What We’ve Been Up To.

Pumpkin 2 is growing up fast.  Not only is he potty trained day and night, he no longer sucks his thumbs (thanks to some applications of juice from our Aloe Vera plant) and he no longer has a nap.  The no nap has meant huge changes to our daily schedule and including him in “school time” now.  It has also meant a lot of changes for me to figure out how to work with both of them but, it has been going better than I expected.  It’s also had benefits as the day can be more relaxed since we don’t have to make sure nap time is on time.  Yesterday he preferred to dump the shapes from the pattern pictures everywhere and to make the coloured peg people crash into each other, but he is also having periods of work too.  Here’s him sorting Plant and Animal Cards.

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We’ve been doing music as a group activity.  We match bells and then work on rhythms.  Rhythm is way too advanced for Pumpkin 2 but it’s something he wants to be a part of.  They really like this drum I got from Amazon.  Pumpkin 1 has been resistant to learning rhythm but she needs to for her piano lessons so the drum was a great motivation.  We did have a good talk about how to treat the drum (I could just see Pumpkin 2 trying to stand on it) and it’s kept up high to only be used with me.

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Pumpkin 1 is working on linear counting.  She got bored with the Golden beads so I thought it best to take a break and work on something new.  It worked because she was interested in them again the other day.  I also found out that you don’t have to do subtraction with them before multiplication and since she wasn’t keen on subtraction, multiplication will probably be the next step.

These are the Teens boards I printed off and laminated from Montessori Print Shop.  I put some velcro on them because I think it makes it more fun and eliminates the frustration of accidentally shifting the cards.

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We’ve been learning about Vertebrates and the types of Vertebrates and I got a skeleton of a pigeon on huge discount from Affordable Montessori.  The kids were fascinated.  Pumpkin 1 is holding a laser light I was using to point out the spine or Vertebrate.  I thought they’d be scared of it but I guess they haven’t been exposed to the idea of skeleton’s being scary.  Pumpkin 1 as been asking a lot of questions about the body and so I plan to do a unit study on the body soon.

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Here she is sorting out the Types of Vertebrates cards I made.

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I also got these from Amazon and the kids love them.  They’re quite fun and were cheaper than X-Rays of bones.

Pumpkin 2 is my cuddly boy.  He’ll sit on my lap for hours if he could.  It’s funny because he can be so full of energy, literally bouncing off the walls (yes literally, he loves to crash into them and fall on the floor) but he’ll sit so nicely on my lap and just look at a book or play with cars or watch his sister.  I try to soak it up as much as I can because I know it’s not going to last forever, but I also need to get things done.  It’s such a difficult choice, snuggle him a little more, or get to the list of things I need to do.  I usually pick snuggle.

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What Montessori is really like with a 2 year old….

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.

Letting your Toddler Be

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.

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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.

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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.