Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Daily Rhythm in Our Montessori Home

I get asked a lot for a schedule of our day. How we structure our homeschool time, our playtime and regular life. This isn't an easy question for me to answer, because the answer is always the same but different -- I follow the child. I don't force any specific list of activities on my children or force them to pick certain materials. I prepare the environment and let their interests lead. 

However, we do have a rhythm or routine that we generally stick to. Maria Montessori identified that the ideal work periods for children should be three hours long. So, I try to structure my day in three hour chunks. While my kids aren't "working" in a classroom per se the whole time, this does provide enough structure for us all.

So, I thought I would share our typical routine with examples from a random day. Just a note about the pictures -- I don't think they accurately reflect how much I am working, playing and reading with the kids. I chose not to get out the tripod, so I would get more accurate pictures of the kids. Also, this is not every single thing we did. Nora bounces around a lot, and that would just be too many pictures to feature here. Finally, I think these pictures show Henry working on homeschool materials a little less than is typical -- Nora and Henry were coming off a wicked stomach bug and no one was back to 100 percent yet. 

6:00 a.m. -- 9:00 a.m. 

My days typically start somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00. I work from home, so a few days a week I work from around 5:45 to 8:00 while Morgan is with the kids. He will get them up and fed. Then, we trade off so he can get ready to leave for work. On days I don't work, I try to get a little more sleep -- but Nora often has other plans.

Reading "Little Beauty" 

On those days, I may work on blog and social media stuff, make homeschool materials or simply read mindless stuff on the internet in the morning. I am NOT a morning person, and the kids know this. Generally, they will sit quietly with me, eat or play. Morgan takes on a lot of the parenting at this time, just because I have no patience this time of day. 

Henry plays with the Grimm's Rainbow

As it gets later, Morgan heads to work, and Nora and I get dressed. On school days, Henry gets dressed too, but otherwise I let him follow his own desires to get dressed. 

9:00 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m. 

This is our first work period of the day. This is what I consider our "independent" time. Not that I'm not around or involved, I'm just not as actively participating in all their play. Henry goes to school several days a week during this time. This also tends to be when we would do outings or run errands. 

Henry builds with Magnatiles; Nora on the {discontinued} Ikea seesaw 

So, we are not necessarily just playing at home at this time. When we are, the kids follow their own interests. I may play with them for a few minutes and let them play alone. Or, we may read for 30 minutes or not. I follow their lead. But, its also when I get things done around the house. It may be 15 minutes of focused playing, then 15 minutes of unloading the dishwasher. Or throwing in laundry or vacuuming. The kids are always invited to help me in my cleaning or chores. Sometimes they do join in, Nora, in particular, is much more likely to be helping me than working alone. 

Nora starts to color matching {completely her idea} between loose gems and DIY colored boxes from our light-panel area. Henry gets water from a Brita water filter

Around 10:00, the kids get an independent snack from their kitchen area. And, then go back to whatever they are doing. Usually Nora needs more focused play with me by this point, but not always. They will also play together. If its not the dead of winter, we may go outside. There are also times when I might have a sensory bin or other sensory experience planned, that just depends on the day and my energy level. If the kids aren't doing a great job working on their own, sensory play can sometimes turn the mood around. 

Henry sweeps with the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Vacuum with a center bar removed as I use our regular vacuum.  

Henry works with "Maps" and works on comparing populations between countries trying to find the largest. 

This part of our day really looks so different each day. Henry might spend the entire morning in our homeschool classroom, or no time at all. Nora might cling to me or she might play quietly. But, by noon, everyone is ready to move on. 

12:00 p.m. -- 3:00 p.m. 

The third part of our day starts with cleaning up and making lunch. Henry has recently started taking over much more responsibility at lunch time. He is starting to make his own lunch from start to finish.

Henry makes vegan mac and cheese for himself and Nora with supervision. 

By 1:00, our "morning" is officially over. Henry goes to quiet time and Nora goes down for her nap. At quiet time, Henry can choose to be in one of our playrooms or his classroom. During this time, everyone completely does their own thing. Henry does not have the option to join me, but needs this time to rest. He's often found curled up with his blankie reading or laying. 

During this time, I work, either on my work-work, blog work or prepare for the class I teach. I might craft and watch a show, or clean.

3:00 p.m. -- 6:00 p.m. 

By 3:00 p.m. Henry is ready for interaction again, and Nora is usually getting up. This "work period" is where I am much more involved in what they are doing. I actively make it a point not to do anything but hang out with the kids. 

Henry works on pink series. Nora and Henry paint using watercolors and watercolor paper.

I still follow the children's lead during this time and play along with what they are interested in doing. Typically, I would say we spend on average an hour in our homeschool classroom, an hour reading books and an hour doing other activities. Its too cold here most days to go outside, but on warmer days we may spend an hour outside {and all of it outside in the summer}. 

Henry and Nora play with Legos on the light-table panel. Reading "Lola at the Library."

I'm very fortunate to have a husband that does most of the cooking, so I don't usually have to do much when it comes to dinner. But towards the end of this time, we do start to pick up and make sure we're ready to eat. 

6:00 p.m. -- 10:00 p.m. 

By 6:00 p.m., everyone is ready to eat, have a little play time with Dad and get ready for bed. Most nights the kids are in bed by between 7:15 and 7:30. 

Nora plays the xylophone while Henry sings in the bilibo. Nora does simple shape puzzle. {similar} Henry plays with pin art game. 

A couple nights a week I actually get back to work as soon as Morgan gets home from work, and skip dinner and bedtime (other than nursing). Those few nights, I work until between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. and then head to bed. The nights I don't work, I craft/blog/hang out with Morgan.  

And, that's it! A day in our life and our general rhythm. What does your Montessori day look like? 

12 Months of Montessori 
This post was brought to you as part of the 12 Months of Montessori series! This month's them is "A Day in the Life." Check out these other amazing blogger's Montessori days in the posts below!

Our Daily Homeschool Schedule | Natural Beach Living

What to do today… Our Typical Homeschool Day Schedule | The Natural Homeschool

A Day in the Life of Montessori Busy Hands | Christian Montessori Network
Our Daily Routine | Grace and Green Pastures

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Monday, February 8, 2016

The Montessori Coat Flip

"Tag to the toes, hands in the holes and FLIP!" 

In the Montessori approach, it is important that children have the opportunity to be as independent as possible. We carefully prepare the environment so that it is accessible for even the youngest children. 

However, we don't stop there. We give babies, toddlers and older kids the tools they need to be independent. Sometimes that a child sized chair, and sometimes it's a new way to put on a coat by themselves. Most often, however, it's the space and time they need to pursue their interests independently. 

The Montessori coat flip was something I was introduced to many years ago when my niece went to daycare. I had all but forgotten about it until I read How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way. At the time, Henry already knew how to put his coat on, so it's just a trick I've been sitting on until Nora came along. 

When Nora was about 15-months-old, I started showing her the flip with my coat. I also asked Henry if he would put his coat on that way. He happily agreed. 

To teach Nora I would lay the coat flat on the ground and point to the tag. Then, slowly say:

"Tag to the toes..." 

Then, I would help her walk so her feet were right next to the tag. Once she was standing in the right spot, I would say: 

"...hands in the holes..." 

At first, I would guide her hands into the holes. As she got the hang of it, I stopped helping her find the holes. With her hands in the holes, I would very excitedly say: 

"... and FLIP!"

At first, she wasn't successful at all but was very interested in learning. Then, she lost interest completely. For two months, I asked every time if she wanted to put her coat on and every day she said  "no." I respected that and helped. But, then, two weeks ago {at 19 months}, she finally said yes.

She was much more successful than her previous attempts, even without practice. She had been watching me and Henry put our coats on that way, so I think that helped. Within about a week of showing interest again, she was doing it perfectly! 

She's happy to get ready to leave the house, and I'm happy she's got the independence I know she craves! 

Have you tried this simple coat flip? Does your toddler love it? 

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Montessori Toddler Classification Cards with Printable

Nora is getting to the age where she is starting to be ready for matching work. She is starting to make connections about the world around her. We've dabbled with matching work before, but she wasn't quite ready. Now, as she really enters the sensitive period for order, I've noticed a real interest. She's also picking up words left and right as she expands her vocabulary. 

In the Montessori approach, classification cards are used as the first step in the matching series for toddlers. These cards have only pictures on them of related groups of objects. This is pre-matching work so these cards have no matches and no words. They are simply used to introduce the objects to toddlers giving them the exact vocabulary for the items. It introduces the concept of categories and that things go together. 

These cards are really simple to make! Just print out the printable I created. There are three different sets -- clothes, kitchen, and bathroom. Each set contains five to seven images. You can cut out and paste each set on to different colored card stock so that they are self-correcting should the cards get mixed together. Then, laminate for durability. Then, place each set in it's own basket or tray. You can also make your own by using any set of related images. 

To use these cards, each set is presented on its own to the child. I used a mat to present to Nora, but you don't have to, any surface is fine! To present the cards, I do a 2-part lesson. First I take each card slowly out of the basket and then say its name. With toddlers, I'm careful not to talk and move at the same time. Then, just place on the mat

Once all of the cards are placed down. You can go on to the second part of the lesson. Which asks the toddler to recall the names of each card. So, you may ask "Nora, where is the fork?" If your child is verbal {Nora at 19 months is not,} then you can hold up a card and ask "what's this?" This can be repeated as often as your child chooses the work! 

These cards can be used to introduce toddlers to new concepts until they are 3-years-old. Adding more cards can increase the challenge for older toddlers. Stay tuned for the next step in the matching process!

Have you introduced language or matching materials to your toddler? 

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Benefits of the Montessori Weaning Table

According to Montessori ideals, an environment is tailored to the children. This often means equipping your home with child-sized furniture. With comfortable furniture, children have the freedom to move independently. 

A weaning table is no different. It allows babies to transition from a liquid diet (nursing or formula) to eating solid foods. It gives babies a place of their own to sit and enjoy a meal like the child has seen the parents do since birth. 

I see many benefits to ditching the high chair and using a weaning table instead. These benefits include:

  1. Independence: It promotes independence, child can get in and out of chair to eat on their own. There's no waiting for you to lift them to a high chair or being stuck in the chair when they are done.

  2. Comfort: More comfortable for the child -- feet are flat on the ground and sitting up all the way. High back and arms help the child sit.

  3. Table Manners: More natural transition to sitting at a table, start to learn table manners from the start. Plenty of space for the child to use real dishes, place-mat, napkins and more.

  4. Work Table: Weaning tables provide a comfortable place for your child to work outside of meal times. It can be used even as your child ages for other purposeful work.

  5. Household Participation: Children can help to participate in setting, clearing and cleaning the table. These practical life skills are fun for you children and help children participate in the natural rhythm of the home.

  6. Sibling Interaction: Weaning tables provide a gathering space for young children, including siblings to fully interact during a meal. The baby isn't tucked away in a chair on their own, but right in the middle of the meal action.

There are many options when I comes to weaning tables. The important part is that the table is small and sturdy. A child needs to move in and out without fear of tipping the table. We personally have the IKEA side table cut down to size with a weaning chair. 

Our chairs (like number 3) are easy to use and a great size for work, now that Nora sits at the larger table (with Henry) for meals. She started using the weaning table as soon as she started eating solids at 6 months. At first, we sat and ate meals with her. As she's gotten older, she eats dinner with us at our large table. She continues to eat all other snacks and meals at the slightly larger table she and Henry share. If we didn't have an older child, she would still use the weaning table for meals, she just prefers to be next to Hen. 

So, those are the benefits we've enjoyed by getting rid of our highchair and using a weaning table. It's been an experience, that we wouldn't trade. 

Do you use a weaning table or a high chair? Do you see any benefits to your choice? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: Mornings at the Weaning Table; Introducing the Weaning Cup

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Color Themed Treasure Baskets for Toddlers

Toddlers are amazing! They explore and absorb everything around them. In a Montessori environment, we try to provide as many opportunities to explore as possible. For babies and young toddlers, treasure baskets are a great way to do that. A treasure basket is a collection of small items appropriate for open-ended exploration. 

A treasure basket can literally be made of any random group of objects. I personally really love to do color themed baskets for young toddlers. I think they provide an awesome introduction to colors. However, not every Montessorian agrees. Many think of them as unnecessary. Many question if they really are used in a "Montessori" way or if they are just used to drill colors for toddlers. Or, some think there are more natural sensory experiences available. 

Typically, in a Montessori environment, toddlers are not taught colors. Instead, they absorb them from being in a language rich environment. And, I 100 percent agree with that. Toddlers do NOT need to be drilled on colors. That's not the purpose of these baskets. These baskets are for open-ended exploration. Not for drilling colors, not for memorization. Just for fun. 

When we have these on our shelves, I just leave them for Nora to discover. When she does explore, them, I let her lead. She may play with things, taste them, stack them, put them together. Basically, whatever she wants. I may say "the red ball" or "the yellow pom-pom" or "you have the pink heart." I keep it descriptive and fun. 

Do toddlers make the color connection with these baskets? Doubtful. They will learn through experience at their own pace. Are they engaged? Yes! Do I think that makes them awesome? Clearly!

So, what's in my color themed treasure baskets? 

I try to make each basket interesting and unique. Each basket is a combination of textures, sizes, shapes and shades. I try to mix some smaller items, some practical tools and containers -- bowls, ice cube trays or cups -- and simply mix it all together. 

Toddlers are often in the middle of the sensitive period for small objects. By providing a lot of little details, I feel like toddlers are instantly intrigued. But, it's a fine line between creating something that will be used in a constructive way and something that will be overwhelming. 

Nora can spend long periods of time playing with these. She loves the tiny objects. She wil place them in and out of the containers. Or pour them out. Line them up. Or just ask what each object is. Really she figures out what she wants to do.

Each basket is completely unique, but there are some materials that I use over and over. Pom-poms, wooden shapes, pipe-cleaners, and small toys. Fabrics, cookie cutters, and feathers also help to fill many of the baskets. Sometimes a heavy block, and light feather make a perfect contrast. Or a rough ball and a smooth baby food cap! 

Your own baskets can be made with anything you have! These baskets don't really require that you buy something special -- another reason I love them. Anything you think your child will enjoy can go in, there's no pressure! 

If your child is still mouthy, you can use larger objects or try mini rainbow sensory bottles. And, there's no need to use as many objects as I have in these. Feel free to use as many or few as you want. 

Want a more natural basket? Try natural materials in the same color hue -- rocks, flowers, shells, bark, leaves and water can all be very engaging. Just remember to keep it low pressure and child led! 

And, those are my color themed treasure baskets! Have fun with them, explore with them, and create with them! Remember your toddler will learn colors at their own pace without being drilled! 

Have you used treasure baskets with your baby or toddler? Do you like using color themed treasure baskets with toddlers?

If you liked this post, don't miss -- Printable Baby Language Book and Treasure Basket; Montessori Treasure Basket Guest Post

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