Friday, November 20, 2020

Glimpses of Fall 2020

 A few of the beautiful moments from our in-person school days this fall:

When I first showed Joshua* a cylinder block on his first day of school, he was intrigued, and methodically took all of the cylinders in and out for the next 20 minutes

*All names changed

Marco, one of the youngest students in Redbud, came to school not knowing many letters but ready to learn, and has now mastered the phonetic sounds for the whole alphabet. 

One day I suggested that Aliya, in her second year of preschool, write with the movable alphabet about things she likes to do or things she loves. Her list included movable alphabet, school, family, unicorns, [watering] plants, painting, and South America. (She is just starting to sound out words, so mostly wrote the beginning sound for each syllable.) 

Naim, who had just started working with place value before we went remote in March, now easily regroups for addition with golden beads, exchanging 10 ten bars for a hundred square and 10 hundred squares for a thousand cube. 

For more photos of our school year in action, see our e-newsletter.

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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Summer Enrichment 7 - Bugs!

Learning about bugs - connection videos

Monday - What's an insect? -  Let's begin our exploration of bugs! Some bugs are insects - do you know how we can tell if it is an insect? We'll learn the body parts that all insects have, put it into a song, and then see if you can help me decide which animals are insects or not insects. I am excited to show you what I discovered when I picked up a brick in my backyard! What do you think was there?
Follow-up ideas:

  • Video - All about insects:
  • Snack - make Ants on a log
  • Exploration - look under a brick or rock and see what you find! 
Tuesday - Butterflies! - Today our focus is on butterflies. Do you know what hatches out of a butterfly egg? We'll talk about the lifecycle of a butterfly, learn a new poem, and sing the insect song.

The little Caterpillar poem
The little caterpillar curled into a J 
It turned into a chrysalis and slept for many days
While it was sleeeping, it dreamed that it could fly
Later when it woke up, it was a butterfly!

Wednesday - Ladybugs! 

Word of the day: Metamorphosis! Ladybugs go through metamorphosis, as do butterflies and many other insects. Do you know what ladybugs do that is helpful to plants and people?
Follow-up ideas:

Thursday - Bees! I went to visit some very important insects - you can see their hive behind me. Also a hint for finding ladybugs on your outdoor explorations. Some video links below will show you what is happening inside the hive and how bees are so important to people: 

Mindfulness: "Bee breath"

Friday - a few more bugs! We finished our week learning about insects and other bugs with a special invertebrate that is not an insect. It has a long, soft body and turns compost into "food for the earth" - do you know what they are? Also an easy activity you can do inside or outside to make your own insect. Just make sure it has a head, thorax, and abdomen! Don't forget the 6 legs coming out of the thorax or the 2 antennae on its head!


Make a bug catcher (container & cardboard)  

This let’s kids transfer bugs from inside back out to their natural habitat :-)

Make your own bug!
Can you make a bug out of playdough? Legos? Leaves and sticks?


Can you move like an insect?
- hop like a grasshopper
- fly like a bee
- crawl like a caterpillar
- scurry like an ant

Act out the Butterfly life stages: (curl up like an egg, crawl like a caterpillar, hold still and rigid like a chrysalis, fly like a butterfly!

Online Read-alouds 

Eric Carle books:

Monday, August 10, 2020

Summer Enrichment 6: Africa

 I enjoyed all the new things I learned about the regions of Africa for this week's theme. 

Introduction to Africa 

Monday connection video - after the continents song, we'll start our exploration of AFRICA! We look at the biomes on the Africa biome mat (from Waseca Biomes). 

Suggested read-aloud is one of our class' favorite books - "Give up, Gecko" A Ugandan Folktale with a theme of perseverance. 

Here's a beautiful 2 minute video tour of Africa

Do you know how to play Mancala? This game has been around for thousands of years and is easy to learn. You can make your own game from an egg carton!

Southern Africa

Tuesday connection video - Today we visit Southern Africa! We'll start with the continents AND oceans song, make sure we can find Africa on the globe and the oceans around it. What are the biomes are in Southern Africa? Let's see a piece of art, a song ("Siyahamba" - our much loved "We are marching" song we sung when walking to the park for recess), and a preview of today's read aloud (link below). 

Activity - hand trimming grass!

And since we're learning about grasslands... need an activity to keep your child occupied outside for a bit? Invite them to trim the grass with scissors! 

Song: Siyahamba (In Zulu, English, and Spanish)

Song/dance: Bicycle Song (from South Africa) - see if you can learn the dance!

Today's Read-aloud: Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters

 Mufaro's beatiful daughters

A video about Zimbabwe (lots of animals around minute 8, the incredible stone work of the City of Zimbabwe (in the read aloud) around minute 14)

East Africa

Wednesday connection video - In Eastern Africa, let's explore the savannah (the Serengeti) and mountains of Ethiopia - animals that live in each place and a little about the people groups there too. 

Read aloud: "Masai and I

Movement: Let’s move like animals on the savannah - elephant (stomp, trunk), cheetah (fast), lion (tip toe/stalk), gazelle (leap!) - What other ideas do you have?

Cooking with kids: Feeling adventurous? Try making chapati, a Kenyan flat bread (all you need is flour, salt, water, and oil) How-to chapati video

National Geographic Kids has many videos about animals that live in Africa (mostly savannah, a few mountain or forest - Giraffes, Gorillas, Lion, Hippos, Secretary Bird, Cheetah, African Elephants, Big-headed mole rat, black rhino)

Bible story: this week's story is about someone from Ethiopia - watch the video: Philip and the Ethiopian

North Africa 

  • Thursday connection video: We continue our exploration of Africa today with the desert of Northern Africa and a focus on Egypt. 
  • Video (National Geographic Kids)  - Join two kids exploring the Nile river   
  • Video (Lonely Planet Travel Video) - Learn about the Berber people of Moroccan desert
  • Song: "Go down, Moses" - a spiritual sung by Louis Armstrong
  • Today's suggested read-aloud (From East Africa) - Waangari's Trees of Peace: A true story from Africa

West Africa

Friday connection video: We conclude our week of exploring the continent of Africa with West Africa. Do you know all of the continents and oceans now? Interested in exploring more? Here are some follow-up videos: 

West African folk tales: 

Anansi and the Sky Kingdom (animated story)

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (read aloud) 

Compare the sound of the tabla drum (from Egypt) with the West African djembe 

Find something to use as your own drum and dance and play along with this song

Video: Tropical forest animals

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Summer Enrichment 5: Birds!

Mourning Doves
This week you can help your child notice the birds around you. Encourage curiosity and exploration - what are the birds doing? How can you tell it's a bird? What else do you notice about it?
The connection videos will introduce some common backyard birds and some related activities

Monday - We'll introduce some common backyard birds, a poem about birds, and what you can do with an empty toilet paper roll!
Tuesday - the Little Bird poem. How many of these backyard birds can you name? What are the things that all birds have in common? 

Black-capped Chickadee
Wednesday - In this morning's connection video, we'll continue learning about birds. Get ready to hop like a bird to practice the names of a few more types of birds you might see out your window. I have some real bird nests to show you, and some pictures of some other incredible different kinds of nests birds make. We also take a picture walk to find the birds we know in today's suggested read-aloud - "Feathers for Lunch" by Lois Ehlert. How many of the birds in this book do you know?

Downy Woodpecker
We also suggest you try this fun & active video from Mystery Science about how quail, raccoons, and woodpeckers get their food

Thursday - Look what's growing in our garden! And a peek at what happens inside a bird's egg. 
Have you ever made "egg in a nest" for breakfast? Instructions on the blog

And today's read-aloud - An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston

Friday - To finish up our week's focus on birds, this morning's video is near an osprey nest on the 
Delaware River. Let's see how much you remember about what makes an animal a bird, and how many of the backyard birds you can name (I'll give some hints!) Do you know how many circles you see when you look through the two tubes of binoculars? I'll show you how you can make your own practice binoculars with two empty toilet paper rolls. 

More Language & Science activities

Names of birds 
Some common east coast birds (included in the connection videos) are: Goldfinch, House Finch, House Sparrow, Mourning Dove, cardinal, catbird, kildeer, downy woodpecker, grackle, Baltimore oriole, Black-capped chickadee, blue jay. You can loook them up and hear the sounds they make on They also have live bird cams!

House finches
Parts of a bird (what makes something a bird?)

Video: All about birds video for kids

Video: Common backyard birds (includes lots; your child will recognize some by the end of the week!)

House sparrow
Poem: Little bird
I saw a little bird come hop, hop, hop
So I said, "Little bird, will you stop, stop, stop?"
I was going to the window
To say "Hi, how are you?"
But she gave her wings a flap, 
And up, up, up she flew

Read-alouds - Bird theme!

Blue Jay
Egg (Kevin Henkes)
Feathers for Lunch (Ehlert) How many birds do you recognize in this book?
An egg is quiet (Dianna Aston) - Birds aren’t the only animals who lay eggs!
Are you my mother? (PD Eastman)

Art Ideas

You can draw birds! teaching video
I show two simple ways to draw birds with half circles, circles, and triangles - something even young children (preschool, kindergarten, elementary age) can practice and do! Also great for adults like me!
Thank you to the Usborne Step-by-Step Drawing Book for the inspiration

Make your own spy glass for birdwatching by coloring/decorating a toilet paper tube - what can you see through it? (Or join 2 tubes together to make binoculars)

Make a pinecone bird feeder (spread peanut butter on a pinecone, roll it in bird seed or crumbs; tie on a string and hang it nearby!)


Can you move like a bird? Flap your wings! Soar and glide like an eagle! Balance on one leg like a flamingo! What ideas do you have?

What is a bird? action song

Food prep

Cook “Egg in a nest” (photo recipe on blog

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Summer Enrichment 4: Let's Visit South America!

What would it be like to visit South America? 

In our Monday video, we:
-  review our continent (North America) and the biome we live in (temperate forest) 
- sing the continents song and find South America on the globe
- discuss our options for getting there
- look at the biome map to find out what biomes we might see in South America
Language game: Rainforest rhyming & segmenting (5 min)

Video: a virtual tour of South America (5 min)

Read Aloud: Biblio Burro (read by Ms. Kristin!)

Tuesday: People and Cultures of South America

What clothing would you wear if you lived in the tropical rainforest? What if you lived high in the Andes Mountains? 

Along with many other languages, Spanish is spoken in many parts of South America. 
Want to learn some Spanish?
Try learning some new words in Spanish with Spanish school bus

Read Aloud books: 
Maria had a little Llama (variation on Mary had a little lamb)

Wednesday: The Amazon Rainforest 

Let's visit the Amazon rain forest! What does it look like in the rain forest? What are some of the unique and amazing animals that live there? 
If you want to take a quick video tour to see the rain forest and some of its animals, here are two videos to watch:

Read Aloud Book - The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Art activity -  Make a paper chain snake! 

Thursday: The Andes Mountains

This video focuses on the Andes mountains of South America. (and revisits the song "los pollitos" / all the little chicks. 

Video tour of the Andes Mountains
Read aloud book: Up and down the Andes 

Skill challenge: Mountain climbers (Pretend you’re climbing the Andes mountains!)

Friday: Singing in Spanish

We finish up our week on South America learning one more song in Spanish - La aran~a pequinita (The Itsy Bitsy Spider), and introduce the "What's missing" game to try at home

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Summer Enrichment 3: Our Amazing Earth

This week we will explore some introductory geography ideas with songs & experiments. Have fun and encourage exploration!

Experiments with water

1. The shape of water 

  • Concept: Liquids take the shape of their container 
  • Supplies: containers of different sizes and shapes, water

2. Where does rain go? (Demo video)

  • Concept: Water flows downhill 
  • Supplies: watering can, pitcher or container of water

3. Evaporation (Demo video)

  • Concept: Liquid water evaporates into the air (yes, 4-6 year olds can understand this concept!)
  • Supplies: 2 identical containers, measuring dish, lid or plastic bag & rubber band (to cover one of the containers) 
  • Learning about Earth

Land & Water - on the sandpaper globe 

The earth is made up of land and water, and more of it is water than land. Here's a song (tune: My bonnie)
The Earth is covered with oceans;
The Earth is covered with seas;
The Earth is covered with oceans;
More water than land, you can see

Water, water, there's water all over the world, the world
Water, water, there's water all over the world.

What are Natural Resoures? 

(connection video)
  • What are things that all people need?
  • Where do they come from? Everything can be traced back to Natural Resources that come from the earth!
  • Try going on a gratitude walk today - what do you notice in our amazing world that you feel grateful for?

How can we care for the Earth? (Earth Day everyday!)

This video also introduces cone, cube, sphere, cylinder, and rectangular prism
  • What are things your family ALREADY does to care for the earth?
  • What are some ideas of other things you could do?

Where does rain come from?

Where does the rain come from? And how does it get there? A kid-friendly introduction to the water cycle.

Learning with songs and rhythm 

(This video includes the watercycle chant, 7 continents song, and a counting song - 5 green & speckled frogs)

We do many songs and rhythms to help children remember vocab and concepts. You'll be amazed what young children are capable of!

Our water cycle chant (video)
Liquid to gas is evaporation;
Gas to liquid is condensation;
When it falls down, it's precipitation!

There are 7 continents;
Asia, Europe, Africa
Australia, North America,
South America, Antarctica

(Once your child has mastered the 7 continents, add the oceans!)
There are 5 oceans;
At-lantic ocean
Pacific and Indian oceans,
Arctic and Southern oceans

Think like a scientist:

Kids often have lots of questions! Encourage your child to ask questions about the world around them,. Try not to just give them an answer, but ask them questions back to help them think about it and come up with some of their own "hypothesis" first. Is there a way to test their idea or research to find the answer? 

Your curious kid might enjoy the "But Why?" podcast

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Math Games and Activities - teaching 0-10

You can help your child build basic math skills at home without any special materials

Note: this page is a work in progress that we will continue to add to. Last update: July 12, 2020

1) Learning quantities

We start with 1-5. then work on 6-10

What's "subitizing"

Subitizing (SOO-bi-tighz-ing) is seeing at a glance how many objects are in a group. (example: if I hold up 4 fingers, you know it is 4 without needing to count each finger) Subitizing gives a better understnading of numbers than just counting.
Math should be mostly UNDERSTANDING concepts, NOT memorization of facts. Subitizing gives this essential foundation for building understanding!

2) Learning numerals

Numerals are the written symbols we use to represent numbers ("5" is the numeral for five, etc.). At this stage, they are learning the NAMES of the numerals; connecting those to the amounts they represent is a separate concept, and comes after they know that the symbol "4" is 'four', etc.

3) Connecting quantity and numeral 1-10

Once your child is confident with identifying both quantities and the numerals, we can put them together - the numeral "3" represents the quantity 

  • In the classroom, we first connect quantity and symbol with number rods and number cards. At home, you can use cards/papers that have 1-10 dots on them (grouped in 5s!) for your child to match with cards/papers that have numerals 1-10

Other 1-10 Activities:

  • The Zero Game
  • Montessori Odds & Evens activity - have numbers 1-10 on papers/cardboard ready & 55 small objects (beans, stones, cheerios, etc.) before starting Note: this is a classic Montessori activity. I have slightly adapted it to incorporate subitizing skills
  • Montesori Memory Game of Numbers
  • Quantity matching game - with number cards or tally, finger, or dot cards

Summer Enrichment 2: Let's Explore Outdoors!

The Outdoors have limitless opportunities for learning and exploring!

Morning Connection Videos:

Monday - This week we're introducing learning activities to take outdoors - sorting & classifying skills, sink or float experiment, a twist on an active vocab game, and a poem - A house is a house for me

Tuesday - For the months of the year song, ignore my motions and raise your arms for this month! A house is a house for me poem, A beginning sounds game (can also be done with rhyming words, ending, or middle vowel sounds), and making patterns.

WednesdayToday we introduce "3 words" rhyming game, review finger spelling, and sing the number writing song. Remember that these kinds of language games are one of the best ways you can prepare your child succeed with writing and reading skills.

ThursdayToday we'll sing the seasons song (make sure your child knows it's summer now!!), compare two flowers - dandelion and daffodil, and introduce some sequencing activities. 
What flowers can you find outside now that it is summertime?

FridayHappy Friday! Today we're singing "Days of the Week" in English and Spanish, and a tossing game with socks that also practices position words ("inside" and "outside") and partitioning 5.

A few outdoor activity ideas:

Sweeping a porch, patio, or sidewalk is fun and great exercise

Sink or Float - Find 6-10 objects outside, make a hypothesis on if they will sink or float, use a bowl of water to find out!

Fun with rocks - collect a few rocks outside, scrub them clean. Draw or paint on one! How many can you stack?

Flowers - How many different kinds of flowers do you see outside? Learn the names of 3. How do they smell?

Paint with Water - Have an old paintbrush? Dip it in a container of water and "paint" outdoors!

Patterns with Nature - collect objects outside (rocks, leaves, sticks, petals, etc) and use them to practice making patterns (how-to video), or try making more elaborate designs (examples)

Outdoor writing - Write with a stick in the dirt, or use sidewalk chalk (or a brick or rock!)

Other math and language resources and ideas on our Montessori at Home page

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Summer Enrichment 1: Let's explore the kitchen!

Here are some ideas for learning and exploration in the kitchen

Morning connection videos:

Monday: Introduction to our kitchen theme for the week
Tuesday: We are In the kitchen this morning with our days of the week song, vocab "bring me" game, and a rhyming game
WednesdayHappy Wednesday! Today we're reviewing days of the week in English and Spanish and months of the year with songs (along with our dynamics of "piano" and "forte"). Poem is "1, 2, Buckle my shoe" and today's language game is "I spy" for beginning sounds, adding in sound segmenting / finger spelling for our older students.
Thursday: Planning what utensils are needed for different foods, "Yellow is the Sun" number song,  the "zero game," and our version of "Jesus loves me"
Friday: We have two activity ideas to try this weekend.
Cooking with Kids - making pancakes!

Practical Life & Sensorial activities in the kitchen:

Smelling spices - introduce the names of a few herbs & spices you have - then see if you can tell what they are with eyes closed!
Cook or bake together! Teach skills of measuring, pouring, mixing, etc
Folding towels and washcloths
Whisking - add a few drops of dish soap to a bowl of water and let your child use  a whisk to stir them up (if you don’t have a whisk, fingers work well too!)
Washing Dishes

Language Skills: Phonemic Awareness, Writing, and Reading

  • For language games (vocab or phonemic awareness), use themes of foods, fruits, vegetables, or kitchen tools
  • Make a cornmeal or flour tray
  • Writing (K/rising 1st graders) - make lists! grocery shopping lists, meal ideas, favorite foods, ingredients for a recipe....

Math in the kitchen

  • Cooking or baking together is a great way to practice math skills - measuring, counting, adding, introducing fractions, etc.
  • Setting the table - ask your child how many plates, spoons, etc. are needed for your family. If possible, let them set the table independently for a meal
More Montessori ideas for at home in the kitchen from Trillium Montessori 

Other Independent activity ideas

  • Art: Coloring, cutting paper & gluing
  • Building: with blocks, legos, cereal boxes, anything!
  • Movement: toss and catch a sock ball, make an indoor obstacle course

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Teaching Letter Sounds

Once a child has basic phonemic awareness skills (hearing rhymes and beginning sounds), they are ready to start learning the letters that represent each sound. We teach letter SOUNDS, not letter names first - the sounds are what they need to know to begin writing and reading!
What are the sounds? Try this wonderful website - click on a letter to hear its phonetic sounds

Here are videos and tips for teaching letter sounds at home:
Parent guide 1 - games to teach letter sounds
Parent guide 2 - letters & beginning sounds

1) Introduce 2-3 new letter sounds at a time
- only introduce new letters after they have mastered the letters they were practicing!
- Always start with review! (prevents forgetting and give them confidence to move on to something new and challenging.
- Letter sounds can be taught in any order. We have letters grouped in the following sets, but will often teach them in a different order based on the child's individual interests
Intro videos for
Set 1 (a, m, s, t),
Set 3 (b, f, g, o),
Set 4 (h, j, l, u),
Set 5 (d, e, n, w)
2) Play games to practice (see demo in Parent guide 1):
-- point to ‘mmm’; point to ‘rrr’, ...
-- ‘hide’ a letter- child closes eyes while you mix them; “can you find ‘sss’?” Repeat!
-- trace in cornmeal tray (or on paper; you can “write” it on their back at the same time)
--  beginning sounds game
-- “Who let the letters out” song Set 1, 2,  3
-- “Knock knock” game with letters

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Egg in a Nest Breakfast Recipe

This variation on eggs and toast can involve your child in preparing breakfast and building some cooking skills.
Ingredients per serving:
- slice of bread
- 1 egg
- butter or oil
- salt & pepper to taste

1. cut a hole in the center of the toast (can use a biscuit cutter, a small cup, or a knife)

2. Heat skillet, add oil or butter
3. Toast bread on one side and flip

4.  crack an egg into the hole 
- If assisted by a young cook, we recommend cracking it into  a bowl, check for shells, and then pour into the hole!) 
- Optional to lightly beat the egg or leave the yolk intact

5. season with salt and pepper

6. Flip to finish cooking, transfer to a plate, and enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Goals for Home Learning

Goal 1: Your family is safe, healthy, and strong

Your family’s physical and emotional needs are your top priority in this challenging time, and will have the biggest lasting impact on your child. Do what you need to take care of yourself and to help your child feel safe and connected to you.
Please let us know if your family is facing challenges that are making it difficult to meet the other learning goals right now. Also please reach out if you could use extra support, ideas, or connections to resources to meet these essential needs. We are here for you and your child!

Goal 2: Your child is engaged with exploring and learning

We want to keep alive their curiosity and love of learning. This can happen in simple ways - asking questions about things you notice (see, hear, smell), a conversation about the weather or what you’re eating for lunch, peeking under a rock in the backyard, noticing the number of windows on the house across the street!
Strategy: We will continue to suggest weekly enrichment ideas that you can use as they work for your setting and schedule. Play, outdoor time, and involvement with daily life all are VERY beneficial for your child - mind, body, and spirit.

Goal 3: Academic Progress

1. Practicing the skills they already learned in school this year
2. Introducing a few more core academic skills to prepare them for next year
Strategy: Aim for about 30-45 minutes of focused instructional time each day. They can independently practice skills on IXL for additional learning time. The required assignments we are sending focus on these core skills to prepare your child for next year:
Preschool - 4s
Preschool - 3s
Phonemic awareness -
segmenting & blending,
phoneme substitution

Grade-level oral reading
& fluency (phonetic
decoding & sight word

Write 1-3 sentences on a topic with punctuation, spacing, phonetic spelling

Addition & subtraction to 10
Numbers to 100 - tens & ones
Phonemic awareness -
beginning & ending sounds,
segmenting & blending

Phonics: identify key sound for
each letter

Handwriting: form individual letters, write first name

Subitize 1-10
Numerals 1-10
Phonological awareness:
rhyming &
beginning sounds

Phonics: identify key sound
for some letters

Fine motor coordination (pre-writing skills)

Subitize 1-5
Numerals 1-5