Monday, January 25, 2021

Use This, Not That

Misconceptions About How to Get Started

Montessori Mindset Trumps "The Stuff"

Resist the Urge to Put It All in Your Cart

You don't need all of the expensive, specialized Montessori equipment that takes up SO much real estate when you are FIRST starting out with Montessori.

I get it.  You've got your mind set on teaching your toddlers and young children at home (at least for now) using the Montessori method.  You freak out about clearing out the dining room or guest room or a bedroom, just to make space for all of The Stuff.  You research Billy and Kallax, you scour the online marketplaces, you stalk thrift stores, you bookmark DIY plans and free printables.  Been there, done that!

But if you are just getting started, you should truly take the time to understand the lifestyle and philosophy of the method, and you'll realize that--especially for toddlers and young children--you can spend just a little bit of money and sacrifice a little bit of space to begin.  A house that's full of Montessori materials but whose parents still do everything for the child--brush the hair, pour the milk, wipe the spill, sweep the floor, clip the fingernails, fold the laundry, mash the potatoes, tie the shoes, zip the pants, button the coat, set the table, feed the dog, water the plants, wipe the nose, peel the carrots--is not following one of the basic tenets:  Promote independence when you can; otherwise, your "help" is an obstacle to the child's growth, confidence, and learning.

Find some child-sized kitchen tools instead.

TJMaxx has an amazing selection.

That long sentence packs a HUGE punch, mostly because actually following that advice is a ginormous shift for most of us.  How in the world do we get out the door when we have to patiently wait for our child to tie his own shoes, put on his jacket by himself, or clear and wash his breakfast dishes?  (Not to mention dealing with a child who won't cooperate!).  But THIS is where the learning and development is so important, not in the rushing around.  

Allowing space in your life and schedule can also be transformative for a family.  If you are not a patient person (Ahem--me!), then re-fashioning your life around your child's independence is a big deal.  It will be almost painful to watch your child take FOREVER to serve herself Goldfish crackers, carry the plate to her table, stop to sweep up the ones she spilled, and have a snack.  The same is true if you've ever been to a rehab facility for adults working to regain lost skills.  It requires us to stop and marvel at the amazing progress and growth of which humans are capable, if given the time, encouragement, and support.

Re-think your beginning steps.  Instead of buying the Pink Tower, you may need to replace your daughter's hand-me-down coat with the broken zipper so that she can learn to zip it up herself.  Or you may need to spend a little to buy child-size kitchen tools so that your son can peel the carrots and potatoes for borscht.  Why not?  You're making dinner anyway.  Let him work alongside you.

Here's a list of ideas of Montessori Practical Life activities you can teach your child at home:

  • Pouring (first dry, then wet)
  • Washing hands
  • Washing the tabletop
  • Washing dishes
  • Cleaning windows
  • Watering plants
  • Carrying things without bonking into the wall or other people
  • Setting and clearing the table
  • Polishing stuff--shoes, wood, metal
  • Opening and shutting doors, drawers, cupboards, boxes, all sorts of bottles, etc.
  • Folding napkins, towels, clothes
  • Peeling fruits and vegetables
  • Spreading something on bread or toast
The list goes on and on.  You should also include lessons in Grace and Courtesy, such as:

We want our children to develop self-control and an inner discipline.  In order to do that we need to give them freedom within boundaries, which requires our planning, our patience, and our own self-control.

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