Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our Peace Table

Here is our peace table in our schoolroom!

We use our peace table for promoting mindfulness, solving conflicts and calming down when we get upset.  Our peace table contains: on top our peace basket and a copy of "peaceful piggy meditation".  

Our peace basket contains:
a copy of "the peace rose"
a copy of "calm down time" 
a laminated finger maze
A laminated peace card (from the peace table card set from
Our starry night jar ( original idea from Chasing Cheerios )
A seashell for listening to the ocean
meditation pebbles 
our peace rose (fake rose lol )
The bottom shelf of our table contains:
 a little basket with our peace table cards
our copy of "mindful movements"
a mini Chinese gong to signal the start of mediation

I was asked on one of my forums that I frequent to explain how we use our peace table so I am copying and adding that post in here for an explanation of how WE use our peace table.

OK so the idea of the peace table is a Montessori based idea but we have added some of our own spin to it as well.  Being a family with an ASD kiddo and me being ASD myself and both of us having anxiety issues we needed some more ideas for adding mindfulness to our lives.  Also having soon to be 4 boys close in age we needed better methods for conflict resolution so we could teach our kids better ways to deal with negative feelings and fights.  Our table works in different ways depending on the situation.

Daily use:
We try and include daily meditation into our routine.  This really helps ASD people to learn to calm the craziness that can happen in our heads especially for those of use with severe sensory issues like DS1 and myself.  We go to our rug and cushion basket and get our meditation cushions plop them down in front of the table get our meditation pebbles (we each have our own set of 4) and then I will start our guided meditation CD that came with our mindfulness book  I HIGHLY recommend this book!!!!!  I really cannot recommend it enough actually :lol:  Thich Nhat Hanh is a fantastic writer who cares very deeply in his quest to bring mindfulness to the children of the world!  I own almost all of his books and they are all extremely well written and useful especially when you start out and have no clue what you are doing :lol:  anyhow back to the story .........  we hit our mini gong to symbolize the start of meditation and we work through it all leaving us all feeling very relaxed and fresh.  I make it very well known to the kids that they can do this anytime they want as there is no overdoing meditation IMHO.

Calming the ickies:
I'll be blunt here.  My son is ASD and we definitely have days that can be BAD.  Days where his anxiety is through the roof and he is an emotional mess.  Days where my heart breaks because I have to see my baby coming apart at his seams.  BUT and a huge BUT our peace table has given us more hope that we can overcome this together.  As soon as I notice it coming I'll say something like hey T I think we need to take a visit to the peace table.  I make it very clear in all forms that this is NOT punishment ever no matter the situation.  I want the kids to want to go to the table when they feel they need to and I want them to view it as a safe place where they can calm down and escape whatever ickies are creeping in.  So during a breakdown we go to our table and the first thing we usually do is shake our starry night jar really hard and get all the thoughts racing wildly around the globe.  I will tell T this is your mind right now, full of thoughts racing around with no rhyme or reason.  He will then put the jar down on the table or floor and we will take deep breaths and watch closely as the stars or "thoughts" start to all slow down and settle and the jar becomes clear of thoughts.  This is our mind when we practice mindfulness and we can settle all our thoughts and calm down our ickies so our minds can be clear.  At this point he is usually calm enough to go onto the next step of the seashell.  He will usually go ahead and grab the seashell and listen closely to see if he can hear the ocean. He will then usually trace the finger maze and read the calm down time book.  By the end of the process (10 min or so total) he is usually calmed all the way down and crisis is adverted.  On a bad day where meds are off or he is over stimulated or whatever he may have to do this over and over again through the day but each time it does work to calm him back down.

Conflict resolution:
If we have a fight we go to our peace table.  Any fight that results in screaming hitting or just no foreseeable end usually ends up in a group trip to the peace table.  Once there If we need to we re-read the peace rose book or just go right onto the peace rose activity.  What we do is first calm them down.  I try and do this by putting on calm music from our meditation cd and reading one of the tables cards or books to grab their attention.  Once we are calm enough to talk I will pass the rose to one of the children.  If I feel in the fight there was an aggressor and a victim I will give the victim the rose first.  He who has the rose talks everyone else must remain silent while the rose holder expresses why he is upset and how he feels about the situation that transpired.  Once the first child has had their chance to speak they pass the rose to the other child who then gets to say their feelings and thoughts on the matter.  This teaches them to listen to each other and try and understand how each feels which is very important in general but even more so when a child has ASD and great difficulty in relating to the emotions of others.   It is my hopes that this method will really help them to learn to talk out disagreements and be more mindful of the feelings and boundaries of the people around them.   After both parties have talked mom gets the rose and we think of ways together that the situation could have been handled differently.  I will take ideas from each kiddo and we will talk it over passing the rose if need be.  Once a resolution has been found we go back to what we were doing hopefully a bit more aware of how to treat each other.

So that is pretty much it and how we use our peace table.  :)  I hope that helps out some people and as always I am open to more suggestions as we love new ideas to add in or things to learn!

DIY Montessori Checkerboard

I really wanted to have the Montessori checkerboard in our collection but could not swallow the 50 dollar price tag on it!  So I set out to make it myself.  I bought everything from Michaels for under ten dollars.  It is a plywood board and balsa wood square dowels.  I first measured and drew on the checkerboard and then painted it.  After it dried I glued down the dowels to form a frame.  Then I sprayed the whole thing with modge podge glossy sealer for a nice finish.  Finally I wrote on the numbers in extra fine sharpie marker on the white boarder.

Here is our finished checkerboard!

Our Finally well ok Almost Finished Schoolroom!

Truth is I didn't feel like waiting anymore to share! LOL  I was just WAY too excited with all of our hard work and changes that I just had to share!  

As you know from a previous post my beloved grandmother recently passed away.  I didn't even have to think in order to know what to do with the inheritance that she left me.  She was such a driving force in my own education and love of learning I wanted her to always be a part of learning and education in our home and the lives of our children so it was through her that this schoolroom was built.  

The first order of business was figuring out shelving.  I hated all the cheap fiberboard walmart shelving we had before and the general closed in feeling of the schoolroom.  After looking around I fell in love with and decided on using the Ivar shelving from Ikea.  Not only are they unfinished REAL wood they are inexpensive, beautiful and easy to assemble!  We also went with Ikea for my new desk (expidet with desk attachment), the computer table (kritter w/ matching chair), the practical life cubbies (expidet on it's side) and the pre existing personal cubbies under our TV is also an expidet from Ikea.  I also found this awesome set of small wooden boxes (set of 3m 2 smaller and 1 large) that work PERFECT for displaying material on the shelves in a really pretty way!

Second was to order tons of beautiful Montessori materials!  This was soooo much fun for me and something I have always wanted to do!  I ordered the bulk of my materials from; Montessori Outlet, Kid Advance, Ifit Montessori  Alison's Montessori and Caliber Montessori.  I researched, thought about it, slept on it and came up with my list of materials I wanted in our classroom.  I then also figured out what I would make and what I would buy.  I also went onto Montessori Print Shop and collected the printables I wanted to use in our classroom and began the work of printing, laminating and cutting out the materials.  All in all so far I would say I have printed, laminated and cut out close to 1000 sheets of paper!  I took a very long time but I figured it would be worth it to have the bulk done and ready for use.  

I also put our lovely virco desks in the basement!  Really we don't use them and I thought long and hard about it and didn't feel them to be necessary as we are not aiming to replicate a B&M school.  T opted to keep his though so we put it in his room so he has a place to work alone if he chooses.

So without further ado here is our new Montessori inspired classroom!
 The hubby put up the tapestries to span the gap between the knee wall and the ceiling because T kept looking over the knee wall down the stairs and it made us very nervous!  Turns out they are gorgeous up and we love them!  The yellow map hung on the knee wall is loop material so you can velcro things to it!  I plan on making lots of laminated items to put up as we study geography!
 The view from my desk towards the Montessori shelves.  You can see the Ikea futon we have here in front of our school TV as well as my blue teacher's cabinet and the drawers I keep my step daughters' afterschool supplies in.  You can also see the higher up shelving my awesome hubby put up for me.  Up there lives educational board games, science books, history encyclopedias, T's keyboard, a few science kits and my Montessori albums.
 Our homeschool TV area.  We watch our documentaries here, T does his piano lessons here, master reader is done here.  You can also see the boys' personal cubbies that have their supplies in them ( yes I color coordinate my children)
 This expidet is where our practical life trays live.  I try and cycle them out frequently so they do not get too old.
 Here you can see the window side of the schoolroom as well as the grammar farm that lives on the rug in the middle of the room.
 These are our language shelves.  The bins above hold our printable materials for grammar and the pink, blue and green language series.  The left shelf has pink, blue and green materials on the top shelves. The bottom shelves is the grammar materials.  The right shelves hold our metal insets, sandpaper letters. melissa and doug letter matching puzzles and a box of latin readers.
 These shelves are our sensorial materials.  On the top shelf lives our plants then come our geometric shapes and geometry cabinet.  One shelf down is the pink tower, brown stair and a box holding blindfolds.  The shelf below holds knobless cylinders, color boxes 1, 2 and 3.  Bottom shelf has the toddler pink tower ( brown stair is currently downstairs).  The corner shelf has our CD player on top ( we have classical music, guided meditation cds and such in our CD player at all times.  On the shelves there are our geometric nomenclature, Kaleidoscope, pressure cylinders, touch tablets, sound cylinders, constructive triangles and on the bottom shelf live our knobbed cylinder blocks.
 Here is a better view of our art corner.  The easel is from Ikea as are the smocks hung on the wall and the bygel rails that hold supplies in colorful cups.  The blue cart to the left holds the free use supplies so the kids can easily get to them.  I have a mat on the floor to make cleanup simple as you can just wipe it off!  The basket holds our work rugs and meditation cushions.
 This is our map stand and maps.  I got the stand and 4 of the maps for a killer deal from Caliber Montessori who is going our of business and was liquidating their stock and ridiculously cheap prices! I plan on remaking the flags for our flag map because it really bothers me to have plastic flags with all of the beautiful wooden stuff all around!  on the floor under the stand lives our world map and the control maps for each of our maps.  On each side of the stand lives our long red rods and our number rods.
 To the right is our art cabinet which has magnet locks on the doors.  I keep the bulk supplies in here as well as supplies that require more supervision.  The shelf above lives all our art paper and on top pf that is our spinning organizer with scrapbooking scissors, glue and art pencil case.  there is also some paint pallets and for the moment our wooden science tray.
 Squee Montessori math oh how I love thee!  Bygel rails hold calculators, pencils ect.  You can see all of our math materials here.  Most I bought however there are a few home made materials here as well like the addition charts, teen & tens boards, spindle boxes and the checkerboard.  I will come back later and add here what is all on the shelves but for now we'll leave it at math materials LOL
 More math shelves and the little shelf with our continent boxes on it.  GASP yes I know there are a few plastic items here LOL.
Our cultural/geography shelves.  On the bottom you can see two of my homemade land and water form trays.  On the top shelf, the bear is from Harrods in London and the panda my brother brought back from China.

So there you have it our brand new Montessori classroom!  I am so in love and have a hard time not wanting to be in the room all day long!  

Continent boxes

Here are our continent boxes!

 They are still kind of a work in progress as some are still not that full and I am sure we'll collect more as we go.  I again used the awesome photo boxes from Michael's craft store and I have got to say they really were perfect for the job even if they are not the traditional colors of the continents.  I have decorated each box using scrapbook stickers as well as glued the montessori nomenclature card for that continent to the lid of each box.  I lucked out and found a few boxes that were already printed with nice artwork that corresponded to the continent.  I then began the work of filling my boxes.  Each has the corresponding book from the true book series which I bought for really cheap used off amazon.  Then I called my mom (she has traveled around a lot )  and asked her for any of the chackies (doodads) she didn't need/want anymore.  I then looked through my memorabilia and made a list of things I would like to find and headed off to ebay.  I found a lot for really cheap on ebay!  I also signed up for a culture swap which I am really looking forward to!

Note:  I store the nomenclature for the continents in our nomenclature drawers located in our closet. 

Here are some boxes to look at!

Europe and Africa

Europe has in it:
coins, stamps, bills (even one with montessori on it!), picture my mom took of Stonehenge, A piece of the berlin wall my brother gave me, a rosary I picked up from the Vatican when I went to Rome. 

Africa has in it:
Folder cards from, an African mask my brother brought back, African animals toob, tanzinite, African mined amethyst, ancient Egyptian artifacts from my personal collection (shabtis), bills and coins.


Asia box contains:
Tibetan prayer flags, sand I collected in Israel, japanese candy, pearls from china, a statue of Buddha, a wooden fan, a Chinese butterfly that was sent along with something I ordered off ebay once, incense from India, sushi erasers, coins, bills,  rice seasoning packets from Japan, Chinese ink with brushes, jade cat, chopsticks, safari animals from Asia and stamps.

Creating Nature Boxes

I have been putting most of my free time effort lately into the creation of nature discovery boxes.
I am housing my nature boxes in photoboxes from Michael's craft store as they went on sale for 1.66 and well I filled 3 shopping carts full, you know in case I needed them LOL I use these same boxes for my continent box and they are awesome in general for many school uses! So far I made a list of the boxes I would like to make first, then went through and made a list for each box's contents. Some of the more obscure items I found on ebay or through general internet searches. If you are persistent enough you can find a lot of awesome things to put into your boxes for very cheap! The idea behind making these boxes is we have discovery units ready to go that can be pulled out at any time and put on a wooden tray on our science shelf for exploration. I plan on coordinating the boxes with what we are currently studying in science as well as every box that corresponds with a creature we can raise we plan on doing that! We already have an egg incubator, frog kit, butterfly kit, ladybug kit, praying mantis kit and we can get a new fish at any time LOL Best thing about the kits is you can buy them in advance and just wait till you are ready to send in the coupon to get your larvae/eggs! Most of my boxes have little books inside them on the subject matter within. They also have corresponding nomenclature I store in my nomenclature drawers. The boxes I have made first are: Bat - Even has a freeze dried bat in the box (creepy I know) Sea life- different types of shells and preserved sea life trees - different leaves, branches, pine cones and bark Bones - contains a real skull, real jaw bones from a variety of mammals, animal xrays, human xrays and a baby tooth Skin, scales, fur and feathers - contains exactly what it says Birds - feathers, fake nest, bird skull, hoping to add a emptied preserved egg. Insects - a bunch of dead bugs preserved in clear acrylic blocks, a book on insects, some specimens we collected and I have placed into little acrylic boxes with magnifying lids. - We also have a hornet nest that the hubby removed from the side of our house in a separate plastic shoebox with plastic wrap over it so the kids cannot touch since it was sprayed with raid. The coolest thing about our nest is there was a new hornet emerging from a cell when it was sprayed so it is preserved mid hatching! Bees- bee life cycle models, beeswax candle making sheets, honey, a dead bee in an acrylic block Animal tracks - animal tracks rubbing plates, animal tracks matching cards, Rubber molds of real animal tracks. We also will be going out with the boys for nature walks w/ plaster so when we see some tracks we will cast them and add them to our box! Butterfly - Butterfly wing in a magnification box, butterfly life cycle model, a collection of many different butterfly wings. My bones box as an example of contents
Some resources for making your own (will come back and add more over time too)

 bat activity sheets free!

Wildlife coloring pages and activity pages Articles

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our Grammar Farm

So I really wanted a nice looking grammar farm but no way was I going to spend 300 dollars plus on one so I did the next best thing and built ours.

I used:
a farm set I got off ebay for about 20 dollars
an Ikea Lack side table on casters ( so we can move our farm if need be)
Safari animals ( some are a little off scale LOL)
hardware drawers
labels from Montessori Printshop

First I glued the felt to the table top.  Then when it dried I set up the farm and put another blue felt cutout on the grass for a pond.  on the shelf  sits our hardware bins with all our labels and behind the bin we have a few baskets containing more things for the farm.  This table really ended up working perfectly for our farm setup!

Here is our finished farm

Montessori Land and Water Form Trays DIY post

Montessori Monday

So I have been steadily working on building my montessori materials up to get them ready for our new classroom which is about halfway done now!  Here is a look at my finished land and water form trays which all told cost me about 20 dollars to make and are metal instead of the plastic ones that run over 100 dollars for the set!

Materials used:
Plaster of paris
Aluminum cake pans (98 cents each at walmart and the perfect size!)
Modge podge high gloss sealer (to make them waterproof)
99 cent rose art modeling clay (to form the molds for the plaster)
Acrylic paint

I forgot to take in progress pics so I will just give a brief explanation of how I made them.

First I set out all of the trays and rolled out my modelling clay into flat pieces to form the molds,  Then I put the clay into each pan into the shape of the landform I was making.  NOTE: i only had to make 5 total molds as the other 5 trays are the inverse of the first 5 molds which saved on clay and time.  I then mixed the plaster and poured the molds.  Be prepared to hold up the clay for a few minutes on a couple of the molds for stability.  Soon as I pour I tap the whole tray off the table to bring air bubbles to the top instead of inside the plaster.  After it was dry enough I removed the clay and set them up in the next 5 trays and repeated the process but inverted where I poured the plaster. NOTE: on some of the smaller forms you may have to glue down the plaster to the tray after it has set because it will not stick on it's own.  (the ones I glued where: island, peninsula, archipelago and isthmus)  After all the plaster was poured and the clay removed I began painting the trays.  I used green for the top of the land, 2 shades of brown to show the earth on the sides of the land and then blue for the water areas.  I waited a day for them to fully dry.  After they were dry I took them outside and gave each of them a heavy spray down with the high gloss sealer so that my trays can be filled with water when we use them.

here are the finished trays!