Uncategorized

Remembering Porzia

 

 

I’m so deeply saddened by the death of my friend, Porzia Micou-Franklin.

Porzia was a loving parent, an inspiring teacher — who guided the Montessori casa classroom at the Center for the Homeless in South Bend —  and a valiant fighter, who knew that to truly help someone in need is to work to make the whole world better for them.

I’m so grateful to have known her, even in the form of messages and emails, blog posts and Facebook comments, and I’m just so sad for her daughters and her family, for her students and for all of us who must now imagine a world without her.

I just found these words at the end of an e-mail from Porzia last year:

“What we do as Montessorians is preach peace. That was also a key component to my journey, peace in the midst of a storm. This helped me to better understand and endure everything that came my way.”

Rest in peace, rest in power, Porzia.

P.S. Porzia took the above photos of the children this past July, celebrating a beautiful summer’s day spent with sweet young spirits at the Center for the Homeless. 

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

Liebster Award!

liebster

I was pleasantly surprised last weekend to find that I’d been nominated for the Liebester Award by my blogging pal Beth at Our Montessori Life. The Liebster is basically a chain letter that lets bloggers celebrate other bloggers, and it comes with a list of questions and the best part is, Kanye isn’t mad about it at all.

How did you discover Montessori?

I can’t actually remember the exact moment. At some point, I stumbled up and became immediately fascinated with the possibilities offered on How We Montessori, a lovely family and home-oriented blog by Kylie, the queen mother of all Montessori bloggers.

What has been your greatest challenge with using Montessori?

My greatest challenge has always been struggling with my own bad habits and shortcomings — I’m pretty disorganized and I tend to start projects and not finish them. For me, establishing a welcoming and orderly Montessori environment has been eye-opening in terms  of realizing what my needs really are for a healthy, happy environment — as well as what’s best for my kid. It’s also been an on-going effort!

Materials. Make or Buy?

It depends. I think some of our best-loved materials are things that we’ve created ourselves, and I’ve enjoyed making things for the coming babe, like a topponcino and this Gobbi mobile I’m working on this week. Especially during the younger years, there are many things that can be made or modified to work as Montessori materials. On the other hand, there are some materials that are just better purchased and that can’t really be made at home, especially as a child moves beyond the toddler years (I’m thinking here of something like the pink tower, which needs to be mathematically accurate).

That said, I’m a big believer that Montessori is for everyone, and a peaceful environment, respectful speech and opportunities for independence are priceless and free.

What’s your favourite Montessori book?

My favourite Montessori book is The Tao of Montessori, which is a really beautiful compilation of Montessori quotes and thoughts connected with Lao-tzu’s verses from the Tao Te Ching. Because the chapters are so short and not meant to be read linearly, it’s a great resource to pick up any time, read for a few minutes, and return to the rest of life restored and inspired.

Do you see any similarity in your children and yourself?

Jasper and I both: love mornings, enjoy being social, like to play with paint, and tend to be somewhat easily distracted.

What’s your favourite thing about blogging?

My favourite thing about blogging is actually two-fold: one is having an outlet for the bits of inspiration that get me excited about the Montessori method and what’s happening for us and the other is being a part of a community of caring, intelligent, peaceful parents and teachers.

What made you first decide to blog?

I’m a writer in my non-mom life and so blogging isn’t new for me, but I wanted to work on a Montessori-specific blog in order to participate more fully in the online conversation that was taking place.

How do you take time for yourself?

I generally don’t find it too difficult to take time for myself, and here is my secret: I live two blocks away from my parents.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished a book and am about to start The Sculptor. The last book I read was The Royal Game by Stefan Zwieg, inspired by watching The Grand Budapest Hotel. And the very best book I’ve read this year has been Michael Crummey’s Sweetland.

What is your favourite book your child owns?

My favourite books are Blueberries for Sal and Over and Under the Snow. Jasper has shown occasional interest in both of these books, but neither has been a favourite.

And sure. Why not. What would you do with a million dollars?

I would pay my doula and buy new tires for the car and get a lot of massages and be thrilled to have both kids’ educations paid for (and my own!). It’s the little things.

I’m so grateful to Beth for the shout-out and I’m also glad to have been made to slow down and think about these questions. I’d love to nominate my pal Leisse next, but she’s on a sweet vacation in Mexico and I don’t want anything adding to her to-do list, so please, go visit her blog anyway. Leisse is a trained Montessori educator and a great writer and so, so funny and had three kids under two for a while, so believe me when I say this lady knows what’s up.

Standard
Uncategorized

Interrupting independence

streetcar

Every child is a born explorer. — E.M. Standing

Do you listen to podcasts?

Ever since the end of Serial back in December, I’ve been looking for something new to fill my ears while I do the dishes or putter around the house, and I’ve stumbled upon Invisibilia, another NPR podcast that focuses on the invisible forces at work in human life. This week’s episode was all about expectation, and focused on the idea that if we expect blind people to be unable to make their way in the world independently, then they won’t. But if the rest of the world allows blind people (and especially children) to explore their world freely, then they will, and they will even begin to experience what is neurologically-speaking, sight. Basically kids who were given free-range would naturally move to using echo location to navigate their world.

So what does this have to do with Montessori? Everything!

Over and over again, the podcast reiterated: kids who are either prevented from interacting with the world, kids who are over-assisted with tasks, and kids who were interrupted while exploring would ultimately give up fighting for that necessary independence. They would begin to rely on the willing steerage of their parents and teachers and lose out not just on independent life, but on the experience of images that those who did use echo location enjoy (which is apparently somewhat similar to the clarity and scope of a sighted person’s peripheral vision).

There was an example of a five year-old boy who was, along with his blind tutor, engaged in an exercise of finding the edge of the road. Just as he was getting to the point of discovery, his godmother rushed in and violently grabbed him back from the curb. The teacher went on to explain that often sighted people around a blind child will react too quickly — sometimes just a half-second or so, before the child was about to set his or her own boundary. He also said that these interruptions have long term harm, creating a place of self-doubt within the child.

I imagine you’re starting to see where I’m going with this. Even for those of us with sighted children, how often do we interrupt exploration? It comes from impatience when waiting for our child to slip his foot into his boots, or fear when our toddler has moved a stool into the kitchen to retrieve a knife to cut his snack with, or when we suddenly butt in on our child’s work or play to announce that it’s time to clean up, or even when he’s stuck in his t-shirt with one arm in and one arm out and he’s panicking.

And by “we,” of course I mean “I”.

So this week my challenge to myself is to wait even just a half-second longer. To sit on my hands if I have to, to keep them from reaching out to “help.” Observation will help, I think. To take a moment to notice “what is this kid working on right now?“, and to weigh that against my own priorities.

Of course, all of this has me circling around and ending up where I always do, with that timeless and simple phrase: Follow The Child.

P.S. Are you into podcasts? Be sure to check out the podcast from Baan Dek, a beautiful AMI environment in South Dakota, founded by the same people who created the Montessori: Letter/Number/Shape/Map Work books.

Standard
22-24 months, DIY, Family life, Montessori philosophy, Practical Life, Uncategorized

Backyard Montessori: Watermelon!

watermelonFor the minimalists, the budget-savvy, the purists: this is the Montessori work for you.

This isn’t meant to be a “how-to” recipe to follow — just an example of how an afternoon can be filled with slow and simple experiments and exploration. Simple exploration of the world is an important part of Montessori practice for very young children, and you can do it any time, with any thing, with no cash outlay at all.

Nothing says summer like watermelon, and nobody loves watermelon more than a toddler, which lead us to an afternoon spent with a watermelon.

watermelon_sinkWashing! First, we carried the watermelon up the stairs, into the house, onto the Learning Tower and up into the sink. Actually, first we carried it to his toddler-sized kitchen sink, but the watermelon was too big, so we washed it in the adult-sized kitchen sink — exploration and experimentation! We took turns walking slowly and holding the watermelon with both hands. Next time, I might get a slightly smaller and lighter watermelon that Jasper could more easily carry.

watermelon_dryDrying! Then we carried the wet watermelon over to his table (because toddlers are in the sensitive period for movement, it’s important to give them lots of opportunities to move — something that occasionally runs counter to our adult tendency to set everything up for convenience and fewer steps). Then Jasper dried the watermelon with a towel. We looked at the water droplets and he tried to get each water drop onto the towel, one by one.

Slicing! Then I brought the knife and the cutting board over, and cut most of the way through the watermelon, so that it was still whole, just with a slice through. Jasper pulled the water melon halves apart and we spent some time putting them back together and taking them apart again. One part. Two parts.

watermelon_ballSpooning! We then each had a half a watermelon and a tool — I had a measuring spoon and Jasper had a melon-baller, and we sat for some time, each quietly spooning melon into a bowl. The quiet was largely due to the fact that Jasper was chewing. One ball for the bowl, one for him.

Jasper using a Melon-Baller  – excuse the iPhone video quality!

And beyond! From there we tossed some of our watermelon into the blender along with some mint and lime basil from the garden for some simple and juicy popsicles. The next day, we attempted this work, created by my friend Talin for a presentation during our training a few weeks back:

watermelon_talin Mashing, spooning, drinking. A delicious agua fresca.

backyard Montessori

What are you exploring this summer?

P.S. We spent our watermelon time indoors on a rainy day, but it would be way more fun with a backyard hose and picnic table, so I’m throwing it into my Backyard Montessori series.

Standard
18-21 months, Uncategorized

Blossoming independence

photo(32)

Spring is a time of awakening — both outside and inside of our home.

With a long and especially harsh winter behind us, we’ve been happily casting off the trappings of winter and embracing the blooms of spring.

No longer stuffed into snowsuits with full-body zippers and snaps and Velcro at every potential source of wind, Jasper is free to experiment with putting his light jacket on and off, and zipping up and down. We’re into prime rubber boot weather here, and they make the perfect introduction to independent shoe-wearing. J can find his boots, put them on, take them off, and return them to their home all on his own. He’s taken to exploring all other forms of footwear we have around and is now an avid Velcro-ripper.

Towards the end of winter, Jasper had begun to make his first forays into the backyard alone. We have a medium-sized fenced yard in a small town, and a sliding glass door from the house which allows for some occasional surreptitious supervision. It’s a great opportunity for us both to develop some independence! With the ice and deep snow gone from the yard, he’s more confident than ever, journeying to the furthest corners of the fences and climbing the ladder to the slide. Following the child these days often means 7 AM visits to the bird feeder. When I go out to the yard to work in the garden, he comes with me, and we’ll each do our work-play separately, but together. And, occasionally we’ll join each other for a little while.

Jasper reached 18 months back in March, and I feel now that I have a first-hand understanding why so many Montessori toddler programs begin at 18 months. It’s like a switch has been flipped, and he’s entered a whole new realm of illumination. Or maybe I should say we have, because as he grows, so do I.

Have you noticed certain seasons or ages or phases when your child suddenly seemed to developmentally leap forward? I’m curious to know what I should look out for in the future.

P.S. While writing this post, the doorbell rang and a package from Montessori Services was delivered, so you may expect some fresh indoor practical life content coming soon!

Standard
18 months, Family life, Uncategorized

Sunday morning

ImageSunday is a day when our pace slows, and I find myself taking stock of both the week ahead and the week that’s passed. Here’s what the view is like for our family this Sunday:

  • I rearranged and rotated Jasper’s shelves this week. A basket of farm animals, a tractor, a basic ring stacker and a wooden farm animal puzzle: out. A basket of forest animals, an owl ring stacker & wooden woodland animal puzzle: in. I love all the fresh energy and interest Jasper shows after his shelves have been changed out.
  • I’m also working on an easy DIY project: matching cards for the Schleich forest animals, which I hope to post about later this week.
  • We are very much looking forward to a trip to the local sugar bush with friends tomorrow morning. One of the wonderful things about living life at a child’s pace is having a deeper engagement with the seasons, and maple syrup season is a wonderful promise of spring.
  • Finally, the scene above: my journal/agenda/sketchbook/grocery list keeper. This week’s pages included a recipe for crepes, some light sketching by Jasper, and a wonderful, worth-remembering list of everything that makes the Montessori method so magical, quoted from Deb at Sixtine et Victoire in this great interview at How We Montessori.
Standard