accolades … and new beginnings

most-influential-blogger-e1364230844577

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

“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? :: 

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. 

make a craft: {the good food restaurant}

restaurant - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-coma restaurant is born! 

five star it may not be, nor is jamie oliver stopping by anytime soon {we think!} for the dishes we’re preparing, but it’s a space created wholly by observing and interacting in the natural play this space affords us. dramatic play kitchen areas so naturally lend themselves to this type of cooperative and interactive play that creating some simple props to assist in this play {as well as augmenting with some purchased “real” props}, our restaurant was created … and is in non-stop use!

so, how did we go about this?

here’s the general steps:

:: I spent a couple of days intently observing and listening to the conversations happening in this area — who was doing what, how were they doing it, what questions and conversations were happening. I interjected some terms here and there {“do you have a daily special?“, “can I take this order to-go?“, etc} to add another dimension to the play, but this was my time to just observe and understand.

:: our first order of business? a restaurant name! the conversation was guided by “what do you serve?” and so, {the good food restaurant} was born. and, who doesn’t want to eat “good food”, right?!

:: a menu was next on the list! the guiding question was “what do you serve?” elicited many responses but the consensus came back, time and again, to items enjoyed but also ones they felt were decadent (I adored the addition of cake and lemonade!).  as we talked about the food, we talked price: “what do you think someone would pay for this?” and numbers were kept easy and often the children would compare prices as we wrote all of this out (I took the role of transcriber as the discussions happened naturally, cooperatively and collaboratively).

good food restaurant menu - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com:: next, I took a laptop to the children and we chose the menu format and each clip-art. each menu is printed on an inkjet printer on card stock and I printed double sided  for ease
(do you need the template? send an email and let me know! contact form at the bottom of this post)

restaurant 3 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

:: from there, our menu on the wall evolved — as well as a pocket to place the menu’s in. the menu contents was printed, cut and placed on a 12×18″ piece of construction paper, the pocket is a piece of cardstock folded into a pocket and attached to the construction paper with clear packing tape.

at our local office supply store, “guest check” pads were purchased for a small nominal amount. we re-purposed some smaller-sized clipboards to hold the pads, found a cup to put pencils in and even a stray calculator to aid in adding up the bill. a small hook was added to the play kitchen to hang the clipboard and aprons were sourced from other areas in the school and clearly have become the ‘uniform’ of choice when playing the role of waiter/waitress.

restaurant 2 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

each prop and item has created a space guided completely by the children’s imagination. the play is so intentional, so meaningful and incredibly cooperative and collaborative. it is a joy to see the play evolve, the conversations and questions, the smiles and the heaps of laughter that seem to easily erupt in this space.

:: where will your play take you today? can observing and allowing your presence to be a bystander, and a recorder, allow the creation of a new space?

interested in having the menu template sent your way? be in touch below:

make a craft: seed books

seed book - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

we’re weaving into our days the continued exploration of our “things that grow” theme with experiencing so many wonderful seeds. and, yes, beyond the touching and the planting and observing the growth of a plant — the exploring the vast variety of seed types, shapes, and colors has been top of the list!

but, the question remained for us adults to mull over: how do you explore all seeds that we wanted to? larger seeds like beans, peas, sunflower, cucumber and even pumpkin, were seemingly easy because of their larger size. but what about lettuce, spinach, pepper, and the wonderful carrot? smaller in size and hard to wrangle over the long term, we just needed a way to explore these. {and touch and feel, compare and contrast, create hypothesis and observations as well}

and, so, we all took on a couple of formats of making many variety of seeds available:

:: our seed book

materials:
:: brown-paper bag book (I source them here  from a wonderful seller on etsy)
:: a variety of seed packages (I purchase them at the end of the season or use leftovers from our garden)
:: clear packaging tape
:: cardstock (I cut ours using a 3″ scalloped edge die-cast punch cutter)
:: tacky glue (I had this brand on hand and it worked beautifully)
:: marker of choice

how-to:
:: (1) for each seed to showcase in the book, I used a two-page spread (seed packet and name on one page, seeds on the following page) and pre-determined how many pages I had to fill and cut out the cardstock circles in advance

. . . . . . . . . .

seed book 2 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com:: (2) for each seed type, the seeds were glued to the cardstock circle: spread a thin layer of the craft glue onto the cardstock and apply the seeds

this is an optional step but makes the placement of the seeds far easier when assembling the book pages

{{do allow the glue to dry before moving to the next step}}

. . . . . . . . . .

seed book 3 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

:: (3) assembly of the book is simple, but will test your skills with packaging tape
for each seed to be showcased:
: the seed packet was fully taped onto the left-side page
: the seeds on the cardstock circle were fully taped onto the right-side of the page spread
: the name of the seed was written above the seed packet

the results are a very simply and easy book  — but one that has already been studied, seeds compared, discussions spurred on with hypothesis, observation and so much more.

:: next up for our school? seed cards! we’re using 5×7″ chipboard to create the same format with seeds as we did the book, but instead making these seed-cards for the felt boards: to be explored on their own or in groups. 


related seed fun around the web:

our {growing} collaborative mural

growing mural - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

. . . . . . . . . .

and, so it grows. {and grows and grows and grows!}

we all have been working on the pieces and parts that make up this mural. slowly, methodically and in all different art “styles”. pointillism was explored for the sunflower petals. we took a stab at using mosaic style for the sun and clouds. hanging art from a line allowed us to explore kinetic art and how we can use our bodies interact with this art form. we explore collage, we dive deep into our sensory bin as we engage collaboratively — some have fingers sticky with glue while others cut shapes from brown-paper sacks for the creation.

making a mural is big work here and it is deliberately not a rushed process. the mural is on a prominent wall in our discovery room and often the art is done in our art studio. but often art is also done at a table close to the mural, using the space and maybe even the proximity to the {growing} mural as inspiration for our creations. the art is done not with the intention of creating a mural, but rather done as part of our day with exploration on the top of the list.

our art is done when we need to create, not at some preset time and in some preset fashion. our art is often done where it is comfortable for the individual — on floors, on easels, on tables … even under tables sometimes and is one reason why we don’t have formal chairs around our art studio table. we have no preset start and stop time for “art” as art is an activity that can be chosen when the need to create hits.

and why the nod to van gogh’s ‘sunflowers‘, yet again? this is the full circle piece of our learning: in the exploration in our art studio around ‘perspective‘, and the many artists whose sunflower art has graced our art wall, we’ve continually been weaving this into conversations as we move through our days. how we see things, how we feel things, how we understand things, how something looks to us — all through our unique eyes and senses and ideas. the conversation that started as a base for art exploration has naturally and beautifully moved to almost every part of our day and in so many interactions … exploring how one sees something, being open to how another sees something, understanding our differences and yet embracing our connections. this has been so powerful and incredibly humbling seeing this happen by allowing it to happen naturally.

:: how can you weave perspective into your day?

:: won’t you come join us to create when the need hits? {our art studio, like every other space in our school, always has room for one more}

if you are local {and even if you are not} we welcome you to join us for slowly and deliberately made creations, of any kind, allowing you to embrace the journey. stop by in person or on this blog, we are so glad to have you.

the painted ladies … a release celebration

butterfly release celebration - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

and so, it happened. our caterpillars, one by one, transformed into their chrysalis’s. and then, as if in a well-orchestrated symphony, emerged beautifully and effortlessly as beautiful butterflies. we’ve been in complete awe in watching this transformation right before our eyes — and when I say we, I mean the children and the many adults who have been involved. the intimacy of this transformation that we’ve been so honored to be a part of, even if just by observation, has been discussion for weeks — and will likely be discussion for many weeks to come.

we had about a week with our butterflies: watching, journaling, describing and naming. we’ve learned so much about their habits, when they’re active and when they’re dormant, how to say “proboscis” and  know what it means and how it’s used, and so many more facts about our lovely painted lady butterflies. in all of this, however, we knew that these lovely creatures also belonged outside where they could fly farther than our small space allowed and find flowers with nectar, and not rely on our go-to alternative of watermelon chunks, orange slices and sugar water sprinkled on flowers from our outside space.

and, so, we wove into our time a butterfly release celebration — and what a celebration it was! watching the children rejoice in seeing each of the butterflies, one by one, leave their netted space was wonderful. seeing the butterflies spread their wings, literally and figuratively, was incredibly joy producing for every person in attendance.

but then it came time to help the one butterfly who had a bent wing and was having a hard time navigating this time. but, in the truest form of kindness and compassion, the children gathered to assist and support this small creature — finding a flower to place it on in hopes that, given time, it will join the others in flight. this little butterfly, who was named ‘jules’, was the one we all were in the most awe of. many of us adults watched during that first day after emerging from the chrysalis so inwardly fearful that this little one just might not progress like the others because of what we thought of as ‘disability’. but, then, it happened … just as the children told us all it would. jules grew and jules showed us all that a little bent wing wasn’t going to stop her.

in the celebrating of all of our butterflies and their entrance into the world where they belong, we all were most celebratory of one certain one who showed us all so much by just being. it is a front-and-center reminder that assumptions are just that — and perseverance and determination — and faith — trumps all, every time.

today, and for many days ahead, we’re embracing the spirit of jules and allowing the knowledge that anything is possible to sink deep into our bones … come and join us on this adventure