Monday, 29 September 2014

My first lesson

We had our first real lesson the other day. I had bought those sensory materials that I could never diy, got a mat, read all the books and blogs. I felt well prepared, had rehearsed what to say and how to introduce the pink tower! I may have been more enthousiastic than Seb.
I quickly realised my first mistake. The day before we had gone to pick up these awesome materials. . The plan was for Seb to sleep once we got home  I could quietly open the package and play with the goodies. Of course, he didn't nap and I didn't have the patience to wait, so we opened everything together. No harm there, right? 

Wrong.  When I introduced the pink tower, Seb insisted on the "black stairs" as he calls them. Ah well, we  build them together. So I go on to model how the tower is build and Seb gets upset. The tower had to be build flat, horizontall, not up. Ah well, we'll do that then. 
He had no interest in my 3 part lesson teaching  big and small. Ah well.

I let him have a go, but he's not too interested. In fact, he wants me to do it!  "Mummy do it". I oblige, because i have no idea what else to do and i don't want him to become upset. At some stage he even wiggles me off my chair and sits there watching me! Of course, I don't mind playing with the pink tower, but none of the books talk about this. This is not how it is supposed to go! 
He's distracted too. He moves and sees a toy and plays with this. Quickly he's incorperating his cars in the tower. Seb loves his cars and they do seem to be permanently attached to his little hands. He explores the tower and stairs with them. He parks them next to the stairs, rides them up and down, lines them up. I feel he's exploring the size and dimensions, so I let him, but I know it's not proper montessori.

After a while, we're done. So I encourage him to clean up and put things away.No way! He's too busy playing with the next thing. Again, I'm dissapointed. I see all these blog posts of other mums talking about how their child just cleans up after themselves. I'm feeling jealous. And annoyed, because I know this too is a learning process and yet another thing I have to teach him. Gah, why can't he read these books and learn himself! 

Seb exploring the dimensions of the blocks with his cars

So here are the lessons I learned:
- kids actually need to do things more than once to learn. Yes, he's got an absorbent mind, no, he can't do telepathy.
- seperate work from toys. I find it hard to admit, but toys actually are distracting! 
- I need to meditate more and relax. 

I think Seb learned stuff too. But I realise, I learned the most. 

From here on, he's done the tower a few times, always incorporating the stairs too. Oh, and the spare 1cm cube and stair. Cause the package came with 2, there needs to be 2, end of toddler discussion. He lost interest after a week and I tried to keep things going by getting the tower out myself and playing with it. It's a calming activity anyway! I think now I have to conclude he's actually just not ready yet. Now I've read the absorbent mind, I understand why, too. He's not conciously absorbing. These materials don't need to be introduced until he's 3 and becomes consciously absorbent. And we should start with the knobbed cylinders first anyway (I've ordered them now!). And I should teach him work ethic first and do all the practical life stuff first. 
I'm finding it hard. Because I see those beautiful blogs, with their beautiful photos and I don't realise these kids are older and often have older siblings to learn from. Having older siblings, mum probably got more experience too! which is all great, but I am not there yet and that is absolutely fine. He's be 5 before I know it. I'll be experienced before I know it too. 

I have to apologise for the staged photos. Being in the moment and not a blogger yet, I didn't document this lesson. But a blog without photos looks boring, so I made some. The only photo that was made while life was happening is the one where Seb is playing with all the fun materials we got and unwrapped together. I put the cylinders on the tower, of course. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Montessori my living room

When I started montessori, my living room was set up like that of anyone with a young child. It was set up for adults, with a bit of space for the child. Once my eyes were opened to this new world, I quickly started changing this. After many months, my living room is set up for my child, with a bit of space for me. And you know what, I'm much more comfortable this way! 

First thing I did was roll up the carpet and put it aside. The carpet was messy, noisy and distracting. I am now using it as a second shelve and that works well. It also reduced drafts, bonus! On it, I place the materials that get rotated most, although the music basket has always been there. 

Next, I tackled his shelves. These 6 shelves have always had his toys on them, but two shelve had the ikea baskets and all the other toys were crammed together. I bought some more shelves so I could separate the puzzles. I removed a lot of the toys and replaced them with materials, which I now rotate. 
3 months later, the shelves look like this. The books are moved to the play room and so are the baskets with cars and plastic animals.  Less is better. The fewer materials out, the more he plays with them. He still doesn't touch stuffed animals and dolls. The two empty spaces hold his train set and a marble run. 
Next step was to create a space to work. I bought a coffee table. This one is glass so I can, one day, turn it into a light table. The work bench isn't always there. We had a work theme for a couple of weeks and when the weather turned cold again, I moved it inside. Next to his work spot is my work spot. This way I can be close to him, observe him and not interrupt his concentration. I don't want to advocate being close to your child when he or she works, but this is what my child demands. I'm working on his independence. 

Here is an overview of our room. Yeah, it's messy after a day of play. Seb was a cat in his last life and he loves stealing my yarn. Usually, though, it's calm and inviting to play. I've got a couple of work mats that we get out. I move furniture every so often, to encourage creativity. At the moment the big table and little table have swapped sides. Every so often I move all furniture to the side so we can dance. There are hooks on the ceiling from which I can hang fabric, rings or ribbons, which we use in our dance. Sometimes I tape shapes on the floor. Right now I got an ellipse. I hoped to do the "walk the circle" activity, but it turned into "run the circle" and a spot to put the work mat in, like you can see in the first photo. 

I really like how our main room has become child centered. It's less work for me to keep it up, it's less work to entertain Seb and we're both happier. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Book review: Absorbent mind

Woot, I finished the book! I tell you, it's big and heavy and there is so much information in it I feel I could read it another 5 times before really understanding it all. Alas, book had to be back in the library tomorrow.
I will do my best to review it. Honestly, I think each chapter deserves a review of its own. Next time, I may very well do that! I'm planning to get the book out again in a few months.
The first part off the book talks about how life starts. I found it fascinating to read what they already knew in 19-something. I'm a biologist, I taught genetics at uni,  none of the information was new to me. If it is, this bit may be quite hard work. Even I wondered why she was banging on about embryology! I think it does help in the later chapters, though. Maria quite regularly refers to the terms explained in the first few chapters.
Maria argues that the first 6 years of a child's life, the child doesn't learn in the way we often think about when considering learning. Rather, the child just absorbs the information. The child sees, hears, feels, experiences and remembers it all. Every bit of information is absorbed.  The first 3 years, this process happens unconsciously, and the second 3 years the child is consciously and actively involved in creating the experiences to be absorbed. I'm pretty sure any mother who's got a child over 3 can agree with this. It's pretty darn obvious! Language just seems to happen and you really don't need to sit with your child and teach. Just reading fun books together and talking about life in general is enough. Some words you really only have to say once within earshot. This is especially the case for those naughty swearwords nobody ever dare use in front of a child. I'm sure mine isn't the only one who says ducking car (car will be repaired this week, I promise).
Look how cute my child is!
His dad gave him a flower. He watched it, smelled it, tasted it, looked at it again, hey it looks different once chewed! Lucky I remember from my own childhood that these flowers are tasty, although a bit bitter. He absorbed every little bit of that day. 
I often think back of the time he was only a few weeks old. We were sitting in the train and Mr Curious was craning his neck, to be able to see. See outside, the movement, the people. He clearly enjoyed it. 4 or 5 weeks old only! 

Here's another cute photo.
Once the child turns 3, suddenly everything changes. A switch gets flicked and the child becomes conscious. Purposefully participating in life, no longer following his natural whims and urges.  Seb isn't quite there yet. 3 months to go, but I can see it in his friends. This is also the age children can start kinder, if you're lucky, montessori kinder (or pre school, or whatever your state calls it). Montessori argues that most children come to her schools with defects. Most children will have experienced some, or many obstacles in their life. Children need to be normalised. Any child not quietly, independently working still needs to be normalised. She argues that children don't want to be noisy, disrespectful, clumsy little peeps. They want to be kind and they want to work. Providing children with the ability to freely choose in a well prepared environment, without interruption to their concentration, will normalise them. Of course, this is exactly what her schools do.
I was very inspired by a drawing on page 211. Here, she explains how normalised people will automatically and with little effort, move towards the perfect center of superior evolution, or growth. Anyone who did not overcome the obstacles in the first 6 years of their life, will automatically and with little effort move towards insanity or criminal behaviour. For those, life is hard, staying normal is hard work. Always tempted, always fighting. I think many people are like this. I found it very confronting to read, wondering if I'll ever not fight. But maybe, going through this journey with my child will make it easier.  Maria compares this to people who need a special diet due to allergies. They always have to be careful and food is just never easy. I'm one of those people too! Lucky I discovered you can heal your gut and reduce food issues. Chicken soup. Maybe montessori is chicken soup for the soul! I'm certainly enjoying the materials, so who knows.
There is so much more to say about this book, but I will leave it here.
Off to the next book. I can't decide whether to go for something light or to stick with theory. Probably the last one, but as you can see, there is plenty to choose from!  I <3 my library.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Post of all posts

I like to keep a little summary of posts. All posts linked on the one page. This will make browsing easier, I hope.
How it started

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Trays and things

One of the first things I did when adapting my house, was buy a heap of trays and baskets. Changing from a normal house to a montessori house is a process, it takes time. It's enjoyable and calming too! Especially if you, like me, love moving furniture.


You can buy expensive montessori approved trays. Yeah, cause it matters. I bought a heap of trays and baskets from the op shops and I'm glad I did. Firstly, because I love op shopping and always need a good excuse. Secondly, buying a variety had given my an opportunity to discover what I like and need without spending lots of money. Well, what I like and need is a variety! Some trays work great for one project, but not for another. For some activities I use small square trays from ikea. Other activities require large trays. Some materials fit well in round baskets, others fit well in square. So, it's a bit of searching and trying out.
One thing I noticed, though, is that consistency and plainness, works well. I have 3 yellow square trays that I use for pouring. These fit perfectly perfectly in Seb's play kitchen. Couldn't have made it better myself and it's not even an ikea play kitchen!
I got a couple of wooden serving trays with pictures on it. I don't like it, the pictures distract from the exercise. Plain color or wood is great.

I also got a glass serving tray! I love that one. It's got 3 dishes in it, so it's great for sorting, spooning, thonging and the like. I like it too, because it's not wood. It gives an extra sensory experience. 
Same with the baskets. Some are woven, some are solid, some are plain, some coloured. The different textures add to the experience, but it can also be distracting. This is something to think about when buying these things, before you buy them and not afterwards, like I did.
Most of my trays and baskets are not in use. I rotate them with the materials. I take them out when needed. This is another reason to have a variety. Especially so when you're designing your space on the fly, like I'm doing!
I have no idea what Maria Montessori says about trays and baskets. So far, in my reading, I haven't come across it at all. Likely, that says something about my limited reading, though and I hope to add theory to this post one day.
In short, when collecting trays and baskets for presenting materials, keep in mind the balance between useful variety and peaceful consistency. Be prepared to buy more than strictly needed and don't feel like you have to buy new ones for 10 times the price of op shop ones.

Colour box 4

There are many ways to make color boxes. The easy way, the one I went for, is using paint chips. You can also paint, or, as Maria did, use embroidery thread!

The things you need to consider is the accuracy of the colours you want to achieve. There was no real red in my hardware store! Seb does not fail to tell me it's pink, orange or purple, it's not red. As this was my first material, I didn't know about the need to be accurate and, at the time, I didn't care. I just did what I liked with what I had. So, I warn you, colour box 4 is NOT montessori approved.
What I had was this
-unlimited number of paint chips borrowed from the shop.
-a bit of hard board I had once used for something else
-Stanley knife
- wooden pegs
Because I'm an enthusiastic, passionate person, who doesn't always think about how much effort goes into my ideas, I went way overboard in this project (I was also bored brainless after 7 days of quarantine with chickenpox).
the paint chips came in 2 cards of 3 shades per color. So, I had 6 shades per color. Different brands do differently. I picked, uhm, 14 colors. I think it took me 2 trips to be satisfied with the range. Also, this conveniently fitted my wood without leaving any waste (told you, I'm frugal). After much uhmming and ahhhing, I cut the chips into size, about 2 by 3 cm to perfectly fit the wood. I also cut little strips that I would glue on pegs.  The idea is to teach matching skills and finger strength at the same time. I also ended up cutting little circles, the size of the center of my sticky tape roll, about 1.5 cm diameter.
Then, I cut the wood to size using a Stanley knife.  I don't recommend this. It's just all I had at the time. Let me rephrase this: don't ever think cutting hard board with a Stanley knife is a good idea.  But it worked.
Montessori has one colour per bit of wood. I didn't know this at the time and did 6 shades of each colour per bit of wood. If Seb had been younger and less practised in colour, I would also have made one strip with just the dark colours. Like I said, I didn't follow montessori for this activity.
After I finished glueing all the things, I decided to put it to the test and pegged the 14 colours in 6 shades. That's 84 pegs! And you know what, it was bloody hard.  So the next step was to mark each colour with a number, both the pegs and the boards. I never got around to matching the circles.

How to introduce this to a 2.5 year old?
Of course, all at once. There is only one way to realise something doesn't work and that's by doing it. He couldn't peg. So it didn't take long for me to give up on that and to give him the circles. To my surprise he really liked it when I gave him one bit of wood, one colour with six shades. He was quite good at it too! Then I gave him cards I hadn't glued yet, of the darkest shades only, with the matching chips. He also liked that and was quite capable.
We talked about colour and shade. The rainbow order is a scientific fact, so I like to teach that (art conveniently uses it as well, of course. Each colour relates to the wave length of the photon). We talked about dark and light, darker and lighter. He caught on quickly, which either suggests my child is super gifted, or it's something you can start to teach earlier, whichever one you fancy.
At 2.8 years (that's 2 years and 8 months,  not 2 years and 8/10th of a year) I give him 6 colours and 36 circles to match. We usually do this together, which may be my child's quirkiness, and he usually gets to matching about 8-12 depending on his focus. Quite often he puts them on, then throws them away again, to put on others, so perhaps he does even 20! Clearly, though, he can recognise each colour and shade with ease. I'm rather stunned by this as some are quite close!
This is Seb, working hard.

Diy montessori

I made this puzzle for Seb last year. Not quite montessori obviously, but diy nonetheless. 

I'm poor, no other way to describe it, really. It's OK, I'm lucky that I have both Jewish and Dutch heritage AND inherited the symbolic, stereotypical tightness with money, which comes with both cultures. I'm quite aware it's nothing more than a generalised stereotype, but it makes me giggle about myself and my heritage. It's something I'm usually quite proud of, even though I vowed never to go back to the Netherlands and I've never practiced Jewism. Anyway, I'm frugal, crafty and intend on making all the things, when possible. I plan to share a post on each material, so you understand what I did, how I did it and, most importantly, why. Personally, I find most diy blogs lack the why.
Montessori materials are extremely well thought out. I'm constantly falling off my chair with amazement when I read yet another thing that is taught using these fairly simply, basic materials.  I mean, a pink tower is a pink tower, there is nothing to it. But it teaches weight, volume, decimal system, adding, distracting, number awareness, pencil grip, fine and gross motor skills, concentration, work ethic, precision and probably much more.
Thus, I believe it pays to be precise when diy-ing these materials.
Because I'm crazy, not stupid and absolutely not endlessly skilled in wood work, I bought the following. Unless you have an amazing set up in your shed, I'd recommend you do the same. Everything else is easy to make with not much more than a saw, pens, paint, scissors, whatever most people already have, etc.
Knobbed cylinders, pink tower, brown stairs, binomial and trinomial cube, geometric shapes. Perhaps also the knobless cylinders, as dowels in the right size are hard to find (I found them and ended up buying the set as it was just too much effort still). And the puzzles, but I'm not yet convinced they are necessary. Those are for much later, though. I'm assuming you all have a nearly 3 year old, like me!
Also, I only started at 2.5, so never considered the many materials before that. You can research those yourself. And there will be many materials yet to research, so the list of "don't try this at home" might be expanded. I will up date this post if that happens. If I remember, I'll make a list of posts on the materials I did diy.
Ds is now 2yr 8.5mts
Sandpaper numbers on blue cardboard. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

how it started

Life started about 6 billion years ago, but really it started long before that when the molecules were being formed by imploding and exploding stars. I don't know. Journeys don't have a start or an end. Things only ever change, usually quite randomly. They never just start, there was always something that led to it and that's then part of the journey.
It was like a light switch got turned on ;)

 A few months ago, Seb and I went to dance class.  We go once a week and love it. It's based on yoga ideas and very sensory, grounding and mindful. As I strapped him in his car seat on the way home, I noticed a spot on his hand. 5 minutes later, as we got to the veggie shop, I noticed more. My heart sank, I hate spots on my child. Nurse on call said it was probably hand foot and mouth.  Joy.  I called child care, Seb goes once a week. They asked me to get it checked by a gp,  so they have an official record. I obliged and I'm glad I did as the gp quickly diagnosed it as chickenpox! Oh, and a chest infection and school sores. Don't worry, though, you only have to stay inside for 7 days.
Turned out to be 10 days, but anyway.  Seb was quite sick for 3 days, but his normal energetic self after that.  And I got bored. Cabin fever. Crazy. Looking for entertainment for the both of us, I started looking up sensory materials for me to make.  I ended up making the montessori color box 4, which is the crazy big one I designed myself. I'm never good at sticking to rules.  I cheated on the quarantine and borrowed a heap of paint chips from the hardware shop. Cut them up and made this amazing fun colour box with matching pegs and matching coins.  When I sorted it myself, I quickly realised this is kinda hard! I'll write a specific post on this later.
One of the first things I did was organising shelves

So, this is how the journey started noticeably. Of course, lots of events in my life got me to this point. I already knew montessori was amazing, even though I didn't know all that much about it. I already intended to home school my child. I already read lots of books and was already a teacher. But the chickenpox week made it all come together and my effort and research exploded into a frenzy.
And this reminds me of mMntessori her theory as she explains in absorbent mind.  All we see is that a child can suddenly talk. We don't see what happens before that, but the learning start in the womb! It slowly grows, until it explodes.


I'm Maya.  I got a nearly 3 year old son. No partner, it's just the two of us in the country. We arrived in Australia the day I got pregnant, still married then. I'm from the Netherlands.
Recently, I started introducing montessori education for him. I'm finding it amazing and it changed our lives. I've been calling it "project montessori my home" , hence the title. I changed it to life, though, as I feel it's becoming bigger than just changing shelves and adding materials.
I'm an ecologist. I'm a secondary school science teacher with no experience. I'm a crafter. I'm passionate about everything I do. And I'd like to share my journey.  I'll be honest, things go wrong, often. I'll share my questions and thoughts about the hard decisions I often have to make. And of course, I'm keen to show off.
I'm not very good at blogging. This is my 7th, they usual die within 5 posts. I don't like the one way conversation. So please, comment. Let me know you're reading! Share your stories and ideas. Answer my questions.
Looking forward to share my life.
Ps,  if you're one of those people who notice there are lots of edits, it's because I'm swyping this on the tablet. The auto correct is about as stupid as I've ever seen and it may take a few days for me to see the errors. If things really bother you, feel free to tell me. I won't be annoyed, because I'm always biting my fingers when I see errors on other people their blogs, lol.
Ps2. Can't believe the number of errors I found in the previous sentence. How embarrassing!