Peace Education

Today I am brainstorming and prepping for the coming school year. I'm feeling like peace education is more important than ever...

Please share any thoughts or ideas on how you incorporate peace education into your classroom or home! I'll share more of my own as they come together.

New Baby Must-Haves

Stepping into the world of parenthood can be overwhelming to say the least. The learning curve is steep. What does a new baby really need? What baby gear is safest? Why is it all so expensive?

I just went through this myself. I asked friends & family for recommendations, and I scoured the internet searching for the best baby products. I read review after review. I'm guessing most new parents do this. It must go along with the "nesting instinct." This was the criteria that I was looking for:

  1. highest safety standards
  2. functionality
  3. high quality
  4. alignment with Montessori principles
  5. aesthetic design

So, after much experimentation, I've compiled a list of some of the items that I have really loved in these first 6 months with my sweet pea! Affiliate links are included. 

Diapers were a point of debate. I really wanted to use cloth diapers for Oliver for a couple of reasons. First, as a Montessori mommy, I know that cloth diapers are preferred because they allow the baby to feel the discomfort of the wetness in a way that disposable diapers do not. This teaches babies to understand when they need to go to the bathroom and will make toilet training easier in the long run. Second, they are so much more environmentally friendly. While doing research, I found that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used in the US alone each year! 92% of those sit in landfills. And the most disturbing fact: A typical disposable diaper takes an estimated 250 to 500 years to decompose! And we all know that babies go through LOTS and LOTS of diapers in one day.

So we tried cloth diapers at home. Long story short, the husband didn't like the messiness OR the inconvenience. Oliver still wears cloth diapers in his Montessori classroom during the day, but at home, we had to move on to the next option.

  1. Andy Pandy Diapers: I love these diapers. They are made from 100% biodegradable bamboo. Free from chlorine, alcohol, and phthalates. They are soft and absorbent. They include a wetness indicator just like Pampers. These are disposable diapers that I can feel good about.
  2. Boudreaux's Butt Paste: Prevents and treats diaper rash. It works. 
  3. Keekaroo Peanut Changer: Better than any other diaper changing pad out there. No need to buy and wash changing pad covers. It simply wipes clean! This is a game-changer! 
  4. Water Wipes: 100% natural. No harsh chemicals. The only ingredients are water and fruit extract. They are perfect for a baby's sensitive skin. 
  1. Kiinde Breast Milk Storage Twist Gift Set: Such a time saver! This system allows you to pump directly INTO the storage bags and then bottle-feed directly FROM the storage bags. Genius. GET THIS! 
  1. Baby Bjorn Bouncer: I love this because it doesn't rely on batteries. It allows the baby to develop self-soothing techniques by bouncing himself! It's adjustable, so that it can be upright when baby is awake and bouncing, or it can lie back for when baby falls asleep. On top of that, this seat grows with your baby! Simply turn the fabric seat around for a comfy toddler chair.
  2. Dock-A-Tot: Perfect for naps, co-sleeping, or for keeping baby boy contained in his Montessori floor bed! As a new parent worried about SIDS, breathability was a huge concern when choosing a sleeping situation for my little one. Crafted in Europe, the Dock-a-Tot meets the British Standards for air-permeability by allowing 12 liters of air per minute to pass through the item, which is how much a baby typically breaths. And naturally, I smashed my own face against it for a mommy-approved breathability test. It passed! AND now that Oliver is rolling around, his Dock-a-Tot keeps him from rolling right off his Montessori floor bed and onto the floor at night. To top it off, the Dock-a-Tot is great for traveling. The Deluxe size easily packs right in a suit case or can be used as a carry-on item! There is also a Grand size for babies 9 months and older. 
  3. STOKKE Scoot Stroller: This stroller has met all of my needs and expectations. It's sleek and easy to maneuver. The wheels are thick and durable, allowing you to stroll along sidewalks or a slightly rougher terrain. The basket underneath is large enough for a diaper bag, shopping bags, etc. The stroller has the baby seated up high, so if you are eating out with baby in tow, he is sitting with you at table height. No need for a highchair. The Stokke PIPA by Nuna carseat is compatible, so you can take baby (carseat and all) out of the car and click him straight into the stroller.

Now for the fun stuff! When Oliver first came into the world, we didn't really have any toys for him. I didn't think toys would be needed for the first couple of months. And for the most part, that's true. At first, babies really just need to be held and nurtured. They love to hear mommy and daddy talk and sing. They like to look at faces, and they like to sleep. That said, they do grow SO fast, and I wish I would've had our play corner set up sooner. 

  1. Skip Hop Play Mat: Tummy Time starts right away! And if you have wood floors (or even just to keep carpet fibers away from baby's face) a foam mat is needed. I love this one because the colors are subdued, and it looks great in my living room. Plus, it's easy to clean! I use a hand vacuum to pick up any fuzz or dirt, and I clean it with baby wipes! 
  2. Hohner Kids Cage Bell: This is one of the first toys Oliver liked to play with. The bell makes a nice sound, and the handle is easy for tiny fingers to grasp. 
  3. Wee Workout Baby Gym from Land of Nod: I loved the sleek design of this play gym. You can attach any toys you think baby might enjoy looking at and reaching for. I used Froebel yarn balls, and they were perfect! I started with the primary colors, and later changed them out for secondary colors. I like to think that helped to develop Oliver's vision during those early days. He also got good exercise while hitting at the yarn balls. 
  4. Innobaby EZ Grip Teether: Another one of Oliver's first favorite toys. There isn't much to it, but it's light, flexible, and easy to grasp.
  5. Mini Masters Box Set: Books are great to have around from day one. Reading to baby while nursing is a wonderful way to bond with your little one. I read everything to Oliver from Dr. Seuss to Emily Brontë. I love the Mini Masters board books because they have sweet rhymes that are paired with famous paintings as illustrations. They introduce the paintings of classic artists like Van Gogh, Degas, and Matisse. We have both learned a lot from these books and will continue using them for a long time to come!

A few items in the "other" category:

  1. Copper Pearl Bandana Bibs: These bibs keep baby stylish while soaking up drool & spit-up. They come in lots of colors and patterns, they are soft and absorbent, and they have a snap closure behind the neck that doesn't irritate sensitive skin.
  2. Nose Frida: Skip the bulb. Get this instead. It works SO. MUCH. BETTER. at clearing the nasal passages when baby gets a cold. And baby WILL get a cold.
  3. Vick's Baby Rub: Scented with eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender, this ointment offers a gentle way to sooth a sick baby. 

It turns out that babies are, indeed, kind of expensive. But you really don't need everything under the sun to keep them happy and healthy. I'd love to know what some of your favorite baby products are. Please feel free to share in the comments!

Being a Mother

Before becoming one myself just 6 short months ago, I never truly knew what it meant to be a mother.

I never knew, before being a mother, just how challenging it could be. Forgoing my own wants and needs to care for those of another. Busy days. Sleepless nights. It often feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. After all, the health, happiness, and wellbeing of that precious life is in my hands. 

I never knew, before being a mother, just how fast time goes by. He was tiny, and now he is not so tiny. It happens in the blink of an eye. Each moment is fleeting. They slip away quickly and quietly. Now more than ever, I am trying to live in the present and soak it all in.

I never knew, before being a mother, just how strong a mother’s love could be. I didn't know that you could miss someone who you just laid down to sleep in the next room. And when that sweet baby boy looks up at me with his big blue eyes and a smile filled with adoration, it feels as though my heart might burst from all the love it holds for him.

Now that I am a mother, I know that being a mother is a beautiful privilege and one of the greatest joys in life.

And so, today I celebrate all mothers––the past and the present, the old and the new, mothers-to-be, mothers-in-waiting, and mothers-in-heart.

Here’s to you, moms. 

A New Chapter in My Montessori Story

Photo by Celeste Noche.

Photo by Celeste Noche.

I haven’t written a new post in a while because I’ve been absorbed in a new chapter of life—a chapter I call “Mommyhood.”

Photo by Celeste Noche.

Photo by Celeste Noche.

Photo by Celeste Noche.

Photo by Celeste Noche.

On November 12, 2015, Heath and I welcomed Oliver James into the world. Becoming a mommy has definitely opened my heart to a brand new kind of love.

This tiny being has become my world in a very short time. I am amazed every single day at how quickly he learns and grows. His personality is already starting to bloom. He smiles and babbles nonstop, he is getting pretty good at tummy time, and he loves listening to music!

As Oliver learns new things every day, Heath and I do too. We have spent the last 3 months learning how to be parents—trying to decipher every unique whimper and cry; trying to balance our tendency to nurture and sooth Oliver, while also helping him learn self-soothing techniques; and learning to function on very little sleep. We have learned to swaddle; we have experimented with cloth diapers; and we now understand the difficulties that come with breastfeeding while being a working mom.

I had 7 weeks of maternity leave to spend with Oliver before I started back to work. This wasn’t nearly enough bonding time with my little love. I really feel that Oliver is only just now beginning to recognize me as his mother, rather than his source of food. But I’ll spare you a blog post on how I believe the US needs to catch up with the rest of the developed world by offering paid family leave to new parents ;) 

 Nevertheless, as much as I love my role as a Montessori teacher, going back to work was challenging.  Pumping breastmilk at work proved to be tedious and difficult to say the least. And, oh, how hard it was to focus on the needs of my students when my thoughts kept drifting to that sweet, new baby boy of mine.

My sweet students gifted Oliver with an Earth pillow to welcome him into the world :)

My sweet students gifted Oliver with an Earth pillow to welcome him into the world :)

Thankfully, things are starting to get easier. I am getting a little more sleep; Oliver now goes to school with me, as he has joined the Nido classroom; and we are all settling into a routine. 

So now I finally feel ready to pick up where I left off and continue writing about my adventures as a guide in the elementary Montessori classroom. But also expect quite a few posts on what it means to be a Montessori mommy! After all, this isn’t just a new chapter in life. It’s also a new chapter in my Montessori Story. 

Algorithms & Programs in the Elementary Classroom

In case you didn't already know, I love the Montessori approach to education. I love the beautiful materials, the hands-on work, and the mixed-age classrooms. Most of all, I love following the interests of the child.

 In fact, this year I've decided to step outside my comfort zone that is the typical Montessori curriculum in order to "follow the child." 

Several of my students have expressed a keen interest in learning to code. And admittedly, computer programming is not an area of expertise for me. However, I always want to do what I can to foster the interests and curiosities of my students. 

And so, earlier in the year I went to a workshop to learn about their coding curriculum. I discovered that–in many ways–it works really well with the Montessori philosophy of education. You can read more of my thoughts on that here, but the gist of it is that the curriculum includes quite a lot of hands-on activities that come before the more abstract computer work.

Thus far, we've done two hands-on, "unplugged" activities, both of which proved to be educational and engaging at the same time. My students are already asking for more coding lessons!

The first activity was called Graph Paper Programming. Much like a typical Montessori lesson, I started by introducing new vocabulary to the students:

  • algorithm- a list of steps you can follow to finish a task
  • program- an algorithm that has been coded into something that can be run by a machine

The students went on to create programs on graph paper grids that their friends could decipher by acting as the "machine." They started this process on small 4 x 4 graph paper grids.

At the end of the lesson, I challenged them to create their own design on a large piece of graph paper, write a code for it, and see if their friends could reproduce the design by following their code. They worked diligently on these designs & codes over the next week. Here are the results:

For the 2nd "unplugged" activity, Real Life Algorithms, I challenged them to write out algorithms (or a list of steps) for daily tasks such as making a PB&J sandwich, dusting the geography shelf in classroom, or planting a flower. The idea behind this activity is to understand that a program won't work properly–or at all–if the algorithm is not in logical order or if it missing a step in the process.

Then came the real fun. They cut out the pieces on this worksheet, put the steps in a logical order, and got to make & fly paper airplanes following the algorithms they pieced together.

These "unplugged" activities are great for exploring basic programming concepts. And now I am excited to try out our first coding lesson on the computer this week! Updates to follow!

If you'd like to try out one of the courses in your classroom (or homeschool), their curriculum is available online here, and it's completely free! I'd love to hear any feedback from others who have tried OR any other coding curriculum. What works for your students? Let's share ideas!