Thursday, April 29, 2010

May Day Basket Tutorial

I have to be honest, I never knew much about May Day other than the fact that it lands on my birthday. My hippy mama, God rest her soul, thought it was really groovy that I was born on May Day, in the bicentennial year, and that it snowed that day, too (gotta love Minnesota weather!). She chose "May" as my middle name, declared me her "flower child", and, when I was a bit older, taught me how to make daisy chains to wear in my hair. I have so few memories of my mother since she passed away when I was young, but this is one I hold dear to my heart.

{sorry, got carried away on nostalgia for a minute there - I do that sometimes ;) }

Anyway, after 34 years I finally got around to wondering what May Day is all about. I went online and found all sorts of interesting information. Click here and here to learn more if you're interested. Also, click here for some May Day craft activities.

Then, after seeing this post on the lovely blog, Childhood Magic, I decided to make some May Day baskets with James. The tradition of May Day baskets is a sweet one - you make baskets, fill them with flowers or other goodies, and leave them on the doorknobs of your neighbors and loved ones. :)
Here's how we made ours:

First we prepared our materials - we painted with watercolors. James LOVES to paint!

A masterpiece in the making!

Then, after the paintings had dried, I cut two of our papers into lengthwise strips. This was kind of hard to do actually, because the artwork was so pretty!

And then, channeling my daisy chain training, I began weaving. I wove some strips painted-side out and some the other way around so there would be color all over the basket (in hind-sight, I would've had James paint both sides of the paper). James tired quickly of the whole weaving thing, although he got the "over-under" concept perfectly. Instead, he sat on a chair beside me and watched happily, making cute little observational comments the whole time ("that's paper, mama!" "that's a beautiful basket, mama"). :)

I glued the the strips of paper as I went along.

Once I created the bottom of the basket, I folded up the ends to create the sides of the basket.

Then I began weaving the sides - I started by looping one of the strips around and gluing each side of it. This provided some stability and the strip didn't un-weave as I continued.

Since the strips weren't long enough to go around the entire basket, I had to join two strips together, cutting the excess once I reached the end of that round.

When I reached the top I trimmed the edges so it was all even.

For the handle, I glued to strips together (for sturdiness) and then split the bottom part of them so there was a piece on either side of the basket. Later, I stapled it for extra security.

We let it dry for a few hours and then Voila! we had ourselves a sweet little basket! We filled it with beautiful flowers from our yard.

Happy May Day!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Montessori Resources & Recommendations

I often get asked what Montessori books, blogs and resource sites I would recommend. Here's my current list, but check back on this post now and then (see sidebar for a quick link) because I will continue to update it as I find new information to add. Please note, this is by no means a complete list of Montessori resources, but simply a list of things I've found helpful during my journey into Montessori.

You can buy any of these on My top three favorite Montessori books are:
  • How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way, by Tim Seldin
  • Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under Fives, by David Gettman
  • Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities For You and Your Child, by Maja Pitamic
More books I enjoyed reading:
  • The Absorbent Mind, by Maria Montessori
  • Montessori Play and Learn: A Parent's Guide to Purposeful Play for Ages Two to Six, by Lesley Britton
  • A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom, by Alline D. Wolf
  • Montessori in the Classroom: A Teacher's Account of How Children Really Learn, by Paul Polk Lillard
  • Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook, by Maria Montessori
  • Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years, by Elizabeth Hainstock
Two other books I highly recommend were written by former Montessori teacher, John Bowman. You can purchase both of his books via his website.
  • Montessori At Home! (e-book)
  • Help Your Preschooler Build A Better Brain

  • Onlinedegrees put together a fantastic list of The Top 50 Must-Read Montessori Blogs, and I added several of my favorite Montessori blogs to that list in this post.
  • The NAMC Teacher Training blog is an excellent resource as well.
I have purchased Montessori materials from each of the following online stores:
  • Montessori n' Such - just like the site name implies, this store is full of Montessori materials as well as other non-Montessori learning materials. This is my go to place for Practical Life kits.
  • Montessori Services - here you'll find everything you need to create a prepared environment.
  • Alison's Montessori - a discount store that offers both expensive (high quality) or economical versions of Montessori materials.
  • Montessori Outlet - a decent selection of basic materials at affordable prices.
  • Polliwog Learning Products - this is an Etsy store where I purchased some lovely handmade sandpaper letters.
  • Gonzagarredi - this is the company that made the very first Montessori materials for Dr. Montessori. They are expensive, but the quality is superb.
  • Kid Advance
I've not purchased anything from these locations, so I can't personally recommend them, but I have heard good things:
I also want to make a special mention about Zodiworks. Here you'll find something truly special - hard cover reader books with illustrations by none other than the lovely and uber peaceful, Montessori Mama.

Practical Life:

I have the most fun searching for Practical Life materials. This is where you get really creative and look for possibilities in unlikely places. Aside from purchasing the occasional kit, as I mentioned above, I tend to create my own activities and look for the materials at thrift stores, garage sales, craft stores, the dollar store, even pet shops! It's funny how you start to see places like the hardware store as a mecca for Practical Life! You can see photos of my trays by clicking on the slideshow on the sidebar.

Online Resources:

Here are some pictures of what a REAL and properly prepared Montessori environment looks like:
  • Now known as Sew Liberated, check out Montessori By Hand's photostream
  • Austin Montessori School
  • I hope to be visiting the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in December and you can bet I'll take some pictures while I'm there. Stay tuned because I'll post a link to my Flickr photostream here.
  • I've pinned several Montessori classroom images on my "Shelves" Board on Pinterest. You can find that by clicking here >> Follow Me on Pinterest.
  • Margaret Homfray was a student and colleague of Dr. Montessori. Click here to view the series of her instructional videos. Be warned, they are very dry and a bit tedious to watch, but they are, of course, very educational.
  • There are many other informational and how-to Montessori videos on YouTube as well.
Spread the word and share the love of Montessori by becoming a Montessori teacher!

  • Click here, here, and here for a list of training centers and affiliations. I must point out that becoming a Montessori teacher by way of true, hands-on training is neither easy nor cheap - it requires several weeks, sometimes months (over the course of a year or two) of on site training, a college degree, excellent references, and anywhere from $8,000-$10,000 in tuition. Had I known about Montessori prior to having children, I would have enrolled in this type of training in a heartbeat.
  • Because traditional Montessori training is no longer an option for me, I'm taking an online teacher's training course through the North American Montessori Center (NAMC). I highly recommend this course. I hope to supplement this training by interning at our local Montessori school.
  • Good to read: Lori, from Montessori For Everyone, hosted an informative Q&A with the two major online training centers.

Monday, April 26, 2010

About Me & My Blog

Hi, I'm Mari-Ann. I was born and raised in Minnesota, USA, but I'm currently enjoying life without snow on the island of Bermuda.

The most important thing in my life (after God) is my family:

photo taken on one of our first dates :)
I'm a blessed wife of 11 years to my dearest friend, Paul...

(born April 2011)
a stay at home mom to our bright and beautiful boy, James ...

(born August 2011)
and our sweet angel, Juliet.

Oh, and I'm a slave to two loving, yet mischievous kitty-cats.

I have many interests and hobbies: I love knitting, sewing, painting, spinning wool, organizing, reading, writing, teaching, singing, thrifty shopping, gardening, photography, cooking, listening to music, traveling, and exploring this beautiful island.

Why "Counting Coconuts"? I came up with the name after seeing my son count the coconuts on a large palm tree outside our home. It was his favorite tree and he always made sure to stop and take notice of it. :) Counting Coconuts seemed like the perfect title for our blog because it mirrored not only my son's love for math and his favorite tree, but also our love for nature and our journey through homeschooling.

There's a special place in my heart for the Montessori method. I am a certified Montessori teacher and I'm educating my son using this method - you'll find all of our Montessori activities here on this blog.

I've also recently discovered the beautiful world of Waldorf, and have begun incorporating some of it into our daily life as well.

I hope you find some useful ideas here! If you have any questions you can contact me at countingcoconuts1(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thanks for stopping by!

Blog Awards

This is going to look like I'm giving myself airs, but I'm NOT! In an effort to clean up my sidebar, I just wanted to create a post where I could keep my awards and give some linky shout outs as a thank you for all the bloggy love!

Please know that while I appreciate each and every award I've received, I simply cannot blog about each one. I mean no disrespect whatsoever, it's just that I have so many things I am eager to share with all of you and since there's only one of me posting on this blog, I just cannot find the time to do it all. I hope you understand.

I'll continue to update this post when/if I get more awards, and I'll be sure to link back to each of the lovely award givers. :)

The Premio Award

From: Leptir

The One Lovely Blog Award

The Me Encanta Tu Blog
From: Leptir and Montessori Tidbits

The One Little Sparkling Blog Award
From: Leptir

The Wild About Your Blog AwardFrom: Leptir and Sunrise Learning Lab

The Best Blog Friend AwardFrom: La Maman Kangourou, and Leptir

The Sunshine Award
From: Homegrown, Mi Escuelita Montessori, Montessori Beginnings, A Munchkin's World, Delicious Ambiguity, Zonnah's Addictions, and Home Grown Families

The Happy 101 Award
From: Mi Escuelita Montessori, Quixotic Life, and The Adventures of Bear

The Lemonade Stand Award
From: The Ramblings & Adventures of a SAHM, The Picky Apple, Little Fingers, Big Dreams & Chasing Marcus, Lily Tots, 2 Pequenos Traviesos, and All About Aidan

The Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger Award

The Premio Dulce Award
From: Leptir

The Beautiful Blogger Award
From: Little Family Fun, Fun Frugal Mommy, Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy, The Ramblings & Adventures of a SAHM, Satisfy My Soul, and Somewhat Organized, Slighty Crafty Tot Teacher & Mommy

The Not A Stepford Blog Award

The One Lovely Blog Award

The Your Blog is Over the Top Award

The Kreativ Blogger Award

The Creativonline Award

The Best Blog Award

The You Are My Sunshine Award

Big hugs and many thanks again to all of these wonderful bloggers! It's your interest in what we do and support through comments and emails that keeps me blogging!!

Under Construction!

Over the next few days I'll be doing some work on the sidebar of my blog. I'm hoping to make it a little more efficient and easier for y'all to find the information you're looking for. Those of you who follow me in Google Reader will see several boring posts (not so unlike this one!) coming up, so just bear with me! :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beeswax Ornaments

Oh how I LOVE beeswax!! The color, the texture, and the heavenly smell of it... I can't help but smile whenever I see it.

Months ago I purchased some beeswax and moulds from Donni, owner of the lovely Etsy shop, Fairyfolk, and author of my favorite blog, The Magic Onions. It wasn't until last week that I finally put all this good stuff to use. Click here to read the how-to post I followed.

Waiting excitedly for it to melt in my make-shift baine-marie

Pouring the wax into the moulds

Waiting for it to solidify

Voila! Natural beauty! The best part of these ornaments is that when the sun hits them through the window, the wax warms and the sweet, subtle scent of honey fills the air!

James loved the little walnut and acorns. :)


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