"Our goal as we prepare the infant's environment for movement ... has to do with psychological rather than physical reasons and reflects our attitude toward the child. It should reflect the view that this infant is an individual who is going to grow and change and separate; this is not someone who will remain a baby forever." Montessori from the start. p73
Every so often I realise that Fox has raced off developmentally. He's suddenly reached the next stage and I wasn't ready for it. I'm dawdling behind him still trying to figure out the previous stage. I often feel like I'm letting him down.
I thought these things would be easier with the second child. Some things are easier. In a lot of ways Fox is an easier baby than Bear was. The trouble is that Fox is so different from Bear. His temperament is so different. His interests are so different. I'm having to work through everything anew. I am needing to reset all my expectations.
There are things we are doing well for Fox. He has a collection of interesting objects to explore and practice manipulating. He has low shelves for his things. He can look out low windows. He can see himself in a low mirror. But the environment isn't quiet working for him. We're missing something...
At the moment Fox needs a proper Montessori movement area. Bear skipped this stage altogether (he was crawling much earlier) so I didn't realise it's value.
"The infant's bed is large and on the floor. A double-bed-size is best and the mattress must be only a few inches high." Montessori from the start. p31.
The floor bed makes so much sense to me at the moment! It's soft. The floor is so hard and rough. It's big. In the cot he rolls into the sides. It's safe. One of Fox's favourite things at the moment is to roll around our queen size bed. But I cant give him freedom there because he needs our constant supervision. Otherwise he'll very quickly end up on the floor with a bump on his head!
I think a good solution would be to have a thin mattress in the playroom where we spend most of our time. It would be nice if this space met Fox's need for movement better. He is so much more mobile on a soft mattress. He would be able to get to his shelves and the mirror. He'd be able to move himself to join Bear in whatever he's doing.
It takes me such a long time to make these decisions! I don't want to buy something new and change everything around. I'm hoping Fox gets up and crawls any day now so I don't need to worry about it any more! It is such a challenge to keep adapting to little children who change so quickly.
I haven't blogged for a while... I've had no inspiration. I've been feeling very boring, unmotivated and frankly not very "Montessori"... Ah well... Back on the horse.
I'm writing this after listening to the boys chat to each other on the baby monitor for an hour after I put them to bed. There's a squeel here, a giggle there, A bit of a whinge every now and then. Now silence. I half enjoy their little conversations. I half feel on edge wondering if they'll actually fall asleep in there!
Sleep has never been an area of child rearing where we've followed Montessori principles. Both babies started out swaddled in a bassinet and breastfed to sleep. We've had various issues with sleep as the babies outgrew one arrangement and had to adjust to something new. At each stage we've walked the path of least resistance with the motto in mind "it's not a problem unless its a problem" when it comes to nursing to sleep, swaddles, dummies, cots etc. Fox was born a good sleeper. Bear has learned to sleep well over time.
Since Fox out grew the bassinet he has been a little gypsy baby - sleeping in a different bed each night. I assembled his cot in Bear's room hoping to have them in together but it just wasn't working. They'd wake each other up and everybody in the house had broken sleep. Unfortunately we haven't had anywhere else to put him! He's been sleeping in a port-a-cot in the guest bedroom but he's displaced very frequently by visitors. This is definitely not advocated by the Montessori books I've read! Or any baby books for that matter. Thankfully Fox is such an easy going little guy - he's let us get away with this instability at the price of an extra feed overnight
But now it's finally a success! The boys are sleeping in the same room. Not only sleeping but falling asleep at the same time in the same room with no help from mum or dad. It's a miracle! But not very Montessori - Fox sleeps in a cot.
I am still constantly debating with myself about the floor bed concept. I fluctuate between blatant scepticism and a desperate longing to make it work out for us. Should I move Fox onto a floor bed?
Bear first started to have issues with the cot at around 7 months. He was able to pull himself up to stand but couldn't get down again. He would cry when we left the room, pull himself up and then he'd get stuck. There was no way he'd be falling asleep standing against the cot rails! We'd be in and out to lie him back down over and over again until he finally gave up and fell asleep. But that stage passed and we kept him in the cot until he was 18 months old.
Fox is not mobile yet but he will be soon. Should I move him before he gets going? Should I wait until this current arrangement stops working? Gosh I don't know. Isn't it ridiculous how these tiny parenting decisions consume so much mental energy...
I am going to defer this decision for now and enjoy the silence of two sleeping boys.
"The parents' challenge is to establish a home environment that encourages the development of concentration from the child's infancy and that supports flow experiences for all family members. Such a home reflects the complexity of life."
When we're inside we spend our time in the playroom. It's my favourite room in the house. It's beautiful and sunny with big windows, a skylight and a Northerly aspect. Most of Bear's toys are kept here. The piano is here. It's the centre of our house. There are doors leading out to the yard, Bear's bedroom, the bathroom, the laundry and the carport. I've made some changes to make a special place for Fox to join us in this space.
It is a challenge balancing the needs of the 2 boys in the same area. Bear needs freedom, independence and lots of movement. Fox needs safety, calm and predictability. On the one hand I want to allow Bear plenty of access to his little brother but on the other I need to protect the little guy from Bear's clumsy and enthusiastic affection. I think the only way to have them share the space at the moment is with constant, diligent supervision. This is how the space is arranged so far:
A Floor-bed and Mirror
During the day Fox spends a lot of his time on a floor-bed. It is a thin cot-sized mattress tucked away in a corner. Bear brings his toys to work on the black and white rug so it's very close to the action. Fox is still asleep most of the time so he sleeps here covered by a small crocheted blanket. When he is awake he is happy for short periods looking at himself in the mirror or watching and listening to us play on the mat. Most of the time he is happier being held when he is awake.
I am trying to teach Bear that this is a quiet, gentle area. He is welcome on the bed and he is allowed to touch Fox gently. He's starting to get the idea. He often comes and lies next to Fox, or brings toys over for him, of pats his belly.
A Changing Area
I'm using the top of a chest of drawers as a change table. The drawers are stocked with nappies, wipes and all his clothes. All the drawers have child-proof latches to keep Bear from rummaging through them and emptying them out!
Bear sometimes carries his little chair over to us and stands on it so he can participate. He likes to pull out a baby wipe and help wipe Fox. Or take a cottonbud, dip it in water and clean Fox. I love it when he does these things. It reminds me how closely he watches the things I do because he imitates them so carefully.
An area for feeding
There is a comfortable couch next to the play area that faces out the window. Through the window I can usually see the goats grazing and the chickens wandering around. There is a high table next to the couch where I can sit my hot drink out of reach of little hands. On the floor next to the couch is a basket of books for Bear that are rotated weekly. It is perfect for us all to cuddle up together and read a book while I breastfeed Fox or it's close enough to the rug for Bear to chat to me while he works.
I have a few mobiles for Fox but I haven't put a hook in the wall to hang them yet. Hopefully I'll get them up sometime this week because I think he is already developmentally ready for them. I would also love to make a black and white quilt for Fox to lie on for tummy time. I'm not sure when I'll find time to do that but I can dream...
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.