Sunday, April 25, 2010

Video of L. feeding the dog

L.'s grandmother just sent this Youtube video to me.  It shows L. feeding the family pet.  Here is a link if you'd like to see it.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Off we go to A.'s house

A. is a three year old boy who has been coming to our school for the past year.  He has a little sister, F. who (I think) is 2.  A.'s mother was a Montessori student right up into high school so a lot of this came naturally to her.  A big thanks goes out to the whole family for sharing some great photos of  their home.

This is A.'s bedroom.  The big chair is where he and his Mom or Dad read stories.

Another wall of A.'s bedroom.  All his things are organized into boxes that he can easily see into and remove by himself.  All of the pictures are low enough that he can view them and there is a low mirror available to him.  Just as toddlers like to explore their faces, so do older children.  Mirrors allow them to explore facial expressions and help to foster self-awareness.
And here is A.'s closet.  His parents have fitted it with a low shelf so that two choices of clothes are within his reach.  This allows him the independence of choosing his own clothes yet doesn't overwhelm him by giving too many choices.

This is F.'s room. She also has a little mirror at her eye level and another big chair for reading stories or just for curling up in.
These are F.'s shelves.  Just like in A.'s room, these shelves have been set up so that F. can see what she wants and easily get to it.  The shelves are not overcrowded and there are only a few things in total.  This facilitates her putting things back once she's finished with them.  However, at this age, most children will need lots of guidance and help putting things back when they are done. 
In the dining room is a small table where the children can play and make art. 

Both children have shelves for their toys in the livingroom.

     A question that often comes up in families with more than one child is how to keep the younger one out of the older one's toys.  In a lot of cases, I don't think you can unless you are willing to take some of the independence away and put the toys in question out of reach. However, it make more sense (from an independence point of view) to mirror the lesson that our children learn in the classroom.  That one may not touch another's work and that an activity must be put back on the shelf  when finished. 
     The next time you observe in your child's classroom, watch how the teachers guide the children to return activities to the shelves.  Sometimes it will be a simple touch on the shoulder and an indication to the shelf.  Other times it will be more direct "You seem to be finished with this activity.  Would you like some help putting it back on the shelf?"
     One mother has solved this problem by consulting with her older child.  The toys that the child is willing to share with her sibling are kept in the livingroom.  Those toys that are precious and are not to be shared are kept in the little girl's closet on a low shelf.  The door to the closet can be opened by the older child but not by the younger one.  A perfect solution.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Taking care of the family pet at L.'s house

     Encouraging children to take part in the care of a family pet is a wonderful way of empowering children.  Whether the family pet is a fish, dog, cat, guinea pig, chicken, horse, or elephant the lessons that are instilled in a child through caring for animals will remain with them for the rest of their lives.  Including live animals in a child’s daily life  greatly enhances their abilities to learn responsibility, empathy and compassion for other living things, respect for life, and the natural development of living things.  In addition to being a loving companion, pets provide a comfort and solace in times of stress.

     Pets don't have to be expensive or a lot of work. Evaluate how busy your family is and take it from there.  Your local pet store should be able to help you decide what is best for your family but make sure that if you purchase a pet, it is coming from a reputable organization.

With all that said, here are some pictures from L.'s house.  L. takes care of the family dog with the loving guidance and support of his parents.  
Dad puts one scoop of kibble into the bowl that L. holds up.  When he is older, L. will be able to do the scooping all by himself.

L. then walks across the kitchen and places the bowl of food on the floor for the dog.  Here, L. instructs a friend on the finer points of pet care. 

Then they take the dog for a walk.  Obviously, this may not be possible if the dog is young and untrained and I know from experience that cats & fish don't like going for walks.  Finding ways to help the children do things for themselves  may take some observation and thought but is well worth the effort.

A slow meander through the neighbourhood....

...then off for a little nature exploration once the job is done.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

At home with C. and her younger sister M.

This is C.'s first year at our school and her parents have made many changes in their household to foster her independence at home.  C. has a younger sister, (M.), so these changes have had to work for both children.  I think they've done a marvelous job because, as you can see in the pictures, the changes work for both girls.  C.'s mother has graciously supplied text to go along with the photos so I'll step back and let her guide you through their home.  Enjoy!

"These first two photos show a corner in the kitchen that used to be home to a TV. It now has an easel and art supplies, as well as child-sized cleaning supplies. I had to dig in the basement to find the old magazine table for the cleaning supplies... I remember it well from my own childhood! Having the TV removed from the kitchen has had a huge impact. The space is now quiet and peaceful, and C. has stopped asking to watch TV and is finding more creative ways to direct her energy."

"These photo shows the space opposite the cleaning supplies. We were lucky enough to have a grandpa build this beautiful table for us for C's first birthday. The table lid can be lifted and reveals a small space where further art supplies are kept. C. often eats
and plays at this table, especially when she has little guests."

"The next series of photos is of the play room, attached to the kitchen. Originally built by previous owners as a sun room to house plants in the winter, it has become a welcoming space for the girls to explore. The windowsills are only 2.5' high, so we have begun using them as shelves. The previous owners left us an old toy box,
which is also being used as a "shelf", and I've been storing toys and puzzles inside and rotating them. "

"Since C. is old enough to help with the gardening, we have used one sill for seedlings. As a one year old, her sister, M., is busy pulling things down and
loves making a mess, so we have hid this sill behind a fabric play house that C. was given at Christmas. This fabric playhouse also acts as a private space for C. when she needs some quiet time."

"I've added containers to our pantry for C's morning cereal. I have also bought small pitchers for the fridge for milk. Mornings are much more pleasant now that C. can get most of her breakfast herself."

"This was C's cupboard before we arranged her new one. It is now used by both girls for cutlery, although M, still hasn't quite caught on to the idea of an organized cupboard. "

Stay "tuned"  more from C. & M.'s house in a few weeks………

Saturday, April 3, 2010

At G.'s house

G. is just about to finish his second year in a Montessori classroom.  He has recently turned 5 and his mother is astonished at the changes she sees in him.  G. makes his own lunches and often helps make dinner. 
Since G. is older, his bed is higher.  Notice the bedding.  It is all child-friendly.  Instead of blankets that need to be tucked in (and are challenging even to me, let alone a 5 year old) his parents have given him a small duvet.  This enables him to make his bed with ease, every morning .

Now that his body is bigger, so is his furniture.  Toys and activities are still kept to a minimun and are still on shelves to facilitate his putting things away after use. 

The window sill has been used as an impromptu nature table.  Here's a better look:

     His clothes are still kept where he can access them easily and a few choices have been laid out for him.  Two or three choices give him the independence he yearns for and allows him to get ready in the morning with no interference from an adult.  Also, he has been given a laundry hamper of his own so there is a place for dirty clothes (other than the floor ).

     Now that he is older, he will happily work at his own desk in his bedroom.  When he was younger, he prefered to be closer to his parents.  This happens with many children.  Some parents have compensated for this by having a child's table or desk in the kitchen or living room.
Even on the desktop clutter is kept to a minumum.  G.'s mother has embraced the Montessori tendency to use natural materials as much as possible (wouldn't it be cool if Lego was made out of wood?). 

     Just like in the classroom, G.'s shelves are not cluttered so he can see everything and choose what he wants.  Many parents rotate children's toys rather than give them too many.  When a child seems to be getting bored with something, the child and parent can decide if it is time to change the things on the shelf.

In the family room, there are two G. sized chairs - one for him and one for a friend.  I also appreciate that the windows are all quite low. 
G. can see outside without having to stand on a stool.

At the door, a small shelf with hooks has been placed at G.'s height so that he can take care of his outer wear without help.  The basket on top is for his mits and hats - again, just a few choices.
Since he was very small, G. has been included in every aspect of family life.

And he still is.......

Friday, April 2, 2010

At home with S. and his parents

Last year, one of our teachers left us to start a family.  Being a Montessori teacher, she and her partner are committed to raising their children within the philosophy.  I shared photos of the baby's room with our Parenting Class and someone mentioned that I should post them on the blog.  We've all seen pictures of  Finn's room so, with the family's permission, here are some pictures of S.'s room.  Enjoy!

 The black and white mobile is develop- mentally appropriate and provides visual stimulation.

(See here for more information.)

A mirror attached to the wall beside his bed is so much more interesting than a blank wall.  It gives him another view of his room and lets him see his reflection.  The idea is that the child will begin to connect the movement his body makes with the movements happening in his mirrored reflection.

Another view of the room before the mirror was hung.  Note the low pictures on the wall.  When S. was old enough to lift his head, these gave him another point of interest in the room.  Both the mobiles and the pictures are changed frequently.

Now he's old enough to grasp his soft blocks and lift his head.  In the background is the chest of drawers that his Mom designed and his Dad built just for him. Mom said "I will only keep 3 or 4 choices of shirts, pants, sweaters, in each drawer so that S. can easily choose something to wear and not be overwhelmed with the task of getting dressed."


At home with M.

     M. is the first son of one of our teachers.  Under the supervision of his mother, he is taking the seeds out of a squash.  He is also working on his pincer grip, getting a botany lesson and helping prepare the dinner.
     A low shelf has been provided for his activities in the family livingroom.  This give him the independence to choose what he'd like to work with and the ability to put it back.  At this age, however, a child may have a different sense of order than his parents. 
When putting his activities away, M. prefers to put them behind the shelf and couch.
With his mother's guidance, everything is (eventually) returned to the shelves.

     Some of M.'s activities have been purchased from a Montessori outlet while others have been chosen by his parents after carefully observing what skills he is trying to perfect or master.  Observing our children will give us the best insight as to what activites will aid them at every stage of their development.

In another part of the house, the parents have made use of what already exists.  In this case, they have used the top of a wooden chest as a shelf for more of M.'s activities. 

     In the kitchen, this small shelf has been used to hold more of M.'s things.  The cans are used for stacking, the pots and pans for practising taking off and on a lid (and to discover the lovely sounds it makes), there are matching cards in a small holder, cups and bowls to explore with, and a child-sized pushbroom and a small dustpan.

     A child sized chair sits beside his books.  Again, his parents have made use of what they had instead of going out and buying something new.  Montessori at home does not need to be expensive.  It just takes some thought and creativity.

Some of the activities that M. uses every day.  Notice how the animal figures are as accurate as possible - there are no blue horses here.  I wonder what music they are listening to?