Great post on the absorbent vs reasoning mind/First plane of development (3-6) and second plane (6-12) over at Grace and Green Pastures.
So our new math materials from IFIT arrived quicker than I expected. I was very happy with the quality. I’ve always been happy with my purchases from there. Pumpkin 1 was excited to use them. I realized after that I should have done the change game before addition, though it’s not necessary. However now that we’ve done addition I think I’ll stick to static addition (no carrying) and then introduce changing once she’s confident with addition. I’m planing to teach her to add from left to right than right to left since that’s how you use the soroban.
So first we did two amounts on different mats. The wooden cubes and squares and the large and one of the small number sets are all from IFIT>
Then we moved all the materials onto one carpet to “add” them together. It’s such an ingenious way to teach addition and really gives a child the concrete, hands-on experience of it.
I’d been struggling on how to move forward with language and the moveable alphabet with Pumpkin 1. Someone suggested trying the Montessori Pink Series. I downloaded the card set for free from The Helpful Garden. It went over really well. Pumpkin 1 was really into writing the words. I think it helped to have them sorted by the vowel. It was too hard for her to hear the different vowels so this way it’s easier for her to break down the word to write it.
Later I caught her trying to sound out words in a learning to read book. We’ve looked at the books before but she hadn’t figured out the concept of sounding the words out so I put it aside. It’s exciting that she’s transferring the knowledge to other areas. It’s hard to trust the Montessori process because it’s different than what’s traditionally done, but it really works!
So Montessori with my kids is very child directed. It’s often really hard to let go and let them choose what work they want to do but we have to trust their inner needs and processes. What you see in blogs is only the best parts. It’s usually skipping the difficult parts, the children being silly, the children being grumpy, the children lying on the floor and not getting up, the children making the Toob figures attack each other, the children throwing a material or insisting on doing it incorrectly. Here is a good moment with my 2 year old.
Here is a real moment with my 2 year old during the same work session.
I didn’t get a video of him trying to walk on them. He also tried to walk on the Brown Stairs. He may be a little young still so I’ll keep things light and I put them away when he’s not treating them with care.
Pumpkin 1 also was being difficult today. Wanting to do the Golden beads and then pretending she didn’t know the names of the numbers or just refusing to talk at all. It’s so frustrating as a parent teacher because you worry and work so hard and then you’re left trying to figure out why and you always feel like you’re failing somehow and that you have to prove yourself to everyone who may think you’re making the wrong decision. I’m not sure if the work was too easy for her or too difficult or she just wasn’t interested. I’m leaning towards it being too easy and am hoping when the wooden cubes and squares for the addition come in she’ll be challenged.
So, I hope this post makes you smile and breath a little easier when your kids are stressing you out.
I see this so often and fell into this trap myself. People new to Montessori and excited giving their under 2 year old materials and then getting frustrated that their toddler won’t play with them or wants to throw them. “My 9 month old won’t sit for more than 10 seconds and I can’t get her to do any of the activities I put out”. “My 20 month old only wants to pull everything off the shelves and throw it”. What seems to be forgotten over and over again, the very core of Montessori – “Follow the Child“.
Your child intrinsically will learn what he needs to learn at the time he’s ready to learn it. This is especially true when it comes to babies and toddlers. With or without a pull up bar you child will learn to stand. With or without a push toy he will learn to walk. But each child will do this within his own time frame. When it comes to Montessori for toddlers, just let them be.
It’s frustrating, I know, to have a beautiful room set up with lovely materials and your child only wants to run and throw everything. Or to see blog posts with children the same age doing all these activities. There isn’t something wrong with your child. There’s something wrong with your expectations. If you child wants to throw everything, then they’re at a sensitive period for throwing. This is great, give her bean bags and balls to throw. If you child wants to dump everything, great! She’s at a sensitive period for dumping, give her things to dump. If your son wants to climb the shelves or wont sit still, he’s at a sensitive period for gross motor skills, try a trampoline or a slide inside or a balance beam or mats to tumble on and lots and lots of outdoor play. Your child keeps getting in the way while you clean, give her a broom or cloth. You don’t do presentations with toddlers. You can play with some of the toys and have them watch you, or better yet, have an older child play with them, but there is no need to try to get your child to sort objects by colour. When he is ready, he will. Like my son who was playing with the counting bears. I looked over and he had sorted them by colour, all on his own.
We have a fancy shape sorting toy with lots of shapes. One day I realized my son could do it, without any help or teaching from me. I never taught him to do puzzles, he just did them. When your child is ready for pouring, you won’t need to make them do it, they just will, over and over again. If your child is ready for the knobbed cylinders, they’ll do them, and do them again and again. If they are resisting, then they’re not ready.
Pressuring a toddler to do an activity when they’re not interested and introducing primary materials too early can be detrimental. It can turn the child off the material so that when they are at a sensitive period for it, they won’t want to do it. Remember their absorbent mind will absorb their feelings about that material. Or they may be bored with it because they’ve played with the materials and it doesn’t have the appeal of being new and will resist presentations with it in the primary years. Sometimes we don’t realized we’re pressuring. I didn’t at first. If you’re feeling frustrated, then let it go. Put it away and just watch your child play. Try to see where your child is really at.
A toddler doesn’t need expensive materials. He needs to run, to climb, to play outside, to help you while you do housework, to play in the bath, to look at books, to throw balls and ride on cars. My son’s favourite fine motor material came from the dollar store, the spice shaker with dowels. Keep in mind when you see a blog post with a toddler doing an activity, majority of the time it only lasts for 5 mins, if that. Toddlers work in little burst of energy but they rarely last long.
I did way more “teaching” with my daughter and not much with my son and he’s coming along even quicker than her, because he wants to be like the big kids. Though he started talking later than her his vocabulary seems to be coming along faster than hers. He’s always copying the older kids. Today he came stomping over “uuuunt, uuuunt, uuunt” just like the older kids do when they’re mad. It was so funny coming from a 21 month old. If you can get your toddler to play with multi-age groups of children, that will really benefit their development.
Another thing to remember: too many activities, too much colour and things going on is very overwhelming for a child. It’s best to have only a few things out for them, things for the sensitive period they are at. Keep the room tidy and minimal and simple. This of course is harder if you have several ages of children, just do your best to keep the room organized.
A final issue I see often and have realized in myself is the idea that fine motor activities are better or more important than gross motor. You child needs to master gross motor movement, to be in control of their core, before they can master fine motor movement. Don’t dismiss the importance of running, of climbing stairs, of playing outside, of jumping and throwing and kicking. These skills are very, very important. If you want you child to develop their fine motor skills and increase their attention span, then give them opportunity to exercise their gross motor skills.
In the end though, it’s not about having your child ahead of other children. It’s not about proving how wonderful Montessori is by showing what your child can do. It’s not about having your child do what you see other children doing in blogs or boards. It’s not about all the beautiful materials. It’s about your child, about them being allowed to be and explore at their own pace, in their own way. Trust your child. Let him be.
I love the Montessori approach. I love how it’s child’s led, how it’s engaging and hands on and promotes independence and focus. I love how a child actually learns, not memorizes facts. I discovered Montessori around the time my daughter turned 2. I went all out – materials, books, shelves, more materials, printing, laminating, more materials. My daughter is a fast and engaged learner and she was picking up things fast, so I introduced more. Then I got pregnant and in pregnancy I suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, basically very very very severe morning sickness where you puke until your body aches, you slowly starve and can’t stand for long from dehydration. Needless to say, we didn’t do any homeschooling. We sadly lost the baby and when I got back to doing Montessori activities, my daughter had forgotten a lot in those few months.
Because I love learning I started reading more about the Waldorf approach. It has a lot of the same observations about how children learn and develop but the Waldorf approach encourages imaginative play, sheltering the child and delaying formal education. How can one mesh the two?
When I realized my daughter had forgotten many of the things we had done it made me think that perhaps she wasn’t ready. She wasn’t really learning, just imitating. It wasn’t making the right connections in her brain because she was too young and I was pushing too early. I was misreading signs of readiness. For instance, wanting to know the names of all the letters didn’t mean she was ready to learn to read, it meant she was trying to increase her vocabulary. Counting doesn’t mean she’s ready for the bead materials yet, she needs to explore what counting means and how to use it still. Too often I’ve seen others, like me, excited about Montessori and pushing their toddler to do materials that are really for a 3 or 4 year old and I’ve come to believe that not only is it not beneficial, it can be detrimental. It can discourage them from being interested in the material when they’re truly at the sensitive period for it or it can cause them to make incorrect connections in the brain that are really hard to fix.
So what am I doing differently? I’m holding back. I still have materials out but I don’t force her to choose one. If she’d rather run around and play with the other daycare kids, I’m happy with that. She’s using her imagination, she’s learning to get along with others and develop social skills which are so so important in life. She’s only 3 and she’ll only have this innocent time of freedom for such a short period. I’d rather wait a little longer before introducing a material, actually follow the recommended age instead of thinking “oh she could do that” and be more sure that she’s mastered the other activities first before introducing something new. I’d rather read stories and cuddle and go for walks than tell her “it’s school time you have to pick something off the shelves”. I’m trying to have more of a rhythm to the day and incorporate more songs, poems and traditions. I’m also planing on how I can change the room to encourage more imaginative play. I was going to start RightStart math with her but now I’m going to wait until she’s at least 4. She won’t learn better by starting young, she’ll learn better by starting when she’d truly ready. I’m also purging our toys so we don’t have so much stuff and that the toys we do have are natural, open ended toys.
Homeschooling is a journey, an exciting, stressful, fun, frustrating journey and it’ll probably be always changing and evolving. I wonder where we’ll be next year.
I purchased The Keys of the World Montessori albums to help me better understand and implement the Montessori method with my children. They’re wonderful albums and I’m learning so much. I’d just like to share with you a quote from the Theory Album
The most distinct difference between Montessori and other methods is in the nature of the materials: Montessori materials are not didactic (teaching tools), but self-teaching tools. These materials are not for the teacher to teach, but for the children to discover and learn on his own. The children teach themselves – these materials are developmental materials.
This is really the key of Montessori – the child guides their own learning. It’s also the hardest part; to step back and allow the child to do and learn without interfering. It’s even more difficult in a home setting.
If you’re interesting in The Keys of the World albums you can purchase them here.