Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

Wishing you peace, joy, and love.  -Brandi and Ryann

Saturday, December 18, 2010

On Autonomy and Coats

It's definitely winter in our neck of the woods. Cold, snowy, icy winter. Even so, this is Ryann on the way to her winter concert the other day.

I guess she doesn't mind the cold because that girl does not wear a coat.

She will wear a coat when she's playing outside. But between the house and the car? Not going to happen. She gets hot in the car. And safely navigating a coat and her car seat is complicated business. I don't blame her for choosing to be cold for a short amount of time to avoid the mess entirely.

Sometimes I feel invisible (or visible) pressure from others to make her wear a coat. And it makes me doubt her ability to make this decision. If it is cold, is it my responsibility to make sure she is warm? What do people think when they see her running around in a sweatshirt and me wearing a warm coat (carrying hers)? Is this bad parenting?

I realize there is a certain point where it could be dangerous, you don't want to freeze your child over some silly coat issue. I always suggest she wear her coat, I remind her that I have it when we get in and out of the car. But is it my responsibility to make her wear it?

I was struggling with this the other day when I realized I was greatly overthinking it and so was anyone who looks at me sideways when she jumps out of the car.

Why would I be in control of her coat? Only she knows if she's cold. I can think she's cold. I can assume she's cold based on temperature or how cold I am, but I don't really know. And being cold is not some abstract concept with far-reaching consequences that children don't understand, like eating your vegetables. It's immediate. It's right now. Even babies know if they are cold.

And what's worse is if you don't trust children to regulate their own body temperature, you've just turned something as simple as how warm they are into a battle of wills. Suddenly your child actually is cold, but doesn't want to admit it because they only way he was able to practice any autonomy was after arguing about it for 10 minutes. Wearing a coat should never be about pride, it should be able being warm.

So Ryann doesn't wear a coat when she doesn't want to. Even if it's really cold. Even if I feel weird seeing her without a coat on. I make sure she doesn't freeze by dressing her warmly and prewarming the car on very cold days. But for the most part, she knows when she needs a coat. And I don't spend half my morning arguing about something as silly as someone else's body temperature.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Getting Started with Montessori Education

A reader recently left a comment on one of my posts asking for book recommendations for people just dipping their toes into the Montessori method. As I went to respond I realized quickly my post would turn into a book of its own and decided it would make a fantastic post!

I also realized that I've never explained how I got involved in Montessori. Partially it's because I don't really remember how it happened. I've always been a single mom and when I found myself pregnant and unsure of what was coming next in my life I did what I always do, I Googled. I am a researcher by nature and a perfectionist about things that are important, like my child, so I quickly became an expert in all things baby. I think it was in this mad search for understanding that I ran across Montessori somewhere in the ether. As a former unschooler, education philosophies are very important to me and this one was interesting. But school seemed a long way off and I kind of set the idea on the back burner.

When Ryann was about six months old my mom, knowing my interest in Montessori, got me Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work at the library. It's a biography of her life, but also goes into some of the specifics of the method, its effectiveness and outcomes. It's a very interesting book and really got me interested in her work. Which then led to reading Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three. To be honest, I never finished this book. It is good. Fascinating even. But it definitely has a black and white, right and wrong view of how your house should be and it doesn't seem very realistic to a laissez-faire person like me. I would like to go back and read this again though, as I might have a different take on it now.

After that introduction, I found Montessori blogs to be a great source of information. I tend to gravitate towards blogs that explain the methodology rather than worksheets and printables. Some of my favorites are, Montessori Matters, A Montessori Musing Place, Confessions of a Montessori Mom and The Montessori Child at Home.

Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child is a book of activities anyone can do with their toddlers and preschoolers. It's a well-written book with lots of pictures but it is low on real Montessori info and most of the activities are easily found on blogs and elsewhere on the internet. A quick read that can help you brainstorm ways to incorporate practical life activities into your daily routine. Again, I feel this book is more for Type A people who want to check off lists. I prefer to just clean the house and let the learning happen as it may.

I have since also read Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook  which is  great to get a better understanding of the lessons and how they work together. But my most favorite source for how to give lessons are the Margaret Homfray lectures. Margaret Homfray learned from Montessori herself and it is so fortunate that her lectures were video taped before her death because the information she imparts is really amazing. The videos are long, and sometimes rambling. But also interesting and probably the most direct, hands-on look at the method that you will get outside of a classroom.

I think these are all fantastic resources to get anyone started. I am far from an expert and could stand to do more reading myself, but I think the secret to understanding the world of a Montessori parent is to not get bogged down with the details of what lessons to do when or how many index cards to laminate, but instead immerse yourself in the ideals and core values of Montessori education. Then you will better be able to understand why the lessons work the way they do, and more importantly, why you would want your child to do them.