Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Simple ideas, big success

I've read so much about Montessori lately that I fear my head may explode.

What I'm finding overwhelming is not the concepts - which are in fact simple, logical and effective - but the sheer quantity of information out there.

The discovery one of site/blog leads to another, which leads to another and the simple beginning I'm looking for becomes a comprehensive-detailed-guide-to-Montessori-homeschooling...and that's all a bit much for me at the moment.

My goal is this-
  • To provide introductory activities for Rohan (21 months) which means mainly Sensory and Practical Life
  • To allow Hamish (4 1/2 years) to get a bit more of the pincer grip practice and support the phonics and number learning he's doing at preschool
  • and to provide a few open-ended topics to engage Liam (7 1/2 years) to the level that interests him.
I have found a few great sites with easy, make-it-yourself activities.  

The quick start guide in John Bowman's Montessori at Home is helpful.  If you're wanting to start out easy, like me, read pages eight and 70-72.  My advice, read the rest in small chucks to avoid feeling completely out of your depth!

Yesterday, I was lent a copy of How to Raise an Amazing Child (the Montessori way to bring up caring, confident children) by Tim Seldin.  It's a wonderfully presented, basic guide to starting out on this journey and I've found it enormously inspiring.

So, what have I done so far?

We decided to postpone the painting and set up the new Ikea shelves in the playroom in time for the school holidays. I'll post some photos soon, though you can see some in the background in the shots below - along with the enormous mess we were relocating sorting through.

Then I made a few basic activities.  I'll share these, along with age recommendations and enjoyment reviews, in a few different posts so as to spare overwhelming you lovely readers.

First up, an empty baby wipe container and some pom poms.  He opens it...
Fills it...
And does it over and over again!  Repetition is an important part of the Montessori approach.  He's building important neural pathways right here...
Hamish tried this one once.  Too easy for him!  He, and Liam were very helpful in opening the top and tipping the pom poms back into the tub for Rohan to try again, though.

The next activity is pouring.  I started with some smaller, ceramic cups but he found those impossible to grip, so we've adjusted to these Ikea cups and some popcorn.  We'll experiment with different cups as our grip and control improve.

It took a while to master.  I demonstrated - the Montessori way without talking - and showed him how to pick them up if he spills them.  The tray adds what Montessori calls 'control of error', that is, a place to catch the spills.  Accidents are not mistakes but very important parts of learning.  So too, of course, how we deal with our mistakes.  (Think I could use some practice with that!)
 Look at the absolute joy on his face after his first successful pour...
NB: I have had to pack the popcorn up high and he brings the cups to me if he wants to do this one.  He's just a bit too little to understand "Don't tip it all over the carpet, please!"

Hamish loved this one too- "It's just like at school, Mum!  So much fun!"

We've had a lot of success with simple stacking, again, just using what we had at home, not specialised equipment.  We have some size-graduated stacking blocks and cups too, but these were out and he chose to interact with them...
For Hamish and Liam, stacking is all about 1) height and 2) knocking down forcefully.

Finally, this threading activity was a hit - just a colander (this one is kid sized from an Ikea kids' kitchen set) and some pipe-cleaners...
The other two were interested in this one too.  A good concentration task.

Our playroom is open to the rest of the house, so I'm not restricting these activities to a particular "school" time.  For now I'm just keeping these on the shelf and seeing if and when they're interested in exploring them. 

Are you familiar with the Montessori philosophy?  Got any hot tips for a newbie?  

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