God just revealed something about himself to me. I'd love to share it
I found a great book for Bear. He loves trains. He is hungry to learn about them.
I trawled the internet to find the best train book for him right now.
Something with the right level of content,
Something that had beautiful illustrations.
Something in a format that he could read over and over again without wearing it out.
I found it!
I paid for it.
I waited for it.
It finally arrived.
I gave it to Bear.
It was the BEST thing I could find for him.
Jesus says "Even you men know how to give good things to your children. How much more will your father in Heaven give good things to you!!"
I give good things to my children. But God is so much better than I am! He knows me so much better than I know Bear. He loves me so much more than I love Bear. Now that I am a parent and I know how BIG knowing, loving and giving can be - these words are so much more powerful
As I feel big, wise, adult and capable God shows me that I am a toddler before Him - my heavenly father. He is so much bigger, wiser and more capable than I am.
What a comfort it is to know he is able to swoop me up and hold me in his arms.
When I posted here I was feeling quite defeated. Quite overwhelmed. I was wondering if this Montessori stuff was really able to work with siblings. Did these peaceful children's communities really exist?! (I have still never seen one in real life). It didn't seem to be working for my children. I was full of doubt.
My faith has been restored. Now I believe that children can peacefully coexist in a shared space. The change has been dramatic! Since I got the environment right I haven't even needed the baby gate to separate them.
What were the key changes?
- A seperate shelf for each child
Having the shelves separate is more for my sake than for theirs. It helps me to notice what I am choosing for each child. It helps me to remember that they need/enjoy different things. It helps me to make sure I am putting out enough for each of them. It also helps them know where to look for something that will be fun to play with.
- A seperate area for each child to play
A comfortable and attractive area next to their shelf makes it easy for them to choose a toy and settle to play with it. Having enough space helps them stay out of each others way so they don't disturb each other accidentally.
- Thoughtfully chosen materials for each child
Bear and Fox are at different developmental stages. They have different temperaments and interests. They have different skills. I try to give them several choices and pay attention to the things that they choose to spend time with. This helps to select which materials to pack away for a while and which to leave out.
I have found that they don't actually need to be physically separated from each other to concentrate on work if they are really interested in it.
The boys have lots of things to concentrate on. Most of the time they are too busy and too focused to bother one another.
I have been particularly impressed how often they choose to play side-by-side. Even little Fox will choose a toy off his shelf and carefully carry it over to sit next to Bear. They actually do like each other and can enjoy each other's company. They just need an environment that helps them do it.
We hit a snag in Bear's reading/writing progress - a speech disorder.
I haven't blogged for a while because I completely lost confidence. Nothing seemed to be working out. We weren't making progress. I didn't understand what the problem was. Was it the method? Was it my application? A piece of the puzzle was missing...
The first clue:
We started playing the Montessori sound game a while ago. It seemed to be going well on level 1 - Bear was participating happily and seemed interested.
I would say "I'm holding something that starts with 'p'"
He would say "'ig".
"I'm holding something that starts with 'd'"
"something that starts with 'h'"
"something that starts with 'c'"
"something that starts with 't'"
We weren't able to move on to level 2. He wasn't saying the first sound of words. He didnt seem to realise the sound should be there.
So I abandoned the sound games all together. I thought that maybe it was too early for him. Or maybe I wasn't doing it the right way.
The second clue:
Bear has a little friend who has spoken perfectly from 18 months old. Her mum recently said to me: "Vicky P was doing the funniest thing... She's been speaking in this strange way and I couldn't figure why... Then I heard Bear and I realised she's been imitating him!!"
Hmmm... Is he speaking in such a strange way that she would think to copy him? He does speak in a funny way...
The third clue:
I was sitting at the table with the boys eating afternoon tea. Bear had brought a book to the table as he often does. He said to me conversationally:
"av ite on oe ee an ee"
To which I responded "pardon Bear?"
"av ite on oe ee an ee" He patiently replied.
"Sorry can you please say that again?"
"av ite on oe ee an ee."
"Sorry Bear. Again?"
"Av ITE on oe ee an EE"
"I'm sorry Bear. I'm trying to understand you. Can you please say it again?"
Frustration building "Av ITE ON oe ee an EE!"
Me: A look of apology and helplessness.
Bear: "Av ITE ON oe ee an EE!"
Me: A shrug
Bear: Pointing to the ceiling and almost bursting with frustration "Av ITE ON oe ee an EE!!"
Me: Finally understanding - "OOoohhh!!! Sorry Bear - 'Have the light on so we can see'!! I'll turn the light on for you right away!!"
This scenario was happening more and more as his vocabulary was expanding and his sentences were getting longer. I was struggling to understand him. He was struggling to be understood.
I arranged a speech assessment with a private speech pathologist and yes - he has errors that aren't developmentally normal. A second assessment with community health yielded the same result.
Bear hasn't realised that some sounds exist. He can hear them and understand them but he hasn't realised he can make them. He needs to make them to be understood. There are lots of sounds he is missing!
My judgement was right about the Montessori sound game. Bear isn't ready for Level 1 yet. He needs some extra preparation. He needs more help to become aware of the sounds he's neglecting.
I have a lot of work to do to help him.
We have a lot of appointments to attend.
We have a lot of songs to sing and lots of games to play!
I'm excited and relieved to be back on track. We know what the problem is and what we need to do about it. We have been given some beautiful homework that looks like so much fun. I can't wait to get started.
The boys have been fighting a lot. The most frequent scenario plays out as follows:
Bear settles to play peacefully with trains.
Fox marches over and takes a train.
Bear shouts "'Oxy!! Oxy!! Oxy!!" and snatches the train back.
Mum carries Fox to the other end of the house.
Repeat from the top.
Fox settles to peacefully to read a book.
Bear marches over the takes the book.
Fox squeals and tries to snatch it back.
Mum disciplines Bear.
Repeat from the top.
Peace hasn't been lasting very long lately! I don't believe the fighting is the core of the problem. But it is the fighting that has finally moved me to action!
1. Baby gate
At times the boys need their own space and their own things. The gate helps me keep them apart. It is a removable gate. It's not up all the time.
There was a vague separation of their things between two areas already. Fox was spending more time close to me near the kitchen/study. Bear was usually further away.
Both areas have plenty of shelves, an appropriately sized table and chair, plenty of space on the floor and a comfortable place for me to sit and join in. I have deliberately separated their things now. All the work that is specifically for Fox is together. All the work that is specifically for Bear is in his area.
On Bear's side of the gate he has access to the bathroom, his bedroom and he can let himself outside to play as he wishes. Fox's area is smaller and much more limited which is perfect for him.
2. Proper baby proofing for Fox
Fox is at a stage where he is very curious and very capable of exploring. He can open doors, drawers and cupboards. He can climb. He can unpack anything. He loves to do these things. He is able to get into all sorts of trouble and he relishes it!
For him to be safe and have freedom in his environment it really needs to be properly baby-proofed. It wasn't before. It is now! All the doors, drawers and cupboards he is not allowed to have access to are baby proofed. He can't access potties, toilets, rolls of toilet paper, kitty litter or cat food.
This means complete freedom for him to explore and play without being interrupted. It also means peace of mind for me.
3. Child specific materials
As I rearranged the shelves separating out their toys I realised how few materials were specific for one or the other. There were especially few that were for Bear. I think I had been trying to choose toys that would appeal to both of them but they were actually appealing to neither.
With his own area Bear can have the work he is ready for that is not baby friendly - e.g. messy things, small things, sharp things, fragile things... and Fox can have the things that engage him but bore Bear.
Fox can learn to concentrate on his own work without being distracted or interrupted. His concentration and attention are so fragile. They are so easily broken.
Fox is fascinated and challenged by posting. I use yogurt containers with an assortment of holes for different levels of challenge. He posts things like dominos, balls, baby-food container lids, blocks, cotton wool. Anything really. At the moment he's posting paddle-pop sticks through a big hole - it's tricky but not frustrating.
Placing the ring on the posts of this toy requires Fox's full concentration. I made this toy for Bear when he was at the same stage with wood left-overs and serviette rings from an op-shop. It has been well loved.
Bear is so easy to engage at the moment. Some specific favourites are his train books and magazines, wooden train-set, matchbox vehicles, toy food and tongs and any activity outside.
They still play with each other a lot of the time and usually enjoy each others company. A little time apart helps them relax and concentrate. It helps us all feel peaceful and tolerant so we can make the most of our time together.
A good question,
A question posed by Myriam a while ago in response to my mention of the naughty chair in this post.
I have spent quite some time chewing it over and wondering how best to answer. The more I ruminate the more I realise I can't answer breifly. It's a complicated subject. I will try to give a worthy answer. I'll also try to be concise!
We have found discipline one of the most challenging parts of parenting. It has been a difficult experience to see the object of my love and affection, a little person I can't help but consider perfect in every way, choose to disobey. At times I see characteristics in him that are so unattractive - selfishness, laziness, greed, cruelty. I know these same characteristics exist in me. It is upsetting. It's sad and disappointing. I want to correct his character and fix him and make him sweet and kind and loving all the time. (I want that for myself too!)
We are Christians. Our approach to discipline is primarily shaped `by our understanding of God's instructions to parents in the bible and not by Montessori. We don't believe that any method of discipline or training of a child can repair their imperfect character. Only God can do that through Jesus Christ.
Thus our methods of discipline have followed our biblical framework. We have used all sorts of resources to come up with ideas. We watch families with obedient children and ask for advice. I have read lots of books. I have read lots of websites and blogs. We try out ideas that have been tested, seem wise, make sense and fit our framework. Some succeed and we keep using them. Some fail. We still struggle and constantly re-evaluate our methods.
The basic principles of our biblical framework are:
- human beings are not capable of perfect behaviour
- God's standard of perfection is uncompromising, ours should be too
- disobedience and rebellion need to have real consequences
- forgiveness is free through Jesus
- mercy and grace are unlimited
- love is unconditional
On a practical level we try to:
- give lots of meaningful work, independence and choice
- reinforce positive behaviour sincerely and straight away
- freely express love, affection and approval verbally and physically
- have developmentally appropriate expectations of behaviour
- have consistent expectations of behaviour
- give reasons for our expectations and rules
- give enough time for him to understand and obey
- look for a cause for disobedience and fix it
(e.g. hunger, full bladder, tiredness, sickness, boredom, lack of attention)
- administer punishments/consequences calmly and gently
The naughty chair is one of many tools we use.
Unfortunately Bear has inherited an unusual obstinance from his parents which at times requires particularly firm approaches. Very often he chooses to disobey clear and reasonable instructions and accept a punishment. When he is wilfully disobedient he spends 2 minutes on the naughty chair. We ask for an apology and a hug. Then all is forgiven. This process usually happens once per day. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.
Occasionally we give one smack on the hand or leg if disobedience is repeated or particularly offensive.
Occasionally we put him in his bedroom for longer than 2 minutes to cool down if things get very heated. This isn't supposed to be a punishment but it gives him a chance to reset and keeps everyone safe during his anger! There's usually a cause (like hunger, tiredness or sickness) when this happens.
I am not an expert!! I have been a parent for almost 3 years. I have been responsible for the discipline of 1 child. I have been a disobedient child myself. It is an intimidating task to mould another persons character. Especially since I am fully aware of the imperfection of my own character. I try not to do them harm. I will ask my children to forgive me for the mistakes I make and the harm I will inevitably do. Praise God that we don't do it alone!
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
I'm writing this post as I sit in my empty house pining for my three most precious people. I always underestimate how much it will hurt when we're apart. I can't stop picturing them driving 100km per hour away from me. They've only just left. I miss them already!!
Ranger has taken the boys to Sydney to visit his family. I need to stay here in Dubbo to work.
It's always bittersweet having an empty house. I miss them. But it's also nice to have a little rest from parenting toddlers. For instance it's nice to be back blogging for a change!
Driving for 6 hours with little children is hard. I always feel anxious preparing for a trip. We try to make the drive fun and fill it with lots of special things. We sing songs and tell jokes and stories. We chat about the things we can see and the things we're looking forward to. There is a lot of time to fill and it can be a challenge to keep things positive. I find being prepared helps.
I take some time a week or so before a long drive to think about the boys' favourite things and pack them away. I thought I'd share the things I packed for their drive. I've crammed as much love into this box as possible to send along with them!
For Bear at 2 years and 10 months
His two favourite train books. Bear is still obsessed with trains.
Colouring trains with textas and highlighters (Bear's favourite subject matter and favourite medium). Bear also enjoys opening and closing this type of systema box because he can do it by himself.
A cutting activity in another little box.
Chopping velcro food.
Some Duplo sets to build. Each set in a box that fits on Bear's lap with enough room to build and pack up. Yes - one of them is a train.
For Fox at 13 months
Some favourite books that are easy for him to read by himself.
A box with a lid that opens and closes in a frustration free way. Some plastic food to take out and put in (and most likely through on the floor).
An assortment of little things to fiddle with. Handed to him one by one. Wheels that turn. Doors that open and close. Lids go on and off or open and shut. Dominos go in and out. Some little animals to hold and talk to.
For both of them
Buttons, flashing lights and music. Some passive entertainment can buy another half hour of peace when everyone's exhausted. We also use a DVD player as a last resort. These measures can help us reach the next McDonalds without a melt down.
Their special comforters for quiet time and hopefully peaceful sleep.
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.