessori classroom. Traditionally Montessori classrooms dont have play as we know it. However, Montessori referred to the work a child does as play and games. Each and every work that was created was created to be play. Hmmm…it makes the whole view of Montessori just a little bit different, less ridged, and more accessible to me personally. However, it didnt address the issues of imaginary play. Honestly, Maria Montessori didnt believe that children needed that in the classroom. Why? That is the big question. Why no imaginary play? Well she observed that the child would rather learn to use the real material then to play with the toys that were in her first Casa. And you know what, she was right! Kids would rather help in the kitchen, then play with a kitchen set. Or they would rather sweep a real floor then use a pretend sweeper and rather wash themselves then wash a doll. But they cant always be using real things in a real place. Kids need down time too. They need to play. In observing my own kids and other kids, they love to work, but they also need to play. In fact sometimes their play is a reflection of what they have been thinking about and learning about, like Pup being a cheetah. They need the down time to absorb more fully the deep things that they were presented with, to explore new ideas, and to relax. Now these are just my observations, but I think that this is one of those “aha moments” that make me realize again that a Montessori homeschool is vastly different from a school. Playtime and work start to become the same thing and all an important part of total learning. So how do we make playtime and Montessori work together? Here are a few tips on what we do to make this work together:

1) Keep it simple We have mostly open ended toys. I have gotten rid of any movie or character toys and most toys that move, need batteries, and all that little junk stuff that seems to filter in!  We kept the blocks, the trains, the kitchen toys, the dolls, the Barbies, the Playmobiles, the Polly Pockets, animal models, and of course Legos! Everything has many ways to play with it. The people can go different places and be different things. They can work together and create all kinds of world. And the girls do! They are happier with a few baskets of good stuff then with a room full of everything!

2) Make it Pretty Like Maria Montessori says, the enviroment is the teacher. Make sure that everything is arranged well and organized in a way that allows for the child to see what he has to play with, and to be able to clean up what he got out. This doesnt mean that they will clean up one thing before they get out another. It is playtime, not school time. Mixing is encouraged and really good. It means that they are really experiencing their thoughts. You can even use rugs to help them create an area if you have more then one child and space is something that becomes an issues. However, sometime working together is better and more fun!

3) Make it Creative Creativity is so important! Playtime is not work time. So let the kids make things, make a bit of a mess, and really dig deep into what they are thinking. Art supplies (if possible), playdough, craft supplies, blocks, pieces of wood, what ever the kids need to create something that is meaningful! And relax….it can all be cleaned up (at least that’s what I tell myself)!

4) Make it Real This is super important! Add things to the play area that are real and are a part of what you are learning about! Studying the ocean? Add some shells and a blue material to the play area. Are they plaything kitchen? The come in with groceries, real ones! Are they making a house? Find some cardboard or blankets that you can leave for them to use! You dont need to say anything, just add it and see what happens. They wont always do something with it, but its there to think about! Play and learning is the same thing and if you have a real stuff then they are going to respond to that by applying what they are learning!

5) Make it Fun   This is not a structured time and its time for kids really be and explore their world in the safety of their playroom! So relax and let it happen! It will be messy, it will be a little bit out of control sometimes, but it will be good and it will make memories and thoughts real! And feel free to play too, but only if they want you there! It is their world, just like the kitchen is your world! Dont take over and do what ever you think it should be. Ask how and if you should do something! It will make their day and it will really help you get a chance to see into their minds a little bit!

6) Make it Practical Life Work Think outside the box and add some practical life work to their play area! Pour tea, give the baby a bath, invite your guests to a party, etc. You get the idea! Use water, beans, tables, whatever to let them practice all those skills that they have been practicing in their work time! They keep absorbing their skills while playing!

So those are some thoughts about making time for play within a Montessori home! They all work together and really there is room for both! It is a beautiful time in their lives and there is no reason to leave it out because it doesnt fit with an education method. Play! Its fun! Its Important, Its good for them! If you want to see some really awesome Montessori fun, stop on by Montessori Monday! I am linking up there so join the party! Happy Schooling and Happy Playtime!!!!

Our First Taste of Project Work

Well over the last few days I have tried really hard to work some project time into our life here. Bunny is still doing all her regular Montessori work, but we had been working on some other things too. She is still working on the ink inquiry and I even helped her ask the librarian for more information. This is something she has never done and its pretty hard for her to talk to people she doesnt know. I was proud that she was able to talk to them. We ended up having to just find information on the interent since there were no books on how to make ink. So we found this tutorial and started to make some flower petal ink. We also saw a recipe for beet ink that she wanted to try too. I am hoping (fingers crossed) that it works out. I also borrowed some calligraphy pens and tips for her to try to use. I was thinking that using feathers would be fun too. I also am waiting for the right time to mention to her that our museum has some documents that were written by monks. I thought she may like to go and see that too. Plus I have the timeline of writing that I took off the wall the other day and She said she liked it. I was thinking that she would have a better interest in it if I represent it. So I may do that later next week. Anyway, the project has been a little slow going and I dont think that this will be a long interest because is not a deep passion, but it is a great way to get out feet wet! You saw some of her work in my last post and here is the rest of it. I love that she made a paint brush out of feathers today like the ones Brother Theophane used in the book that launched this project!

 

 
 


Pup however is another story! She has taken off on the idea of project work and we are working, playing, and reading non stop! Her passion is Cheetahs and she is absorbing all of it! We have talked about Africa, about all of the how a cheetah lives, what a cheetah looks like, and about baby cubs! We have drawn then, sculpted them, and played with some miniature animals. When I asked her where we could learn about cheetahs, she told me we should get a nature movie we had gotten from the library a while ago. So we went to find it. It wasnt there, but we ordered it and I showed her the cheetah books and she picked out all her own! We have read a lot of them and a few of them twice, even at bedtime. She is living in her project and I have never seen her work like this. I really want to get some more things for her and I think that a trip to the zoo is inevitable (despite the fact that it is cold)! Here is her work.

 
 

 

 


So there you have our first tiny steps toward project homeschooling. I am encouraged over how this is working out and how the girls are responding. I think that this combined with our Montessori work will really make a really beautiful experience. We will see. I am excited and the girls are too. In fact I think that Pup being so excited is more surprising then anything! I hope you had a great week! Happy Schooling!

Montessori Monday~ Work in the Elementary Room

This is some of the playful work that Bunny has been doing over the past couple of days. We have a book about a medieval monk who found that ink could be made in different colors when he boiled different plants. So this has inspired Bunny to think that rose petals could make some good paint. So she has been exploring what she can do to make it happen. We have ground then up, soaked them in water, and boiled them. Nothing has quite worked, but the materials are still sitting on my kitchen table for some more work tomorrow!


Well I have been doing alot of thinking (again). I have been struggling again about what to teach Bunny and how to pull it all together for her. And I think that I have realized that trying to do cosmic education with one child is really hard and almost impossible. Everything is connected and everything can be learned together. It is beautiful, exciting, and perfect. But where to start? There is so much in my albums that we can do,but I am getting overwhelmed and not sure how to get it all in without a plan. I want to let Bunny to choose, but when she doesnt choose, what do I do to help her find something that excites her? In a Montessori classroom, as far as I can figure, the children are inspired by each others work, and if there is a child who cant get inspired, the teacher is there to help pull out a material to help with that. However, I feel like I am out of time (and space) to get more materials when I am not sure Bunny will even use them. So I am going to make a radical move and maybe move away from strictly Montessori work. Bunny needs some direction and I need a plan. History and science to me seem better if they follow an organized path. I dont want to jump from spot to spot and offer a fragmented education like we are doing right now. I want to make sure that she can see things connect and in proper order. I know that everything is connected, but everything follows a natural path and that is missing right now. Plus Bunny really loves alot of everything. She would be interested in plants as well as China, and also Writing around the world. I want to make sure we are going get things done in a fun, playful way! So I have started reading Project- Based Homeschooling and it is really offering a great view into some things we can do that will really reach Bunny’s method of learning. Bunny loves to have books, lots of books. She is really visual and many time reading a book will spark so much excitement she will think about it, draw about it, write about it, and want to know more! This is exactly what project based homeschooling is all about: learning across all the creative areas, child led, and thought through. The goal is observe the child, prepare the environment to be open to creativity, and guild them in their quest for answers. Sounds familiar? It is SO very Montessori is its essence that it will work really well with what we have going. I am excited about this because when I really think about Bunny and how she learns, I realize that she is a creator and a having alot of open materials to add to her exploration of a subject is going to really appeal to her. She is going to love taking a subject and not just writing a drawing a picture of it, but to create with it, play with it, and live it for as long as she wants. This is something that I can facilitate and help her to achieve.  We can learn about a subject and really just play with it to absorb it. She will love it, Pup will love it, and I will have fun with it too. It means that I am going to have to sit and observe more, but I think that it will help us out. It also means that I am going to have to carve out some time each day for project work, but isnt that more fun then TV? However, instead of me spending time making materials for Bunny to learn with, she can make some of them herself as part of the learning! She loves to make things and I think that this idea will really appeal to her and will make my life a little easier. School should be fun, while still offering a deep learning that will stick with her. The goal is not to know tons of stuff, but to learn to think and absorb information with enthusiasm. What better way then to create with it and play with it? Does this mean I am leaving Montessori behind? No, I am just going add elements that will really reach Bunny in a place that I think will mean alot to her. Which is really about observing the child and finding what works for her! I guess we are still sticking to Montessori! 😉

What are your thoughts on this? Have you changed what you do to make things better for your school experience? Share your thoughts!

Want more Montessori fun? Stop by the Montessori Monday link up! I am linking up there!

Montessori Monday~ Playtime Promises

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”
                                                                                                                                     ~ Plato



 
Today we took a play day. Such a simple thing to do, sit and play all day long. Even I played! Bunny, Pup, and I all built Legos for most of the morning! We created together, talked together, and had fun! Plus we build a great salon/ restaurant! It also had me thinking about playtime. I really dont think that anyone debates the importance of play for young kids. They need it like they need sleep! However, I realized that sometimes we forget that older kids are still young kids! I know that Pup needs to play every day and so much of her school work is really just wonderful play! Bunny on the other hand needs to do school work, needs to do some other things.  She is a first grader. Sometime i think that I forget that play is just as important for her too! School work should be mostly fun and rather play like. They seem to learn so much more when they are playing and the moments of setting up an imaginary world will sometimes even prompt some learning! So when do we start to put pressure on the little ones to learn more, learn at a certain rate, or even learn a certain way? Why is it at 6 or 7 that we tell them that now they are big now? Are they really old enough to work without play or are we told they should be? Should play be more a part of every single day? Just because school work needs to be done doesnt mean that it has to be boring or  These are the thoughts that have been running through my mind. I tell Bunny she has to do school work, and she tells me she hates it. It is a far cry from my goals of creating a love of learning in my kids. It is how I make sure that she is getting all the learning in that she needs to by state standards. So how do I make sure that we are learning all the right things done, but that the learning is playful. Now playful is not something that Montessori is work is know for, however is really is. Montessori says many times in her writings that these exercises should be fun and like a game for the children. Yes they focus and concentrate and learn, but is fun for them! She has an example of her playfully showing a group of children how to blow their noses. She talks about games where the children were laughing, and shouting, and happy! This is not an educational system of work, it is an educational system of play! Play is the child’s work! It is no less true as the child moves into the elementary years. Maria Montessori stresses many times that the learning should be presented as exciting stories and should capture the child’s imagination! It should make them really want to find out more! So how does this all play out in real life? How do I make play a central aspect of our life. It is humbling to realize that we did get into a rut of doing what we had to do instead of making it all fun. Sure we have done some fun work lately, but really nothing has grabbed her attention and held it. I am thinking that maybe its me! So today I am making a promise to myself to try to bring play into our school room!
 
What are your thoughts on play and work?
 
Be sure to stop by Montessori Monday for lots more Montessori fun! Happy Schooling!

Cooking With Books~ Soup Day!


Soup Day (Christy Ottaviano Books)

Last Year my friend and I decided not to give gifts, instead we have our craft days! This year we thought the same thing, except, we are going to be cooking! That’s right! Each month, we will read a story and cook something from that book! For example, today we read Soup Day by Melissa Iwai and we made the soup from the recipe from the back of the book! Each month we will do another book and the kids will get a chance to cook! Its defiantly going to be a yummy year! 🙂
Like I said, today we read Soup Day! In the story today, the girl and her mother went to the store together to pick out the vegetables that they needed to make soup! So we started off at the store to buy celery, carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini, parsley, mushrooms, and pasta!

 
After we bought our groceries we headed back to the house to get chopping! The kids had a great time choosing something to cut up into bit. According to the book, the girl got to help cut zucchini and mushrooms with her plastic knife, so even the littlest ones got to help! Once everything was chopped, it was into the pot!
 

 
In the story, the girl and her mom played and played and played while they waited to for the soup! So, the kids ran off to play and play and play!
 
 
Finally the soup was done and everyone was ready to eat! 🙂 What I think amazed me most, was that everyone ate most of their veggies! It was super yummy.
 

 
So there you have it! I am super excited about this new year of fun! My friend and I made a list of the books we want to do for each month and what we are cooking! The kids are excited and so am I! What a great way to learn and have fun at the same time!


Montessori Monday~ Snow Trays!

Well as promised I have officially made us some winter trays! The girls love them, even Bunny! I seriously love theme planning but I had thought that my life would be easier if I stuck to only traditional Montessori trays instead of changing them out all the time. It would be easier, but not nearly as much fun! So we are back to planning new trays monthly or so! So, I know that you are dying to see what I have made up! My goal was to try and find new and interesting exercises since Pup has mastered so many of the primary Practical Life presentations (that is a hazard of starting early and have a big sister to watch all the time). Here is what is on our shelves this month!

Ice Sorting

Whole Hand Transfer

 Dropping Snowflakes into a  vase

Snowflake Matching

Glitter Snow Dough

Shoveling Snow
 
As you can see we are all set for winter, but we are not just stopping there! I also have plans to start talking about the seasons of the year with the girls this week! Bunny has been learning about the earth and its tilt, so this will follow up nicely to it! Plus Pup is interested too! I will be using the presentations from my Elemetary Albums for Bunny and adapting them for Pup to hear too! If you want another great resource for this work in the elementary (and older primary), you can visit Waseca Biome Study. They have an amazing presentation as well and its free!
Finally I have some of the Montessori For Everyone work out as well! The one we did today is a seasonal clothing sort! This was a little tricky for Pup, but I think that if I take out the spring and fall sets, and just sort winter and summer for a start, it will be easier! They also have a matching game for each season, and that’s all free material! Be sure to check it out! Do you need more amazing Montessori fun? Check out Montessori Monday for TONS of links to great Montessori work! I am linking up there too! Happy Schooling Everyone!


Christmas Time Learning!

Well I have noticed lately that Bunny, who has been on school break, seems to have discovered the mystery of division all on her own! She has been working out math problems in her head super fast and accurately! The first time I noticed how fast she was on Christmas Eve. She wanted so badly to give each of Santa’s Reindeer a carrot. I didnt think that nine carrots was a good idea, so I suggested she cut them in half (too many carrots make it hard for the reindeer to fly dont you know). She sat in the fridge for a second and finally she looked at me a said “If we cut them into thirds, we will only need to have 3 carrots!” What!?! I didnt even realize that she could do that in her head so quickly! I’m not sure how she worked it out, but she did!



Today she was looking at her new friendship bracelet kit. I told her it made 40 bracelets and said maybe she could have some friends over to do them with her. She quickly told me “That means I can have 4 friends over and we can all make 10 bracelets each!”






Just My Style Friendship Bracelets
Bunny also has been writing and writing a lot! I am so proud of her! A great example of her writing is her letter to the elves she left for Santa to take to them.
 
 
To Elves,
I love elves.
My Mom made me an elf doll.
PS What do you look like?
 
Pup has also been learning a thing or two! She got a new notebook for Christmas that had a cover for her to color. She and my sister (who is also 3) worked really hard to color in the lines without messing it up! She was so proud of her work and couldnt wait to write in it! I wrote some of the letters we worked weeks ago and asked her the sounds. She remembered them all and was so excited! I think that we are going to have to keep working on some sandpaper letters!
 
 
Another thing that Pup has had a chance to do is practice her practical life skills with the tongs and scoops that were in some of the different serving dishes! Not to mention both girls were working on talking to people politely!
 
Who says kids dont learn out of school? Mine keep learning even when I am not doing anything special! What do your kids learn even while you arent doing school?
jakubov.viva@mailxu.com kriegel-francine