Baking

Do you bake at home? It’s one of my favourite things and yet it was (shamefully) the thing I had not yet given Quentin a real opportunity to do. He would do a small part. Turn on the mixer, get out the bowl, but really he would just work in his kitchen while I did it. Maybe once in a while mix in the flour.

What was stopping me? I don’t know. How complicated it would be. Or the mess factor I guess.

How very UN Montessori.

I took the push I was getting from Deb and Kylie and plunged in…with something very simple.

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At his weaning table, ingredients divided into bowls ahead of time, some of the dry ingredients premixed.

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He started with stirring the oats already in his mixing bowl. I asked him if he wanted to pour. He said yes.

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Then he wanted to stir for a bit. There was a small “sampling”. He didn’t like it.

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He eventually said “Done”, got up and took off his apron. I cleaned up his table, got out his lunch and he ate while I rolled the Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies into balls and placed them in the oven.

So what did I take away from it all? It wasn’t hard to do. The pre measuring could have happened during a nap or after he went to bed for the next morning, but I did it while he was just in the other room and it didn’t take long. It was good that I had lunch ready to go so he could move onto something and I could finish and clean up. It was also good that it was a simple recipe. No exact measuring, no complicated ingredients.

I also saw the concentration, and delight in Quentin’s eyes throughout the process. He named (repeated the name) of each ingredient as it was added, and he knows that he made something for the family. He contributed to family life which is a big deal in the Montessori world.

The best part was just being able to share something that I love with him.

Our Day in pictures

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It was a day that found us unexpectedly at home.

From the top left: Painting after breakfast in the work space. Magazine reading. Foose ball match between Anthony and I. Quentin watches but doesn’t try to interfere. Quentin helps with his laundry.

Middle Row: Quentin and I walk to get the mail. We spot a puddle and come back with boots on. We need eggs for baking. A trip to the market is too far for Quentin to walk. Anthony pushes him.
With eggs ready Anthony bakes banana loaves while Quentin watches, too tired to help.

Bottom Row: Up from his nap, enjoying the loaf his Brother made. Anthony working in the yard. The late afternoon has brought the sun. The leaves are starting already. A “thank you” for helping with the leaves. Quentin’s first time in the tree house. “No Anthony, I will not let him ride up in the bucket!!” After dinner, back where the day began. This time Anthony is finishing something for school and Quentin is quietly putting his wooden acorns through the hole in his rocker.

This was 7am-7pm.

There was more. Meals, trips to the potty, book reading with Quentin before nap. Sewing with Anthony while Quentin napped. Anthony vacuumed before we even went downstairs to the workspace this morning. Rob came home from work, Quentin had a bath and went to bed and Anthony packed his lunch for school tomorrow.

Tonight (like most nights) we relax either together or everyone doing their own thing. Sometimes we tidy up a bit, sometimes not.

Usually our days apart fly by, almost at light speed. I’m so grateful for this day that the boys and I got to spend together. Looking back through the pictures, I’m even more grateful that it took its time.

The Magic of Montessori

I haven’t really written about Quentin’s journey into the world, and I’m not sure I’m ready now.

The night before his early morning (5:36am) birth, as we waited in the hospital, the medical team now sure that the contractions were not going to stop, the Paediatric Doctor came into our room. The message he brought was one we had been working so hard from the first ultrasound to avoid.

“A baby born this early……blindness, hearing loss…..mental retardation.”

I don’t really remember much else of that sentence, but I remember the next two clearly.

“We’ll have to take him right away. You (my husband and I) and he (my still unborn child) are going to have a long road ahead”.

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He was beautiful to us. Right from the beginning.

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This is him weeks later in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit technically not even born yet. Holding his face, like he did on so many of the ultrasounds.
While we waited for his homecoming, we went over all of the options in care available to us. His hearing and vision were fine and he did not require any immediate physical therapy. Preemies born this early (and earlier) are delayed in their development. An Infant Development Nurse was assigned to Quentin. She would come to our house once a month and help us form a plan to help him “catch up”. She would watch for areas that perhaps we could pay extra attention to.

We didn’t need to talk for long. There was already a complete developmental package available to us and it began at the hour of birth. It covered every area: the ways to soothe him, the essential materials needed, even the way to organize the infants room. It was all broken down and categorized for us. All we had to do was follow it. The Absorbent Mind would do the rest.

This is the Magic of Montessori

This is Quentin today:

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His nurse, a wonderful, caring women embraced Our Montessori Life from day one, having no prior knowledge of the pedagogy.

On her 12 month visit she reduced his visit schedule to once every 3 months. “It’s amazing that he can do that.” She kept saying throughout the visit.

Last Wednesday (16 months) she came again.

“I see no reason to continue to follow him.”

“Children his age, even his birth age, aren’t usually able to do those things (puzzles, pouring, matching, chores).”

I didn’t say anything at first. Maybe the huge grin on my face prevented it. But I wanted to say that actually, children his exact same age all around the world are able to do these exact same things. They do them in homes and schools and church basements and mud huts. I wanted to say that we are part of a community, that its all laid out. I wanted to say that we just did what others have done for over 100 hundred years before us and that all we did was to start down the path. I wanted to say that all children could do it, if just given the chance. But I didn’t. I just stood there.

As she was leaving she shook her head and said again that she just couldn’t believe it.

This time I didn’t hesitate. I managed to say: “That’s the magic of Montessori.”

Care of Self and Others = Family Time

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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.

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“Quentin, would you like a turn with the wheel?”

Besides all this modelling we also just had a lot of fun.

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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:

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Montessori Book Review

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This book is one of the gentlest, guides to Montessori in the home I have ever read.

Broken into three parts (the 1st year, 1-3 yr olds, adults roll) it uses clear language to describe the different Sensorial Periods, and how a home environment can be easily modified by parents to help us support the immense inner potential of a child beginning at the hour of their birth. Not wanting to step on the toes of anyone else that has reviewed this book, I wanted to write about how this book made me feel.

As I said I was surprised how it reads like a novel, not a “Montessori Text”. It didn’t make me feel confused, or “dumb”. Instead it showed pictures. Lots of pictures all the way through of children using materials, and parents offering experiences to young children. Many of the pictures I felt a connection with because we have done the same thing with our boys.

There are no charts or graphs. Nothing to put that terrible little seed of “my child doesn’t do that” into my brain. Instead the book simply speaks of things to try in the general age groups mentioned above.

For example:

A mat on the floor, in a room that has been completely prepared for safety, allows a child to come and go, exercising all his developing abilities.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is pregnant and interested in Montessori. I would also recommend it to those parents that are like me: seeking a simple, gentle, but thorough guide of how their child sees the world, and what we can offer them in support of themselves.