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Archive for April, 2012

Little Pearl goes to school next week.

Most kids don’t begin school (kindergarten) in Australia until they turn four or five, but Little Pearl is going to Canberra Montessori School. Montessori students begin attending school from three years of age, and go into a class that has a mix of students from three to six years old (Cycle 1).

What has struck me is the very gentle transition process. Little Pearl and I have been going to the Parent Toddler Programme for over a year, so she is familiar with the campus. We’ve also gone to the school fairs and ‘discos’, where she has had a blast petting animals, dancing and wide-eyed watching of the big girls going across the monkey bars. And over the last half of this term, each week we’ve attended the Parent Toddler Programme she has also gone across to the ‘big school’ class room for a visit.

At first she was reluctant to stay in the class room and wanted ‘mummy’, and wouldn’t walk down to the classroom without me. After all, this is the first time she has ever been left with someone who was not a family member. Nonetheless, her first impression was positive; I asked her what she saw in the class room, and she said, ‘Girls and boys.’ And when I asked what they were doing, she turned to me with a wondering expression on her face and said, ‘Playing!’

Two weeks before the end of term we did an orientation visit (a one hour visit to the class room after school had finished for the day) where she did some painting and activities with her new teacher, and left them to dry on the rack. Two days later, when we were back at the school for our regular Parent Toddler Programme session, I asked her if she wanted to go back to the classroom to pick up her paintings and maybe do a new one for me. Next thing I know, she’s packed up her work and trotted out the door with the Parent Toddler teacher saying ‘Mummy will be so surprised with my painting!’. She didn’t look back once, and stayed in the Cycle 1 class room without me for forty minutes. The power of familiarising a young child with something new is amazing.

The other thing that makes starting at a Montessori school very different is that their intake of new students is continual throughout the year – instead of all the new students beginning in February at the start of the school year, children begin in the term they turn three. So instead of being one of eight or ten new students in a class, she’s one of just two new students, and the teacher can devote some time to just the two of them. When Little Pearl begins, she will stay for just an hour the first day. Then we’ll gauge her readiness each day until she’s able to stay the full three hours every weekday.

I feel very lucky that we’re able to have such a stress-free transition to daily school. I’m not sure whether it is more stress free for me or for Little Pearl, but I’m grateful nonetheless!

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In my search for images and creative techniques to help draft my book, I began coming across decks of story telling cards. The ones at thecards.com were recommended, but the folks there seem to have some problems with my billing address being in Australia and my delivery address in the US (a remailer) so I’ve kind of given up hope on getting the Archetypes deck.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing, because it led me to Herewood Gabriel’s site http://www.herewoodsart.co.uk/. Herewood publishes a deck of storytelling cards with his original artwork. His deck of 40 cards are bright and full of inspiring imagery (and he had no problem figuring out how to ship the cards to me in Oz!) One of my favourite aspects of the cards is that they have not all been created in the same medium, so the sense of variety and space in the deck is much stronger.

Little Pearl and I are enjoying the cards together. Because the designs are more concrete than abstract (yet have wonderful surreal elements as well), they are very suitable for a young child (Little Pearl is not yet three) to spin a tale about the place depicted, or what the people or animals are doing in the picture. Some of the discussions we have led to learning conversations about why people throw things away, or where thunder comes from.

I can see these cards getting a lot of use over the next few years. Do you have story telling cards? How do you use them, either for yourself or with your kids?

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