accolades … and new beginnings


the irony that on the day I made a big decision to change our lives in big, good ways … I receive a nod from a blogger I hold in high regard. and, it wasn’t about being nominated for this award (well, let’s be honest here … that’s pretty rockin!) but getting a nod from a blogger that has been doing amazing things for so long, reaching so many just brought me to my knees.

huge thanks, Dear Kitty, Some Blog for nominating me for a “Most Influential Blogger Award” – I’m humbled that my little space on the interwebs would even catch the eye of one person, never mind the folks who have decided to read and enjoy my thoughts over here.

and the new beginnings …

‘our school at home’ was a venture undertaken to create a space for one amazing child, my child, as we navigated living in an urban area with all the joys it has to offer (and there are many!). where the schools didn’t work for us (but do for many!), home-schooling became the option and opening our doors to others as a source of both collaboration and connection (and how to financially support our family) happened so naturally.

however, we’ve decided that there’s simply too many round pegs trying to fit themselves in square, triangle and even octagon shaped holes to look the other way. so, we’re sadly closing this chapter and starting a new one – sad to see the school close as it’s been such a labor of love, but happy to see new doors open, so widely, for our family.

join us on our new adventures — I’m sure there will be many! this blog will remain but this will be the last post for this blog … but not for the new blog found here at ‘our trek north‘ (come, join us on our adventure over there!)

xxoo – holly

‘the hundred languages’ {of reggio emilia}

why do we play, observe,  listen and explore together? why do we champion the notion that ‘teacher is co-learner’ in our space? why do we encourage cooperation, collaboration, connectedness?

this, this is why.

“In 1946, Malaguzzi enrolled in the first postwar psychology course in Rome – and this marked the beginning of the Reggio Emilia adventure.

It started in a little town called Villa Cella in the northern region of Italy known as Reggio Romana. In the political and economic chaos that followed the fall of Fascism and the German retreat from Italy, the villagers, including children and parents, had collected stone, sand, and timber to build a school. Loris Malaguzzi rode his bicycle to the town to have a look and was so impressed by what he saw that he stayed.

The first school was financed by selling a German tank, nine horses, and two military trucks. According to Malaguzzi, “It was the women’s first victory after the war because the decision was theirs. The men might have used the money differently.” That first school still exists in the countryside 20 minutes from the city of Reggio Emilia. 

… The vision of Reggio Emilia schools is always evolving. However, what is constant about the philosophy is best described by Malaguzzi himself: “What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is taught. Rather, it is in large part due to the children’s own doing as a consequence of their activities and our resources.”

{Dr. Carol Brunson Day, CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, May, 2001, Early Childhood Today}

now, it’s up to all of us to continue to explore and journey and create … with all hundred languages and hands and thoughts and joys and words and hundreds upon hundreds of many hundreds of smiles and laughter.

:: today, stop … listen and look. breathe deep the activity around you. watch the faces and hear the words and see what hands are doing.  these many moments make up the journey and we all have so much to learn from each other … no matter our age. :: 
. . . . . . . . . . . . 
The Hundred Languages
No way. The hundred is there.
The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.
The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.
-Loris Malaguzzi
founder of the Reggio Emilia approach

this moment

. . . . . . . . .

{this moment} – a friday ritual. a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. a simple, special, extraordinary moment. a moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

inspiration from soulemama

if you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . . . .

{gluten free} zucchini bread


(photo credit: farmanac)

when a friend brings by a lovely gift of zucchini (along with an heirloom tomato) from her urban garden, you know you keep good company.

beyond being thrilled at both the visit and the heartfelt gift, dreams of zucchini bread start dancing in your head. {hmmm … they seem dance in my head – here’s to hoping we’ve got that little tidbit in common} there’s something just so ‘end-of-summer’, here in New England, about the overabundance of zucchini from your garden that is just part of our seasonal rhythm.

earlier this summer, Gluten Free on a Shoestring had an amazing blog post about her chocolate chip zucchini bread and I’ve had it bookmarked and on-the-ready for just this time. for me, nothing compares to the taste of produce that comes direct from a garden.

but the real test … would the children get as excited as I was? (well, there are chocolate chips in this recipe!). the verdict was that while our pumpkin chocolate chip muffins are, hands-down, the absolute favorite here, this bread was in the running for a close second (hooray!). this recipe is exceptionally low in fats (a half-cup of oil for two loaves is amazing), is incredibly moist and so very flavorful. but it was the comments on the blog that got me … every one of them raved.

and they were right … wow!

do you have some zucchini overflowing from your garden? need a reason to spend some time with your little ones in the kitchen after spending time harvesting some zucchini from the garden? this recipe is just begging to be made – it’s simple enough to involve the children in multiple steps and the result is just outstanding. enjoy!

Gluten Free Chocolate-Chip Zucchini Bread

3 cups (420g) high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar 
1 cup (218g) packed light brown sugar 
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini 
3 eggs (180 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten 
1 ripe banana, peeled and mashed 
1/2 cup (112g) vegetable oil 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 tablespoon cornstarch 

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease 2 standard loaf pans and set them aside

In a large bowl, place flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, baking powder,
cinnamon, granulated sugar and light brown sugar, and whisk to combine 
(working out any lumps in the brown sugar). Set aside the dry ingredients.

In a separate small bowl, place the zucchini, eggs, banana, oil and vanilla, 
and mix to combine well. Create a well in the center of the bowl of dry 
ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix to combine. The batter 
will be very wet. 

In a separate small bowl, toss the chocolate chips with the cornstarch. 
Pour the chocolate chips and cornstarch into the batter, 
and mix until the chips are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans, and 
smooth the tops with a wet spatula.Place the loaf pans in the center of 
the preheated oven, and bake, rotating once, until the tops are golden 
brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of each loaf comes out 
clean (about 50 minutes). 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes in the 
loaf pans. Remove from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool 
completely before slicing and serving.

“I wonder where … ” {a butterfly story}

Painted lady

painted lady (photo credit: Marko_K)

yesterday, a little voice said “I wonder where our butterflies are today

out of the blue and so full of wonder for the journey our painted ladies took a while ago. but, while it was an ‘out of the blue’ question, it was also a question that embodies our rhythm in our school — listening to and valuing each voice, exploring our environment (inside and out) and allowing discovery to happen naturally and when it should.

books were brought out to talk about the logistical aspects of the butterflies — they likely had laid eggs and are no longer living but the reality of that wasn’t what this voice wanted. we sat and revisited our observation journal and spoke of how our five caterpillars moved so gracefully from one life-stage to the next. but that also wasn’t what this voice wanted – you could just see it painted on this face, this push and pull that was happening.

{and here lays the beauty of a Reggio Emilia program — adults allowing themselves to listen, to observe, that our space is based on communication and relationships and, above all, that ‘teacher’ is the co-learner}

so, I dove in deeper — what was behind that question? and the answer was simple yet so complex. the want to know what they saw on their adventure after we released them. the want to know if they found the right flowers, did the owls hoot a welcome to them, did they stay together as friends, and how does nectar taste? but, the most important one: the want to know if they missed us as much as this wee one was missing them.

oh my.

so a tale was born. our tale of our butterflies and their grand adventures. the tale of jules, orangie, spikey, harry and tiny — who met a friend who calls himself ‘nair’ and how they met a wonderful owl and munched on leaves and played in the sunshine.

paper from the paper-roll on the art studio table was taped to the floor. stickers, crayons and our bodies all gathered, belly-down and shoulder-to-shoulder, on the art studio floor and we talked and drew and a collaborative tale and drawing emerged. all it took was for this adult to listen and observe — pulling out books on the reality of our butterflies was the first step to this process but, in the end, it was this that was needed. community, connections, acknowledgement that we adults aren’t the ones with solutions but we can be the guide.

I am so happy for this experience and so happy that I did stumble — it’s a reminder that in slowing down, in listening and feeling in the moment, in allowing this little one to be the guide for me to understand, that that’s where the connections and learning happens.

:: when little voices ask questions of you today, can you stop and use all your senses to understand the true question? can you find time to lay, belly-down and shoulder-to-shoulder, on the floor with your little one today and just create, listen and observe together? :: 

this moment

. . . . . . . . .

{this moment} – a friday ritual. a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. a simple, special, extraordinary moment. a moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

inspiration from soulemama

if you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . . . .

this moment - 08022013 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

charting, counting, categorizing

“Reciting one, two, three, four, five, and so on, is fun for a child, but it is not really learning math.

Math starts with the excitement of moving and touching real objects, gathering them into groups, counting each one, one at a time. It is exciting to discover that these words stand for quantities of like objects – buttons, peas, spoons, family members, stars in the sky – and later to realize that these concepts are used and understood all over the world.”

– Susan Mayclin Stephenson. The Joyful Child. Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three

and so we count, we sort, we categorize and we even graph and chart our results. the simplest of which is to do so naturally, daily and have it naturally build month after month. that’s right, you guessed it, we do so with the weather! in our morning meetings we have a lovely large bank of windows where the weather is easily observed and beautifully reported. ‘numeracy‘ is an important concept: sorting, categorizing, counting, patterns … it’s truly a vital piece of our cognitive development.

calendar - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

we use the pocket calendar chart from Lakeshore Learning and I cut 3×3″ squares out of sentence strips to fit each pocket. clip-art was my source for the weather pictures and after some cutting and pasting and writing a set of weather was created to be used with each day of the month. this process is also easy enough that if we need additional weather options — like our six day stretch of a heatwave {like no other!}, it is exceptionally easy to add these options.

calendar 2 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-combut the piece that grows and grows all month long is the chart we create every month. cutting 2×2″ squares out of construction paper {which, when we’re done, gets recycled in the collage bin in the art studio!} are added to simple column footers. every day we add one more block. every day we write a number on this addition and compare, contrast, hypothesize and observe the pattern that’s emerging in front of us.

we also use language with all ages to talk about what we see and to ask questions such as: “which weather type has more?” “which has less?” “how many can we count to in the ‘hot’ category?” and so on. during the month we make projections — “which weather type do you ‘project’ to have the most? the least?” and so on. the possibilities to weave into the natural language of the day is entirely endless.

calendar 3 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com:: today, in your adventures with your child, how can you weave in counting, patterns or categorizing? when you take a nature walk, how many trees can you count? acorns? steps from one space to the next? what about in the kitchen … this space seems to so beautifully and effortlessly lend itself to numeracy (and literacy!) in any age child.