The Wonder of Imagination

The other day, Micah refused to nap! He just fought it the whole day. He even chanted as he painted his picture, “Mama, no nap, no nap. Micah does not need a nap. No nap, no nap, Micah does not need a nap.” It sounded more annoying (as you can imagine) than funny when it was happening. But at his usual nap time (and my much awaited ME time), I sent him off to bed.

After two hours, he was still awake. I could hear him reciting parts of the books he had memorized, talking to himself and singing his heart out. It was funny listening to him. But I figured, might as well keep him up since this nap thing isn’t working and bedtime will just be moved up an hour early.
I walked into his room and told him he could stay in his room until I was ready for him to come downstairs. He could read or play legos on his mat while he waited. He really wanted to ride his bike and his car downstairs but he since he didn’t nap (thus disobeying) his consequence was he had to entertain himself in his room alone.

Two hours later (YES, two hours…I was shocked, too!) he was still up there. I could hear him talking but it was too muffled for me to understand. I decided to listen through the door. He was talking about a tow truck coming to take the car away because there was construction going on. I was curious to see what he was doing. I wished there was a peep hole so I can look in. I just opened the door quietly to see what was going on. Low and behold, there was powder on his community mat.

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I was just about to go, “Micah! What happened?! What did you do?!” But I held my breath and listened to him narrate his story. He looked up with a grin and said, “Mama! Look! There’s snow and construction site and the tow truck take away the car because he was in an accident.” His imagination was running wild and his brain was too fast for his mouth. He was trying really hard to explain what was going on but he was just too excited!

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I watched quietly as he shared his heart with me. He told me how the tow truck with a mechanic was helping the car and that the driver did not check the traffic so he got stuck (Trivia: his dad always needs to check the traffic whenever we get into the car. I thought that part was hilarious!). The snow (aka baby powder) covered the road, which caused it to become a construction site. He showed me how the construction worker and driver (he is a multi-tasker apparently) had to put the “snow/dirt” into the dump truck then drive away. He proudly showed me the skyscrapers he had built with lego and how Bob the builder had come to build them. He was throwing all these big words at me and quoting the books we learned them from.

 

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At that moment, my heart was filled to the brim. I was glad I held my breath and let him take charge. At the end of the day, it was my fault for leaving the powder within his reach and for not giving him enough boundaries on what he can and cannot do in his room. I savored the moment as I listened to my 2.5 year old share what was in his mind and in his heart. I listened as he opened his eyes to the raw power of integrating everything we have been learning and experiencing. He allowed me to go back to the days when I would make stuff up and laugh at the simplest things. As I watched him find joy in powder, tow trucks and building legos, I silently thanked the Lord for the little things that make us smile. Who would have thought my mistake of leaving the baby powder within his reach would allow him to picture snow and make it real.

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Because of this, we were able to stop and talk about who created this wonderful thing called snow and once again bring it back to our awesome Creator. It is amazing how God uses these moments to make us stop and appreciate His majesty. It reminded me to make a conscious effort to revert everything back to the One who made it all and making each moment a teachable moment that leads back to Christ.
Moments later, we heard the garage door open. I quickly ran downstairs to meet my husband. I knew he would freak out (eyes wide open, mouth drops, and goes WAH!) at the sight of the powder on the floor so I had to warn him. I gave him a hug and a kiss and said, “Babe, hurry. Go upstairs to Micah’s room and listen through the door. Listen to what he is talking about. It’s really funny and quite entertaining. But there’s stuff on the floor you might not like. Don’t react! Control yourself. He is just using his imagination.” Chris was like, “WHAT?! What’s on the floor?!” I said, “Nothing the vacuum can’t take care of and it’s just on his play mat and not on the carpet.”

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Thank God I prompted him because his eyes did pop out when he saw the powder. But he did keep his mouth shut and replaced the gasp with a pleasant inquiry of what was going on. Micah enthusiastically shared the happenings in his busy little town while his dad listened attentively to him. My husband looked at me and smiled with saying, “Thanks for the heads up but you gotta clean this up later.”

What a blissful moment.

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A Mother’s Embrace, A Glimpse of God’s Grace (featured article)

http://blogsbychristianwomen.com/2014/08/a-mothers-embrace-a-glimpse-of-gods-grace/

Thank you blogsbychristianwomen.com for allowing me to be a guest writer in their featured reads, parenting section. What a great opportunity to share my heart and my experience with other women-wives, moms, moms-to-be and singles who want to move towards the direction I am in.

Truly, it is only by God’s grace that I was able to learn and grow from this experience. May the spotlight be on the One who is able to redeem, restore and refresh my life daily! Feel free to share it with others so they to can be encouraged by God. May God be glorified!

It is not I but Christ!

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 

Routines that Rock our Cradle

Juggling a toddler and an infant is definitely one of the most entertaining and exciting chapters of my life. But it can definitely turn into a circus act, too! Therefore, establishing a routine quickly became my top priority. Having a routine allowed all of us to settle into the new changes and transitions that happened over the past 5 months. We were able to adjust our schedules which allowed us all to better spend our time together as a family. It also helped us to deal with each child especially with Micah since we wanted him to adjust well to his little brother. It allowed us to have time for ourselves and with each other as husband and wife.

Because the boys understand the predictability of their schedules, they have learned to adjust and be flexible even if we are at a different place or even in a different timezone. We are able to leave the boys with my wonderful in-laws on weekends so we can catch a late-night movie or go to dinner with friends and come home to them fast asleep. We can also go on road trips or take 14-hour flights with minimal fussing and take vacations with ease. It’s easier for us to find babysitters (family and close friends) to watch the boys for us when we have to attend weddings or “adults only” events because we are confident it will be a pretty “easy” evening or at least I think so…because they still end up babysitting for us again (on another occasion…which I am guessing is always a good sign! haha)

Research has shown that set routines are very important to a child’s sense of well-being and growth. They are happier when they know what to expect because it gives them a sense of security and comfort. This helps them trust adults and feel more comfortable in exploring their environment. With my little one, settling him on a fairly predictable pattern has definitely helped him a lot. I structured his naps to sync with his older brother’s with occasional mishaps. This definitely allows me to have some “me time,” cook, take care of the house, fold the never-ending laundry pile, and even take a shower! But the first rule of establishing a routine was: NIGHT TIME IS SLEEP TIME!

Predictable routines also encourage learning. Waving hello and saying goodbye are some social routines that adults quickly introduce to children. Routines help children make transitions between activities and events. Remember, routines don’t have to be rigid to be effective. Flexibility and variations are fine as long the child knows what will ultimately happen in the end. Children feel safe and also develop a sense of mastery when a routine has been established. Helping them create a structure allows them to internalize constructive habits that eventually lead to independence and confidence.
Of course you have to throw in some spontaneity to spice things up a little bit sometimes. Staying up to pick up your visiting relatives from the airport or hanging out with a friend can certainly be a welcome exception!

Benefits of Having a Routine in our Home


1. I can cooperate!


Micah knows exactly what to do when we say “go upstairs and get ready for bed.” Of course, now that he is able to negotiate, he often asks to read one more book or he needs to drink water but other than those predictable requests, he knows what needs to be done before bed. Titus, on the other hand, also benefits from the same bedtime routine. Once we are done with reading, singing, and praying with both of them (and drinking milk for Titus), they both know that they will be escorted to bed, given hugs, and kisses and it’s see you in the morning. Titus falls asleep on his own once we lay him down in his bed, too. This definitely reduces power-struggle and nagging!

2. I’m in charge!


Micah loves being in charge of himself. He loves being independent. Most kids do! Giving them the freedom to do things for themselves increases their sense of mastery and competence. Being independent decreases the need to rebel and be oppositional.


3. I can look forward!

Micah is slowly understanding the concept of looking forward to something. He is learning that once he wakes up from his nap, he can have some quiet reading or Lego time. It gets him excited for what is ahead. It may be an occasional trip to the park or playing in the sandbox, too.


4. I am expected to obey joyfully.
Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents for this is the right thing to do.”

Micah knows that this is what happens in our home. He is expected to obey mommy and daddy because it pleases God. With a routine, we are most likely expected to stick with healthy expectations that benefit everyone in the family, because that’s the way we do it in our household. This results to healthy habits in a happy home, where everything runs a little more smoothly (for most days at least).

5. I am intentionally loved!

We enjoy doing things with our boys but we like to have down time too. We love just rolling around on the ground and dancing to random made-up songs together as a family. I think they do, too! Micah looks forward to his special time with daddy after dinner when they read books, play basketball, throw the football or hit golf balls together. I love hearing them laugh together and enjoy each other. Titus loves tummy time with Daddy before he goes to work in the morning. He actually gets up around the same time everyday because he knows his dad will pick him and bring him to our bed to snuggle with him. More than anything, these are the memories I want the boys to have with us. That we set aside time apart just for them. Building little connection rituals into your schedules every day allow these precious moments to happen. Making a habit to set aside bonding moments with your children creates a sense of security, an environment of love and a lasting memory of special connections that only you and your child can have.

It can be really challenging having an infant and a toddler at the same time but having a set of routines will help your family life more manageable and enjoyable. It’s also good to have your husband partner with you in imposing these routines so that your kids will know that these are the house rules to be followed even if one of the parents is not around. Each day will have spur of the moment incidents that you can’t control and that’s fine. Just deal with it and go back to your routine. It takes patience and practice. Soon enough you’ll realize that each member of your family benefits from the routines you’ve put in place.

Daily Schedule  
8:30-9:00 Wake up/ Quiet reading time
9:00-9:30 Brush teeth / Breakfast
9:30-12:30 Homeschool/ Work Time (errands, museum, swimming class, library)
10:15-12:00 Titus’s morning nap
12:30-1:00 Lunch
1:00-1:30 Quiet reading time
1:30-3:30 Both boys nap
3:30-5:30 Quiet reading time/ Lego
5:30-6:15 Playtime
6:15-6:50 Dinner
6:50-7:50 Daddy Time!
7:50-8:15 Wash up, ready for bedtime
8:15-8:30 Read, sing, pray
8:30 LIGHTS OUT!

Learning in 3 Easy Steps: The Three Period Lesson Technique

The 3 Period Lesson

The “three period lesson” is used throughout the Montessori environment to help introduce a new lesson/concept and lead the children along a path to understanding and mastery. In the area of language this is used to increase, enrich, and broaden a child’s vocabulary.

It’s important to practice the method of presenting the Three Period Lesson several times until you are comfortable giving it with ease. There are no set movements or patterns that you must follow in each of the periods. As long as you understand the principle of the period, and keep it simple and focused, you can ask the child to do whatever is appropriate for the setting, object, or concept you are teaching.

Begin by presenting the child with three objects of contrast and isolate them on a table or mat. In this example, I will be using 3 landmarks from our Landmarks of the World collection: Big Ben, Taj Mahal and Pyramids of Giza.

1. First Period: Naming Period

This period is short as it simply involves giving the object a name (“THIS IS”).

a. Pick up the object and say “Big Ben” while showing it to your child.
b. Repeat it clearly and slowly several times. As you do this, show and let the child feel the object.
c. Continue on with the second and third objects. In this case, the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower.
d. Once you’ve named them, review them one more time by pointing or holding each of them individually.

2. Second Period: Recognition and Association

This period is longer as it involves recalling the objects repeatedly (“SHOW ME”).

a. Note the object that the child knows best. (Micah loves the Big Ben and it quickly became his favorite. He remembered it right away because he associated it with his uncle’s name which was Ben.)
b. Rearrange the objects and ask the child to show you a specific object.

“Can you please show me the Big Ben?”
“Put the Taj Mahal on your head.”
“Hand me the Eiffel Tower.”
“Put the _______ here/ there/etc.” You can point to a spot on the table/mat or in the child’s body.

c. Important reminder: this is not the time to test the child.

You can extend the handling and movement of the objects to encourage kinesthetic memory. This also allows the child to solidify his recognition of the object’s name. Make it fun and interactive. Be as creative as you want. The more engaged your child is the more he/she will want to continue. This period is the most critical therefore the longest. It’s all about REINFORCE AND REVIEW.

3. Third Period: The Test

This involves asking the child to verbally recall for the first time the name of the objects (“WHAT IS THIS?”).
a. Place the 3 objects back in front of the child.
b. Point to the first object and ask the child, “What is this?”
c. Repeat with the second and third object.

It is important to proceed to this period only if you feel the child will be successful. If the child is unable to recall the names of the objects, simply give them the names again or repeat the second period.

We have the hardest time remembering the times in the middle of the list. The items at the beginning and at the end are easier to recall. To help your child ease his/her way to recalling the names, here are some tricks you can use:

1. Make sure you place the new object at the beginning or the end.
2. Place the object that your child knows best in the middle to increase his comfort level.
3. The last object can be new or somewhat familiar to the child.

If you decide to continue after he/she has made a mistake or has forgotten the name, begin with the last object mentioned, kindly reinforcing it immediately. Even if you rotate the objects, always put the familiar one in the middle.

If the child is unable to recall the names of the objects, simply give them the names again, and casually end the lesson without making the child feel as though they’ve failed.

Remember to always make learning fun! Your child should find joy in discovering new things. He/she should not fear making mistakes because it’s all part of the learning process. 🙂 Hope you’ll enjoy doing the 3 Period Lesson with your little one!

*Micah really enjoyed learning about these landmarks and we have moved on to the second set. The landmarks in this collection include: Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Statue of Liberty, Arc of Triumph, Taj Mahal, Parthenon, Temple of Inscriptions and Pyramids of Giza. The pictures did not come with the collection. I just googled the images of the landmarks, printed them and laminated them so he can match the items with the pictures.

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Fun Ways to Bond with Your Baby

A baby can bring indescribable joy to one’s home and family. Holding, smelling, cuddling, and being around this precious little gift just makes your heart swell. Nothing compares to the amazing feeling that overwhelms you when you are around this tiny human being. When you first bring your new baby home, your thoughts are usually full of practical matters: how to keep your baby clean, warm and well-fed; diaper duties, car-seat installations and getting some sleep.

Newborn Titus

Newborn Titus

Once these necessities are taken care of, your little baby needs something more in order to thrive: loving, playful and warm interactions with those around him. Countless studies have shown that a child’s sense of self-esteem and his ability to form close relationships are greatly dependent on the quality of his bond with his parents. The best way to enhance this is to interact with you! Here’s how our family is enjoying our newest little addition, Titus. These activities encourage body awareness, emotional development, social development, tactile stimulation, upper body strength, and balance.

1. Infant Massage: If we love a nice back rub or spa massage, our little ones do, too! Simply find a room or a sunny spot on the bed or the carpet at a time when you and your baby are both relaxed. Our boys especially enjoy this after their baths. (We still do it with our 23 month old!) Take off all his cloths and rub some oil between your hands to prevent too much friction. Using the milking motion, gently squeeze each arm and leg. Move your hands through his torso and out to his sides. Make small circles around his hands and feet.

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Favorite time with mama & papa

2. Stretching out: After nine months of being in the womb, your little one tends to curl up in a fetal position. Gentle stretching exercises will help him be aware of his arms and legs. Lay your baby on his back and very gently stretch his arms over his head and then down again. Try bringing his arm up while carefully stretching his opposite leg down.

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CHILLAXIN’!

3. Baby Airplane: Parents around the world have spent hours comforting colicky babies by swaying them back and forth in the airplane or football hold. The steady pressure along the baby’s tummy provides soothing warmth. This usually works well when your baby is gassy, overwhelmed, or tired. Support your baby tummy down by holding her chest and belly with your arm. Singing a sweet melody always helps.

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4. Rock and Roll: When we think of rocking the baby, we usually think of the baby on his back in our arms in a chair. But one very soothing motion for our little one is to be rocked from side to side on his tummy. Roll up a towel or blanket. Lay your baby on his belly over the roll (so it supports his head and body). Turn his head gently to one side and very gently rock him from side to side. This rocking motion helps stimulate and develop a sense of balance. This also gives him a chance to practice lifting his head.

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5. Baby Cycle: This is another one of our favorites! This simple exercise lets your baby feel his little legs and feet move in a different way. To do this, move his legs very gently and very slowly in a bicycling motion while singing, smiling, and talking to him. This fun switch and kick movement encourages him to wiggle his legs. Keep pedalling! Pretty soon, he will be doing it himself. By doing this, you are mimicking an action he will be using when he learns to crawl. *We usually do this during or after the Infant Massage.*

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Have fun with your little one!

Timmy Learns to Read

What a great way to teach your child!

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Timmy is officially a reader! I want to share his reading journey to other moms out there who want to get their babies started on this reading habit. 🙂 My husband and I are both avid readers. So when Timmy was born we knew that the perfect toy for him would be books! Haha! So geeky! Anyway, he had a cloth book, bath book, foam books, board books, and anything with pages on them. 🙂

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We would read to him a lot. I would use different voices to make it livelier. 🙂 I’m the more animated storyteller between my hubby and me. Haha! We also encouraged him to do whatever he wants with his books from biting them to sometimes ripping the pages accidentally. We would just tape his books so he could use it again. Usually, the more battered the book is, the more frequent Timmy uses it…

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Our Montessori Home

“To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” – a quote from Maria Montessori 

A couple of moms have been asking me about how I rearranged our home so that we can transform a part of it into a “montessori classroom/prepared environment”. I apologize for the delay. I have been meaning to write something but I’ve been quite busy juggling life with an active toddler and being pregnant. But I have decided to finally set aside this time to write some tips down that may help answer some of your questions. 🙂 Before I begin I would like to explain what a prepared environment is and its components. You can use this as a guideline as you think about the space you plan to prepare for your child.

A prepared environment is a place designed to facilitate a maximum learning experience for a child that fosters independence and exploration. It is a well-thought of space that provides the child the freedom to discover and learn within limits. Structure is created through the arrangement of the classroom, well- chosen materials, order in the room and the location of the room you are preparing to make “your classroom”.

A key question I had to ask myself was “where do I put our classroom?” There is a basement in our house and when we bought it, we initially thought it would the perfect place for us to set up our classroom.  But after talking and thinking through it, my husband and I realized that though there was a lot of space and it was set apart from the rest of the house (which made it a distraction free zone), it had no access to natural light.  What seemed to be the perfect spot, turned out to be not so great after all. I looked through the house and realized that the best place for our classroom, was our dining room.  I consulted with my husband and I explained to him why it was the “best” location for our mini-homeschool. We had to talk about it since I was taking away our dining room! I chose to convert this area because it is the only place in our house that had giant windows, this allowed sunlight to shine in throughout the day (which saves electricity too) and it was spacious enough to set up our little work shelves. It had a little door in the back for me to access the room through the kitchen or at least peek through so I could occasionally check on my son during his work time while I was busy cooking or cleaning. The room was far enough that he wouldn’t get distracted if I was busy doing something else like cleaning the living room or doing the dishes in kitchen but close enough that I could get to him quickly if need be. So far it has worked out very nicely for us. Granted our dining table has been moved behind our living room, it is now a lot closer to the kitchen which makes cleaning up a lot easier! (haha) How about you? Are you thinking of your best spot?

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Here are some characteristics of a prepared environment for your home. You can use these tips for your child’s classroom or bedroom.

1. LOW OPEN shelves: These are designed so your child has access to them without needing your help! Remember, a key principle in montessori is INDEPENDENCE! You want to make sure you foster that in everything you do.We got our shelves from Wal-mart. They were $17 and I just put them together myself.

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2. Child-size tables and chairs: Ikea sells them, but they are only for children! Don’t make the mistake of sitting on it yourself because it will break! If you want better ones, invest in wooden ones from companies such as KidsKraft and Melissa and Doug.  Not only should your child be able to sit comfortably but he or she must be able to maintain proper posture as well. The best way to know this is his back is against the back rest and his feet is touching the ground. Granted if you have a toddler, he might have to grow a few more inches to fit perfectly but you get my point! 🙂 IMG_4260

This table is positioned by the window so my son can look outside, make observations about nature during work time. 

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Our second table is positioned against the wall. This allows for concentration and focus. IMG_5609

3. Group your materials according to the proper curriculum areas: practical life, sensorial, language, math and cultural: For now, I have a toddler shelf too. If you have shelves for more than one area, keep them right next to each other to show the progression.

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Toddler shelf: easiest materials on the bottom

4. Keep your classroom as attractive and as orderly as possible.:  Avoid clutter! There is a place for everything and keep everything in its place. Use trays or baskets to hold specific activities. You can even color code the activities so the child knows which “family” it belongs to. EX: Having an basket for his legos, a box for his wooden blocks or a tray with vegetables to cut allows him to select which one he wants to work with first. This also makes cleaning up a lot easier and faster!

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5. Divide the materials (such as puzzles, animals, etc) into sets, bringing out only a few at a time and rotating them periodically. This is our cultural top shelf. These are items I have collected from different parts of the world. Some are gifts from dear friends, some I bought and I just rotate them depending on our topic.

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My son loves to play the different instruments from around the world.

6. Have a bookshelf and a nice comfy chair to have some quiet reading time.: Encourage your child to have independent reading time! Allow your child to have a space in your house where he can sit back, relax and have some alone time. Don’t forget to ROTATE the books! Our current selections are books on being a big brother and having a new baby on the way since we have been talking to Micah about his baby brother that will be arriving any day now! 🙂 We are also learning about different animals, therefore books about them are on display as well! I personally prefer the one-sided bookshelves because it displays the books, allows for easy access, and it keeps the books nice and neat.  This couch and bookshelf are in his bedroom.

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7.  Use rugs or mats:  This defines your child’s workspace and teaches them order. Have a designated place for your rugs so your child can roll it and return it after use as well. Rolling and unrolling a rug indirectly teaches your child coordination of movement, development of muscles and concentration! Believe me! It’s not as easy as it looks! You can use mats for your work tables too, not just to protect them from accidental art work but it also teaches your child how to take control of his space on the table.

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RUG RULES!

I hope you find this post helpful as you create your own space at home! Feel free to share your ideas with me too!