Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Do We Do All Day?

As we approach parent teacher conference time, I like to provide parents with an outline of our curriculum.  The curriculum was compiled by me, based on my experience as a preschool teacher and my formal training in Montessori primary education.   I will make copies available for you at conferences and I look forward to your feedback.  Thank you for taking the time to read this. ~Jennifer
 Helping Hands Family School Curriculum
All of the children at Helping Hands Family School will explore the following concepts, in anticipation of preparing them for kindergarten.  The children learn these concepts at their own pace and are not expected to master them.  
At Helping Hands Family School the children use Montessori materials, create art, sing songs, and participate in self directed imitation play. The teachers create lessons and make materials to meet the needs of each child, based on their observations of the children at play in the environment.
 Below is an outline of the content of our year long curriculum.  Helping Hands Family School presents lessons, provides materials, and strives to create an environment that nurtures individualized learning in the following areas: 

  • Practice problem-solving skills in social situations i.e. peaceful conflict resolution
  • Work in groups or with a partner on a variety of projects
  • Share classroom materials with the group
  • Practice using manners: please, thank you, excuse me, table manners, holding the door for others, waiting for a turn to speak in conversation
  • Communicate his/her needs
  • Take care of his/her own basic needs: clean up, roll up nap pad, fasten clothing, use tissue as needed.


  • Introduction to the numerals 1- 30
  • Count objects to 10
  • One-to-one correspondence of objects
  • Sort by various attributes: color, shape, size
  • Patterns: AB, AABB, ABC
  • Sizes: small, medium, large
  • Shapes: square, rectangle, circle, triangle
  • Match: symbols, shapes, patterns, etc.
  • Same and Different
  • More, Less, Same
  • Time: Day and Night, introduction of the clock
  • Introduction to alphabet: letter names and sounds
  • Recognize, spell, write first name
  • Hold a pencil, marker, crayon correctly
  • Retell familiar stories
  • Draw pictures and dictate sentences about stories and experiences
  • Answer questions about stories
  • Repeat simple nursery rhymes and fingerplays
  • Learn concepts of print: left to right direction, holding a book right-side-up
  • Build new vocabulary
  • Build listening skills
  • Strengthen visual discrimination
  • Sequencing: beginning, middle, end (story telling structure)
  • Develop fine motor skills: play dough, scissors, writing utensils, glue sticks, tape, stencils, stamps, Legos, etc.

    Nature & Geography

    • Explore science tools: magnets, prisms, magnifying glasses, etc.
    • Experience the world through nature walks, gardening, and other explorations
    • Observe insect life
    • Observe plant growth
    • Observe weather and plant life during each season
    • Measure and mix ingredients in cooking activities
    • Identify basic colors and explore color mixing
    • Make observational drawings and dictation
    • Explore the world with the five senses
    • Investigate local animals, the homes they live in, the food they eat
    • Introduction to our world through map puzzles, maps, books, photos, music and food

    Creative Arts

    • Explore a variety of art processes: painting, drawing, sculpture, weaving, collage
    • Use a variety of art materials: crayons, tempera paint, watercolor paint, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, art chalk, clay
    • Experiment with mixing paint colors
    • Sing traditional songs and songs that enhance the curriculum
    • Participate in movement songs and dances
    • Use scarves, rhythm sticks, and bean bags to practice rhythms
    • Use a variety of children’s instruments
    • Participate in dramatic play
    • Dramatize familiar stories
    • Act out the movements and sounds of animals
    Our classroom and school family community is centered around and dependent upon the following three ground rules.

    Be Safe
    Be Gentle
    Be Kind

    At the beginning of and throughout the school year the children are given examples of ways to be SAFE, GENTLE and KIND.  When using materials, when interacting with others in our classroom, when interacting with family and the world outside the classroom, and when caring for animals and all living things.  These values are encouraged throughout our program. 

    Each day we light a candle for PEACE which brings us together in the moment as a classroom community. 

    We all have something to learn and we all have something to teach.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Let's Read a Book

    Did you know? Jillian, Madeline's mom, is an aspiring children's book author and illustrator. Here are some photos from the day she visited Helping Hands to share her book, The Little Onion, with the children. Jillian's book was beautiful to look at, full of colorful cut paper images. The children enjoyed the pictures and the story, sitting quietly while Jillian shared the words she had lovingly written.
    The story is about a sensitive little girl who often cries. In the story the grandfather affectionately calls the girl, his "little onion".
    The book explores the many ways we learn to express ourselves and how tears can hold more meaning than sadness.

    I think it is a story that all children would enjoy and I hope Jillian's dream of having it published comes true!
    Thank you Jillian for sharing your special treasure with all of us. I encourage you to never give up, this book is meant to be shared with children all over the world. From one "onion" to another, thank you for writing this book. Best of luck!
    And to Madeline: Thank you for sharing your Mommy with all your friends :)
    In PEACE,
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    The Many Ways We Play....

    Above: Several friends work independently while sitting side by side.  The room is busy but peaceful and the teacher's role is as an observer and recorder on this quiet snowy morning.(Well, for this moment anyway :)

     Left: Hard at work, Sam is concentrating on covering a small wooden star with paint.  This is tedious fine motor work for a just three year old.  He is so enthralled in what he is doing he is unaware that I am taking is photo.  As Montessori said, "Practical Life exercises nurture the development of control, coordination, independence and order."

                                            Below: Jack paints the outline of his candle which will later become a stain-glass ornament for his family's Christmas tree. 

     These farm animals are on their way home to their barn. 
    The children use the barn in many different ways.  During imaginary play the barn has even become a school, fire station, house, and train garage!  The animals have been been counted and sorted, labeled, named and hidden.  In future lessons the farm will be used to define the parts of speech.   

    Below: Drew shares with me his color choice for chalk drawings.   
    Emmet offers to wash the tables after lunch.   

    And Brynn (covered in chalk) shows me her hands!

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Counting Bells

     Here is a quick addition game you can create in your home.  Begin with 10 bells.  Count the TOTAL number out with your child, touching each bell.  Say,
    "We have 10 bells."
    The piece of yarn represents the word "plus" it is stretched out straight. The basket of objects (in this case jingle bells) is dumped over the yarn line.  Some of the bells fall on one side, some fall on the other side.  The child then counts the bells on each side of the line. 
    Once the bells have been counted more math language is provided by the adult.
    For example:
    "five bells PLUS five bells EQUALS........."  wait for it........" 10 bells!" the child will usually say.  If the answer is still a mystery, no worries, simply move the yarn line away and count ALL the bells again.  
    For a younger child the dumping of the basket of bells is the most important part ;)
    For an older child finding out the "Many ways to make 10" is the objective.
    "How many ways can we make 10?"
    Once your child is VERY comfortable with this work, introduce recording of the answers.  I'd be happy to provide you with the paper we use here at school. ______ + _______ = ________.
    Happy Counting!

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    From You I Receive, To You I Give, Together We Share, and From This We Live

    Often it can feel like that in order to give, its gotta be big.  This is not true.  You don't have to travel to the ends of the earth to find someone or something that needs you.  We can all treat the opportunities that come our way with  follow through, energy, passion, respect and honor. Find someone or something in your life that needs you, that needs your gifts, your time, your skills, your knowledge, your kindness and give like you have never given before- give BIG to them.
    Instead of using your your social network to play Farmville, visit people from high school or to report what you ate for dinner, try using it to promote a cause, raise awareness or even raise money. 
    Word travels fast in cyberspace so why not make it meaningful.
    Did you know that right now we are all one click away from personally thanking or sending encouragement to the military? Whether or not you agree with the wars that we are fight- we have men and women whose lives are dedicated to serving our country, who are far away and have families that are affected. Why not send a message, spread some love, reach out and say thank you. I LOVE how easy yet profound this is!
    I know it sounds cliche and impersonal but as we all know, every single penny counts and these days there are so many organizations that fit with our individual passions. From buying chickens for a family, to cancer research, to digging a well, to supporting education there are SO MANY opportunities to give. You could even consider giving donations in someone else's name instead of buying gifts!
    To find just about any charity organization- visit Charity Finder and look for something that fits you.
    4. BE A FRIEND
    If you have ever visited a retirement home, you will know that we have so many elderly just waiting for friendship, interaction and purpose. Contact a local retirement home and find out if there are opportunities to get involved, be a friend or even organize and event. Most assisted living or retirement homes will have an activities director that is always looking for new ideas, activities and programming. 

    Instead of just the standard 15% leave a HUGE tip for your waitstaff, slip $20 (instead of $2) to the shuttle driver at the airport or give your taxi driver a big something extra. It is so easy to take the men and women in the service industry for granted, why not show some extra appreciation.
    Did you know (according to Feeding America Stats) that EACH WEEK 5.7 million people receive emergency food from a food assistance agency? Local food banks, food drives, community programs are everywhere- especially during the holidays- and it couldn't be easier to participate and donate to. Find a local food drive in your community or visit Feeding America for ways to get involved to fight hunger in the U.S.
    Simple, easy and something we all probably need to do! But instead of giving all the old stuff you don't wear anymore, try to also pull things that you just don't need (like that really pretty jacket that you never wear but it cost too much to get rid of) or consider going shopping for new clothing that you can also donate to a drive. This time of year is a great time to find opportunities to donate clothing (blankets, toys, etc) in communities everywhere. From shelters to schools, take a little time and do some research to see who is collecting.
    This holiday instead of your typical shopping, shop for charity. Tons of companies and non profits organizations provide the option to shop and a percentage of your purchase goes to charity. Visit for a list of resources and participating stores.
    Are you a good cook, great photographer, talented graphic designer, fabulous handyman or woman? Put your passion and your gifts to use and share them with someone. Offer a free photo session, teach a workshop for free, cook a fancy meal for friends, help a neighbor with home repairs. We all have gifts, something that comes easy and things we are comfortable doing- share them with those around you and expect nothing in return.
    As amazing as volunteering, getting involved with programs and giving back is, often it seems finding time in today's world is the biggest obstacle in being consistent. With the holiday madness soon behind us, start now by making a schedule for giving. Do a little research, find some opportunities that inspire you and pull out the calendar and schedule time for the year.
    Phew!  There you have it~ my "Pay It Forward" List for the Holiday season.
    I was inspired by so many sources when I started to put this list together.  I hope it helps all of you .
    In PEACE,

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Meet Brynn!

     This is our newest student, Brynn.  She is 2 years old and a lovely little one who has already captured our hearts! She will be attending Helping Hands Family School on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Join us in welcoming her and her family to our school community. Mom Laura and Dad Jeff, big brother Luke and Brynn, we are so happy to meet you all!

    Welcome Brynn! We look forward to growing and learning with you and from you in the years to come.  Thank you for choosing our program. 
    In PEACE,
    Jennifer, Jenn and Mallory

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    "Ado, where did the time go?"

    I can't believe it's December already.  And tomorrow, December 7th, is Adrian's last day with us here at Helping Hands Family School.  He and his family, big brother Griffin, Mom Susanne and Dad Ethan, are setting off on another international trip.  It has been such a joy getting to know Ado and his family.

    You will all be missed from our school community. We wish you the best of everything Ado and hope that we can all stay connected via emails.

    My friend Ado, thanks for teaching me funny knock~knock jokes, and not to underestimate a two year old, how to unlock the bathroom door and so much more!  You are a character and a force~ I know you will be a success in whatever you choose to do, where ever you may travel.  Best of luck!  
    In PEACE,

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    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Chalk Drawings

    Sometimes rainy days can be fun!  Even outside.  This week instead of trying to avoid the muddy spots in the play yard we chose to draw with chalk on the driveway and to ride bikes.  The colors were vibrant on the wet pavement and the children delighted on decorating the large asphalt canvas.  Hand tracing was popular I think because we are making a wreath inside using our traced hand prints. 
    Some of the beautiful chalk art created:
    a volcano, a cup cake, a rainbow and sun.
    The second day of chalk and bikes we even created chalk roads to follow with our bikes; this lead to many dramatic play adventures. 

    In the classroom we have been learning about the season of winter and the holidays many people celebrate this time of year.  Many of the celebrations include light, candles to be more specific, which we are learning songs to sing about.  A favorite song right now is : This Little Light of Mine. Activities and crafts that are being used & created each day are: paper snowflakes/cutting with scissors, paper chains/use of a glue stick, felt trees/color & shape identification, cardboard candles and potpourri satchels. 

      I hope this post finds you all healthy and happy!
    In PEACE,

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Pirate Faces




    Today on the playground there was much pirate dramatic play.  Many friends were coming up to me and playfully growling.
           "Walk the plank Miss Jennifer!"
    one young pirate shouted.
    Was Peter Pan recently re-released or something?  I don't know, but these kiddos certainly have buried treasure on their minds!  I love when they included us adults in their games.  Makes me feel like a kid again :)

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Harvest Pot-Luck Success

    Yesterday evening we gathered for our first all school event, the Harvest Pot-Luck.  I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all the families for making this fun evening a success.  We have a great community here and I feel so very blessed to be part of it.  I hope someone took photos because I did not.  Please send me some if you did so I can post them and share with those families who were unable to attend.
    Thank you all~
    In PEACE and with great love,