Grace and Courtesy and concern for others: offering food, saying “please” and “thank you”, and other good manners appropriate to the child’s culture, modelled by adults for very young children.
-The Joyful Child Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three – Susan Mayclin Stephenson
In our house that translates into spending time as a family doing activities that the boys enjoy.
The easiest and often most rewarding is to go for a walk.
Today we stopped at the playground first. All of us model gentle respectful language with each other. Anthony is a great role model for Quentin. He is calm, and speaks respectfully to him.
“Quentin, would you like a turn with the wheel?”
Besides all this modelling we also just had a lot of fun.
We stopped at a local shop for some freshly made “sweets” and coffee. Then we walked home.
The rainy season will return soon. It’s nice to take advantage of the good days.
Back at home, when I had finished putting things away, I came out to the front yard to find this:
It was time. I hated the crib. In Montessori Infant Communities/Nido’s babies sleep on firm mattresses on the floor. We live where it’s damp most of the year. With the dampness comes mold. Everywhere. Our beds have to be elevated to allow for airflow. So we had a crib, and I waited for the day he could independently climb into his bed.
The day is finally here. His low shelf continues to hold some creative materials. A wooden drum, small basket of wooden blocks and a basket of trains. Everything else with the exception of the Practical Llife kitchen items and his Care of Self area in the bathroom is downstairs in the boys work area.
The table and chair in Quentin’s dressing/Care of Self area were made by my Great Grandfather. I’m so pleased that they are a part of Quentin’s room. This is where we help him dress in the morning, and comb his hair. He loves looking in the mirror when he’s combing/I’m combing his hair. His little book bag was a custom made 1st Birthday gift.
Quentin’s closet: from my perspective and his. The blue striped storage bins on the top shelf are where we keep the materials that are out of rotation, and some of his preemie clothes which I can’t bare to part with even though they make me sad sometimes. The clothes rail holds his special occasion clothes. The rest of his clothes (and there aren’t many) are stored in the easy to pull bins or on the shelves of the shelving unit. The bins are for the larger items (pants, shirts & pj’s), the shelves hold his underwear and his sock basket. Everything is at Quentin’s level so he can independently access his clothes, but the bins also provide me the opportunity to quickly clean up his closet without having to stop and hang everything on hangers. The large blue striped bin on the floor holds his dirty laundry.
Lastly, there is the nursing/snuggling chair in the corner. The quilt on the back of the chair was presented to us in the hospital. The local quilting group presents every premature baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with a handmade quilt. I chose it before I even got to see him (other than the brief seconds after delivery before they rushed him away). It came home before him and has seemed to always be here. The books on the table are antiques of favourite stories, and some of my Montessori books.
Breast feeding a preemie is difficult to say the least. It was a ridiculous ordeal, but I stuck it out and he naturally weaned himself around his 1st Birthday. This spot remains one of our most favourite in the house. We still read stories before bed here, but it holds much more than that. For me it’s the hard work and effort and love of my child all wrapped into a cosy corner.
That’s his bedroom or most of it. I will have to photograph the artwork in another post.
I’m happy with it for the most part. It’s simple, beautiful and filled with natural light. It will work well, and is easily changeable to suit Quentin’s changing needs.
This may surprise you but I’m not talking about my children. I’m talking about others who are talking about my children. Does anyone else (especially Montessori Families) feel this way? That bubbling anger I feel inside, when someone discounts my child as nothing more than a, well a child.
“He’s not making memories”
Referring to Quentin. I suppose they are suggesting that he is, biologically, younger than the age where his adult brain will one day be able to recall.
Although I have never responded to this comment, it makes me feel like shouting. Is it assumed then that because the child won’t remember, it doesn’t matter?
“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.”
– The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori
It is so much bigger than memories.
Our Montessori infant weaning table & hand washing station: At 11 months Quentin can push back his chair from the table when he’s finished, and open the kitchen cupboards. He still needs help to get out a table setting. The little vase is empty; needing its flower replaced. The “fine art” hung at child’s height above the table is a simple post card in a frame.
In Montessori infant communities children eat at small tables sitting on small chairs as soon as they can sit comfortably. Everything a child uses (similar to the rest of the classroom) is designed to be as realistic as possible. This means real silverware (sized for a small child) and a real place setting including drinking cup.
We use porcelain plates and bowls and glass drinking cups. Although many Montessori material companies sell infant drinking glasses such as these we just have heavy shot glasses for now.
The worry of course is a young child and broken glass. I think what’s important to us is that there is always close supervision of Quentin while he is eating. We also have a linoleum kitchen floor. It may be why we haven’t had a broken piece yet.
Maria Montessori anticipated negativity around using real and fragile dining ware:
…they place more importance on the glass than on the child; an object worth a few cents seems more precious than the physical training of their children. – Maria Montessori. The Child in the Family.
We store everything in Quentin’s hand washing station.
This has worked really well for us. It fits the Montessori principles of being beautiful, functional, and real looking. Quentin has just started washing his hands in the tiny sink.
I suppose the difference in our Montessori home is that not every room is set up in a Montessori way. We have a big house. I need part of it to be just for me. So although the boys have access to and are welcome in the living room there are no materials here. Instead they have their own space. A space entirely dedicated to them and them using materials at their own pace. Their bedrooms, the bathroom and the kitchen all have Practical Life and/or Care of Self aspects in them as well, (that’s another post) so I don’t feel too guilty when I say the living room is just for me.
This is how the space began. Quentin was 4 months old. It has concrete floors so it needed carpet. The wall mirror and movement mat were where we hung the Montessori Mobiles. But the shelf didn’t have a natural flow.
It got better. Quentin got older. This was the space when Quentin was 9 months. The movement mat was gone and so were the mobiles. The all important mirror remained with the new addition of a pull up bar.
His shelves at 9 months:
The pull up bar helped Quentin incredibly with his “pre-walking” phase. Anthony’s shelves are better organized. We also added this:
Quentin’s gross movement area and a reading corner at both boys could easily access.
At 11 months this is the space now.
The pull up bar is gone. A work table that Quentin can independently get up from is key in an infant Montessori space. There are many on the market, but we were lucky enough to have one made out of locally logged cedar by a friend.
So that’s where we are. It’s not perfect, but the boys enjoy it. The big window above Anthony’s work table lets in a huge amount of light and there is a large maple tree right outside where we watch the birds come and go from the feeder. As with all Montessori environments, it will continue to evolve to meet their ever changing needs.