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Ding, Ding. 
"Breakfast is READY!!!!", he yells from the kitchen.

Another new addition to our home classroom...THE BELL.
Found this little retro gadget at our local Homegoods for 3 bucks.
On many days, this sound wakes us in the morning.
This is when Zo can't wait for his lazy parents to get out of bed to serve him breakfast.  A hungry boy has got to take matters into his own hands.  Mama needs those extra minutes in bed somedays...ahhhhh strreeettchhhhh!!!

My early efforts in building towards his independence in the kitchen is paying off (yippee!).  We have found cereal bowls set up for 3, toast, or eggs cracked in bowls for me to fry, ready on the table when we have answered the bell.

I think he really likes the power of the DING.
Dalee and I jump up like it's the Tardy Bell at school, Geesh.
Talk about rude, but sweet, awakening...

The Breakfast Cereal Set Up:



This is Zo's ride...the WeeRide.
In the world of "Toddler Cycling", there are 2 basic schools of thought.
The training wheels vs. The balance bike.

We picked the Balance Bike (or Glider), the idea being more in-line with our Montessori Homeschool.  Always, just try the REAL thing and practice till you get it, no training wheels (in this case, literally).

Easier to learn how to pedal than how to balance, right?  So naturally, we opted for the harder task first.  The cool thing about this cool ride is that they can start trying at 2 yrs old.  Short little legs?  No problem.  The training wheel bike needed slightly longer gams, which Zozie didn't grow yet.  At first he walk around with the bike between his legs alot.  Soon after a few months, at 2.5, he started to sit down on the seat.  Then the magic happened.  He walked while sitting.  That evolved into a faster paddle and before we knew it, he was gliding...Weeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

Like our homemade-classroom tools, we take the jist and come up with an inexpensive version.  In this case, we went with the WeeRide for our Balance tool.  This is a tiny metal bike with 10" foam wheels that don't need inflation.  It comes with a hand brake for a basic introduction to this hand motion.  We are adding our own bell.  Wooden versions like Skuut run $100, other aluminum ones go from $100-$200.  For us, $22 sounded perfect.  Just in case he didn't take to it, no big loss.

Needless to say, Zo absolutely LOVES his WeeRide.  At 3, we now take family rides and go to stores together on our own bikes.  It's really a funny sight when we are all out.  Most people can't believe they are seeing a bike that small with an even smaller boy on it.  They often don't notice it's a pedal-less bike until we point it out because of his sheer speed.  Z asked for his own lock so he can lock up at the racks like us.  A simple 4 digit combo lock from Target ($5) did the trick.
Like Z says, "C'mon guys, let's Wiiiddde!"
His riding skills?  Check.  His "R's"?  Still working on it.

His favorite "down grade" outside our front sidewalk:


The Slicer!

Presentation:  Egg Slicing.

We learned how to Crack em' already.  
And now...we Slice em'!
Eggs are amazing things.  It's one food that offers endless teaching opportunities.  That fragile shell:  You can crack it, peal it, paint it, dye it.  Its existence in different forms:  You can boil it, beat it, slice it, mold it.  The malleability of it is incredible.  It truly is a fabulous Wonder Tool!

I picked up an egg slicer a few weeks back at a garage sale for 50 cents.  A new way to mess with eggs, gotta have it.  I've never used one before this but it seemed an obvious Montessori tool the second I saw it.
Continuing on the road to self reliance, little gadgets often add to Zozie's repertoire of skills in the kitchen.

Learn to slice eggs with an egg slicer

The Set Up
1)  Egg Slicer
2)  Small Plate (2)
3)  Napkin
4)  Hard boiled Egg(s)

1)  Take a hard-boiled egg and crack on the edge of a plate
2)  Rotate the egg until it is evenly soften for peeling
3)  Start the peeling process and place shells onto one plate
4)  Continue until shells are gone then wipe hands on napkin to remove extra chips
5)  Place the egg on the slicer horizontally (The yolk stays in more)
6)  Hold the slicer bottom half down with left hand
7)  Gently with the right hand, bring the wire slicer down onto the egg, slowly.
8)  Push down all the way until it clears the egg.
9)  Remove the egg gently and place on the serving plate, serve.
10)  Repeat if the child wants to try another egg

This has been an exciting part of serving eggs for Zozie.  He'll sometimes "splay" the slices to present it like a flower afterwards.  The cool-factor of working with something that you can then EAT is still a big hit for a toddler.  So from boiling, to cracking, to peeling, to slicing, to serving, it's a complete work cycle that he can see from beginning to end, and best of all, participate in himself.  
Another chip in the O'Independence jar, CHING!

A little slice of our slicer:



Meet BLOBhead.
Zozie's latest creation.
He drew it, then named it.
BLOBhead has a bright mooostach.
He also drew some friends for BLOBhead.
I think matching family Tees with BLOBhead on them are in order?

BLOBhead's Brother with Eyebrows.

BLOBhead's Friend:  "Sad Spider" with tears.



Got a million things on your mind?
I Do.  Man, I sure do.
For those who know me, I'm a HUGE list maker.  
My mind is always swirling with endless thoughts.  Like a messy closet, it's good to just routinely clear out and re-sort.  That's how I see "THE TO DO LIST."  Dump out whats floating, sort out the thoughts by priority, check it off as needed.  Knowing what's ahead settles stress and anxiety and avoids the undue burden of keeping it all in your head.  
When life gets tough, grab a pen and paper.

Such is the curriculum of "Tools of the Mind", a particular teaching technique as mentioned in the book Nurture Shock 
"TOTM is a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success in preschool and kindergarten children by promoting their intentional and self-regulated learning."

Key Words noted?  Intentional Self-Regulated Learning.
Wow, right up my Montessori alley!
It's not so much completing the goals of all the presentations I show.  That's just the details.  The REAL joy is  that my child is learning how to govern himself.  I want to give him tools that are helpful to his success in daily life, to make good choices, to know what is best for himself.  For as cute as it is to see him sort marbles, I'm the happiest knowing that he's learning reasoning skills and an understanding of the physical & conceptual world in order for him to resolve problems that arise, WITHOUT my assistance. We all know that we can't be with our children forever, so what do we want to leave them with?

The TO DO LIST works for me, so why not for my toddler?  I found a calendar that breaks out the day into hour-slots.  This works best since we can list a task for each hour.  A black pen for me to write events, a green marker (or your choice) for him to cross out as he completes the task.

A conceptual understanding of time and sequence of events

Set Up
1)  Daily calendar that has hour breakdowns
2)  One black/blue pen
3)  One colored marker

1) Have your child come close next to you
2)  Talk through the day's events and start with breakfast
3)  Go slowly and narrate each task, ask the child if that's a "good thing to do?"
4)  Once they agree to the task, write it down
5)  Feel free to verbally spell words out as you write them.
6)  Draw pictograms or symbols next to the task to trigger child's memory
7)  As items are complete, invite the child to come cross out each task so he gets a sense of time, progression, and sequence of events

"What's Next?"
After the first few days, I realized that I needed to draw "Pic-to-grams" next to my list items.  I'm not an artist, but my little chicken scratches helped tremendously.  Since Zozie can't read yet, it was difficult for him to refer back to "What's Next?"  Once I started to draw little symbols while saying the task, it stuck like HONEY.  Zo would be able to recall events that happened a week ago, simply by "reading" his list and seeing the pictures. Example:  I drew a small cat face next to a playdate where the host house had a cat in their neighbor's yard...a week later, Zozie saw the appointment and said "I already played at N's house last time!" just by seeing the cat's face.

Less Conflicts
The results were immediate.  Zo would wake up in the morning and ask for his list.  "What's on my list today mama?"  If I say an event, he would ask if it's on our list, or what time it's on our list.  And if he deviates from what we write down (not wanting to get dressed, or not eat dinner yet), I would refer him back to his TO DO list and he would actually comply!  *Shock*  "It's not time for puzzles Zozie, the list says it's time to get dressed, right?"  "Oh yeah, right!" (Then he goes to get clothes).

Open Slots
Of course there are "open" tasks as one can't possibly schedule out every second of the day.  In those times, I write down the "biggest" task (ie. Play with trains), and if he happened to do a few other things, it's not a deal breaker.

The peace and clam that comes with knowing what's next is incredible.  A simple list, created with a child, for that child, clarifies the confusing world.  Again, intentional & self regulating.  A perfect pairing with our Montessori homeschool!

Crossing off the TO DO list:


Graffiti Cat.

A scratchy feline stared at us this morning.

Caught him in the act yesterday...chalk in hand.
Right on our wooden fence. 
Let's keep the spray paint away from this munchkin, eh?


LAB Work: Wanna take this OUTSIDE?

Work Budget:  Pocket Change + Free stuff
Time:  2 Short Afternoons
Location:  Our own carport, CA

Finally...A play yard for Zozie!
One man's trash is another's treasure.
Our front neighbors have moved to a new home and left us their play slide as a parting gift.  This wonderful gift has "domino'd" into our latest transformation, this time, outdoors!

Our apartment unit is on top of our carport, a small abode of around 700-ish sq ft.  We have no yard.  Never had.  Wished we had.  So I'm always scheming to get a yard, or a "yardish" feeling around our carport area.
Yes, yardish. 

Before:  A place for our trash cans...and some oil stains.

After:  "My garden park!" ~ Zozie.
Often times, there's a "spark" to start a transformation.  Something that gets the momentum going.  To squeeze the most out of the 6x6 space outside, I placed the new-old slide as the focal point.  This was the start of our play yard space planning, placing everything around this centerpiece for circulation.  Some foam mats line the floor to give alittle cushion from the scratchy floor.

If you actually want people to be in a particular space, you need seating.  Nothing pulls people in to a space faster than putting some chairs out.  It's really true.  You should try it.  Just put a chair anywhere, make it a couple, and people will start hanging out there.  So since I wanted the kids to hang out in this play yard, I placed a set of table and 2 chairs next to the slide.  (Garage Sale finds:  $15) Threw in a discounted umbrella from Target to shade and identify the dining area.  And now, we dine Al Fresco @ Zo's Cafe multiple times a week.  Also a perfect "snack buffet" zone when we have playdates.

For as much as I daydream, this is still a concrete driveway nook.  But green space was on the top of my list for Zozo's home classroom, so flower boxes were in order.  I found some old ones in the shed and planted some herbs and flowers.  Zo & I also potted a red bell pepper plant and a cherry tomato plant.  It's been nice for Zo to have something to water and watch grow.  Our small container garden also acts as a "partition" wall, bringing some green into the playspace.  An old fireplace screen (leftover from our Annual Yard Sale) keeps the plants separated from flying balls!

Storage Bucket
As in our Homeschool Classroom, storage is needed and essential.  Nothing makes a space more confusing than not having a place to return things to.  We used a city recycling bin as a "Catch All" for balls, gloves, bats, roller skates, and all loose toys.

Private Pool
For the summer only, we set up an inflatable kiddie pool for some splashy fun.  This is in our extended concrete area outside our laundry room downstairs.  Glad the kids love this Dino Falls Splash Pool (Again from Target post-summer sale) since I nearly passed out from exhaustion manually blowing this contraption up.  (Cough!)

It's such a blessing to have an extended play space now.  We are proud to say we have our own outdoor play yard, a fun extension to our indoor home classroom.  So ya wanna take this outside too?


Dish Master.

Presentation:  Dish Washing

We got his preschool "Report Card" a few weeks back.
Pretty funny at first...really?  A report card?  C'mon, the kid's 3.  But typical to Montessori curriculum, documentation is an important part of charting a child's development, used as a building block for introducing future presentations and skills.
But still, he was only there 7 weeks till summer started. I'm curious....

A small key code reads:  "Presented = 1", "Practiced = 2", or "Mastered = 3".
Looking down the list, I see a few "3's"....one of which, is next to the skill:
Wha dah?

The past 2 + weeks or so, Zozie has shown an intense interest in washing dishes.  I didn't think to show him this since it seemed pretty involved for a 3 year old.  I was wondering where this intensity was being fueled and humored him by letting him splash around at times.  Little did I know, he was a "Master" dish washer at his preschool already...hahaaa!

With this new knowledge, I got to work in facilitating his new practical life skill.

Learn how to wash dishes

Set Up:
1)  Stepping Stool
2)  Soap Pump
3)  Dish Soaking Tub
4)  Dish Towel
5)  Sponge
6)  Soap Dish (To hold sponge)
7)  Small Apron

1)  Ask child to bring step stool to the sink & lay out dish towel on counter
2)  Take the sponge and hold under the soap pump
3)  With palm, push down on the pump and dispense some soap on to the sponge
4)  Pull the lever upwards to start water flow
5)  Pull out one dish from the soaking dish tub
6)  In a circular fashion, wash the surface of the dish until clean
7)  Do the same on the back side
8)  Place the sponge back into the soap dish
9)  Rinse the dish by rubbing one hand over dish
10)  Flip the dish over and repeat until all bubbles have been rinsed off
11)  Give a gentle "Shake" for excess water
12)  Place on to dish towel
13)  Repeat until all dishes are clean & dump out the excess water from the dish tub

This is just my working "pipeline" for dish washing at our house.  At school, the kids don't have access to a sink with running water for dish washing so I'm sure the presentation is alittle simpler.  Not sure if they do soap either at school.

But at our house, doing the set up for Zo to wash dishes has made it actually easier for all of us.  Seeing him struggle with squeezing the soap out of the regular container prompted me to find an old hand soap bottle with pump and transfer the soap into an easier dispenser.  The soaking bucket was elevated with a smaller plastic take-out container so it was not too far to reach for his little arms.  The step stool made it easier to reach the water faucet.  We usually just use the dishwasher as a "drying rack", but having Zo lay out a dish towel for him to place and dry dishes was much easier.
He's been setting up for mealtime, clearing dishes, and putting dishes away for a while now.  This is a nice completion of the "Dish Cycle" in his daily routine.

Master of Dishes:



Introducing....the SING-A-LONGS!

@ 3yrs 6months.
He learned this last year for Chinese New Years. 

Lyrics:  歌詞 新年

Pe-Lee Pa-La Pe-Lee Oa-La 鞭炮
恭喜 恭喜 新年

This is a new TOPIC for our LAB!
By popular demand, Chinese Children's Songs are here.
Some past clips are now available and with lyrics!
You can find them under the "Sing-A-Longs" topic link on the left of the homepage.
More will be posted as I dig them up, dated on the original date for age reference.