Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Everything in it's place and a place for everything."

"Children absorb unconsciously from their surroundings. The importance of the prepared environment is paramount in the Montessori classroom. The prepared environment of the practical life area is uncluttered, inviting, home like, clean and orderly. The materials beautiful but not distracting, one of each activity which helps the child to develop self discipline and patience is included. The furniture is appropriately sized to meet the needs of the children, and the materials are attractive and call to the child to be held, explored and mastered.

The six basic components of the prepared environment are: The concept of freedom, structure and order, reality and nature, beauty and atmosphere, the Montessori materials and the development of community life.

The most important aspect of the prepared environment is the emotional climate; “a fearful child can not learn” and so the classroom should be both prepared with appropriate materials and also with clearly defined ground rules, understanding, consistency and love."

~~~Montessori Mama (school paper)

This is all well and good in a Montessori school classroom but how do you create this at home? (Please see my previous post: Montessori At Home (September), for more ideas and encouragement).

Making your children the number one priority in your life is a huge step in the direction of Montessori parenting. Begin by preparing your home environment to meet their needs AND your needs. Look at your home through their eyes. Are there lots of things that are off limits, behind a gate, up high, out of reach? Who lives here? Who's home is this anyway?

Think about it, where are your things? Your car keys for example? Do they hang on a hook near the door like so many of ours do? Why? So you will have them when you need them, right where you left them, easily accessible, ready to be used for the purpose they are intended.

We adults (for the most part, certainly I have been known to mis-place my car keys) arrange our belongings (let's call them 'materials') for usefulness and because it looks pretty. The coffee maker, we use every morning is out on the counter, not tucked away, but available for us to use it when we need to. Photographs are displayed attractively and at our eye level for our enjoyment.
And our music CDs are stacked in a CD holder or on a shelf, perhaps in order of type of music or even alphabetically? What works for our personal inner sense of order, is how we as grown ups prepare our environment. Yet, we throw our children's materials into a heap in a toy box, or bin? We restrict them to using the materials they desire to when it is convenient to us.

My Nana used to say, "Everything in it's place and a place for everything." Where would your child find his red matchbox car? In a small basket/tote with like items or at the bottom of a large toy box? So will he need to dump that large toy box to discover his the single treasured red car or just the one basket of match box cars? And which would be easier to clean up when he's done?

I know I make it sound easy, and it definitely is not; but making changes to accommodate
the growing needs of your children and preparing an environment that aids in their learning and development is worth the trouble. Keeping things tidy for the sake of having things tidy, is not my point. And I admit that my house often looks messy and disorganized, no one of us is perfect, (boy, would that be boring!).
Perfection is not the goal here, creating a prepared environment, prepared with love and thoughtfulness for the people sharing the space and the things that interest them is.

In my house I have some cupboards that are home to things I don't want my toddler playing with right now. These cupboards have safety locks on them and are not a choice for him at this time. That's me setting limits and protecting my materials. There are however cupboards that are home to items he can explore and investigate and then clean up of these materials is made easier by baskets and totes with photo labels for my non-reader.

Creating these opportunities was work (yes, I know I am a stay at home mom working part-time out of her home right now), but I'm here to tell you, it CAN be done with very little money and a little effort. And it's worth it! My stress level has lowered and my toddler is a very happy busy learner. Clean up seems so much easier now and the other members of my house hold (boys #1 and #2) help out more. Share your ideas with me and each other, leave a comment about how you help your littlest members of your home organize their materials.

And remember, the most important aspect of the prepared environment is the emotional climate; and we are all doing our best, parenting is the most challenging job you will ever have.
Montessori Parenting is what I hope to promote with this BLOG of mine. In my home I am trying to guide the growth of healthy, happy, independent children who feel loved, safe and respected. I believe following their lead and paying attention to their natural inclinations insists that I follow Dr. Montessori's philosophy. I will post more soon about Dr. Montessori's philosophy to help illustrate why a prepared environment is so important. Thank you for your time reading this and your opinions. I welcome them!


Monday, October 22, 2007

Autumn Sun Catchers

Here is one of my all time favorite Autumn craft projects. It's an easy craft for very young children and involves getting outside and collecting, which many 2 and 3 year olds especially enjoy doing.

You will need:
  • An eager child and a fall day
  • Natural materials
  • hand made paper (if available & desired)
  • clear contact paper
  • hole punch
  • yarn
  • twig
Take a nature walk and bring a bag to collect pine needles, grasses and leaves. Natural items that can be placed between clear contact paper without causing too much of a wrinkle. Also provide natural fiber color papers that can be cut or torn to add to your Autumn collage.
Arrange items on sticky side of contact paper, reposition if needed, and cover with another piece of clear contact paper. These collages I've found work better if kept on a small scale but can be created large too. With sticky paper like this young children can get frustrated.
To display: Punch two holes at the top and thread a piece of yarn, attach yard to a twig (also found outside) and hang like a picture in a window.

Our Autumn Sun Catchers have been up since last fall and visitors often notice them, making my son feel very proud. He usually says, "You can make one too, they're really easy, want me to show you?"

~~~MM (original)

A Fall Poem

May the glory of the passing away
of autumn
lie about us
fresh gold
for a time.
And when the dark comes, and
the cold
may we remember how today we stand in glory,
how we walk in bounty
heaped upon earth's dark carpet,
how we move knee deep in
flung against night's winter
We are thankful for its coming
and for its passing.
Let it be.

~~~Barbara J. Pescan

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gourd Friends

Move over, Jack. There are new gourds in town. These fanciful little folks will put a whole new face on decorating for the season. Here's how to craft your own.

You'll need an assortment of gourds or ornamental pumpkins. Choose ones that are free of mold and bruises (they'll last longer), and wash and dry them once you get them home. You'll also need a variety of natural trimmings, such as pine needles, pinecones, leaves, seeds, and the like, plus a glue gun or glue dots for tacking everything in place. Thinner glue dots (often labeled "paper thin") are fine for light items, but we preferred thicker ones (1/16 inch or more; 3-D dots work especially well) for pinecones and large twigs.

Once you've gathered your supplies, play around with how to arrange them, starting with the body. (One, two, or three gourds? Smaller ones stacked atop larger ones, or vice versa?) Next, try out some features. We used leaves for Maude's hair, Frank's bow tie, and Myrtle's arms, while our gallery of noses includes a berry for Frances, a single pinecone scale for Myrtle, a peanut shell for Neville, and a piece of a stem for Harriet. Small, round items, such as beans, berries, and Indian corn kernels, make great eyes, noses, and buttons, while sticks and stems work well for hair, arms, and smiles. But anything goes, have fun!

If you're using multiple gourds, glue them together (remove the stems from the lower ones first), then add the features. You can also connect them with round toothpicks or trimmed skewers (use a small nail to make pilot holes if necessary). If you plan to sandwich leaves between two stacked gourds, as with Neville's and Myrtle's collars, be sure to glue the foliage to the bottom gourd before gluing the top one in place. Gourd wobbly? Glue nutshells or small pinecones to its base to help stabilize it, as we did with both Frank and Neville. Your fall friends will likely last two to four weeks in a cool, dry spot.

Another fun idea from Family Fun

Story excerpt: Gwendolyn Makes a Friend

Gwendolyn is four years old. She loves make-believe, the color blue, molasses cookies, hair ribbons and of course her best friend, Puppy, a stuffed dog with a jewled collar. When Gwendolyn dreams, she tells her Mama,

“My dreams are in color there is lots of blue and there is a little girl who I haven’t met yet but I know I will, and she has hair ribbons just like me! She is my best friend in the whole world Mama”

Mama smiles. Gwendolyn has wanted a friend for so long, “four whole years” she tells her Mama, “I’ve waited four whole years to make a friend.”

Gwendolyn was very excited. Tomorrow would be her first day at The Children’s House, the Montessori school her Mama had signed her up for. She had been told all about her new school, how rugs needed to be rolled up and plants needed ‘misting’, and Gwendolyn was very much looking forward to being helpful in her new classroom, she liked to help. There were many new and interesting works to try there, like a tower of pink cubes and a map puzzle with bright colors.

Gwendolyn hoped her new teacher Sandy would let her have a turn to feed the gold fish one day. When Gwendolyn first visited The Children’s House she met Sandy, her teacher, and right away she new they would be good friends. Sandy smelled like vanilla cookies and flowers mixed together and she had a quiet voice, like a fairy princess. Mama said the smell was probably just Sandy’s hair shampoo but Gwendolyn was sure that Sandy had picked flowers and made cookies often and that was why she smelled like that. Gwendolyn already loved Sandy and she knew she would love The Children’s House too.

As Gwendolyn went to bed that night, she had trouble falling asleep, she was so excited and wanted her first day at her new school to begin she couldn’t wait to make a friend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Having trouble posting a comment?

Hello Everyone,
If you are having trouble posting a comment please feel free to email me at
I will respond either way and would like to answer any questions parents may have. If you are able to comment please do, your feedback is very helpful. Many thanks to you who have commented and to everyone for stopping by and reading! More to come.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Make a Harvest Banner

What to do with all of those garden veggies? Besides eating them you can make a beautiful Harvest Banner for your front door. Here's how:
Select sturdy fall veggies to make prints from: peppers, potatoes, carrots, corn (you can also throw in a couple apples and pears as well, they make interesting shaped prints, or leaves even~~ be creative & have fun!). Next using tempera paints in recycled yogurt or cottage cheese containers, dip your veggies in the paint to lightly cover or use a paint brush to apply a thin coating. Next print, print print! On a large piece of fall color construction paper (we used orange) create a Harvest Design. To Hang: Simply punch a couple holes in your paper and string a piece of hemp or ribbon to hang your banner. Our Harvest Banner is hanging on the front door and has received many complements from guests. This activity can be extended using fabric paints and decorating a light colored table cloth for a special Harvest Dinner or Thanksgiving.

Apple faces

Submerge a peeled apple for about 5 minutes in water with 2 tablespoons of salt and the juice from one lemon. Then use a skewer to carve eyes, a nose, and a mouth. The bigger the features, the more dramatic the outcome. Set the carved apple in a warm spot and watch the face of your wise friend emerge over the next two weeks.
--another cool idea from Wondertime

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Day Away from Toddler Land

A typical Toddler Land conversation goes something like this: What's that? Mine. Are you eating a crayon? No. Mine. That's not safe. Come down, I know you want to climb but you could fall. Listen to Mama. NO. This little piggie...The itsy bitsy spider...Laugh..Scream..Moo cow. No. Mine. Please? This book? No. Up Mama......

You get the idea. I was in need of something more. So recently my husband and I took a mini vacation in celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary. We went just a couple hours south and while away we visited the Portland Museum of Art
We had a lovely afternoon together. We also enjoyed Sushi (our favorite food) and a little early Christmas shopping. Honestly the best part of the whole 30 hour trip wasn't the Museum, shops or the restaurant, it wasn't the hotel or the room service although that was really special. It wasn't where we went it was the company we kept while there. Just to be in each other's company, to share a real conversation with full sentences and without interruptions. Holding the hand of my husband rather than the hand of my toddler was such a nice change.
Now we are back home again and my toddler is so happy. I'm happy too, I know this hand holding stage is short lived. They are only little for a brief minute of time really, then one day they don't want to hold your hand anymore. I know it comes too fast, I've been through it twice already. Hopefully when the day comes I will be blessed to still be married to my husband.
He has really nice hands. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Maya Angelou quote

"I think a role model at home is invaluable. Each one of us is a teacher, whether we like it or not."

Where in the World?


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