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Sunday, September 18, 2016

A New Year

Ready and waiting for the children
Some of the flowers that were put in vases and scattered around the classroom by the children.
It's hard for me to believe that this is my fourth year teaching the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Mary's! It feels like just yesterday that I found out about the program. We had our smoothest first day ever today! We have lots of returning students who stepped up and helped the new students know what to do. Between them and my two wonderful high school assistants (Ms. Ava and Ms. Gabby) I hardly had to do anything! Well....ok, I was pretty busy.

At the beginning of the year we get re-acclimated with the classroom and the few rules that we follow. We help the new students learn about all the different work that is available. We remind everyone to ask for a lesson if something is new to them, we try to remember to use a work rug if we want to do work on the floor and we work on putting our work away just like we found it so it is ready for the next friend.

It was really a joy filled morning. Everyone was so happy to be in the classroom. Flower arranging and making bracelets as well as setting up the model altar were favorites. We closed our day with a group circle time where we learned each others' names and sang a few songs.

If your child is a new three year old you may wonder just what he/she may be doing. One thing we try to get the three year olds to focus on at the beginning of the year is Practical Life. This is an area of the classroom that is in regular Montessori classrooms, too. It is an area to practice fine motor skills (pouring water, spooning small beads, etc.), taking care of the classroom (flower arranging, leaf polishing, sweeping), and taking care of ourselves (hand washing, using the bathroom). It might seem strange to have these things in a religious education classroom. However, this area is so important for many reasons. It helps teach the children order, concentration, coordination and independence. These are all things that are necessary to work with the more complicated works (like preparing the cruets and chalice) later in the year. Click here for more information about the practical life area of the classroom. 

All in all it was such a wonderful start to our year. It always brings a smile to my face when I see new friendships forming in the classroom and then see the children in other areas of the church talking with each other. 

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What you can do at home: The 3-6 year old child is so eager to be independent! They want to do everything themselves. This is a great time to help them learn to do lots of things. Let them help set the table for dinner, help sort socks in the laundry, give them a little sponge and let them help wash the car or the kitchen floor. Help them learn to button and snap their coats and be sure they have shoes that they can put on and take off independently. Let them help when they want to but know that they will be slow and inaccurate! Of course never force your child but keep it light and fun and let them walk away when they are finished (which might be before you are). You will be giving them a tremendous gift and it will pay off in spades when they are older. What does this have to do with growing their faith? Look around the church. It takes lots of hands doing many little tasks to keep the church going. It is also in these little tasks and in giving confidence to our children that they learn to be patient and to slow down. We all know that God is often found in the small, in the insignificant and in the quiet moments. In doing these types of activities with your child you will be helping him/her to slow down and to pay attention, two things that are necessary to build a life of faith.