New (School) Year Resolutions 2017

It has been a long while since I have posted and I honestly did not know if I would ever begin posting again. My kids are now 7 and 9 years old on the verge of being 8 and 10, I wondered if this was a stage anyone would even care about discussing Montessori and parenting philosophy.  I ultimately decided to resurrect the blog in the hopes of reviving my own reflective parenting practice. I realize that as my children get older if I am not checking into my parenting and assessing how it is going, we as a family can easily get off track and begin building habits that do not align with our long term goal of raising healthy, productive, interconnected adults.

With that I decided a go-to post would be to set my beginning of the school year goals. You can see previous year’s goals here and here. While I haven’t written down new school year goals in several years, I am excited to share our goals for this school year.

  1. Building Empathy:  We live in Houston and if you have seen the news in last few weeks, you are aware of the catastrophic events that occurred in our city. While we, as a family, were very fortunate to escape any harm to ourselves and our home we know many friends, family members, and classmates were not as lucky. This school year we will focus on empathy for others and building our capacity to support and help our community. I look forward to reading more research on this topic and coming up with a concrete and ongoing plan.
  2. Restricting Family Screen Time during the Weekdays: This is always one for us, but becomes even more important as the kids get older. I am the worst offender in my family and I have to do better to show my kids what healthy limits look like. So we will recommit ourselves to no screen time while kids are awake on the weekdays.
  3. Building Conversation Skills: During my day job I work with high school students getting them ready for college as a college counselor. One of things I try to do is build “cultural capital” in my students before sending them off into the real world. I want to do the same for my children and help them both, but in particular help my daughter, build conversation skills. It sounds so silly, but the ability to feel comfortable and confident when speaking with peers and adults is a skill I know will take them my kids very far in life. I hope to expand on this goal in a future post.

What are your new school year resolutions this year? 



Money Matters 2.0

We gifted my daughter my hand-me-down Kirsten doll this past Christmas. I have enjoyed seeing a purchase my parent’s made over 20 years ago turn into a great investment in inter-generational joy. When my daughter told me she wanted to purchase Kirsten a backpack stating the exact details of the contents and the exact cost of the purchase I knew we were in new territory when it comes to money. My children have always told me various things that would like to have and we have discussed putting said things on birthday or Christmas lists, but this time was different.

As a child firmly in the second plane of development I knew she understood the concept of saving and delayed gratification, but I wanted to see if she would really follow through with a long term goal. Would she change her mind or waiver on the end product? We set out to test this new drive and push us as a family to think about children earning money in a new way.

I have discussed in the past that my children to do not get paid for chores household expectations. I hold firm to that idea so it was a bit of struggle to think of how she would go about earning money. We decided that she would need to go above and beyond normal expectations to work towards her goal.

We started our money saving journey by finding out how much she already had saved and how much was left to go before reaching her goal. This was a great practical life math lesson and increased her urgency and excitement around her goal.

We used an envelope to track her progress towards her goal. It was a great visual and a dedicated place to keep the money safe.

We used an envelope to track her progress towards her goal. It was a great visual and a dedicated place to keep the money safe.

Things she did to earn money included earning $1 for emptying all of the dishes from the dishwasher for the family and $3 for doing all of the “kid clothes” laundry including putting it in the washer, transferring it to the dryer, folding all of the clothes, and putting them away. The biggest pay day she received was helping her dad build a railing on our deck. This took several days and required her to commit to the project in order to be paid. After two weekends she earned $10 and lots of pride for a job well done.

Building the railing!

Building the railing!

All in all it took her about a month to earn and save enough to meet her goal. We celebrated with a Mommy-daughter date to make the purchase. She was beaming as she handed the cashier her hard earned savings. I look forward to this becoming routine for our family.

Happy with her purchase!

Happy with her purchase!

Montessori Ideas: Real Tools, Real Work

Practical Life for the older child can be challenging. The novelty of the two-year old scrambling eggs or the four-year old doing laundry can be engaging for both parent and child. When thinking about my 7 year old doing these same tasks it falls more into expectation rather than a growth activity.

In order to keep our kids maturing and progressing in Practical Life we must observe their capabilities and be willing to include then in all aspects of family life. My husband is very handy; being very handy has led him to have a long list of to-dos and house projects. Including the kids, ages 5 and 7, in these activities requires more time and more patience but I am proud that they are learning these skills at a young age.

My daughter, age 7, helped my husband build a railing on our deck. She was able to help with measuring and drawing the lines on where to cut. Slow methodical movements were used to show her how to use the saw and then my husband helped her guide the saw to cut. Safety was reiterated many times to emphasize that she was using real tools that could really hurt, but also that with proper precaution building can be very safe


My son, age 5, took on an age appropriate task of his own. I purchased the MALA tabletop paper holder for the kids to use for art projects. Ikea products are great for building beginners as the instructions are very similar to that of Legos. My son felt confident laying out the pieces and following the instructions with little adult intervention. The small wrench that came with the product (and all Ikea stuff) proved challenging for his little hands so my husband helped him tackle the screws using a drill, again with proper guidance and supervision.


This beginner DSC_0178projects and skills will likely grow larger in scale as they grow larger in scale challenging both parents and kids to develop more skills and more patience.

Parenting: Knowledge, Skill, or Mindset

During a recent check-in with a colleague (hey, Rhiannon!), she brought up a way of approaching a new task that totally shifted my perspective. All you have to do is start by asking yourself if you need more knowledge, more skill, or a change of mindset. This resonated with me so deeply that I knew I couldn’t keep it just in my professional sphere and needed desperately to move this little mental test to my parenting as well. Now when I am thinking about my parenting and looking at an issue or something I want to work on or implement I ask my self what I am lacking! So simple, yet so effective.

Knowledge is the easiest to acquire when it comes to parenting. We live in an age where information is everywhere. A simple search can find us all the information we can handle and usually much more. Of course, the knowledge acquisition part comes after sifting through all of the information to find the applicable knowledge. I find it helpful to only read articles that fit with my parenting philosophy and not worry about all the rest.  Parenting books are also a great way to gain knowledge. I remember how “How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way” by Tim Selden brought so much knowledge into my world when I was just beginning to discover Montessori. I also love “Simplicity Parenting” and “How to Talk so Kids will Listen & to Listen so Kids will Talk” for increasing my knowledge base and helping me shape my parenting philosophy. I also rely on my networks of fellow parents to provide me with knowledge from their own experiences.

If knowledge is the “what” then skill is the “how”. I am often the most aware of a skill deficiency in my parenting. I know I am not alone as one search of a parenting forum shows that many requests are asking for the “how”. An example might be, how do I get my kids to bed at a decent hour? The knowledge of the importance of sleep is there, but the skill (the implementation of the “how”)is lacking. We gain skill in parenting by trial and error, practice, and the modeling from other parents. The parents of a newborn may fumble with the first few diaper changes, but in a matter of weeks they will be able to change a diaper at 2am in the dark while half asleep. I love to observe other parents. I often take away some phrasing or trick when I observe a parenting moment thus gaining a bit more skill.

Now on to mindset, the most nebulous and the most important in my opinion. My parenting mindset is the “why”. The “why” I seek out the knowledge and skills that I think are best for my kids. The danger of negative or unaligned mindset is I tend to stray from my core beliefs and parenting philosophy, which is to

Build independence within defined boundaries while creating a joyful childhood.

When I approach my kids with a mindset that they can’t do something that they have never been given the chance to try or when I get lazy and boundaries go out the window, a reset of mindset is in order. Having the grounding statement above allows for me to know when my mindset is off.

I am so excited to implement this strategy until it becomes habit. I have the knowledge and mindset to make it happen, now I just need to practice to master the skill!

Where do you go when you want to increase your parenting knowledge? What skills have your picked up from other parents? Have you had a mindset shift lately? Please share your best resources in the comments or on the Whining is Closed Facebook page. 


Parent Ed: Montessori & Discipline

I recently gave a presentation on Montessori & Discipline for fellow parents at my children’s public Montessori school. I know many people were unable to come to the actual sessions so I wanted to provide the materials for home use.

My main goal for this session was to make it very personal, to think about each parent’s individual child(ren) in order for it to be effective. I have also included the worksheet which helps break down into steps how you might approach a behavior/discipline problem from a more Montessori-inspired way. Please comment if you have questions or want to engage in a discussion on this topic.


Montessori & discipline



Top 5 Posts of 2014!

Another great year is now coming to a close. I am very excited to continue blogging in 2015, but first I wanted to share one last post looking back at the most popular posts from 2014.

  1.  5 Montessori Take Aways– This was a great way to reflect on a great school year.
  2.  Montessori Ideas: Entering the 2nd Plane-The 2nd plane is great!
  3. Parenting: The Long Run-Growing adults is hard, rewarding work!
  4. Learning to Take the Fear out of Parenting-Still a struggle. Still worth trying.
  5. Adventures in Cooking-Little brother has also taken to cooking since this post.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me through shares, follows, comments and likes. See you next year with new posts!