Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Follow the Child"

It's been a long summer.  Mothers all around me are looking a bit frayed (me included!).  We all seem to be looking forward to a change in pace after giving our kids more freedom for several weeks on end.  But it's been nice to see where their interests have led them during the free time....

At three-and-one-half years old, "Alleluia" has taken an interest in baking.  No surprise, given that her 16-year-old sister "Wasabi" is amazing with a wooden spoon and oven mitts, not to mention quite capable with a camera and video editing software!  This video is the result of passionate insistence on little sister's part.  You see, for weeks she has been saying something about making "gummy pops," but none of us knew what in the world she was talking about.  Finally, in exasperation, I got out the cake pop maker and said, "Ok, show me what you mean!"

She proceeded to imitate the gal on Nerdy Nummies, a Youtube channel we've consulted a few times when making birthday cakes.  I followed her around the kitchen as she narrated, crumbled up a piece of whole wheat bread, and tore up small pieces of chewing gum.

"Gummy Pops"?!?!
"You're going to want to mix it with your hands," she said casually, as if she had her own cooking show and did this everyday.

It was just too much.  Too hilarious.  And it was going to be a bit too messy (if I had let her turn the machine on and melt the gum mixture).  That's when Wasabi got out the camera and helped her make a REAL cake pop treat.  We ended up with a happy afternoon, a fun video to send to Grandma and some of "Libby's Yummies" to share.  (Oh, and this cute apron Wasabi decorated!)

Go ahead:  follow the child and see where she leads you!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

More Mobile Montessori

There is a lot of interest in my Mobile Montessori post and here are some quick answers to your questions:

--It helps if you can remove any bling bling (toys that are off limits, etc) from the area.
--I arrange works on the floor (some on mats already) in the shape of an ellipse. I intersperse blank mats, too.
 --A couple of times I actually brought light, child-sized chairs to also intersperse but half of the time the children really just ignore the chairs and sit on their moms' laps (so I stopped bringing the chairs). They take their shoes off before sitting down with the group.

--I start with the same 3 introductory songs as I always have at my house. One child was able to come to my house twice, so she kind of "got" what I was doing and she knew how to do a few of the works. I also end with the bye-bye song.
--I purposely brought several materials that are more "toy-y" that "work-y," just as schools often do for the first several weeks while they transition children slowly. That way I have time to show each child new works. By that I mean educational toys that invite manipulation, not loud electronic button toys (Melissa and Doug things or toys sold in Montessori catalogs are great).
--In a few cases I incorporated a group lesson on a work into the end of the introductory period, so everyone knew how to use it.

I didn't bring enough mats, but we still survived.....

--I haven't really done the math on how many works per child. I just take a couple of boxes worth for an hour. This time may be extended as this experiment unfolds.
--So far have done it with 3-5 children, plus the moms and any baby sibs. There are many subtle ways to instill some formality to the group, and that is important.
--A couple of times my 12-year-old daughter has helped teach the Montessori works one-on-one with any children that have bonded with her.

My daughter "Chop" helps during the Summer.

--I maintain the same strict rules about NO GERMS and if I think a younger baby sib with sniffles has been mouthing the materials I carefully wash the materials after the session and before bringing them again.
 --One last point: it's important to set up without the children touching the materials and talking with you as you do it. It may take 5-10 minutes of hard work, but then you can invite the moms and children to "school" and begin.  This is where, beforehand, you can make it clear to the parents that they are only invited to come in when they hear a chime or when you open the door.  It's helpful if one of the moms understands the need for formality and kind of protects your space while you are constructing it.

I hope this helps.  Keep the questions coming!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mobile Montessori

Mobile Montessori:  All packed up and ready to go!
What can you do if you want Montessori for your children but you don't have the training or materials? One option may be to find a "Mobile Montessori" - a trained directress who is willing to come to your house, bring in her materials, and lead a class.

I never planned on doing this sort of thing (mainly because I have a bad back and assumed that I couldn't schelp the stuff), but one of the moms who came to our Montessori Mornings was very allergic to my (omnipresent) dog, so of course I was willing to try bringing a class to her house--as an experiment.  I didn't take much--just mats, some educational toys and a few traditional Montessori works.

This "Open-Close Basket" is full of empty containers  with different closures.
Well the experiment was a success, and the next time she invited some of her friends to join us.  And now another mom has started doing the same thing.   I try to bring some works that would be easy for them to put together at home, like the Open-Close Basket.  That work also has the added advantages of being light to carry,  easily replaceable if parts get lost, and attractive to a wide range of ages.

This mom of 4 helps her oldest with the Binomial Cube while her youngest inspects an empty container.
In both cases the host provides a clean, open space.  This is kind of huge--to carve out part of your house and clean it and brace yourself for the onslaught of toddlers!

This mom, the host who invited me to her home, helps with a silverware sorting work.
The Open-Close Basket is actually fun for a variety of ages.  You just need to be careful that the youngest don't put small caps in their mouths!
It takes me about 10-15 minutes to unload my materials and set them up (as if I had an ellipse on the floor), and then I begin class with group time:  songs, I Spy, and some discussion.  After a brief description of how to use the mats and an invitation to come to me for any help they may need, I let the moms and children loose on the materials.  Since new moms may not know how to use the materials, I try to give brief presentations as I see the need.

Mats help define a work area and they can help protect the floors of the hostess' house!
The class may be just an hour, depending upon my schedule and the needs of the group, but it's been a great way for those otherwise unfamiliar with Montessori or unable to attend Montessori Mornings to expose their children to it!
I've noticed that the Rosary cases with the hinged-squeezy openings are really challenging, even for older children.