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.