Tag Archives: montessori philosophy

Education News & Links

23 Apr

Sistema Winnipeg, an after school music education pilot program running in two Winnipeg elementary schools. It’s amazing! There is no cost to the families. They provide the instruments along with instruction by professional musicians and practice time for the children. It’s still a new program but so far the parents are reporting that their children have more positive outlook towards school and life in general and both parents and teachers see that it having a positive impact on their school work as well. Video and article here.

 

And after that lovely reminder of how important music is to children’s education, the Toronto School Board is considering cuts to the music program. Listen to Ontario Today’s interview and callers here.

 

Grandma got STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). This blog is subverts the idea of grandmas being completely out-of-touch with these complex subjects. Features inspiring, pioneering women who work in these fields. Great read for kids, especially girls!

 

Discipline in Montessori with Miss Donna 

[EDIT: I re-watched the videos again with Biker and missed the part when she did a slow drop of the baby because he hit her. Personally, I wouldn’t do that! Freestyle has hit me and Biker a couple of times (a light swat) but what we did was catch her hand gently but firmly and told her, “No. We do not hit.” Then, we asked her why she chose to hit us and tried to address whatever frustration she was feeling and give her acceptable options of expressing said frustration, such as telling us in words what is bothering her. She has only done this a couple of times and hasn’t since, so we’ll see!]

A lot of my discipline philosophy aligns with Miss Donna’s, which shouldn’t be surprising as she’s a Montessori educator (albeit much more experienced and eloquent than me!). I like Dr. Montessori’s “teach by teaching not by correcting” philosophy. 

I liked that she acknowledges that there is no right or wrong answer in parenting and that it’s mostly about the tone about 80% of the time. Makes sense!

In the videos, she talks about predetermined boundaries, agreeing on the basic issues with your partner, saying no first, commands vs questions, “choice-ing them to death.” I laughed when she talked when she told her story about her reaction when her son told her “I hate you, you’re the worst mom!” I dread the day Freestyle or Real Baby says that to me (but I know it’s coming!), but I will keep in mind what she said about that! 

Each video is about 15 minutes long but worth watching.

 

(When she said “issues,” Freestyle lit up and said, “Shoes! She said shoes!”)

 

 

10 Ways To Be the Parent that Teachers Love

6 Sep

No, you don’t have to bring the teacher flowers. Just wanted to post this pic of these gorgeous sunflowers that I got from a friend for babysitting her children.

 

School’s in session and it’s my 3rd year not teaching. It’s weird, but kind of nice too.

I’m very much enjoying being at home with Freestyle. Our tentative plan right now is that I’ll be at home (hopefully working part-time at home too) until the baby is old enough to be in a Montessori Toddler program. That is assuming that I can find a job in a Montessori school that will accept both of them too!

I was thinking back to my old students and their families, and thought this would be the perfect time for this:

 

10 Ways To Be the Parent that Teachers Love!

 

1. Remember that you and your child’s teacher are partners in your child’s education, as corny as that sounds!

Key word being partners. Know that the teacher is a professional and educated in child development and trust that s/he is working hard for your child’s education.

One of my favourite families that I ever worked with were a very positive and helpful bunch. You could tell that their house was full of laughter and love and their daughter was so sweet, well-adjusted, hard-working, and just altogether lovely. It was absolutely a result from the supportive and positive upbringing that she had, I’m convinced! They were always a pleasure to work with, and very responsive and supportive of me as the teacher. I knew they trusted me with their daughter’s education and were more “hands off” BUT were involved and the one time I mentioned offhand that their daughter had just begun a slightly negative behaviour (something that was very normal for her age), they took it seriously and addressed it immediately. An amazing family and an amazing kid.

 

2. No “Door Jam Interviews.”

If you have something to talk to your child’s teacher beyond “Tomorrow is Pizza Day, right?” then write a note in your child’s agenda or e-mail (whatever the accepted form of communication) to set up an interview at a mutually convenient time. Mornings are always hectic for teachers and there’s nothing more distracting annoying than a parent trying to engage you in an in-depth discussion of their child’s progress in the doorway while students are coming in and saying good morning, handing in homework, getting their day started, etc.

One time a parent wanted to go over his daughter’s report card right at 9:00am (you know, when class begins). I had to politely but firmly tell him that class had begun and that we would have to arrange an appointment. There’s nothing wrong with being proactive, but you need to consider everyone’s schedules and time it right.

It’s the beginning of the school year and of course you’re anxious to know how your child is adjusting, but the first couple of weeks really is reserved for review and establishing routine so I would wait a until October to have a chat with the teacher about progress. In my old school, we would do an informal phone check-in with parents at the end of October just to let them know how their child was doing and to answer any questions.

Your teacher should make a reasonable effort to meet with you face-to-face (if that is your preference) before or after class time. Go in with a couple of items on your “list” to discuss, but remember that the teacher will probably have a few things to share with you too. What you’re striving for is to end the meeting with a positive outlook on your child’s future and a willingness to collaborate and work together for your child.

 

3. Inform the teacher of serious illnesses/deaths/incidents/changes in the family.

It’s a difficult time for the entire family and though you may think school will be a place where your child can “escape,” it is very helpful for the teacher to understand if a drastic change in the home has occurred. It doesn’t mean that s/he will go out of the way to address it with the child, but it’s good to have this information in order to be sensitive/aware and to know to keep an extra eye out for any changes in behaviour or personality.

 

4. Take the time to read daily/weekly updates in your child’s agenda (or the communication channel that the teacher’s established), classroom letters/notes, school newsletters, field trip notes, etc.

Your child should be responsible for asking/reminding you to sign things, but of course, for younger children they will need help, especially in the beginning of the year. You can set up an “in-tray” at home and make it a habit for the child to check their agenda/communication bag and place all field trip notes, etc. into the tray the minute they are home. Please also be mindful of due dates and return things on time too!

 

5. Set your child up for success for their homework and other take home assignments (e.g. science fair projects).

The teacher will/should provide guidelines and help the child be prepared by going over the project, the objectives, the goals, due dates, etc. At home, your job will be to support your child to accomplish all the tasks on time. This may mean sitting down and planning out when and what they should do each day (in between after-school clubs, soccer practice, violin lessons, etc.). Start early! When we assigned homework on Mondays (due the following Monday), I went through each assignment with the group to make sure they knew what they needed to do and had them write down the due dates in their agendas. I strongly encouraged them to at least go through all the work that night even if they didn’t start because if they had questions they could ask them the next day. I always emphasized that asking questions on a Friday (the last school day before it was due) was unacceptable (of course I would help but didn’t want to encourage procrastination…this is from a master procrastinator!).

 

6. Do NOT do your child’s work for them.

Seriously, it sounds obvious, but it’s pretty shocking how many parents find it acceptable to actually do the work for the children. And trust me, it’s pretty obvious when this happens (a child who usually needs a lot of encouragement to write neatly suddenly has this picture-perfect science fair project).  I know it’s hard, but your job is just to support, not do for them. You want them to learn about atoms, not how to get someone else to do the work for them!

One year, I actually ended up making class time for the students to complete their science fair projects at school because there was a history of heavy parental…involvement (think university-level projects on displays that would be at home in a business meeting!). It was an Upper Elementary class and though our display boards looked less…polished than the Lower Elementary class’ (they brought their projects home), I knew that it was truly their own work and they felt proud of what they had done and learned a lot through the project preparation, which was part of the experience.

 

7. If you have a problem with something that the teacher is doing, talk to him/her ASAP. 

And I specifically mean that you should talk to the teacher first, not go directly to the principal. The teacher is responsible for the class and should be given a chance to resolve the issue with you first.

As aforementioned, ask to schedule an appointment with him/her at a mutually convenient time. To be fair, you should briefly mention why you want to meet. During the meeting, do you best to remain calm and explain exactly what is bothering you. Then, give the teacher time to consider what you’ve said and respond. Make it clear that you’re willing to work with the teacher and the teacher should be doing his/her best to work with you.

If the issue becomes a bigger problem (you don’t agree with each other and it’s a serious enough matter), then by all means, go to speak to the teacher’s supervisor/the administration. However, it is fair that you let the teacher know that you will be doing so. If you’ve both tried to communicate and work together and it still doesn’t work, then the teacher should understand why you are doing this.

 

8. If you can, help out! 

Everyone knows how stretched resources are in schools. Depending on your schedule, keep on the look out throughout the year to see how you can contribute to your child’s school experience. It could mean being a Parent Volunteer on a field trip, helping to sew concert costumes/build the set, bringing in a healthy snack, contributing to class parties, or joining the PTA.

If none of that appeals to you, ask the teacher! I’m sure he or she will have tons of little things in mind! It could be an easy one-off (I remember one parent donated a huge box of paper that his office was getting rid of– the Casa classes used it for cutting exercises and other art activities) or something ongoing (I had an ex-accountant parent help me with a couple of fundraisers that my class would run throughout the year– very helpful as I do not enjoy that type of work and also it was nice to have someone else responsible for that important task while I organized the kids).

Now, if you are truly short on time and money, then what you can do is very simple: make sure you know when the important school events (parent-teacher interviews, holiday concerts, poetry night, etc.) are and make room in your schedule. Parent-teacher interviews are obviously very important, but events such as concerts and science fairs are also important– especially to your child. I will never forget the look on one girl’s face when every single one of her classmates had a family member come to Montessori Day (where they presented a speech about Montessori and then showed their families a lesson and their classwork) except for hers. And it wasn’t that this was a one time thing…it was a common occurrence and I could see it break her. Every. Time.

 

9. Yes, your child is an angel, but take what they say about others with a grain of salt. 

This goes especially for arguments with friends– remember, you’re only hearing one side of the story! Kids may exaggerate or leave out details (both purposely and also because they honestly forget), so just keep that in mind!

Also, as one teacher that I worked with told one of her parents, “I’ll only believe half of what Timmy says about you if you only believe half of what he tells you about me!” Because they tell us a lot about what happens at home. A LOT. 🙂

 

10. If your child’s teacher has done something that you’ve really liked, especially if he or she has gone above and beyond, let him/her know! 

Just a quick note (“Thanks for meeting with Brian early yesterday morning and helping him with his math. We really appreciate your time!”) will suffice. Be specific about what was done and that you appreciate the effort. Trust me, that goes a longer way than random candles and apple-themed teacher paraphenalia at  Christmas time.

 

Any other suggestions from teachers/experienced parents?

 

Decisions, Decisions…

30 Aug

 

Freestyle is 2 years old now.

At this point, a lot of people start talking about “The Terrible Twos” : the point where your once sweet, easy-going baby has become a walking, talking, tantruming toddler who has very strong opinions and wants everyone to know exactly what they are– usually very loudly and when you’re in public!

Freestyle is no stranger to the tantrum. A couple of months ago, I ended up having to carry her from our neighbourhood park (about 2 blocks away), kicking and screaming, in the heat, while 6 months pregnant.

Parenthood is just so special. 😉

 

When I was reading Paula Polk Lillard’s Montessori from the Start, I paid especial attention to the chapter entitled “The Developing Will.” I am used to shutting down potential sulk-fests from older kids in the classroom and have become (mostly) imperious to tearful pleads from students, but what the heck do I do with my own baby?!

One thing that I remembered from Lillard’s book was that young babies (under 1 year), are so interested in exploring their senses and can be distracted, if they want an object that they shouldn’t have, you can quickly take it away and replace it and they would still be happy.

However, between twelve and eighteen months, children’s brains begin developing and they can now hold onto thoughts and remember the objects. They are developing their will, which is a good thing, apparently. 🙂 It’s more difficult now to distract them by substituting said object with another because they now remember it.

 

So, what do you do? The two strategies that are suggested are: Redirection and Choice.

 

Redirection

At this age, children’s language development is flourishing and using descriptive language will help redirect their thoughts to a new one. You can refocus your child’s attention to something else in the room using description. In the book, they used the class pet as an example because live animals are very interesting to children. Alas, we do not have any pets, so I’ve usually tried calling Freestyle’s attention to something she doesn’t normally look at in the room (e.g. a print that hangs in the corner of the room).

 

Choice

The second strategy is giving them choices. Specifically, two choices which have outcomes that are acceptable to the adult (you!). So, at dinner time you wouldn’t ask your child, “Do you want to eat dinner now?” because she could say “no” and that wouldn’t be an acceptable outcome. You could, however, say, “It is time for dinner. Do you want to wash your hands at the kitchen sink or the bathroom sink?”

For example, we’ve started to let Freestyle make choices on what she wants to wear in the mornings. Usually in the mornings, she likes to run around upstairs and will giggle and run away sometimes if you tell her to get dressed, so I do find it easier to get her to focus on the task at hand (getting dressed and ready for the day), by presenting her with two outfits to choose from. I’ve set them out the night before, based on the weather and what we’ll be doing that day, so both outfits are acceptable choices.

She loves being able to have this little bit of control. She is involved and is proud that she made a decision that directly (and immediately) affects her.

So far, I’m trying to keep to these two strategies, and on the whole, it does work. However, there are always going to be those times when you just have to ride out a tantrum and console yourself with a nice cold Greek yogurt popsicle (my current favourite snack!) in the kitchen while your little angel is screaming her head off and rolling around on the floor in the next room.

 

Any other advice for the so-called “Terrible Twos?”

 

And, as a bonus, here is something to watch if your child is biting. Enjoy!

 

The Sweeping Square

23 Aug

 

 

Like many toddlers, Freestyle likes to help do “grown up” things. In the kitchen, she can help with basic food prep and has begun helping me set the table by bringing the utensils and smaller plates/bowls to the table. Recently, Freestyle has started bringing her own plates and cups back to the counter by the sink after she’s finished eating all on her own! When she first did it, I admit I was a bit scared that she’d drop it (I was in the other room and found the plate and glass by the sink) but she’s doing well!

She also likes to wipe spills and sweep the kitchen floors and walls (though we’re working on that!). I am thinking of setting up a dish washing station for her soon…just have to figure the details out first.

For sweeping, originally I got her this little broom:

 

 

 

However, she likes using the broom we use too. It’s not too tall, so it sort of works for her. Since she enjoys using it, I want to encourage this helpful behaviour!

She can sweep with this broom if I am helping her, but recently I’ve been trying to get her to sweep on her own. To make it easier, I used some brightly-coloured tape and make a rectangle outline on the floor (I was going to make a square, but the area I chose ended with rectangles).

I’m showing her now how to sweep into the rectangle. Then I help her hold the dustbin while she sweeps the dirt into it.

It’s a slow start so far, but that’s what practice is for, right? 🙂

 

 

 

“These are my confessions…”

20 Aug

 

Dun, dun, duuun!

Sometimes I look at other parenting blogs and start to feel so…inferior. Everything seems so lovely and light and educational and healthy in their homes and it seems like their children’s days are filled to the brim with educational Montessori activities.

 

 

…a tangent…

This is why I quit facebook. I realized that I was spending so much time just clicking onto friends’ profiles and feeling so jealous and left out. Everyone looked better and like they were doing more exciting things in their lives than me. After awhile, I did realize that you can’t always trust people’s profiles since 99% of us will post flattering images and try to represent ourselves in the best light (I certainly did!).

So, I decided to take myself off to prevent these negative thoughts. I also was starting to feel odd sharing EVERYTHING online and didn’t like the idea that once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.

I am so happy with my decision.

Even now, whenever I email photos of Freestyle to friends and family, I always include the line:

Please do not post Freestyle’s photos online (facebook, etc.). Thank you!

Personally, I don’t like the idea of her image being seen by people I don’t know and again, being stored online forever. I also feel that she has a right to decide whether or not she wants her image splattered on the Internet, which is why I don’t post photos here of her face and use a nickname on this blog.

…okay, back to this confessional…

So, I was looking back at some of my older posts and didn’t want to be giving off the impression that we have this super-organized, super-healthy, super-organic, super-super Montessori household filled with teachable moments all the live long day, lest it gives the wrong impression of who I really am! That’s why I decided to be open and honest and write down some of the things that I’ve done as a parent that I’m not necessarily proud of and wouldn’t want/think to post here!

 

Here are my confessions (I’m going to try to list them without annoyingly trying to justify them all!):

 

  • This is a hard one…I’ve fed my baby poison McDonald’s. As much as I’d love to have Freestyle eat only a diet of whole organic homemade food, well, I have to be realistic as well. Biker and I try to avoid it (though there is one RIGHT next to where I live…darn them!) but do eat fast food once in awhile, and a couple of times we got breakfast there. I’ve fed Freestyle some of my Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and smoothie.
  • As much as I enjoyed co-sleeping (for the better part of the last year) and breastfeeding, I am also very happy that Freestyle now sleeps in her own bed in her own room and has self-weaned after being breastfed for about 22 months (err, with some gentle encouragement from me, I have to admit!). We really wanted this to happen well in advance for when the baby arrives so that she doesn’t associate getting kicked out of our bed and off the boob with the new baby!
  • Sometimes we don’t do anything productive/educational all day. On lazy days we just hang out at home. A couple afternoons found me laying on the couch reading and Freestyle playing beside me on her own. I think it’s also because it’s summer, so we’re mostly outside for the morning and then the afternoons we just hang out post-nap, pre-dinner prep. Once in awhile I’ll take her swimming in our condo pool. However, I am resolved to make a more formal plan for when she turns 3 next year, when I will prepare a (casual) routine and prepare a homeschool program for her (first year Casa).
  • I am happy with my decision to work part-time so that I can be at home with Freestyle, but sometimes I do miss getting dressed up (and by “dressed up” I mean wearing something other than a t-shirt or what Biker calls a muu-muu!) and going to work to be around other adults. There are days that feel so, so long but in the end, I am grateful for what I have, even though I sound like a whiny brat about it sometimes!
  • I have resorted to bribery on many an occasion. Basically, if Freestyle wants something (that I do find appropriate, not just anything!) but should be doing something else first, I will use that thing she wants as the carrot. Example: “If you want to play with the play dough, you need to put your blocks away first.” And yes…an extreme example: “Let’s get into the car NOW and I’ll give you a cookie once you are strapped in!” 🙂
  • As much as we try to limit Freestyle’s time in front of the TV/computer (One of the reasons we canceled our cable. The second reason was to save money!), there have been times when I’m on a deadline and it’s not a babysitting day and I’ve just worked on the computer with Freestyle on my lap while she watches a show/movie on the side of the screen. We’re to a point when she sees me on the computer, she assumes that she’ll be watching her new favourite, Winnie the Pooh. Uh oh.
  • There are times I just let her watch something on the computer while I just surfed or wrote a blog post. This I am going to make a conscious effort to stop though since it’s unnecessary. Err, starting tomorrow! (She’s on my lap right now because I am avoiding the piles of laundry that are awaiting me and uploading photos to send to my family!). Oops.

 

 

Whew, that was cathartic! Again, I’m not proud of them, but I also know they’re not the worse things in the world. BUT I do know that I should make more of an effort with them too…

Well, there’s no such thing as a Perfect Parent and I think great parents are made, not born. So there’s hope for me yet! That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. 🙂

 

 

If you have any “confessions,” feel free to comment here so that I don’t feel badly all by myself! 🙂

 

Pincer Grip Activity

19 Jul

 

Wooden Peg Pincer Grip Activity 

Age: 12 months + (Again, all children develop differently, so you can introduce this to your child earlier or later, depending on their readiness.)

Purpose: The pincer grip (the ability to use the thumb and index finger to grasp an object) is an important fine motor skill development. Activities that exercise the pincer grip prepare the child to hold a pencil (muscle development and control, coordination, purposeful movement). Dr. Montessori believed that exercising these muscles would prevent the child from becoming fatigued when he started to write.

Materials:

Wooden clothes pegs

Container (large enough to hold about 10 pegs with a lip that is narrow enough for the peg to be clipped upon)

Tray

 

What to do:

1. Place the wooden clothes pegs into the container and put it on a tray. Have child bring the tray to the table (or workspace on the floor) when ready.

2. Pour out the pegs onto the right side of the tray (or the left, if child is left-handed).

3. Show your child how to use her thumb and index finger to squeeze open the clothes peg and then clip it onto the container lip.

4. When she has clipped all the pegs onto the container, she can unclip and put them into the container one at a time.

 

Vocabulary introduced/used: clothes peg, clip. 

 

Go further:

  • Use tongs and tweezers to transfer small objects from one bowl to another. Objects could include: pom poms, cotton balls, sugar cubes, beads, etc.

Introducing Water Transfer Activities

5 Jul

Materials: 2 containers, 1 turkey baster, 1 towel.

 

Water Transferring Activity for Toddlers 

Age: 18 months + (As always, all children are different- for this activity they do need to have the dexterity to squeeze the turkey baster. Sponge option for younger children below.)

Purpose: This is a fun activity for toddlers since it involves water! Working with water is a great sensory experience and is good exercise for their hand muscles and fine motor skills. It is a Practical Life exercise because it teaches children how to control the movement of water.

Materials:

Towel

2 containers

Turkey baster

Water

 

What to do:

1. Lay out the towel and fill one container with a few inches of water. Place the two containers and turkey baster on the towel.

2. Show your child how to hold the baster by the bulb and draw up water by squeezing it and releasing the pressure on the bulb.

3. Move the full baster over the second container and squeeze the water out.

4. Repeat!

Freestyle decided to turn this into a pouring exercise too!

Vocabulary introduced/used: squeeze, baster, bulb.

 

Go further:

  • For younger children (even as young as 6 months!), you can simply show them how to use a sponge to absorb water and squeeze it back out again.
  • When they’re ready, you can show them how to use the sponge to soak up the water from one container and squeeze it into another.
  • Once your child has mastered this activity, they can begin learning to control their movements using an eye dropper and smaller containers. Place the materials on a tray and include a small sponge for clean up.