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!
I love routine.
Routines really work for me. I am able to be more efficient, more productive and more relaxed when I have a comfortable routine.
Routines have worked for my children as well as long as a few conditions are met: Some things need to be flexible. Some things need plenty of time. Sometimes there needs to be options.
I have learned not to force the boys into my routine. I've learned to adapt to theirs. We've settled into a pattern that repeats itself day after day. It changes often. This is what our days have been like this summer with Bear at 2.5 years and Fox at 10 months.
5.45 am yoga or walk the dog
6.30 am get breakfast ready
6.40 am the boys wake up and we all have breakfast together
(Around this time Ranger gets up and helps with the boys while he get's ready for work. We spend most of this time outside.)
8.00 am Fox goes down for a sleep
(One-on-one time with Bear. Usually we spend half the time together and half the time working on our own things. This is the best time to introduce a new Montessori game or material to Bear)
9.30 am Bear and I have lunch*
* I know it's early! Bear is most hungry and most open minded about food at the beginning of the day. So we eat our main meal together after working up an appetite in the garden!
(Things vary from day to day in this time. We usually go out for a while to do grocery shopping, swimming lessons, bible study or spend time with friends. If we're at home the boys work on something from their shelves.)
12.30 am the boys have lunch then go to bed
(I'm usually pretty desperate to recharge by this time! I'm usually starving, thirsty, busting to go to the toilet, fatigued and overstimulated. I have to spend 30 minutes carefully getting myself back in order. For me the most important ingredients to a successful break are a big healthy lunch, a coffee and an episode of Gardening Australia. Sometimes a power-nap! Then I can get on with the things that can't be done with little helpers around.)
2.30 pm** the boys get up and have afternoon tea
** Bear's groclock turns yellow at 2.30pm. He is not allowed out of his room before then. They both usually sleep until 3-3.30pm
(Fox often wakes up before Bear which gives me some precious one-on-one time with him. This is the best time to introduce a new Montessori game or material to Fox.
This is our most difficult time of the day. This is the time when they demand most of my energy. Things that work include: setting up an art activity for Bear to do while I play with Fox, putting them both in the bath, a trip to the library, reading books or watching a David Attenborough documentary together.)
5.00 pm I cook dinner
(Ranger is usually home to play with the boys and it's cool enough to go back outside.)
6.00 pm we all eat dinner as a family then play outside
6.30 pm time to wind down before bed. We read together finishing with the bible.
7.00 pm the boys go to bed
Once the boys are in bed I load the washing machine, put away clean laundry, clean the kitchen, do a very quick general tidy-up, have a shower and collapse on the couch to relax with Ranger. Phew. Made it to the end of another day!
We're back! Hello!!
It's been a long time since I've posted. Holidays have come to an end. We're settling into a new routine and I'd love to share some things we've been doing at home.
We've been working in the garden!
Working in the garden with Bear is something I find easy and fun! It is something that comes naturally to me. It takes no effort to prepare and it engages Bear straight away. It is the cure for the anxiety I feel about all the Montessori things I am not doing! Seeing Bear peacefully at work watering strawberries or dead-heading daisies reassures me that we're doing ok.
The garden is a place where we can both do meaningful work side by side. We can take our time. We can choose our work.
It is a place where Bear can learn unconsciously and I can teach spontaneously. We talk about roots and leaves. We learn the names of plants. We watch things grow and ripen. We use all sorts of tools - rakes, secateurs, shears, shovels, watering cans, wheel barrows... We make compost. We apply mulch. We collect worm tea. We prune.
It is a place where Bear can be free and independent.
I get the boys outside as soon as they've finished breakfast because it is still so hot during the day. It is not long before the sun forces us to retreat indoors. The earlier we get out the longer we get to play.
Fox joins us for a while before he goes down for a sleep. Unlike Bear and myself he does not feel at home in the garden. Although he can crawl very well he doesn't like me to be out of his reach. He likes me to sit with him in the sandpit. Or he stands next to me while I'm weeding with a hand on my shoulder. I'm sure it won't be long before he too is comfortable and confident.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - our garden is a mess!! It is a work in progress. It is a long way from what I dream of it being. But I think that's part of the reason why we love it so much. There is so much for us all to do. We get to watch it taking shape. We all get to learn and explore along the way.
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.