Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa Claus is coming

If your house celebrates Christmas, have you discovered the Portable North Pole yet? This is a great free service that offers videos that you customize.

You type in your child's name, country, state, age and a few other things. When you have completed the form, Santa sends a video to your child. It is completely magical for kids, as it also includes pictures of the children.

We have done this each year with our son and he always gets very excited to see the movie from Santa.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Snowmen

Cold weather is here and as much as I already miss summer, I love snowmen. Real snowmen or fake snowmen, I love them all.

Enjoy some of the great snowmen that I found online.

First, we have The Frugal Teacher with a great expiriment documenting the lifecycle of a snowman! I think this is an amazing idea and as soon as I can clear out some space in my freezer, we are doing this.

The Idea Room made the cutest snowmen out of powdered sugar donuts. This would be adorable on the table when the kids wake up. Imagine how excited they would be, especially if school was called for a snow day too!

This is Olympia, the world's tallest snow woman. She was built in Bethel, Maine, she is 122 feet and 1 inch tall and was built in 2008. When they built Olympia, they beat thier own record of tallest snowman. They had built one in 1999 that had previously held the record. Olymia's eyelashes are skis, her lipstick mouth is made of tires that are painted red, her arms are actual trees and her scarf is 100 feet long.

Do you know what these are? They are bread ties that have been painted to look like snowmen. Get all the details at Crafts by Amanda.

Now, I love a big snowman, but there is nothing cuter than a snowman in miniature. These are from Martha Stewart and are 8 - 12 inches tall. We usually make mini snowmen to sit on the garden wall in our yard. They look cute all lined up and each scarf is a different color.

Stay warm, but make some snowmen soon!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Death of Preschool?

Isn't that a catchy title? I recently read an article that was entitled that on Waldorf Today. The article was written by a man named Paul Tullis and appeared on Scientific American's website.

I, like many of you are very interested in early education, so this caught my eye. I immediately thought to myself that I assumed preschool rates were at an all time high, was I wrong?

I started reading the article and quickly realized that this had nothing to do with enrollment and everything to do with the form of instruction in preschool classrooms. The article began by replaying a conversation between some wealthy parents that are sending their children to a high priced preschool, that contains desks and chairs for each child and the children sit and learn versus a typical preschool where there are shared tables and more free learning and instruction.

One of these parents actually says "You go in there (his child's preschool), and they are sitting down, learning something. At other preschools, they are just playing." The author goes on to talk about how many preschools are turning to direct instruction instead of letting the child's natural curiosity and eagerness lead them in learning.

I have to say that I lean more towards the play is vital to learning camp, but I can see some perspectives of direct instruction. As a matter of fact, the National Institute for Direct Instruction defines direct instruction as "a model of teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks".

I agree that all teachers, even preschool teachers, should have well-developed and carefully planned lessons. A teacher should be prepared to teach for the day. The teacher should have the lesson plan completed and all necessary supplies at his disposal. Do not come into class and just "wing it" and hope all goes well. The other side of that coin for me, is that a teacher should not be so focused on her lesson plan that she misses an opportunity to teach a child. If you are teaching a farm theme in your preschool class and  one or two of your preschoolers are not ready to move on to horses instead of cows, what is the harm of teaching them more? Always be prepared! Typical preschoolers do not have a long attention span, if you have their attention and they are focused on your activities, continue that theme. Do not change gears just because your lesson plan says that it is time to move on.

The article also talks about how the children at the "direct instruction preschool" are studying great artists. They specifically talk about how the children are learning about Pablo Picasso and Pointillism. I think that the study of great artists should be included in any learning environment. It encourages creativity and problem solving in a child and those are skills that need to be nurtured. There are a great line of books geared towards young children. They are called Touch the Art and they are a great resource for a teacher or a parent to show great works of arts to children.

A problem that I see with this course of full-time direct instruction is that you are setting up many of these children for failure. If you say that a child has to read by 5 and know all of the states and capitols by 6; what do you do with the kids that can not do that? Do you start holding children back in kindergarten or in preschool? How does a child recover from that? Will there be psychological damage when a child realizes he has failed and all of his friends have moved on without him? I think 5 years of age is a little young for a child to give up on school. She has barely started her education and you are already pigeonholing her as a failure.

Allow kids to be kids. Let them play, with a bit of instruction thrown in. If you hand a child a toy, let them play with it before you show them "the correct way to play with it". Do not stifle a preschoolers natural curiosity, instead try to look through their eyes at the world.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family Traditions

With winter getting near and the New Year running up on us, it is a great time to look back and reflect on things that have happened in your family.

What are some winter traditions you have in your family? I am not just talking about Christmas traditions, what else do you do?

Here are some ideas of fun family traditions:

1) First real snow of the year? Have fun baking and decorating gingerbread men/women while sipping hot chocolate.
2) Have a snowman party and invite over the friends and family. Play pin the nose on the snowman, craft some snowman (real or fake) and play snowman games.
3) We always Elf ourselves at Elf Yourself by Office Max. This is always a huge hit! It is simple, silly and some of our favorite free fun!
4) We put on pajamas and go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.
5) Have a pajama party, invite over friends and family, watch movies and eat snacks.
6) Have a few times that you eat dessert first.The kids will be excited and you will feel just like a kid again.
7) Put on a family wide talent show. Everyone has a talent for doing something. After all of the performances, everyone gets a vote.
8) Have a picnic! Who needs the ants? Spread a blanket on the floor and serve traditional picnic food. Bonus points if you also build a tent/fort!
9) Have a cupcake decorating contest. Everyone is given three cupcakes to decorate any way they want. They can only submit one cupcake for the contest though.
10) Last but not least, build a gingerbread house or village.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

December Family Fun Calendar

Monday Meanderings - Winter Fun

We are past Thanksgiving and Winter is well on the way. Here are some great activities that I found online that really encourage a happy Winter.

First we have Art. Paper. Scissors. Glue. with a great bubble print snowman. I love this activity, it is a great texture to create snowmen.

Do you have a white refrigerator? Surprise the kids by turning it into a giant snowman! Got to "Crafting" my talents for all the details. If you want to spend a little more time and money, attach the pieces to magnets and the kids can do it over and over again.

Going to a baby shower this winter? Anyone can bring a diaper cake, why not bring a diaper snowman? Check out Blowout Party for the details. I love this!

Planning on building gingerbread houses this winter? Want a genius idea for the kids? Put enough supplies in muffin tins and each child gets a muffin tin to build from. No more arguing over supplies, everyone is happy!

Have a great week!