My Montessori Journey Takes a Turn!

My Montessori experience thus far has been entirely as a parent and through my children, but that is all about to change.

At a crossroads in my career anyway I decided to dip a toe in the Montessori world and accept a position as a teacher’s assistant at a Montessori middle school. I will be in a 7th grade classroom next year getting a feel for secondary Montessori education! I am then hoping to go through the additional training necessary to become a full co-teacher by the fall of 2014.

Wish me luck on this crazy and exciting journey!

Idiosyncrasies of My Montessori Kids

A few posts ago I talked about some of the words and ideas you can take from the Montessori classroom and bring home. This post, on the other hand, is about the funny habits that my kids take home from school.

1. They LOVE routine and schedules. I know that this is not rare for kids, but my children live for knowing what’s next. Just this week I reminded my daughter to put her shoes on and she was completely appalled that I would ask her to do such a thing. She hadn’t brushed her teeth yet so shoes would be ridiculous! Shoes are after teeth-brushing. Obviously. I am such a silly Mommy.

2. They will sort EVERYTHING. When they sit to do a task or have dinner or play at the playground they will first sort things into a variety of piles. We were recently playing with these letter beads they got for Christmas. We were spelling words and making them into necklaces. I had just finished helping my son spell the word T-Rex, when he declared that he needed all the green and black beads!




3. They are obsessed with placemats. I don’t remember using a placemat as a child, on special occasions we used tablecloths, but that’s it. My children insist on using a placemat at every meal including snacks. If I have taken the placemats off the table to wash them, they will use a napkin to create a placemat. I had to start insisting that my daughter pack two napkins in her lunchbox. She would come home from school with food stains all over her clothes. I asked her, “Why don’t you use your napkin?” She responded, “I used it as a placemat.” yep.

My children's make shift placemats at our local Chinese restaurant.

My children’s makeshift placemats at our local Chinese restaurant. 

I love my silly Montessori kids! What funny habits has your child picked up from school?

Guess What?! I’m a Presenter!

I was recently asked to submit a proposal to the Public Montessori Educators of Texas (PMET) Conference set to take place the first weekend in March. I was flattered, of course, because that means someone is actually reading this blog, but I was also very nervous. I am not an expert. I am just a parent. I love Montessori and I am happy to be an advocate, but stand up in front of a group of parents and *gasp* real Montessori teachers? Can I do that?

Well the answer is yes, for the exact reason I was so nervous. I am NOT an expert, only a parent, just like all of the people that will likely be at my session. We can work together to find solutions that work in our own real-life homes without turning them into Montessori schools. We can all make small changes to empower our children without having to get a degree in early childhood education. We can all confess our struggles and use our collective knowledge to come up with solutions.

I am now excited to bring a community of parents together to start these conversations. My session is titled: “Practical Montessori in the Home”. The session description reads:

Parents with children in Montessori schools have a unique opportunity to bridge school and home. Implementing Montessori philosophies and strategies in the home can be an easy and practical way to encourage independence in our children. Join me in discussing simple, small changes you can make in your home that can make a big difference. I am not a Montessori teacher, just a parent like you! 

So here is where that community thing comes in. If you were to come to this session what would be of most value to you? What do you want to know about/know more about? Please comment below! I have also included the link in case you are in the Houston area and want to come to the conference!

Magic Montessori Words and Ideas

We all know that preschool teachers have a little bit of magic in their back pockets. How can they possibly get 25 kids under 5 to sit still and listen? I struggle with just two kids! This post is specifically for parents whose children are enrolled at Montessori schools and want to bring some of the teacher magic home.

I have learned some key phrases and ideas from my Montessori teacher friends that have made a world of difference in my home.

  • Restore your work (or anything): When I used to nag my kids to clean up their toys it took two or three repetitions typically followed by a threat or bribe which was clearly not effective! Then I found out that at school the kids were being told to restore their work/toys to put the room back the way it was. This was a game-changer. Now all I have to say is “restore your blocks” and they know that they can’t move on until it is done. Magic.
  • ___________ is Closed: Obviously this is a favorite since it is in the title of this blog! Anything can become closed, such as physical things and words. I can tell my 3 year old “Don’t touch Mommy’s phone” one hundred times and he will likely touch it. Just. One. More. Time. BUT if I say “Mommy’s phone is closed” some invisible Montessori force-field protects it from tiny hands. My thought is that is more concrete than “don’t” and therefore easier for little ones to grasp. You can’t touch it because it is closed, just like we can’t go to the playground because it is closed.
  • Peace: This is one we are constantly working on. Peace with yourself and peace with others is important for a pleasant home life. See my previous post for more details. 
  • Directed Choice: This is a Montessori idea that gives the child some control and power while staying in your parenting boundaries. It is the idea that kids can choose between two equally acceptable options. Ex. You can either play blocks or puzzles. or You can have a banana or an apple. I find this works exceedingly well with my youngest. He can be getting uppity about wanting pancakes for breakfast and I can pull out “You can have cereal or a bagel” and his mind is so focused on making the choice that the potential tantrum is diffused.
  • Prepared Environment: This is a Montessori idea that places in your home (or classroom) can be set-up in such a way that the child has maximum independence. We have done a good job with this in our kitchen and kids’ bathroom. I would like to work on this with our books and art supplies because right now they have a home but not a proper prepared environment in my opinion. I’ll keep you posted on any solutions we find or come up with.

My implementing the above, with little effort, you too can bring some Montessori magic into your home.

Kid in Charge: Bath Time Routine

The bedtime bathroom routine is one that all parents can relate to. It is something we all do daily. Our bedtime bathroom routine has seen some changes for the better over the last few months. The areas that needed improvement were bathing and teethbrushing and with very minor tweaks we have created a more kid friendly environment.

This summer my children went from taking a bath together to taking a two separate baths. We had to split them up due to the bath being too small for both growing kids and the fact that they would play non-stop in the tub and become overly silly before bed. After about one week of giving two separate baths, I was exhausted! It made the bedtime routine unbearably long and felt really wasteful. Two baths full of water is a lot! So I told my daughter that when she turned 5 she had to start taking a shower. I was nervous but she did great with transitioning to a shower, so much so that little brother wanted to take his own shower too! Now both kids take showers nightly and our bath time has been cut in half! I did have a problem with the water flow from our adult shower, it was not concentrated or powerful enough to rinse all the shampoo out of my daughter’s hair. Our solution: a kid shower attachment. It is awesome. It also a closer flow and the kids really like it. The suction cups that came with it did not stick to our tile so we had to buy some hardcore suction cups from our local hardware store.

This has made it so easy for both kids to be fully in charge of their bathing. We as parents are just around to ensure safety. When it came to the kids brushing their teeth I thought I was doing well. We had a sturdy step stool and both kids could reach their brushes and the toothpaste. The problem was I still had to watch them like a hawk and was constantly reminding them to brush longer. When the time came to buy new toothbrushes I found some that blink for the amount of time you should brush! It was a simple switch and they were a similar price to a normal kid toothbrush. The kids love to brush, brush, brush while the light flashes, it feels like a game. Although these items are not traditional Montessori equipment, it follows the independence theme and helps me keep a little sanity at the end of the day!

Happy 2013 from Whining is Closed!

Happy 2013 from Whining is Closed!


Great Strides in Independence-Updates!

I have a few updates on previous posts to share with you before spending the next few weeks knee deep in family fun, tradition, and hopefully peace!

I am so very, very pleased to report that the peace journal has been used successfully. I am beyond proud of my little lady. Her teacher uses a daily behavior scale using color. It goes from green (great) to red (terrible). On Monday, she had a rough day at school, she was on *gasp* yellow! So when we got home from school she sat with her journal and drew out what happened and how she was going to change. Here is what she drew!

From bottom to top she drew: Herself playing at worktime and walking away her mat, how sad she was after getting sent to time out at school, how she will feel when she is on green tomorrow.

From bottom to top she drew: Herself playing at worktime and walking away from her mat, how sad she was after getting sent to time out at school, and how she will feel when she is on green tomorrow. Guess what, the next day she was on green!

Also, the hubster has had some vacation days and was able to update the closets so the kids can actually get their own clothes! Check it out, so awesome and easy.

Hubby added a low bar to hold in season clothes. Pull out bins hold socks, leggings, underwear, PJS, and shoes. Outfits are hung together on one hanger to make getting dressed easier.

Hubby added a low bar to hold in season clothes. Pull out bins hold socks, leggings, underwear, PJS, and shoes. Outfits are hung together on one hanger to make getting dressed easier.

Merry Christmas and have wonderful New Year. And remember Whining is Closed at least during the holidays!

Bringing Peace to Time Out

A typical snapshot of me disciplining my kids looks something like this: *deep sigh* “Go sit in timeout” or “Seriously!? GO TO TIMEOUT!”

Of course neither of these are very effective and my children really have outgrown time-out as it exists in our home. They go through the motions just fine, but it is insincere and lacking a learning component. I have been reading a lot about the idea of peace in Montessori-style discipline and I feel like we are ready to make the change from “time-out” to making peace, both with yourself and others.

We are starting with making peace with ourselves which will replace our outdated time-out system. I am starting with the language my husband and I use when correcting the kids. For my son it will look like this “Go make peace with your choices, set the timer for 3 minutes.” For my daughter it will look like, “Go reflect on your choices, set the timer for 5 minutes, and draw your feelings in your Peace Journal.” I originally wanted her to write, but realized she is not ready to express herself that way. I want her to go through the reflection process, because I feel she is making conscious poor choices. My son is not ready for this step and at the age of 3 his issues are more childishness than defiance or disrespect.

I have invested in two items for this process. One is an egg timer that can easily be set by the kids. This will allow them to have control over the time. They will not have to wonder or worry about when they will get to rejoin the family, which should allow for more reflection and thoughtfulness. For my oldest, I found an unused composition notebook from a previous school year and she wrote: “Sadie’s Peace Journal” on the front. We had a sit down to say that when she makes poor choices at home or school she will need to sit and think about those choices by drawing her feelings and actions in the notebook. She is super-pumped about this. We shall see how effective it is, but it certainly can’t be worse than what has been happening.

My daughter's reflection tool. Unused so far, thanks to good behavior!

My daughter’s reflection tool. She drew pictures of a leaf and a dove, obviously. Unused so far, thanks to good behavior!

Wish us luck on this new adventure! I am trying to learn more about the peace process between the kids and hope to implement that over their break from school.