Magnet Work at 15 Months

20130813-191512.jpg

I set up 4 magnets on the side of the fridge today. This was Quentin’s first real opportunity to use magnets uninterrupted.

20130813-192312.jpg

20130813-192346.jpg

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.

20130813-192950.jpg

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.

Our Montessori Toddler bedroom transition

20130805-135038.jpg

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.

20130809-194957.jpg

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.

20130809-195823.jpg

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.

20130809-200946.jpg

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.

Toddler matching activities: Farm animal Mother and Baby

20130729-205653.jpg

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.

20130730-193821.jpg

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.

20130730-194501.jpg

New on our Shelves

20130726-200821.jpg

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.

The Things They Say That Drive Me Crazy

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

20130725-085852.jpg

It is so much bigger than memories.

Montessori: Our Cosmic Education Journey

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.

20130716-213331.jpg

Yesterday Anthony and I hiked to one of our favourite beaches. It’s a 2km hike through the forest.

20130716-213912.jpg

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.

20130716-214543.jpg

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.

20130716-215555.jpg

Even the biggest boy can become the little boy when presented with water and dirt.

20130716-220122.jpg

He needs a Guide more now than even perhaps in his first years.

A Saturday at the Market/Toilet Learning next step

20130713-210002.jpg

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.

20130713-210651.jpg

Quentin is surveying the playground. He is a quiet and reserved child. He will usually observe instead of rushing in.

20130713-211209.jpg

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.

Novel Ideas

This post can also be found on the new page with the same name. I’m hoping to keep this going there.

A room without books is like a body without a soul-Marcus Cicero

20130711-205218.jpg

We are a family of bibliophiles. I have fond memories of my Father reading to me every night. I spent many a sunny summer day, perched in a tree, surrounded by open fields, feasting on literature. So, when my parents came to visit us after Quentin came home, the first thing my Father and I did was make him a bookshelf.

On Quentin’s shelves for July: (the following contains affiliate links)

Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Simple text, colourful artwork and a happy ending. There’s a reason it’s stood the test of times.

Jon Scieszka’s Seen Art
A small boy accidentally visits the MoMA looking for his friend Art. A great story and introduction to many artists and their work. Probably suited for 3yrs+ but Quentin loves the pictures.

Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you see
Quentin asks for this every night. Not exactly Montessori due to the unrealistic colouring of the animals, but he loves pointing out the animals and claps at the end when we turn the page to the children.

Lois Elhert’s Eating the Alphabet
A new one for us. The artwork is stunning. A fantastic vocabulary builder for Quentin. Anthony enjoys reading the history of the foods in the back pages.

Lois Elhert’s Color Farm
This one is interesting. I love the geometric shapes, but the animals are too abstract for Quentin to identify them. Still, he loves the cut out pages. We will return to this one when he’s a little older.

Jon Scieszka’s Science Curse

Don’t ever tease a wee amoeba
By calling him a her amoeba.
And don’t call her a him amoeba.
Or never he a she amoeba.
‘Cause whether his or hers amoeba,
They too feel like you and meba.<

We’re also full blown science nerds.This is really just us making sure Quentin assimilates.

Lara Vaccaro Seeger’s Green
Also a new one for us. One of the most beautiful children’s books I have ever had the pleasure to read.

Although most of our rooms have bookshelves, not to mention the books on our bedside tables and coffee tables, this small bookshelf is one of my favourite things in the house. It is a memory holder representing a lineage of book lovers and holds my memories of my parents, grandparents and even my great grandparents sitting in a quiet spot reading. It is also a memory builder. Many a quiet hour has already been spent feasting.

Everything I (and maybe you) need to know about Montessori: Part 1

20130626-191249.jpg

When you hear the word Montessori what comes to mind? Most would say schools. Those that have little or no idea might say “That’s where the kids get to do whatever they want.” How many would correctly identify it as a pedagogy. A science or way of teaching. This pedagogy just happens to be directed at children, but not just “preschoolers”, and most certainly not just in a classroom.

20130626-192606.jpg

Maria Montessori used her medical background to study children of all ages, and walks of life. Over the years of studying how children learn, she set up “Children’s Houses”. A school unlike any other where children would be surrounded with natural, realistic beautiful materials. Montessori discovered that all people, right from birth are naturally curious about their environment.

Once the years of studying children and then designing the materials were complete, the rest flowed naturally. Invite a child (of any age) into a beautiful space (in Montessori language we call that a prepared environment). Give him/her an opportunity to freely move about that environment and choose freely from any prepared material they are intrigued by. Design the materials so that everything is accessible, easily manipulated, and has a built in control of error, so the child learns naturally from their own mistakes. Allow that child to work uninterrupted with that material for as long as they choose. Most importantly provide a Guide (in Montessori language we call her a Directress not a teacher), that will always speak quietly, respectfully and lovingly to the children. A guide that will assist the child in gaining new information, not telling the child what he should learn. A guide that will foster independence, without burdening the child with ego building praise. A guide that will demonstrate Grace and Courtesy (important words in the Montessori world) and Peace so that even the smallest child is able to show compassion. Over 100 years later, in over 100 countries, and 22,000 schools Montessori is changing the face of educating our children.

All this pedagogy or “way of teaching” is not limited to a school setting. That’s why many families all over the globe classify themselves (we are one of them) as Montessorians. We use the same fundamental principles described above in our own lives beginning at the birth of our children. Many would not agree with our practices that may include children self feeding, toilet learning and contributing to household chores at an earlier age than is readily accepted in most cultures. However I think all parents would agree that they love their children. Montessorians look at that love as a gift and a powerful one. Maria Montessori said “Within the child, lies the fate of the future.” I believe that was never more true than it is in todays world.

I will include this link for anyone wanting some ideas of materials. I would also encourage anyone to read Maria Montessori’s books. Especially the “Absorbent Mind”. You can find a link in a previous post. I will continue this series by going into greater detail on the different stages of a child’s development beginning from birth. I hope it will bring better clarity. Both to myself and others.