"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!
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.
"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.
This reading corner has been a long time coming.
I had the idea of turning this unused doorway into a book shelf before Fox was born. Little by little I've been chipping away at this project. Now it is finally finished (well mostly finished...). At least it is ready to use!
I have experimented with various ways to store and display books that haven't worked out. I tried a basket on the floor. A basket on the coffee table. A basket on Bear's shelves. A regular book shelf with spines facing out. A regular bookshelf with books standing up. Books in a box. We were having problems with each of these. My biggest problem was mess - the books wouldn't stay where they were supposed to be!
So I brainstormed goals for book storage/display:
- beautiful to look at
- easy for Bear to choose a book
- easy for Bear to take out one book at a time without disturbing the other books
- easy for Bear to put books away by himself
- flexible in terms of the number of books it can accomodate
- separate from toys
- in an area that is peaceful and comfortable
- a special area that acknowledges how special and precious books are
I think this ticks all the boxes.
The 3 lower book shelves are only 10cm deep so books stand up easily on their own but they will be able to accomodate several layers of books in future. There's a 3cm lip that stops the books slipping off. The shelves are removable but very sturdy. They have a catch that will stop Fox pulling them off when he inevitably starts to pull up on them.
We don't have room for child sized furniture in this area. We're a bit tight on space as it is. Bear gets himself onto the couch easily and we can both read together comfortably. We used to have a footstool for Bear to climb up. We'll bring it back out when Fox is ready for it.
Rotating the books keeps bringing Bear back to the couch. He's asking to read books that were being ignored before. I love when he asks me to read with him. It such a great invitation for a cuddle and a chat!
Fox is appreciating the low shelf too - it might just be the thing that inspires him to crawl!
Op shopping is like treasure hunting. You never know what wonderful thing you might find.
Once I found this scarf.
Someone might have used it and loved it. Or maybe they didn't realise how wonderful it was and packed it away in a cupboard. Either way it was given to a charity and we found it in their shop.
We love it!
It floats magically and ripples as it falls gracefully from the sky.
It's so soft and smooth as it lands gently on your face and stokes your skin. Playing with this $2 scarf makes this baby so happy!
A set of beautiful coloured play silks like these is still on my wish list. They look so beautiful to touch and so versatile to play with. For now we are making the most of this recycled treasure!
There he is!
If you've got some time to go treasure hunting in Dubbo here's a list of op shops in order of my personal preference:
We might bump into each other on a Saturday morning among the bric-a-brac. Happy hunting!
Fox is 7 months old already! When I started writing this post he was only 6 months old. Slow down time!
We're getting to know his personality more and more. He is still a sweetheart. He loves people and thrives on one-to-one attention. It is so easy to make him laugh and we all have so much fun with him. As he learns to express his likes and dislikes we're discovering that he has just as strong a personality as Bear! (Which makes perfect sense considering his genetic loading!) He shrieks and growls so forcefully if something displeases him that we can't help but laugh!
Fox is rolling well from back to tummy but has trouble getting from tummy to back because he sticks his elbows out. He is still pretty stationary and doesn't seem to be motivated to get moving just yet.
It's easy to find work for him at the moment. He is fascinated by everything! I have a mat and a basket of things just for him at each end of the house. I lie him on the mat and hand him an item from his basket. He studies it, shakes it, sucks on it, sings to it... until I hand him the next item. I choose things for him that are beautiful, made of a variety of (mostly) natural materials. Different shapes, sizes, textures, weights, sounds.
When Bear is working inside Fox joins in and they chat while they work.
Fox practices sitting up while I'm sorting laundry or folding nappies. He is getting better at sitting unsupported and can sit for about a minute if he has something fun to play with.
I love that he is still so dependent on me. I love that he still needs me to snuggle with him every few hours so that he can feed. I love being able to hold him in my arms. I love his quiet gentle personality. I love that he enjoys our sleepy cuddles as much as I do. I love his easy laugh. I love that he is most entertained by the attention of his family. He's our favourite Fox.
Working in the kitchen with Bear used to be difficult.'
We didn't have the equipment Bear needed and the kitchen wasn't very Bear friendly.
Things have changed recently. I have spent some time rearranging things to suit him better. Tom and I have also made a big effort to include him in our work in the kitchen. At 2 years old there a lots of things he can do very effectively. He can be patient and is good at following directions. He is also starting to work toward specific goals. For example now he feeds the cats; he used to scoop biscuits.
This is Bear's area in the pantry. He uses the step stool to reach the benches and is able to get it out and move it around himself. The lowest shelf in the pantry is for his things - some toddler friendly kitchen tools and his cleaning supplies. The spray bottle has a small amount of water in it and although it is adult size he is able to use it comfortably. Spraying and wiping the benches is one of his favourite activities in the kitchen.
We still have a baby gate in place so Bear only has access to the kitchen in the company of Tom or myself.
There is very little that we do in the kitchen now that Bear is not welcome to join. It has been a real joy for us all. Tom and I appreciate Bear's enthusiasm when doing chores that are mundane for us. We don't mind if they take twice as long because it's a pleasure working with Bear; thoroughly engaged, brimming with pride, and becoming more effective every day
Making purees for Fox is an almost daily ritual that Bear volunteers for. He is able to chop, assemble the blender, load the blender, press the button (that's the best part!), and fill the freezer trays. (I've been using this baby food recipe book - it makes moosh much more inspiring)
Since I showed Bear how to make his own toast I am absolutely not allowed to make it for him! I didn't think he'd have the patience to wait for the toast to pop - but he can wait very well. I didn't think he'd have the restraint to leave the setting on "1" - but he does. I thought he'd touch the hot parts - but he doesn't. Having this independence is obviously very special for him. He is so motivated by it that he is prepared to follow such precise instructions and suppress those temptations that usually win him over. I thought my expertly spread toast tasted better - it definitely doesn't!
The juice he squeezes for himself tastes pretty good as well!
There are things he gets "stuck" on. Like the tray of cutlery. He's never ready to close the drawer after putting away the clean cutlery. He wants to sit with the tray and work for longer. He makes patterns. Or sets the table. Or pretends to cut and eat food. Spraying and wiping the bench is another one that holds onto him. I leave him to it.
Fox is always close by to chat and sing with us as we're working. I have a basket of kitchen items that I can pass to him: a spatula, a wooden spoon, a spice tin, a bamboo napkin ring... So Fox has started working in the kitchen too.
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.
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.