Wednesday, April 1, 2009


What a frustrating day...and it was just my kids today, Norah having a sick brother at home, and Janie throwing up last night (I'm not sure if she's sick or not...but better safe than sorry). I decided to do a bit of school to give us something to do for the morning.

I realized that my frustration mostly stems from expecting perfection from the kids. I want Janie to do her work in a designated area, and instead she wants to carry it all over the room. I want the kids to speak in quiet voices, and instead they talk normally and sometimes even shout. I want them to use the works on the shelves exactly as they have been shown, and instead they "get creative".

Examples of what went on today:
-Janie wanted to work right next to Lucy, and kept scootching her chair, and later her floor mat, so she was almost touching Lucy. It didn't seem to bother Lucy, but it sure bothered me!

-Lucy drew a picture and then proceeded to cut it up and tape the pieces onto another piece of paper. She took the tape from the "taping tray" where it was designated to tape colorful triangles onto white paper.

-Gene used the taping tray correctly (all the kids are learning how to get pieces of tape's harder than I thought it would be!) but then got some markers and colored it as well. This wasn't terrible, but the markers weren't designated to go with the taping tray...

-Gene spilled a whole cupful of beans all over the hard floor, where they scattered all over. This interrupted everyone.

I find myself wanting to correct them alot, but this doesn't serve the purpose I wish it would. It makes them feel bad for being creative, especially when they are really excited about what they did. And it makes me feel like the big bad mama.

What a Montessori teacher would do (I think!) is to give lots of lessons during circle time and privately about the correct way to use materials. And not at the time they are being used inappropriately. At a completely different time, so as not to make anyone feel bad. At the moment of incorrect use, a teacher would simple come over to a child, and either redirect them to another work (if it looked like they were either bored of what they were doing or didn't really want to be doing it) or ask a leading question (such as, which triangle are you going to tape on next?) Asking questions like this should hopefully lead the child to remember what they are doing/supposed to be doing and get them back on track. If it doesn't, they could put the work away and choose something else.

This is a great way to keep the school environment under control...but alas, with a toddler things become much more difficult. Because these things don't work for a toddler. Janie can't handle lessons or circle time yet. She doesn't have the attention span to watch me do something...I can simply do the first part, and then let her explore with the rest. Most of her works are things that don't have a specific purpose, like blocks, small bean bowl, playdough, shape sorter, etc.

I find myself constantly trying to re-direct Janie or help her with something. At the same time, I am fielding questions from the other kids and noticing if things aren't being used correctly (but can't always address it right away). At circle time, when it would be nice to address some of these things, Janie is getting really tired of "behaving" and often just wants to play with the kids. Maybe this would be a good time to give her "crib time" as the Babywise books suggest... (I don't know how to link to another site, I should learn sometime, but the idea is to have a certain amount of time (probably up to 30 minutes at 19 months) for a child to play in their crib (and later just in their room) quietly. I have never tried it, but it's appealing.

Anyway, I haven't done my job very well, and I am suffering the consequences. And the kids are, too, because their concentration is often broken and things seem to be escalating. And hence the frustration...


Anonymous said...

Seems to me like you are doing just fine.
I have the same frustrations some days as my little one is 8 months and into the shelves all the time too. My 3 year old gets off track sometimes too and uses an outdoor voice.
The crib time is excellent by the way! It just takes a bit of time for them to get used to it.
Smile, you are doing just fine :)
Jo From Canada

Anonymous said...


ive just discovered your blog from another one and this is the first post I've red so I don't really know much about you.. I'm trying to home school my 2 and 4 year old as well as study for the early years Montessori teaching certificate... well I learned something interesting, and that was that the activties are designed to teach them a skill that they can use on real life... they learned how to use the sellotape and applied it to their picture to stick it down to paper... so you did what you set out to achieve!! i find it frustrating also to see my children mixing and matching activities but then i decided to make up an art and craft shelf so if they know how to use scissors, i just make them available now rather than as a cutting exercise. i do put out cutting sheets or strips occasionally as a themed activity but don'w worry of they don't use them..... i hope that may help you with some perspective and i hope you don't think I'm preaching.. you sound far more organsied than me at home anyway!!!

Best Wishes, Jenni (UK)

Hannah said...

Thanks Jenni! I do like the idea of an arts and crafts shelf...I may do that, though we don't have a lot of extra shelf space. Thanks for reminding me about the "purpose" of practical life/art work. She just needs a place to tape, now, and she'll be all set!

Anonymous said...

We're now doing crib time since my almost 2 year old is no longer taking a morning nap. We have a few non-chokeable toys that we collect in a bucket and some megablocks and little people toys that she can't climb on and fall out of her crib. When I tell her its cribtime she gets so excited and goes around collecting her bucket and bankie. Usually she's good for about 30 minutes - though sometimes it's longer. And sometimes she falls asleep (though that's not my intention). I try not to take advantage of cribtime and stay consisten. It's been a wonderful addtion to homeschooling after losing morning nap.

Anna said...

I just came back from holiday so I hope you find this answer because it's a little late!

I teach in a Montessori school in England with kids from 4 - 8 at the moment. I would say that those times you are finding frustrating and are imagining they wouldn't happen or be redirected in "real" school are actually times when as a Montessori teacher in a classroom I would be patting everyone on the back! The exercices are there to introduce the children to how to do things, but then they are free to use indulge their creativity. I would say though that in a classroom we would have the exercises on the shelf and then also all those things on the art or writing shelf. Everything you described are all normal things - lots of selotape, work being cut up and stuck etc. Also, I am sure it is annoying having a toddler who wants to be close to her older sister all the time. In a true Montessori classroom a child is free to work where they want to providing they are not hurting the materials or distracting another child. That is why we use work mats. Your toddler will understand the use of a mat and not touching another child's work - we have a class full of toddlers next door at the nursery and they all have learned to respect each others space. If you read The Secret of Childhood it is full of descriptions of children using materials in ways the teachers didn't expect and the observations that came out of those "misuses" led to some of the greatest discoveries of the decade! It sounds as if everything is going as it should but it doesn't feel like it to you because until you sit in a classroom you don't see what all the children are doing. There are some doing language, maths etc but there will always be a largs amount doing something free and crafty - following their inner guide and producing......not a lot to an adults eye but soething very important to them.

You're doing fine!!!!!