Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wouldn't the world be nicer if we were all friends?

Well in Nicholas' Montessori world, they are all friends.  The teachers never seem to say things like, "hey, you guys," like I occasionally did to my fourth graders.  They invite the "friends" to the carpet for circle and remind the "friends" to choose their own lessons.  The intentional use of the word "friend" was contagious and I quickly found myself using the word to refer to the children in his class, at the gym or at a playdate.  Nicholas now uses "my friend" as a title, like we might use Mr. or Mrs. 

The assumption that we are all friends creates a positive vibe and I'll do my best to keep Nicholas thinking that everyone is friends. 

(And I'm hoping, it is still Monday somewhere, since I fell asleep before I could post last night.) 

Monday, January 17, 2011


My first Montessori Monday tip...

De-clutter.  In the new year, it is traditional to draft resolutions to make this year the best year it can be.  For me, this always means a renewed commitment to organization.  Clearly I have not been successful with this yet.  However, since becoming a Montessori mom, I have made a concerted effort to at least create order for Nicholas.

One of the first things I learned (probably on my tour) was to avoid toy boxes because of the chaos inside that can overwhelm a child. This was a little disappointing as I had recently repurposed our man-cave into a playroom with darling little toy boxes and shelves.  In the classrooms at Hudson, I was directed to the shelves at child height filled with "lessons"--each one in a special tray or basket, so children could see all of them and easily transfer to a table. 

I strive to create this type of order at home as well (at least in the toy areas, which exist on every level in our 3-story townhouse).  I convinced myself that our toy boxes were really more like cubbies because they were divided into small spaces and used these to sort different types of blocks and cars.  I also pulled out the storage boxes and put away things that were too young for Nicholas and ones that didn't fit neatly on the shelves.  I tried to keep out what I considered to be his favorites.  I intended to recycle the toys, so there would always be something new and fun to explore.  However, it has been hard to get other toys/lessons out of the closest, but I am happy to say that more has gone away as we have gotten more items from Christmas and other occasions. 

Think about putting some toys away, so your child can focus on and engage with the ones that are out.  Arrange them in such a way, so your child can see them and get them out easily.  Amazingly, this actually helps the toys get back where they belong.  And if you have a great strategy for getting the closet toys back into the rotation, please let me know.  I need some help in that department. 

Let Mission Organization 2011 begin!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Montessori Mondays

I started blogging as a way to document my family's crazy life while giving myself practice writing (I still figure this is a great way for a stay-at-home mom to earn extra cash.)  But 2 months into it, I have only published 5 posts and believe me it's not because I don't have anything to write about.  Life just gets busy and all of a sudden a day has gone by and then a week and so on.  So I'm going to try giving myself a little structure to see if I can create some weekly features...starting with Montessori Mondays.

I had the privilege to stay home with Nicholas until he was 6 months and then worked only 3 days a week the following school year with my mother-in-law as our sole childcare provider.  When I made the decision to go back to work full-time for the 2009-2010 school year, I felt strongly that Nicholas needed to attend school at least part of the time.  I felt 5 days a week was too much for my mother-in-law and I worried about him being spoiled, but I also wanted to make sure he was able to socialize.  I was overwhelmed by the choices and recommendations, so early in the process I chose to focus on Montessori schools.  My sisters had attended a Montessori program one summer, so the word had been kicking around in my head and I had visited a Montessori magnet school in Albany for an alternative education course in college.  Other than that I didn't know much about it, but I knew it was supposed to be good.  I wasn't even sure how young Montessori programs started, so my Googling began.

Focusing on Montessori schools certainly cut down on our list, so we were now left with whether we should look at schools close to our home or close to our work or somewhere on the way, while trying to find an early enough drop-off for us to make it the Bronx by 8.  I decided to look everywhere in our quest.  I was working part-time the spring we were looking, so I was responsible for visiting the schools with my then 14-month old.  I quickly learned that Montessori means different things to different people and the schools varied greatly in their interpretations as well as the age-groups served, the drop-off times and tuition.  I wholeheartedly agreed with the mission of developing an independent person, but I still had trouble finding the right feel with the right times.  Then somehow in one of my many Google searches, I stumbled on Hudson Country Montessori in Danbury.  Danbury is about 15 minutes away, so it was a little out of the way for us, but I figured it would at least be good as a comparison to the other places I had seen.  From the moment I called to schedule a tour, I was impressed and even had my husband take a day off of work (not that I had to twist his arm) to come see it with us. 

We decided (almost on the spot) that this was the right "school" for Nicholas.  After falling in love, we had to deal with the fact that the school is nearly 40 minutes away and has tuition comparable to a state college.  We are known for making rash decisions, but in this case, I think we made the right one, though we continue to question ourselves, especially now that I am staying home.    

Over the past 18 months, Nicholas has grown tremendously as a tiny person and we have learned a lot as parents.  One of our biggest lessons has been that the Montessori philosophy applies to the home as well as school.  So in the spirit of sharing,  I will (try very hard to) post a tip each Monday that has helped us Montessori-ize our lives.