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Singing With Your Kids

Brooksfield Album Two for Pass-0020
  Both kids have shoes and coats on, backpacks and lunches in toe, and they have finally been buckled into the car. Somehow we made it through another morning and we are on our way to school, remarkably within the boundaries of ‘on time.’ I’ve just put the car in reverse and have begun to guide the car out of the driveway when it starts. “Sing the banana name song, please!!” two voices shriek out from the back seat, almost in unison. And the shrieking continues until I find it within me to raise my voice above theirs and ask what name they’d like to hear. For those not privy to our family lingo, the banana name song is more traditionally known as The Name Game song. It goes way back and I’m sure you’ve heard it, and probably sung it, at least once. But here it is if you need...
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Ways to Encourage Thankfulness this Week

Ways to Encourage Thankfulness this Week During my everyday, there are a handful of phrases that I may as well record myself saying and play on repeat. Gems like “Put on your shoes.” and “Put your toys away.” and “Be nice to your brother/sister!” escape my lips more times than I care to think about. But the one that seems to come out the most? “Say thank you.” People seem to do things for my kids pretty often—things like hold doors for them or offer them free stickers. I do things for them all the time. They even do things for each other. I want them to be polite, to learn the proper social graces they’ll need as adults, so I encourage them to say thank you. But encouraging our kids to say thank you is just that, it’s a lesson about social graces. Lessons about real gratitude go much deeper...
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Compassion: what it is and why it’s important

Compassion: what it is and why it’s important If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~Dali Lama When I first heard that Brooksfield’s theme this year is compassion, I was pleased, impressed and, to be honest, a little surprised. When it comes to the qualities that I believe are important to plant in young minds and hearts early, the ones that I, without a doubt, want my children to know well, compassion is definitely on the list. But it’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Gratitude, kindness, politeness, all of these sort of roll of our tongues as we guide our children through hellos and pleases and thank yous. Teaching these comes naturally as we coach social interactions every day. Compassion, however, goes several levels deeper. It’s not a quality we can easily reinforce by a social grace or quick phrase. It...
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Feel Better About Dinner

    What’s for dinner in your house tonight? If you’re not quite sure, I promise you’re in good company! Dinner: a time when we want everyone to come together to pull off a meal during the busiest hour of the day. It’s a perennial family paint point. Everyone struggles with some aspect, be it getting everyone to sit down for a meal at the same time or getting the pickier family members to give the green foods a try. We struggle with all of the above here but have picked up a few tips and tricks along our roller coaster ride with family dinner. Here are some things we do in our home that help us feel better about our nightly meals. Plan a menu I have an on-again, off-again relationship with meal planning. When the school year begins and I fall into full on nesting mode, I dutifully sit...
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Getting Back Into The School Rhythm

If you peeked into my kitchen at about 7:30am any morning last week, you would have found me lazily moving about, sipping my coffee, slowly fixing breakfasts, acting as if we had the entire long day ahead of us. If you then peeked back in at 8am, you would have found me scrambling to get shoes on feet, gathering forms and lunch boxes and, most importantly, people, and breathlessly pushing us all out the door. Somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00  it would occur to me that summer is over, school is in session, and a whole new routine needs to get moving. That’s how it is this time every year. We get so comfortable in our summer swing that adjusting to start times and end times, drop offs and pick ups, is rough. It all feels so uncomfortable and unnatural at first. Of course, we all know that by the end...
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Baking with the kids: Your Kid Can Do It Banana Bread

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Spending time with my kids in the kitchen is one of my favorite stressful activities! The potential for disaster is great when you mix messy ingredients, heating elements, and excited little people on step stools wielding blunt objects. But the potential for fantastic memories, not to mention the little self-esteem boost your little one will get from having made something? Those are most definitely greater. One of my favorite recipes to make with my kids is this banana bread recipe, adapted from one found on my all-time favorite recipe blog, Smitten Kitchen. Her recipe is just lovely and delicious so feel free to just follow it. Our adaptations below have come about through dozens upon dozens of trials and errors and ultimately aim to make it just a tad healthier. The brilliance of this recipe is that my four-year old can more or less make it with very little help from...
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Montessori School Social Development in Multi-Age Groupings | Falls Church, VA

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                                     Excerpt from “What is Montessori Elementary?” by David Kahn Parents often ask whether the Montessori elementary program, with its emphasis on small-group activity, provides enough opportunities for social development.  Moreover, they may wonder whether a multi-age class affords enough same-age peers for each child to have a wide choice of friends. Like Montessori preschool, Montessori elementary is based on three-year age groupings.  Students in the first, second, and third years are grouped together in the same classroom, just as three-, four-, and five-year-olds are together in the preschool.  At both levels, the multi-age grouping provides children with opportunities for broad social development. Friendships developed in a multi-age setting have depth.  Children make an effort to get along together because they know they will be together for three years.  Moreover, the presence of a wide...
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Follow the Rhythm of the Child: The Montessori Method | McLean, VA

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               Excerpt from Brook’s Field of Dreams, 1996 Your child is like a seed growing into a flower.  The Montessori Method allows the child to grow at his or her own natural pace, and we should therefore try to let go and not be so concerned with instant results by digging out that “seed” to check on its daily development. This quote of Maria Montessori captures the beauty of her method.  She believed that children learn on their own and the goals of early childhood education should be to cultivate a child’s natural desire to learn.  To her, learning to read, write, and do math should be as natural to the child as learning to walk and talk.  The Montessori environment and equipment invite children to learn these skills during their own periods of interest and readiness.  Teachers show their respect for the rhythm of each child’s life in...
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Bring On Spring!

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The weather is growing warmer. Really, I promise it is. For the first time in months I see nary a snowflake in the ten-day forecast. Get ready, friends, winter is fading! I love spring. It has long been my favorite season and I ache for it more this year than I ever have. Everyone creeps out of hibernation and takes to the streets. Early morning walks for coffee, playdates at the park, impromptu sidewalk parties right outside your front door… springtime is when we all come alive. Throughout the winter, my daughter and I wrote up a list of our favorite things to do in the spring. We run through the list on our rides to school, dreaming of the days when we’ll finally be able to turn dreams to reality. Here are a few of our favorites: A day at the park Swings and slides. Games of tag and hide-and-seek....
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Literary Arts Week: Learning About Margaret Wise Brown

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    “Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon.”   It didn’t take long after my daughter was born for the little bunny and his goodnight routine to become part of our goodnight routine. The little toy house and the kittens and the mittens. Before long we could recite it from memory, a blessing when bedtime found us with achy, tired eyes. We marked our children’s growth by its pages: the first time they reached out a chubby little hand to flip the page, the first time they engaged with the story, the first time they excitedly pointed out the red balloon. And, eventually, the day when my daughter could also recite the routine from memory.   Though her words are now solidly imprinted on my brain and in my heart, I had never taken a moment to learn more about Margaret Wise Brown....
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Let’s Talk: How To Find Out What Your Kid Did All Day

  We push through the door and she’s off. She loves to run. So she bounds around the corner and hops up the steps. Unsurprisingly, I don’t have quite that much energy reserved for the last few miles of my day, so I trail behind.  I catch up with her at the parking lot and finally have a chance to ask.     “How was your day?”     Her typical, ambivalent, “Good.” escapes as she works to catch her breath. And that’s it. Most days, nothing more comes out unprompted.     And I’ve tried all of the versions of, “Well, what did you do today?” But we all know those don’t work. That sort of open-ended question isn’t going to lead us anywhere. And it makes sense, how would you answer such a question?     So over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a few tricks to...
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Why Do We Hop?

Why we hop “Are you going to die?” Charlie Brown asked. “Good grief!” Linus shouted. “What kind of a question is that!” I read Why, Charlie Brown, Why? to the students of Brooksfield this week. Four readings to each of the four different classes. And each time I got to that part, I looked up to see how the little faces in front of me would react to that one line. My oldest is four and this territory of heavier topics in books is still somewhat new to me. I’m still the mom who skips over the piece about death in books when it isn’t relevant to the story. I’m still the mom who ducks out to buy a new fish when the old one dies. I’m still the mom who can’t quite find the words to talk about the big, scary topics. But when reading this book to our children...
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When Cabin Fever Strikes

When cabin fever strikes So far, it has not been the prettiest winter. And with at least another six weeks to go, our chances for another several snow days are looking pretty good. Back in December, snow days were a breeze. But now, as so many of them have stacked up, we’re all starting to run out of ways to stay entertained and keep from going stir crazy. So here are a few infusions of inspiration as we face another snap of cold weather and threat of storms this week. 1. Rearrange a room It’s technically still the beginning of the year. What better way to create the feeling of a fresh start and pass those house-bound hours? Put on some music and start pushing furniture around. For added fun, choose your child’s room and let them be creative with how they want to arrange their space. Added bonus for you:...
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Seven Reasons We Love Brooksfield

  Seven Reasons We Love Brooksfield   To be quite honest, I could write this list every week and every week find seven different reasons that we love Brooksfield. After just a year and a half, we’ve made so many friends, created so many memories, and all of us have grown so much. Long after we’ve moved on to other schools and friends, we will all still look back on our Brooksfield years with such fondness.   Here’s a quick roundup of reasons we love Brooksfield this week.   1. We bought a new game called Zingo this weekend. After one glance, our daughter exclaimed, “I know this game! I play it in Spanish class!” And then she proceeded to teach us how to play.   2. The smile on her face when she wakes up on Friday and realizes it is John Henry day!   3. That we have a...
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Healthy In The New Year

Healthy in the New YearDid you put ‘get healthy’ on your list of resolutions this year? How about ‘eat healthier’? Are you hoping to feed your family better food this year and improve everyone’s health?These are fantastic goals, and pretty popular resolutions. But they are so tough to achieve. Large and nearly all-encompassing, it’s no wonder that many of us drop these resolutions just weeks into the year and feel lost as to where to turn next.If you want to eat healthier this year, try starting with small steps. Pick just one of the items below and give it a try for a few weeks. Then add another. A series of small steps is so much easier to accomplish than a big, scary resolution.1. Replace just one meal a week with something homemadeBy the end of last year, we had gotten into a bit of a blue box of mac ‘n...
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And Mom and Dad Can Hardly Wait....

And Mom and Dad Can Hardly Wait
Yeah you know the rest of that line: “for school to start again!” Holiday break is just about here and more than two weeks of school-free days are weighing on my mind. I always think about this time with excitement and a healthy dose of fear. I love the more relaxed schedules and knowing that my daughter gets a little break and time to rest. I love that we spend more time together as a family and that we have the opportunity to plan some fun outings and trips. But then I worry about what to do with the long winter days. How to keep her calm amidst a flurry of routine disruptions and over-the-moon excitement. We all know that most children thrive on routine and predictability but these weeks can bring anything but. Here are some thoughts to help us all enjoy the holiday break and ease our way into...
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Involving Kids In Holiday Prep

Montessori Table Setting Lesson
  On any given weeknight at our house, dinner tends to come together in a bit of a rush. Setting the table is often the least of my worries and so forks and napkins find themselves tossed haphazardly onto the table, never on the right side, forks often hiding under napkins. So, just before dinner on the afternoon of Thanksgiving, I decided that I’d enlist my daughter, Maya, to help me set the table and that we’d set it well. No forks hiding under napkins, no utensils pointing every which way. I’d show her how to properly set a table.  I pulled out the fancy napkins and napkin rings and set out the silverware and plates and called her into join me. With her baby brother settled on my hip and feeling very much the matriarch, I picked up a napkin and a napkin ring and began to show her how...
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Medical Alert—How to Protect Your Family During Flu Season

Medical Alert—How to Protect Your Family During Flu Season
Every time I see one of those medical alert emails, my heart sinks just a little bit. I warily read, scared of what illness might invade our family next. We don’t end up catching them all, of course, but just knowing that we’ve circled strep throat or hand foot and mouth disease, not to mention the flu and a hundred common colds… well it all makes me want to secure us in a bubble until spring blooms again. With no such bubble available, I’m looking for other ways to protect my family during this season of illnesses. The good news is that most of the best ways to prevent the spread of illness are common sense things that we do naturally as part of our daily routines. The bad news is that these are also some of the things that we forget or forgo when times get busy, as days during...
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When We Bring Montessori Home

When We Bring Montessori Home
Whenever I spend a bit of time at Brooksfield and get the chance to observe my daughter in action, I always come away amazed at the things she can do on her own. Putting on her coat and gloves. Unrolling, and then nicely rolling back up, a rug, without being asked. Following simple directions without a ton of oversight.   It’s all pretty amazing.   And, of course, once we get home on those days, there’s a new world order. I’m less likely to rush in to help and more likely to sit back and marvel at what happens when I leave her to her own devices. After just a year at Brooksfield, I’m a Montessori convert. I love the emphasis on independence and freedom and the child-led nature feels so right to me.   A few weeks ago, in one of her Night Time Reading about Montessori emails, Sarah sent an article about...
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The Season of Getting & Giving

Writing letters to parents about Brooksfield's Diaper Drive
Christmas trees now line every store and commercials urging you to think about your 'list' now fill the space between every TV show. The season of giving has begun. For our kids, however, these late fall and early winter months often become the season of getting. Getting candy, getting toys. New books and clothes. Things they need and some things they probably don't. And it's so easy to get swept up in it all. Buying gifts for small people is fun. Clothes we wish they made in our size and toys we wish were around when we were small call to us and our family and our friends. But, before we know it, our kids are asking for the next present and tearing paper like it's a job. If you want to turn this season of getting into a season of giving for your little ones, here are a few tips...
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Healthy Options in the Season of Snacking

Healthy Options in the Season Of Snacking
It has started. With Halloween barely a week ago and Thanksgiving less than a month away, the season of food has begun. If your house is anything like mine, you have Halloween candy spilling out of every nook and cranny (why didn’t we give out five pieces instead of two to every trick-or-treater!?) and small people asking to eat it a dozen times each day. And, if you are anything like me, you want to say yes to at least half of these requests so you can have a piece too, rather than waiting to sneak one at nap time. Oh, sugar. At this time of year, I often worry that our family’s nutrition takes a deep dive into the land of high fructose corn syrup and that we not only pack on a few pounds but develop some pretty poor eating habits along the way. So, as the season of...
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