thoughts

You cant always plan!

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A couple of days ago I thought that it would be fun to set up the girls dolls into a beach scene so when they woke up in the morning it would be ready to play! Bunny has been crying that she is board and Pup is starting to do the same. I thought that they would love to find something new, and they did!

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I  thought that they would be all set for hours of fun, but that isn’t what happened. They played, but quickly lost interest and even cleaned it all up. Hmmm….what went wrong? Well I was thinking that play only really becomes a concentrated effort when the child chooses it themselves, or when it is a group effort between other kids. Why? Well maybe because I set up a world for them made from my mind and imagination. It wasn’t their world. This pre-set up play didn’t capture their minds and become a part of their world. It was fun for them to visit, but not stay for a long time.  So play then must be something that reaches something deep inside the child. Play is essentially no different then Montessori materials. If fact Maria Montessori often called the work that a child was doing play. So is this then the missing link to getting rid of boredom? Maybe instead of making a world for the child to visit, we should be bringing ideas for them to work into their own world. For example, instead of making a beach scene, I could read books, make sure the craft area has shells and sand to work with, make a matching game with fish figurse, bring out the kiddie pool for some ocean fun! These ideas are feeding their imagination so then they can create when they want, what they want, and play that way! So….instead of planning out play, I am going make sure that I prepare ideas instead! Has anyone else noticed the same things with your kids play time? I would love to hear what you have observed!

What We Learned

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Now that we have all been off of school for over a week or two, I feel like I have time to really sit and look at what we have learned this year! I think that I learned the most about homeschooling with Montessori and about my girls themselves! This is one of the beauties of homeschooling, not only do you get to see what your kids learn, but you also get to look at what you have learned too! So what did we learn this year? Well, here it is!

Bunny started the year off with some basic math skills, but as we moved forward, she was able to abstract in a way that was really surprising to me! She rock her way through the basic equations and was able to do a lot of them in her head all by herself! She even started to love it again after deciding (when I pushed too hard) and that she hated it! She managed to get herself to a third grade math level! She also learned to READ!!!!! It took forever, but she learned it and has been reading books on her own! Bunny also learned a lot about building with her legos, and has created complex structures that required a lot of thought. She was able to build complex things without directions. I also learned that she likes to have planned lessons better then picking her own subjects. She was so happy as we learned when I had planned things out more.  I think that having the choice of picking her own studies puts too much stress on her. So I need to pick the school subjects, but allow enough space and time to follow her own interest too! This is something that is really going to help me think things through as we plan for the next year!

This year Pup gain so much confidence with her control that she stopped doing most practical life trays and wanted to do much more! She started by wanting to learn the sandpaper numbers. She had a hard time working them out, but she did it and was very proud of her work! She then desperately wanted to learn her letters and learn them she did! She still has a few she needs to work on, but she loves it! She even wrote her first word! She definatly showed me that this next year she is ready for a lot more learning! She wants to read really badly! So we will be working on some of that soon! Another thing that she did was a large project on Cheetahs! She surprised me again with how much she worked on it and how much she learned! It showed me that she was really able to work with deep concentration when she was interested in in something. This was confirmed when she took to tracing entire books at a time!  The tracing not only helped her hand control, it helped her be able to write her letters really well! So this year, I hope to do lots more work with her!

Finally, I learned so much about doing Elementary Montessori work. I learned, that while you can do a lot of it, you will never get the same feel. Bunny is only one child and she can only collaborate with me or herself! This means that the Great Lessons, while making a great impression, didn’t inspire the learning that I was hoping it would. We need to have planned learning here right now. When I came to grips with that we were able to learn a lot together and have a ton of fun doing it! I also learned that I need a core plan, a plan that we can do each day no matter what else is going on. A plan that Bunny could do without me right by her side. That made doing school work each day a little easier. She loves to have a goal and to check something off a list. This is something that will really be a part of next year for us I think. I also learned that I need to be willing to let go of materials! Bunny was doing worse math work trying to use all the materials that I asked her to. This doesn’t mean she will never do them again, but right now she is done. Same with Pup and her Practical Life work. She is done with all of the trays and things like that. She enjoys doing them once, but that is about it! So I am learning that letting go allows us to move forward! I also learned that we just don’t get in that three hour work period and that is ok. We just cant seem to get it all in, but I realized that we are always learning together so we don’t need to make sure we are in a room for three hours to do that! Letting go of something allows me to have a bit more peace!

So that is what we have learned this year! It has been a year of fun and of learning for all of us! This next year has us homeschooling again! I am looking forward to lots of fun, lots of learning, lots of new ideas (and maybe a few tears….hey I am realistic)! What about you? What did your homeschool year teach you? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Oh and please take a moments to vote for use over at circle of moms! They are voting for the Top 25 Homeschool Blogs!

 

Look For the Learning

Well I spoke too soon about my summer science plan! Today the girls were off working on their own project and when I got to see their results, I was amazed. They were detailed, well thought through, and full of deep learning experiences. What I was able to see, was not just a great project, but real learning. They were problems solving, doing geometry, creating simple machines, and taking an abstract pictures and turning them into something real. Bunny read a Lego book and decided that she wanted to build Olivia’s House. She spent the whole morning figuring out how to make her creation look like the picture, including a second story! Pup worked really hard today making a road with a ramp for her cars. She was so proud that it all lined up and worked!

 This is when I realized that my summer science plan was a little too much. I had plans yesterday to make all these wonderful learning boxes, but honestly they don’t need them or even want them. In fact it is a reminder to me that I need to relax! They are still learning with or without my amazing lessons! 🙂 I think that maybe their own free exploration with the aid of a few books and a random little definition would be more then enough.

When I began homeschooling I wanted my kids to love learning, to find joy in discovery, and to try new things. That is exactly what they are doing right now. It may not be in our school room, during school time, but it is happening here in our day to day life. It is a part of their life. That is what I should have seen when we were at the library and they choose a million books about a million things. They love to find out new things and that was my homeschooling goal. But as I looked at their creations, I realized that although my goal has always been to have real learning, knowing about the Montessori prepared environment has really allowed that to be possible in a daily way. The girls know where everything they need is, and they can try something and find everything that they need! It make a huge mess sometimes, but is it is a good learning mess! 🙂 What I need to do it make sure that I am finding the learning that is happening. It is a different way to see what the kids are doing. If I take a moment to see what they are learning and not just what they are doing, I think that I will be able to make sure that they have the bits that they may need and give a small lesson if the moment is right. Plus it is a way to make me stop and really look at them. Their play, and crafting is an expression of their true selves. The are showing me who they are in their work. They don’t need  me to create a million projects, they just need me to pay attention to the projects and learning that they are already doing! Happy Schooling and Learning!

 

Amazing Sucesses and Epic Failures

The past week has had so many little moments that I thought they deserved its own post! The first amazing success is that Pup wrote her very first word all by herself! I was cooking dinner and she told me that she was going to draw a leopard. Nothing new there, but she came back and told me that she wrote leopard on her picture. I look and sure enough she did! She put the sounds down as she heard them and it was awesome! She has never been able to really isolate the sounds in a word yet, but I guess that changed!

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Another awesome success is that Bunny is reading! Not only is she reading she is understanding! She read some of the botany books we got from the library, and when we did our lesson, she told me that she knew what we were talking about because she read it in a book! She is understanding what she reads! It has happened! She can read for real! Success!

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Now….for the epic failure…the Garden is dead. All of it! (Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry). The bugs got the zucchini plants and the heat got the tomatoes and the peppers just never grew right. I tired everything. I even tried pesticide. Even the garden area with a the fence around it we built fell over and broke in the wind. Sigh….maybe we will get some started plants and try again!

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(This was right before they turned brown and crunchy)

So that is what we have been doing here! Lots of little moments! I hope you are having lots of great moments at your house too! Did you have a great moment or an epic fail? Share your moment in the comments!

5 Tips to a Fabulous Nature Walk

Ok….its six, but five sounded better! Nature walks and spring go together like peanut butter and jelly. However, if you are like me, a month will go by before you make it out to a park for more then a trip to the playground! Over the past few years, I have realized though that those moments out in the open nature are some of the best we have! The girls explore, learn, and have fun. The time we have had together outside has lead me to learn a few tips to make these moments better and less stressful! Here are some of those tips that made our outside time better:



1) Find Your Spot: I think that one of the most important things to do is find a go-to place for your family! We like to go out by Lake Erie. My mom has a park they go to by a river. Another blogger goes and visits the ocean. There is another blogger heads out to spend time in a field of Bluebells. There are literally a ton of wonderful places that you could go, but find that one place that you know will always deliver a good time for you! That way, when the time is right, you will know just where to go!



2) Keep things Simple: There are a million ideas out there of wonderful things that you can do while out exploring nature. However, most of the time simple is better. I have tried looking for shapes, finding the alphabet in nature, searching for certain birds, rocks, leaves, and even printing out a scavenger hunts. These things can be fun, but mostly they really just add stress. Requiring a person to find something while outside makes it a task rather then an exploration. Nature is always changing and so there is always something new. So dont stress trying to find the perfect activity to take on a nature walk, just go out!



3) Pack Light: When we started going out for nature walks, I would pack a backpack with field guilds, paper and colored pencils for sketching, nets, plastic bags, first aid kit, wipes, water, snacks, magnifying glass, and other odds and ends. Whew! Do you how much of that we used- almost none! I just ended up feeling like a pack mule for the hour or so we were outside.We arent hikers by nature, I found that most of the time we didnt go that far from the car, so many of those things I didnt need to try and keep track of it. We left alot of it in the car and before I knew it we were down to about nothing! Things got alot easier and more fun for everyone. All we really need is water (usually leave it in the car while we walk), a snack if we are close to a meal, band aids, wipes (for after), and most of all the camera (the main thing I carry)! All the other stuff we really just didnt need. Research about what we saw was easier done at home from a picture, the treasures can sit on the floor of the car until we get home, and we use the wipes when we are all done! So keep it simple!



4) Dont Over Plan: Here, where we live the weather changes all the time, so we tend to find it better to just go when the weather permits. Nothing is more fun, and inspires more excitement then the announcement that you are going out! We love to just jump outside. It refreshes everyone and learning seems real. Sometimes we plant to look for something that we are learning about, but mostly we just see what we see! Sometime this will lead to another trail of learning!



5) Dont Stay on the Path: Unless of course there is alot of poison ivy! 😉 But honestly, be willing to head into the unknown and the messy! Expect that you will get messy and go with it! Nature walks are all about the smells, the sounds, the feel, and the sights! So dig right in and live it. Messy means you are learning something for real and exploring off the beaten path will make the most lasting impression!



6) Take Your Time: Little ones love to look and look! That means there is alot of stopping, touching, and wandering! That’s perfect! Dont rush it. Stay a while or a little, just follow the child! This is will allow you to take those learning moments as they come and to see things that you will not want to miss!



So there are my tips! We love our moments out in nature! Looking at everything and I think that it is something that anyone can do, even if you arent nature people like me! 🙂 I would love to have a few more tips for our time outside though, so share your ideas! What do you do while you are out exploring? Do you have tried and true tips for making nature an amazing experience for all?

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!

School Days {And a plea for answers}!

Well today we did some school work since yesterday was a “holiday”. (One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can have different days off then the school kids)! So we were back to work and did some interesting things. Bunny wrote a book and did some very detailed drawings. I tend to be rather resistant to Bunny working on drawing during school time since she will draw the WHOLE time. Today started to turn into that, but it seemed different somehow. She was really focused and the fact that she was drawing small and with great detail seemed to tell me that she was working on alot of pencil control (her pencil control is really lacking and we do need to work on it). She finished 4 pages and told me she was done. There was no words though, so I asked her to write her story and she did. She always asks me how to spell things and I usually just tell her right off since she is working so hard to get the words on paper, that spelling is not the goal here! The results were really good and I was surprised and proud of Bunny’s hard work.

 
 
Another thing that we finally did was The Fundamental Needs of Humans presentation. I have really been struggling with which direction to go with presentation and how to start working on where mail came from. I just dont know how to get that research going and where to start. So I thought that discussing the fundamental needs of all people could start us thinking about how people need to communicate and share their ideas with others. She seemed interested, so maybe this will work as a jumping off point! 🙂

 
Bunny and I also working on the subtraction snake game alot this week. I am not going to lie, of all the Montessori math materials, the snake game confuses me! It took me about 10 minutes of working with it all on my own to just figure out where the beads were supposed to go! Then Bunny and I must have repeated one problem 5 time before it worked out. Argh! This is leading her to be less interested. I thought it would be fun to figure out the multiplication snake game and help her start to work with some memorization. But I am rather at a loss of where to start! So here is my question to all of you Montessori Mamas out there, where would you continue on the math sequence with Bunny? She knows her operations well, but she still seems unsure on some division sometimes. She has memorized some addition facts, but that’s about it! I feel like there are SO many things that she can be doing, but I am not sure what will be the best thing to start first! I would love to hear your ideas about that!
 
Pup has been working along too! She and I have been working on alphabet sounds and rhyming games. She loves both! 🙂 She is also still doing a ton of puzzles and playdough.  I showed her how to roll a snake with her playdough and she is doing that alot. I think that the highlight of her week though was trying to read with me. I put some of the sandpaper letters together and she was able to say the sounds and read the words! 🙂 I loved seeing her so excited about it!
 

 

 
I think that Pup and I are going to start working on some continents. She is interested and i think that maybe doing some study would be good for her. She is really uninterested in any of the Practical Life work, and I have been having a hard time getting into any of the sensorial extensions either. So maybe some geography, and some more math will be good for her. I am thinking that she will love some number go fetch games!
 
Anyway, there is our week all laid out! It was full of observations and some questions. I felt like I was floundering, but it looks like we did a pretty good job! Do you have weeks like that? I really hope that if you have thoughts on my questions I would really love to hear them! Happy Schooling Everyone!
 
 


Changing How We Work!



Well after my playtime thoughts earlier this week, I have kept thinking. I have been thinking about our homeschooling and I feel like something isnt working out quite the way I want to. So when I read a post of Elizabeth’s about homeschooling renewal I thought that it was something that I needed to think about. Was Montessori still a good fit here? Bunny is learning well, but she is lacking a spark of interest and enthusiasm. I show her presentations, she listens, understands, but doesnt care. She really doesnt even want me to read stories to her about some of the things we have been learning about. So I was wondering if what were still doing was really a good fit. So I thought, I prayed, and realized that problem is not with her, it was with me and with how Montessori is done at this level. I am going to need to get way more excited about things, not just give presentation, but help her feel the excitement of what we are talking about. I mean, the earth tilts! Wow! We are all spinning in space at a slant! This isnt a boring thing, its exciting! The other thing that I need to do is to help her think and wonder over these amazing things in life! Why does the earth tilt? Is earth the only planet that tilts? Why does it tilt? How do we keep going around without tilting the other way? Hmmm….so much to think about, learn about. So why are we not doing that? Why do I give presentation aft er presetation and still not seem to find something that is interesting to her? Well my theory is this: Montessori elementary work is by nature a very social thing. From what I understand, most of their projects and research is done in small groups. They talk together, work out questions together, and find answers together. Someone will have one question and someone else may think of another. This cooperation is super important, and helps keep things moving forward,. Since it is only Bunny and me, that means that I am the small group friend. I am going to need to take a bigger role in making things interesting. I need to start asking questions with her, not just teach her things. I want her to go deeper. Dont get me wrong. She is doing a great job. She is loving her fractions and her writing. She is learning everything just fine, but I want her to think, not just memorize. My goal for education, way before Bunny was in Kindergarten, way before Montessori, way before she even knew her letters, was to have her know how to think, to find information, and to go after what she wants to know about. Curriculum doesnt mean a thing if the child is not interested. Now that is my opinion, and I know that kids do need to learn thing even if they dont want to, but they will learn more when they are interested. When I think back to what I remember about school work, I clearly remember the things that grabbed my interest~ Biology, Writing, History. I want to make sure that the things she is learning are interesting enough to remember it. I want her to have some enthusiasm! So I am going back to school. We are going to keep going with some geography lessons, but I am going to change some of my ideas a bit. I am going to add some story telling elements to the lessons. I want them to sound a little bit like the great lessons. Then I will end it with some “I wonder” questions. I want her to think about the story and maybe we can think of some new things to find out about together! I also want to invite her to draw a picture, find more information out in some books, and things like that. Maybe this will make a difference in her thinking about learning! I also think that maybe starting the day out with this would be better. Again, I know that she is not always going to love everything, and I know that she is not always going to get interested. But when she is not getting interested in anything, then I think that I could do something better. So that is my goal. To do it a little bit better to make it more fun, and not so much like a chore! Those are my thought right now! If you have an idea or some thought on this, please share in the comments! Happy Schooling!

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!

Happy Birthday to Bunny!



Today my sweet girl you are turning seven. I cant tell you how very proud and amazed I am of you. You have asked this year for a Lego themed birthday party and I did my best to give you just that. You love the building, the creating, and the endless possibilities! There is nothing you love more then making things of your very own and I love the creativity that you have the flows into each thing that you do. You have shown me this past year that you are growing up in so many ways. You are more confident in your abilities, more outgoing with your friends, and more excited about learning new things. You want to do new things, and not just do them, but to recreate them better then they were before! Nothing makes me happier then to see the things that you excite you and to see your sunshiny smile light up a room! I love you more then you could ever know and I cant wait to see what you learn, how your grow, and what you create this year! Happy Happy Birthday my darling girl!

On Saturday, Bunny had her party with some of her friends! We cleared all of ourselves off of the normal decor and added all of her favorite Lego creations and some random bricks. We wrapped all the the picture frames with wrapping paper and added some circles to make them look like giant Lego bricks! The white pictures with the colored legos on it were hand made from pieces of paper that I glued on the paper and added the dots to them! It was really time consuming, but they looked great! Bunny helped me make some of them! I think I may have been able to make them on the computer, but this way Bunny got to help and we had fun! The girls got to color some pages I printed from Lego.com, and we also played find Stephanie the Lego girl, What am I Building (like pictionary), and of course tons of free building! They all really enjoyed it, but hiding and finding the 10 Stephanie figures was by far the favorite game! We played it a million time and the girls even took turns hiding it! The figure I printed off from a web image. Food was simple lunch food, but we wrapped it all to look like Legos! The girls thought it was fun to unwrap their lunch! Plus there was cupcakes for dessert! 🙂 For party favors, I made some rings for the girls made of a Lego brick on a ring base. I also found some Lego Friends pencils and of course candy bracelets. My sister also made some lego brick necklaces for each girl with a heart and the intial of their first name on it! All of this was packaged in a little lego brick box that I made from card stock! It was a fun way to end an awesome day of play!

 

 

 

 
 

 


Today we had her family here for a party! She had a great time and the Lego theme carried on! My mom made the cake for her and she loved! I didnt change any of the decorations, so it was all still about the Legos! We also had the chance to share the traditional Montessori Celebration of Life with the whole family! Bunny loves this every year! She loves to hear stories of her early life and I love sharing the pictures too!

 

 
 
So there you have a wonderful Lego party for my new sever year old! She loved every second and so did! Happy Birthday Bunny!

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