J’s First School Report

I don’t often talk about Johannes’ school in part because I feel like that is a private part of our lives, in part because I always worry about who could be reading these pages.  But I need to take a couple of moments and really gush about his Montessori school without revealing too too much.

Johannes started in the toddler program of a nearby Montessori school back in August when he was 17 months.  He is now 20 months and has been at the school for 3.  In the short time he has been here he went from being a toddler to a little boy.  I can’t begin to describe how great the transformation has been.  One of the main reasons we picked this particular school was for the way they choose to teach the students and their open communication with the parents.  Montessori schools and education come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are taught in the home, others in a more formal setting.  For us formal made sense, and I’m beyond thrilled with our choice.  The teachers do an amazing job of keeping us informed on J’s progress, from the reports they send home on a daily basis, to curriculum nights, to the meet and greets….and now with the arrival of J’s first progress report.  I don’t want to paraphrase and condense the report because I think J’s teachers do such a great job of describing his development.  So instead of summarizing I’m just going to share with you the note:

 

Johannes is a happy child.  He is learning the morning routine when he gets dropped off.  He has been working on taking his shoes off and putting them on for the last couple of weeks and he is able to take off his indoor shoes and rain boots.   He knows where his assigned spot is for his shoes and is able to hang his backpack on his cubby hook.

He is working on getting work from the shelf and sit at the table without direction.  He concentrates on his work and is working on not getting distracted.  Johannes enjoys working with the materials in the practical life area, especially the ones that involve water and the magnetic fish.  These activities are helping him to develop and foster a good level of concentration and order and develop his hand/eye co-ordination.  With encouragement Johannes is sitting for longer periods of time during circle.

During lunch Johannes is learning how to eat with a fork or spoon and he is able to drink from a cup.  He has been working very hart at using his utensils and is able to stay clean. 

Johannes is working on developing his vocabulary and we are helping him to continue on developing a clear communication by encouraging him to repeat words.  Johannes loves being outside in the playground and most of the time he is engaged in solitary play.  His favorite toys in the playground are the cars. {hardly surprising}

Project Parenting?

I come from a family where every major decision in life is made only after absorbing a slew of research material.  Take for example when my brother and I asked our parents for a hamster.  Our dad took us to the pet store, but before buying a hamster we were invited to read two different books on the topic.  To make a list of materials and really REALLY think whether or not we wanted to embark on this venture.

So when the topic of having children was raised, the first thing I did was place an order with Amazon.  But it didn’t stop there.  A few months later I saw that beautiful blue plus sign, and I ordered a few more books.  And a few more as I progressed through the pregnancy.  Once J was born I ordered a few more books, this time on the topic of parenting.  Whenever I encountered a problem, disciplinary, sleep related, eating oriented…I ordered more and more books.

There are exactly 32 books {with 2 on the way as of this morning} that I have purchased, read and tried in some way or another to apply daily to my parenting.  These books cover everything from pregnancy, birth, nutrition, Montessori schooling and so on.

I tackle parenting the same way I tackle everything else in life, like a project.  Only I realized, today, that parenting is not a project.  Sure it helps to be informed, to know the inner workings of that big ol’ belly in week 25.  But at the end of the day parenting is so individual, so personal, so unique to each person, that I don’t quite know how one theory can apply to everyone.

In my case only a handful of books have actually stood out for me, provided me guidance and peace of mind. These weren’t the books with self-help tips, or catchy messages.  They were the books that cut through the parenting BS and really got down to the facts.

I loved that I was able to inform myself and then create strategies that work for us.  Because really, is parenting a project?  I suppose the answer will differ depending on who you ask.  But I personally am beginning to realize that the principles which work really well when looking to buy a new car, don’t always apply to parenting.

But in the event that you are even slightly as neurotic as I am, and would like to know what my favorites are…here they are!!

{note:  if you want to read a really great post on “Bringing Up Bebe”, check out Our Lovely Lives blog.  This article was the reason I purchased the book.}

Montessori for Babies: The Weaning Table

If you’ve been following along then you’d know that I enrolled J in Montessori starting this coming summer, and that I’m making an effort to try and do daily Montessori-inspired activities with him.

Choosing activities for a 10 {almost 11} month old is a little bit of a challenge.  He doesn’t exactly read, write, or have very precise motor control.

One of the things suggested in the Montessori from the Start book is a weaning table.  Essentially this is a mini wooden table and chairs.  The idea is to get the kids used to sitting at a little table and doing little activities in the process.

For this to work you need to have a baby/toddler who is able to sit up well, without support, who can stay focused and have reasonably good use of their motor skills, and preferably who can also easily be taught to get on and off the chairs safely.

There are special Montessori tables and chairs for this, but I just purchased a KidKraft set…on sale! from Babies r’Us.  I would have gone to Ikea but this price was too good to pass up.

Once the table and chair set was installed I spent a little bit of time getting baby J used to sitting in the chair.  Then I taught him how to get down safely.  To do this, I waited until it seemed like he wanted to get down, I let him grip the side of the table, and then slowly I moved him towards the edge of the chair until his foot touched the ground.  Once the first foot touched solid ground he instantly knew what to do and placed the second one right behind him.  We practiced this about 10 times, and he thought it was a pretty funny game.

Although he is able to get down from the chair on his own, he is not able to get onto it without help.  But baby J is one smarty pants.  He’s figured out that if he slams his hands against the wood we will understand and help him up.  So this is what we do now.

I now spend a few 5-15minute intervals with him at his table doing various activities, from moving a bead through a bead roller coaster, to fitting together puzzle pieces, to flipping through a book.

This weaning table is definitely a success.  He loves sitting at his table and doing a little activity.  Some times he’s more focused than other times…but that’s just the way babies are.  I don’t force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do, I simply present him the opportunity to sit and quietly enjoy an activity.  Some times he will only stay put for a few minutes, but other times he will become so engaged that he actually can spend up to 20minutes just entertaining himself by flipping back and forth through a book.  {his favorite book…Noah’s Arc with raised animal heads…he flips through this multiple times a day and the poor book is completely destroyed now}

I also use this table during snack times now, so he can get used to eating at a regular table instead of the high chair.  Frankly this is pretty easy because he really does not like his highchair these days.

I love the weaning table, I think it works great for us and baby J’s personality.  At first I was a little nervous that perhaps he might be too young for it, but that does not seem to be the case.

If you’d like to read more from me on Montessori for Babies, please use the links below:

Montessori for Babies:  A Baby Friendly Space {Part 1}

Montessori for Babies:  A baby Friendly Space {Part 2}

And don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY to win a $100 gift certificate to the store of your choice!

Montessori For Babies: A Baby Friendly Space {Part 1}

Starting this up-coming summer, baby J will be attending a Montessori toddler program at a lovely school near our house.  I won’t bore you with the process by which we came to choose this particular school, but needless to say I researched and researched and paid many visits to various schools before we found the right one.  If you’re not familiar with the Montessori method but would like to learn more, you can do so here.

Around the same time I began researching Montessori schools, I also came across Andrea’s blog, and her Montessori Inspired posts.  Through her posts I began to wonder if there were in fact things and activities that I could do at home that would help prepare baby J for daycare.  Then Andrea mentioned a book:  Montessori from the Start.  Within a week I had the book in my hot little hands and got to reading.  The book itself was not written by Maria Montessori, but rather a mother-daughter team of Montessori teachers.  They explain the philosophy behind the Montessori method in a fluent, easy to read style, and provide ideas to the novice parent on how to modify common living spaces and nurseries into baby-friendly spaces.

While I do not 100% agree with everything that this book suggests, I do think it provides a few key points to consider. One point being that babies and toddlers reach particular developmental thresholds around the same times and proper stimulation through activities that are neither too hard nor too easy {read, enough to challenge them but also allow success} is key in teaching these little munchkins that they are independent beings capable of accomplishing some pretty amazing things.

As I read through the first few pages of this book I quickly realized, what I had been suspecting for a few weeks now…that baby J had too many toys at his disposal, enough to overwhelm him and perhaps hinder his development instead of aiding it.  Also our house was not the most baby-friendly place for baby J, he could not be free to explore and play in a safe enriching environment.

Why did I suspect this, you might ask?  Well Baby J would quickly move from one toy to the next, barely touching each one for a few minutes at a time.  Then he would start to get agitated and eventually fuss until he was removed from that environment all together.  He was clearly trying to tell us something but since we don’t speak “baby” we had a little difficulty deciphering his signals.

Needless to say upon realizing our mistakes, I quickly gathered up the largest garbage bag I could find and collected close to 90% of baby J’s toys, and put them away in our closet.  The point of putting the toys away was not to throw them out, but rather to rotate through the toys that he currently uses.  Our intention is to rotate the core toys every week, that way he will have time to explore each one, and then forget about them until the next time they are pulled out.

I also got to work on creating a few other baby-friendly activities and a thoughtful play area, according to some of the suggestions in the Montessori from the Start book, but modified to fit with what we feel is best as parents.  Since this post is quite long I am choosing to split it into 2 parts.  Part 2 will outline the beginning process of how I am changing our living space to one that will allow baby J to learn based on his personal development.

Stay tuned!