Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm On My Way!

Remember to check back here for your "Montessori Mama LIVE from the AMS Conference" coverage! (Middle Man told me to write that ;)
It sounds so official.

Really folks, if you are attending the Montessori conference in Boston this week and read this blog: Stop by and say Hi! I look forward to meeting each and every one of you. Once we arrive and set up, I will post our location in the Exhibitor's Hall.

I also am VERY excited to share that our company's table, zodiworks, has been asked to share the beloved Sister Anthonita Porter's recordings. Because she was such a respected and loved member of the Montessori community, Sister Anthonita's talks were often recorded. Her organization has now released these recordings for sale. The proceeds will go to support the Montessori schools that Sister Anthonita founded.

(I'm assuming, because I do not know the exact names of which charitable organization will receive the profits. But I will let you know as soon as I do :)

I am beaming with pride and excitement about having anything to do associated Sister Anthonita.

Okay, so everything is cut and glued and copied...laminated, organized and bound. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

American Montessori Society National Conference 2010

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So here we are just DAYS from the National AMS Conference in Boston and we still don't have our books!!! EEEKKK!
They are being air lifted here, we should have them by Friday.....
Can you tell I'm a little bit anxious?
So what have Montessori Papa and I been up to? Oh my, where to begin?

Each book comes with a hand sewn felt objects(yes sewn by me and several very special elves) together in a felt draw string bag (again hand sewn) that contains the following items:

word cards, felt objects to accompany each card, story extension and word game activity cards and finger puppets that represent each of the characters in each of the six stories.

The finger puppets were made for us by a company in Peru we found through The Green Store here in Belfast Maine. They are bright and colorful finger puppets and our purchase helps provide support the Peruvian women who knit them.

All materials are to big to swallow and made from eco-felt (from recycled plastic), and they are packaged in handmade wooden boxes with seven compartments (made in Maine).

We are hoping to connect with our local children's librarian to have some kind of reception for home-school families, teachers and parents, anyone really, interested in teaching reading the Montessori way.

Our books are intended to be used with children ages 3 to 6 years old in the Montessori classroom and at home. Each of the six hard cover books were written by me in collaboration with my brilliant partner Robin Jettinghoff; all six were illustrated by me. The felt objects, and finger puppets, labels and activity cards etc are all priced differently depending on the story length and number of items etc.

The AMS conference is our first show! If you are planning on attending the Montessori conference PLEASE stop by our ZODIWORKS booth and have a chocolate and meet the Zodi~Gang. I will be bringing Montessori Mama blog with me and posting from the conference; photos and videos (hopefully) and of course my written commentary about the weekend's events. I hope this will help make those of you not attending, who may have wanted to, feel like you are there too. There have been many conferences over the years I have missed due to finances and I thought that I would have really appreciated someone sharing via a blog or flicker or something?

So come along with me and enjoy the high lights of this year's AMS conference!
More info to follow in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Parent Ed. Night (Part Two)

This was the end portion of my talk from the Cornerspring Parent Ed. night. I didn't share these tips with the first two groups but did with the third. This info is relevant for children five and older, less so for the younger child. I hope it is helpful to those who need it.

Older children:
Engaging Cooperation

When we get into a hurry to have something done, we often offer a reward to the person who gets the job done first. Years ago, I remember reading about a sales organization that had restructured its reward system. In the past the company had always given a trip to their top three salespeople. Historically there had always been a large gap in sales between the third and fourth person. A new sales manager proposed a change in the reward system. She doubled the sales goal for the year. The sales manager told the sales team that when they met this goal, everyone on the team would go to Hawaii, with a spouse or friend.

After initial grumbling and disbelief, the sales team figured out that they needed to work together so that everyone could win. It was all or none. Much to their CEO's amazement, the sales organization met their objective by August. The least productive salesperson performed at the level of the previous year's top sale associate. This sales manager knew how to engage cooperation. She knew everyone was in the same boat, and she found a powerful way for the sales associates to understand it.

To engage cooperation with our children, we need to help our children understand that we are all in this together. We need to come with an attitude of respect that communicates to our children that we think they are loveable, smart and capable people who are willing to do the responsible thing when they see a problem.

1. Describe what you see, or describe the problem.
2. Give information.
3. Say it with a word.
4. Describe what you feel.
5. Write a note.

Let's take an example. The den needs to be picked up for company. To engage cooperation we could do the following:
To describe: There are toys on the floor that need to be put away. There are crayons on the table. There are shoes under the table. Coats on the couch.

Give information: The Browns are coming in 15 minutes. I don't think they can walk in the den without tripping on toys.
Say it in a word: Pick up time! Or, the den!
Describe feelings: I'd love for the Browns to see our home without a lot of clutter.
Write a note: Emergency! Company Coming! Clean Up! Apple Pie for Dessert!

When we can avoid making chores into a competition, that is, rewarding our children for doing something first, or the fastest, we will also avoid the power struggles that can emerge from a child's thinking this is a contest between me and you. When we can help everyone in our family understand that working together benefits us all, when we can engage cooperation, we'll help create stronger individuals and a stronger family.

For more information about the language we use as parent please visit my previous posts:

Favorite List

Bringing Montessori Home

Everything is its place

Being a Montessori Parent

Friday, March 5, 2010

Parent Ed. Talk Part One

When my oldest was around nine years old, I had just began working for the Montessori school. My two boys were having a conflict over something and I stepped in and spoke to the oldest. I used my best teacher voice, and Montessori language. I thought I had handled the conflict beautifully and for a brief moment I even had a fantasy that because I had spoken to him so eloquently that he would never pick on his little brother again.

Then he commented to me that he “didn’t like when I talked like that.” “Like what?” I asked. “You know,” he said, “like my teacher.”

Honestly, true story. And when you start using some of this language yourselves your children will say this to you too. Now, my son’s teacher at the time just happened to be my Montessori mentor, someone I respect greatly, and I walked away from that comment of his…joyfully thinking to myself,

“I sound like his teacher, I sound like his teacher! I am a teacher!”
So confession time. I was far from what I would call a ‘Montessori teacher’, I was just getting started, that was almost ten years ago. I have worked with children age zero to age seven for over 16 years now. I have three kids of my own, ages 17, 11 and 3. And every day I am learning. I learn from my own three and of course I learn so very much from the children in my class.
But being a teacher and being a parent are too very different things. So although I have NEVER said this in the classroom, I’m going to admit something to you that I HAVE said this(as a parent) and probably will say many more times….because it’s a pretty darn good answer to allot of questions.

“because I’m your Mother THAT’s why!” on occasion.

I know you think less of me now. But it had to be shared. Okay, now that, that’s off my chest I will move on.

There are some days (especially in February) that seem as if all we do as parents is say one word
''No, James can't spend the night. Your brother has the flu.''
''No, you cannot go bike riding right now. It's getting dark.''
''No, we can't walk to the muck, it's supposed to start snowing soon.''

Bad weather, illnesses and long nights seem to conspire to make the shortest month of the year the longest.
Add to this wintry mix, young children~
who, when hearing the word ''no,'' see it as a call to arms, as a personal attack on their independence, and turn all their pent-up energy and frustrations toward their parents.

These children have tantrums, screams, call names, stomp off, slam doors and pout. I hope none of these darling children live at your house but they do live at mine.
How can we stand firm when we must answer negatively to a request? While at the same time side-step confrontation, maintain harmony in the household and allow our children to preserve their independence and dignity?
Did I include, ''retain our sanity?''

Okay, help is on the way! Here are some helpful hints from the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk. First published in 1980. The author’s suggest the following:

Give information.

When met with a situation, we can give information that will help the child figure out that right now is not a good time.
For, ''Mom, can I invite Jimmy over to play?'' instead of saying, ''No, you can't,'' give decision-making facts.
''Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.''
You don't have to say no, and your child should have enough information to see that the answer is in fact ''no.''
Accept feelings.
Sometimes we can lessen our children's disappointment or frustration if they sense we understand their feelings.
''But Dad, I don't want to go to bed right now.''
Instead of ''no,'' we might say, ''I can understand if it were up to you, you would stay up all night, so you wouldn't miss a thing.''
Describe the problem.
''Mom, can I have more ice cream?”
''I'd like to say yes, but it says right here on the ice cream container: one serving = one bowl''
Give yourself time to think.
Your child says, ''Dad, can I have a horse at my birthday party?''
You can respond, ''Let me think about it, please.''
[A follow up conversation might include allowing your child to tell you why they think having a horse at the party would be fun and you sharing what needs a horse has…etc.]
When possible, substitute a ''yes'' for a ''no.''
Your child asks, ''Can we go to the mall''
Instead of saying, ''No, I've got to finish the laundry,'' you could say, ''Yes, just as soon as the laundry is folded and put away.''

These suggestions may seem like a lot of work and the hard way to say ''no.'' But considering some of the drama we may encounter, sometimes the high road is the shortcut to where we want to go.

If none of these work for you, there is always,
''Because I said so.''
I say this only half jokingly, sometimes young children want to know exactly WHO is in charge. Their emotions can be overwhelming and knowing that you, their parent, is making the decisions can be comforting.

To review: Some Alternatives to Saying ''No''from the book: "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk"

Give information.
Accept feelings.
Describe the problem.
Give yourself time to think.
When possible, substitute
a ''yes'' for a ''no.''
and my personal addition:
''Because I said so.''

Another list, this one from Chick Moorman's book Spirit Whispers (modified by me)

The 5 things you should avoid saying to your children:

1.) What did I just tell you?
2.) That is the third time today you…
3.) Stop whining!
4.) Don’t run/yell/throw/cheat/lie
5.) Tell her you’re sorry.

The 5 things you could say instead:

1.) Next time…
2.) How does that make you feel?
3.) Can you tell me more?
4.) Sounds like you have a problem
5.) Choose/decide/pick

And WHY NOT say these things Chick?:

1.) What did I just tell you?
this tells you nothing, except that your child may or may not have a good memory? And it sounds like a test. What’s your follow up question? “Okay, you DID hear me, why didn’t you do what I said?” it’s kind of pointless.
2.) That is the third time today you…
in case he/she didn’t know, we ARE keeping score. Just wait, I guarantee that this phrase will back fire on you in plus three years. Your child is 3 now +3= 6years old, they will say something along the same lines to YOU. “That is the third time you said you would take me to the baseball card store…” once they can tell time, they will tell you how many times.
3.) Stop whining!
Whining is effective with some caregivers, maybe not you but your parents? An aunty or baby sitter? If your children are over four years old and still whine, someone in their life responds to this in their favor, some of the time. Kids are very smart. It worked once with one person, I’ll try it again.
I have found it is much more effective to say,
“When you whine (imitate sound) that sound bothers me and I am not going to answer you until you stop whining. Define it and clearly say, “I will not respond to you.”
4.) Don’t run/yell/throw/cheat/lie
ah…okay? I remember reading a book called, “1,2,3 Discipline” Has anyone read this? Anyway, I remember the scenario they gave in that book that always stuck with me because it was so funny. Picture it: You’re in line at the supermarket, a snow storm is coming and your cart is full (with frozen items) your child whines for candy. Despite your instructions to “stop it” your child continues and begins throwing the desired candy at you! You yell, “Don’t you throw things at me!”
This is where we have to get honest with ourselves is your desired response:
that your child will stop throwing candy and pull it together and once again become a reasonable member of society?
How many people think this will happen? Ah, your wrong. When we say, “Don’t do that…” it’s like pouring lighter fluid on a fire. Instead try,
“when you stop ________, I will _________”
this is between your child and you, not the other people in line, not the checkout girl, not even Santa…you can’t threaten or lie to get them to stop behaving in an inappropriate manner. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Follow the “when you/I will” sentence with,” this is what IS happening…………” and give them one chance to be part of it.
“we are leaving the store now, are you going to walk out (help me push the cart/carry a bag) or am I going to have to carry you?” And just FYI, most grocery stores will hold your cart full of groceries in the refrigerator section while you remove your child from the store, calm them down and then return. Believe me.

Also during the presentation my Director was present for, she added that we Montessori teachers have had great success by turning negative statements like "Don't Run!" into positive ones like: "Please walk." And this works VERY well.

5.) “Tell her you’re sorry.”
I need to say this, your children may not BE sorry. You’re sorry it happened, you’re sorry your child hit someone because it is embarrassing for you. THEY are not invested in public appearance like you. They have just experienced a strong emotion and the “pot boiled over”. Do they need to know what they did was not okay? YES! Do you need to address it? YES! I’m sorry, but you do, my suggestion:
Tell your child what just happened, “you just hit Mary on the head, she is crying because you hurt her body.”
Point out the ownership (put credit where credit is due), next allow time for your young child to process this information. Give them an opportunity to apologize genuinely and then if they are unable to, you should for them. This lets them hear the words they should have said and you become the role model for future situations you may not be present for.

okay, I've got a little boy who is in need of some Mama time. I will post again tomorrow the 2nd half of this workshop. Thanks for reading all of this!
Hope it is helpful.
In loving PEACE,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010





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I'm feeling the need to look at things differently. It turns out this school gives me lots of opportunities to stretch my wings and learn to fly. Tomorrow night is our second annual Parent Ed. Night! I've been asked to speak about the language we use when speaking to children. I'm looking forward to it but as usual, I have difficulty figuring out how I will condense what I usually would present in an hour, into a 20 minute talk? Me, long winded? I know you are shocked to read this.
He-he. This week some returning parents have mentioned that they still have my handouts from the last Parent Ed. night. I guess handouts are the way to go.
When the talk is over, I'll post them for all to read. Wish me luck!
Happy Spring.

Where in the World?


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