Friday, 1 April 2011

Co-op school - Week 1

We've been going now since March 14th, so just about two weeks. We had a few set backs which have led to me not blogging yet about our days. We had a large storm last week which left my house without power for 36 hours and then I stupidly sliced my finger on a mandolin. That was not a fun day, but now that I am on somewhat of a normal schedule again I am able to sit down and share how the first two weeks went.

The first week was meant to get acquainted. I wanted it to be simple. Work out the kinks in the scheduling, have the kids get used to the routine. Our curriculum the first week talked about school and friends. All our crafts revolved around our supplies and getting familiar with the space. Not just for the kids but for myself and the other parents as well.

The first day each kid painted an apron that will be their crafting apron for the year. I cut out shapes from a potato and used celery to make flower shapes. I wasn't thinking and forgot that maybe the 2 shape wouldn't work since it would make it backwards, but oh well. :) I still like how her apron turned out. I had never used celery to make a stamp and was delighted by the beautiful flower stamp it makes. The kids had a great time and I noticed then that they all have a color they gravitate towards. It's nice to have a craft apron that they created to use for all future projects.
 The next day we painted white boxes that would house all their personal supplies for school. There isn't a huge amount in the boxes yet, but I imagine as the year goes on we'll accumulate more supplies. For now each kid has their apron, a bug collecting jar, a magnifying glass, a pair of kid safe scissors, and a glue stick. I have a bookcase in the garage where I have all our shared supplies, ie. paint, brushes, pipe cleaners, etc. 
We all pitched in at the beginning of the school to buy a few supplies. I purchased a cash register for the grocery store corner I have setup. We have a dress up corner, a kitchen, puzzles, blocks. Outside I have a swing set, sandbox, baseball, various bouncy balls and have plans to add a water table as we continue to get warmer and warmer weather.

Each parent has a day that they stay and help out with the school. The way the schedule has been working out it gives each parent a full week off occasionally as we have 5 kids and only 3 days a week of school. The kids have been amazing! I was nervous as I don't have a lot of experience with groups of children, but it has turned out better than I thought.

Here's a sample of our schedule:

March 14th
Person Helping:    xxxxx
9:00    Circle Time
9:20    Make Apple Carrot Muffins
9:40    Outdoor Play
10:00    Clean Up/Snack
10:15    Learning Centers
10:45    Story/Signs
11:00    Craft
               -Painting the craft aprons we'll use all year
11:30    Finish crafts, freeplay, music
12:00    Lunch

Each day I have different "centers" based on the theme of the day. I'll add in different materials to the blocks, like one day I threw in a few trains and their tracks. I encouraged the kids to make train stations and give their little people rides around the town. It's been fascinating to me to try different activities to see which kids respond to them. It is always different. Some are great with the drawing projects while others tire quickly of using crayons, some focus intently on gross motor activities, some are quiet and introspective while others are interactive. They are all so fascinatingly different, it has been so much fun for me to observe. All the kids are fascinated by books and insist that I read at least 4 before we can get up form story time. Sometimes they want the same story more than once. It surprised me to see four 2-3 year olds so focused on one thing for such a period of time. It is by far our most focused time of the day.

The other aspect I wanted to be sure to include was sign language. My background is in sign language interpreting. When I had my daughter that had to be put on the back burner, but I have been signing with her since she was born. Throughout the day while talking to the kids I use simple signs and try to incorporate them into everything I do. I only use a few signs at a time and I try to cross over the signs through each activity. For instance, if I used a color sign in the story, I'll make sure to use the color sign again during crafts. I try to bring up signs from previous days to keep them remembering the signs. So far there hasn't been a huge increase in them signing, so it'll be interesting to see when they start picking up on the fact that not only does everything have a name, but it also has a sign.

Overall, despite some rocky setbacks over the first two weeks, we have had a blast and I look forward to settling into a routine with the kids.

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