Monthly Archives: June 2014

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Reflecting: 2014/9

Block CreationCreating: I am working diligently on Cam’s birthday present, a homemade quiet book.

Playing: Not many puzzles and games lately or even art. It’s all about the make believe play with her barn, GloWorms, stuffed animals, and grocery store/kitchen. Although she did make this block house a few weeks ago.

Thinking: I came across this quote weeks ago in that article on documentation in Reggio environments and just couldn’t agree more:

To view the child learner as a failure is, in my view, unethical, violating the rights of children to have a safe learning environment. -Wein

Night Rhythm

I mentioned a few weeks back that we started a bedtime routine. We haven’t previously had one and I haven’t ever felt like we needed one, per se, but in my Waldorf reading I was inspired to have a poem, story, and candle at bedtime.

Night Rhythm

So far it’s been going really well. We have an order written out which is more to help remember what the pieces of the rhythm are than a set plan of action. Cam knows all the pieces and is especially fond of snuffing the candle (she calls it “nuffing”). Just this week I’ve begun asking her to choose the story for the night and she is relishing that too (as am I). I do reserve the right to add in or switch stories if there is a particular story I want to read (to, say, emphasize a problem we’re having). Even though Cam can’t read, I’ve written out the routine and her nighttime poem and posted it above her bed. She is aware that the sheet has the poem and routine and she looks at it from time to time.

The one thing I really don’t like about the routine is that it takes time! Cam used to just go to bed when it was time. We gave her warnings that the time was approaching and then we’d go climb into bed and go to sleep. It’s not that she fusses now, it’s just that I need to be more aware of what time it is in the evening so I can be sure to get the ball rolling. A minor complaint for something that has made our evenings special and magical.

Documentation in Reggio Environments

While reading in the Miss Reggio blog I came across an article (Learning to Document in Reggio-inspired Education) that looks at the phases a teacher goes through while learning to document in a Reggio way. It’s an incredible article and I can’t recommend it highly enough. There were several thoughts I had while reading it that I wanted to share and discuss, always the sign of a good article.

In all of my reading, documentation and observation have come across to me as two pieces of the same idea. It has even felt like they have been used interchangeably although they are obviously different. What finally clicked for me while reading this article was that observation could be called recording and it’s a subset of documentation. Observation is also just straight recording. You may do this in all kinds of formats, photo, video, paper and pencil, etc., but it is recording nonetheless.

Documentation, on the other hand, is the synthesis, interpretation, and showing of the recording. Documentation is there to show the “aha moments” of the children. Your recording, or observations, provide the raw data to help you find, synthesize, demonstrate, and support these moments. It is also incredibly important to understand that the purpose of documentation is to make the children’s learning visible, not their doing. Documentation is not a narrative of what happened. Not exactly. That is the observation. Documentation has added value in that you have added your understanding and interpretation to what you have seen and made visible what the actions and words of the children reveals about what and how they are learning. I think this quote touches on this idea and the fact that this is one concept that sets the Reggio Emilia approach apart from other educational approaches:

 “Pedagogical documentation is a research story, built upon a question or inquiry “owned by” the teachers, children, or others, about the learning of children. It reflects a disposition of not presuming to know, and of asking how the learning occurs, rather than assuming—as in transmission models of learning—that learning occurred because teaching occurred.”

I especially like the term they chose to refer to documentation, “pedagogical documentation”. They discuss this choice of term early on in the article and I think it really sums up what sets apart Reggio documentation from the regular “documentation” seen in many schools and daycare centers.

Finally, I find this article very comforting, in that it gives me permission to make terrible documentation panels and documents initially. Intellectually I knew documentation and observation would be skills that needed to be developed, but a lot of my reading hasn’t been really clear on how that skill might develop, pitfalls to be aware of and the like. It’s also one thing to read about what good documentation contains, but it’s another to actually create it. Seeing that there are common mistakes and how collaboration can help correct them and build your skill was incredibly refreshing and heartening.

New Category: Deschooling

I was inspired by this post over on the Racheous Loveable Learning blog about what deschooling is and why it’s important if you choose to unschool or homeschool using an alternative educational philosophy. As she says, deschooling is about separating learning from what we traditionally think of as school and while reading this post I realized that’s what I’ve been doing by learning and blogging about the Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf approaches. So I thought I would go ahead and tag my posts about my learning about learning as deschooling and add a tab in the side bar for anyone interested in that particular aspect of our learning journey.

Reflecting: 2014/8

IMG_2351Imagining: Cam has become very involved in her imaginative play. It’s been a real joy to watch her act things out, go places (mostly Monterey), and make her animals talk.

Cooking: It’s the time of year when we turn on our barbecue and don’t turn it off until fall. If I can avoid turning the stove or oven on for the next three months I will very, very pleased.

Creating: I’ve stitched up a couple new shirts for Cam. The pattern is the same as for her dresses I made a month or so ago, but shorter. She is especially tickled with the shirt made from Cars fabric. I also decided to make her a Quiet Book for her birthday. I’ve planned it all out and will be starting it this week.

Coming Back to Montessori

I’ve noticed a couple behaviors with Cam that have become habits that I want her to break out of. She is acting less independently lately and she isn’t focusing on activities for long. Part of this I think comes from wanting to connect with me (which is why we do the breathing in and breathing out) and part comes from the age.

I know she is capable of being both independent and focused. If I can’t join her and we’ve had some good connection time, she will often wander off and become engrossed with a game or activity. I tend to be a bit scattered, and sometimes won’t sit down with her immediately or continuously, so she is probably mimicking me in that regard. However, I also think she wants the connection with me so she tries to find that by joining me or nagging until I turn my focus on her.

I also wonder if she’s going through a little crisis in confidence that seems to come with the age. She is suddenly incredibly verbal and physically capable and maybe we have become inconsistent in responding to her and helping her because she is also acting needy. Whatever the reasons, I know she can do it and I know she has formed some bad habits that we now need to break.

So I want to foster a bit more concentration and independence and what better way than to put out some Montessori activities and fall back on some of the Montessori principles. I know some may quibble with a cherry-picked approach (to any educational method), but I think it’s a good idea to tailor learning to the child and their specific needs. Cam, in the past, has not really responded to the Montessori activities, but I think by aging them down, making them simple and easily achievable, and connecting with her over the presentations I can help foster her confidence and then begin to slip in the independence and focus training.

I was especially inspired by this post and this post on the blog Montessori Nature. She does such a beautiful and simple job of setting up Montessori inspired activities for her toddler. They really scratch that aesthetics itch for me, but also really support the learning embodied in the Montessori method.

What does this mean for following our Reggio principles and Waldorf ideas? Nothing really. We still rely heavily on them. We do a lot of art and there are still tons and tons of open ended areas and toys. In fact that majority of Cam’s time is spent in imaginative play, which I see as something she is showing an interest in. I ensure that she has plenty of time and space to engage in it everyday. The best part of this is that it requires very little set up and provocation from me for her to jump in. The new Montessori trays I’ve put out make up one little slice of our morning where I can really focus on her and work with her, less so she is learning anything in particular (although she is obviously learning) but to give her the attention and confidence she seems to need fostered.