Thursday, April 24, 2014

Montessori in the Home

For various reasons, we have had to take Kai out of preschool for a while. I'm changing jobs, and it seems silly to have him start in a new classroom so close to the end of the school year. And there's the financial aspect, of course. Preschool is expensive, even with a staff discount. And we're lucky- Guy works from home and is able to take on full time child care.

There's the rub, though- Guy works from home. And although his income isn't as predictable as mine, he gets paid well for the work he does. In a good month, he'll bring in more than me, and even when things are ugly in the freelancing world, he still has regular clients who make the difference between us paying our bills and, well, not.

So while Kai staying at home is our only option right now, we want to make sure that 1. Kai still has some intellectual stimulation and 2. Guy has the ability to spend part of the day focusing on his freelance work. We're doing a few things to meet these goals, and here's the one I'm most proud of- Our mini Montessori classroom in the basement!

The big ugly pipe has been moved since I took this picture.
Guy and I cleaned the basement and then I dug through my stash of teacher stuff, bought some new activities from a thrift store, and brought it all together with an Ikea rug.

The comfy reading chair was a birthday gift from Grandma Judy. The table faces Guy's work desk, so Kai can interact with him while he's working. The activities here are a zipper frame (picked up at a Montessori that was downsizing), floor puzzle, and magnetic letter board.

Here is most of his work- on the white shelf he has paper, an art mat, markers, scissors, glue sticks, crayons, a pencil sharpener, and the Asia basket that I made for my Montessori training. On the blue shelf, lots of vocabulary and reading works (most of which were also Montessori training projects) a couple of workbooks (not Montessori at all, but oh well), watercolors, and a knobless cylinder set.

The blue shelf is my absolute favorite part of this. You know why? Because I made it. Not out of a box- I made it out of this:

Yeah, check me out. 

The picture is distorting it, but it is a little cattywompus. But it doesn't wobble!

Of course, I had some expert help.

Kai loved this job! He ruined that shirt but insisted he didn't care- I only remembered afterward that we had a smock from his old school he could have worn.

So far, he's been doing a great job of exploring the materials and cleaning up when he's done!

If you're visiting this blog and are interested in doing Montessori inspired learning in your own home, here are a few books you might be interested in- 

Teaching Montessori in the Home by Elisabeth G. Hainstock. I haven't read this, but it's got good reviews. (this is an affiliate link)
Montessori Madness by Trevor Eissler. A great argument and explanation of Montessori education by a parent, for other parents.
The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori. This is my favorite of Montessori's books, which I feel delves most deeply into the philosophy and reasoning behind what she did. (this is also an affiliate link)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Super quick baby blanket

It has been a busy week...

I've thought about posting several times this week but just have never had the time. Today, finally, things have slowed down a bit. (And by slowed down, I mean "It's 2:30 and I'm still in my pajamas!") I had time to complete a project I've had the materials for for weeks, but just never got around to- A baby blanket for my boss at the job I'm leaving.

Apologies for the pictures in this post. It's snowing and gloomy outside, and all of them turned out a little fuzzy.

Soft and snuggly!

This was such an easy blanket to make! I used some materials I normally wouldn't, two different synthetic fabrics (gasp!), in the interest of making this a super quick project. Now I will tell you all about it!

I bought the fabric at Fabric Bliss, a fabric shop owned by one of my old friends. She usually has a great stock of unusual and adorable kid's fabrics, like the monkey print you can see up above. The reverse is pale yellow minky, a fabric I've never used before. It's a synthetic similar to fleece, which I despise, and so I hesitated before choosing it, but the kids at my school all seem to just love the stuff. It doesn't feel like fleece, which helps- I hate the way just touching fleece seems to dry out my hands.

Kai was obsessed with this fabric- I ended up promising him all of the leftovers once I cut what I needed for the blanket, which turned out to be a fair bit.

Here he is, cutting scraps off of his windfall.

The binding I ended up getting later at Jo-ann. It's the other synthetic, and another thing I'd never used before. There was a definite learning curve- my last edges look a lot nicer than the first one I did. Luckily, the errors aren't too noticeable. 

I don't use these often, but they are sure nice to have!

Anyway, I just squared off the fabric (after washing and ironing, of course) and sewed it together around the edges. Since I was going to cover the edges with the binding, I left them raw and sewed wrong sides together. The fabrics cling to each other, to the point where I decided it didn't even need to be quilted. I am going to call the decision not to quilt this blanket "Going for simplicity" and not "Lazy shortcut" because that's just how I roll.

The binding was the trickiest part. I used this tutorial to get an idea of how to do it and it worked pretty well. The mitered corners took some fiddling with but ended up looking very nice. Here's how you start pinning it on.

And that's it! This took two hours, tops. I'm going to pop it in a bag with a bottle of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap (they're going to cloth diaper) and give it to my boss tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A day in Texas

I was hoping to have Kai's pajama pants- and the second post on them- done last weekend. Sadly, between planning for our spring break trip to Texas and the convention Guy worked at on Saturday, I couldn't get it done. So here is a collection of photos I took on a trip to the playground with Kai instead.

I've been visiting my in-laws here for at least five years and I didn't know that there was a playground and park not five minutes walk from their house. It's out of the way- you drive through the church parking lot to a one lane road behind the last row of houses to get to it. Maybe that's why there weren't many people there, or maybe it's because the local schools aren't on their break this week. Either way, the only person Kai and I met for the first 45 minutes or so was a groundskeeper.

Community gardens
Next to the playground were the community gardens. I hung out for a bit, checking out what people were growing, until I spotted this terrifying fellow and decided to back away slowly.

Texas, you're going too far with the whole "everything is bigger" thing.
The playground was way fun. Lots of things to climb on. Once Kai realized I was taking pictures of him, he started to vamp for the camera. 

I have about ten pictures of him in this red thing. This one is my favorite.

Kai is thrilled to be able to go out every day in shorts. It's hard to see, but he's all scrapes and bruises on his legs- the life of a little boy is hard.

Kai used to hate swings, and has only gotten over it in the last few months. Now he's swung in the complete opposite direction- he loves to swing and go as high as I can get him!

Toward the end of playtime. The sun was coming out and it was starting to get hot, the kind of heat that reminds one of why one comes to Texas in the early spring rather than the summer. It's nice to be warm, though.

And that's all! Tune in next week sometime for the finale to the saga of the pj pants!