Cooper the cat doesn't mind the post-holiday mess.
Is your house a mess? Mine is.
Even though my youngest daughter is 20 years old, my post-Christmas house looks no different than it did 15 years ago when she and her sister had lots of toys. Now, we no longer have Barbie dolls and Lego pieces lying about, but we have plenty of grown-up projects waiting to be finished over our remaining vacation days.
Sorting through all of this stuff today got me thinking about how difficult it can be to share space with others without resenting the mess those "others" leave behind. I want my daughters to be able to work together on the puzzle they picked out, and I'm happy they still (mostly) enjoy each other's company, but I don't want the puzzle to still be on the kitchen table next week.
Now that my girls are grown up they are able to respect and care for the spaces we all share. I know that puzzle will be put away before I have to ask, but when they were little it was a different story. I was constantly nagging them to clean up. And the need to nag them really frustrated me. Perhaps you can relate? The most common question parents have after observing their children in our Montessori classrooms is, "I see she puts everything away when she's done using it at school. Why doesn't she do that at home?"
Children put their work away in a Montessori classroom because everything in the classroom is designed to make that an easy thing to do. For example, lockers are child-sized so the children don't need help hanging up their coats. The daily schedule is consistent, so the children are not surprised when it's time to put their work away. And, when a child's work is very important to her and she cannot finish it all today, she puts her name tag on it to remind everyone that she will be working on it first thing tomorrow morning. Also, the guidelines for the classroom are the same every day and everyone follows them (eventually) so cleaning up is just a normal part of the day.
A nametag on a child's unfinished activity shows ownership and that the child's work is valued.
If you would like to learn how to use these and other Montessori practices at home, please join us for the upcoming "Bringing Montessori Home Parent Development Course on Practical Life" on Wednesday, January 27th from 6 to 8pm. This event is open to the public so you can invite your friends and you can follow the link above to sign up online. Learn how to improve household organization by creating child-friendly spaces and nurturing your child's independence in the areas of self-care and food preparation.
In the meantime, check out these articles that offer alternatives to nagging kids to clean up. In "Here's an Idea...Don't Clean Up!" Rachel Cedar invites us to look at a child's play as his work, much as we do in our classrooms.
In "Why I Stopped Asking My Kids to Clean Up," this mom describes what happened when she stopped resenting clean-up time and allowed her kids to follow her lead.
Finally, Sandra Gordon offers sound advice for teaching children to take on different household tasks based on their age and level of ability in this post for The Children's Trust.
Do you have ideas to share about living with and cleaning up after your family? Please share them in the comments below!
Children at work in the Montessori Elementary class.
October is observation month at our Montessori school. Now that the classrooms have been up and running for six weeks and the children are mostly adjusted to being away from their parents, we invite the parents to spend 15 minutes in the class just observing to see what their children's days are like. Parents are given a clipboard with an observation sheet that asks some general questions about what they see. After class, the teachers read over the observation sheets and respond to any questions or concerns the parents may have at the upcoming Parent/Teacher Conferences. Observation month is offered again in April.
Parent observations are important to the teachers because they keep us focused on our own observations. "I'm seeing that this child rarely chooses to work by himself. I wonder if his parents will see the same thing? Is that how he is at home or only at school?"
Observations are important to parents because they can serve as an informative window into a child's day. "I didn't realize she had so many friends at school. Does she ever work by herself?"
Observations are also important to the children because every child enjoys when Mom or Dad come to visit. "Mom's at MY school watching ME work??? Awesome!" Being a part of your child's day promotes good feelings and almost guarantees terrific dinner conversation.
Children at work in a Montessori preprimary classroom.
So what can you expect during your in-class observation?
Children working in the Montessori toddler classroom.
Sign up for an observation time outside your child's classroom. We look forward to seeing all of our parents in our classrooms!
Grace's first day of Montessori preschool, 1997.
Last summer, my 19-year-old daughter was getting ready to move into her first apartment. I was excited for her to have the chance to live on her own and had been setting aside household items that I thought she could use. One day, after admiring the “steal” of a chair I had found at Goodwill, she asked me, “Aren’t you sad that I won’t live here anymore?”
“Well, honey,” I said, “I always imagined that you would grow up and move out of the house. That was our goal all along for you to be an independent, self-sufficient person.”
“I know,” she said. “But I’m kind of sad that I won’t be sleeping here anymore.”
I reminded her that she had hardly slept at home at all since she started college last year. She lived in the dorm, four hours away from home and we often didn’t hear from her for days.
“Yeah, but this is different. I just can’t believe this won’t be my home address anymore. Are you going to change the garage door code?”
A-ha! Then I figured it out. She was worried about cutting the cord from the house where she grew up. I had been concerning myself with making sure she was comfortable “out there” and she was worried she would no longer be welcome back at home.
It occurred to me that not much has changed between that day and the day sixteen years ago when we were preparing to send her to preschool here at the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette. Back then we were so excited to help our “baby” pick out a new lunch box and indoor shoes but we had little idea what to do to help prepare her (or ourselves) emotionally for this new chapter. She sailed through preschool and is now working through nursing school just fine, but we have learned a lot since then. Today I am sharing some tips and advice gathered from teachers and parents here at MSGL to help you and your child prepare for the first days of preschool.
Talk about school - mindfully.
Talk with your child about preschool when he is in the mood. Maybe he will bring it up or you can start the conversation, just don’t push too hard. If your child seems “done” with the conversation or is becoming anxious, let the topic drop until later. And be honest about your feelings when you do talk about school. Some children worry that their parents will be sad or lonely when they are gone. When you say, “I am going to miss being with you in the morning, but it makes me happy to know you will be enjoying yourself at school,” it lets him know that you will miss him but you are confident that school is a good place for him to be.
Check out the new environment.
MSGL’s Parent Work Day is Saturday, August 16th. This is a great time to get familiar with the school and classroom environments and to be part of the school community. Children are encouraged to help clean lockers, pull weeds, and load and unload wheelbarrows full of mulch right alongside their parents and new classmates. And, each family member's time counts towards your volunteer hours requirement.
You will have another opportunity to get familiar with the school when your child attends her New Student Orientation visit on Monday, August 18th. This is her first opportunity to see her teachers and classmates in her new classroom. She can put her indoor shoes in her locker, locate her cubby and extra clothes box, and see where the bathroom is. The whole family can attend the Parent Orientation later that evening and maybe your child can give a tour of her new classroom.
Make new friends.
You will receive a class list via email in August. Consider contacting a few families on the list to set up a playdate before school starts. Even if you can’t get together with any other families, you and your child can look over the names on the list together. You may discover that one of his classmates lives on your street or maybe someone has the same name as a sibling or a friend.
Help her dress for success.
Our Montessori classrooms are prepared to encourage your child’s independence and you can help by providing your child with shoes and clothing that she can put on and take off by herself. Belts, suspenders, and jumpsuits look smart but they can be difficult for your child to use successfully. Provide your child a choice of clothing that allows her complete independence in her self-care routines. And please remember that preschool is a time to jump in and explore. Paint, snack, sand, and dirt from the garden can stain your child’s clothing, so please send her to school in clothes that can stand to get dirty.
Plan a morning routine.
Now is a good time to do a mental run-through of your morning routine. Consider how much time your child needs to wake up, get dressed, and eat breakfast. Allow time for packing lunches, finding coats and shoes, and getting on the bike or in the car. Then add a few extra minutes. Parents and children who are not in a rush tend to have much better experiences at drop-off. Some families even do a few “practice runs” in the summer to see if they can get to school and work on time.
Create a goodbye routine.
Discuss with your child how you each want to say goodbye at drop-off. Some families say, “After you put on your inside shoes and put away your lunch box, we will walk to the classroom and I will give you three hugs and two kisses before I go to work.” Some children like to wave to dad out the window and some parents leave their children with specific plans for what they will do after school. “Sonia is picking you up today” or “we are going to the Farmer’s Market on our bikes after school today.” Children have so little control over their daily lives that they appreciate at least knowing what is happening and when.
And while we’re talking about goodbyes, let’s take just a moment to consider the specter of separation anxiety.
What if my child cries when I walk away?
Separating from your child that first time can be heart-breaking, but remember - it’s only for a few moments. The majority of children who are sad when they separate from their parents are able to calm themselves and choose an activity within a few minutes. If you have gone through the goodbye routine and are finding it hard to turn around and walk away, ask your teacher for help. Sometimes parents say, “Please help me. I need to leave.” That is the teacher’s sign that she needs to hold your child’s hand or pick her up so that you can walk away. Teachers don’t want to step in before you are ready to go but they are happy to help when you ask them.
The best thing you can do for your child at drop-off is to be consistent and walk away when you say you will. Lingering tends to just prolong the heartache for the parent and the child. The first few times you drop your child off may be difficult, but trust that with consistent repetition you and your child will develop a peaceful good-bye routine.
Talk with the teachers.
Talk with your child’s teachers about how the adjustment period is going. The teachers help dozens of children adjust to school every year but this may be your first time. They expect you will have questions and concerns. Email is a great way to communicate with your child’s teachers and all of the contact information is available on the classroom web page at Msgl.org.
Help your child talk about his day.
If this is the first time your child has been away from home you will no doubt be very eager to know what he did all day. Unfortunately, preschoolers often say they “did nothing” or “just played.” A lot of things happened between the time you dropped him off that morning and when you picked him up several hours later, but he might not yet be able to give a sequential list of his activities. Here are some ideas to help your child tell you about his day.
Take care of yourself!
The best thing you can do during these last few weeks of summer is to give you and your child the gift of a regular bedtime that allows enough sleep to wake up refreshed and ready for the big days ahead. Fill up with a good breakfast each morning and be extra patient with your child and especially with yourself. Parenting preschoolers, like college students, is hard work and there is no right way to do it. Follow your heart and follow your child, and in sixteen years, or so, you will be very proud of the people you have both become.
What are "Indoor" Shoes?
MSGL students get to play outside every day that the weather allows. This means their shoes can get wet and muddy. To avoid tracking that dirt onto the carpet, we ask that you provide your child with one pair of shoes to wear inside the classroom. These shoes will stay at school.
Your child will probably change outdoor shoes with the seasons - from sandals to sneakers to snow boots - but indoor shoes can stay the same all year. Walking around in the classroom with bare feet is not allowed, so a comfy pair of shoes that the child enjoys wearing is a must.
Below are some good examples of indoor shoes that work well for the children. These styles of shoes keep a child's foot dry from spills, are non-slip, stay attached to the foot, and they allow the child to get them on and off by themselves.
Below are some examples of indoor shoes that DO NOT work well for the children. Slippers are not water-resistant and they can be difficult to walk in. If a child has not yet learned to tie, shoes with laces can be impossible for a child to get on and off by himself. Please save these types of shoes to wear at home.
If you want to be sure your child's belongings find their way home, you can order personalized labels for shoes, clothing, lunch boxes, and etc. online. This year, we are partnering with Mabel's Labels for a handy fundraiser. During August and September, 2015, you can buy labels and MSGL will receive a percentage of your purchase price.
Your thoughtfulness when shopping for indoor shoes will help put your child on the path to independence. Thank you!
The MSGL photo archives are a bit disorganized and I usually have to sift through them to come up with a Wayback Wednesday post, but this week the work was already done. After leading the toddler families on this field trip to Lafayette's Columbian Park Zoo in the Spring of 1998, teacher Suman Harshvardhan put together this little photo album for the children.
These kiddos are college freshmen (or nearly) now. Thanks for reading and have a great Wednesday!