I spend a lot of time thinking about what is best for Freya. All parents, especially first time parents, do this. We all want to either improve from the past, if we have other children, or not mess up in the first place if we can avoid it. While school is still several years away for us, I’m constantly trying to find ways to engage Freya and possibly jump start the learning process. Like any parent, we want her to have it better than we did. In my case, I want to make sure everything goes better than my pregnancy did.
So let me explain what happened as briefly as possible.
See, I was one of those not so fortunate people who slipped through the cracks in the system. We didn’t find out I was pregnant till April (I’ve never been regular and had no symptoms) and right after I’d aged out of my father’s insurance. Worse, I was a temp so I couldn’t get insurance through work and I couldn’t afford it on my own. That left Medicaid, which despite applying in April didn’t get approved till three weeks before I was due.
But my pregnancy story gets better. Despite the fact that, in my state, you should be able to get prenatal care, no one would talk to me without 2000 or more upfront. Lovely when a pregnant woman in need cannot get any help from the system that is supposed to protect us. I called every doctor I could find in the phone book and a few that others recommended to me and no one would see me. I was livid.
So when I made an emergency trip to the hospital because I was that soon-to-be-new-mom who was freaking out, I got even more stressed than I already had been. The staff didn’t make it any better trying to sign me up for medicaid (even though I told them I was waiting on my current app to go through) or berating me for not getting prenatal care from a doctor. This did not improve my mood or my impression of the entire system.
And all of that would be compounded by finding out that I wasn’t due in seven months, I was due in two. I was due in August, which was a shock. I was floored and I don’t even know how to describe how her father felt. Not knowing where the Goddess was leading me, I did all the research that most parents would do over nine months….in less than two. In the end it was my mentor, Lady G, who convinced me not only to keep my child, but to also put my fears at ease.
After that we switched hospitals and I finally (two or three weeks before I was due) got to have a proper check up. Finally, in August, after two false alarms, I had Freya on the same night I was supposed to run the local community circle. Though it was the best excuse for being late ever, it was something I had been worried might happen. It was like I knew she was coming that day…even though she was induced due to doctor worries. The birth wasn’t bad, aside from being bullied into inducing her which caused some minor problems, but no harm to the baby.
Suffice it to say, my pregnancy wasn’t a walk in the park.
And then I moved back in with my parents. Once things had settled down, I had a lot more time on my hands. Too much time. Even with having to help take care of both of my disabled parents, I wanted to find something to do with Freya. That’s when I found Montessori, which has become a large part of our lives
Our lack of preparation for her arrival has caused us to be very thoughtful of issues that could come up in the future. This included many discussions about school and what we would like to do versus what we may have to do to give her the best education possible. Both of us are decidedly against public schools. We both went and we both had experiences on opposite ends of the spectrum. He had a great experience while I had a horrible one. Where he had friends who defended him, I was that kid that was likely to end up in the trash can, locker, or torn up. Well, at least until we moved, at which point I kinda became several choice words towards anyone who tried to mess with me. Regardless, my boyfriend, Freya’s father, still agrees that we would prefer to keep her out of public school.
There are several reasons for this. First, the town we currently live in does not have a good school system. Second, the towns we want to move to do not have the best school systems. Third, Catholic school is not an option here, as I will not have Freya bullied into the Catholic church. I’ve had several friends who felt this way when they weren’t Catholic and went to the only private school in their area. Not to mention, I can’t guarantee that the school wouldn’t mess with her or me to start with, due to my faith.
Which leaves either non Christian affiliated private schools, which exist in the area, but are expensive, or home school. We’re still trying to determine if that is possible. We’ll have to see how the next few years go with my Etsy (or possibly Amazon) store I’m trying to set up and everything else. No matter what happens or what the decision may be, all I can do right now is research, pin things to Pinterest, and try not to drive myself mad.
Which is how I found Montessori.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a learning style based on observations of the child and, more importantly, independent and peer learning. It was created in the late 1800’s by Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate from medical school in Italy. She developed it to help children reach their full potential after observing children housed alongside the criminally insane. It was her work with those children that led her across the globe, where she learned that all children, despite their cultures, have certain times in their lives at which certain skills have to be learned.
Think of it as a house of cards or the foundation of a building. If one block or card is missing, the rest tumble on down. This can best be seen in the psychological example of children raised by animals or raised outside of normal society. There is a wonderful WordPress article by Psychology Health that lays out the finer points of this scenario and it has happened. These children who don’t learn certain social or language cues from humans, have an extremely difficult time learning those skills later because they have passed that sensitive period in their development. While the author of the WordPress article claims there are no historical evidences of this, that is simply untrue. It is well documented in France in the 1800’s by Harian Lane, see the Amazon link to his book here.
That aside, there are certain peaks in which children develop motor, language, and other necessary skill that allow them to thrive within society. On her journeys, Montessori cataloged a general age range at which many of these occur. Today, many psychologist and educators still use many of her ideas and recommendations. There are even those further researching her theories for a modern day.
One of the hallmarks of this practice is the environment in which the child learns and play. We haven’t been able to do everything we would like as we share a room with Freya, but I’m hoping to change that once we can afford to get our own place again, but we have implemented as much as we can. For one, Freya has a mattress on the ground where she takes naps during the day, eventually we will transition this to where she sleeps all the time as it allows her to be more independent. We keep her toys organized into as many categories as we can on shelves where she can reach them.
We also have a solid mirror where she can view her own expressions and attempt to play with the baby in the mirror. This encouraged Freya to lift her head and look around. Now she loves it because she can see her own movements. Another thing we have done is to use baby led weaning, where she eats what we eat instead of baby food when we go out. It has made the diaper bag lighter (aside from my mini Tupperware chopper) and it makes her happy to be involved in what we are doing, when we are doing it. We are also working on getting her to drink form a cup with a little shot glass I have. Sure we have a few spills, but she has seen us drink from cups and is always reaching for them herself. By letting her have her own cup we may have a few more spills, but she doesn’t reach for our cups because she has her own.
I also love that the method stresses that we can’t compare our children to others, that each child develops at a different pace and that we have to celebrate those differences. To me it just feels very pagan in nature. We place trust in our child to learn from their surroundings and I can already tell you that Freya has surprised me more than once.
The one area I really want to learn about at this juncture is their method of discipline. That’s one topic I’ve had a lot of trouble finding info on. Though I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back to you with more info on this topic once I get my Montessori books in and find time to read them.
So far, we’ve mostly done sensory play with pasta and food. We’ve done some discovery baskets about different areas of the house. Freya had a wonderful time playing with measuring spoons and bowls in the kitchen. She even enjoyed playing with her new rubber tipped silverware. It’s fascinating and amazing what will entice and entertain a child. My goal is to start doing at least one Montessori activity with her a week, two if I can manage it between job hunting and taking care of all my charges at home.
Regardless, if you’re homeschooling or just looking for new ways to interact with your child, Montessori source pages are a great place to find all sorts of activities for kids of any age and all of them are educational. I know that just like our spiritual paths, this one may not be for everyone, but it’s at least worth exploring and seeing what magick and mischief your child can find in their own world through these activities.