Monday, May 25, 2015

When Montessori Isn't Independent

The other day, Henry asked me for an orange. I took one from our fruit bowl, cut it in half and gave it to him. Then, Nora started fussing to eat. So, I nursed her. 

As I nursed, Henry proceeded to go to his kitchen area, and get his juicer and cup. He juiced the orange slices and poured himself a glass of juice. After drinking the juice, he threw away the orange slices, put the cup and juicer in the dishwasher, and was on his way. 

I wasn't involved in any of it. None.

It was the perfect example of independence, combining practical life skills, responsibility, and caring for his environment. 

But this isn't always our normal. We struggle a lot with independence.

Henry likes when we do things for him. He likes when I put on his shoes. When I pour his cup. When I put on his jacket or zip it up -- when I get something for him, when I read, count, the list goes on. Despite the fact that he can do many of these things by himself his default is still to ask me.

To be perfectly honest, it's often very frustrating. I can find myself getting upset which leads to both of us getting ingrained in our positions -- me on the "you can do it side" and Henry on the "do it for me" side.

So, what do we do, when Montessori isn't independent?

The answer to this depends on the situation. If we are in a hurry, if I'm frustrated or Henry is frustrated -- I help. I don't do it for him, but help as much as he feels he needs to at least attempt to do it on his own.

If we have time, I step away. Not in an obvious "I'm not doing this for you!" way, but in a subtle way. 

Some techniques I use include: 


Sometimes Henry just needs a tiny reminder that he knows how to do the task. Sometimes, it's as simple as saying "I believe I saw you zip your coat this morning! Could you try zipping it again?" 

A verbal cue sometimes gives him just the right encouragement to attempt the task. 


"Can you show Nora, how to..." Is by far the easiest way to get Henry engaged in an activity. He loves to guide Nora and show off his skills. And Nora is a willing participant. This simple trick helps remind him of how much he knows and practice at the same time. 


This isn't always a technique as much as it is a necessity. I'm not always available to Henry, there are times when I am nursing or changing a diaper, or getting dressed myself. Whatever the case is, I simply ask Henry to try while I finish my task. 

By not rushing to him, I give the space to complete a task for a few minutes. He will often attempt and succeed just because he doesn't want to wait. Even when I'm not super busy, then, I might pull out a "be right there," or "in a minute" just to give him time to practice without getting frustrated over a flat-out no. 


I've found that when Henry is struggling with independence it's often a matter of needing some one-on-one attention. By giving hugs and cuddles, reading a book or playing together, I give Henry the attention he is really craving. When this need is satisfied, he is much more willing to complete tasks on his own.


Another thing to really examine is the environment when you are having independence issues. While I might think that something is accessible for Henry, it's not. Get on their level and really make sure you've given your child, every opportunity to succeed. I've noticed that if one part of a task isn't accessible, it can increase his frustration to the point that he can't complete any of it.

I try my best to avoid yelling or getting frustrated, but I struggle in these areas. I'm constantly pushing myself to work on these issues. But, I do avoid scolding him for wanting help, shaming him, or otherwise assigning a punishment. I do my best to remember he won't always be little, and to enjoy these days as much as I can.

How do you encourage independence in your home? Does your child struggle with being independence? 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Montessori Familiar Faces Basket

I recently shared on Instagram that I had made Nora a familiar faces basket. It's similar to the familiar places treasure basket I made her a couple months ago. I choose to introduce this basket, because Nora has been very interested in looking at pictures of real life people and animals, so what could be better than looking at her people and animals! 

When I posted, I got a lot of questions on how to make these baby-friendly cards. So I wanted to post a tutorial! 

The first step -- take pictures! I used head shots specifically taken for the purpose of these cards. I wanted the cards to really focus on our faces, so I choose a clean and simple background {just a wall in our homeschool classroom.} I also did some basic edits for white balance/exposure/noise but that's not a necessity. At this point the pictures look like this -- 

Next, you need to crop and add the labels. I did this using PicMonkey. In order to make sure the pictures were all uniform, I choose to crop them to the same size -- 3448 by 4103. This was just the size the looked good for my (hi-res) pictures, it may be different if you are using smaller files. 

To add the label, click the butterfly icon on the left side of the page. Then, select the geometric option, and use the first rectangle. It will show up as a black box, stretch the box from one end of the picture to the other, make it a bit wider and move to the bottom of the picture. Then, change the color to white. 

Then, you need to add text. Click the "Tt" icon on the left side. Add a text box. I used Dnealian font that I have on my computer -- you can do this by the "yours" button to access your fonts, but you will need to download the font to your computer first. But, really, most fonts on PicMonkey are fine too! Once you type the name, size it to where you like it and move it on to the white bar. Save your picture, and repeat for all the pictures you want. Your pictures should then look like -- 

After you have added a label to all your pictures, you can print them. I just printed on regular paper using my home printer. I just opened my picture, printed a 5x7 (not scaled to fit). Once it was printed, I laminated so the picture couldn't be destroyed by Nora. I would also work to print on thicker photo paper if you don't have a laminater. To finish, I used a scrapbooking tool to round the edges, but this could easily be done with scissors. 

Finally, I left on Nora's shelf in a small wooden tray for her to discover! Just a note on how to use these, they aren't flashcards. I won't quiz Nora or drill her. They are for her to look at, chew, smoosh, and explore. I may name the people if we are sitting together or I may not, just depends on her! 

Hope this was helpful! They are really easy! Go create!! 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Zones of the Ocean for Preschoolers with Printable

We are currently in the middle of an Ocean-themed unit study in our Montessori co-op. There are so many great things to learn about in the Ocean, but one thing we have focused on is the layers or zones of the oceans.

To help make the idea as concrete as possible, we're using these small sensory bottles and printables. These are an easy DIY and the kids have loved them. 

To Make, You'll Need: 

  • Water
  • Blue Food Coloring
  • Small bottles  {ours are from a craft store but any bottle will work}
  • Printable

You'll need 5 shades from no color to very dark (not see through). I just experimented based on the size of my bottles with how much color I would need. The bottle with no color {only different for me because those are the bottles I had on hand} represents the top Sunlight zone. And the darker the bottle, the deeper the zone. 

The bottles can then be paired with the name of the zone they represent and a description of that zone. We started with just the name, but Henry caught on so quickly that I will now add the descriptions to this work. You can find the names and descriptions in the printable!

I also included five circles in varying shades that could be substituted for the bottles if necessary in the printable!

And, that's it! Its an easy, fun, hands-on, Montessori-inspired way of introducing the Ocean to toddlers and preschoolers! 

Have you studied the zones of the Ocean? I'd love to hear your ideas!  

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

DIY Montessori Weighted Cylinders

Part of why I love the Montessori method is its development of the whole child. It's not just about teaching a child to read or write, it's about helping a child discover everything about the world around them. An important part of this process is teaching children to use their sense to classify and discover the world around them.

Sensorial materials are developed to help children isolate and develop different sensory skills. One such skill is being able to classify objects by weight. Baric cylinders are one way to help children learn this skill. The baric -- or weighted cylinders -- are a set of cylinders that look the same but feel very different. Each pair is slightly different weight from the next. The goal is for children to identify and match the cylinders by weight. 

While weighted cylinders and other sensorial materials can be purchased from a variety of sources, one of the reasons I really like this material is that it can also easily {and cheaply!} be reproduced at home!

I recently made a set of weighted cylinders for our classroom! They are so easy, that anyone can do it!

To make, you'll need --

  • 8 small identical canisters with lids  {I used old film containers, but anything can be used.}
  • Hot glue
  • Small metal washers
  • 4 red, 4 blue stickers

That's it! To put them together, first separate washers into pairs. One of the cylinder pairs will need to be the control, so it will be empty. Therefore, you'll need three pairs of washers of equal quantity, but varying weights. I used 0 washers, 3 washers, 9 washers and 18 washers. 

Next, I used the hot glue to glue the washers together. This way, they won't rattle together in the cylinders creating a new sensorial experience -- sound. Once the cylinders were together, I hot glued them to the bottom of the container. This ensures that there will be no movement when used. Then, I used the hot glue to attach the lids.

Finally, I placed one red sticker on the bottom of each cylinder pair, and a blue sticker on it's corresponding match. This way each correct pair had one red, and one blue cylinder (this helps to make the work self correcting). 

After making the cylinders, I presented them to Henry. He listened to the presentation, and was eager to try. However, I was actually surprised to see how much he struggled with this work. Many of the other sensorial materials have become a breeze for him, but this really made him think.

Once the work was completed, Henry said to me "I don't like this new work!" and stormed off. Since I put the tray in our sensorial area, I've seen Henry looking and contemplating the work. So, I asked him why he didn't like it. He explained that it was because he couldn't find the matches. I gently encouraged him to keep trying it, but so far he hasn't gone for it. Even if it takes him awhile to return, I'm glad I've found something to challenge him in a new way!

Do you use sensorial materials? Which is your favorite?

12 Months of Montessori Learning! 

This post is brought to you as part of the 12 Months of Montessori Learning series. Our theme this month is sensorial. Visit these great bloggers for more Montessori and Montessori inspired sensorial posts! 


Saturday, May 9, 2015

These Days

 These days are long and hard.

These days are short and sweet.

These days are fleeting and never-ending.

These days are busy.

These days are the best days of my life.

This week I entered a new decade in my life. And, I can't be more excited about the things to come.