Wednesday, January 19, 2022

And Then We All Got COVID

Every day felt like we were just getting the life sucked out of us with no light at the end the tunnel.

And then we all got COVID.

Cover art Link:

My husband and I were vaccinated, but not boosted. All of the boosters in my area went to people who were adamant about needing them before flying to see family or friends over the holidays. Our kids are not of the age where they could get the vaccine. One of our children is high risk.

I’m now glad we’ve postponed birthday parties this year. It would have been an absolute disaster.

I also had to postpone ongoing medical care for the majority of the family. 

If anyone needs an incentive to avoid Covid, the Covid positive  requirements are draining. 

For a family of 4 it looks something like:

1. Inform workplace

2. Inform daycare

3. Inform extracurricular activity places

4. Ask doctor for guidance

5. Postpone annual check up

6. Postpone invasive medical procedure

7. Let family know they can’t visit and our plans have drastically changed

8. Order more rapid tests

9. Let friends and family know what’s going on 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Montessori with Siblings

 One of the best gifts that I could have given my eldest, was making him a sibling.


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I truly believe that having two siblings close in age, while it could be very toxic in some situations is a gift. 

They always have someone to play with even when we are away visiting family or when they are both sick.

Sometimes, they know how to share. 

And other times I have to remind them that kicking each other in the face is not a good choice.

It depends on the day. 

Well, here I wanted to dive into how Montessori parenting at home is different with siblings. It's harder, but it is a richer journey. The flavors of every day lessons are overarching. 

Harder to Follow the Child

First, it is much harder to pay attention to two kids and their inner world. Each child's motivation can become muddled as they play of off each other's influence. One day the eldest started to like cars more because the youngest started to like cars. One day the youngest started to like plushies because the eldest developed a love for them. Now there is a teddy that gets treated both better and worse than an American Girl doll. 

The Siblings Learn from Each Other

The siblings learn the good and the bad from each other. There will never be a day where one is not teaching the other something. And I hate to say it, but here I am trying really hard to have the eldest not become the "third parent" figure because that really affects their dynamic. 

And a bit of learning from each other is a very big positive outcome from Montessori classrooms with the large age ranges. The kids can learn from different kids. Then, this lesson becomes underscored when they teach what they learned to someone else. 

Most siblings who live with each other know everything about each other and can figure out what other has learned, and where there are gaps. 

Harder to Work with Some Learning Tools

One of the biggest issues that has come up has been figuring out is a tool is just as safe or accessible for a younger sibling, or if that tool should be put away. 

Before the mental load of the pandemic got the best of me, or just being a human, got the best of me, I had enthusiastically got an apple slicer for my preschooler that has yet to be used by that same preschooler all because the youngest should not be trusted. And let's face it, unless we are watching for it, we will not give a tool to a child unless it's a habit. And using it had never developed into a habit. I feel that right this moment, this apple slicer is actually my tool more than the children's.

I could say the same thing for some of the more advanced Montessori knives. I think it will take a long time before I will let my preschooler have a normal butter knife and that is because I don't want it to become a toy of harm during mealtime. 

While leads me to my last and key point...

You Cannot Just End a Lesson or An Activity if You Get No Cooperation

Let's dive into this. In the earlier example, if my child did start playing with a butter knife as if it was a sword, the activity would be over. The meal would be over. All of the food would be placed back in the refrigerator or would have to be thrown away. That would be the end and the child would know the natural consequences. My child would then get a snack later or that same meal or another meal later depending on his hunger level when he is no longer playing with the butter knife. 

Well, that's almost impossible with siblings. It's impossible to do because what is bound to happen is one child might be ready for an activity to be over, while the other child is focused and learning. And then it become even harder for you as the parent to then juggle multiple activities or multiple natural consequences. 

You also don't want to foster toxic sibling relationships and water those seeds of sibling rivalry. They are not learning good things if they are learning that the competition is outward, the expectations are outwards, the motivation is outward. 

You End Up with More Stuff

I remember I celebrated my little basket storage method when my children were not able to go on a home treasure hunt where they open box after box to find a "new" toy that they previously had no interest in. 

Preparing a good space is harder because each child, at different stages of interests and developments will have their own things. 

Sometimes, I simply reuse old tools like glasses, spoons, forks, etc. Sometimes, kids have completely different interests and there is a toddler toolkit added to the mix of toys.




Montessori Parenting on Low Spoons

"Is Montessori parenting just for the good days?"

Healthy and informed discussions rely on the good definitions. So to start I wanted to site where I’m taking the term spoons from. I love this term because it’s inclusive of any causes be they weather, personal mental health, or another external situation, it’s covered and it’s not the cause that is the subject of this discussion. Please learn about it here.

My interpretation of “spoons” are units of physical and emotional labor that equate to the smallest task. And different tasks can require different quantities of spoons. 

Charging a phone or paying a bill might be one spoon each. Doing a 2 hour workout might be 2 or 3 spoons. Some tasks just require more. 

So how does that relate to Montessori? 

I will tell you. As a parent and if you are doing this at home, maybe full time, part time, in bits and pieces, on weekends, during vacations, whatever your walk of life insists, you cannot take a day off from parenting on a consistent basis. There are no nights off, no sick days, you know the speech.

If you let the kids make their play kitchen wet, messy, or sticky, is that really conducive to your home life when the parents have no spoons left to facilitate these activities safely and comfortably? And then cleanup the home to avoid longstanding issues like water spots on the wood?

These past two years have been an ongoing test of mental and physical endurance. So the number of spoons we have had has been much fewer. And the Montessori approach to education has still helped!

Our Secret is We are Doing a Lot Less

We are doing a lot less against our will. Sometimes when I am in consistent pain, stress, sickness or exhaustion, I am just not my best version of parent, mom, person, anyone or anything. It's just bad. 

The best thing that I have learned to do on low spoons has been to just act like a hall monitor for the kids, making sure that they are not in danger and relatively happy. 

Instead of Montessori food preparation lessons that are intense because they require FOOD SHOPPING, meal planning, preparing instruments, making sure that the kids have the attention span, and then making sure that the kids eat and clean everything up to the best of their abilities in the ecosystem of our home, I just give them fruit pouches or something just as simple. 

And it is worth it!

One the other hand, other lessons lend themselves very well to low spoon days. Art, reading, writing, and building with blocks are pretty awesome because they kids get to help themselves. And you get a picture or a doodle or a tower at the end. You take a picture and share it with grandparents. It's great. 

There are plenty of low spoons Montessori lessons you can try that include matching socks, brushing hair, scrubbing nails with a nail brush, writing, art, reading, dusting, putting things away, using a dust pan, building with blocks, etc. 

If you are adjusting to intermittent times of low spoons, you might want to recognize that and anticipate not having the spoons later. 

Right now, I am looking for a period with more spoons to be able to potty train my toddler. I want to be able to teach my child to read. I know I cannot do those things if I am constantly in a fog of inattention, pain, or exhaustion. 

How Montessori at Home is Different

I am writing this because I love the variety of Montessori classrooms whether they are stationary, whether they move, or whether they are in your own home. When the class is in the home, you are both a parent and a teacher.

So I wanted to write exactly how Montessori at home has transformed my home.

Clutter is the Enemy

While it is a mess right now since life has been too stressful (more on that later). I found that I was no longer in love with accumulating things and I was more comfortable with letting go of clutter. 

Kids learn the functions of things. Having a bunch of stuff around to add to the mess, clutter up the home, or have things that only work half-way can be good lessons, but they complicate the lessons, remove focus, and almost train the child to be desensitized to a mess. And let me tell you, they will not clean up their toys if they are normalized to a mess. 

So that’s the biggest challenge, a classroom is not completely controlled, but it has defined contents. Where is the lesson on using things from the junk drawer in the Montessori classroom? Where is the lesson organizing the mail by recipient and junk mail? 

You are Actively Doing Two Jobs

"You are actively doing two jobs?" You might think.

"Trust me, I do more than two jobs all day long, 24-7." You might respond. 

And all of that is true. It is true actively, passively, it is true all day long. 

What I unique to the "teaching experience" for some of the sensitive periods or just activities that relate to the Montessori approach of following the child, is that while you are a unique wonder-human who takes care of another, younger, wonder-human, these lessons are "excerpts" that could technically fit well into a lesson plan or list of goals. 

I am not saying anyone can do it, but the task that you are performing is teaching. If you wanted to outsource this task, you would be looking for a teacher, not a nurturer, a cook, or a musician.

You are both a guardian and a teacher. And in this situation it is harder for the parents to divide their time between teaching, caring and nurturing, but the kids love it! Kids are sponges for everything and even if you just do something on the weekend, they know and they are learning.

Less Variety and Less "Learning Centered Tools"

The next way that Montessori at home is different is that you have less variety of tools and toys to figure out if your child likes something. Say a classroom might have 10 different brooms and mops, but your home has 3, and if there’s a variety that works better for your child, you might not find out! You might think that your child doesn't like the water poring activity, or the washing and hanging activity.  

Home Atmosphere Instead of Classroom

Montessori classrooms come in all shapes and sizes, but each follows the child and different stages of development. That is difficult to do when you are in the real world because quite frankly, reality can ruin the ideal timeline of lessons. Kids learn about things pretty fast based on their surroundings. While I wish I did not have to talk about germs until my kids could actually use a nail brush effectively, I have to talk about at home COVID tests. Trust me, I rather talk about what snowflakes look like underneath a microscope instead of what viruses are, each and every time. 

So you cannot avoid the much needed topics, lessons, and conversations. To do so, would be a great disservice to your child. 

And here is something even better. Why not strive to have a home that is more welcoming than a classroom? Why not feel fine about deviating from learning tools readily available, and instead have things that spark joy? Each child will have different things that spark joy. 

What if that thing that sparks joy is some kind of flashy animatronic dinosaur? Yes, let this live in your home if you have the means and the patience for it!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Gentle Parenting Examples: Natural Consequences

 I wanted to expand on gentle parenting because a big component of it is having conversations. These conversations cannot be too complex or too minimal, there is a goldilocks zone. What has worked for my family is the use of natural consequences, or events that can or will happen if the behavior is not changed.

So much of Montessori revolves around natural consequences, and not giving more to the mind than you give to the hand. And that's why right now, with limited attention spans, natural consequences are the way to get my children engaged and cooperating. 

My toddler's word recognition is amazing, his attention span not so much. So everything must be short, sweet and uncomplicated. My eldest is starting to dabble in imaginative play as preschooler are known for. And if a conversation is not too direct, a dinosaur, an elf, or a dragon will enter the narrative.

To me, the bones of gentle parenting are boundaries, natural consequences, specific options, and empathy. While I do not know what boundaries my kids may come across in their schools  or other environments, I do know that natural consequences are typically the same, when they are natural? Boundaries are constructs that we make as people, natural consequences are not. I cannot make a glass unshatter itself because I did not mean to drop it. 

I think this is the best and easiest route because kids are generally interested in the natural consequences of the world. And these natural consequences are independent of what I may think on any given day. By introducing natural consequences into gentle parenting, the kids know that you are not just making up the rules as you go, but are helping your child live in a dynamic and exciting universe.


And Then We All Got COVID

Every day felt like we were just getting the life sucked out of us with no light at the end the tunnel. And then we all got COVID. Cover art...