Thursday, April 9, 2009

Toddler Montessori

So, my daughter Janie is 19 months now, and has been "doing school" with us for the last 4 months. She has never fit in extremely well to the classroom, but we've made do. I put some learning materials/toys out on the floor against one wall, and she can take them to a table or work with them on the floor. She sometimes gets out a floor mat (she loves those!) and will work there.

It has been hard to be consistent with her, because she is so much younger and doesn't respond as the older kids do. She wants to use a material at a table, so she goes over and sits down...for about 30 seconds. Then she leaves the material there, and goes to see what is going on across the room. Then she'll get a floor mat and try to scoot as close as she can to someone else's floor mat...this occupies most of her time, and the work she was thinking of doing on the floor mat is forgotten. She also likes to roll up other people's mats, whether or not they are done working with them. Oh, and she is a chronic chair-stealer...sitting down on someone's chair while they are on it (or slightly off it...) In short, she has contributed to a lack of concentration on the part of all the kids (though they don't really get upset with her...they tolerate her and generally enjoy having her around...they just don't get as much work done). She is really a good lesson in practical life for the big kids (how to get along with a toddler), and a lesson in patience and perseverance for me.

Well, all that perseverance is going to pay off soon. After some deliberation, I decided to give Janie some shelf space (two small shelves in our classroom are now for her materials). That way she can get them when she wants them, and not just during school time (usually I put her materials away after school, as I wanted them to be fresh and keep her interested as long as possible). They were a "diversion" before, but now she's old enough to somewhat join our school. I also made a temporary table for her to work on, so she won't steal the other kids seats.

Two stools from Ikea and a board work wonders! She's sitting on the bathroom stool...

Anyway, I realized that now she has taken on (with the acquisition of shelves) a degree of responsibility she's never had before. She must now put things away before using other things. And she understands this! This doesn't mean she is eager to follow directions, but I know she'll get there. She wants to take her work all over the house, but understands now that it must stay in the schoolroom. She wants to leave work on the table and go play with something else, but if I bring her back and ask her if she's done or if she wants to keep working, I know she get's it. She's growing up!

Congratulations Janie!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Taping- update

So Lucy has really been interested in the tape dispenser lately, and this morning I came down from a shower and saw that she had just been leading Janie in a coloring session. On her own initiative, she got a piece of paper and a crayon for Janie, taped the paper to the table (like I usually do) and let her draw. They proudly showed me Jane's picture when they were done. My stipulation: that she stay right with Jane to help put the crayon away!


My kids know how to do the snapping frame, but they can't snap their own clothes. The snaps on the frame are super-easy to press together (made of plastic) and clothing snaps are almost always made of metal and really require a strong force to close. So, I found some clothes that no one wears right now, and put them in a laundry basket. They all have at least one snap on them. I put the snapping frame in their too, and am going to show my kids today informally (we don't have "school" on Saturdays). I think they'll like it, but we'll see if they actually master any of those tricky blue-jean snaps!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Paper punching- update

So, the paper punching work is a hit, at least with Gene. He has chosen it every day, and has now moved on to punching longer lines (the length of an index card). He didn't complete a whole line, but asked to put it away and finish it later. He was really motivated when I talked to him about the ultimate pin-punching goal- tracing out and punching the pieces of the world map puzzle. He is really excited about that, and would love to just try it...I almost let him try to trace a continent, but I KNEW he would be frustrated and not want to do it again. He needs a lot more work tracing the metal insets and some other stencils I've put out. But, he could also just practice tracing around the continents pretty soon...when he feels confident with that, he could then go ahead and punch one out. What a fun incentive!

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...