Prepared Environment

Such lovely thoughts about being a teacher.

Kissable Zebra Lips and Other Things

school I recently did an exceptional Writing Course, every time I was addressed as Dear Writer, I squirmed. A good friend had a generous explanation, “A bird sings a melodious note to find a mate or to welcome a new day, imagine calling it a singer,” he said. I am no songbird; I have only a little while ago discovered a new joy of writing (and so the amateur narrative that you kindly bear with). I certainly don’t look up to myself as a writer.

A Teacher, now that’s another thing. I have been a teacher for sixteen years and it is an identity that I am privileged to admit.

When I closed school a year ago, there was much explanation to offer, to the children, to parents, to colleagues, to family and friends. In the many questions that were asked was lost the most valid one, “Why did I…

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Video of the Day: Transformation Tuesday, Handwashing

Child-Washing-Hands

This handwashing set up obviously harkens back to the early days of Montessori. However, the popularity of this work will tell you that 1) children love to do multi-step activities (the stretch their minds and bodies, so feel great) and 2) handwashing can truly be an enjoyable, sensorial activity, with warm water, nice sounds, nice smells (soap!), and so can be taught to be enjoyable. This is lovely, as we know that handwashing is a life skill which we want children to gladly do many times a day!

Healthy Beginnings Montessori

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A little non-traditional education joke…

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Update, from Lysa De Thomas, who has both Montessori and Waldorf training: ” Sadly, a lot of people here have been taken in by Waldorf spin machine. As a teacher trained in both Waldorf and Montessori education I can assure you that you can’t truly combine both. You can take aspects of one and use them in the other’s classroom, but you cannot combine the two. That is because Waldorf isn’t the integration of art, music, movement, and story telling into the core curriculum, no matter how much their propaganda infers that it is. The two philosophies are often diametrically opposed.

Here are just a few examples:
Waldorf philosophy believes states that children need to be protected from the evil forces of the world. Everything in their environment must be controlled down to the colors they use, the materials they use, the songs they sing, and the knowledge they learn. Montessori philosophy believes in following the child and giving them control and choice in the things that they do.

Modern knowledge that differs from the late 1800 pseudoscience that Steiner embraced or “channeled” is evil (arhimanic). Montessori embraces new scientific information.

Waldorf states that the teacher is the ultimate authority figure in the classroom and makes all the decisions- a child’s choice is seen as allowing the will of the devil. While a Montessori teacher is a guide, helping the child work their way through learning in their own way at their own pace,”

No comment from me, but interesting.

Mary

Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

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Click to access Lillard_Montessori_Science_Genius_Ch1.pdf

The first chapter of the book by 2nd generation Montessorian, Angeline Lillard. She takes research on learning and compares them to the tenants of Montessori education. ” Modern research in psychology suggests the Montessori system is much more suited to how children learn and develop than the traditional system is.”

“The empty-vessel and factory models have many implications for schooling,
which are discussed in the chapters to come. To preview, when the child is seen as an empty vessel into which one pours knowledge and then creates bonds, there is no need to involve the child actively in the learning process: empty vessels are passive by nature. Yet people learn best when they are actively engaged. Good teachers try to keep children active by asking lots of questions during lectures, but the physical structure of the classroom is designed for passivity: the child sits and listens to the teacher, who
stands at the blackboard and delivers knowledge. There is no need to consider the child’s interests in the prevailing model because empty vessels have nothing in them from which interests could stem. When interests do arise, since all vessels have been filled with the same stuff, all vessels should share interests. Empty vessels certainly cannot make choices, and so teachers or school administrators choose what should be learned, down to the micro-details tested on statewide examinations.

The factory model also has certain implications for schooling. Factories at the turn of the century were efficient because all raw materials were treated alike. Factory workers operated on material, and material was passive. The material was moved from one place to another, assembled on a set schedule. Based on the factory model, all children in a class are given the same information simultaneously and are often moved from one place to
another at the ring of a bell. It is a significant strike against the factory model that even true factories are changing practices to improve long-term productivity, by allowing teams of workers to develop products from start to finish rather than having the product moved from place to place (Wompack, 1996). Yet schools still operate like the factories of yore.”

Montessori in the Home: Morning Routine

Healthy Beginnings Montessori

A child’s need for order is extremely important. As parents, we need to foster an environment that caters to their independent growth by providing enough space and materials to allow them to complete each task on their own.

Pictured below are a few glimpses into the Crawford family home, and how they’ve implemented Montessori into their daily routine. By providing adequate space and materials for their son to use, they’ve given him the ability to successfully complete his morning routine on his own. He can start each day, confidently, knowing that he will have full access to all of the materials needed to fulfill his personal needs.

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“A place for everything and everything in its place.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

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Game of Thrones :)

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I hate to take this on, but this is one area where nice, normal people go crazy, so I might as well join in. The craziness seems to be most acute in America. Not to pick on anyone, but here is a lovely blog post that describes, and pictures a wonderful “prepared environment” for self-toileting: http://midwestmontessori.tumblr.com/post/108937575341/toilet-learning-phase-2

Really, it could not be better set up! My concern is that the procedure is very adult dependent. Has anyone noticed how oppositional toddlers can be?  Of course, the main pit that all adults fall into is that of providing too much, or not “helpful” help to children. I certainly did this with mine. I would give you more details, except that my adult children probably would not appreciate this over-sharing.

“Montessori” is about prepared environment, teaching skills, and allowing independence to develop…independently.

That is, what skills are needed in self-toileting? Undressing, dressing, reaching the toilet, how to sit on toilet (boys), where to put soiled clothing, how to “wipe” effectively, how to wash hands, how to reach sink. These can all be taught: the rest is internal: when do I need to “go”?

We want the “when” to be in the child’s control. If not, there are two directions that can lead to great distress: #1 the child is convinced that they cannot know when and how to “go”, so they remain dependent on an adult to tell them “when”, and, perhaps, go with them. (I cannot begin to tell you how many horror stories: the child will not poop unless his head is on mom’s lap, the child will prefer to poop in pants than to attempt to wipe, the child will not go to bathroom alone, the child who will not use toilet unless mom sets an alarm on her watch to remind her, the child who will pee in toilet but must poop in diaper…)

OR #2 so to speak: child is in power struggle with reminding/cajoling/reminding/helping/ well-meaning adult. (More horror stories: child who holds urine until adult arrives, and pees on adult, child who pees in anger on toys, child who stays non-independent for years and years, impacted feces…)

So, prepare the environment, and prepare the child. Children can participate in undressing , and dressing from well before they can sit up. http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/05/how-to-love-a-diaper-change/ As soon as they can stand, they stand and help in changing. Then, when you feel they are ready, and they have all the skills needed, let it be their learning. That is all you CAN do, in reality. We cannot make children eat, sleep or eliminate.

Here are some words from Jane Nelson of Positive Discipline: http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2008/03/potty-training.html

Oh, and, equally important: believe that they can!

Warmly,
Mary

Giving comfort, escaping shame

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http://www.purposefairy.com/72173/brene-brown-speaks-on-shame-6-types-of-people-you-should-never-confide-in/

If you have not read the work of Brene Brown, or seen her TED talk, please do.

If you haven’t noticed yet, parenting pushes all of your buttons; especially the buttons you didn’t know that you had. 🙂 Of course, it is very hard to reflect on your childhood and the assumptions in your family, but it is part of the work, I think, of parenting.

One comment that I hear often from parents is: “I don’t want to be THAT PARENT!‘” I think this comes from our past, and that we can mean different things by it. What is our biggest fear as a parent? And where does that come from?

Our children are more resilient than we can imagine, and, if we are honest with them, the way Brene Brown describes being honest in this video, your children will stay in relationship and learn something about what to do with their own shame.

(She describes the difference between shame and guilt this way: “Guilt is when you know that you did something “bad”; shame is when you believe that you are bad. Shame leads to bad outcomes on every level.)

So, whatever you fear, please face your fear, or you can pass on your shame to the next generation.

if you are afraid for your child not to be pleased or entertained, to be angry, or to stand your ground, your child may feel unable to cope with difficulty.

If you are afraid of a child who is “spoiled”, you might be too strict, and fail to express your empathy, leaving your child anxious.

If you are afraid that your child is not learning enough, you may keep them too busy, and not give them enough time to discover on their own.

If you are uncomfortable with structure, you may leave your children hanging about what to expect.

If you are afraid that they will get emotionally or physically hurt, you may not let them explore relationships and environments on their own. We learn best when the learning is our own discovery!

Give and take of Negotiation

Advocate for Infants

Give and take of Negotiation-AdvocateforInfants.wordpress.com sharing knowledge about working with infants and toddlers

Right before the winter break all of the teachers who work with one year olds in our school, along with our wonderful supervisor, got to meet with Polly (a RIE associate and a really great person!). If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, DON’T pass it up.

Polly said many great things in our meeting but one thing she said really stuck with me. She said that toddlers are great negotiators. So true! Somehow they can make almost anything sound like a good idea. At lunch in our classroom it is common to see at least one teacher feeding a child. We know that all of the children in our class are more than capable of feeding themselves but somehow we end up helping them. A child will say “can you help me” or “I need help” and then we might respond “you know how to…

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