Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Montessori Vacuum Review

I'm not one of those people that can just go to the store, see something and buy it. Oh, no, no. I have to research. And contemplate. And comparison shop. Until the whole thing loses all meaning and I give up, or my need finally pushes me to pick something, anything!

I recently did this with a car seat (I finally settled on a pink Britax Frontier 85), new beds (gave up, it's impossible to find a bed that meets the challenge of my chemical phobia and budget) and finally this vacuum.

Eureka 431F Optima Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner Eureka Optima

I visited it at Target multiple times, read reviews, got recommendations from other Montessori peeps that this was the vacuum to get. It fit all my criteria: Cheap, lightweight, telescoping handle for shorties, but still powerful enough to use as my sole vacuum. To top this off, I had a gift card to Target so the purchase was actually free. Did I jump at it?

No, I waited a couple more weeks. And then I jumped at it. You can never be too careful when purchasing a vacuum.

My personal review of this vac is that it's a great little vacuum for a small space like mine. It works great on both carpet and hard floors and it can suck like nobody's business.

My Montessori mom review is... meh. The size is perfect for my almost-three-year-old to handle, but it's not as light as I hoped. Having lifted every vacuum at Target, the Eureka Optima was definitely on par with any other lightweight upright, but once you turn it on it suctions itself to the floor in such a way that it's not easy to move. I have no problem, but my shortie does. I know with time she will grow into it, but I was hoping to make vacuuming easier for her now.

And true to young child form, she's shown little interest in vacuuming since I bought it.

I would recommend the Optima to others, especially those with kindergarten age kids, but maybe wait a little longer to buy a vacuum for the under four or five crowd.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A world of difference

I think it's hard to admit, at least for us mothers, that a two year old and a three year old are capable of such vastly different things. After all, your child is smart and capable and likely even ahead of their peers! You pay close attention to what they are doing with their play and their vocabulary and you think you know what they can do and not do.

But then you sit down with your two-year-old to do a Montessori lesson for three-year-olds and they just. won't. do it. There is obviously a big difference between individual children. Some of them will jump to the challenge. Some will understand what they are supposed to do but just not care. Some won't get it at all. And if your child isn't doing the lesson, you are probably wondering where you went wrong.

I was reading the Wikipedia entry for Montessori earlier and was trying to figure out which tenet of Montessori education I believe. I think it most holds true to me that they order and kinds of lessons Montessori practiced were independent of individuality and culture. That it is true that two-year-olds do one thing and three-year-olds do another and reading shouldn't start until four even if the child seems ready, etc.

One thing I've learned over the last several months that I have been trying to do Montessori-ish things at home is that besides practical life activities, the closer Ryann gets to age three, the better her ability to follow my directions. Or to want to follow my directions. It's almost like magic.

When I started this blog in December, Ryann was two years and three months old. I know at some point I expressed frustration that she didn't follow any lessons and an experienced Montessori teacher wisely pointed out that she was only two. Now she is less than three months from turning three and she is much more careful, considerate and excited about doing activities. She's also more likely to spontaneously pick something off the shelf. And do it by herself.

I've read a few posts around the Internet lately where people are equally as frustrated that their otherwise leaps ahead two-year-old won't sit down for a lesson. I think they are discouraged by the small percentage of two-year-olds that are at a developmental level to do more complicated Montessori activities. In my experience, you can see all sorts of evidence of your kids ability to do a certain lesson,  but they still might not be old enough. And that's okay! Enjoy each stage in a child's life, the next stage will come soon enough.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Real Life vs. Structured Lessons

I think many, if not all, of us struggle with the balance of spontaneity and structure. Of following the day or planning it. Some of us are lean more one way or another, but I think the balance is the important part and the most hard to achieve.

Sometimes, I think we try to hard to plan and do things just right. As illustrated by the clothes pin activity, as it happened in my house.

I've tried numerous times to make pinning clothes pins to a basket a super fun activity. At first Ryann was too young. And then she didn't care. And then she did care, but got frustrated/bored easily. In the end, she still didn't know how to pin a clothes pin, which I found disappointing because it meant she wouldn't have the skills to help me hang clothes outside this summer.

Last weekend I was hanging clothes on the line and she was so interested in what I was doing she insisted on helping. So I gave her a clothes pin and held her up to the line. And she pinned. She pinned a few items of clothing before running off to tackle something else.

It suddenly wasn't hard or boring. It was just... natural. Because clothes need to be dried and the edge of the basket is, at the end of the day, just the edge of a basket.

Montessori Fail