20140204-195751.jpg
For us, we pretty much can keep it together the majority of the year. But come each January it all goes off the rails. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s the post holiday deflate. The holidays are over and winter is most definitely here and maybe we just get stuck in a rut. Whatever the reason I feel completely run ragged.
So… Instead of dwelling on that fact or describing the deplorable state of the house, I’ll let you in on all the changes. Or some of them anyway.

The amount of change happening with Quentin is not able to be properly described in words. His language, movement and independence are exploding. It was over our Winter school holidays that Anthony very graciously decided that he didn’t need his Montessori shelves anymore and that Quentin could use them. The eight extra spots for materials means that Quentin has a really good variety of materials on his shelves but that there are not too many to overwhelm him. The Montessorian in me wanted to set them up as you would find in a traditional Montessori classroom: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math and Culture. That didn’t happen. I just couldn’t get them grouped right so I’ve had to let that go, and be happy with the fact that all 5 subjects are present throughout the entire work space. If you want to get an idea of the materials Quentin is using at 1 1/2, you can click on the Instagram photos on this site.

20140204-202707.jpg
My big change is that, after years of wanting to, I finally just did it and went back to school. I applied and got accepted into the North American Montessori Centre’s 3-6 Montessori Teaching degree. Yes, some nights there’s even a little wine and good chocolate to go with the studying. It is in a completely different direction than what my formal education is, but I have been longing to do it for so long that finally I just broke down and did.
It has been exhausting, but it has also been amazing. It has affirmed what I hold dear in my heart as the right way to raise our children and has given me a real chance to think about education on every level. But that is for another post. There is another piece of the school puzzle. My husbands piece.

My husband took parental leave when Quentin was born. It was an amazing thing for them both, and something that changed them forever. My husband also decided that his year of leave would also be the perfect time to begin his Masters of Psychology in Clinical Counselling. Yes, that is why there are two wine glasses and computers on the table. Most nights we are hunkered down together pouring over course material (hmm I think I may see a pattern forming here). He is nearing the end of his program and about to start his practicum, something that will mean giving his notice to leave his position at work. It will mean so many things, and they will all play out in time I hope.

20140204-214500.jpg

We have been reading this book with Quentin. We are focusing on Peace Education quite a bit with him right now. He is a beautiful, gentle, kind little boy, but like any child with an Absorbent Mind he mirrors what he sees. It’s extremely important to us that his day be filled with positive peaceful (ideally Montessori) modelling whether he’s with us or not. There are many things that I am hoping to change about his day, but until I know more I won’t give them away quite yet. I will only say that there are many fantastic resources out there to help aid Peace Education at home and I would encourage anyone interested to seek them out.

Through all of the craziness, it has been the teenager that has kept it all together. Anthony plays a large and important roll in his brother’s life. Despite Anthony’s extracurriculars and course load at school, he still plays with Quentin on a daily basis and I can’t help thinking that it is his Montessori life that has laid the firm foundation for his excellent relationship with his brother. He also follows his passions deeply, and he is a loyal friend. I really couldn’t ask for more.

20140204-222008.jpg

This year will see many, many changes for us. Some that I have mentioned and some still yet to come. When it gets a bit much I try to remember what’s really important, and what I try never ever to take for granted: we’re happy, we’re healthy, and we have each one of us together.

The Building of Peace

20131219-204357.jpg
It’s right around this time of year that this message makes me really think.

What does peace mean to our little family?

Well, it is not something that I can easily define, that part is certain. Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly right when he said “Hate begets hate, and violence begets violence”, but I don’t think that’s quite all of it.

I think Peace begets Peace

Like any other area of Montessori, peaceful behaviour is something that must be modelled if we hope children to do it. In our house we use the Silence Game when things become chaotic for Quentin. A single candle lit in a dim and quiet room while we sit together and quietly watch it calms him more often than not. We try (and try is the word because we are never perfect) to use calm tones when speaking to each other. Each of us finds peace in our home in their own way, and so I would (and anyone who has been here) call our house for the most part peaceful.

We have worked hard to have a peaceful home. For Small Hands has a great selection of Peace, Spirit and Conflict Resolution materials. The North American Montessori Centre has a post with some great ideas on making a Peace Basket and encouraging peace in your environment. But that’s only the beginning I think.

What about building peace in the world? Montessori implores us to build peace in humanity. An impossible task? I don’t know. Today’s world sometimes seems impossible. But Montessori lived through and advocated for Peace Education in one of the worlds darkest times. Surely there must be a chance.

Perhaps Empathy is a good place to start. Or Understanding. The worlds borders are shrinking smaller and smaller every day. Perhaps our instinct to think of ourselves and our families first gets in the way sometimes of sharing peace with our neighbours or the so often “forgottens” of our communities.

What would happen if I shared a small kindness with a stranger? Maybe nothing. But maybe something.

I guess I’m not able to answer my own question of what does peace mean to us. I can only start with the basics which for us are love and respect. How can we ensure those things for our children’s children’s lifetime? That’s a much harder one.

20131123-130026.jpg

Toilet Learning. It’s a hot topic. I have written of our lead up to toileting here. I feel this post will be my last on the matter as it looks as though we have come to the final stages of Quentin’s journey.
Although Montessori children generally master toileting earlier rather than later, it’s important to remember that every child is different. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that this is one of the most difficult things a child will ever do. They are mastering conscious control over their body’s impulses. They demand the utmost respect and support.

I was witness to something this week that has made me really think about this whole process and how we portray it to our children.
I arrived at a house to pick up Quentin. One child there who was much older than Quentin had just had a large accident in their diaper. I stood there dumbly and watched as the whole room was told how big and disgusting the mess was: in front of the child who stood naked in the bathroom doorway waiting for their change of clothes. Their eyes lowered. Completely humiliated. I gathered Quentin as fast as I could and left, fighting back tears.
Now, I know that the person changing the child loves and cares for children. I know that they said what they said jovially, and would never consciously hurt a child. But what about unconsciously.

What language do we use when speaking about toileting? What’s important? The words used or that they are said in a playful tone. Even if a parent is diaper changing an infant/child not ready for using the potty what do they comment on? I’m not sure about anyone else, but I have heard lots of comments on how “stinky” a diaper is, or what a “big mess” has been made.

Would it matter to you if a person you loved and trusted humiliated you while smiling or singing?

It would matter to me.

Our Montessori Semi-Holiday: Cosmic Education

What does Cosmic Education mean in a Montessori Home?

It means exploring the big wide world.

20131110-121942.jpg

Although Infant, and Cycle One (3-6) hold special places in my heart, my absolute favourite is Cosmic Education. It’s quite literally infinite in its possibilities.

20131110-125221.jpg

For Anthony, it’s about testing his limits (safely) and feeding that passion and hunger for seeking out the new.

20131110-123400.jpg

It’s also about having a little fun. We walk and talk.

“This is where the world came.” He says, more to himself than to me. In 15 minutes, we hear a handful of languages. We meander, stopping when he wants to look more closely at something.

20131110-124212.jpg

“Follow the Child” I can’t forget that just because the child is taller than me.

Our Montessori Semi-Holiday

We live in a small fishing village on the edge of the Pacific. Snow is a rarity for us, so we have to seek it out.

20131108-210651.jpg

Whistler Mountain (home of the 2010 Winter Olympics) is a few hours away (plus of course the ferry ride). Both boys are used to long car trips. We stop when we need to and keep everyone’s “limits” in mind. Anthony has things to pass the time in the car, but he enjoys looking at the passing scenery. Quentin still rides rear-facing in his car seat, and activities aren’t really an option, but he enjoys pointing out the things he sees and knows the name of. “Truck!” “Water!”

He as never seen snow before, he has no idea what it is.

20131108-211753.jpg

He walks the sidewalks saying “Bubbles, bubbles.” He thinks it’s soap. This still fascinates me. He has never experienced this before, yet he has the ability to search his knowledge of the world and come up with a conclusion of what the new thing might be. It takes him a while to confirm what we are telling him.

This is definitely not soap.

20131109-133029.jpg

We filled our day “Following the Child”. It was magical watching him expand his world.

Montessori in the Home: ideas for infants

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behaviour. He must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon. This shows the importance of his surroundings, for no one acting on the child from outside can cause him to concentrate. Only he can organize his psychic life.”
The Absorbent Mind p 202, Chap 22

20131031-102840.jpg

I have always advocated for the belief that it is not the “stuff” but the experiences that are important to a child. A song sung by a loved one is just as stimulating as any gadget to a baby. However, I’m asked on occasion for ideas of Montessori inspired infant materials, so I thought I’d share a few.
At a basic level you are looking for something that will delight the child, but many would be surprised where that delight can come from.
From a Montessori perspective, the items would ideally be made of natural materials. This gives the child an accurate sensorial experience. Wood feels very different from wicker and cotton very different from steel, but all plastic feels the same. Loud sounds and bright lights offer little in the way of concentration and often overwhelm or overstimulate.
In the very early months, mobiles and mirrors that an infant can concentrate on are often all that is required for “toys”.

20131031-104409.jpg

I love mobiles. There are a series of Montessori Infant Mobiles that can easily be made/bought, but it takes very little time to attach some items to a base and hang it from the ceiling. I made the above mobile by cutting out circles from some pretty paper I had and then stringing them into chains and hung it from a ring. This is not one of the Montessori mobiles, but is simple, beautiful and allows him to concentrate.

Black and white images printed onto cards are a favourite as well with younger infants. There are many out there. I love
Wee Gallery Art Cards. There are also many beautiful Montessori inspired options on Etsy.

20131031-115555.jpg

In the background on Quentin’s first low shelves are some “Treasure Baskets”. When the child is more mobile, they love looking at, grabbing, mouthing, listening to items in a treasure basket. Both Deb and Kylie have great ideas for treasure baskets for young infants. Even at this age a child has a strong sense of order. Baskets are usually kept to a single idea. You can put anything in them. A kitchen basket may have a spatula, flipper and whisk. Or maybe sounds. Or colours. The possibilities are truly endless.

The brown box on Quentin’s shelves is a homemade Object Permanence Box. I made it out of a square post office mailing box and covered it with kraft paper. I made three: a large round hole and ball, a small round hole and cylinder shaped block and a small square hole and square block. These are a great challenge for older infants. He used them right up until just after his first birthday.

These were his first materials. We supplemented these with lots of books and music and outdoor time. Looking back a year later, it went so quickly. It’s often a huge stress for parents to provide the “right toys for optimal development”. I think what’s important to focus on instead is providing quiet uninterrupted time for the child to concentrate and explore their world.

Pumpkin carving

20131027-195721.jpg

The humble pumpkin.

We North Americans (and now many others around the world) have this crazy tradition. Every Autumn, we trudge out into muddy fields and supermarkets in search of that perfect orange squash.

This is Quentin’s first real Halloween. He had no idea what to think!

20131027-200044.jpg

He tried sitting beside it.

20131027-200221.jpg

And then on it.

20131027-200444.jpg

Finally Anthony came along and showed him (and Oscar apparently) what to do.

20131027-200846.jpg

There was some initial hesitation when he saw what came out of it.

20131027-201510.jpg

Anthony was patient.

“Eeeww pumpkin!”

20131027-202010.jpg

20131027-202048.jpg

20131027-202125.jpg

He liked it more as he went along.

20131027-204322.jpg

“Wow!”
“Candle light”
“Pumpkin Light”