Tag Archives: montessori

Jars Jars Jars

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Need a morning activity for the tot(s)?  Well, this has been the biggest hit yet.  Just grab a handful of spice jars and let your little one have fun taking the tops on and off.   You can even use full jars with spices and let them use their sense of smell to match the lids.

Both of my boys can’t seem to get enough of these jars.  They try it individually, and then even do it together.  It’s so telling to watch B teach CJ how to do it.  His patience and sweet nature just shine through.  In addition to learning the Montessori termed practical life skills and developing sensory skills, he’s learning to gently use his communication skills to help out his younger bro.

 

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Scooping, Pouring, Funneling

Any of you who’ve been keeping up with my blog lately know that my current strategy for keeping my boys engaged and busy is more of the Montessori genre.  Why? Well, because it has proven to do wonders for my oldest son B.

For those of you who are new to the Montessori style, there are different categories of activities.  Sensory, practical life, language, math and culture.  This week B & C are enjoying beefing up on their practical life skills.   Preparing for these activities just took a little bit of time and thought.  I carefully selected a few things and set them out on little trays on the living room shelves.  Funneling rice, tweezing buttons, scooping beans and twisting the lids off of jars are the weekly activities.

B was thrilled when he saw the new trays on the shelves.  He went to them right away.  Deciding to first conquer the funnel, B mindfully brought the tray to the table.

photo(17)C followed in suit but picked the beans.  I suspect he may have been attracted to the beans, because they included a yellow spoon.  And, he’s really into yellow right now.  So, if there’s something else I want him to try, I might just try to incorporate yellow.

photo(18)Anyways, it’s really easy to create little activities like these for tot(s).  Most things are in your kitchen.  Or if you want different things visit a local thrift store and you’ll be able to score some cheap materials.  For 20$ I scored an abundance of offerings like tongs, spoons, bowls, pretend fruit, buttons, etc,

After working on their practical skills and fine motor development, we went on to more gross motor fun.  Building forts and castles, and falling onto pillows.

Clearly we don’t do Montessori activities all day long.  They are just the activities prominently offered in the living room.  In all honesty, the boys will focus on these activities for about an hour at a time.  Then, we go on to more imaginative types of play and more Waldorf style outdoor play.

Thanks for reading.  Check back for more fun activities to do with your tots.

 

Montessori Convert

mornings at our houseAfter literally years of research and trial and error, I have found the right educational fit for my son, Montessori.   Before he could walk, I began researching preschool methodologies and consulting professionals about the right fit for him. Montessori v. Waldorf v. Play Based.  The debate ensued. (See my earlier post) I looked to find him the “match,” somewhere where he would build his confidence, develop his intellect and be able to enjoy his precious childhood.

The consensus was that social and emotional development was important for him and that starting a more structured academic experience had little benefit.  So, we started out at very play-based schools.

The first school was of more of a Waldorf philosophy which aimed to promote social and emotional development through creative play.   B enjoyed it and did well.  The director was extremely well versed in early education and child development, and the teachers were engaging, positive and nurturing.  The children were well behaved, expressive and welcoming to B.

Just when we thought we had it made, a spot opened up at the coveted play based local school.  It’s the type of school where the wait list is a binder.  We thought long and hard about moving him there.  A difficult decision to say the least since he was content.  We were ultimately sold on the progression a different teacher and classroom each  year for 3 years.  We also liked the idea of having B be one of the oldest children in the class – we thought it would teach him to be a leader.  With so many of our friends’ children thriving there, it seemed like a safe bet.  The decision, however, completely backfired.  He regressed from knowing his shapes and colors.  He protested going to school.  Walking from the car with his head low while dragging his feet.  Thinking that consistency might help, we kept him there for a year, hoping that things would change.  They didn’t.

After the play based approach failed, it was time to try something different.  My husband had much success at Montessori.  I was reluctant based on the professional opinions I received recommending a play based approach for B and critiques about the method that it could limit creative and imaginative development.   Having tried the play based model, it was time for a change.  Three of B’s oldest buddies were at the local Montessori.  By some miracle, there was a spot for B.

I was reluctant at first to try Montessori based on critiques that it imposed too much rigidity to early childhood at a risk of stifling creative and imaginative development.  I can say, however, that while this may be true for some children, it does not ring true for B.   Within weeks he started asking to go to school.  Now, he tells stories, sings songs and dresses up as whatever he imagines.  Clearly his imagination is booming.

I have no idea what is going on at his new school, but whatever it is, it is truly magical for B.  in a very short time, I noticed changes in B’s ability to express things in a positive way.  Out of the blue, he’d tell C or me that he loved us so much, calling the sky or falling leaves beautiful and start to sing songs.  He’s more independent – demanding to try things himself first.  Yay!  Whether this is due to his age or the school, I’ll never know.  All I know is that he is blossoming.

I am now a Montessori convert and am looking forward to C joining the ranks when he’s old enough to do so.  In fact, I’ve again started reading Maria Montessori’s books basically promoting an educational approach to follow the child’s development and build independence.  While it didn’t seem a fit years ago, now it is.

I’ve begun to try to incorporate many of the ideas into our routine at home, swapping bookshelves cluttered with toys with more targeted and organized choices.  Both boys are thriving beyond what I could have imagined a year ago.

Don’t take this post the wrong way.  I’m not saying Montessori is right for every-child as I believe that no 2 children are the same, they are unique.  What works for one child may not for another.   All I’m saying is that Montessori works for B.

In addition, there are universally applicable concepts like building independence and instilling confidence.   Whether a child gets that through Montessori or Play-Based, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is finding a good fit and helping to build the child.

Picking a Preschool

The preschool hunt, for some begins as early as they are pregnant, for others long after the child is born.  For me, the thought process began when Bobby was merely weeks old hanging out in a baby carrier.  I was shopping for apples at my corner market in Oakland when a fellow mom stopped me.  She asked whether baby was on a list for school.  A little shocked by the question – I said no.  At that point, I was really thinking about buying produce, not about preschool options for my little guy.   Since Bobby was not even old enough to hold his head up, I thought it was a little early to start thinking about it.  What I learned was that the waiting lists at some schools start as early as when kids are in utero.  Yikes, I was already behind the ball!

Researching Different Options

With this in mind, when I moved to Sonoma when Bobby was six months old, I began the hunt.  In foreign territory as neither child development nor teaching is my profession, I searched for information.  Looking for expert opinions I consulted books and numerous articles (like these 1 and 2) detailing different educational philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf, Emilia.  There is only so much you can surmise from a book though.

The best advice came from local moms at the playground as they had actual experience with kids at the schools.  As I learned that there were different degrees with which the philosophies would be implemented at particular schools.  From strict implementation to lax, from focusing on daycare to the preschool program, there were so many things to consider.

Visiting the Schools

A shopper by nature, I visited the top schools that I had heard about.  Armed with my lengthy list of questions in hand like student to teacher ratio and schedules, I carefully observed what each school had to offer.  As I became more educated about programs, my list of questions evolved.   What were their goals for their graduates? What approach did they employ? How did the school develop confidence in the child? How did they engage children?

Of course, practical considerations like location and schedule came into play as well.  As one particular school that I fell in love had a very short program.  The short program coupled with the travel time to get there was impossible for my work schedule.

The decision involved other things more specific to Bobby like temperament and handling food allergies.  In addition, Bobby’s reaction to the school was key.  This even required a separate visit for some schools.  When Bobby visited, there were some schools where he immediately seemed comfortable.  There were other schools where wanted to be held the entire time.

Factors to Consider

Ultimately, the following factors helped me compare schools and make a decision:

  • Kids – did the kids seem engaged?
  • Teachers – what was their approach to teaching? How did they interact with the kids? How long had they been there?
  • Structure – what schedule did the day follow?
  • Art – what was the school’s approach to art? Was it free form or worksheets?
  • Curriculum –  what was the curriculum? Was it play based, Montessori, Waldorf or a hybrid like High-Scope?
  • Environment – was it organized, bright & cheery?
  • Play spaces – how did the space seem? Was it safe, clean, inviting?
  • Approaches to Discipline – what was the approach to discipline?  Would kids be in timeout chairs wearing a cone of shame? Or is there another more positive approach?
  • Socialization – how does the school encourage socialization?

Shortcut for Sonomans

With so many great options, picking a preschool can seem like such a tough and even overwhelming decision at times.  The good news is that there are resources out there to make it easier.   Cindy Studdert, owner of FarmTots, put it best when she described her decision not to open a formal school due to the great and numerous child centered programs in town.

In Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Mother’s Club hosts a preschool fair every other year.  As a past coordinator of the fair, I can say firsthand that it is a unique and fabulous event.  Numerous preschools and other kids’ activities attend to showcase their programs.  It is the event where you as the shopper can comparison shop for preschools under one roof.  Take your list of questions and go booth to booth!  It is a fabulous way to start comparing different schools.  This year, the Preschool/Tot Fair is on Saturday, March 16, from 10 – 12 at the Veterans Building.

If you’re outside of Sonoma, check your local mothers club to see if they host such an event.  If they don’t, maybe start one.

 

Thanks for reading and letting me share my musings with you.  I hope this article is helpful.  I’d love to know what helped you pick a school?