We find ourselves stuck at home again with another minor contagious illness. I feel so worn down by being confined within these same walls. Tidying up the same few rooms after my little whirlwinds is particularly demoralising. So we decided to plant some tomatoes...
As soon as the children had been wrestled out of their pyjamas we headed out to buy some supplies.... and visit the pet shop... (just for fun)
Then we're ready to work when we get home. Fox knows exactly what to do with a big bag of rocks and an empty pot. At 17 months he is very interested in putting things where they are supposed to go, at transferring little objects and in repeating the same thing over and over again. He was very happy with this work while Bear and I moved on with the next steps in a second pot.
At 3 Bear can follow instructions and he can follow a sequence of steps. He helped me add the layer of scoria, then cut and lay the fabric then add the potting mix.
He still enjoys doing things over and over again. So they happily worked together most of the morning while I was able to hang out the washing and do some weeding.
Finally time to plant and water...
... and wait for some delicious tomatoes to eat!
Another favourite family job in winter is collecting fire wood.
We set out with our wheel barrows all rugged up for the cold. We head off across the paddocks and into the bush.
The boys and I forage and explore while Dad chops wood with the axe. There are all sorts of things to find and marvel at...
... sneaky mushrooms...
... delicate lichen.
Then we return victorious from our adventure with a wheelbarrow full of spoils!
My big brother Bear can water the strawberries.
He gets a watering can from the shelf.
He fills it with water at the tap.
He caries it carefully with two hands...
... to water the strawberries.
I'm going to have a go Mum - there's a watering can for me!
I can do it too!
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
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 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.
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!
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.