My Year of Coming Back

It’s true – so much can change in a year.  I was blessed to stay home with my children for almost 5 years.  Then, I was blessed with a new stage in life. For a lot of reason that I won’t bore you with now (read: that’s personal stuff that I’m not sharing), I went back to work as a public school teacher.  What a ride!

Armed with my expired teaching certificate, I dove back in head on.  In a year, I got retrained and reinducted to the teaching profession. I got a job teaching 4K again (my HEART) and was granted a one-year extension on my certificate.  I buckled down and completed all the necessary requirements and I’m now the happy holder of a 4-more-years valid license to teach in this wonderful state. Though much has changed in 5 years, one thing hasn’t.  Teaching still makes me feel alive.  I love it.  Not just that, I am passionate about it.  With my first year for the second time behind me, I’m excited to start sharing again.

What’s to come?  To begin with, an updated look for the blog.  Obviously, when I began I was working at home with my son to get him prepared for Montessori school.  On a side note, he completed the Primary cycle last year and we decided to keep him at the same school for 3 more years for the Elementary cycle.  Sadly, I’m not Montessori certified, but as someone who has seen its benefits first-hand, I will tell you that it is a masterful way of teaching and learning.  You will certainly continue to see Ms. Montessori’s influence on my teaching style, but I’ve learned that it is an all-or-nothing methodology and that without full immersion, it falls flat. 

I think that when I left this cozy little blog corner several years ago, I had maybe a hundred visitors.  I was shocked to see that number at over 20K when I popped back in.  Ah, the wonders of Pinterest.  For those of you who found your way here from Pinterest, welcome.  For those of you who got here from the older posts and are hoping to see a lot more at-home Montessori activities, they’ll be no more.  This blog will now take a turn to my classroom and will likely be the most useful to PreK and K classroom teachers, though I still believe that the stay at homers will still find a lot of helpful content.

Thanks for being here.  Stick around for more to come.

Going with the Flow – Cars Style

I had my son screened for public 4K at a nearby school.  In our district, it’s only half day and I thought that it would be a great chance for him to get out of the house and have some fun after the baby comes.  Public 4K is exactly what I used to teach, so I know that most of the things that would be on the screening he could do before the age of 2, but still – a mom can hope.  Well, he didn’t qualify.  Back to Plan A it is.

I am working on some low-effort (large baby bump = need for small effort) learning notebooks that Carter will be able to use over and over for the next few months.  The first one will be based on the movie Cars.  This little guy is crazy about the movie and with Cars 2 coming out at the end of the month, the excitement continues.  What does any great teacher do with excitement and interest?  They turn it into an opportunity for learning!

We’ll be using this Cars Preschool Pack for many of our activities.  I don’t have this one ready for use yet, but once it is, pictures will follow.

I didn’t find any calendar pieces, so I made my own.  The clipart came from “Free Disney Clipart”, so I’m going to assume that it’ll be fine for me to share them with you.  I’d be glad for you to print and use them, but never to sell them or claim them as your own.

Cars Calendar Pieces

Don’t have a Cars-crazy little boy in your house?  Check out all the Preschool Packs here.  There are some fun themes – even one for Princesses.  These look like great, easy-to-assemble activities that will keep Carter learning while I am caring for a new baby in the house.

And here are the blank calendar pieces if you’d like to try your hand at making some to fit your theme.

I found some great planning forms here that I’ll adapt to work for me, but they make work for you just as they are!

Predictability

The day before we were to leave for NY, my father asked my son, “What are we going to do tomorrow when you wake up?”

Carter’s response: “Well, first I’m going to go to the potty.”

One of the first things you’re taught as a teacher of young children (or you learn the hard way) is that preschool-age children love, thrive on and need predictability.  This is one way of giving them the control that they crave at this age.

The first and easiest way to make your preschooler’s life predictable is through their Daily Schedule.  For those of you who are not fans of schedules, bare with me.  I am not at all suggesting that you do the same thing constantly and totally take the fun out of life.   I am suggesting that you allot the same blocks of time in your day for certain activities.  For example, mornings always occur in the same order.  Days have a flow that is easy to follow.  Meals at home have the same rules and expectations each time we sit down.  Bedtime is always the same.

Wake up
Use the bathroom
Eat breakfast
Watch 2 shows
Get dressed
Play
Have Lunch
Run Errands

Because there are certain times in your day that will always be changing, it helps to have a “What Are We Going To Do Today” conversation over breakfast.  Certainly, this would require not eating breakfast in front of the tv, but at a table.  It takes only 15 minutes of your time, and I promise that it’s worth the effort.  I have a job that requires me to often go several places each day.  With a preschooler in tow, this can be a huge challenge or a big adventure.  Each morning I tell him where we’ll be going after lunch that day.  If I don’t initiate the conversation, he will.  Children like to know your plans for them.  When they do, they are more likely to be cooperative.

Running errands and going into stores can be a challenge all it’s own.  One thing to make this easier on yourself and your child is through a little Proactive Discipline.  Before getting out of the car at a store, talk about how you expect your child to act in a store (and why) and the consequences that will certainly happen if he does not follow those expectations.  This can be as simple as: “When we go into the store I need you to stay close to me so that I know you’re safe.  If you walk away from me, you will need to ride in the shopping cart until we leave.”

When Carter was much younger he went through a (very trying) time of screaming whenever we went into a store.  Though it was difficult for me, no amount of talking or punishment helped his behavior.  My discipline was Reactive rather than Proactive.  He would scream and I would get embarrassed and start with the threats and harsh tones.  However, once I told him that it was not ok for him to scream in a store and doing so would mean that we had to leave the store immediately, the behavior stopped within days.  I tell you this to stress that if you tell your child there is a consequence, go ahead and steel yourself to follow through on that promise at least once.  Once you become predictable and your child fully understand that you say what you mean and you mean what you say, consequences will have to be used less and less often.  They will know there’s no need to test you.  If you back down or “forget” even once, they’ll remember and you’ll be going back to square one.

When your child behaves correctly, thank him and praise him.  Do yourself a favor and never use the “if you…then I’ll…” method for managing your child’s behavior in a store (or anywhere else).  Always strive to teach your child to do the right thing because it is the right thing, not because of what they will get as a result.  Once the reward becomes external, it is very difficult to teach them to internalize it again.  And, it gets expensive!

Each child is different and each child comes with their own set of challenges, but adding a little predictability to their days can go a long way!