Sometimes when the day has been long and hard, the boys and I all climb up on the “big bed” and tickle, laugh and snuggle.
Quentin experimented with sound by covering and uncovering his ears.
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.
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.
A Prepared Environment: A natural, beautiful space that is prepared with cognitive and social developmentally sequenced materials.
At 15 months he’s walking (sort of) and going through an intense Sensitive Period for vocabulary.
With this in mind, I have put some new activities on Quentin’s shelves.
From top left: A basket of animals featured here. Next, a Practical Life dry pouring work. This is his second dry pouring activity and he is really refining his coordination of the wrist. His pouring has gotten much better. Next, his Fruit &Veg nomenclature cards featured here. I’ve put 3 pairs in the tray: apple, banana, carrot. He recognizes each picture, but doesn’t always match the carrot correctly. Last on the top is a DIY imbucare box with a rectangle block. I’ve just switched out the round cylinder box he had there before. Sometimes he forgets that you have to turn the rectangle to fit the sides properly, but mostly he gets it. This won’t engage him much longer.
From bottom left: A tray of wooden painted acorns for colour matching. Quentin actually prefers to use this as a touch sensorial material. Over and over he picks up as many acorns as he can in one little fist and then carefully puts them back in the tray (not matched to the proper colour). Next a shape puzzle. He can now take out all the shapes and put them back correctly. Next, a DIY clothes pin pincer grasp activity. He mostly still pulls the pins straight off without the ability to “pinch” them open. However, I continue to demonstrate the correct way and leave it at that. Lastly a lock box. Thanks to Rachel for her insight on this amazing material. He can now work most of the bigger locks. Although it is too heavy for him to carry, he still drags it out and uses it everyday.
I finally decided on this work mat from Montessori Services. It works well for Quentin as it is not too heavy.
It’s amazing to see that after months of me modelling it, Quentin now stands up, picks up whatever he has been working on and tries to put it back on the shelves. A “Keeping it Real” moment: he usually drops it halfway there. But he’s trying to do it. I have never given him a “Lesson” (demonstration). I just slowly, silently, pick up the material with both hands and slowly carry it back to the spot where it was on the shelf.
Although I have seen it many times before with many different children, the Absorbent Mind is truly a humbling and awe inspiring thing to witness.
I set up 4 magnets on the side of the fridge today. This was Quentin’s first real opportunity to use magnets uninterrupted.
They are small round glass stones with a nature print on the back and then a magnet. He enjoyed the sensorial experience. Rolling them in his hand and placing them one by one on the fridge. He spent over 30 minutes doing this. He even surprised everyone by saying “magnet”. He experimented by sticking them to the wall (with obvious results) and the heat register (which is not in use currently).
These would be easy to make with craft supplies. I’m thinking of family faces or his other interests such as vehicles and animals, but really you could make anything. I could cut out pictures and glue them to the clear stones before glueing a magnet on the back. Quite simple and fairly inexpensive I think.
This quiet game reminded me that literally everything in his world is still new and exciting. I allowed him the time to try it all out.
Perhaps a disclaimer is needed: These are magnets and could potentially be dangerous if swallowed. When using any material that may cause harm, (marbles, kitchen tools etc.) I have both eyes and my full attention on Quentin at all times.
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.
Since Quentin seems to be right at the beginning of a Sensitive Period for matching, I thought we would try some animals.
A few months ago I had borrowed a “Farm Animal” tub from our local toy library. We kept 6 in a basket on his shelves. At 15 months (13 corrected) he’s making the connection that every object everywhere has a name. “Dat?!” He would demand, pulling a pig from the basket. “Pig” I would assure him, trying to convince him (and myself) that the thing he was seeing was a pig despite its complete lack of any realistic features.
The Montessori pedagogy advocates for the use of real images (and real anything else) for children under the age of Cycle 2 (ages 6-9).
By showing care in the toys you choose for your child, you are showing him that he is important to you. You are sharing what is beautiful and meaningful to you in life. You thereby help your child in turn look for beauty and logic in the world around him.
-Polk Lillard and Lillard Jessen, Montessori from the Start
We decided to return the tub and purchase some Scheilch animals instead. Although plastic and not a natural material, I feel their realism outweighs that aspect.
Quentin fell in love with them immediately. When he chooses them from his shelves, he takes out each one from the basket and places them standing up. He is aware that there is a “big” one and a “little one”, but doesn’t match them together every time.
This time when he asks “Dat?!” he smiles when I say “Pig”, satisfied with my answer.
Today I made Quentin some fruits and vegetable cards for matching. After lusting after the ones on Michael Olaf I decided that I would search and see if I couldn’t find an alternative. These are from Mr. Printables. The are beautiful, show a real image and of course are free of charge. I printed off 2 sets and then laminated them for better durability. I presented them to Quentin by picking 3 cards and laying them down neatly left to right. I then picked up each card and slowly said the name of the image pictured. When I had presented all 3 cards I asked him for a specific one (ex. Where is the banana?). 3rd period lesson anyone?
He got it right away.
On a side note he clearly is ready for a work mat. If anyone has a suggestion or recommendation, it would be welcomed.
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.
The goal of Cosmic Education is to guide the child toward an initial examination of the question “Who am I”
-Children of the Universe: Cosmic Education in the Montessori Elementary Classroom -Michael and D’Neil Duffy
I know how to provide Quentin (14 months) with a developmentally appropriate prepared environment. It’s easy for me to make/purchase materials that facilitate the sensitive period he’s passing through.
Anthony is a different story. A boy who at 12 stands taller than me. A boy who sometimes hides behind a tough persona when surround by others his age, but still seeks hugs before climbing into bed every night. What do I do for a boy that is a man who is a child?
Cosmic Education beginning around the age of 6 and progressing through to the age of 12 was in short, Maria Montessori’s way of tying all the subjects of study in a classroom to the bigger picture so to speak.
We are at the end of that journey. Anthony knows the 5 Great Lessons.
But how do we implement them into his life?
The answer is simple. We walk. Or to be more precise we hike.
This is made all the much nicer by the fact that we live in a rainforest on an island in the Pacific. Yes, although it may shock some of you, Canada isn’t all ice, and houses made of snow.
Yesterday Anthony and I hiked to one of our favourite beaches. It’s a 2km hike through the forest.
Some of the trail is board walked but most of it is rugged terrain and leaves us sweating. The trees are old. Very old. Some of the fallen ones support their own biome with the growth of new life. Excellent fodder for conversations about the universe.
You come through the forest and descend a long staircase that empties onto the beach. There’s a waterfall that falls from the forest above onto the beach below. It’s beautiful and quiet with the exception of the waves crashing onto the beach. We laid out a blanket and our packed lunch in the shade of the cliffs.
We talked. I listen a lot and try to observe the boy that is changing. His body hasn’t grown at this rate since he was an infant. In fact Montessori likened this age to infancy. The child is deconstructing itself in order to build a new self. An adult self.
After lunch we walk the beach and stop at the waterfall.
Even the biggest boy can become the little boy when presented with water and dirt.
He needs a Guide more now than even perhaps in his first years.
There’s nothing better than taking in a farmers market on a beautiful Saturday morning.
Beautiful wholesome foods, locally farmed. Friendly faces and lots of sensorial experience.
Quentin is surveying the playground. He is a quiet and reserved child. He will usually observe instead of rushing in.
In the end he never made it passed the bar.
On a side note, this was the first time Quentin stayed in underwear for an extended journey. I haven’t worked up the courage to keep him in underwear if we’re going more than 15 or so minutes from home. Today we were out for 6 hours. We (I) have to reform my thinking. I have to shake off my embarrassment. So what if he has an accident? This is Quentin’s journey, not mine. I’m just the guide. I have to show I believe in him, not show that I doubt him.
We took him to the bathroom when we got to and left each location today. He went every time. We brought a spare change of clothes including clean underwear (just in case), & left the training diapers at home.
We never needed the change.