Our family’s Montessori rhythm during crisis

The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment and efficient functioning therein is the very essence of a useful education.” – Maria Montessori

Like most around the Earth, we are in a holding pattern: No school, no work, no in person social interactions and with all of that no typical day. And so although this can be a scary time, allowing for our natural family rhythm to find its footing and then letting it guide our days has meant some peaceful moments and also some relfection.

Breakfast is over an hour after it normally would be (we get up REALLY early for school), but we still all make a healthy meal, and sit together. We have found that some Practical Life/Cultural activities that are child led but with adult participation help get the morning started. Focusing on his interests instead of prescribed or adult centred learning outcomes sets us up for a much better day. Sometimes he decides to open an ice cream shop, sometimes he decides to help with the household laundry and sometimes he chooses to study the animals of Australia. Most lately he has been helping to renovate his workspace, laying new flooring and painting his chosen colour of a soft lemony yellow (called Frozen Banana).

Whatever it is, we let it flow at his pace, offer help to set up materials (much more effective for us in the morning than leaving it solely to him) and above all, follow his lead.

We usually bake when it’s closer to lunch. Baking simple recipes usually breads like these cheese and herb biscuits that I’ve been baking since I was a child, brings us together in the kitchen.

It’s usually at this point that he will decide to take some time for independent play. This has been the biggest difference. He is a child that has played for hours on end by himself since he was a little toddler exploring his toddler shelves. He has chosen to stay closer to us lately and we have folded that in as much as we can without drawing specific attention to it.

We make a point of setting the table for lunch and putting some music on. Something instrumental and in the background. It is a slowing down part of the day for us. Sometimes we talk or sometimes we just eat silently listening to the music. Sometimes not saying anything is important too.

After lunch (or often before if the day calls for it) we get into our gardens. Working in the earth is such a sensorial necessity for so many children. Caring for small seeds and tender baby shoots gives us a chance to look forward to something. A little long lasting project that isn’t expensive and is easily doable even if it’s just a few lettuce seeds in an old soup can on the window sill.

We plan to have some “rest time” time in the afternoon. Some space where we are available but where time alone can allow for big feelings to come out. Most often that looks like us all curling up with a good book, but sometimes it looks like Quentin actually falling asleep. He is almost 8 years old but forever a preemie. He curls up with a book and a blanket and listens to his body. Sometimes that’s on the couch with his kittens and sometimes that’s outside on a blanket in the backyard with his big brother.

In the late afternoon he will usually return to playing by himself, often with LEGO or open ended material. This is when we try to schedule our business meetings, calls and emails. It doesn’t always work like this though and we do our best to be mindful of everyone in the house as we try to balance our professional commitments.

Then its dinner making and bedtime routines and our “not so normal” days catch up to our “normal” days at this point. Sometimes Quentin helps make dinner, sometimes he continues to play with his toys, sometimes he decides to make a craft or watch some media, or go play outside in the yard. Although there is a basic Grace and Courtesy foundation of “clean up what you got out” and “help others when you can” he has no set “chores”. After dinner, he has a bath or shower, gets ready for bed and we offer to read to him which he still loves and usually chooses or occasionally will opt for reading his novel independently.

This isn’t all of it and it doesn’t always go smoothly. He misses going out to the beaches and forests and even just to the library. He knows that his birthday is in just a few days and that there won’t be any friends or extended family to celebrate with. That’s hard when you are about to be 8.

Also mixed into the days are the video check ins and assignments required by his Montessori school although we are thankful that his school has seen the enlightened benefit in “Less is More”.

Find this quote here

This came across our screens a few days ago and hit home quite hard.

We are doing what Maria Montessori implored us to do a hundred years ago:

We see the figure of the child who stands before us with his arms held open, beckoning humanity to follow.

Montessori Book Club: Books for Spring

It’s been a quiet few weeks for us here. We, like the vast majority of the world are together, safe at home, watching and waiting to see what will come. But it is also Spring.

Spring for our family has so much to celebrate. The end of the rainy season, our wedding anniversary, and Quentin’s birthday. It’s a time we look forward and make plans and that’s all changed a little bit with this new “normal” around the world.

So, to capture some of the feelings we and our children may be experiencing, I wanted to showcase this beautiful new book sent over from Grey Stone Kids.

It’s a beautiful, simple and easily relatable story of a parent tree, covered in seeds who are small and silent but will one day be big trees of their own.

It touches on the feelings of worry we as parents and caregivers have about the children we love. Will they be okay? Am I protecting them enough, and above all, maybe I could keep them little for just a little bit longer.

It shows us that we can care for them and love them and even fuss needlessly over them, but one day they will grow up and that our confidence in them and their abilities will be one of the defining factors in their own self confidence.

“Stay Little Seed” releases on April 7 just as gardens are warming and trees are waking up here.

Montessori Practical Life: Baking – Where to start

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 decided to take a leap 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.