Monday, 22 December 2014

busy time of year

And I don't even celebrate commercialism Christmas. I don't have to think about family feuds  parties. I haven't wrapped one present.

Taking it all in.

It's busy cause we're moving. Not just house, which is crazy enough, I'm moving into a caravan. Lots of reasons. I've traveled around the country twice now and around nz one and a half times. I've always wanted to do it with kids. And now I got the freedom divorce has granted me, there's nothing stopping me. It's an overwhelming journey to get there, though. Steep learning curve as I discover the joys of electronic breaking systems and tare weight.

Letting go of stuff. Not just the carefully compiled star dust, but the emotions attached to it. The stuff exists in my house because they trigger memories. Nice thoughts. I'm surprised to discover they also trigger bad memories, negative reactions and old patterns. Once the ties are cut, there's just star dust left and it's easy to let go. It's a huge job though!

And while I'm growing this new journey, I'm growing a new child. I'm very excited that after one year minus one day of planning, I tested positive on a pregnancy test. Feeling eternally blessed with an easy ride so far! I'm excited to learn about infant montessori practise.

So that explains my absence in posting, but our montessori journey hasn't stopped. It never does. It can't. We're still busy matching all the things.
I've packed up our shelves, though. There's just the native animal collection left. The rest is in boxes and will come with us. I've decided I rather not take the fridge if it means I can bring the pink tower. I'm very curious to see how it will work out. It's quite an untraveled path. So I'm keen to share for others.

I've finished reading montessori method. Why I didn't do a review for each chapter I don't know. It's so rich! I won't be able to summarise it in one post.  And I had to return the book two days before I finished reading it (which I didn't, I finished the book) so I didn't get to make notes. Very interesting chapter on food I'm keen to share. It's not something I've read elsewhere.

Practising montessori had helped us through some tough times (I've also had bronchitis). It's helped me focus on providing beauty. Choosing to only keep beautiful stuff is easier than keeping stuff cause it's worth something. Keeping the living room as calm as possible. Ensuring ds gets the opportunity to explore. I've done a lot of observing him and it's mind blowing. He's becoming more and more conscious and determined in what he needs. I do my best to provide, but it's easier when I let him go and find what he needs himself in a prepared environment (like the zoo, parks, botanical gardens or museum, can't say my house is prepared much). I also involve him in all our new journeys. I talk to him and explain what's going on. I'm talking to the adult he's going to become, teaching him decision making, care for others, dealing with change etc.

That's enough rambling from me. 😊 things will settle soon enough and I'll be back to posting more regularly. I also need to make sure my child wears clothes so I can include pictures.

Happy solstice!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

he's just not ready yet

Practical life skills: going out for a cuppa. 

Ds turns 3 in a few weeks. While he sleeps through breakfast, I was reflecting on what we're doing. Or not doing, to be more accurate. He just shows such limited interest in the materials. He does them a bit when they're new, but doesn't show that obsessive impulsive interest in the way he does with his cars and animals.

I've decided it's fine to wait. To follow the child, even if he's not moving the way you expected. I see these other children starting at 2.5 and good on them! Mine just isn't. And I don't want to pressure him.

He is learning a lot, of course. Still matching all the things. Learning more and more self care and becoming more determined in that. I don't think he'd care whether his socks are on our not. He's so like me! Naked is the way of life, unless it's cold.
I can see his car games developing more. He's into bridges at the moment. Going under and over bridges fills him with such delight. Same with going up and down ramps. So yesterday in the play ground, we spend a good half hour running over bridges and up and down ramps. He ignores the play ground altogether. He just runs and runs and runs.
Stamping animals

I'm trying to focus on practical life. But at the moment, it's hard. We're moving into a caravan and I'm selling all the things and it's a huge job. I don't have time nor energy to do the dishes, let alone do the dishes together. My focus is all on this great move.
Interestingly, I started to notice ds screaming for attention and misbehaving. It just made life harder and I tried my best to be strict, even considering a naughty chair. I found the negativity just made things worst, so decided to go against the grain and actually just give him more attention. Listen andflow thechild, he's wiser than you. We've had a few baths together, I've run with him on the play ground, I've played with his cars and involved myself in his life. Works much better, he's my little angel again. It's hard work, though. I do it all on my own.

Dutch tradition. He loved it but felt a bit intimidated sitting on his lap. 

We celebrated sinterklaas on the weekend. I felt a bit conflicted by letting him believe in this fantasy, but I couldn't not do it. It's too much fun. I've tried to keep it as realistic as possible. We went to the Belgium club for the celebration and did presents at home. His dad bought them for us so I couldn't not do this. He loved the stamps, he loved the zebra that matches with the big zebra! He hasn't touched the Maya the bee figurines, they're not real. He knows they're a bee, but didn't think of matching them to his animals.

Thus we're plodding along.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

matching games

Ds started a sensitive period for matching all the things all the time. It's amazing. I mentioned in a previous post I didn't really believe in matching games, they look so boring. I'm glad I gave it a try.

He found these tiles and put them like this before I even noticed. 

Here's what we do.

Matching 3d to 3d. 
I've got the mystery bag of shapes. He likes working with it but doesn't quite get the bag thing yet. But he likes to sort the shapes together. He also sorts his animals to match.
Matching of dinosaurs to a copy.
After a while I'll get him to trace to an outline,
following a similar pattern as with the geometric cabinet. 

Matching 3d to 2d.
I quite literally stuck his plastic animals under the photo copy machine. About 9 to 12 per sheet of animals in the same category. So I've got insects, fish, aquatic banale, etc. It's easy for him, but he does it again and again.
he also, spontaneously, started matching his plastic animals to pictures in books.

He's discovering his new animals here. I got a small version for midday of them. 

Matching size
Big cow goes with little cow, big fish with little fish, etc. I'm trying to teach him that all the big animals go on one side and the little on the other but he prefers to put them right next to each other or even on top of each other!
It's a fun game that we play together. He begs me to join in.
I think he's ready for understanding the pink tower too, now. I need to reintroduce it to him. The other day he begged for the knobless cylinders (which he's not supposed to have yet, but he likes things differently) and build a tower on size. He was nearly prefect!

Matching colour
I may have made a slight suggestion, but really, this game came up spontaneously. He's matching his cars to colour and making piles for each. Sometimes I'll sit with him and we make a rainbow, but he doesn't really get that yet.
He also matches things to the colour box we got and to anything, really.
Matching cars to colour.
When he's done he runs over and proudly shows me! 

Matching to real things
This is really cute. When we do the weather chart in the morning, he insists on going outside and holding the felt sun or cloud against the sky. He asks himself "do these match? " I laugh so much when he does this, again, his spontaneous idea.

Our felt weather station. It's so much fun to help him observe the weather.
I'm keen to add the moon phases, just haven't gotten around to it yet. 

These are great games for cementing the language into his little brain. It also helps him get a string sense of size and colours. I'm amazed at his keenness.  It's something I read about frequently in the books I'm reading. This spontaneous, effortless activity that looks like magic.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

matching shelves

My current shelves are all about matching. Big to baby (his term), objects to pictures, smells, weight, colour, anything

His favourite game is matching his plastic animals to a copy. I just stuck the animals under the photo copier! So easy.  He also likes to sit with me and match big to little animals. He's so cute, he holds two objects together and asks in the highest voice he can manage "this same? " then answers "nooooooo" copying my voice. He gets very excited when they do match. I wonder if he tries the others because it's hard or because it's part of the game. I think the last one.

Before I made this activity, I had some serious doubt. It seemed stupid to me. It looked too much like using flash cards, which seem very un-montessori. I've read a bit and asked people about it and heard it helps language development. Now, I thought language development was all about learning new words and names, but it's not. This activity is more about cementing in those names and forming a stronger picture of it. It's also about linking 3 d objects to 2d pictures and later on I'll use lines. Maria montessori mostly did this exercise using the geometric cabinet with its many shapes.
I was very surprised that Seb did not find it boring. Quite the contrary, he's doing this every day for 3 weeks now!

Matching dinosaurs to a copy

I made 5 prints to match. Dinosaur, aquatic animals, sharks vs whales, wild animals and insects. I tried to make one of farm animals, but that's when my printer died.

Next I've got sensory matching. My colour box 4, which I'm considering to turn into a proper one. He's so good at it but lacks concentration to complete it.
I've bought the mystery bag with shapes and we work with that. This stimulates stereognostic senses, or being able to see with your fingers.

I also got the Baric tablets and smell bottles. He's clearly not ready for these! The Baric tablets first nearly got unwrapped! Then they got build into a tower and then, of course, a road. The smells bottles were nice for opening and closing and he liked the smells but didn't get the concept of matching them. He's only 2.11, so still very young for these activities. 

I got a basket for sock matching, which I still haven't properly introduced. He does like matching socks and hanging them on my washing line. Now he's toilet trained, though, I don't have washing very often anymore. I really need to make time to show him this activity. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

life happens

Is actually Thursday, but life is a bit sunnier than it was on Tuesday. 

It's about time I write another post! So much for my aim to write twice a week. Life had been crazy, both in a fun and a not fun way. It's distracted me not just from blog writing, the house is chaos and I've not paid much attention to Seb's education. Hopefully things are settling now, but I wanted to reflect on how to montessori your way through stress. It's not like you can always prevent it! Life happens.

I wish I could say I managed my stress perfectly this time, but I didn't. I excluded Seb out of the kitchen again, I just didn't have the energy to let him do my dishes. I've not really kept his shelves nicely. And I succumbed to retail therapy several times! At least that's not a complete evil. I bought animal puzzles, extended my plastic animal collection and bought the beads I'd need to diy the math curriculum up to age 6.
This was before retail therapy! 

However, while I failed on many points, there have been valuable lessons for me and Seb. And I'd like to share them too.

1. Learning takes practise and we can't be perfect all the time.
In fact, holding yourself to some high prefect standard may very well set a bad example. Is good for kids to see mum makes mistakes too. And every time you make one, you can take the opportunity to teach, explain, model, how to get through it.
So me and seb have done a whole lot of talking about life. In child language, of course, he doesn't need to know the source of the stress, teaching doesn't involve traumatizing your child! But throughout it all, I prioritised staying connected to him, I've given up a lot to make sure he can still grow and develop. this means the house is a mess, but we did get lots of one on one time.
I've also explained to him that is hard to do it all myself and that he needs to help in certain ways. I'll give you an example to explain.
He even stood still long enough to make a photo. Sort off.

We went to the museum. Usually he runs wild, lives it and within a couple of hours security knows we're there. He's a good kid, so I don't particularly worry about him. Just other people. This can be tiring for me, so we say down and I explained that and why he needs to stay close.
He's not run off since.
same with bed time, nap time, diner time. He's been much more responsible and cooperative since we had a few talks.

2. It can be much worst.
I've been reading montessori method. Awesome book! She decides how she started up the first casa and what the situation was like in those awful slums. 5 families sharing a house, rooms shared with prostitutes,  murdered women in the street. Most of the children who started in her class were left at home all day while mum went to work! 8 to 10 hours of no adult supervision! No food. Nobody to care for them. Two year olds! Those are the kids she normalised in her casa. While I'm sure I can do way better, I feel assured that if you can fix those problems through montessori education, I sure as anything can fix my mistakes.
Need I say more! I feel no shame, this is just what happens. I'll get there again, one day. 

3. It passes
Two weeks of intense stress, and it's just lifted like the fog lifts in the noon. These stresses are outside my control and most people would struggle. And if I keep working towards my goal, keep trying, jump back onto the band wagon every morning, every minute, every moment, then it will settle again. I've got a fridge magnet that states "success is getting up once more oftener than falling down". I only count the successes, I only list the number off times I got up. That way I feel happy and relaxed quicker. Every second of every day you can decide to move on and get up. Of course, you may fall down again a second later, but then you can get up again when you're ready.
So while I didn't do the dishes yesterday, I can do them now. Or now. Or now. Or after I finish this post! No harm done, no need to feel shame. Also no harm if you prioritise connecting with your child or resting first. It's not like the dishes will run off. If only! I wish they'd run off!

4. Stress is energy intensive.  You need to rest. That's why things go out of control. It's normal, rest is important. Do it. Easy as well as you can manage and prioritise healthy food, but increase fat and sugar so your brain can use it to settle. I don't mean eat ice cream, there are plenty of high energy food that is not loaded with chemicals.
Lots of sleep, camomile tea and endless cuddles, tickle fights and foot massages. Stress costs energy, and these things help the brain to bring order again, this reducing the cost.


5. Stick to montessori!
Having such a prefect aim, helped me to keep going. A lot. I know what to do and I got support through the various Facebook groups. The aim to create calm and beauty and to follow my child, it's helped enormously to prioritise and make choices.

It's nearly 8 am. Seb is still sleeping! I'm going to finish this post and write a few more.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

chasms and sacrifice

In high school, I studied ancient Greek. Don't ask why. I'm not a language person. We all did exams in Herodotus and translated much of his work. He's a politician and a great story teller. The following is one of his stories, freely translated by me.

Lacus curtium monument. Pic from here

The chasm in the center square. 
Once upon a time in a town in the heart of Greece, I can't quite remember why, but for some reason a  great chasm had appeared in the center square. I think there must have been a fight or disagreement that angered the gods. These stories often involved ticked off gods. People didn't know what to do about this chasm, but ssomethinghad to be done add it was severely disrupting daily life. So they did what all ancient Greek would do, they went to Delphi and asked the Oracle. The Oracle said "fill the hole with the most precious thing you own." The Oracle being the Oracle, never gave straight forward advise, but was always right.
So the people of this town tried to fill the hole with all the gold and silver they had. They threw in their precious clothes and jewels. They threw in every thing they could think of. Nothing happened. The chasm was still there, as bottomless as ever.
Then, one day, a knight, or soldier, or prince or whatever you call the important greek people who do everything, hopped onto his horse and drove it into the Chasm. I imagine he was inspired by one of the gods. Athena perhaps, she was wise and reasonable. The chasm closed, swallowing up the horse but not the guy.
The moral of the story was that there is nothing more precious than your horse own life. But giving your life won't kill you. Just your horse. I remember that this horse was very precious to the owner. So it was still a big sacrifice.

Sacrifice of life for the better. Pic from here

Our own chasms. 
I was talking to a friend about life and montessori and thought of this story, which is why I share it here. Because we all have these chasms somewhere in our heart. And most often we don't know why. Herodotus knew in his story, but I've forgotten. It's usually something silly anyway, something that ticked off your morals and values. And we try to fill these broken hearts with gold and silver, otherwise known as shallow wants and addiction. We try to fill them up with various drugs. Coffee, beer, cheap food, take away, television, Facebook, you get the idea. Retail therapy, spending money on cheap stuff that breaks easily, quantity rather than quality. Ugly people, ugly feelings such add hatred and jealousy.
And we all know it, but we all do it. Because the only way to fill the chasm is by giving your life, your passion, your fire. And that takes courage. It requires you to sacrifice your horse ego. It could kill or hurt you, but it's the only way. And your inner wisdom (Athena) knows it. Some oracle, otherwise known as random person on your Facebook page, or teacher, will tell you. Actually, i think we're told very often what it is that we need to do, but just like these greek people didn't get it, we don't always get it either. And it's hard. We all love our horse, it's precious, we depend on it. Or ego works for us and makes us feel important.

How Montessori relates to this. 
So. Back to montessori. She talks about the child's psychic needs. She says, or at least suggests, that if we don't look after the child's mental well being, they become sick and misbehave (she says in several books that misbehaving children are to be doted on as if they are ill). Naturally, children don't misbehave. They like to cooperate, clean, learn and work.
And this is where the chasms come from. Unfulfilled needs. Interrupted concentration. Stress and trauma. Broken promises, broken trust. They break the child's heart slightly. It results in little chasms. And these lead to craving. Craving attention, craving food, craving love, craving work. A normalised child doesn't have these cravings. They are whole.

How to keep your child whole
Maria montessori says to follow your child. His interests and passion. We need to prepare the environments so our little masters can develop themselves without interruption. But I also think we as adults need to follow our interest and passion. We need to model that we love our work, regardless of what that work is (I mean to include chores, love them the way your child loves them, as they are a way to beautify your environment). I think we also need  fill our environment with real beauty, real food, real people, real things. I'm sure you know the difference.
We also need to learn as much as possible about the child's development and we can do this easily by studying the child.  This is what Maria Montessori did. She studied and observed the children. She removed the teachers and replaced them with scientists, directresses.

Besides preparing the environment, we need to be kind to our children and see them for being the man and woman they are creating. We need to reduce their stress as much as possible. Not by giving them gold and silver (useless toys), but by giving them our life and passion. When the child sees this, sees that he's kept in your heart and that you give your life for him (or her, obviously, but i have a son so think in hims and hes), then he'll learn to do the same. When the child feels safe and secure, confident and free, he can sacrifice his horse and live passionately. He can then heal his own heart, which is sure to get broken at times.

Ps. Of course I got touched by this story and had to satisfy my mind and find out what it was exactly. Plus I wanted to find nice pictures to add to my blog. From what I can find it was the story of Anchurus, son of Midas. The famous Midas who turned everything he touched into gold, which is also related to the above story. It seems to have been written by Plutarch, although that's not what my memory says. The Romans got a version too, but agree it's a mix up with the Greek sorry.  I really couldn't find any satisfactory information or reliable source. The story published on the Web is short and doesn't include gods, which I find strange. Anyway, doesn't substract from my blog post, I think. However, if you know more, do share! 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

diy Baric tablets

Baric tablets

I haven't seen a useful diy post on this. Most involve buying bits of wood of different weights. It sounded so hard, I gave up instantly! I mean, I did ask the shop if I could have their sample floor boards, but that was it.

I don't know what happened then. I must have been reading a book on the method. I suddenly had an idea. Did the tablets have to be made from wood? Did they have to be a specific size? No and no. The only requirements I could find is that they are all the same size and different in weights.

So, matchboxes with marbles will do! And this is really easy. I found that the tablets weight 25 to 35 grams. Which happens to correspond exactly to a matchbomatchbox with 4 to 6 marbles! A marble is generally 5g, and so wad my matchbox.

This is what you need
6 empty match boxes, the small ones
30 marbles
wrapping paper of 2 colours
some cotton or stuffing to stop marbles from moving (mine didn't need this as the marbles were slightly big. )

You fill 2 boxes each with 4, 5, or 6 marbles and mark them clearly. Now you have 3 pairs of different weight. Feel them! It's not an easy exercise.
Take one box of each weight and wrap them in paper 1. Mark the boxes on the bottom as you go.  Then wrap the other 3 with paper 2. Don't forget to mark them!

That's it. Easy as pie.  I marked them with only a tiny mark, but I now think a mark Seb can use would be better. This is the control and the child can check if he's correct.

Like I said, it's hard and it helps if you move the weight up and down in your hand. But once you got it, it's easy. And it would be even easier to a child. According to Weber-Fechner law, you can discern a 5% weight increase in an object. So, you should be able to tell the difference between 20g and 20.1g! A 25% weight increase is a lot! But it takes a bit of practise and focus and closing your eyes and sticking your tongue out.

I realy enjoy working with this material!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

thoughts on normalisation

Having rest on top of the world

I've always been very aware of the importance of a child's first years of life. This is when the inner voice is formed, this is where those inner needs and wants we adults have are formed. This is when it's easiest to break a person.
I'm aware, because I spend a lot of time studying psychology and psychologists. I've read a lot on early childhood, attachment theory (which isn't the same as attachment parenting, it's the theory behind the practise) and development. I knew which disorders are planted in this time. I knew. Because I got them. Because someone tried to break me. Because I experienced first hand that not all parents are good parents and that you can do wrong.
I also knew trauma is intergenerational. You learn to parent in the first years of your life. You unconsciously remember everything you did, saw and experienced. And you implement it as an adult, instinctively.
I was and always have been determined to fix the evil in my life and to not pass it on. Many decisions I've made were inspired by the determination to not pass on the trauma to the next generation. This includes migrating!

So, you can imagine how felt deeply I feel about how my child got raised by a mother with severe ptsd as result of birth trauma. His dad left us at 18 months. His primary carer, as I worked! The very trauma caused disconnected and unstable parents I had worked so hard to keep at bay, had snuck in through the back door.

And then I discovered Maria Montessori her writing. And I read about normalisation. And I felt even more desperate. How was I ever going to achieve that! On my own. No family. Poverty. Broken myself.

A normal child, according to Maria, is kind, generous, able to focus, keen to learn and work, ethical. All those things we strive for. But teaching, parenting and day to day life disrupts the child's development. It prevents the child's mental and psychological growth. And the child misbehaves.
The children that arrived in the casa dei bambini, had much worst lives than we can imagine. Before this children's house started they were left on their own while mum went to work. I'm rich compared to them. Our live is easy. Giving them the room, the materials and the responsibility, quickly changed these children into well behaved normal children. To everyone's amazement.

If they could do that, I can normalise my child. I'll just have to trust her, myself and Seb. But for a long time, I just felt worried, insecure and moving in darkness. I felt no hope and if I did, I killed my hope every time I boiled over and blew off steam in front of, or even, at my child.

Before I read her books I intuitively felt she was the key for me. And I felt that if I learn it all and do it all, we can get there. And we are getting there! The organisation of the materials and turning my house into a real child friendly place, had given us the physical stability and calm. But most of all, I've learned to let go. Seb needs to do it, it's his life, I can only be in the way. If I focus on creating an amazing environment, then he can get on with the job of growing up.

And today I saw my first results.

We just spend week in the mountains. We did many climbs and I often wondered if I pushed him too far. But as much as I could, I let him decide. I carried him if he wanted, I let him run otherwise. We stopped to look at dirt, we even played in a puddle on top of one mountain, barefoot!
Come on mum! This way! Often a step or 100 ahead of me

Near the house, I let him run further and further away. There are no obvious risks like cars and strangers. Just snakes and kangaroos but they generally get out of your way.
There was a footy oval behind us and of course, in toddler land there is only one way in. Through the gate at the other end! Not through any other opening or underneath the fence, just the gate. After I realised, I could let him go to the other end, come through the gate and play on the cricket pitch without going with him. It took a lot of courage!
This is a skink. We talked about their behaviour and their habitat. We also saw bearded dragons, a brown snake, a shingle back lizard, emus and lots of kangaroos

I let go and as much as I could, I enjoyed seeing his joy. I was fascinated with him, looked with him, talked with him, followed my little man. I talked to him about what we saw and explained how mountains are formed, that kangaroos are marsupials and how endlessly much I loved him.
One walk he was a pita. I thought he was cold, but he wanted to be carried. So I did. 5 minutes later he was asleep. He didn't wake up until we got to the top! It was utter bliss to walk on my own pace, in quiet, hearing only the birds and mother earth whisper.
When we climbed down together I realised I had no idea how I got up there carrying 15kg of child and stuff! 

Now we're home he's more purposefully doing the works. He's concentrating and I can see the intensity on his face. Intense joy, intense awareness, intense absorbing. It's blown my mind.

I know we're not there yet, it's only the first leaves of the flower bud gently opening. But I got that key to becoming whole and to raising a wholesome child.

"Look mum, it's pink"

I hope this story helps you understand the power behind this education system. It's not meant to be quick way to learning letters. It's meant to raise spirits, to lift people out of poverty, into happy stable lives.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

List of montessori materials

Honestly, I was a bit surprised there wasn't a comprehensive list of montessori materials yet! There are a lot of materials, introduced at different ages and in specific order. I found it quite overwhelming. I needed a list so I knew what to make next, in order of when I'd need it. There isn't much point in hurrying with making the beads when it's not actually used until they are 4!

So, painstaking research, but here's the list! I've put them into the 5 categories of practical life, sensorial, math, language and other. Other being geography, biology, etc. This happens to be the order in which most materials start! The first 3 years is really practical life only and some sensory. When plane 1 starts (age 3-6), you start with sensory. Math and non oral language doesn't really start until they are 4!

I've made the list based mostly on info montessori, plus looking at what's for sale in the official montessori shops.

This list is for home schoolers,  starting at age 3. I've linked to diy posts, hoping to make them all over time. I've marked the ones I would recommend buying with a *, except for the practical life things which mostly need to be bought unless you're super clever with loads of time on you're hands (or you have a grand dad). I've also ticked off the things I've got. 

Practical life
I didn't get much especially for this, most things are in our house. I've just adapted what iI got and made it accessible for my child.
✔Variety of bowls, pitchers and cups
✔Variety of cuttlery and cooking equipment
✔Variety of cleaning materials child sized
✔Block with screws, screw driver
✔Living plants
✔Ellipse on floor
✔Lace cards
✔Flowers for flower arranging
Weather station

✔Knobbed cylinders, 4 blocks *
✔Pink tower *
✔Brown stairs *
✔Red rods 1 2
✔Knobless cylinders,  4 boxes *
Constructive triangles 1 2 3
Geometrical figures
Geometric cabinet 1
✔Binomial cube *
✔Trinomial cube *
Touch boards 1
Touch tablets
Fabric boxes
Baric tablets
Thermic bottles
Thermic tablets
Sound boxes 1
Bells * 1 (this blog explains how to make cheap bells great)
✔Smelling jars
Tasting jars
Geometric solids *
✔Mystery bag
Colour box

Number rods 1 2
✔Sandpaper numbersr
Spindle box 1 2 3 4
Beads sets 1 2
Stamp game6
Fraction circles

Books *
Sandpaper letters
Movable alphabet 1 2 3
Metal insets 1 2
Geometrical cabinet 1 2
Sand tray
Chalk boards

Land/water models 1 2
✔Sandpaper globe
Continent globe
Political globe *
✔Natural globe *
Puzzle maps (continents and one for each continent)
✔Variety of model animals and plants
Animal puzzles *
✔Musical instruments

Edited to add: having shown this post on Facebook, the person who writes carrots are orange told me she did similar thing! And added ages. And I'm not going to reinvent the wheel, so here you go!

Practical life and sequence
math cycle and sequence
language cycle and sequence

Friday, 24 October 2014

DIY sandpaper letters

There are plenty of blogs that tell you how to make these. I don't want to rewrite them. I just want to add some tips and ideas. 

1. Don't rub your eyes when cutting sand paper! Guess how I find out. 
2. Make sure that if you're copying onto the back of sandpaper, that the letters are upside down. I learned this when I did the numbers. 
3. Most blogs tell you to print letters, cut them out, trace them onto sand paper. This is silly. You can easily use some carbon paper to copy them! It's much easier. Or, if you're too lazy to find the carbon paper, you can print the letters, turn it over and use the ink! This means you need to trace twice as the ink isn't very clear. Guess how I found out! Ha ha. 
Bonus point of you can print straight into the sandpaper. Can't see why not, really. Especially if you got a printer where you feed on one side and collect on the other. 

Letters copied into the back of white sandpaper. It's a good practise in mindfulness and concentration! 

You can use any type of letter, but the main question is print or cursive. After reading a topic on the Facebook group montessori 101, this decision was easy. Print is dead easy, kids pick it up whether you like it or not! And I know Seb can already recognise letters, I think his child care teaches him (don't ask). Cursive is a bit harder. If you teach print first, then you'll need to teach cursive again later. But if you teach cursive first, you'll never need to teach print as the kids teach themselves. Even Maria Montessori noticed this, so was said on Facebook. 
Thus, for me, cursive letters it is! 

If I had to do this again, I'd print the letters all jumbled up as frugally as possible on a sheet the same size as the sand paper sheets. I'd organise some proper carbon paper and go from there. Much easier to puzzle on the computer.

My letters aren't finished yet, but I was keen to post anyway. I just got to glue them on some wood, which I have. I think usually it's thick cardboard , which I don't have. So wood it is. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

DIY balance equipment

We went to the museum and Seb just had to climb into every single thing!

Children love climbing onto stuff. Anything! Couches, tables, mum, trees. With complete disregard of safety, they practise their gross motor skills. It's great to watch them have such fun, or to be part of it!

I made a few things for Seb, to encourage his play, while keeping him from using less ideal objects. That said, nothing replaces me. He climbs on me, uses my legs as a slide, flips over bent knees like a somersault. He loves me lifting him over my head and slide down my back. There are many games that you can do to practise your biceps and other muscles! Just take care you don't lift abruptly by the hands or feet as you can dislocate little joints. I hold seb by the armpits and lift firmly and gently, taking great care and precision in my actions. 

Same day, same museum! Lucky they have more appropriate materials like this snake. You can use anything. In dance class we use big river stones, foam bricks, ropes etc. 

Balance beam
I was a bit lucky that when I pulled my bed apart, I was left with a 2m bit of wood, about 8cm square. Voila, balance beam! That's all you need, nothing more. It's not completely stable, which  is great as it makes balancing just hard enough. 
Alternatives are plenty and children seem to find balance beams anywhere! You don't even need something raised, a line on the ground works well too. 

Balancing on the board before I painted it. He loves it and it comes out regularly. 

Balance board.
This is a small bit of wood, I think is 5 ply, about 1.5 cm thick and about 25 by 35 cm square.  I screwed a bit of wood in the middle of it, to create a see saw and covered that with fabric. I painted two feet on the top, where you'd stand. It's great fun to stand on it and wiggle! The fabric underneath is optional, I did it because we have a wooden floor and it would minimise damage.
I screwed the beam onto the boards from underneath. Take care the screws can't go all the way through! It's not quite center, uhm, by design. I promise! Nah, I tried hard but once it was done realised my brilliance! It's different to balance on and requires greater precision. 

I think montessori schools have a round one, which moves any which way. This would give far greater diversity in movement.  I could have screwed a small square to the bottom and that would have done the same. 

Walk the circle.
Most, if not all, montessori schools will have an ellipse stuck on the ground. The kids can walk around, carefully following the line.  While I haven't seen this written anywhere, I imagine an ellipse is used because the angle of the line changes constantly, fine tuning your balance. I can't imagine Maria Montessori doing something without clear multipurpose.
I've got wooden floors and used making tape to create the circle. It's not as nice as I'd like it to be. But it does stick well, unlike the coloured tape I've used in the past to make shapes.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Book review: Maria Montessori own handbook

Published first in 1914, by Maria Montessori.

I think the aim of this book was to help the large number of people interested in her method, to understand what it is all about. There is a bit of theory, but mostly the book focusses on the materials and how they work and how they relate to each other.

The materials are incredably intricate for their simplicity. The sensory materials are in decimals, 1 to 10 cm. They teach so much, it's hard to describe. Sensory wise they teach volume and order, both are important pre-math skills. But they also teach precision and concentration. Counting and numbers.  The knobbed cylinders teach pencil grip. The rest teach gross (moving the large cubes) and fine (moving the 1cm3 cube) motor skills. It teaches how to carry things and be careful and respectful with materials. It teaches work ethic. 
The materials come in order: knobbed cylinders, pink tower, brown stairs, red rods, red and blue rods and finally the knobless cylinders. 

She also discusses other materials for training the senses, such as baric tablets, sandpaper tablets, sound cylinders, bells, metal insets, beads, colour tablets and much more. But also practical life skills, and the necessary materials for them. She explains their purpose and what the children are learning from them. 

It's a great little book. Easy to read and very practical. It goes through most materials, explaining why, how and which way. It's all very precise. Not all materials are mentioned and I wouldn't be surprised if some got developped after this book was written.
There are many books aimed at parents, that probably use easier language and clearer instructions. This book is perhaps better for when you already got a bit of an idea and want to get into the material a bit deeper

Monday, 13 October 2014

Montessori at not quite three

Today the knobbed cylinders arrived! Together with an apple corer and shapes mystery bag. I felt so excited. Another big step on our journey. This time I was determined to do it even better. I was only going to introduce one block and do a proper lesson. 

I did. I sat down and invited seb over, sort of. I started pulling the cylinders out and he came over. He put them back in and walked off. I didn't say a word, just letting him experience the material. 

I pulled the cylinders out again and he came over and put them back. Score!
But that was it. He had no interest.

I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed.  At the same time, I know he's too young for lessons. He's not yet 3. 2.5 months to go. When reading the theory it's clear I shouldn't expect him to be ready. I know we need to first focus on practical life and routine. I'm fine with that, but it's hard to be patient. I really want him to learn those things I'm excited about and I'm excited mostly about the sensory lessons. I love these cylinder puzzles. I got to remind myself this is not about me. Teaching seb is not about relieving my own boredom. It's not about my learning and not about my teaching. It's about creating the environment and then doing nothing but watch (and crochet a darn big blanket while watching).
Yet I'm filled with self doubt. Am I doing it wrong? Too much or not enough? Is he behind, should I worry about his ability? Deep breath. Patience is hard! 

So what did he do today?
Cut up an apple with the corer. He also got out a plate and banana and cut it up himself. I didn't realise until he was done and I served dinner. Then he made orange juice and drank it, followed by practising pouring, followed by an exercise in drying the floor. 

When he found the cars outside had gotten rained on, he dried them. I easily could have let him dry my car too. 

He helped me mash beans. And watched me cook. 

He undressed himself countless of times. We got him dressed a few times too.
We picked up a parcel from the post office and did some socialising with friends. He told some people about all this!

This is practical life. This is real life. This is what he needs to be doing and this is what I need to be facilitating. Lessons can wait until he starts to consciously absorb. Maria Montessori said you can't teach them until they turn 3 and who am I to argue with her! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Book review: how to raise an amazing child

I need to preface this by saying I had just read "the absorbent mind". Going from a heavy theory book to a practical book was a bit of a shock and, for the purpose of review, probably not the best idea. However, my head was full with theory and I couldn't fit in more.

The other thing I need to say up front, as it strongly influences my opinion, is that I'm quite a hippy. I go quite far into science based attachment parenting. There is a chapter on discipline in this book and I disagree on every single point made. This, however, says more about me, than about the book and I'll try and keep to the middle without judging. I still can't imagine anyone advocating to leave a crying child alone, leaving the room, but this book does just that. 

I think this book is written for parents without an education background or montessori background.  It's a great first book!  It aims to show you a way to implement Montessori theory at home, without buying all the things! You don't need all the things. The home provides so much already! I'm planning to homeschool, hence I'm making or buying materials, but you really don't need to if you're doing school. 

The first chapter explains a bit about the theory. It's very clear and gives some great ideas that you can easily implement. 
The second chapter is more practical and comes with ideas on how to help your child develop their senses. I love these ideas! It's also a good idea to search for sensory boxes on the Internet. There is so much available.

Sensory bottles I made from stuff I mostly had at home already

The third chapter talks about how you can let go of control and involve your child in your home. Help me do it myself. The only thing I wanted to add to this chapter, is that you can start toilet training from birth (it's called Elimination communication if you want to find out more on this) and 50% of children in the world are fully toilet trained by age one. Nappies are a western invention and delayed toilet training is an invention of the nappy industry. There is no scientific research into this topic, all research is done by the companies! Of course, if you're into normal toilet training, go for it, it's not like you're harming your child (this is not sarcasm, but true!).
Once you start involving your child in everything and letting him do things for himself, letting him struggle until he asks for help, rather than intervening before he gets a chance to really try, life changes. And suddenly you find your child unloading the dishwasher and getting angry with you because it was clearly his turn to do chore xyz.

Then we get to chapter 4. Lets open a can of worms. The first part is called "creating a loving environment". The second part encourages you to make sure your tantrumming toddler is safe and then leave the room for her to calm herself down. This is insane. I'm sorry, but how does this teach empathy? How is this loving? The child needs you, whether you say no or not, a hug or a cuddle will make it easier to deal with your no. Calling a tantrum irrational is downright rude and disrespectful. I mean, we all get upset over things  that other people might find stupid and irrational. But when you're upset it's real for you! And you want a hug or a nice word. Imagine your partner walking out of the room every time you're upset! You'd kick him or her out in no time. 
When a child throws a tantrum, it's important to stay connected. To help your child through it and to help your child regulate his emotions. Regulating emotions is something that needs to be taught! You may find this hard (I do), you may find it hard to control your emotions all the time (I do). My thoughts are that we never were taught, because our mothers probably walked out of the room, or worst, smacked us, for showing a normal range of emotions. 
The other thing I want to add is that, of course, children are human. They can be grumpy and they can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. So can you. Suck it up. Don't punish your child for something you can't do as an adult. 
phew, couldn't help myself there! The rest of this chapter is awesome. The idea of the peace table is awesome. 
I skipped the bit about television. I don't have one (I'm a hippy, told you so). That's the easiest way to ban television tantrums, for sure! 
We planted potatoes on a local organic farm. The sights, smells, textures, tastes all provide great stimulation! We go here every month and talk about what we see and do. I let him as free ad is possible on a farm. 

Chapter 5 talks about exploring the world. yeah, loved this chapter! Be careful when taking bugs home, they are living animals who can feel pain. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a biologist, but I never collect things from nature and don't encourage my child to do so. We observe nature where we find it. I do have a small collection of shells and some stones. I got a few branches (fire wood, really) that I'll make building blocks out of. I'm keen to buy some river rocks and some bricks. These can be used out doors to build and move and whatever kids do with bricks and sticks.
Exploring the world is calming. Is great to do when you feel like tearing down the walls. It's mindful. Even walking quietly in the rain is calming. You can just wear a raincoat. 
The book then goes on to suggest some games you can do with young children. I nearly fell off my chair, I played these games with my year 8 children!! They are about 13 years old. It is so awesome to include these things so early in life. Same goes for culture. 

The last chapter is about whether or not to choose a montessori school.  It raises some interesting points worth considering.

In conclusion: great book with some great ideas, but really quite wrong in their discipline advise, so if you can skip that bit, it's worth reading. That said, so much of this stuff is easily found on line! 

This week's montessori journey

I've been keen to post this week, but life got the better off me. That is, life was good and I didn't want to waste it! Actually, I'm finding it hard to balance writing with parenting and I found myself increasingly disconnected from my child while trying to connect with the wider world. I've got 5 posts ready to go, just waiting final touches and photos. You'll have to practise patience.

Seb is now in bed after a long day in the museum and I can't sleep being too excited about my new sour dough starter and the delicious pancakes it makes. And the need to finish a bottle of wine (second hardest part of solo parenting is to finish a bottle on your own without getting drunk). And, uhm, cause I need some child free time.

Seb and I go to bed together. I usually hate the nights, they are lonely. And I'm usually too sleepy to do anything after having spends half an hour in bed.  We bed share. Cause we do, no need to get philosophical about it (tbh, I'm scared of the dark and refuse to get out of bed at night so this was my only option.  Don't tell anyone). We also wake up together. Well, I wake up and find a mouth on my nipple and I can't get up. I love it this way, actually, but once a week I need to fight tiredness and stay up late.

Observing dinosaur fossils

I've been busy reading books and blogs and actually just thinking about it. I've come to realise that there really is no point in starting lessons yet. Seb's not ready.  I try. He had fun and then goes back to being a toddler.  That's a good thing! I've really notice what Maria Montessori said about the difference between conscious and unconscious absorbing. It changes when they turn 3. I can slowly see this change, especially when observing slightly older children. Seb just absorbs. Flutters from one activity to the other, concentrates, but mostly just experiences. He's busy learning about nature, he loves animals, especially birds. He's busy learning spacial awareness, using his cars as a tool. He observes and observes and observes. Everything. It's like an addiction, so strong!

Too fast to photograph. He stood still long enough for me to take a step back. 

My job is to let him, to give him that freedom, to follow him, often literally (especially in the museum, far out, put your runners on! ) it takes great patience and I'm learning to observe myself. I'm a biologist, so already taught in observing nature, but this is much much deeper.

As for seb, my main job is to create the environment and to butt out. Keep out of his way, don't interrupt. That's all.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Montessori my kitchen

I don't have a typical kitchen. My kitchen is the smallest room in the house (toilet is in the bathroom, laundry is only slightly bigger). I do have a rather big diningroom. This post is about both as to me, they are the same room.

Seb is doing the dishes for me! 

So the kitchen itself, is really what I think used to be a walk in store room. It's a step lower than the rest of the house. It's pretty simple, but perfect. Oven, dishwasher and lots of cupboards. The bench is quite deep on the stove side, which is great for cutting up things. On the other side, it's quite narrow, which is great, because that's where the dishes pile up. The less space, the less dishes you can pile!
See, it's tiny! Only a little chair for my little man as nothing else fits

Because I was nervous about Seb hurting himself on the oven, or being in the way while cutting, he was never permitted in the kitchen. I used to feel very proud when he'd tell his friends "out of the kitchen!". Having the step there made it easy. When I was cooking, he'd sit there and I'd sing and dance and chat for him. The step itself was enough barrier.

Of course, Montessori changed all this! Very reluctantly I let him into my child free haven and let him help with the dishes. First he stood on a normal chair, later he got his own little seat, which is easy for him to move to where he needs it to be. The room would never fit one of those awesome kitchen chairs you see on other blogs!

Once I got used to him helping with the dishes, which he absolutely loved, there was no use stopping him. He loved watching me prepare food and cook. I relented, but after an accident where I tried to turn on the gas, but it didn't work well and made a big flame, I keep him at the other end of the bench while I'm cooking. He's also not allowed in the kitchen when I'm putting things into a hot oven, or taking things out. I'm quite fortunate that he's a tea drinker (I drink mostly herbal in case you wonder). So he's very familiar with hot and that he's not to touch hot cause it hurts. He's quite good in cooperating with me.

Slowly, over the past few months, I'm letting him help more and more. He's already used to knifes, so when there is something easy to cut up, I let him do it. banana, avocado, those things he can do easily now. I'm still nervous about the rest. I realise this is more my problem, than his capability, though! He's a careful and gentle kid who understands danger better than anyone. He's the one who tells me to be careful at every opportunity he gets and he's always right!

The only issue we sometimes have in the kitchen is the bit where he gets into food. He has access to all the food I'm happy for him to eat, but every so often he gets out dry lasagna sheets and wants to eat them too. It won't hurt him, but it annoys me. something else I need to get over.

Dining room

Dining area,  with access to craft supplies. He now paints every morning! 

The dining room was a bigger project. It was fully child proofed. everything was out of his reach! So I spend a day or two moving things around. Now he can reach all the plates, cups, cuttlery, bowls, and whatever you may need on the table. Initially Ihad also put the breakfast tray within his reach, thinking he could set the table. Of course, he discovered that when I'm not looking he can go in and eat the hagelslag (dutch chocolate sprinkles) and margarine. Those two are well out of his reach. I wouldn't mind if he gets stuck into the peanut butter or appelstroop (Apple syrup, which is really more like molasses with a bit of apple in it). Both are healthy.

I'm a bit disappointed that he can't get into the fridge. It's one of those that is hard to open at the best of times and seals vaccuum when you least want it. Usually when I'm angry and impatient! I think it would be great if he could have his tray of fruit and other frigdy foods in there. It would save a lot of spoiled food! But I'm not buying another fridge, so this is how it is. He'll need help opening it until he's 10 or so. well, I doubt the fridge would last another 7 years, but, you know, it's a stupid thing.

All our plates, cups, bowls and cutlery are here. It's great that he has access. He can clean up and set the table.  Sure, he's broken stuff, but I do that too every so often. He's very careful. 

Another cupboard in this room houses the cleaning materials and craft stuff. Paint, pencils and paper. I prefer him to do these crafts on the dining table. It's been quite liberating having given him access to paint. He never really painted. Again, I was all nervous about it! But now I've got 5 jars of paint and one of water, on a tray, he's really good and enjoys it. He probably paints once a day! He's very careful and I have no idea why I was nervous. Just because other people's kids are messy, doesn't mean mine is. Don't feel bad if yours is messy, mine is not within the normal range. This is the child who, from the moment he could walk, would carry mess to the bin and insist I open it for him. Who'd put mess in the other bins without me realising. Who, once he could talk, would say mess and bin as one of the first 10 words. Not normal indeed! Not that I'm complaining, of course!

Lastly, we have his play kitchen, which houses trays for pouring and spooning stuff. I change it around, sometimes it's lentils and buttons, other times it's beads and rice.
oh, and of course, we got his own serving table. We never did the weaning table. He had a high chair, but from 12 months insisted he'd sit in the fake tripp trapp without straps. ah well, you do what they want. A few months ago he decided that chair is for babies and he sits on a normal adult chair. half sits, half stands. I decided it's not my problem whether he's comfortable or not, I'm not going to fight him. He's got good manners, and that's what counts. It's rather nice not to have to bother with a special chair! anyway, his little table houses a drink cup and jug of water, some fruit and at the moment a basket with flowers so he can do flower arranging. This is also where he does his pouring and stuff.

I think that's it. in summary, the main changes I made were:
- granting access to the kitchen
- putting everything within his reach, except for the chocolate
- getting over my own irrational fears and anxiety about I'm not even sure what.