Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bedroom spaces for older children

I know it has been a very long time since my last post again, and I'm actually cheating today and linking you back to a post on my other blog. It relates to organising personal spaces for older children in a Montessori way. There is always so much written about Montessori for children under the age of 7 at home, however, once they seem to pass into Elementary years, there is less out there.
Much of my learning for this age has been trial and error. I thought you might like to read about how we have finally created a calm and peaceful space for our nearly ten year old.

If you have a bedroom space you'd like to share, please leave a link in the comments below, if you would be kind enough to link my blog to yours then we can create a 'catalogue' of ideas for future Montessori seekers.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Having faith in the child

A friend of mine is a speech therapist and whilst out for dinner the other evening we chatted about when a child's speech may give cause for concern.
Montessori wrote about the sensitive periods of which there are five main ones:

A sensitive period for movement
A sensitive period for small objects
A sensitive period for language
A sensitive period for social aspects
A sensitive period for refinement of the senses

They are all linked to what she called 'The Human Tendencies'. These tendencies are innate and drive us to behave in a particular way. The tendencies are linked to survival and therefore include things like order, movement, exactitude, precision, communication, exploration, socialisation and repetition.

For example: The need for survival means that there is a drive to find food, for this there needs to be exploration. With exploration comes the need to repeat and be precise. Making tools to hunt needs precision and exactitude and then sharing what you have learned with others requires communication. The need to reproduce means man needs to socialise and you can see, these inner behaviours are all part of our make up.

Of course, I am not insinuating that we're still on the hunt for woolly mammoths with spears, but our inner drive has not changed.

This therefore means that the sensitive periods that Montessori talks about are naturally occurring, innate and every child will go through them as and when they are ready to do so.

If we have faith in the child that they will require the need to be social as this is an innate desire of man, this will allow us to have faith that a child will pass through the sensitive period for language because they will need language to enable communication, to enable socialisation.

Of course, it is possible for children to pass through these sensitive periods void of stimulus, this will not enable them to repeat or refine their skills. If they are not talked to, then their is less chance that they will be confident and fluent talkers. Looking at other people who wrote about Language development one will soon discover that language development comes from a range of stimuli. Chomsky would say that all children are born with what he called a Language Acquisition Device; in other words, regardless of anything, a child has an innate ability to develop language. However, Bruner and Piaget argued that children needed stimulus and that had to come from the adults around them. I think over the years this has become undisputed. We have seen horrific things on the television in the past about Romanian orphans who have just been left in cots for hours on end without stimulus. The results to my uneducated eye, are conclusively detrimental. Behaviour is irrational and disturbed and language almost non existent, at least in so far as the use of clear words.

So, providing stimulus, talking to the child, giving them the opportunity to listen to stories or rhymes, sing songs or play games that involve language will enable the child to move through the sensitive period for language normally and, just as all children don't walk at the same age because they don't all go through the sensitive period for movement simultaneously, they won't all talk at the same age. Stimulate and trust your child and they will likely develop language when they are ready, however, if you are at all worried, chat with your child's nursery teacher or with your health visitor.

Education and the teenager

There is a reason to my absence...I've been writing:

I'm in this month's Green Parent Magazine where I'm discussing the benefits of the outside and education for our teens following on Montessori's writings about the Erdkind.

In the UK we seriously lack understanding of how and what our teens need to learn and do during these volatile years. Whilst I am not taking a poke at education or schools, I am saying that there is more to life for our teens than just desks and national curriculum levels and we tend to put a lot of pressure on them at the wrong time. I hope to suggest ways that we can help our teens become rounded and emotionally capable adults and not feel that exams are the be all and end all.

You'll need to cough up the dosh to read the article, which is available in WHSmiths, Boots and some supermarkets as well as healthstores around the country. It's my second article on Montessori education for The Green Parent mag and I have further ones up my sleeve for the future.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spontaneous education

Friday lunchtime we had a little girl very upset in the nursery. She was staying for the afternoon session, but she wanted her mum. 
Thinking fast on the spot, I asked her if she would like to draw a picture for her mum. She said she did.

We go for a walk on a Friday afternoon and so I then proceeded to find an envelope and explained to her that after she had drawn the picture, we could put it in an envelope, address it and on our walk we would go to the post office to buy a stamp. She decided that she really wanted to do that.

So she drew a lovely picture for her mum and I showed her how to fold it and put it in the envelope.
We took some money on our walk, stopped at the post office where one of the children asked for a stamp. The little girl whose picture it was, posted it in the post box.

To me, this is the exact intention of Montessori education. Real life education.
I'm sure that there are a whole heap of boxes that can be ticked for the EYFS from this activity too, but the main objective of this entire lesson was to cheer up this little girl and this was successful. Further to this, she learned to fold, put a letter in an envelope, she learned that she needed an address and a stamp before posting it in the box. In a few days her mummy will receive her picture through the post so she will begin to understand the cycle.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The coat flip

Oh, ho ho, to be back on UK shores and studying Montessori under a different organisation than AMI...

So, the coat flip.

For many years, I have taught both my children and friends' children as toddlers to put their coat on using the coat flip:
It was the way I was shown by an AMI trained teacher and it made my children incredibly independent from around the age of 18 months and just look at the face "Look I did it by myself!"

However, within the organisation I am studying they do not believe in the coat flip.
It is not the way that an adult puts on a coat, therefore, as with all Montessori things, we should be demonstrating it in a 'real' sense. They suggest using pairs of children which does beautifully demonstrate grace and courtesy, however, it seriously falls down when you have a single child at home or when you are trying to mould to the "Help me do it by myself" philosophy.

I am not going to argue with the institute. I will, when qualified, help a child to help themselves and use whichever way I feel that particular child may find most beneficial...adding to this, none of my children now do the coat flip but none of them have 'ever' asked me to put their coat on for them!

There is no 'right or wrong' Montessori way, in fact, there seems to be no written word from the great lady herself as to putting a coat on at all. Maybe children in San Lorenzo were too poor to even own a coat, maybe the jacket was worn throughout the day, maybe a small shawl doesn't warrant a coat flip or help from a partner to put on? Either decide

But I just wanted to share with you the 'Jed Bartlett*' way to put on a coat! See...there are 'some' adults who put their coats on this way!

* apologies for the West Wing anoraks out there...Jed, not Jeff!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Montessori furniture

I just have to share some really wonderful links with you today.

These suppliers not only have some great materials you can use in the home or classroom, but many of them are local, sustainable businesses too.

The stool, plank and workbench are calling me at the moment...

Pintoy Furniture Natural Clothes RackThis coat rack is currently on offer at KidsRooms for only £25! They also have table and chair sets for a reasonable price.

Based in the US, but beautifully handcrafted Montessori baby toys!

Montessori Hand Washing Table

Wow! What do you make of this beautiful handwashing table. Again, sadly in the US. Come on all your British woodcrafters...some of these beautiful tables and useable, small kitchen counters would be fantastic, thank you!

If you know of any beautiful, locally sourced Montessori materials that make the classrooms look so wonderful, please post them, this is the one time only that you can openly advertise yourself if you make proper, traditional Montessori materials IN THE UK. Please don't post your site if you produce PDF documents or sell photocopies of lessons, this is for furniture and equipment.

The third plane

Referring back to my last post about traits of the earlier planes of development recurring once the child moves to a later plane, made me think hard about the behaviours that my eldest (particularly last year) displayed as he moved from 11 - 12years.

Of course, this can't all, by some miracle, be put down to him stepping over that imaginary boundary from childhood into puberty, some of it is also down to a transition from primary school to secondary and with that, a huge amount more homework, responsibility, kit to carry, hours in school etc.

However, the one thing that frustrated me the most until I re read Montessori's philosophy on the four planes of development, was the fact he was so disorganised and forgetful. Particularly when, at two, he would spend hours lining up his cars, at six was methodically working through his work diary to complete the things that needed doing in his school day...
How can you go to school wearing two shoes, and come home with your trainers on but only one shoe in your bag?
How can you forget your homework that you were told to put in your bag straightaway?
How can you forget to take in your swimming kit for the day when you ALWAYS have swimming?
How can you be so tearful about something that seems contrite and in the next minute, you're fine again?
How can you possibly have so many colds?
And how can your eczema be so bad again? It's not been this bad since you were three!

So, I re read what she said about the 12 - 15 age group. How they were prone to mood swings and erratic behaviours, about how they lapsed in concentration and how, she in fact compared this period much like the toddler period of 3 - 6

The toddler becomes engrossed in activities and, if they are not ready to complete the task when asked, there can be quite a tantrum ensuing. They can go to the park with their favourite toy, but easily leave said toy behind on the swing.

Interestingly she states that the period from 12 - 18 is "the period of life in which physical maturity is attained is a delicate and difficult time, because of the rapid development and change which the organism must go through." (From Childhood to Adolescence as cited by Camillo Grazzini in the NAMTA journal Vo.20 no. 1 2004)
She not only means that the child can go through periods of physical illness, but there is likely to spiritual sickness too. It rings true that the teen is more susceptible to glandular fever or meningitis at this time, just like the toddler was at more risk for these illnesses before the age of 5,  than any other. Then there being huge hormonal changes that will bring around mental confusion.

So, it is with care and dilligence that my approach toward my newly developing teen is prepared as much as I can, with some reference back to how I would have approached a situation when he was three or four.

If he needed to remember things, I would have continually reminded him, so together we have all made place mats for breakfast time that I've laminated. On these are the lists of all the things they individually need to remember to take with them each day. We are preparing as much as possible the night before. There is still a strong element of structure and order to our home so that they know where things are in order to find them and put them back. They have chores which, I have been giving to them as a lump ie: they need to clean and feed the guinea pigs, dry up, get in the eggs, however, I am realising that it might be easier for them if the jobs were directly allocated so that each child had one area in which to care.
I have also made a concerted effort to give him vitamins each morning to limit the colds and 'maladies' that he gets.
I'm still incredibly fastidious about what goes into his body as I believe that much of their outer personality comes from their inner health (spiritual and physical). He currently keeps a food diary as we are eliminating dairy as a trial period to see whether his eczema improves, it also gives him a good overview as to his mood and sluggishness to see if what he has eaten may have had an effect.

I'm know there is a huge learning curve for all of us, but this is a start.
I know that our schooling system in the UK, does not cater sufficiently for this change in children at secondary school. At a time when they need to grow and sleep, they are on buses at 8am in the morning and working until 8pm at night. At a time when they need to be able to almost go through sensitive periods again, where boys, in particular, need to move to learn; they are put in rows behind desks and taught the same things for the same exams regardless of what they 'want' to learn. I think we have chosen a good school for our eldest. It appears to be nurturing and the pastoral care is outstanding. There are a huge range of activities on offer for them, although emphasis is, naturally, on striving to do the best they can.
There is a good grounding in truth and respect for others. There is a LOT of time spent outside, physical education, gardening and farming (yes, my son's school is getting cows!!! I was thrilled - but sadly they don't offer animal husbandry and horticulture lessons to the parents!) so they are aware of the need to engage in reality. If we can continue to foster his needs at home,  he will become a good man.