"Each second we live is a new and unique moment of our universe, a moment that never was before and never will be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. We should say to them: Do you know what you are: You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the world there is no other child exactly like you. And look at your body - what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move! You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel."
Our house continues to evolve.
As a family of four we were having trouble squeezing friends around our dinner table in the corner where it was.
We had a bigger area at the back of the playroom which wasn't really right for anything else. I had tried making a play space for Fox there but it hadn't worked out. The problem was that it was too close to the playroom to keep Fox and Bear separate. It is also a dark and ugly area at child height. I think that was part of the reason the boys didn't seem to like being there. They would ignore the toys on the shelves there.
I moved the dinner table into the dark ugly space (which is less ugly at adult height) which has opened up a new area for the boys to play.
The space is a 2mx3m thoroughfare next to our kitchen. Fortunately little children don't need much space. There is enough room for a little shelf, a little table, a little chair and some space to play on the floor. The glass sliding doors look out to the yard, with sheep at the fence and the hills beyond. At toddler height this is the best window in the house to watch the freight trains come past. Izzy's (the dog) bed is just at the door - she can lift up her head lazily to peek in and see what Bear is eating for lunch.
It's a space both Bear and Fox can use. I have a few things on the shelves for each of them and it has become very popular!
I think they are attracted here because everything is on their scale. It fits them just right. They can look out the windows. They can reach their things. They can sit quietly without being in the way. Bear can even open the door himself to go outside. They can find what they are looking for and concentrate without being distracted.
The proximity to the kitchen is an advantage as well so that I can do my work while they do theirs.
It has become helpful having a second area to play so that I can separate the boys. I don't have a toddler area and an infant area - almost all their things are safe to be shared so they both come and go as they like. But there are so many times when they get in each other's way and frustrate each. All I need to do is pick Fox up and put him at the opposite end of the house to Bear and he happily finds something else to do. Then they can both concentrate where they can't see or hear each other.
A new spot for Bear's "naughty chair" has opened up as well. He can't reach anything from the chair and he can see (and be seen from) almost every part of the house. Perfect.
It's a constant challenge making our house meet all of our very different and constantly changing needs. But it's so satisfying to solve a problem in a way that makes home a more peaceful, more comfortable and more fun place to be!
The last time I wrote about toilet learning was a while ago.
This process has been very gradual. Bear has inched along at snail's pace. It doesn't feel like we're moving until we look back to where we've come from.
At the moment Bear is able to keep his undies dry except in exceptional circumstances.
He usually needs help getting undies off and on. I think this is more of a confidence issue than a competence issue. There are times when I am not able to help him for some reason and he manages without me. I have not been able to coax him to practice despite my best efforts - I think I need to get better at stalling!
Bear is still usually using a potty but he is starting to choose the toilet with a toddler seat at times.
He will usually cooperate when I ask him to do a wee before getting into the car and he is incredibly reliable when we're out.
This is a summary of Bear's toilet learning milestones to date:
Toilet learning is a complicated process! There are still more milestones yet to be reached:
I was planning to wait until the weather cooled down before doing hard physical work in the garden. It turned out I was too excited to wait!
Although it is technically autumn the temperature has stubbornly risen to 35 degrees everyday for over 3 weeks now. It is stifling. I am impatient for a cool change. Every morning I open up weatherzone hoping for a prophesy of rain or a day below 30 degrees. Nothing. Just hot blue skies ahead.
However the delivery of an enormous load of mulch has given us all renewed energy!
It is helping us imagine the cooler months to come and to dream of planting and watching things grow.
Despite the heat working outside with my favourite people is refreshing. It is my favourite thing to do at the end of a frustrating day. It is amazing the way physical exhaustion seems to cure emotional exhaustion.
Bear loves being a part of his family's work. . He has had a lot of practice with his wheelbarrow and his shovel. He's an enthusiastic and effective worker. He is tireless! He chatters the whole time about: "All working sooo much hard!!", "pushing heavy wheelbarrow - need two hands!!", "lifting big scoop!!".
We work in the mornings too. There is plenty for us to do. We're starting by filling all the holes, lining paths, covering up the dust and smothering the weeds.
We have not managed to keep the grass alive. We're working on some more climate compatible alternatives!
Fox is able to join us now that there is somewhere soft and clean for him to play.
One of my goals for the yard has been to have an area for a baby to crawl safely and comfortably. I want the youngest member of our family to feel at home. I want Fox to feel that the yard belongs to him as well.
"The foundations for literacy are love and encouragement. The basement is constructed from the joy of being read to, knowledge of the world, a language-rich environment, development of the senses and control of the body. The ground floor rooms are made from an awareness of the sounds in language. The upper floor is created from the ability to attach symbols to sounds and the attic is made from the skill of using those symbols to express your own thoughts. The roof is reading and writing. In such a house a child's mind can reside for a rewarding lifetime and no hurricane can blow it down." Montessori Read & Write. Lynne Lawrence.
I would like to help Bear learn to read just as soon as he is able. I am excited about the world that reading can open up for him. I believe - as Montessori describes - that he will be able to learn this skill effortlessly and joyfully at this age - two and a half. However I am realising more and more that Montessori doesn't mean that he will learn automatically. He needs to be given the right environment and the right materials at the right time to allow the magic to happen.
That means I need to train myself, and do it quickly!
What an enormous and intimidating task.
I am learning a tremendous amount from the book "Montessori Read & Write" by Lynne Lawrence. It is written for parents to be used at home. So far I'm up to page 65...
I have begun with some self-reflection
If I want Bear to love reading it will help if I show him that I love reading too.
Do I love reading? I have never been a reader. Reading for pleasure has not been something I have ever made time for. I study from text books. I read the bible. I read books to learn about Montessori, gardening, etc. I don't think that really counts!
So I've started picking up a book instead of watching TV when I'm having a break.
We've started reading a lot everyday
Bear and I were reading sporadically. I've made a time for reading part of our routine now. We read for at least half an hour before getting ready for bed. I choose some books and Bear chooses some books. Sometimes Bear wants us to sit separately. More and more he is choosing to sit next to me and to let me read to him. He is showing interest in a growing range of books and paying attention for longer. Fox crawls around on the floor and looks at his little board books or Ranger takes him away to play somewhere else.
We read together at other times if we feel like it and Bear will often choose to read on his own.
* I don't read books with Bear in bed for a couple of reasons. He is too tired to concentrate once he's in bed. I'm not as comfortable on his bed as I am sitting on the couch. Finally the "just one more, mum" discussion is too much for me at the end of the day - I do what I can to avoid it!
We're investing in a children's library
I have found many wonderful books second hand at op shops and online. They are always worth a look. Special books I buy new online. We also visit the library often and bring a selection home.
Montessori Read & Write has lots of great advice about choosing books for children of different ages. The things that I'm looking for at the moment for Bear (2.5 years):
- beautiful and interesting illustrations
- short stories with a simple plot
- a small amount of text per page
- rhymes, poems and songs
- content that is real - especially based around the world he has experienced
Bear's favourite books along with a selection that is frequently rotated is displayed on the special children's shelves. All the other children's books are together on the low bookcase above. Bear can access them whenever he likes. He is getting better at putting books back but that is usually still my job.
The Montessori sound game
We have only just started to play the Montessori sound game. We play as often as I think of it when we're at home and Bear seems receptive. Bear will play 2 or 3 times in a row before loosing interest. The objects have to be very simple and I need to be very precise with my clue.
I say "I'm holding something that starts with 'sss' ", Bear says "sss-spoon" (he pronounces it "sss-oon"). Or "I'm pointing to something that starts with 'wuh'", Bear says "wuh-watermelon" (wuh-auta-elon"). Or "there's something on my head that starts with 'huh'", Bear says "huh-hat!".
He is starting to get the hang of it. He's starting to look proud when he gets it right! It's helping him articulate better as well.
I'm a bit confused about this step. I'm not sure if we should be starting to recognise letters yet. I haven't reached that part of the book yet! I understand that it is important that reading is purposeful and that each step is fun and useful on it's own. i.e. flashcards are not part of the Montessori approach because they are not purposeful in isolation. Thus this kind of rote learning is forgotten easily and so not worth the effort.
So I am preceding cautiously and observing him carefully. He is very interested.
We have started naming the letters for Bear phonetically with this puzzle. We show him 2 or 3 letters at a time and name them using a 3 period lesson.
He loves this puzzle and at times asks for the rest of the letters. It is a real challenge for him but one he is able to achieve on his own with patience. He only knows a few of the letters but he understands that they all have names and asks me to name them from time to time.
This post has mostly been about Bear. I haven't forgotten Fox!
Fox is 10 months old now. He love being read to. His favourite books are "Ten little fingers and ten little toes" and "Hello Baby" by Mem Fox. He giggles as soon as I show them to him. He also loves turning the pages of a book by himself. He chooses books with photos of animals.
We're building the basement of his reading and writing house at the moment - giving him the joy of being read to, knowledge of the world, a language-rich environment, development of the senses and control of the body. He's started his journey toward reading too!
My name is Vicky I am wife to Ranger and mum to two boys - Bear (2) and Fox (8 months). Somehow I stumbled across Montessori and now my goal is to raise and educate my children with a Montessori philosophy in country NSW Australia.