Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Montessori Moments

These "Montessori Moments" posts are meant to highlight some of the ways we implement the Montessori method in our home. Many of the activities that are featured--cooking, cleaning together, going out into nature, etc.--overlap with other parenting philosophies or might seem like things that parents just do with their children intuitively. I've still chosen to highlight them here because they are integral to the Montessori approach to parenting and education and fit within a comprehensive continuum of activities that support children as they undergo the important work of forming themselves. For more information about incorporating Montessori into the home, I recommend How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way for a basic overview. For more insight into Montessori as an educational philosophy, I recommend Montessori Today. When trying to implement Montessori with infants and toddlers, I recommend Montessori from the Start and Joyful Child, as well as my favorite resource, which is a DVD documentary of Montessori at home with a 20 month old called Edison's Day.

1) Cooking Eggs

I read Kylie's post about Caspar cooking eggs years ago. When Henry recently started showing signs of readiness, I figured we should give it a try. 

Henry has been cracking eggs for a while now, and he really enjoys doing all the prep work that goes into making scrambled eggs. He gets out the compost, whisk, and eggs. He cracks the eggs independently and whisks them. Around the time he turned 3, he started asking to help me cook them on the stove. I decided to skip the electric skillet because a) I didn't really want to purchase yet another appliance and b) Henry seems old enough to understand the severity of fire and heat (with close supervision). 

He pushes his learning tower over while I turn on the gas and butter the pan. I also pour the eggs into the pan. Then he uses his wooden spoon to push around the eggs until they are cooked. 

It reminds me of this article about why Montessorians introduce young children to needles, knives, and matches:

"All of this intention, attention, and precision gives the child knowledge of several things:
  • S/he is trusted by the adults in his/her life;
  • S/he is recognized by the adult as capable of keeping him/herself and others safe through his/her own self-discipline;
  • S/he is trusted to remember and persevere in taking great care with a dangerous tool;
  • The adult has confidence and faith in him/her;
  • S/he can trust that when the adult says no, there must be a very strong reason because the adult has show respect by giving him/her dangerous tools to be used with great care and shown him/her how to use them;
  • The adult will always do the very best to respect his/her desire to learn and do if it can possible be made safe;
  • S/he can use dangerous tools to carry out dangerous tasks because s/he has skill and intention."

2) Real Glass

As I mentioned in this post, Tate is eating food now and drinking out of a real glass. In Montessori, we avoid using sippy cups. As the Michael Olaf website explains, "A cup with a top that prevents spills interrupts the natural development of the child's control of movement, and the development of skills of observation and logical consequence." 

It's such a tiny thing that makes so much sense to me. Henry started using glass from the age of four months, and he quickly learned how to hold the glass for himself and take great care with real glass because it can spill and break. 

3) The Weaning Table

I wrote about setting up the weaning table for Henry several years ago. Now it's Tate's turn! He uses it for any meal that we're not eating together as a family. When we're eating together as a family, he pulls right up to the table in his Tripp-Trapp high chair

Although the learning tower, weaning table, and Tripp Trapp were all expensive investments, they have been so incredibly useful for several years. Further, all of them are holding up extremely well, and I imagine it will be easy to recoup much of our investment by reselling the learning tower and high chair on Craigslist when we no longer need them. 

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. With our daughter on the way and not a ton of resources in the Toledo, Ohio area for Montessori these type of posts are extremely helpfulo for my husband and I. Keep up the awesome work. You seem to have awesome boys!

mommyto5 said...

I am looking at purchasing the Michael Olaf table. Does yours have a wood top or Formica? How is the table top holding up? I am undecided on which top to purchase.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about how you introduced drinking from a glass. We've tried it with our 6 month old and he doesn't seem to get the drinking part. Spilling it, turning it over, dropping it--he's got those down. Drinking from it, he doesn't seem to get. I'm not sure if it's because he isn't thirsty or he doesn't like water. Any suggestions>

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, jlseldon7! We hold it to his mouth for him. We do not let him spill it, tip it, etc. When he tries to hold it for himself, we encourage that but we monitor it closely because he cannot do it for very long right now. It won't take very long before he'll be able to do it completely independently. We don't give him anything but water, so that's all he's used to drinking.

Hi, mommyto5! We got the wood one. It has some indentations (for example, Hoss has jumped on it and scratched it with his nails), but I feel like I could sand it and refinish it if I really wanted to. Everything cleans off of it really nicely, even things that seemed like they were going to stain. Let me know if you have more questions!

mommyto5 said...

Thanks for the reply on the type of table. The wooden version is the one I really want, so it's good you like it so much. How long do you think this table will fit your little ones? I have 6 kids, but my intentions for the table are for my 13 month old and 2 1/2 year old. I'm wondering if I should purchase the 2 1/2 year old a special chair from Michael Olaf or if she will be too big for it shortly. Also, is your stool working out well for the table? That might be a cheaper option for her than Olaf's slatted chair. Thanks so much.

Kristy said...

I really like this post. I never even thought of letting my almost 6 year old (!) cook eggs let alone my almost 3 year old but they'd both be perfectly capable. You mentioned the devices you purchased were expensive but worthwhile investments with resale value. I think a lot of parents want to adopt Montessori principles into their home (same goes for Waldorf) but the perceived financial barrier and even the terminology of "weaning table" - really just a child-sized table, or a "learning tower" - basically a stool (but with safety rails) - are very real barriers. We're less picky on the natural materials end. Our child-sized table is made of wood but we have a plastic booster chair for the table (purchased at a garage sale) and a plastic stool (from my own childhood) in lieu of a learning tower and have achieved many of the same results. When the stool isn't high enough, we use a chair from the kitchen table or we'll bring whatever we're working on to the little table. I've found Montessori blogs often portray an ideal but very seldom paint a picture of what "Montessori for All" really looks like.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, mommyto5! The table is intended more for the little ones. I think we started using it around 6 months with Henry, and now at 3 he is outgrowing it. The stool works really well for me to sit at the table with Tate or Henry. It's also better for Henry now that he's getting so big.

Hi, Kristy! I think there are a lot of blogs out there that portray more economical ways to implement Montessori. For example, I've seen lots of DIY versions of the learning tower (the most recent one I saw was a hack with two wooden IKEA stools). I definitely get a lot of criticism for buying expensive Montessori products for my children. There are a lot of things we haven't bought (a crib, a swing, a toddler bed, a changing table, a glider/rocker, bottles, a bigger car, etc.), so we've chosen to take the money we saved from those things and put it into a few expensive Montessori items. For example, we started using the learning tower when Henry was about 1. He was able to get involved much earlier than if we were just using a stool/chair/etc. There have also been times when we've accomplished a Montessori principle in a cheaper way, like when we bought a used restaurant high chair off of Craigslist:


Kristy said...

Hi Sara! Thanks for pointing out the ways in which you've saved and made trade offs. I wasn't intending to be critical in your purchase of expensive Montessori gear. Just to point out that these expensive items are not always necessary to achieve the same results of independence, etc. I've been reading a lot of articles online lately like "The Overprotected Kid" from Atlantic Cities and see a lot of the same Montessori principles, only they aren't specifically tied to Montessori or other approaches. I think these days we tend to think more in terms of "approaches" like AP, Montessori, etc. which can mean steadfast sticking to the rules rather than merely parenting authentically and adopting, applying, and melding concepts in ways which suit our own unique circumstances and styles. As always, thanks for sharing the way you implement Montessori in your home!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Kristy! I wanted to reiterate that a) I wasn't trying to sound defensive--I didn't think you were being unnecessarily critical and b) I welcome criticism! In fact, I definitely prefer that people leave comments here asking critical questions as opposed to reading my blog and then heading to another site to complain about my choices/actions behind my back.

It's true that a lot of Montessori products are expensive, and I can understand why people are critical of that. I don't mind hearing people's feedback on our choices.

I agree that there's a lot of overlap among different "camps," and I totally agree with picking and choosing what resonates with our individual families.

Have a great week!

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