Montessori Motherhood: Letting Go When It's Time

FOR NOW, IT'S TIME TO LET GO. SOMETIMES EVEN SINGING HAPPY SONGS WITH LITTLE CHILDREN ALL DAY DOESN'T MEND A BROKEN HEART.
Photo of me and my daughter taken in 1977

"We then become witness to the development of the human soul; the emergence of the New Man (Woman), who will no longer be the victim of events but, thanks to this clarity of vision, will become able to direct and to mould the future of humankind."(Maria Montessori, from The Absorbent Mind, p. 8)

THIS POST IS A DEPARTURE FROM MY USUAL BLOG ARTICLES AND I HOPE IT IS OF INTEREST TO YOU, IN SPITE OF THE UNUSUAL CONTENT.


Being a parent is very different from being a teacher. As a parent, I haven't been very well prepared for the changes that have happened to my own children. For the hole that has formed in my own heart.

My son passed away in 2010, after his deployment to the Persian Gulf. A young man, father, and husband who traveled the world, loved to write, and most of all, put his family first in all he did.

My son-in-law, my daughter's husband, passed away just 3 weeks ago. Cancer took this vibrant man who had a memorable career in the film industry, loved his morning work-out, and most of all, put his family first in all he did. 

These are the parts of parenthood that you don't plan for...seeing your child go before you do. Being helpless to protect your child from the deep sorrow of losing her man. I didn't get training for these occurrences in my journey as a parent.

When I am wearing my "teacher hat", I virtually always know what to do in any given moment. Following the foundational  principles of the Montessori Method, has helped me immeasurably in my teaching career. Yes, I've made mistakes in my professional life, but mostly, my Montessori training gave me the rationale for just about every action I have taken when working with children. And, they have usually been the right actions. Having that rationale to fall back upon makes being a Montessori educator almost effortless at times, very challenging at other times, and always deeply satisfying.


"OBSERVATION" as a TEACHING SKILL

If you happen to find yourself completely at a loss for what to do in a particular situation in your Montessori teacher role you can always step back for a moment and observe.  Then, you will likely see what you can effectively do about the situation. Observation is the basis of how Dr. Montessori developed her method. A big part of Montessori teacher training is observing: learning the art of observing children and, even more importantly, observing yourself.


"PREPARATION" as a TEACHING SKILL

Once you've begun to get the hang of observing, you will naturally begin to see the child's need for being in motion, for exploring sensorially, and eventually for mastering the environment. This happens organically when your studies to become a Montessori teacher bring you fully into that real Montessori learning environment with real children. 

So, next, you will begin to create that famous "prepared environment" that hallmarks an authentic Montessori classroom. There are the child-sized tools, the natural wood furnishings, the orderly display of engaging activities, and the preparation of the teacher; the most important of all. As a well-trained Montessori teacher you carefully prepare...and then, you let go. 

You trust that the child will respond well and be guided by his/her inner spirit. The order in this prepared environment will nurture the need for order and predictability in the young child. Then, the child will be able to move and explore so that s/he develops those skills of concentration and coordination that are needed to gain mastery in social, academic, cultural, and every kind of "learning domain" that life presents. 

"INDEPENDENCE" as a TEACHING GOAL

Before your very eyes, the children in your Montessori environment become more and more independent. The goal of every dedicated educator. (and every parent, as well)

These Montessori children begin to read, write, and add numbers, to appreciate and care for the natural world, to enjoy sharing their home language and the customs of their families, to see the world and the universe as a friendly place filled with so much to discover and comprehend. And, best of all, they begin to learn how to solve problems, negotiate with others, and creatively approach challenging situations.

BUT, WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?

With all the experience I've had teaching thousands of children over my long career as a Montessori educator, I still feel very unskilled when it comes to being a parent.

I've made so many mistakes in this world of parenting. I went to parenting classes as a young mother, and I had courses in child psychology during my college years. These were all helpful, along with my Montessori training after my children were born. Yet, I feel unprepared for the letting go that comes with being a parent.

LEARNING by OBSERVING MY CHILDREN as ADULTS

As a Montessori music specialist, I sing and play music with young children nearly every day of the week. Every moment I am doing that work, my heart feels normal again. Even in the face of my grief. 

It's all the other times of the day that my heart doesn't feel normal. As a parent (and teacher), I know it is important to be a good example to my children. After all, there are three fatherless grandchildren now, with their beautiful and strong mothers...grieving widows...yet they carry on.

They carry on because these women, like their husbands, put their families first in all that they do.

At the recent funeral we all attended, my daughter-in-law, who studies alternative medicine, gave me a necklace made of garnet to wear around my neck to aid in strengthening my heart. Her 16 yr old son, my grandson, spoke during the minyan  at the Shiva for his uncle. My son's children went to Montessori school when they were young and now they are both compassionate teenagers who face life with courage and intelligence.

This boy/man, my dear grandson, who had traveled all the way from Japan,  spoke of how his uncle had really meant a lot to him by shouldering him at his own dad's funeral 7 years earlier. 

My daughter, in the midst of her grief, delivered a truly eloquent and heartfelt eulogy for her husband at his funeral. She has been doing her very best to give her toddler all the extra love he needs right now, since he was very attached to his "Da-da". On her role as a CEO and a mother, she said the following in an interview in "The Tot" about a year ago:
"I’m very lucky, I have people around me who are incredibly helpful – at work and at home.
My mom was a Montessori school teacher, so that has really shaped me. I want to raise Jules in a similar way. I think humour is a big part of parenting – I want to be able to laugh with Jules, and I think it’s important that parents can find the humour in the weirdness of parenting! I think the best thing you can do as a parent is be consistent. Jules’s life is very predictable, and I think that’s really important. And as he grows older, it’ll be important to be consistent with the way we discipline him.
The best thing about having Jules has been that I’ve become aware of just how much love you can have for someone." (Cassandra Grey, "Being Mama" The Tot  8/2016)

As for me, I'm back at work, singing happy songs with little children all day. Yet, the big gash in my heart seems overwhelming at this time. 

I know that my spirit will gradually revive in the coming months and years, especially with these strong women who are in my life. These daughters of mine who seem so gracefully prepared for life with all its joys and tragedies. 

They show me the deeper roots of the principles of the Montessori method. Their equanimity in the most challenging of situations. Their studied certainty of exactly what to give their children to fulfill their needs at each stage of life, no matter how difficult the obstacles. And, most of all, how these two strong mothers have devoted time to observing not only their children, but more importantly, observing themselves. Observing and taking care. They face life with a mastery much like what we, as Montessori teachers, strive for in the children we work with in our daily lives. 

For now, I am taking time to reorganize my newest reality...my new normal once again. My heart has the stamina to continue my classroom music work; however, I'll be taking a break for a while from writing posts here at my blog. Taking time for my own self observation, for healing, and for deepening the ties with my daughters and grandchildren.

I want to thank you all for visiting my blog today and for all the nice feedback I've received here over the years. It is amazing how personal our on-line relationships can become, especially within the Montessori community. 

I look forward to returning to the world of Montessori bloggers in the not-so-far future...with renewed energy and wisdom. 

In the meantime, you may have noticed some of the references in the above links for a few of my favorite Montessori sites:
You'll find lots of resources at these other favorite sites:
After my son passed away in 2010, I had lots of support from family and friends. I also had professional support from these very helpful sources:
And, for making contributions to cancer research and support groups for families:
The journey goes on...
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Musically Montessori: 5 Ways To Explore Rhythm Instruments And My New TpT Activity Pack!

IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO LIVEN UP YOUR PRESCHOOL CURRICULUM...JUST ADD SOME MUSIC CIRCLES FEATURING RHYTHM INSTRUMENTS. Here are 5 ways to make music happen, the Montessori way!
1. Introduce rhythm instruments in an orderly, sequential way.
Over my many years of working with young children and music, I have discovered that the best way to start out with playing instruments is to give all the children the same instrument at the first few music circles.

That means you will need, for example, 24 sets of rhythm sticks for a group of 24 children PLUS a set of rhythm sticks for each teacher at the music circle.

When all the children have the same instrument, you can really show them how to use it, and no one is upset about not getting the instrument they wanted to play AND, the sound is not so chaotic...but actually rather nice!

I like to start out with rhythm sticks because a) they are very versatile, b) they are inexpensive, and c) they sound nice!
The rhythm sticks I like best are the shorter ones from Basic Beat. You can find them at this link: 8-in. rhythm sticks at Amazon


It's important to decide ahead of time on the procedures you will use at your Music Circle. Things like: 
  • How to signal for the children when to "play" and when to "stop" 
  • How to give out and take up the instruments  
  • Keeping the rules of safety clear and consistent
  • Keeping activities short while moving along
  • And allowing free exploration of the instrument for a minute or two at the beginning of each lesson
You can learn more about bringing Montessori music to your classroom curriculum in my eCourse, Musically Montessori: First Twelve Weeks.  

After you have introduced rhythm sticks to the children, and they have explored them over several weeks, then you can offer them another instrument.  I like finger cymbals, also small maracas (called chiquitas) and tambourines. 

Later, you can offer other rhythm instruments, such a bells, triangles, drums, and cymbals by passing one around at circle, and then later setting our baskets at circle with a choice of 3 different instruments. 


2. Set up a rhythm instrument basket on your Montessori music shelf.

During work time, the children can explore rhythm instruments more fully by having a basket on the shelf that holds this week's featured instrument. 

Later, there can be games for children to play with a basket of instruments to match with the pictures on cards.


3. Offer focused listening experiences with recordings of various instruments.

There are some wonderful and fun recordings that feature one instrument so that a child can really hear the instrument. This also isolates the concept, which is an important component of the Montessori method. 
    I love this cd for introducing children to the various instruments of the orchestra. This cd includes a selection of the  rhythm instruments from the Percussion family, as well.



  
  



This cd/mp3 has a piece called "Introduction to the Instruments" that is perfect for children to listen to the various rhythm instruments, such as rhythm sticks, tambourine, triangle, maracas, drums, and cymbals. 






This cd/mp3 has a section with recordings of tambourine, cymbals, and other percussion instruments that are from famous pieces of music.

4.  Use the Montessori 3-Period Lesson to reinforce the names of the instruments that the children have already explored at a sensory level.

When children have explored two or three instruments, then it is time to explore the Montessori 3-period Lesson with games that reinforce the names of each instrument and the sound it makes.
You can read my post about using the 3-period lesson with rhythm sticks at this link: Age of Montessori: "Let's Play Rhythm Sticks."




5. Provide Montessori style booklet-making that features the rhythm instruments.

With my groups, I have made Montessori 3-part-cards with each of six rhythm instruments: Rhythm Sticks, Triangle, Maracas, Bells, Finger Cymbals, and Tambourine. 

From these, the children can make their own booklets of "Rhythm Instruments." 





My newest TpT Musically Montessori Activity Packet, "Exploring Rhythm Instruments" gives you 39 pages of tools for implementing the ideas I have written about here in this post, including:

  • Lesson Plans 
  • Visuals for Circle Time 
  • Printables for music games for the children
  • Templates for 3-part cards and booklet-making for the children  
  • My own mp3 music downloads for focused listening activities for your group
  • And even some bonus materials along with a coupon for 20% off my eCourse, in case you are thinking of enrolling!
Right now, this packet is on sale for $2. until June 1st! After that, the price goes up to $6.

Click here to check it out!

And, if you would like a real kick start with your Montessori Music Curriculum, then all you have to do is join my email list and you will receive a complimentary copy of my eBook,  Musically Montessori: First Lessons for the Classroom Teacher (regular price: $12.99)

FILL OUT THE FORM on the side bar of this blog and get your free eBook!
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I am so happy to have you visit my Blog today and I hope you have gotten some ideas for your group to have fun with rhythm instruments...Montessori style!

Find more Montessori Music Activities on my Pinterest Page HERE:


This article is part of the Montessori Monday Link-up at Deb Chitwood's Living Montessori Now site. There you'll find a vast array of resources (some free!) for your Montessori classroom and homeschool as well.

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services. Thanks for your support!









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Montessori Baby-Ed: Cognitive and Emotional Benefits of "Peek-a-Boo" with Your 5 Month Old

IF YOU'VE EVER ENJOYED THE GAME OF "PEEK-A-BOO" WITH A FIVE MONTH OLD, YOU MAY BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED TO KNOW HOW MUCH YOU HAVE HELPED ADVANCE THE COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR LITTLE ONE. 




What Montessori child doesn't enjoy the classic "What's Missing Game"...even when she is a baby! 

In the Montessori Preschool environment, we often reinforce concepts with the "What's Missing Game" because it is so appealing to young children. This fun game has it's roots in the "Peek-a-Boo" games that babies love to play from an early age.

Photos from Adobe Stock

UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT OF
"OBJECT PERMANENCE"

At around five or six months of age, Baby is beginning to explore the concept of “object permanence”, which is the understanding that objects still exist even when they can’t be seen (such as when it is dark or the object is under a blanket). During this stage of development, a small night lite at the bedside may be helpful if your baby is waking up in a fretful mood during the night. This kind of proactive support for your child enhances her emotional development throughout early childhood. As well, playing Peek-a-Boo games starts to become very engaging for the Baby at this stage.

Peek-A-Boo becomes a favorite as Baby naturally explores the concept of “object permanence”. Likewise, your baby may begin to cry when you are out of sight, since s/he is struggling to understand that you still exist even though s/he can’t actually see you. Understanding the permanence of objects is an important and an on-going process for the young child, spanning several years in early childhood. That's probably why Peek-a-Boo and Hide-n-Seek games are so popular with young children. 

In the Lesson below, you’ll find some extensions for the treasure basket activities that are Montessori-style “What’s Missing Games”. Not only are the games lots of  fun, they also help Baby’s developing understanding of “object permanence.”

In my Montessori Baby-Ed "Nido Basket" #5, I have included a treasure basket with baby-friendly shaker instruments. This is, of course, an activity for making music and stimulating Baby's auditory sense. However, we can also offer our baby some activities that aid in cognitive development by adding colorful scarves to the treasure basket.

Here is a photo of the five-month-old baby's shelf from my upcoming Montessori Baby-Ed eCourse. The shaker instruments are in the basket on the lower right side of the shelf.

Photos by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

THE LESSON

1.    Invite Baby to explore the Instruments Basket.

2.    Take Baby to the shelf where the Instruments Basket is stored and remove it. Then, place the basket on the floor next to Baby (Visual stimulation)

3.    Next, remove the Double Shaker Egg from the basket, grasp it and shake it. (Auditory discrimination and small muscle development)

4.    Place Double Shaker Egg on the floor and roll it, so that Baby is enticed to creep after it. (Auditory stimulation and encourages large motor development)

5.    Give Baby the vocabulary: “Rolling”, “Shaker Egg Rattle”, etc. (Development of Language)

6.    Help Baby to grasp the rattle and shake it herself. (Stimulates auditory sense and develops the small muscle of the hand)

7.    Help Baby put the rattle back in the basket. (Aids in the child’s desire for order in the environment)

8.    Then, remove the Wooden Shaker Ball from the basket, grasp it and shake it. (Auditory discrimination and small muscle development)

Shaker instruments and scarves are available at Kindermusik International

9.    Continue by following Steps #4, 5, 6, and 7, this time, encouraging Baby to explore the Wooden Shaker Ball from the Treasure Basket, if s/he is interested (Encourages independence)

10. Observe and adjust to Baby’s preferences.

11. ****If you haven’t done so already, I recommend setting up a sturdy child-size shelf in Baby’s daytime play area. This begins the process of keeping an organized environment for the child in which there is a place for everything and everything in its place.

12. You can place Baby’s rattles, ball, and block that you have assembled from Nido Basket #1, #2, #3, and #4 in little soft “treasure baskets" on the shelf.

13. Smaller baskets lined up on a low shelf work better for children (as opposed to a larger box filled with an array of toys). Each basket has a purpose and is well-thought out by the adult.

14. I suggest collecting small & medium sized baby-friendly baskets, boxes, and trays that are made of woods, cloths, and natural reeds. These can be filled with Baby-Ed Activities and gradually added to and alternated on Baby’s shelf during the next months.

15. In the beginning, place no more than 3 items in a basket. (2 is perfect for the Infant.)

EXTENSIONS TO THE LESSON
USING COLORFUL SCARVES


Peek-a-Boo Game
·      Place both Shakers on the floor near Baby
·      Cover the Shakers with one of the scarves
·      Say: “Where did the Shakers go?”
·      Pull the scarf away and say: ”Peek-a-Boo”!



What’s Missing Game
·      Place both Shakers on the floor near Baby
·      Fold a scarf so that you can’t see through it
·      Place the folded scarf over the Shaker that is to the left of 
       Baby
·      Say: “Where did the Shaker Ball go?”


·      Pull the scarf away and say: “Peek-a-Boo”!
·      As Baby gets older, the game changes and instead, you
       would say: “What’s missing?”
·      Pull the scarf away and say: “The Shaker Ball!”

Don't forget! Playing "Peek-A-Boo" by placing one of the scarves over your own head is, of course, another delightful way to reinforce the learning of "object permanence" with your baby. 

My upcoming Montessori Baby-Ed eCourse is almost ready for enrollment!  This eCourse features eight Activity Lesson Plans for your baby each month, with Instructional Videos and a Pdf  download containing links to resources to create your own Montessori "Nido Baskets" for your little one.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND TO GET ON MY WAIT LIST FOR THE COURSE


I am delighted to have you visiting my Blog today. Thank you! 

If you would like to receive my notifications of my newest Blog postings and my special discounts on my TpT products and eCourse coupon codes, please join my email list. Just fill out the form on the sidebar of this blog. When you sign up, you'll receive my complimentary Musically Montessori eBook ($12.99 retail value) for FREE!

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This Blog post is part of the "Montessori Monday Link-up" at the  Living Montessori Now site,  your "Go-To" place for activities, resources and useful information for your Montessori classroom or home environment! 

You might also enjoy these articles:





Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services. Thanks for your support!






















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