Showing posts with label Montessori. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montessori. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Montessori with Siblings

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


art source:

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!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Our Experience with the Montessori Floor Bed


What is the Montessori floor bed? 

It is just what it sounds for the most part. It is a bed on the floor. It can be just a crib mattress with linens or it can have a wooden frame, canopies, and even be a part of a bunk bed arrangement. If you have the imagination, the sky is the limit if you start at the floor.  

Aside from the teaching methodology, a floor bed is typically the go-to solution in cases were a bed frame does not fit or is cost prohibitive. These beds are very common and it would be simply a lie to suggest that they did not exist before Maria Montessori. 

The novelty of the Montessori floor bed is that it is meant for a baby or a toddler. It is used as a teaching tool to help a child build confidence and independence by not needing a caregiver to put him or her into or out of the bed as with a typical crib. Being on the floor, it also alleviates the risks of babies falling from its height or the bed itself toppling on an unsuspecting baby. 


Why should you use a Montessori floor bed?

The generic answer is that it provides your growing and developing child a degree of independence to move around in and out of bed without a worry for child safety. 

My personal answer is that while I love the built-in independence and an opportunity for child development while maintaining safety, I also love it for night time feedings. Neither of my children slept through the night no matter where they slept. I often woke up for night time feedings and found it was easier to lay down next to them and feed them. It was comfortable and did not require lifting the child over a railing.  

Our Montessori floor bed story

I always thought that I would have a Pinterest ready room. I always wanted to have matching colors, a crib, all of the typical nursery items. And then, I got exposed to Montessori education and realized that a floor bed might meet my family's needs a bit better. 

I get a ton of questions about using a Montessori flood bed in my home. So I wanted to write an article to answer some of the most common questions and describe my experience. 

I also considered building a more structured bed so that it felt more official, but I soon decided against it since a base raised the bed off the ground, and any framing could cause a potential injury to my baby. We ended up setting up a crib mattress on the floor with a fleece blanket next to it for accidental falls or movements in the middle of the night. 

Was it cheaper than investing in a crib, yes.

Did I do it for all of my kids despite difficulties in room sharing, yes. 

Would I do it again? In a bigger house, yes. 

The floor bed was very helpful when my son would wake up early and play with toys in his baby-proofed room while my husband and I could stay in bed a little longer and know that he was safe and entertained. That alone to me is worth it. 


If you are considering a floor bed, I want to make you aware that children adjust to it differently depending on what they are used to. That said, my oldest was exposed to our floor bed and pack and plays and it was more of the environment than the bed that determined his sleep quality.

Along the same note, it is hard to have your child adjust to the floor bed when the environment noisy. 

Some babies experiencing separation anxiety may leave the bed and try to find you when they would simply cry for your attention inside their crib. The floor bed does not fix separation anxiety.

I also wanted to speak up and say that while most people have found no issues with the floor bed, especially after presenting them with its role in teaching independence and safety, I have received a few comments from family along the lines of a proper toddler bed being more "classic" and a default-- ahem-- I mean, a better choice. And to some, the floor bed is too much of a new or a different concept, and that is okay. I for one, would not change it since it brought so many good things to my family.

Floor Bed Update

We have shifted to using a floor bed in a SHARED nursery. Space is at a premium in a house that we had over-grown. And that is okay. 

I want to take the time and say that extra measures are necessary to ensure safety for babies is maintained. After all, they will first learning to crawl out of their floor beds in shared spaces where they might come across things that belong to other family members. 

We have had to use some creative baby-proofing to ensure that some of our shared furniture met met our standards. We wanted to create a space that was safe and interesting for our child to explore and we did that by making sure sharp edges were guarded. I will say that it was a bit heartbreaking covering some beautiful tables that were masterfully refurbished by skillful family members, but it is worth it. I will say this, it not much more difficult to have a floor bed in a lone, completely baby-proofed nursery than it is to have one in a shared nursery.


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.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: Montessori From the Start

I wanted to take the time to talk about one of my favorite parenting books. This book is called Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen.

As a mother of two, I grow to value this book more and more each day. I think that I reread it twice now and I can honestly say that it was a really good guide for teaching my two children life skills.

It was also the first book and first major resource that I found to include everything from before birth to three years of age. I have framed many resources that I have found on the internet within the timeline and content of this book.

The book content is divided into 10 wonderful chapters that cover an overview of human development from the lens of Montessori education including: the environment of a newborn, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, communication development, and life skills involving multiple sequential tasks.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is on page 18. It summarizes our endeavor as parents, "Today, although some of us enjoy the greatest affluence the world has ever known, we find that developing a home environment that serves the human spirit, a home of beauty, order, and simplicity, remains a very challenging task."

Reading that sentence puts things into perspective. Many adults crave an environment such as this themselves. And to be quite honest, there are a few good habits and life skills that I would like to build on. Everyone keeps learning some things regardless of age. Similarly, as we get older, our environments change potentially in surroundings or the people surrounding us.

I found the beginning chapter covering the preparation of the nursery for the child to be very enlightening and made me appreciate the book immediately. Instead of promoting that themes should be ever-present and all linens should match, or that the latest gadgets are required, this chapter goes back to basics. You are the most important person to your child. Things help, but a child can still be happy and develop a good sense of self with just the basics.

Using this Book with One Child in the Home

My eldest is now almost out of the age range covered in this book and I can confidently say that I have tried the majority of lessons with my child, and the majority of them were helpful.

He got to experience a nursery with a floor bed, a few toys, an adapted mirror, a changing area on top of a refurbished dresser, a rocking chair, mobiles, and a side table for essentials. We did include a humidifier, a fun color on the walls and some other things that were not completely Montessori, but for the most part, it was simple.

I think a lot of people would highly enjoy the middle chapters covering practical life and personal care skills. I can tell you that I had the sequence of "toddler knives" planned out for a long time. And I was a lot more excited than he was when I adapted the Duktig from ikea to allow him to store child sized things and complete child size meal preparation. It was special to watch my child make parts of a meal or make a snack. And I think these chapters guide the parents to allow their children to become more independent than before because it can be a bit emotional to watch your child outgrow a stage.

There were ups and downs following this book. I had tried all of the advice on potty training and it was still hard. Some things will always be harder than others.

Using this Book with Two Children in the Home

I was lucky to have read this book before any of my children were born because I would not have been able to implement anything otherwise. It is hard to manage the needs of two children at once and it is even harder to manage these needs while also teaching them and helping them become more independent people. It is much easier to just take care of them when you are constantly running around. And it is harder to patiently watch your oldest put on a shirt with his head and arm coming out of the collar when his younger sibling is fussing over a toy that he threw just out of his reach.

What I learned was that my at one time useful mobiles now got more attention from my toddler than captivation from my newborn. And as a result, these shapes were often thrown across the room. Likewise, my younger child liked to bite on my older child's animal toys as much as his own teething toys. And my older child was happy to provide them.

Limited intentional lessons, those typically presented on a tabletop, in a basket, or a tray, are now almost seamlessly integrated with the rest of the house. My youngest child has a zone where his lesson items live and that only includes mobiles, teethers, and shapes, while my oldest child has the command of the rest of the house where he knows where everything lives.

So there have been times that required more perseverance than others. It is not easy to be a mom when you are outnumbered and it is not easy to Montessori when you are outnumbered. 

I will cover how I have adapted and implemented the techniques, toys, suggestions, and lessons within this book and others.

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...