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Montessori in Every Room

Here’s the second post.

So today we’re going to finish up the major areas of our house that we may need to set up for our children. I’m still working on this, so don’t think it’s something that has to happen instantly. I know money is tight all around. I spend a decent amount of my weekends thrift shopping.  If I happen to find something that will work for any of the categories, I try to get it if I have the money (and sometimes even if I really shouldn’t, provided the price is right.)

So to pick up where we left off, we had just finished talking about how to modify our children’s bedrooms. Not too hard, a mattress on the floor, furniture their size (which by the way you can find cheaper patters for such things made out of pvc online including chairs) http://www.instructables.com/id/Pvc-Kids-Chair/       and artwork at their level. Simple enough right?

So lets move on to the living room.

Living Room

The living room, in my opinion, should be a room for the whole family. I’ve never gotten parents that ban their kids to the playroom instead of letting them bring some toys to the living room, but to each their own. Either way, if that is one of the focal points of your home, we need to figure out how to make it more accessible to our children.

The fairly obvious first step, and one that most parents have probably already done, is to childproof and remove any dangerous elements that might have been there before baby came along.  You may already have a small bin of toys in there for your child that can easily be hidden in an end table or small cubbards somewhere in the corner. Right now, our living room has Freya’s walker wagon filled with a few favorite toys.

But what else can we do?

Well, we can make sure they have a place to sit, wheter that be a pvc chair or a nice big comfy pillow on the floor. We can also make sure they have that hidden spot for a few toys (not ones with tons of pieces if you want to keep the room fairly clean for company though).  We also may want to make sure that our coffee table sits at our child’s level.  That way the child can feel like they have a place in the living room.

A big part of this concept will be encouraging or helping your child to organize toys and teaching them to put things away before grabbing something else.  You can even make a game of this, seeing who can clean up their messes the quickest….mommy cleaning up the living room after guests, or the little one with her toys. You can even let her win sometimes J.

You may still want to keep electronics out of reach until you can teach the child to be respectful and listen to mommy and daddy.  As the child gets older you can start them off with a little cassette or cd player of their own and slowly teach them how to take care of it and say it’s a learning step towards learning to use the adult’s music center. IT gives the child a goal, something I know worked well with me as a child.  A similar idea is taken with breakables. When your child is old enough to understand let them touch fragile items with your supervision and explain that you don’t touch them often yourself. It’s all about helping the child understand the function of an item, other wise, they are going to be more curious and try to touch those easily broken items.

This is another area where you can let your child help you clean up so that they learn practical life skills. When I was young, my parents had a duster that was about my size and I helped my grandmother dust the stuff that was hard for her to get near the ground, while she got the things that I couldn’t reach. While I really hate cleaning, some of my fondest memories are of her letting me help her clean something. I’m sure I was in the way, but now I appreciate that she let me help, even if she had to redo part of it…and I learned from ti.

You can also teach children to clean up their own spills in the same way instead of getting cross with them.  This was yet another life lesson my grandmother tried to teach me. She maybe started when I was six, but the concept is still the same, we let our children do what they are able to help with, which is easy if you use green household cleaners (ah yet another post I haven’t gotten to yet.)

The Kitchen

The kitchen is another place where families or at least mom spends a lot of her time, and thus, our children end up spending time in there vying for our attention while we do things.  Now, what if I told you that as your child gets older there were things they could help you do? Things you wouldn’t necessarily think that they could do?

Well its true, I have seen families where a two year old cuts veggies with a child safe knife or where they cut bannanas with a banaslicer. I have seen three year olds who can, with supervision, help make their own sandwhiches. More impressive yet, I have seen five year olds who help with dinner and think its fun.

Now most of this section is going to apply to 3-5 year olds, but I have seen some yonger children do at least some basic stuff to help mommy in the kitchen.  Better yet, all of these are learning experiences. For example, while your child helps with dishes, even if its just handing them to you, you can talk about full, empty, too much, too little, big and small. Even discussion like this makes for educational experiences.

But regardless, lets dig in.

First of all, in the kitchen we can let our children help us load things in the dishwasher (if you have one) Freya already loves the dishwasher so I’m going to start working on this in the coming months. I hope to use something she enjoys as a way to help teach her sorting.

Washing dishes just takes either a step stool or a water table.  The step stool can be used to help them reach the sink if tall enough, or you can use the water table to let them help you rinse off dishes. This works particularly well if your kitchen has one of those patio doors….our doesn’t but I still like the idea. And water tables are great for a number of other activities down the line as well.

We plan on putting a small table at her hight in the middle of the kitchen at some point. It would be an added bonus if it had a storage space where we could put dishes we commonly use so that we can help her learn how to set the table as she gets older. This would also eventually become a workspace for when I start teaching her cooking basics with that safe knife I mentioned earlier.

I plan on having her help me cook little dishes out of a cook book for toddlers by the time she’s two. She already loves the kitchen and already wants to be involved in everything that happens in that room. This is also a great way to eventually start teaching measurement, addition and subtraction.  And once again, as always, make sure you’ve demonstrated the step of the task before letting a child try it, we want to set them up to succeed.

So the book has the laundry room combined into this section. And they talk about letting your child help you sort clothes or if they’re Freya’s age or a bit older, even letting them help you put them in the dryer. We air dry most things right now due to electrical issues, but I plan on implementing this once we have that problem fixed.  This is also a good time to work on sorting whether it be light vs dark colors or pulling jeans out of the pile. It’s all a learning experience for them.

By age two we can even have our children helping us clean up by wiping down the table, sweeping (with a child sized broom) and other such things. They want to do everything we do, so let’s teach them how so they can help mommy and daddy.

I have two more sections to cover next week, but hopefully it will only take one post. Enjoy your weekend and if you’re just starting Montessori, I hope something I’ve posted here helps you along your way.

Blessed Be.

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Fung Shui – Montessori Style

So, I apologize if my second two posts for this week are off. We’re having some issues with my disabled mother’s care service. The short version is that we have an insignificant version of a problem they had in the past and the woman who runs the office has a vendetta against my mother for refusing to go into a nursing home when my father had his storke.

Suffice it to say I’ve spent most of this week dealing with that and trying to get services reinstated while looking for another company that she and her aides (who wish to tag along and get away from these mean people) can go to.  Also, due to the pest control coming out Monday I may be late (or early) on that post.

So I’m back to the Montessori  kick, but today we’re talking about organizing your house (as much as possible) so that Montessori could work in your home.  And no, Montessori really doesn’t have anything to do with Fung Sui, but as I thought more and more about setting up our own rooms, I realized the concepts were similar. Each is trying to set up a home to be as productive for someone (in this case our children).  It just seemed fitting giving our Montessori topic this week, arranging your home for your child’s independent exploration.

As we learned last week, Montessori revolves around a few major concepts. First, she believe that there should be as much physical and intellectual freedom as possible.  Second, Maria promoted the idea that the preparation of the environment has a profound effect on development and learning.  And finally, that how we as a adults treat our children has a profound effect on their development.

So today we’re focusing on the second concept there. The first thing we have to do is look at the home from a child’s point of view. There are just too many things that are inaccessible to them without help. SO we have to plan for this where we can. Obviously we don’t want every room to be full accessible, but we want the rooms our children spend the most time in to be as accessible as possible.

The first step to this is to think child sized. This may be hard for many of us to do on a budget until  they are around five (the age most reasonably priced child size furniture is made). Still, you can rig some things that will work in the meantime, but we’ll get to that as we go along.

The second step is to make sure that these items are in the rooms where all the action takes place. So if your child spends a lot of time with you in the kitchen and living room, then you would make those rooms as accessible as possible, in addition to her own room and bathroom.  We have to make what is safe accessible while keeping our children away from harm (which of course, changes with age).

Third, we have to make sure that the space we use with her set ups meet her needs. When she is old enough to help us set the table, she has to have a place where she can reach these materials. When she goes to brush her teeth as she gets older, we have to keep what she needs in reach.  Finally, we have to use what we construct to teach our children self discipline/ positive discipline instead of constantly yelling no and stop.  This can be frustrating, but so far, rewarding.

Let me give you an example. Freya showed an interest in our master bathroom at a very young age. We have to keep her away from the tub and my alter (Yes I know odd place, you do what you gotta do ith limited space) and the toilet.  However, we have put a child sized training toilet where she can reach it and have (in the past) kept some water in it.

IF she tries to touch the water we do correct her and close the seat, but it has helped (a little) to teach her not to put her hand in the toilet. Granted she still tries if we leave it open and knows we aren’t looking, so its still a work in progress.  Also, having things at her level that she is allowed to touch has kept her from getting as upset about the things that she is not allowed to touch. We also keep some small toys in there since we have a pretty large bathroom space in there.

So let’s start looking at what we can do in rooms on a budget.

Bedroom

First of all is the bed. Freya does sleep in a crib at night, but for her naps, it mostly depends on where she is when she crashes. I try (if possible) to put her down for a nap in a place where she can easily get up by herself. She has a mattress on the floor in our room for this purpose and she even sleeps there some nights if mommy sleeps on the floor next her her (which I don’t mind anyway).  This way as she gets older she can reach her bed to make it herself and she can get in and out of bed herself.

Montessori play and learn recommends turning this chore into a game of shaking out the comforter or quilt and laying it on the bed, they may not do it perfectly, but they learn. Freya hasn’t figured out how to lay the blanket back down on the bed, but she will grab her blanky and shake it out like I do.

Clothing is another important one here. Everything needs to be in drawers that a small child can open, shelves that they can easily reach (I think of those square units that you can stack) or hung lower where they can reach them (which has the added bonus of storage space if you rotate their toys).  The book also recommends that they have picture labels, which I plan on using once Freya is a bit older. Right now all we do is occasionally let her pick which outfit she’s going to wear. We’ve learned she likes shorter dresses because she can toddle easier in them.

This will make it easier when you start teaching your child to put away their clothing. The book recommends teaching that by sorting the items yourself frist and them demonstrating the task over and over again. Most children want to do what mom is doing when they are really young, so this is a great time to get them slowly learning these skills.  Of course, you can also come up with all kinds of games for this as well, like which pile is biggest or which child can put the most clothes away correctly. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve seen households where this works (which is part of the reason I want to start out with Montessori).

Other considerations for your child’s bedroom would be the flooring. I suggest wood if you plan on letting your child have a painting or craft space in their room. I also suggest wood entirely from a cleaning standpoint (so much cleaner) or even the fake wood laminate. I know we can’t do it either, but I would if I had the choice.  Just make sure any other furniture you put in their room is their size or at least accessible with minimal help.  Storage for toys should also be low to the ground so you child can participate in cleaning their own space up as they get older.

Finally, decoration. Keep it simple and clean. Don’t let your kids room get too cluttered. This is part of the reason we rotate toys. It saves me time cleaning and it keeps her engaged when we rotate (even though she’s already played with these toys in the past).  A lot of Montessori books also recommend a mirror at ground level for the child to look in either here or in the bathroom and low hanging paintings so they aren’t craning their head to look up at whats on the walls. Any decorations should be at their level and for their benefit.

I’m going to stop here for today. Friday we’ll talk about how you can arrange some other living spaces.  I hope these post are giving those of you interested in Montessori, some great ideas on how to implement it in your own home. Heck, I’m just happy to have found a book that explains more on how to use Montessori.

As a side note, I do want to reference the book I’m getting most of my info from. It is called Montessori Play and Learn by Joy Starry Turner. It’s an older book and its aimed more at toddlers, but its never too soon or late to start Montessori.

Thanks for viewing and as always,

Blessed Be.

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How to Encourage our Children the Montessori Way

Earlier we learned that children want to learn and that there are many ways to encourage appropriate or even above average development in our children through fostering independence in their learning. We also learned that children learn by doing things over and over again or through sensory exploration, which is why many parents have blog posts all over the web recommending ways in which to make your own discovery baskets.

Now, before we go any further, I’m going to emphasize once again that I will never claim to be the perfect mom. I’m just trying to share information as I learn it and to maybe help out anyone else who has been looking for these answers. I’m using the information I have and what I can find to try to answer those questions.

I’m not a perfect mom, I make mistakes, but that is part of life. Learning is what all moms and everyone is perpetually doing, even if we don’t realize it.  So if I ever say something you disagree with, realize that I’m either sharing my point of view or information from another source and not nay saying anything anyone else is doing. If you have a better idea, feel free to post it in the comments and I may end up researching that topic to post here as well. I’m all about sharing information and ideas for parenting and, where applicable, from a pagan perspective.

Today I want to talk a bit more about how we can encourage this development according to Montessori and those who have continued her work. With enough encouragement from their parents, children have done amazing things. However, a child can lose this inborn love of learning and I think that’s where some children have trouble with public school. It doesn’t stimulate them to learn or it uses a method of learning that may not be suited to them. I’m not saying public school is bad. There are some great programs out there, but not all children can learn the way public schools want children to learn.

What we don’t realize sometimes is that our children are learning no matter what they do. We may think that our child is just pulling things out of the kitchen cabinet, but I realized something the other day. When Freya pulls stuff out, she starts sorting it either by how it feels or its size, or a noise it makes. It may not be structured education, but she’s still learning and little moments like that are what Montessori is all about, realizing that your child is learning through their independence.

And when we pull them away from that experience we frustrate them. I’m not saying there isn’t a time when we have to, but the point is that independent sensory exploration and play are very important to a child’s development.

So how do we encourage our children in Montessori?

1. We encourage independent learning- We allow time for our children to do the activities that they love the most. My parents always wanted me to try new things, but they always made sure I had time for the old as well. They also let me learn from my own mistakes, which is what Montessori suggests as well. A child can fix their own mistakes if given enough time and that will teach them problem solving skills as well.

Montessori activities generally have what is called a “control of error” built in. What this means is that there is something in the activity that gives your child a clue of how to do something correctly. For example, when setting the table, a control of error could be setting out exactly what a child needs so that the placement is the only place they can make an error. Or when just starting out you can have a place mat and they have to match what is sewn onto the placemat

2. We Model

No, not the runway type of modeling, I’m talking about leading by example, which means taking a look at ourselves and possibly improving our own behaviors for the sake of our children.

3. Step by Step

We help our children learn things in each step, in their own time.  We talked about this a bit Wednesday as well.  If a child cannot accomplish the first task in an activity, they are just going to get more and more frustrated if you continue on to the rest of the steps.

4. Concentration or Aggravation

We can help our children learn concentration at an early age.  It’s a skill that anyone can benefit from.  Concentration is developed by ensuring that the tasks we give our children are appropriate for their age and ability.  Children lose interest when something is either too hard or too easy.

5. Encourage a positive attitude for learning

If we have a positive attitude towards teaching our children, they are going to learn to have a positive attitude towards learning as well.  It goes back to the law of return, what you give comes back to thee.

6. Memory Skills

There are tons of activities that develop memory whether it is rote, visual, auditory, or movement memory. And there are tons of books out there with some of these activities. I’ll probably be going over some of them myself when Freya is the appropriate age to do some of these activities.  Until then check your local library for Montessori Play and Learn or other Montessori activity books. Pinterest is also a good place to find Montessori activities of any type.

7. Encourage Language Development

Part of this is simply engaging and talking to your child. Something I still feel I need to spend time on as well. Or at least I feel that I should spend more time than I already do on this.  Montessori encourages us as parents to tell our children stories and to explain what we are doing to them, even if they are not old enough to participate themselves.

Next week I’m going to be doing a book review (maybe two) on a pagan children’s book series as well as talking about how to outfit your home for Montessori. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Blessed Be.

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Using Montessori

So now that we’ve learned what Montessori is about and what Maria’s theories were, let’s talk about how to use Montessori. It’s all well and good to know it exists, but it’s not very useful if no one ever tells you have to do it. Now there are a lot of places out there that claim they can teach you Montessori for an exorbitant amount of money…or you can be cheap like me and do as much reading and research as possible and do the best you can. I look up a lot of the activities we use or will use with Freya in books or on Pinterest. I think I have a link on my Pinterest somewhere on my page. If not I will be adding one soon.

The biggest thing parents can do is help their child learn life skills early. I’m talking about teaching a child to help you do the laundry, dishes, or generally help you do whatever. I’m not saying that our children need to become our slaves and do everything, but it doesn’t hurt a child to learn how to do something so they can help if you need them. Nor does it hurt to let them help you while they want to.

Our children watch and try to do everything we do. I can’t even begin to describe the difference I’ve seen in children whose parents use Montessori and don’t. The look on a two year olds face as he helps mom cut up veggies in a YouTube video is priceless. So is watching the intensity with which the child attends to the task.

What’s even more exciting is that our children aren’t just developing motor skills when they do this. They are also developing vocabulary and potentially social skills depending on the activity. All of this can do a wealth of good for a child’s confidence and self-esteem.  Right now we just explain everything we’re doing to Freya while we do it, but when we see that she’s ready for an activity, we’ll let her help us by trying to do something as simple as wipe down the table.

Do’s and Don’ts of Practical life activities

However, Montessori had a few do’s and don’ts when it came to introducing life activities.

  1. Never give a child pretend tools. If they can’t do what you’re doing with the tools you give them, they are just going to get frustrated and potentially give up.
  2. When you provide real tools, find tools that are the right size for your child. There are tons of Montessori sites out there for this or sometimes you can just find stuff like this at the dollar tree. I’ve been picking up what I can on the cheap as I go and as I find it.
  3. When you show a child how to do something, take it slow. Make each movement deliberate and explain it. If you go to fast it’s going to be harder for them to absorb. A sponge can’t just soak everything up in five seconds and neither can a child.
  4. If necessary take the child through the activity step by step. And make sure that they understand step one before you move on to step two….you would think this would be common sense, but you’d be surprised.
  5. Let the child repeat the activity as many times as they like. This is how they learn.
  6. Try to plan out what you are going to do before you do it (we’ll talk about this more in a moment).

Three Focuses of Montessori

  1. Developing Personality:

Montessori viewed each person as an integrated whole and believed that children build their personality through active participation in their environment. This is congruent with current research as well.  To this end she identified several different stages of development of personality. She also believed that their success depended on satisfactory progress through each state.

In infancy she felt that the child needed to be made to feel secure and have a decent relationship with us, the parents. In the next stage, they need to start developing independence. They still need us, but they need to do as much as possible (and safe) on their own.  If they fail too often it hurts their confidence and self-esteem.  Montessori was convinced that by three a child had already laid down the foundations of their personality.

And in the final stage of basic personality development (3-6) a child is malleable enough to learn to be comfortable with themselves while adjusting to societal norms and expectations. If a child can find a balance between their needs/wants and the expectations of society upon them, then they are generally happy and content.

The parent’s role in this is to be first aware of our importance in this process. Second is to allow them freedom within limits. Third is to respect their individuality, and finally, to resist imposing our own wills and personality onto our children.

  1. Helping Social and Emotional Adjustment

By around age six a child is fairly well emotionally and socially adjusted, or at least should be.  They should be okay with you leaving for a short while. A part of this process involves how you encourage your child and methods of discipline that you use. Montessori highly recommended instilling a sense of self discipline in our children.

So let’s talk about her stages here.  In stage one (birth to 18 months) there is almost no obedience. However, you can still work on a relationship and consistency with a child that builds those foundations for discipline. In stage 2 (18m to 4 years) we begin to transition into understanding the concept of listening to parents etc.  One of the important aspects of this stage is explaining why an action is wrong.

Stage three (3-6 years), our children learn exponentially.  By age six a child should be able to listen and do as they are told.  Most children of this age don’t really want to be different. While it’s nice for a child to listen, I agree with Montessori that the ultimate goal of discipline is about helping a child to grow up independently with respect for others. It’s about developing self-control.

It takes time and patience for this to happen though.  The limits that we set have to be appropriate to age. And that means that even I’m going to have to do more research into child development to prevent mistakes on my part. It’s also important to be as positive as possible when we take this approach with our children. I know I have a negative streak, but I want to try to prevent Freya from inheriting that. Not to mention it’s good for my own continuing self-development.

Which brings me to my next point. We cannot expect our children to do anything that we are not prepared to do ourselves.  We have to set rules and guidelines that we will live by as well.  We have to establish rules that (for the most part) will be adhered to be everyone in the family. I mean we’re going to have some well you can’t have this because it isn’t safe, but on the other hand, we still need to use the same table manners we expect of our children.

Essentially, if a child is always breaking a rule it may not be developmentally appropriate for your child at that point. In addition Montessori did not believe in rewarding actions with presents. She believed that it would cause them to participate for rewards instead of the pleasure of the activity. I agree with this personally.

What can we do? First, we can’t be over protective or possessive of our child as this can create anxiety in the child. Second, we can’t make excessive demands on our children. Third, don’t lay down the law in an authoritarian way. We want them to be a part of the process so that they understand the process and why the rules are in place.  Nor do we want them to rebel by making them feel that they have no say in the process. I can say from experience that this worked well in my own childhood. Fourth, we also don’t want to be over permissive.

  1. Developing Intellectual Capacity

In this case intelligence is defined as the capacity to learn new skills. This includes the ability to use those new skills to adapt to the environment as it changes around you.  This is something vital to our children as they will need to learn to adapt to the world around them.  This includes problem solving, fact learning, and the ability to use and apply information learned.

This is why it is important to let our children learn in their own time, because each child will develop these skills and intelligences at a different rate. If Freya walks at 11 months great. If she can’t figure out how to say grandma till much later than she should, that’s also okay. Now, if it goes too far I might ask the good ol’ doc if something is wrong, but I’m still going to let her learn at her own pace.

To achieve this goal we also have to do the following. First, we have to allow the child to be active and learn through their senses as much as possible. Second, we have to recognize those sensitive periods and encourage those particular developments at those times. Third, recognize the importance of motivation and how it affects learning.

As a side note, Montessori style motivation is the final post for the week. I know it’s been a lot, but it can be really hard to find good information on this topic, so I really want to share the keynotes of everything I’m learning. I borrowed the sourcebook Montessori Play and Learn from the Louisville Library. You can probably buy it on Amazon or be cheap like me lol.  Either way, I hope this post has taught you more about the Montessori Method and how vital a part the parent plays in the process.

Blessed Be.