Sunday, December 27, 2009

Life School

We've been taking it really easy on the Tot School front while we enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Because of this, James has been experiencing loads of Life School. Here's a quick peek...

Paul's brother, Dan, and his girlfriend, Huimin, are visiting us until Wednesday. James loves having them around. Huimin is really smart (like a Ph.D. in Physics & author of 5 books kind of smart), she's very down to earth, super sweet and really easy to talk to. She's been sharing lots of her Chinese heritage with us by making yummy dinners, bringing gifts from China and by sharing lots of ancient secrets (can't wait to try them!). It's been SUCH a treat spending time with her.

James has been learning Chinese for a while now and Huimin was delighted when James counted to 10 in Mandarin. She has been teaching him a few new words every day. She's also teaching us how to write our names in Chinese (as pictured above - first my name, then James').

We had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope you did, too!
It's not likely I'll get around to posting anymore this year :) so I'm wishing a Happy New Year in advance to all of you!!

Some New & Some Improved

I've added/updated a few things on my sidebar and just wanted to let you all know about them...
  • A list of Montessori books I've read and highly recommend.
  • A Google translator for my non-English speaking bloggy friends!
  • A whole slew of blog buttons. I *heart* buttons and am more than happy to do button swap with you - just let me know! You can find my button on the sidebar, too.
  • A visual list of our alphabet crafts, which I add to weekly. You can click on the entire image to be taken to my Tot School posts where you'll find more details for that letter.
  • A copyright notice - there are so many fantastic ideas in the blogworld and it's awesome that we all share these with one another, but let's be sure to give each other credit for them, too!
One thing I'd like to add to my blog is a signature at the end of my posts - could someone tell me how to do that? Muchas gracias!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Montessori Mania!!

Ok, I wasn't going to post anything else this week, but I am just too excited about these....

My new Montessori materials have just arrived!!!! Aren't they beautiful?! I feel like a little kid who wants to sleep with their new favorite toy! This picture shows just the big materials - there are all sorts of practical life materials I ordered as well. I'll continue to add to this inventory over the next year or so. Montessori materials aren't cheap, but in my opinion these were well worth the investment. Especially considering they'll be used to teach more than just James.

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret... next month I begin my Montessori teacher training program!! I am so so so excited!! For months and months I've been researching and studying the Montessori method. I've read every book I can get my hands on (see side bar) and I've reached out to several teachers both locally and in the blogworld to get as much information as I can. I even wrote out a ginourmous "Ode to Montessori" post that described in (too much) detail how much I love it and why (in the end I decided it was just too long so I deleted it).

It'll be a while before I'm certified, but James will be an excellent guinea pig while I'm in training. :) I can't wait to get started and I'm really anxious to show James these new materials! Once I get going on my training, I may change the way I do Tot School. I'm thinking I'll meld the two methods together since I like certain aspects of each. Or I may split up our Tot School time from our Montessori lessons, too. I just don't know yet. It'll take a while for us to find a groove, so bear with me in the meantime.

"The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination." ~Maria Montessori

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Le Hoots

Recently, my long time friend and felting queen, Becca Jo, made these adorable owl ornaments. Of course I immediately saw them as having learning tool potential, so I emailed her for a tutorial which she graciously provided here.

I should note that I ended up modifying the design a bit (using felt backing instead of paper, using buttons, sequins and brads for eyes, and omitting the ornament aspect), but the patterns are generally the same. Here are my lovely Le Hoots:

I'm SO happy with how they turned out and I plan on making several more. I'm glad to have finished them in time for Christmas and I'll add them to the rest of my homemade gifts.

I also had the best time making these last week... each night after James fell asleep I threw a log on the fireplace, turned on some Christmas tunes, and with a warm kitty sleeping next to me and the twinkling glow of the Christmas tree, I sewed to my hearts content into the wee hours of the morning.

I plan on using these cuties for all sorts of learning activities. They are really easy to make and if you decide to create some of your own, please link back to this post.

{Why Le Hoot? Well, in 2001 I went on a Euro study in Ireland and it was there I was nicknamed Le Hoot by my goofy (and much-missed) friend, Shannon. Ever since then whenever I see an owl, I think of her. :)}

Update: click here to see how I ended up using these for a learning activity.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tot School

~James is 2 1/2 (33 months)~

Art & Music:
We did a-ha-lot of arts and crafts this week (click here to see that post). Oh happy are the days when James feels like crafting, which happened to be nearly every day this week!

James has been singing and singing and it's just so darn cute to hear Frosty the Snowman sung in a tiny voice, isn't it?! We used our instruments to make up a band and we rocked out to Jingle Bells. :)

Numbers & Letters:
Earlier in the week I created a bunch of holiday math activities (click here to see that post), which James really, really enjoyed.

One day I found James doing this...
arranging the numbers from his large playmat in numerical order. (It's kind of hard to see unless you click the photo to enlarge.)

These alphabet cards are one of my favorite school tools we have. I can't recall where I bought them, but you can buy them here. They are so beautiful and really well made. I like that there are unusual animals in the deck (narwhal, vicuna, impala) to enhance vocabulary. James took it upon himself to spell out the names of the animals! Here's a quick video clip:
video

Science & Nature:

James used some 3D glasses to look at pictures of Mars & the moon. He thought this was pretty cool and kept reaching out to touch the pictures. :)

I took a cue from my fellow Bermuda Tot School mama, Island Mama's Adventures, and had a lesson on trees with James. We went to the Botanical Gardens and walked around touching and exploring the different trees. To be honest, I was surprised this activity held James' attention as well as it did. Here he is examining the bark on a tree.

Practical Life:
Spooning sparkly pom-poms. I *love* putting together PL activities!! Especially seasonal ones. Thanks to the cute muffin tin this work was a huge hit with James.

Hooray! The days of potty learning seem to be upon us! James is finally showing signs of interest. I set up a little corner in his bathroom where he has his potty, a few special potty books, and a fresh pair of big boy underwear (for incentive). Come January we'll really move forward with potty learning. I would love to hear any tips and bits of wisdom you have to offer!

Other activities:
I purchased these awesome Christmas nesting blocks and nativity scene from here. Aside from the fact that baby Jesus looks a bit old for his age, I really like both items. James does too and carries the baby Jesus around the house. :)

Sorting erasers. I had two sets of holiday erasers, so James did two variations of this work. Sorting is always a favorite of his.

Sorting mini bows by color. This turned out to be WAY too easy for James, and he decided to count the bows instead, but I thought some of you with younger kids might like to do it.

James spent quite some time one afternoon playing with these "felt friends" I made (click here to see that post).

We are getting prepared for guests coming to stay with us next week. I won't be posting any Tot School stuff until after the New Year. In fact, I'll be posting very little over the next two weeks as I enjoy this beautiful holiday with friends and family. But, come 2010, we'll be ready and raring to go with all sorts of Tot School fun so stay tuned!!

Click the button to the left to see what others are doing with their children.

My Moment of Glory

Is it tacky to write up a post about being featured on another blog?
No?
Ok, good! Because I was!!

Michelle over at Someday Crafts honored me by featuring Counting Coconuts on her lovely blog. As you know, Someday Crafts is an amazing porthole of crafty ideas where you can find things to make when you have the time someday. :)

I submitted a few of my crafty creations to Michelle in the hopes she'd find them interesting enough for a small mention. Well, I never dreamed she'd write up a whole post about them and my learning activities with James! Click here to see what she wrote.

Thanks, Michelle!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Crafty Kind of Christmas

James has been asking to do crafts lately (!) and since such a request is music to my ears (I heart artsy craftsy stuff) I gladly put together several projects for him...

We used a variety of mediums, techniques and materials to keep things interesting. :)

Snowflake stamping. He had so much fun with this and made several pages of these pretty white snowflakes.

Cookie cutter painting is something I've seen on several blogs and we finally tried it for the first time. What a hit! We used q-tips to make the holly berries.

A funky fingerpainted stocking. MESSY fun!

Painting coffee filters. This was a neat project - use markers to color the filters and then use water and a paint brush to make the colors run together. Such a pretty result, we'll definitely do this again.

We went to a Christmas craft party this week and James and I made a few cute things: a reindeer gift bag, a snowflake ornament, and a photo ornament which was made with a small paper plate and a picture of James.

My favorite project was this tissue paper wreath. Or maybe I just like it because I love this picture of James peeking through it! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Phew! I've been sewing and poking and crafting like a mad woman, but I'm finally done making things for James for Christmas. I've posted a couple of my gifts here and there, but here's a full list of everything I made...

But wait!! Before I show you, promise you won't laugh. I'm brand spankin' new to sewing and I only sew by hand (on account of an irrational fear of sewing machines), so there are LOTS of little mistakes. Also, I never use patterns (another phobia of mine) and I have to wing it and eyeball it and all that good stuff in order to create what's in my head. So, I'm a bit insecure about my sewing skills - be kind will you? :)

I discovered the wonderful world of wool recently, and thought I'd give needle felting a go.


My first and favorite creation, Mama Earth. I just *love* her and she was surprisingly easy to make! Notice her long hair? I imagine she's the kind of gal who likes to let her hair down. :) I plan on putting her in our nature tray (a new addition to our routine come Jan.'10!!). I was inspired to make her after seeing Nicole's Mother Earth.

Le Hoot, another friend who will join the nature tray.

A snowman... this was just too easy to resist making. I've since added sticks for arms, though I expect they'll be pulled off by Mr. James within seconds.

More needle felted creations: dragonfly, nest w/ Robin's eggs, a heart, a couple flowers, and a few balls.

Now onto sewing...

I made these pouches because James loves opening and closing and carrying around little "treasures" (ie dinosaurs, jingle bells, mini erasers - you know important things!). As you can see my stitching skills are embarrassing. I wish someone could sit beside me and show me how to blanket stitch!! (I cannot figure out the tutorials online to save my life!)

A big bright ball. I think James will like this a lot. And if he doesn't, the cats sure will. This was really easy to make and didn't take me long at all.

Some felt food. I'm in the process of making a taco and a sandwich each with all the fixins, but they won't be done for a while. I also made some counting cookies, though these aren't for Christmas as we've already used them during Tot School.

Felt is so forgiving and it's easy to hide mistakes amongst the fuzz. Fabric not so much. But I so prefer fabric to felt. I just love the look and feel of it.

I made this crayon roll a while back. I was actually pretty pleased with how this turned out! I made it so it can fit any size crayon or colored pencil.

Lastly, I whipped up a batch of recycled crayons to use for stocking stuffers. Click here for my tutorial.

So that's it! I REALLY want to learn how to knit and I will make it happen in 2010. I'd also like to get over my fears of sewing machines and patterns because I'm determined to make this awesome barn for James. Pretty big project for newbie me, but I WILL do it! (never underestimate the power of positive thinking!!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Math Activities

To say James is interested in numbers would be a huge understatement. This guy LOVES numbers and counting. As such, I like to come up with plenty of activities that involves both.

Here are just a couple of things I whipped up and wanted to share with all of you. I'm also linking up to ABC & 123 with this post, so be sure to check out their blog for more math ideas.

First up... Christmas Tree Counting
To make this you simply print out (or draw and color) a BIG tree, and number small squares 1-10. I used buttons as counters, but you could use any variety of things: sparkly pom-poms, jingle bells, mini ornaments, popcorn... the list goes on!

James REALLY liked this activity and did an excellent job with numbers 1, 2, 3 & 10. Those were the first he did until he lost interest and decided to just decorate the tree with the buttons and number cards. :)

Next... A Number Forest
(like my titles for these? Sorry, I'm not very clever!) This is so easy to create, though I'll admit it does require a small amount of prep work on your part. You'll need:
  • A shoe box
  • 10 popsicle sticks
  • 10 pictures of trees (I made mine, but you could use clip art)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker
Number the pictures 1-10, glue them to the popsicle sticks, cut holes in the box and, if you want, you could paint the shoe box brown (this was my plan, but I ran out of steam after making the 10th tree!).

That's it! James had fun lining up his number forest and spent a good 20 minutes planting and uprooting the trees. ;)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tot School

~James is 33 months~
This was our lightest week of Tot School so far! I almost decided against even writing up a post, but since we did do a few things, I figured I ought to share them.

Music:
Our last Kindermusik class for the year. James had so much fun during these classes and I think they really helped him come out of his shy little shell, too. Here he is making "snow" with the parachute......and getting a sticker from the wonderful Ms. Suzanne. {I edited a Santa hat onto him just for kicks. :)}

Letters:
James played with our bottle cap puzzles. I drank a LOT of water so he could complete several name cards at once. Oh, what us mommies will do. :)

Practical Life:

I set up a self-care station in James' bathroom complete with a little mirror, and a tray with a brush & comb, a toothbrush & paste, some soap, a little washcloth, and a cute little duck just for fun.
I wish I had taken a picture of his face when he first saw it all. He LOVED it! We are big on independence in our house and while it's bittersweet to see James needing me less and less, I know it's important for him to learn how to care for himself, too.

Holiday activities:

James enjoyed all of the holiday activities I put together for him last week. Click here to read my post about them.

He also had a blast with our Christmas sensory tub. He was smiling ear to ear when he saw the Santa and tree boxes and the jingle bells. He has so much Christmas spirit - it's really so precious. He walks around the house singing "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty the Snowman" and keeps telling me excitedly that "Christmas is coming very soon!". :) Oh my goodness that kid makes me smile.

Nature:

We spent lots of time outdoors this week. James got together with his BFF a couple of times and the two of them had fun feeding the ducks at the Botanical Gardens. They also explored this ginourmous tree - the oldest in Bermuda!

Life School:
One afternoon I found James in the office "pretending to be Daddy". He had himself all set up at Paul's desk. I gave him some crayons and paper and he was "ready to work". :)

Thanks to Susan, I received a TON of buttons (as well as a bunch of other goodies) this week. James loved helping me "sort" them. I write "sort" because what actually happened is this: I sorted them by color and James sorted them by whether they were buttons or not, which means they were all dumped out and put into one big button pile. Sorta like how they were in the first place. ;)

The highlight of the week came when we attended the Annual Boat Parade party at Paul's work. The company he works for is so family oriented, it's fantastic. They gave free bubble guns to the kids. (side note: I felt so weird about saying the word "gun" to James - I know, I know, I'm being overprotective, right?) The boat parade is held in Hamilton Harbor and it's quite a sight to see all those boats decked out in twinkling lights. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any good pictures of them. At the end of the night there were fireworks. James talked non-stop throughout the entire display! ("Ooooh a big red one, mama! Ooooh very loud! Ooooh good job, fireworks!") I loved every minute of it simply because he was sharing his every thought with me.

Hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season!!

Click the button to the left to see what others are doing with their children.

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