Tuesday 29 June 2010

Question Time...

I have had a few emails recently, some asking the same questions so I thought I would post the answers here since it maybe of use to others. Please bear in mind that I am no super-mom and Ebi-kun is just a regular kid and I bet he can out tantrum a lot of kids out there lol. What works for our family may not work for another and please don't compare your child with Ebi-kun, each child develops at a different rate and just because Ebi-kun could do XYZ by the time he was 3 doesn't mean that another child should be able to do the same, instead do as Maria Montessori said and follow the child.....

When your son was home all day, did you have a particular Montessori time?
We had a rough schedule but it was flexible so if I needed to go to town or we had a play date I would switch things around. Generally, three times a week we would do a 2.5-3 hour work cycle, usually in the morning and that would include snack time.We haven't had much in the way of PL on the shelf for a while but he does plenty of that around the house, it is his job to fold and put away his laundry and to fold and put away the napkins, he helps with the cleaning, puts away the dishes and often lays the table without me asking.
Now he is at yochien we just do a bit here and there, he has Wednesday afternoon off so he will often choose to work for a couple of hours then or he will decide to do crafts and painting instead.

Did you limit other activities?
Well, we watch very little TV, Ebi-kun used to have the TV on in the morning for about an hour whilst I had chance to sort out my orders and catch up with emails but really that is the only restricted thing we have in the house. Since he started yochien he hardly ever watches and rarely asks to (although he has been asking to watch the footie since the world cup started!) We do have a wii but he plays on it maybe twice a week and only does his 30 minutes each time. I quite like it when it is a rainy day, it means he can burn off some off some of that energy without driving me insane.

Were Montessori works available all the time?
Yes, he can go and work with anything except work that I haven't presented to him yet. Everything is open to use at anytime including his art shelf, he knows now, not to ask to paint if I am busy with something else, cooking for example but apart from that he can take out what he wants whenever he likes.

Do you have toys like blocks, play kitchen, dress up, dollhouse (understandably less likely with a boy), trucks, etc?
Yes, of course, he has some core toys such as a wooden train set, building blocks, Lego, a box full of cars, a dressing up box, cooking food and kitchen equipment and a wooden marble run. He will usually ask to bring one of them downstairs - our house is open plan so the whole of downstairs is one room and basically a family area so he like to play down there.
From when he was little I would only put out 3 toys at a time, this helps build focus and although at the time I thought it was a bit mean, now I really think it was a good idea. All his toys have their own box and he can get out all of them at once but he knows that everything has to go back where it belongs.

Are they off-limits at any time?
Nope, if he knows how to use it he can get on and do it.

Do you think your separate Montessori room is necessary for focus, or could you have success with shelves in the main living area?
I have moved work to the living space in the past and noticed that Ebi-kun suddenly found an interest in the various work again. In the living area we have his desk and chair, his art shelf is in the corner of the kitchen area and he has a book shelf next to his desk. The wooden blocks and football game are kept under the TV and he has a draw with board/card games. All his other toys and books are kept in his bedroom but he can bring anything down if he wants to play downstairs, we do have a rule that he can get what he likes out but it all has to be put away by bedtime. Sometimes he will decide to bring work downstairs, I found that using a work apron helped get into the right mind-set, so he would put on his apron and then he would know it was Montessori work time. Because we don't do the 3 hours blocks of time anymore we haven't been doing that recently.

Do you have any hints for getting a child to choose work?
I would say, 'follow the child' if the child isn't interested then there is no point in forcing her/him. I have put equipment out and Ebi-kun has shown no interest, sometimes he will think it is boring until I have done the presentation with him, sometimes I do the presentation and he will just put it back on the shelf straight after but then get it out a few weeks later. I pay close attention to what Ebi-kundino counting activities etc. Put out books on the subjects that he is showing an interest in, that sort of stuff.

My child isn't interested in any of the work on the shelf, what should I do?
Well, I am no expert but my suggestion would be to give shelf work a break for a couple of weeks, go and do some art, work in the garden, do PL but in the house (not off the shelf) get her/him doing sensory work in the kitchen 'accidently' tip out the toothpicks and ask the child to help put them away, put peppercorns in the pepper grinder, help peg out the laundry (make a small laundry line at child height) kids generally love helping out around the house. While this is going on, when the child is in bed go and mix up the shelves a bit, add some new work, make sure there is not too much choice. Imagine when you go to a cafe and there is a list of 30 cakes to choose from, it takes forever to decide which one and then when you do, you spend the rest of the time wondering if you should have picked something else. What would happen if there were just three cakes on the menu? If the amount of work is limited on the shelf it makes deciding and sticking to the decision so much easier.
I don't know if it would work for your child, but that is what I would do.

I really want to do it but I am getting overwhelmed and lost with the amount of info and blogs.
I totally understand, sometimes it is really difficult to find time to wade through it all, especially if you have a lot of other things on you plate. Some people recommend using a type of curriculum so you know what to put out and what to prepare next, all very good and well if your child fits that curriculum but not all of them do. When Ebi-kun is working on his materials I focus totally on Montessori, no phone, computer or any other distraction. I take notes of what he is interested in, how he is doing with a particular piece if work, whether he will be ready to move onto the next stage yet and things he is completely ignoring, that kind of thing. While it is fresh in my mind I write down what I need to prepare for next or get my albums out to see what I need to be doing. Then I try not to loose the piece of paper so that I can get it all organised. I also do a lot of cutting out of cards when he is working, often he will show an interest in what I am doing and want to try something before I even have it finished.
I often get distracted when I see things on blogs, learning to use google reader properly is a godsend. Now I star and tag anything I like the look of so I can go back and find it when the time arises. I have several posts on space that I have tagged so that when Ebi-kun shows an interest in that, I can pull up those blogs and decide what to do. When it comes to making materials, I am sure I am like most people out there, constantly juggling seven things at once, I try now to decide one thing that I am going to prepare and will do it over the course of a few days and I don't start anything else until that one if finished - well that is what I try to do, doesn't always work like that.

I do have a hard time deciding when to take something off the shelf and when to introduce something new, much of it is guesswork and luck, my basic rule is to keep a couple of mindless easy pieces of work (for him to do when he needs a mental break), something new and challenging, something with a focus of interest - at the moment we have several frog themed pieces and Africa plus the core materials and extensions for them. We have limited space so I just can't put everything out.

Well, I hope that helps......

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post! Today was better for us, but I'll certainly still be mulling over what you've written. It's so frustrating when a 3 hour work period would have been no problem before DD started in her Montessori school, she did great there, and now that she's home again I'm celebrating that she kind of did 3 works (still mostly with me) today during her entire awake time they were available.


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