Tag Archives: Planning

Garden Plan 2016

I spent the last few weeks planning out the garden because, as it turns out, some of my seeds need to be started inside this week. We are very fortunate to live in a mild winter climate, meaning we are in the 50s during the day through the winter (with a few days in the 40s) and nights hovering in the upper 30s. Until a few years ago we seemed to only have a handful of nights that dropped to freezing or below, but I’ve noticed the last few years we’ve had a couple weeks worth of nights that drop down into the upper 20s. Brr! It does not snow where we live in California (although contrary to popular belief there are places it does snow in the state) so once the weather starts warming up in early March we are home free for planting. 

The bigger challenge for our gardening is how hot it gets in July, August and September. There are several stretches of days where temperatures reach 105 and while there is often a delta breeze to cool us off in the evening we have a week or two of airless days. This causes even some of the hardiest plants to wilt and requires a lot of extra watering to pull the food crops through. And water is scarce out here in the West right now. I’m hoping to get some rain barrels and fill them this winter (we almost never get rain in the summer months) to supplement. 

Last year we ripped out our lawn (too thirsty!) and put down bark and a number of other ground covers like lantana and various ornamental grasses. This also freed up space in our sunny front yard for a real garden. Our house faces due north and the backyard is blessedly shaded by an enormous fruitless mulberry all summer long. Excellent for cooling bills, terrible for vegetable gardens. I can grow cooler season crops in the back and occasionally I’ll get some sun-loving plants to limp along. We never got tomatoes. Last year, with the lawn gone, I tried out straw-bale gardening and it worked incredibly well. I’ve never gotten so many peppers and squash and beans and tomatoes. This year I want to expand it and plant more of the crops we tend to use while keeping a few crops and the bee hive in the backyard. 

Here are the layouts/plans for my front and back gardens (to see them larger and more clearly, click on the image to open it in a new page):

Front Garden Plan

Back garden plan

Activity in the Hive: Summer of Mess

This summer, because of two books I’ve been reading through, I decided to embrace mess and being off from work. I actually work several very part time jobs both from home and outside of the home. They aren’t what you would consider traditional part time jobs, so I often don’t think of myself as home only part time, but I suppose in reality I am. That means I try to embrace the time Cam and I have, but with farm chores, housekeeping, and work that crops up I am not always successful. But this summer I have planned to put aside a lot of my library blogging, my work and my hang ups about being messy. I picked out a ton of activities for Cam and I to do together. 

Everything will start at the beginning of June since that was the soonest I could wrap up the majority of my commitments. (I am still teaching two weeks of half-day summer camp classes and we have a long weekend for a professional conference.) However starting this week we are going to have two messy planned activities and a set of quiet boxes for each week (although some of those may carry over or repeat). I would like to blog about this summer and my plan is to have three posts a week. The first, going up on Mondays, will be pictures and descriptions of the quiet boxes. The second and third, going up on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be the messy activities we are doing with a picture or two. I’m having the posting schedule mirror our weekly schedule, but it will lag a week behind us. That means this will be the only post this week about our summer of mess so that I have some lead time to take pictures and write up the posts. If this becomes too much I’ll stop, but that’s the plan so far. Please check back if you are interested in seeing what we do!

If you are interested I highly recommend these two books- the books I am collecting my ideas from:

Screen Free TinkerlabTinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors by Rachel Doorley

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro

Activity in the Hive: Home vs. Classroom Provocations

Between setting up provocations for Cam and constantly reorganizing our play spaces so that Cam can easily get to things she is interested in I came to a realization. I’m like a lot of moms, I read mommy blogs and scour Pinterest. I like to see what other people are doing and get inspiration and ideas for things to do in our home- organization, activities, etc. I also happen to see and follow several Reggio teachers and greatly admire many of the things they do. I wouldn’t necessarily copy any of their provocations, since Cam may not be interested in what the programs are specifically about. However, I do like to adapt them.

One thing I started noticing, primarily with the school provocations, is that they are designed to take up a whole table and stay out on that surface. That’s great, if you have a lot of tables and/or space. But, we live in a post-WWII track home. We’ve done a lot to open up the house, but the rooms are still small. We don’t mind, we love our house, but it does mean that when we organize and set up furniture we have to get creative. Moreover, we live in our house everyday and do other house related things like eat, sleep, wash clothes, and shower. These are all activities that are, by and large, not done in a classroom and they create some other limitations on setting up a classroom-like setting. So bringing the classroom provocation into the home is requiring some of that creativity and a flexibility that allows for things to be put away at the end of the day and rotate onto our two work tables when the mood strikes. 

Here are some things I’ve learned so far about designing provocations for our home. They may change and develop as Cam gets older and more capable and as her interests change, but for the time being they work well. 

Tips for provocations at home: 

  • Use the Montessori principle of everything on a tray or in a basket: This makes for easy portability off a shelf and onto a work surface
  • Make sure things fit on the tray or basket well and that your child can actually move it: No flimsy trays, no tall jars that require extra balancing, nothing hanging over the edge waiting to fall off mid-move and try to keep it light enough that they can move it without assistance (this last part may not always be possible). 
  • Less is more; make sure there is white space: There are tons of awesome provocations you can set up for your child, but if there are too many options they won’t be able to get them off the shelf or they’ll just plain be overwhelmed. Be sure to space the trays out on the shelf too for easy removal and to help draw their eye to each one individually.
  • You can also go bigger: There are a lot fewer kids in your home than in a school, so you don’t have to have nearly as many seats and stations set up. This can allow you to add a few more materials, or even more expensive materials, that there may not have been space or money for in a classroom.
  • Keep clean up in mind: In a classroom you might be able to have a stack of paper and tray for the used paper and a jar for the pens and a sign and a picture and a book, etc, etc, etc. In a classroom all those things stay out on the table, though. It’s fine to have all those elements at home, just be sure cleaning up the provocation (putting it back on the tray and back on the shelf) doesn’t turn into an ordeal. It should be relatively easy to clean up to encourage them to actually clean it up. You can get creative and have a few items such as books stay out on your work table or you could have them sit on the shelf behind the tray to be picked up when your child is interested or carried over separately. 

Provocations

Activity in the Hive: Planning and Documentation Experiment

At the start of October I decided I really needed to come up with a planning process that involved breaking up new provocations and aligning them with a broader plan.

Ever since I read about the Intended Projects document in Working in the Reggio Way (I discuss it a bit here) I have been trying to create my own. This document is an incredibly broad document and defines the overarching themes or concepts you’ll cover in a given period of time. Because it’s such a detailed and long document I really just needed the time to sit down, think through, and then put my thoughts together on paper (so to speak). I recently made the time to do this and to come up with some other pieces of the planning process.

Part of my intention was also to encourage myself to begin documenting Cam’s thinking and learning. This is one of the aspects I really love about the Reggio approach and I think it’s one of the more powerful pieces too because it requires a lot of reflection and listening to the child(ren) on the part of the educator.  

What I have now is essentially a series of documentations that form a beginning, middle, and end. Technically there is no end, but the final document can certainly come at a natural stopping or breaking point and must come after the project has had some time to develop and begin winding down.

My new planning process includes:

  • Intended Projects: This is a document meant to cover the planning for a season or even be a biannual document.  It lays out the broad themes and concepts I want to cover and names and generally plans provocations that will go with those themes.

I identified four core areas I want topics or themes to fall into (Language Arts, Numeracy, Art, and Nature) and then I picked what I wanted the broad topics to be (right now I have Building Letter Awareness as the Language Arts topic). Of course there is tons of overlap and I make note of that. I also have a written statement at the top that addresses both the question “what do I seek to make evident?” and discusses how these topics tie in with Cam’s expressed interests.

There are different types of projects identified within the document too: Umbrella Projects (which are those four core areas), Environmental Projects (these are projects that come out of any of the play areas we have set up in the house), Daily Life Projects (these are projects that come out of her wonderings and musings that happen in the natural course of daily life), and Self-Managed Projects (these I don’t expect to see until Cam is quite a bit older and more independent). Provocations can fall into several types of projects.

Under the general project planning I have a provocation strategies section that contains places to record questions (from me or Cam), materials, scaffolding (any prior knowledge she’ll need or provocations or activities that need to be planned or need to come first), books, and provocations (these are the actual set ups I want to put out). 

I should also note that this is not a static document. I add to it and build on it as I go along. It’s not intended to be perfect or comprehensive the first time around.

  • Provocation (Monthly) Planning: In my Intended Projects I name the provocations I want to set up. In my monthly planning I assigned a week of each month to one of the core areas/umbrella projects. On Mondays I set up the one or two provocations that go along with it (many of the provocations build on each other so there is an order to them). That means each provocation stays out for at least a month and it breaks the set-up process into much more manageable chunks. 
  • Provocation Documentation: This is a final document that will come toward the end of a provocation. It will record a statement about why I did the provocation (what questions Cam had that led there or interest that she showed), notes about context and objectives, materials available, a narrative, what was learned, and follow up ideas. I will also include pictures here. I have yet to finish one of these as we are still in the throes of the our current project How Clothes Are Made. I am hoping this will be a good place to harvest pictures and information to create documentation panels. 

I know all this sounds super formalized and school-y, but it’s all based on what Cam has expressed interest in. I chose Building Letter Awareness because Cam is frequently pointing to scribbles she makes and telling me what word she has written. I think she’s ready to start identifying letters and learning how to turn those scribbles into real letters. I am really interested in keeping a good record of what she is thinking and how she is approaching learning too, so I want to have good documentation of all that. And I am prone to getting lazy about setting things up for her (I’m procrastinating setting up some painting as I type) but if I’m hyper organized and front-load in the planning stage it’s easy for me to follow through. I guess you could say this (should) keep me honest. 

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Keep in mind that I am crazy organized and a total neat freak (always have been) so this may be way beyond what any normal parent wants to do. Any one else do planning like this? How do you approach planning?

Notes from Working in the Reggio Way: Progettazione

Since readingthrough Working in the Reggio Way I’ve been revisiting chapters of the book, reading them more thoroughly, and doing the journal work she recommended doing along with the book; essentially using it like a workbook. This has been really informative both for how I see working with Cam and for examining my own thoughts about education.

In terms of more practical, hands-on application, the chapters on planning and observation have been incredibly useful. I feel like I now have a clearer idea of how to approach these things in a Reggio way. In my last blog post about this, I noted that I have read Authentic Childhood, another fabulous Reggio book, but it was so theoretical. That was what I needed when I was first approaching the idea of the Reggio Emilia approach, but now I’m at the point where I need more concrete ideas and examples of how it’s done. Working in the Reggio Way has a been exactly this kind of book.

My understanding had been that the Reggio Emilia approach has no set curriculum and that all activity is thought up by the children. It sounded like anything goes and anything and everything happens. I found this idea incredibly intimidating and didn’t really know how to ease in. How do you know exactly what provocations to set up, especially if you know your child isn’t familiar with everything in the world? Is there some kind of starting point? Do you just jump in? Does that mean there is no planning until you’ve observed and made mind maps? Do you observe your child or class for a week then begin “using” the method?

It turns out that my understanding was true, but it’s not exactly how it sounds. Firstly, there are several different kinds of projects that occur in a Reggio classroom. They are, of course, all tied together and may fit more than one category, but as Julianne Wurm points out, when trying to wrap your head around it, it makes sense to look at it in a more linear way. Throughout the chapter she uses the Italian word for planning, progettazione, because there is no good English translation that doesn’t carry other meanings. This idea carries over to her definition of several of the projects, they have words for them, but the English words carry some baggage.

The teachers do have a set of projects with set provocations and they do do some curriculum planning (progettazione). They may use these every year with little or no tweaking. However, they are very broad ideas that can encompass a lot of learning and exploring. I would call them umbrella topics. Wurm called them a project theme and says “this is the foundation, projects that all the children will do in the course of three years [the length of the program]”. Where the learning goes depends entirely on the group of children and their ideas and interests. The provocations that go with these projects tend to also be broad or open ended and, again, how the children approach them, interact with them and what they get out of them is entirely up to the group of kids and changes from year to year.

To make this a little more concrete, Wurm explains that one of the schools she apprenticed in had the Color Among the Hands project. She describes it as ” a color theory project in which children use many different languages to explore and create their own understanding of color theory”. While there was plenty of room for the children to discover and follow their interests within this project they would also have some set provocations such as painting on easels that would give the students jumping off points. 

There are also environmental projects, projects and learning that are inspired by the different areas of the classroom (such as the block area, the house play area, etc.). There are daily life projects which come from daily exposure to the world and ideas children

Reggio Emilia.jpg

wonder about. Wurm notes that these are spontaneous. There are also self-managed projects which are projects undertaken by individual children or small groups. These can be big or small and can be child- or teacher-initiated. Wurm stresses that the lines between these various projects are very fluid and it’s important not to become too rigid when thinking about them.

The projects remain flexible and child-directed because of one type of documentation called the Intended Projects. This is a planning document that is added to and edited throughout the year as new projects and ideas arise. It is also begun at the beginning of the year to get things started. I plan on discussing this in more depth next week in a post about documentation as discussed in Working in the Reggio Way.

One of the ideas I really love about the Reggio approach is that it isn’t standards based or driven. There is no end point to the learning and you believe that the children will learn what they need to learn without setting some goal. It also values the process of learning and exploring over a product that can be used to give a grade or check a box.

A New Daily Rhythm

As I noted in my last post I’m working on creating a better daily rhythm. At this point I feel like I have a handle on the breathing in and out rhythm of the day. Now I want some anchor points in the day and week (laundry on Friday, cleaning on Thursday, and the like). Cam is also trying to involve herself in some of my activities so I need to find ways she can help and include them in the schedule.

There are two aspects to a written agenda and to-do list, though, that I am trying very hard to resist. The first is becoming a slave to the clock and the second is becoming a slave to the to-do list. I would like to have a schedule that allows extra time if we’re having fun, not one that requires we shut things down to get on to the next thing on the list. I also feel myself getting too tied to the to-do lists I’ve been creating. I need to write down what needs to be done becauseI forget, but it can really drive me to forget to do other things like connect with Cam.

So, I’m going for a few words that will guide our days and the idea that at the beginning of each day I can reflect on what needs to be done, when I will do those things, and what our daily words will look like (i.e. bike on driveway for “go outside”).

Daily Rhythm

Thinking About Family Vision

Between my reflection posts, reading about Waldorf education, and the feeling of freshness and renewal of springtime I’ve been thinking a lot about reexamining our daily routine and our approach to the week. Sometimes I feel like I can get hung up on crossing off the to-do list and that we get in a rut. I was pleased to see someone else must have been thinking along similar lines, because one of the Waldorf blogs I follow, Lavender’s Blue Homeschool, started a series this month on creating a Waldorf-inspired home preschool. It’s really gotten me thinking in a helpful way.

Per the first post in the series, I am working on creating a vision for our family. The post suggests making a vision board or artistic representation, writing a formal mission statement or even simply a journal post. Nothing so formal or artistic for me, but since my blog is rather like a journal I thought I would share it here.

I think I like this idea so much not because I feel like we’re floundering or don’t have direction, but because I think it will help guide our decisions about our homeschooling, how we teach Cam and what we teach her. It will help develop our family traditions and rituals and it can serve as a guide when we need to make decisions about what to do as a family.

I want our family to be:

  • warm
  • calm
  • curious
  • creative
  • grateful
  • aware
  • compassionate
  • gracious

We appreciate:

  • that there is time for everything
  • nourishment (for body and soul)
  • what we have, not what we want
  • natural beauty
  • connection (with each other and the world)

Resources Series: Montessori Scope and Sequence

Resource Series BannerWay back in June I posted that I was working on a scope and sequence of Montessori materials and activities. You can refresh your memory here if you’d like. Long story short, I finished it and am ready to share. I know the blogosphere likes to share, especially the Montessori/homeschool crowd and I really want to contribute something.

There may very well be something out there on the Internet like this and it may be better. I haven’t found it though, so I created this scope and sequence. It is just that, a scope and sequence for the infant, toddler, and 3-6 age groups. It simply shows what the various Montessori activities and materials are and in what order they are presented. I have also cross referenced everything so you can see where each material falls in the sequence (often in more than one place) and how the various activities relate to others across areas of “study”. Meaning, you can see how the Red Rods are related to both early numeracy and the sensorial activities, etc.

While I have loosely grouped it into age ranges, none of those are hard and fast rules. My own daughter is ready for some things that would be presented to older children but is not ready for other things that are intended for younger children. It is organized in a couple ways that make sense to my particular brand of crazy organization. :) I included a couple ways of using and looking at it so I could get a handle on everything and how it all functions as a cohesive curriculum. I hope someone else finds it helpful too and that maybe someone else will feel less confused in the way I was to begin with.

As a side note, if you use it and have suggestions or find typos please let me know. I will certainly try to fix typos and would love to consider other input. I am already making changes to it that make sense for us as I am using it. It’s a living breathing document and should be flexible. I want it to be responsive, that’s one of the beauties of a blog and online community. 

Montessori Scope and Sequence Outline – This is truly an outline. With Roman numerals and tabs and everything. It may be the easiest to read, but to me it was the least useful way to work with the curriculum. This was the basis for everything else, though, and I use it in tandem with the Presentation Record.

Montessori Visual Outline – This shows you in a more visual way how all the pieces relate to one another. It does not cross reference anything though. It’s more like a curriculum map, if you’ve ever seen or worked with one of those.

Montessori Presentation Record – This allows you to record when you have presented a material or activity, when the child works with it, and when they have mastered it. This was really my end goal. From a homeschooling standpoint, this is probably the most useful, but I use it in tandem with the Outline.

Infant Activities & Materials Map – This is just a visual representation of the infant materials. It maps out the information from the outline and puts into more of a timeline context. I wish I had done this when Cam was still a baby.

Disclaimer: I would like to make clear that I am not a trained Montessori teacher and these don’t replace reading up on Montessori’s own works. I created this for myself and am sure it is flawed.They are here to help parents who want to do Montessori in the home but are having trouble grasping where to jump in and where they are supposed to go once they have. It in no way is meant to tell you exactly how to follow the curriculum or what your child is ready for. All children are different and learn at their own pace. It is also probably not comprehensive. I included a detailed list of sources that I drew from. It made more sense for me to combine all of that information into one cohesive, useable, workable document and for my purposes it’s comprehensive enough. It is licensed under Creative Commons. You are welcome to share and change it, however I would appreciate you crediting me where appropriate.

A Montessori Nursery

Montessori Banner

From my own research into Montessori infant environments I believe the single most important underlying principle of them is freedom. Freedom to move about. Freedom to explore. Freedom to select toys and materials. There is also a very clean aesthetic and a focus on ownership. The room belongs to the child, not the parent. Which means shelves are low, pictures are hung at child height and furniture (with a few good exceptions) are child-sized.

But, if you are anything like me you need a bit more than abstract principles and a few pictures gleaned from Pinterest to go on for creating an environment. Especially when you are a brand new parent or in the last months of pregnancy. When I decided to go with a Montessori style nursery for our daughter I began looking around for a mix of principles, ideas, and pictures. If you are fortunate enough, you can even attend classes and talk with teachers at your local Montessori school. That was not the case for us, so it was all by the seat of our pants!

I didn’t figure out the Montessori mobiles or what infant materials Montessori created in time to really use them with Cam, but I have since come across this information. For anyone else struggling I’m using this Monday to aggregate some resources I have found for creating infant (first year of life) environments. I hope someone else finds them helpful.

  • Some thoughts on creating an infant environment from North American Montessori Center. This has the Montessori mobile sequence.
  • Here’s a link to a tutorial for a cloth puzzle ball. She also has tutorials for making each of the mobiles.
  • For the very young infant grasping toys are a great thing. Montessori mentions a small silver rattle to begin with, but you can also try these wooden toys or these grasping rings. I have also knit small, medium and large balls for a number of my friends and my daughter. I even put rattles in a few of them just to give them an added element. (The links I’ve added are to places you can buy the toys from, but I have not personally ordered from any of these companies or people so I can’t speak to their service and quality.)
  • Once the child is older, these are the “official” infant toys designed by Montessori, but if you take the ideas behind them (dropping a ball through a hole, threading a ring on a dowel) I think you can find other, less expensive toys that may serve the child longer. (See pages one and two, the rest of the puzzles and the like are not exactly Montessori.)
  • For pictures of some well done Montessori nurseries see my Pinterest board: Montessori Spaces
  • I also would like to note that if you have an IKEA nearby, they are a great resource for inexpensive and flexible furniture. We have A LOT of IKEA furniture and with the exception of the birds tearing it up, we haven’t had any problems with quality.

I will conclude by saying we didn’t go for a full-blown Montessori nursery. We were just a little too late to the game and our house wasn’t (and isn’t) fully remodeled. That made storage tight in the nursery and in other rooms. We eliminated a fair amount of storage, come to think of it. We also took an eye to the future and put in more shelving (such as a reading bench) so the space can grow with Cam. I am always an advocate of striking the right balance of principles and your own lifestyle. So use the resources to help you find what aspects work best for you.

Prepared Environment Banner

Homeschool Manifesto: Afterword

Homeschool Manifesto BannerOne final, silly question.

How big is your ego?

I just had to tackle this question because it is one of my favorite absurd arguments against homeschooling.

Some detractors like to claim that homeschooling is just an ego trip of epic proportions for a mother (or father!). To which I would answer, so what? Maybe it is for me. Maybe it isn’t. Does it matter? I am very well educated. I am intelligent. I have teaching experience and have immersed myself in pedagogy. My child is going to get a phenomenal education from me. Far better than what she would get in any school. And in the end, no one is more invested and dedicated to ensuring she receives the best of anything than me.

 

So I should probably admit that this was as much for me as it was for the possibility of lending support to others going through the process of making this decision. In taking the time to write this it gave me food for thought, helped me codify some of my thoughts, and process through the uncertainty I had. As with anything my opinions and thoughts will evolve, but I’m glad to have committed this to paper (so to speak). If you have found even one little thing in here that helps you, so much the better.