"Praise is one example of extrinsic motivation, where one takes pleasure in working for the sake of a reward (in our case, the compliment), as opposed to intrinsic motivation, when one works for the joy of the work itself. It seems a benign practice on the surface until you realize that the more “good jobs” we provide, the more we are inadvertently trivializing the child’s work, leading to lower intrinsic motivation."
Aubrey at Montessori Mischief just posted a fantastic and challenging article on the problems of praising children. Helpfully she followed this the very next day with a fantastic list of alternatives to offering trivial praise.
Since reading the articles I have paid more attention to the things I say to Bear and Yikes!! I praise Bear constantly! He doesn't even ask for it and it's the first thing out of my mouth. A thousand times a day!! Now that I'm paying attention they seem like such empty words. I really want to be more purposeful in these interactions.
I am going to break this habit! I have printed out Aubrey's list of What to Say Instead of Good Job and put it in a visible spot in the playroom with the Praise Jar. I have filled my pocket with buttons so that every time I throw out a meaningless praise I throw a button in the Jar.
For every button in the jar by Bear's birthday I'm going to spend a dollar on art supplies for him.
Either way Bear wins.
Autumn has arrived! (Officially autumn arrived a couple of weeks ago but now I actually believe it). The sun is setting earlier and the nights are cooler. It hasn't been above 30 degrees for a whole week. It even rained last week! It's such a refreshing change. It's brought energy. I feel motivated to reflect on the year so far.
I was nervous about embarking on 2015. There were a lot of challenges to negotiate and it got off to an uneasy start. There has been a lot of change and a fair bit of uncertainty. That said I think we're doing ok. Work is challenging but I'm starting to enjoy it and I'm starting to feel settled. I am exhausted at the end of my 2 and a half days of work. But I am coping - even now right at the end of my pregnancy.
Tom's new job has been such an incredible gift from God. It is a lot of work but it really has been a positive change. Last year Tom was at home 2 days per week to care for Bear. This year he has needed to work full time so Bear has been cared for outside our home.
The timing has been just right for Bear. God amazingly answered my anxious prayers for a fantastic carer. She is a lovely quiet, gentle lady. She has been caring for little children for 20 years and obviously has a deep love and respect for them. I feel so confident leaving Bear in her care. He comes home tired but you can't wipe the smile off his face. He comes home relaxed and happy.
I've been trying to do Montessori with Bear at home. I've learned a lot by trial and error and my understanding and expectations have evolved. My goal has been to help Bear learn concentration, coordination, language and responsibility in this toddler period. On a day to day level I find the more time and effort I manage to invest in preparing his environment the smoother and more enjoyable our days at home become.
These are the things I've come to realise:
What does autumn hold for us? Lots of gardening (my favourite thing). The arrival of a newborn son/brother for Bear. Lots of friends and family coming and going. Maternity leave. A trip to Sydney to visit a newborn nephew/cousin. Lots more change and many more challenges to come. But lots to look forward to!
"When we speak of a free child we speak of a child free to follow the powerful guides of nature within him. These guides are extremely wise, and lead the child to seek exactness, precision, and the full achievement of what he undertakes. The child is lead by nature to go into all the details. This is what we want for success in education."
It's been so interesting watching Bear work on this activity over several months. It's been on and off the shelves every other week and hasn't ever had a lot of attention. I'd put it out for a week, it would be ignored, I'd put it away for a couple of weeks before bringing it out again. If I showed it to Bear he'd play with the animals for a little while or handle the cards but soon move off to do something else. I'd demonstrate how to match the animals by standing them on their card. He'd have a go but would stand an animal on any card randomly... then knock them all over!
Today he just got it! He's been matching them on purpose and for fun. I can't believe how long he spent crawling all over the floor to try this one here and that one there. He didn't get them all right every time which didn't seem to bother or frustrate him but he did notice that they weren't quite right. It was a real pleasure to watch as if a little light bulb had been switched on for him.
It was also interesting to see him take a break from matching at one point to line all the animals up head to tail. Then he went straight back to the matching game. Having such a lovely time exploring, experimenting, practicing.
Its so exciting to watch him learn so happily and unconsciously. It makes the effort of rotating his materials and coming up with new challenges for him completely worthwhile. I wonder what his next big discovery will be.
I feel like we've settled into a new routine. Finally each week looks the same. I get to enjoy Bear's company 4 and a half days per week. We get to spend 1 and a half days per week together as a family. Only 2 and a half days of work.
I used to be a routines and schedules person. Bear doesn't work like that! There's no doubt that he loves things to be predictable and ordered. But he also needs to take his time.
So our "routine" has morphed into a "rhythm" that flows along through the day when we're at home together. It looks a little something like this:
I wake and get started in blissful quiet. I take the dog for a walk and get as many chores done as I can before Bear wakes up. (Thanks to the Gro-clock I usually get a whole hour to myself in the morning).
Bear gets up and has breakfast
We brush our teeth and hair together and Bear gets dressed
We head outside - we go for a nature walk, feed the chickens, or just play in the yard
Morning tea then inside time
While Bear's busy working on something I do some work nearby. (Things like sweeping, dusting, folding, tidying. Things that Bear can join in if he's interested. Things I can put straight down if he needs a hand. Things that won't prevent me from observing him or distract him from some other work).
New in the "schoolroom" this week: food for the guinea-pigs and water for the pot plant.
Lunch then a sleep
Outing or more directed activity - we tried peeling banana pieces and chopping playdough this week.
Daddy gets home! Some time with Dad while I get dinner ready - usually playing outside, a shower or wrestling!
"Sitting Still" practice
Playing games together, usually outside
Teeth, nappy, PJs, then we all take the dog for a walk with Bear in the babybjorn
The year has begun...
I haven't found my feet yet. So far I have not been coping very well with the big changes that have slammed our family.
I'm just getting my head around my new job (yikes I hate that incompetent, clumsy feeling of starting something new), having a husband in full time work (I need to adjust my expectations of what he is able to help out with at home), Bear in daycare (just getting to and from in time is pushing me to the limits!! Then I bring home an extra tired toddler two days per week) and gestational diabetes (changing my diet, monitoring my sugars, squeezing in extra appointments, managing my anxieties and irrational fears...).
I am an exhausted, emotional mess. I have only just been dragging myself through the days.
So Bear's Montessori has taken a back seat. I have barely even seen him over the last 2 weeks between trips to Sydney, trips to Bathurst and work! Each time I do get a little time with him he seems to be a different kid.
All of a sudden he's inventing these complicated games that he plays by himself. Like getting his tip-truck out with a basket of blocks. He loads the truck up then tips them all out. Over and over again. I really miss being able to watch him all day and keep up with what he's interested in.
I have made some progress so we can get started as soon as I do find my feet.
I've made room to store Bear's things when they are off rotation so I know where everything is and I can get to them quickly and easily. Board books in one area. Big toys and empty baskets/trays in another.
A music section. Small materials. Art supplies (lots of room for more!). Puzzles. Miniatures.
Finally this week I get to spend some time at home. Our new routine will start properly and give us some reprieve.
We can slow down.
I'm just going to hang out with my boy.
Get to know him again.
No more changes for now.
"The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit." Maria Montessori.
My main objective for this blog was to keep me on track at planning for and implementing a homeschool program for Bear. I've been doing some hard thinking and research and come up with a skeleton of a plan...
First to answer "when?"
When will we start?
Obviously in many ways we've already started and I hope that our "program" will grow and evolve as Bear is ready for one thing after another. In order to set myself a goal and make sure I can keep up with him I will set a date:
When will we do "school"?
I think there should be a distinction between "school" time and "free" time. I would like to work out a rhythm to separate these parts of our days. There doesn't seem to be a rule of how much "school" toddlers do - Montessori schools offer a range of programs from a few days per week up to 5 days, just morning sessions or all day long. And of course practical life and self care happen all day long. It's hard to guess what's going to work for us but to start with something:
When will I work on his curriculum/materials?
I am going to aim to do at least 1 hour preparation per week per child. That time is going to need to be spent on research, organising, making or sourcing materials.
And the "what?" questions...
"If we do not plant knowledge when young, it will give us no shade when we are old." Lord Chesterfield.
The scope of the Montessori preschool curricula is huge and intimidating. I would love to offer it all but I think it would be wiser to guard my ambitions and aim to do a few things well. I keep at the back of my mind the reassurance that any education I manage to offer Bear before he goes to formal mainstream kindergarten is a bonus and probably more than his peers will have had.
I am not musical. But I am intrigued by the montessori approach to teaching children to love and explore music. I would love to share it with Bear. This is where most of my inspiration has come from.
Reading is such a gateway for learning. Once you can read the whole world is at your fingertips.
There is such an emphasis on maths in mainstream schools that success or failure in this area alone can dominate a child's self image. I don't want it to be a stumbling block for Bear.
The toddler period is preparation for preschool to learn concentration, coordination, language and responsibility.
"How" on Earth will we do it?!
There is such an amazing supply of free resources online for inspiration and guidance. I am sifting through them starting at the little list.
Materials (or the "How much" question)
There is no doubt that Montessori schools are expensive. I wonder if we would make the financial commitment if it were possible to send Bear to Montessori preschool... I love the traditional Montessori materials but even though we're saving money keeping Bear at home I can't justify the expense of providing them for one child (or one family of children).
Montessori schools seem so special. A special place. A special teacher. Special materials. Special activities and responsibilities. I would love to recreate this special atmosphere at home. But how?!
This is my favourite and the one I feel most confident about. We have a beautiful school room where Bear and I love to spend time.
For now there is no separation between the two areas. That won't be necessary until the baby becomes mobile. I am trying to plan ahead so that minor changes will accommodate both children as their needs change.
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.