"I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year" - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Last month, we celebrated the Christmas story with a lovely play presented by our children. It is always very special to see the story of Christ's birth through the children's words and actions. Below are some photos and words from the play. Thank you Meg Porter Photography for these images!
Getting in costume...
Our toddlers were the stars of the play...
Finally it was time to go up to the sanctuary...
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken. Joseph went from the town of Nazareth to the town of Bethlehem. He went there with Mary, who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born."
"Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn."
“There were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them”
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. Today a savior has been born”
"Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on Earth"
Family Day is a much loved tradition here at COLM, and the Friday before Thanksgiving we celebrated our 23rd annual Family Day. The children enjoy making a soup to share. All the families sent in ingredients, and the children prepared the soup on crock pots the day before.
Families were able to visit the classrooms and take a peek at all the activities the children enjoy working with.
After visiting the classrooms, the primary children made a turkey with their hand prints and a picture frame with their class picture.
Next, we headed up to the sanctuary for our performance. Everyone did a wonderful job singing, and we were so proud of all the toddlers for their exuberant song and dance!
We love our garden and natural play area at COLM. A few weeks ago, we had a garden work day with the help of some of our dedicated parent volunteers. The children love this day for many reasons. Not only do they get to play in the dirt; but they experience contributing to the community, using real tools, and taking care of the environment. These are some of the hallmarks of the Practical Life curriculum that the children use everyday.
For our fall garden day, we cleaned up weeds and cut back overgrown shrubs. We planted winter vegetables too. Just like with any activity involving children, the tools used must be functional and the right size. If the tools are too big and heavy, the children cannot manage them. If they are too small, like a toy, they do not work properly.
The young child is developing strength and coordination, and using the proper tools to complete a task makes the activity every empowering for the child. Everyone is able to contribute in the garden!
It is really amazing how hard the children worked. They loved spending time outside and spent the whole morning gardening, despite the cold!
After a morning of work, we are proud of our garden and spruced up courtyard area. Huge thanks to our parent volunteers for spending their time with us this morning, and to everyone who helped by sending in plants and seeds. It is exciting to watch everything grow!
“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Every morning, the children start with a job. M above is folding napkins for lunch. These small jobs help the children settle into the routine for the day and allow them to contribute to the community in an important way
Look at all the napkins she folded and put in napkin rings! Now the children can use them for lunch.
Geography is an important part of the curriculum. One way the children learn about other countries is through puzzle maps. There is a puzzle map for the continents, one for the US, and one for each continent. The ones pictured here are Africa, Asia, and the United States. Little known fact - the white knob on each puzzle piece is in the location of the state or country capital!
This three year old is working on the Red Rods. This is a material that allows the child to experience the quality of length. It is also an indirect preparation for later math work.
Pictured here is the Decanomial Square, It is a visual representation of the decanomial equation - the squares of all numbers 1-10. The small red dot in the upper left represents the 1 squared. What a great way to see how the equations grows exponentially!
This boy is working on the binomial cube. It is a 3D representation of the binomial equation in the form of a puzzle. The Montessori math materials are absolutely amazing!
Here, we have a polishing activity and a window washing activity, which are part of the Practical Life curriculum. Polishing and washing items in the environment allow the child to help keep the materials beautiful. It also builds focus, concentration, hand strength, and self esteem as the child contributes positively to the class.
This is a Metal Inset, which is part of the Language curriculum. There at 10 shapes on the Metal Inset shelf. The child traces a shape and carefully fills it in using vertical lines, which get closer and closer together as the child refines her skills. This work is a direct preparation for writing, as well as a beautiful and creative artistic activity.
This child is working on language activities also.
This is a Geometry exercise that allows the child to experience the idea that all linear shapes are made from triangles.
The courtyard offers a lovely place to paint!
Snack always tastes better with a friend!
This month marks the beginning of COLCMS's 24th year! When COLCMS started in 1994, it was with one employee and 8 students. Although we have been many different sizes over the years, our commitment to children and families remains as strong as ever. We are honored you have chosen us to start your child on a life long path to 'growing in spirit and intellect.' It is always a joy to see returning students fall back into the rhythm of school.
We love welcoming new friends to our community, as well as reconnecting with returning ones.
Towards the end of the morning, the children enjoy some outside time in the garden or playground before lunch. We have a beautiful, natural garden area that is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a School Yard Habitat.
Everyday, a few primary children help set up for lunch. Tables are set with place cards, plates, cups, and water pitchers.
Each child brings his or her own napkin and napkin ring, as well as a lunch box. The children are called in a few at a time to wash hands and set up their lunch. Once everyone is ready, a short blessing is said and we all begin eating together. Lunch is a wonderful opportunity for Grace and Courtesy (manners) practice.
After lunch, the children ask to be excused when they are done eating. There is no rush, and it is a lovely time to socialize and enjoy each other's company. Each child clears their place and washes their plate when they are finished. Then they can look at a book or go back outside.
Our year is off to a wonderful start and we hope you will check our blog regularly for updates! We have very limited toddler openings, if you are interested in our toddler program, you can read more about it here on our website. Email colmadmin (at) gmail.com to set up your personal tour.
Many thanks to Meg Porter of Meg Porter Photography and Meg and Kate Weddings for the images in this post. Meg graciously shares her talent with us throughout the year. Thank you Meg!
It has been a tradition for several years for COLM to visit Farmer Sue at the Art Barn. We always have a FARM-tastic time, and this year was no exception. We started our visit with a tractor ride.
We toured 'Mr. MacGregor's' garden and Farmer Sue told us about some of the vegetables growing there.
After the tractor ride, we painted under the trees. We all raised our brushes and affirmed our artistic talents!
After painting, it was time to hold some chickens and pet the barn yard animals.
We learned about different types of chickens and all the different colored eggs they lay. Did you know eggs can be white, brown, speckled, green, and even pink? They are also large or small depending on the breed of chicken.
The children really enjoyed petting and brushing the donkeys, sheep, and goats. We finished up our day with a picnic under the magnolias. Thank you Farmer Sue for a wonderful time!
Thank you Meg Porter of Meg Porter Photography and Meg and Kate Weddings for the images in this post!
Ready. Set. GROW! The children's garden is a special place where the children at Cross of Life Christian Montessori School come together to plant, tend and sow the benefits of their hard work through out the year. The garden allows the children an opportunity to not only sharpen their practical life skills but to explore the worlds of botany and zoology.
Gardening introduces the children to some of the living creatures in the soil, under rocks and on plants. Teaching children the names of the plants, vegetable and flowers, especially those that have a smell or taste allows them to make the connection between what they've grown and the food on their plate. It's a great way to teach respect for even the smallest things.
Ms. Oana and the children discovering a worm.
It was the first of many worms we found that morning!
No job is too tough for these guys! Gardening is a tangible and positive way for children to get involved in caring for the environment.
Weeding and digging helps prepare the raised bed for summer vegetables.
“Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and, by the way, in our own).”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
"The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the earth." - Maria Montessori
Along with the fun of getting dirty, gardening helps children learn valuable lessons about patience as they wait for vegetables to grow, responsibility as they see how necessary their care is to the garden, and even loss when flowers die at the end of a season. Children are natural nurturers and understand the importance of caring for plants and other things in the garden. We are so grateful at COLM to have a beautiful garden and amazing volunteers to help us take care of it!
The social development of the child is something often over-looked in our increasingly academically focused world. It's something that is essential to the overall development of the child. The social development of the child is aided by the multi age groupings you will find in a Montessori school.
In Montessori schools, children are divided into groups according to age. These ages are based on 'Planes of Development' which means all the children in the age group are developmentally going through the same stages. Even though Montessori schools are more than 100 years old, children's development still occurs in the same way it did when the first 'Children's House' opened in Rome in 1907.
The children accept the unspoken responsibility to be willing to help one another, which is an important aspect of the mixed ages in our classrooms. The younger children look up to the older children and the older children take care of the younger children. And sometimes, the younger ones find ways to help the older ones.
Wherever the child falls in the birth order of the family, cousins, or friend group at home, it is wonderful to see her take on different leadership roles in the classroom.
Our active community lends itself to responding to the developmental needs of each child. The children have the freedom to talk, play, work together, and strengthen the community through the real activities of daily life.
“Our schools show that children of different ages help one another. The younger ones see what the older ones are doing and ask for explanations. These are readily given and the instruction is really valuable, for the mind of the five-year-old is so much nearer to ours than to the mind of a child of three, that the little one learns easily…There is a communication and a harmony between the two that one seldom finds between the adult and the small child." -Dr. Maria Montessori
Thank you to Meg Porter Photography for the beautiful images in this post. You can see more of her work on her website www.megporterphotography.com or www.megandkate.com for weddings.
The Primary Class is composed of children ages 3-6. Generally a child spends 3-4 years in the Primary Class. Each year builds on the previous year. The first year, the child is mostly working in the Practical Life and Sensorial areas. The second year, the child continues working with Practical Life and Sensorial, but also begins to work with Language and Math materials. In the final year, the work of the first years culminates in the more complex Language and Math work. All along, the child is learning how to be a part of a community, to make choices, and how it feels to complete meaningful work independently. You can read about the Primary curriculum in more detail here on our website.
The child above, age 4 1/2, is working on embroidery. This type of work helps strengthen the muscles in the hands and fine motor skills. It also builds concentration and self control to make all those tiny stitches! It is hard to tell in the photo, but the shape is is sewing is the outline of an alligator. It will end up being part of a pillow for his baby brother. How sweet!
Here, we have one of our younger students working on cloth washing. In the classroom, many tiny cloths are used for polishing and dusting work. When they are dirty, the children put the used cloths in a small basket under the cloth washing activity. Once a child notices the basket is getting full, he or she may decide to wash the cloths.
Not only is it a wonderful sensorial experience, it is one of the more involved practical life activities that helps build focus, logical thought, and a sense of order. Cloth washing also allows the child to contribute in a positive way to the community.
Pictured here is the 'Decanomial Square.' This is a 2-D representation of 1 squared, 2, squared, 3 squared...all the way up to 10 squared. The tiny red square in the top corner represents 1, and each subsequent colors corresponds with the next number. He is in the middle of the activity, with brown representing the number 8.
The Moveable Alphabet is a language material that allows the child to write before her hands are able to form all the letters. For many children, this is their first writing experience. It is very powerful for them to see their thoughts formed into words. We focus first on phonetic spelling, and being able to hear all the sounds that make up words. Phonograms and 'puzzle words' are learned along side the work with the Moveable Alphabet.
A quiet moment in the reading corner.
Two friends working on shoe polishing. This is a favorite activity among the children. They love making their shoes, as well as their friend's shoes, clean and shiny!
The girl pictured above is making a booklet from her number writing practice.
Here, two friends are sharing a table. One child is creating geometric shapes, and the other is searching for words in a book. She could be searching for certain sight words, like 'the', or words containing a certain phonogram, such as 'ph'. When she finds these words, she writes them down, making this an opportunity for handwriting practice as well.
Grace and Courtesy is part of the Practical Life curriculum. Snack offers the perfect opportunity to practice Grace and Courtesy lessons. When a child sees snack is available, he or she can take a plate and check the 'menu.' The menu tells them how many of each item to take - for example, 5 crackers, 10 grapes, 2 pieces of cheese. Each child has a reusable cup with their name on it for drinking water. The children love sitting with a friend and eating snack together. When they are finished, they wash their dishes, dry them, and put them away. Leaving the table clean and tidy for the next person is part of snack.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
Come before the Lord with joyful songs.
-Psalm 100 1-2
Cross of Life Montessori is one of the few Montessori schools to use the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) curriculum. The materials for the CGS work are kept in a special place called 'The Atrium,' which is where the children are invited into a loving relationship with God.
Here, children can experience God as love. Between the ages of three and six years, the child's capacity for prayer is that of praise and thanksgiving. Children learn that there are many ways to pray, including silence and singing. In the silence is where we can learn to hear God. This silence is nourished, not enforced during the child's time in the atrium.
Children in the Primary class enter the Atrium in small groups. Similar to the way a new presentation is given with the Montessori teaching materials, the Catechist (teacher) introduces a scripture passage and a corresponding material. The child pictured above is working with the Good Shepherd material. Previously, the Catechist read the parable and paused in her reading to act out the story with the sheep and the shepherd.
After the scripture reading, the children talk about questions such as 'What does the good shepherd do?' 'Why won't the sheep follow a stranger's voice?' or 'What does it mean that he knows all their names?'
It's ok if the children don't know or don't want to talk about the answers. This is a time to wonder and reflect on the mystery of God. In asking reflection questions about the materials, we become aware of the child's capacity to understand and we respect his response.
The Parable 'The Kingdom of Heaven and the Pearl of Great Price' is pictured here. After reading the scripture booklet and acting out the story, the children are free to work with other materials in the atrium.
The three and a half year old girl pictured here is working with the material to re-tell the story of the pearl. The beautiful and simple materials provide an outlet for the child to process and begin to understand the wonderful stories in the bible.
The children in the Atrium are given a simple, limited amount of material to work with. This way, they are not overwhelmed and can begin to generalize the lessons learned to other areas of their lives. Sophia Cavaletti, on of the co-founders of CGS said 'The youngest children are capable of the greatest love.'
The children above, ages 4 and 6 are pictured reflecting quietly at the prayer table. God and children are already in a relationship - the work with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials simply affirms what they already know. As one of our parents said, 'Children show you the simple things God wants you to see.'
It is our hope at COLM that by nurturing the children's faith through joyful and loving experiences, this faith will stay with them for a lifetime, leading them to many years of happiness, service, fulfillment, and peace.
The girl pictured here, age 4, is working with the Adoration of the Magi.
The children use these specially made linens to learn about the colors of the liturgical seasons.
The material above is for the Last Supper.
These materials give the children a way to process ideas that are even difficult for adults to understand. With the 'Mystery of Life and Death' (pictured above), we plant seeds and talk about how they change as they grow into plants.
On this day, we finished our time in the Atrium by acting out the song of the Mustard Seed. It goes like this:
'The mustard seed is very small
Until it starts to grow
Then inch by inch it reaches up
So all of us will know'
'That even though we're little now
One day we're going to be
Big and strong and full of power
Just like the mustard seed'
'Can you believe the power of God?!'
We are an AMI accredited Montessori school growing daily in spirit & intellect!