Sunday, February 28, 2010

Clearing the clutter and other promises to myself

I'm at that stage of organizing when you sit down for a break and are looking out at a sea of STUFF you have no idea what to do with or how so much STUFF got in your house to begin with. This is kind of a mandatory decluttering because I am signed up for a booth at a mom to mom sale next weekend and time is running out to gather my wares. I have great plans to simplify Ryann's things, but looking out at this sea of toys it's hard to know what is necessary and what is not.

The short answer, of course, is that none of it is necessary. Kids have just as much fun with a cardboard box and a bit of string as they do with any plastic, light up, talking toy you could buy. Even so, I find it hard to suppress the consumer in me and forgo all the fun stuff. And once it's in the house it is well-loved. The problem I have currently is that there is so much of it. It is impossible to treat so many objects with care, to keep them neat and organized. Last night I was reading this page from Montessori World and this passage spoke to me:
Children of this age like order. They make a great effort to remember where everything is kept and to return things to their right places after using them. Making this effort is an exercise for the mind. The children need to be observant. They must memorize the environment. They must be aware when something is out of place. If the environment contains too many things, they cannot do this; there is too much to remember. If the environment is cluttered with materials, it is too confusing. There is too much choice and the children do not work well. In a good classroom, there is everything necessary for the development of the children using the room, but very little else.
Obviously, if too many materials is confusing, too many toys would be just as confusing. If I barely know how to take care of them, how is my two year old supposed to know?

Clearing out the clutter will likely take me all week. Each pass through the house clears out more things, but I'm finding it very hard. Because everything has a story and a memory and a use... it's hard to let go.

While simplifying I always think of new ways to reorganize our space. I realized this morning that we need a new place for Ryann's books. The built-in shelves I'm using now would be better suited for toys and the books should have a more prominent place in the room. This means we need a new bookcase and even though I have made multiple pacts with myself to stop buying particle board furniture, I found myself perusing the Sauder knock-off isle at Target today. Particle board doesn't last as long or look as good and offgases more than real wood furniture, so why buy it? Because it's $20 a bookcase at Target, that's why, and it's hard to pass up! I kept my promise to myself today though, and decided to at least look at a couple second-hand places before buying another short term solution. And then I think, if I just followed through on decluttering I probably wouldn't need another bookcase at all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunshine Award

I was pleasantly shocked (is that a thing?) when I was given a sunshine award by Curly Q's Hairdos! I have seen this award passed around on some of the blogs I follow and it is supposed to be for blogs that inspire and spread sunshine to their readers. I have to say, receiving the award definitely added sunshine to my day! I'm so excited to be able to pass this award on to other bloggers!

1. Green and Crunchy
2. Preschool with Mom
3. The Free Lunch Blogger
4. Just one heartbeat at a time
5. Journey into Unschooling
6. FatFree Vegan Kitchen
7. What DID we do all day?
8. A Montessori Musing Place
9. Fox Toy Box

I was supposed to add 12, but my blog roll is wimpy and this is the best I could do!

Now, the Rules of Acceptance:
  • Put the logo on the sidebar or within a post
  • Pass the award on to 12 bloggers who brighten your day
  • Link to the nominees within your post
  • Let the nominees know they received this award by commenting on their blog
  • Link back to the person who gave you this award, as a way of showing your appreciation for being appreciated.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Awesome Montessori bedrooms to drool over

I know I say above that this blog isn't about unattainable ideals, but these bedrooms are sooo adorable! And probably attainable, if you are willing to simplify and wait for the right materials to come your way.

Isn't this just the cutest room ever? I love the colors!

Check out more pics at United Teaching.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My frequently asked questions

My blog is far too young (and rarely posted on) to get questions from readers, this post refers to the questions I frequently ask myself, or Google, about the Montessori method and how to make it work in my household.

I haven't posted much recently because we haven't *done* much recently. Or at least much Montessori-ish. And the things we have done haven't gone as hoped.

Like last week I brought out this bean spooning activity.


She actually watched me do the activity and then repeated it fairly well (although a little haphazard at the end) the first time through. Then she wanted to do it again. And again. And suddenly it wasn't an activity so much as it was beans all over the floor.
This was also the first activity that I left out when not in use. Usually I put activities like this UP, very high, so I'm in control of when and how it happens. Of course, this is not part of Montessori's philosophy at all! The materials should be available at all times for the child to get out when they want to use it. Unfortunately, in this house that turns into a lot of playing with beans and not a lot of organized activity. In fact, I think almost all these beans have been lost to the vacuum after I got sick of picking them up.

So here are my questions to anyone who stumbles across this blog with more experience than me. 

How do you teach respect for materials and make sure your child doesn't just play with them while you are, say, doing the dishes?

How do you effectively stop an activity when it's obviously degrading yet the child doesn't want to stop?

How do you present materials that have already been demonstrated? 

That's all I have for tonight, but I'm sure I will have plenty more in the future!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to help children learn to read

This is the title of a COMPLETE course that teaches the Montessori reading method available for free online. It's an amazing series of videos featuring Margaret Homfray, a Montessori teacher who studied with Maria Montessori for 20 years. I have not watched all the videos, considering Ryann is a few years away from reading, but the ones I have are certainly interesting. She has a very blunt style that I both like and abhor, but once you get the whole picture of what she's talking about it's really quite cool. Anyone who is looking to do a traditional Montessori reading curriculum, this course is the place to get your info!

Some general things I liked about her introduction: She stresses always showing the proper way to do things, don't let the child figure it out on their own if they aren't doing it right. It is much harder to correct something that has been done wrong for a long time.

Children pick up reading the best between the ages of four and six. She says any earlier and they are bored with it before they have a chance to really use it and any later they are likely to not catch on as fast.

Don't read small children fantasy books, only present them with facts. This I thought the most interesting tip of all. Homfray likened it to being exposed to a country you had never been in and when you asked about the culture people just told you made up stories. It would be so confusing. Let young children get a grasp on reality and then introduce fantasy when they understand that it is fantasy. I'm not sure that I'm going to go pitch three quarters of Ryann's book collection, but this gave me much to think about!

I will probably reference this course in the future as it's got a lot of gems in it. I just have to find time to watch the whole thing!