what I am normally doing

9 o’clock on a Sunday night… normally, I would be knitting with friends. A great group of friends, I tell you. One week might be five of us together, drinking wine and talking about our husbands. Another week might be hot tea and admiring one another’s new project or progress while chatting about our little ones. Now with a few preggies in the bunch, the nights tend to be shorter and the wine is on hold. But that is okay because there is always some laughing, some complaining, some quiet pauses, some sharing, some advice.

While the group has changed since I came to Muncie and met these great knitting friends, this has been a wonderful relief, a constant, that is just regular enough. Some weeks plans change and many of us cannot make it. But we will try again the next week and, most weeks, we will meet.

Tonight was a night that had many of us in other places, or recovering from being other places. So I am home, supposedly working on my other projects. But I am thinking of knitting and the comfort of the group. It is something that I will greatly miss when we move. By being part of this group I have come to find a few things I might not have found otherwise.

First, I rediscovered knitting. For well over a year before coming to Muncie, I had put knitting on hold. And I never challenged myself with my knitting, sticking to simple projects. Seeing others work complicated patterns inspired me to push myself with new challenges. If I got stuck, I knew I could bring my problem to the group and someone would be there to help me along. While frustrating, I love what I have accomplished and will carry those skills with me into each new project.

I also discovered a love of tea. I used to sip some chamomile if I needed a little something other than coffee. But I never enjoyed tea much. Seeing my friends love tea, try new kinds, and just delighting in tea, well, that got me started. Slowly, I tried tea at their homes. Then I started buying new kinds. And now I am hooked in a good way. Drinking tea and a wide variety has helped me nix my addiction to coffee.

The biggest thing I discovered is that I can make and maintain friendships with woman. For years, my husband was my only close companion and I had difficulty starting and keeping friendships with other woman. Often, moving effected that as we were not in any place long enough to work on establishing a close relationship. But now, four years in, I have found it really did take time for those relationships to grow. Moving will not stop me from being friends with these woman, but I wonder what it must be like to stay and know the same group of woman for years and years, through every trial and every celebration.

A little cup of tea tonight really got me thinking.

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follow up on the yelling

We let the yelling jar go a bit beyond a week, to fall on a day of the week when we could fulfill the counting and family activity together as a family – a Sunday. To recap what we are doing, visit this post.

Total counts for the first week:

big E – – 19

mama – – 7

daddy – – 6

We found we had to find a way to throw a few extra stones in for Mike since he is gone during the day time. Even with the amount we decided to add in, he still came out with less. He decided we would play bocce ball on the front lawn, since little O desperately needed to get to bed. Next week I hope we can make sure we can all really be present and little O is not just known as part of the family by his snoring over the moniter!

Some things we noticed this week…

– Big E was quite honest and willing to admit when he had been yelling and to put in his stones. He even was willing to admit he had not calmed down and yelled repeatedly, so he put in two stones. (He actually said he should put in five or six, but I let that slide.)

– I also noticed that because big E would remind me that I was yelling, I was quicker to calm down, recognize I needed to rephrase, and felt better finding a way to change my reaction.

– Putting stones in for yelling did not change overall general nasty remarks or snippiness. As long as we were not yelling it, we had to let it slide, atleast for now. That may be what comes next for this family.

I realize that this is the first week so we were trying hard and really felt accountable. We will see what next week holds. Big E did seem to want to do better. Maybe there is hope.

sound it out

From birth to age six, language is an area of great and rapid development for children. You might know that to be obvious, if you have a baby or been around one. We babble and coo and talk to our infants, waiting for that special first word. All that time they are learning as they listen. But once a child starts to speak and reaches the milestone of the first word and the first sentence, it is easy to forget the importance of language in a child’s life. Often, we are jumping ahead to a big milestone: reading. 

But in between there is plenty of growth and learning happening – pronunciation, proper use of pronouns and verb tense, vocabulary enrichment, and verbal story telling to name a few. Reading to your child is a wonderful way to aid your child’s developement, and is fairly well understood. We all know reading to children is important, so by all means, keep it up. But letting a child learn to express themselves and express their ideas often is also wonderful tool for letting them practice language skills and develop their own ideas. This is an important foundation to learning to read other people’s thoughts and ideas in books. A major principle in the area of language in a Montessori environment is let a child learn to express their own thoughts first, through oral and written language. Then, as they discover they can read what they wrote, they can begin to read other people’s ideas. After they know their own thoughts and have sufficient practice, they can grasp what other people have to say.

Ideally this should be a smooth, fun-filled journey of discovery for the child, one without worksheets and hounding a child to practice writing or reading. Obviously, this is not always the case. One was to make learning about language more fun is to play sound games. In the Montessori classroom, a teacher would have a box with small objects, such as a coin, a small bag, a replica of a turtle, any object that is easy to manipulate and easy to recognize. The teacher would remove three objects and carefully name the beginning sounds for the child. The child could try it if they wanted. The home environment will differ in how you present this material. At home with my son, we would go through as many as he wanted to do, initially doing the beginning sounds. Later, we tried to name just the ending sound. After beginning and ending sounds is trying to identify middle sounds. This is one activity that helps lead to a child who can use phonetics to sound out words to write. In the Montessori classroom, this would be with the moveable alphabet. At home, it might be with an alphabet or with a pencil. What makes this game so much fun at home is the box is filled with so many captivating small objects the child is eager to look them all over. It is great when the child makes the leap to realize they can name any beginning sound with all the household objects around them, moving beyond the box.

This is when another game can be introduced – around the house, on the road, waiting in the doctor’s office. It is basically I Spy but with beginning or ending sounds. This is for the child that has a good grasp of the sounds and familiar with I Spy in another format (items with certain colors or shapes, etc). If you are not familiar with I Spy, an example would be “I spy with my little eye something that starts with a ‘tuh” (t for table, in this example). The child is then invited to look around and make a guess. Then they can take a turn spying with their little eye while you guess.

All this sound work lays a foundation for the beginning of writing phonetically. Playing the games gives a child the sound, not the name, of the letter. Rules of spelling and complex words will come later. To encourage an eager writer, and later reader, sounding out is the best and easiest start.

Below is a list of the words to help you with the sound a letter makes. Of course this is not true in all words, but that comes later. These are the most common sounds for the letters and what will aid in writing and reading. Since most children are likely to learn the ABC song, and hear others around them refer to letters by their name, we find it easiest to clarify that all letters have names and sounds. To explain this to big E when someone watched him write his name and said “Nice E!” I said “Your name begins with the sound ‘eh’. The letter’s name is ‘ee’.” Problem solved!

When saying a sound do not include the vowel sound after it. Isolate the initial sound. This is a list for showing the sound at the beginning of the word. (This list is also available on the left sidebar as a page by itself.)

a= apple

b= bag

c= cup

d= dog

e= egg

f= frog

g= gap

h= hum

i= igloo

j= jump

k= king

l= lamp

m= mom

n= nut

o= octopus

p= pig

q= queen

r= rabbit

s= sun

t= top

u= up

v= vest

w= winter

x= box (end or middle sound)

y= yarn

z= zebra

I hope this can jump-start some fun language games at your home or on a long (or short) car ride. Many more ideas are available in books about doing Montessori education in the home if you are wanting to do more with your child, whether it is in language, mathematics or just setting up a home environment with their needs in mind.

whole lot of yelling

This is not the post I had in mind for today and I have been sidetracked many days now from posting what I wanted. I will be back soon with an activity idea for the 3-6 bracket… But for now, this has been our newest problem and hopefully I have found a solution.

This past week has been louder at our house. And the real trouble is, it is only getting louder. Big E is yelling more often and louder and little O is taking notes. He now screams his displeasure, worse than his brother did at this age. I feel confident it is three ‘wonderful’ role models setting a fine example! You see in response to our children screaming at us, we tend to yell out – louder and louder to make sure they hear us.

This family is not yet at the point of a swear jar. Well, mama is, but luckily, it only is when I am yelling! So in order to solve my problems of yelling and swearing and help our children curb their problem we are starting a yelling jar.

At first I wanted the two adults and big E to use coins to add in as we yelled and donate it at the end of the week. But I had my doubts this would actually get the desired effect. So instead, I did a quick internet search and found another blogger was in this same spot and had a different approach. With each person having a different color stone, each person adds a stone when they yell. Kind reminders can be given to help someone remember to put their stone in, but no one else can put one in for someone else. At the end of the week, the person with the fewest gets to choose the activity they want to do with the family. Unfortunately, little O will not ever have his choice of activities since he is not at the age to put a stone in, but maybe, just maybe, we will be better models for him. At least for the first week or two!

Our yelling jar and basket of colored stones (all on my newly fixed sewing table, hiding my lovely Singer, with my grandmother’s embroidered piece):

The stones in there now are just for example!  The jar goes into effect tonight. Wish us luck…

chatting with the baby

While the second baby is less photographed, less assisted in his play, maybe even less noticed as they develop new skills, the delight over new baby development is still there. Today, after being nearly ignored all day while we held a garage sale, was Oliver’s moment to communicate vocally beyond just babbling sounds over and over to himself. When I mimicked his word back to him, I watched his mouth form the same sound back over and over to me, as if trying to tell me something very important. His face was full of intent. And pleasure – that we for once seemed to know what he was saying. I know other babes get to this point sooner or other parents notice it before I did. But oh my excitement. His ‘tha’ that ended with a big open mouth was ever so cute. And he know how to work it – it got him a few extra minutes to stay up past bedtime!