Wednesday, August 26, 2020

10 Love It or Leave It Montessori Concepts

My main goal as a parent is to enable my children to thrive in their time, place, and culture—everything else is secondary at best.

There are many Montessori concepts that I cannot live without and many that were not even considered. I wanted to share the 10 Montessori education concepts that we adopted or left behind in my home.

#1 Kept: Follow the Child 

This is a big one, every child is different and every child will find joy in their own way. 

#1 Left: No Movement Hindering Devices

Movement hindering devices are said to slow down teh growing and developing process for the child. They are restrictive and are made for the convenience of the parent rather than the benefit of the child. I know. 

I love my piece of mind and my 4Moms Mamaroo more than I love the Montessori Canon concepts. I love putting my child in the Mamaroo as I complete small tasks. It is wonderful to watch your child get some rest after being fussy from gas or teething. It is wonderful to see your child being soothed to sleep when you yourself are not in the best shape of your life from missing months of sleep.

#2 Kept: Weaning Table

I love our weaning table. It was a place of so much fun and love when it came to trying new solids for the first time. The table has seen a series of messes, but it was also the place where my child learned to sit at for meals. It was also the place where my child learned to get a bowl or plate. 

All of these things were completed with relative independence and I do not believe that a high chair can offer the same level of control for the child. 

#2 Left: Breakable Glasses Right After Bottles

The concept is great in theory, children need to learn to treat things will respect just like they will have to do when they are older. Using the glasses made out of actual will teach them in a safe and controlled environment that they need to be its stewards. 

Well, we had a few incidents with cups and mugs both on purpose and by accident. Cleaning up is not fun and it is important to understand for yourself when the risk of cuts and embedded glass shards in tiny feet is not worth the reward. This was our case and our experience.

#3 Kept: Floor Bed

I don't know what it is like to have a crib. I had babysat children who had cribs when I was younger, but honestly, I cannot even comment on that experience because children are all different. 

We chose the floor bed because it made sense. It was the bed that could not topple over from a climbing or rocking of a toddler. It was a bed that allowed my baby to wander and explore the entire room at his own will. 

#3 Left: Not Mixing Uses for Objects

I have heard from many teachers that the purpose of an area or an object should be singular to avoid giving your child mixed signals. For example, a bed space is for relaxing and not for jumping. 

Well, while some aspects of this concept make sense, like using a spoon in food, it did not make a lot of sense for other things. My child taught himself how to jump on his bed. He uses his bed trampoline with lots of joy that even suggesting that this bed should have a singular purpose goes against following the child. My child is also a very clever problem solver and often uses objects not for their intended original purpose.

#4 Kept: Meal Preparation

My toddler loves to use knives, forks, and spoons. Sometimes when the meal includes lots of vegetables, I think he enjoys preparing it much more than eating it.

#4 Left: Potty Training Style

I was one of those mamas that thought that if I followed guidance and direction from a book, that it might all work out with my child. I had a basket of diapers, wipes, changes of clothes in case of accidents, etc. I had two kids of potties. I did not bribe. And not one thing worked.

Well, it just so happens that my child is just as stubborn as I am. And that's okay. It just means that sometimes he wants to use the potty and sometimes he will do everything possible to avoid using it. It is hard to keep a potty routine with him because his intake of food and liquids changes from day to day and nothing has really helped.

#5 Kept: Personal Care

One of the things that I love about Montessori is that it helps children become independent. This is a huge focus and I love how my child has been able to do this. 

#5 Left: Personal Hygiene Toddler Sized Area

I love all of the spaces, I must have looked through all of the Montessori personal care areas. I love them all, but after trial and error, we had to pass on a toddler sized space. 

We had no room. And I do not mean that we had not room for the setup of our dreams where my children love. We had no room, our bathroom was super small and we were already storing the baby bathtub and a stepstool, so it make no sense to have another setup. And it also made no sense to have something in my child's bedroom either.  

At some point, I think I might do a roundup of Montessori personal hygiene spaces that I loved, but will never be able to replicate.

#6 Kept: Nursery Mobiles

One way that I prepared for my babies and their development was to make mobiles based on Montessori principles.

#6 Left: Walking Learning Aids

There are several items in the Montessori world that are adopted as enabling tools to help babies and toddlers develop walking skills on their own. The two items that come to mind are a walking aid wagon and a model stairs to help children learn how to go up and down stairs. 

These are all great and I'm sure some children will love them, but I cannot justify having them in my home. They occupy space and are bulkier than other products. Also, I believe in teaching a child on a real stairs. 

#7 Kept: Toddler Chores

I have to admit that I was overwhelmed by the amount of chores that I had completed before my baby learned new skills to take care of himself. It was just like taking care of a baby  who happens to be the size of my toddler. 

It is a game changer when your toddler starts taking care of themselves like never before. This might be developing emotion intelligence, or learning to make breakfast, putting toys away, etc. I was awed by the interest and I was very happy when this happened because I got a break to them be able to do other things like support their emotional development, coping skills, meal preparation, potty training, etc.

#7 Left: Montessori Classroom Education

This is a lot to unpack here. I love Montessori schools and I have many Montessori teacher friends who believe in this education. 

I am not against it, but it does not fit my family right now. We had limited options in our area for an infant Montessori classroom in our area and we were not interested in switching schools or separating our children to go to different schools. Due to these logistical issues, it was not in the cards.

A reason why I am completely okay with this, is because to make a message consistent or to make it stick it's necessary to bring some of the same concepts into your home so your child is surrounded by consistent messages. I already knew that I was going to replicate some classroom concepts in my home, and this change in our education plan was just another reason to do a really good job with the materials and setups I bring into my home.

#8 Kept: Toy Rotation

Kids behave better when they aren't bored. If I give the same thing for my toddler to do or play with every day, then that thing or toy turns into a sculpture. It might as well not be there. So as a result we try to do gentle cycling through.  We solve a lot of the problems with storage rotation, this way the majority of items are within reach for my toddler, while my baby has a more structured play environment.

#8 Left: Having Things on a Tray or a Basket

The purpose of preparing the space for your child and preparing the necessary objects, materials or tools all on one tray or all in one basket is to prepare your child to then succeed on their own. Ideally, there is minimal direction. 

I do like this, but it is not possible to complete this in a small space, I would have an infinite number of things in storage to meet the footprint requirement. 

And what's more, is that I like our children learning where everything "lives" in our home. I do not want to send any mixed signals to my child who is just figuring out that shoes go on the shoe rack and not on a "tie your shoes" tray.

I can say similar things about food preparing utensils, sensory play toys, etc. 

I have used baskets for strategic sensory toy storage, so maybe I am already doing this without knowing.  
 

#9 Kept: Choices 

Choices are a part of life and becoming a responsible person in our time, place, and culture involves making more of them as we grow and develop. Choices work themselves into Montessori education by providing children with limited and open-ended choices. 

We love this concept and have adopted it through offering different choices for food, outfits, books, and activities within reason.

#9 Left: Not a lot of books

We have a children's bookshelf where all of the books live although book rotation is great, a part of me is very thankful that I never made the commitment to make an elaborate book rotation schedule.  

#10 Kept: Concentration

This one is very simple, unless we have a doctors appointment or something of similar importance, we let our children concentrate on their chosen activity. 

They are learning focus and being able to focus for increasingly longer periods of time. And that in itself is a precious gift. We do not interrupt their happiness.

#10 Left: Minimalist Classroom-like Play Space

This is an aspect that is partially controlled by finances and the mechanics of our small home, but we do not have a classroom space. We do not have an area in our living room or their bedrooms that functions as a learning classroom space alone.

Instead, just like in most homes, our tools are in their logical spaces. 

The toy kitchen with functional equipment is next to our real kitchen and the toddler sized gardening tools are in the shed next to their larger counterparts. 

We love it this way because our children live and learn in the same space where we live so that once they are big enough to use the grownup tools, they are right there for them to use.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

About Your Corona Parent Friend

I had a child during the early stages of COVID-19 and am slowly adjusting to life with a bigger family. I quickly found that many of my go to activities and what I envisioned my Spring and Summer to be had evaporated. As I write this blog, cooler temperatures after some much needed rain are reminding me that Summer is just about finished.

Other parents and families may have adjusted to the same demands and new demands seamlessly, but my home life and my Mama life have shifted towards something different. I made the list below to be honest about my experience and also give those that have asked a brief window into a slightly different walk of life.

1. Things take turns being okay. 

Rooms take turns being clean and organized. Chores take turns being finished. Email chains take turns about being read through. If there are siblings or pets in the home, attention is divided and family members take turns getting attention.

 The living room might be immaculate, but the kitchen has dishes piling up, a trash can that is fun to the brim, and recycling is overflowing because we are still trying to save the planet with our small choices. Parenting in my home means that the planet will have to wait its turn to be saved. 

This might also mean that my home is ready for the very few visitors we are recommended to have, but my bedroom has piles of clean clothing that has not been folded and put "where it lives."

Taking turns also means that sometimes I am two weeks early to contribute to a Corona birthday present, but I can also be months behind another emotional labor endeavor. It happens. It is the wheel, or more accurately the expanding spiral of the mama or parent career.

2. Kid milestones happened and no one was here.

Speaking of the expanding spiral of the mom career, my small child came into this world quite alarmed and now adjusted so much that he is now trying to stand, walk, eat solids, sing, talk, and play--just like a big baby. His needs and interests have expanded to never ever again be that sleeping baby burrito. 

And almost no one was here. There were very few visitors that got to interact with my baby burrito. And while I know the interaction only gets better and better with age, I feel bad that those around me that have wished for a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby did not get to enjoy this version of my baby. Learning to cry, learning to sleep, first funny faces, first intense eye contact, first smile, first giggle, first surprise, first raspberries, first baby crunch, first standing attempt, and first interaction with siblings were only witnessed by my immediate household.  

This all means that I, like your Corona parent friend, had to work extra hard to document the milestones that are otherwise shared with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.

I strongly believe that even adults and teenagers have microseasons of their lives where they might try a new hobby, routine, or lifestyle. Learning new lifelong skills is an especially ongoing process with younger kids and all it takes is a few blinks and a stage is gone.

3. Your Corona parent friend wants to know how you're doing

Your Corona parent friend is rooting for you from afar. Are you learning bread baking from scratch? Did you buy a ball gown to wear inside your home? Did you get a new beard oil you're in love with? Was that COVID-19 social distancing date full of amazing chemistry? We want to hear about it. 

Also, we would love to have a zoom call with you where WE. DO. NOT. TALK. ABOUT. KIDS. AT. ALL. After 20 diaper changes or trips to the potty-- I want to clock out from wearing my mom hat (joking--like that happens) and would prefer ANY OTHER TOPIC! Are you passionate about the history of dental floss? Did you try something new in a videogame? Please share!

Most parents know that relationships are harder to keep up when you have kids. COVID-19 added an extra layer of complexity. It's another layer of exhaustion and unmet needs. I cannot have several skype or zoom calls in a row. Or it might be that I am super tired and cannot be there 100% if I am tired, but was otherwise available from a logistical point of view. 

It is this exhaustion that fuels a feeling of mild social isolation.

4. Your Corona parent friend has less references to pull from.

There are many resources online and offline, but the majority of resources circulating-- and these circulate for good reason, they're awesome-- were developed without a  pandemic in mind. Many solid articles include interacting with others without social distancing and visiting heavy traffic areas.

 As a result, parents are adjusting most answers they find to their current comfort level regarding venturing out into the world and requirements issued by public and private places. 

5. Children are missing social experiences.

Having loved playgrounds when I was a preschooler, I couldn't wait to take my toddler to a playground. He was super young and could not climb the steps very well, but he loved the slides. He then grew to enjoy other playground activities with newfound physical agility. His interest then expanded into parallel, followed by mild interactive play. 

I took all of this for granted, and now we don't go anywhere. Although we are starting to form social distancing pods, this is a new development due to medical reasons. My eldest child who loves to use his imagination and play with others is missing weekends full of interactive play and games that teach cooperation, taking turns, and eventually sharing.

We have not had a playdate in 6 months, and while we may be an extreme case, I do not believe that we are unique. 

I am not sure if I have the stamina for the rigorous social calendar that my toddler used to have before this Spring. I am out of practice and now have to adjust to new social distancing and different policies about shares spaces like playgrounds. Venturing out to fun places is less fun for parents.

Likewise, your Corona parent friend may be in a similar boat and is adjusting to the COVID-19 world after trying to wait it out completely. It is stressful to leave the house, but waiting years for a reliable vaccine seems inconceivable.   

6. Standards have gone down.

Everyone's world is different, but as a general trend, the quality of life for your Corona parent friend has gone down. It might be because of a lack of babysitters, or remote learning for a school age child, or it might be just the toll on mental health. In any case, standards have slipped. And while that is sad, chances are that your friend couldn't care less. 

Right in line with the first point of things taking turns being okay, things are also taking turns being less okay. 

It might seem that I and others around me have changed our personalities based on how we act or live our lives. So, I wanted to remind everyone that responding to stress is not a personality.

I am now less detail oriented. I am now less inclined to start conversations because I'm saving my strength for middle of the night wake ups, night terrors, and nightmares. I am now less likely to try new or challenging things. I do not have room for my full personality right now. 

7. We see you trying to connect with us and live your best life with us in it.

 Your Corona parent friend had plans for the future that are now on a definite hold. Whether big like a vacation overseas or small like organizing a low key birthday party, all plans are on hold. And it is often friends with more bandwidth and creativity who offer a silver lining in the shape of alternatives.

We see you gauging interest and availability. We see you planning. We see you organizing virtual events. We see you producing videos or podcasts. We see you hosting drive by events, social distanced events, separate, but together events. 

We see you and we are trying our hardest at setting aside time and being more present and less tired.


 


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