3 years old, Family life

Have your best Montessori parent-teacher meeting

 

Earlier today I found myself reminding my husband about our hot date for tomorrow afternoon: a parent-teacher meeting with Jasper’s Montessori casa (age 3-6) teacher. Okay, so not exactly the date of my dreams, but it does give me a thrill.

I found myself saying: “It’s like we’re levelling up. We’re having parent-teacher interviews together!”

As a first-time mom of a first year, three year-old casa student, I wanted to get some advice on what to expect tomorrow when the three of us sit down together on miniature wooden chairs to talk about our little guy, so I called in a couple of experts, who I’m also glad to call friends.

Leisse Wilcox (Eat Play Love) is mom to three (including twins!) and a former Montessori teacher. She’s also the firecracker down the street, a fantastically fun friend, and a creative entrepreneur. 

“Parent conferences are the time to really touch base about the overall development of your child. You’re going to hear about how they’ve settled in socially and emotionally to the classroom, as well as how their fine and gross motor skills are developing, and of course the activities that really capture and stimulate their attention. Most likely this will be the extent of your visit; children who are having a harder time with any of these areas will have had the teacher’s concerns addressed with you earlier than the conference, i.e. with respect to how they listen, interact, play independently, engage with others, move through the space.

So much — most, actually — of the 3-6 year old’s work takes place as a process in their brain. It’s all stuff you can’t see. If you aren’t seeing a lot of “product,” or tangible “things” that your child has done, don’t sweat it! That’s completely normal. The early years are all about introducing concepts of wonder to these little people, planting incredible seeds that grow over time. So sit back and enjoy your child’s teacher telling you that she knows, loves, and has a plan for your beloved.”

What to expect at a Montessori parent-teach

 

Beth Wood, of Our Montessori Life, is a casa teacher and mother on Vancouver Island, and I highly recommend that everybody follow Beth’s Instagram account, @ourmontessorilife for lovely and peaceful images from a real life Montessori home.

“I have had the incredible privilege to sit on both sides of the table for this. First as an over eager slightly paranoid Mother and then as a patient and slightly paranoid Casa teacher. First, before going to the meeting, think about and then write down your 3 most burning questions. Just 3. Each school sets the times for their meetings differently but one thing is certain. They have not reserved your time spot and the following 3 spots for you to empty out your questions list. Usually meetings last under 20 mins. Be prepared to leave when your time is up and make your time count.

That being said, a good Montessori school will have also properly prepared some very key points that are important to your child’s day. If your child is 3-4 you may hear lots about Practical Life. If your child is 4-5 you may hear lots about the Language or Culture areas and if your child is 5-6 you may hear lots about Math. Or not. The Montessori classroom is a vast one with many options.

What you are listening for is: “Your child loves (this)”. Or “Your child has recently really been interested in (this).” This shows that your teachers are really observing your child. If you don’t hear these statements, make sure they are one of your 3 important questions to ask. You are looking for signs that your child is loving the environment. That they are connecting with the materials. This should be evident regardless of age.

This is a first meeting and you may not get a lot of progression statements unless your child is a returning child. If they are a returning child one of your teachers points should be a progression statement. A statement about how your child has made progress with a particular area of the classroom. This may be as general as “Your child has gained independence in our transition times” (gets ready for home by themselves). It may be specific such as “Your child has made huge strides with the Language area.” Each of these statements are equally important in the eyes of a teacher.

The Parent Teacher meetings can be nerve racking, but they are incredibly insightful. You enter the world of the child. Listen with truly open ears and an open minded heart. Ask your 3 questions that are important to you gaining a better understanding of how your child’s day looks or what is in the future for your child.

More often than not, you will find yourself feeling just like the teacher. Absolutely amazed.

I think this book is a must have for all parents of children in the Casa program.”

Thanks Leisse & Beth! I’m so grateful for this wonderfully supportive online (and local!) Montessori community. I’m more excited than ever to open my heart to hear what’s happening in the casa classroom these days — and I think a lot of this advice would be really useful in other educational models too.

 

 

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4-6 months, Family life, Travel

Wee road warriors

Summer road trip tips

This morning I received an email alert about a spammy comment left on this site that began by saying “I see you need some fresh posts.” Touché, spam. If you’re ever left feeling a similar need for some fresh Milkweed, please join me on Instagram, where I update far more frequently (and where there is a whole community of Montessori-minded parents).

Speaking of fresh, about 24 hours ago we rolled in from our old-fashioned family road trip, during which we camped our way to the East Coast of Canada and back. The trip was full of natural beauty, family giggles, noisy singalongs and highway-side potty stops. Some sweet memories were made, and some great lessons were learned along the way. If you’re heading out on a summer road trip before the season ends, here’s a bit of what we gleaned on the open road.

Going off road. At four months and nearly three years old, our kids were amazing passengers (so perhaps tip #1 is “get lucky”?). We tried to drive as comfortably as possible — with snacks on hand, with full bellies, with frequent washroom stops, and for some of us, with a stuffed baby otter in hand. Whatever works. We had a policy of stopping any time the kids needed to, and it turned out they didn’t actually need to stop as often as we’d expected. We only stopped at a fast food restaurant once over 3000 kms and nearly two weeks. The rest of the time, we kept an eye out for farm markets, playgrounds, beaches and riverside parks (or, pictured above, a riverside farm market with playground and tractor to climb on. Thank you, rural New Brunswick). Getting a bit of space, and giving Jasper opportunities to really move his body kept everyone happy.

Staying on the road. The only way to cover a lot of miles is to just keep going. Although we stopped without a second thought when we needed to, we also tried to keep on moving when we could. We tried to keep an eye on the gas tank and the gas prices (the GasBuddy app was handy) during stops, so that we wouldn’t have to stop again unneccesarily. Keeping snacks on hand, within reach, could help to hold off lunch a little longer if we were making good time or wanted to make it to a particular destination.

Be here now. I’d packed an assortment of activities for Jasper — some were left overs from flights we’ve taken, like an etch-a-sketch book, a button snake, and some felt work; a homemade colouring binder; his sticker collection and book. Unfortunately, it seemed obvious pretty early on that Jasper gets some motion sickness, feeling nauseous when he spent time looking at his work instead of out the window. So, most of the trip, he looked out the window. Rather than the sort of educational entertainment I’d planned on, he was engaging with the real world — which was also the real reason we were on the trip. It meant he often needed more of my attention, but playing “I Spy” is as good a way to get through the hill and highways of New Brunswick as any. Looking out the window lead to conversations about naming construction and farm machinery, coming to recognize provincial flags, and speculating about the weather.

Listen up. The car stereo is everybody’s friend. It distracts from the squeak of the windshield wipers, it closes out conversation for a few minutes, it passes the time. We stocked up on audio books from the library and David grabbed a few favourite cds on the way out the door, and we were ready to roll. We took turns choosing what to listen to, and Jasper was usually willing to wait out a grown-up choice before getting back to “Macaroni and Cheese!” (aka Andrew Queen‘s great food-themed children’s album, Grow). Quick audio book review: Olivia and Frog and Toad were both pleasant listens, The Moffats is a family favourite, while Paddington Bear didn’t make it past the first few minutes.

As we settle in, do the laundry and return to life at home, I’m thrilled to know that our time on the road was successful not only in getting us to our destination, but in bringing our family together to meet a challenge, and creating truly lasting memories all along the way.

What are you up to this summer? What will your memories of summer ’15 be? If you have any road trip tips in your back pocket, let me know! 

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0-2 months, Family life

A life together

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“Our commitment must start
where life begins.”
— Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro

After what’s felt like a long break — a whole lifetime in our new daughter’s case — I’m so very happy to return to this space, and to introduce our new baby, Sage.

Sage and I, along with big brother and her dad, have been both enjoying these first few weeks of her life, and also working through the inherent challenges together.

Montessori philosophy refers to this time as “symbiotic life,” or “life together.” The mother and the newborn are partners in a way of living that is mutually beneficial as they move together beyond the intense change that takes place at birth. We are able to do this through gentleness, respect and intention while holding and physically being with the baby, handling — dressing, bathing and caring for the baby with our hands, and feeding (in our case, breastfeeding).

For a modern mom with a busy schedule, a social life, and other commitments, the symbiotic life means a serious step back from the life before baby was born, and a certain degree of acceptance that life in the home, with the baby, is the centre — at least for now. For me, that acceptance is often easily surpassed by a blissful embracing of this life’s pace, and also sometimes comes begrudgingly (cut to the scene where my husband meets our friends at the well-appointed tequila bar down the street for a well-deserved break).

The pay off is huge, though: what’s happening during this relatively short time is that Sage is learning deep truths about the world, truths that she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life. As we observe her and respond to her needs, she learns that she is loved, that she can trust her environment, that when needed, help will come. Important stuff.

We did so much reading and talking together to prepare Jasper for life as a big brother, and he’s done wonderfully. At two and a half, he very loving toward his sister, he’s able to patiently wait (most of the time) for her needs to be met before the next game of hide and seek can begin, he’s become even more connected with his dad, and he’s made huge leaps in independence in lots of areas (and at times of high need, taken a few steps back, too).

He’s also been very patient with a mom who’s sometimes short on it. The adjustment to being mama to two children has been harder than I expected, and coupled with the usual hormonal highs and lows of the post-partum period, it’s been a roller coaster. We’re starting to find our new rhythms and ways together though, and as we begin to venture out into the world, I’m so grateful to find myself among this party of four.

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Family life

Introducing David

ImageA few days ago, I asked my husband, David to have a look at Milkweed & Montessori and give some feedback. He was quite kind with his critique but he had one issue: he hasn’t shown up in these pages at all!

It wasn’t really an intentional omission, or at least not one I’d thought through much, besides wanting to protect his privacy. But he’s a big part of this story — he’s the love of my life, my partner every step on the journey, and he’s Jasper’s loving dad. We have great discussions about our parenting ideas, he asks tough questions, and he puts huge trust in me.

Here are just a few things that David brings to our son’s experience:

  •  walks in the backpack carrier, or as we call it, “the hike-a-ma-bob”
  • trips to the local hockey games, which have inspired a big interest for Jasper. The word “goal” is heard many times a day around here.
  • David is the one who goes to Jasper when he wakes up in the night
  • David’s a working songwriter and musician, and he’s giving J. an amazing musical introduction — by playing music around the house, putting on great records, and letting Jasper have free access to try out real instruments
  • bath-time chats
  • bedtime cuddles. I nurse Jasper, then David lies down with him in his floor bed for a few minutes of quiet talking and deep breathing and finally, sleep.

It’s easy for me — type A, oldest child — to jump in and try to direct the action, and I often have to remind myself to take a deep breath and a step back. Interrupting the interactions between these two is just as damaging as interrupting Jasper when he’s focusing on his work, or barging in on a conversation David’s having with another adult. These two guys of mine, they know what they’re doing.

This online community is full of mothers and women’s voices, and I think it’s good for all of us to remember what a big part of the story our partners are. What does your partner bring to the family?

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