Coming here I hoped to find another area to pursue my continuous learning as a parent. After all, isn’t that the essence of this blog in the first place?
Thankfully, Jamie’s preschool offers free sessions for the parents. It’s part of the perks (well at least the expensive tuition goes a longer way!). And it makes sense — because what’s taught in school needs to be reinforced at home. The other bonus to these learning sessions is getting to know the other parents. We see each other at drop off and pick-up, it’s nice to sit with them too and share concerns (which are more often than not, similar to mine!).
The first session was about teaching independence in the home. The sessions are usually conducted by the school director, with the help of her teachers. It’s nice because they make practical suggestions for the parents to immediately apply.
I’ve always been big on teaching my kids to do things on their own, especially since we moved here, It’s also necessary for my sanity. And here were some of the nuggets of information that struck me the most:
1. Demonstrate first, then let them continue on their own. I often tell the girls they need to pack away their toys by themselves, and then I get frustrated when everything is just dumped to the side. You’d think it’s second nature to put things back where they got it from. Apparently, it’s also expecting a little too much. So now we pack-away together — at least for the first half. Jamie in particular hates the chore, and will only do it if I do it with her. Now it’s not so much of a problem, once I say, “Watch what I do, and then you can do it too.” That is after all her strongest learning style.
Here’s another aspect that surprised me about Montessori: They use glass in the classroom. They believe it teaches the kids to be more careful when handling these items rather than if they were to use plastic. And they teach the kids to cut too, with real knives and scissors. Of course this is closely supervised — but it changed my mindset about allowing the girls to handle sharp objects. They’re going to learn eventually, better teach them how under my watchful eye.
2. Keep things within reach. As adults, we subconsciously build and shape our homes according to our height specifications. Imagine what that feels like for a child though, where almost everything is unreachable. Not only is it intimidating, it makes independence impossible.
Now I “try” to keep everything at their level. Jamie’s drawers are the bottom ones, so she can reach in and pick her clothes. She dresses and undresses herself everyday now. I put art supplies in a corner where the girls can get to them. The they don’t need to ask if they want to create something. Their books and toys are on easy-access shelves too.
I also learned through an experiment, that for as long as I leave enough food and drink within reach, I can get an extra 30 minutes of shut-eye in the morning. I’m not woken to prepare breakfast. The girls can do it themselves.
I left a note with instructions and to my happy surprise, they were followed (Any mom knows an extra 30 minutes in bed in the morning is GOLDEN.)
3. Provide a safe environment for failure. An article that got passed around on Facebook about praising the effort and the process rather than the result, reminded me of this. If there’s any place a child should feel like it’s okay to “fail”, it should be at home in the comfort of their parents. We learn by failing and trying again. We can’t expect them to get it perfectly the first (or second or third) time around. Failure brings about focus, patience and perseverance — tackling one challenge at a time until they succeed.
The learning session made me re-think part of the way we’ve set-up the home. We’ve made a few changes since.
It’s also helped me see more clearly what the girls can do on their own, or learn to do, and where they still need my help (the bathroom sink for instance is still too short for Jamie, despite our step stool). I’ve also adjusted my expectations to accommodate time for “practice”.
Sam needs an additional 10 minutes to tie her own shoelaces and get her jacket on before entering the car. Jamie needs the dining chairs slightly angled, so that she can climb in and out on her own without falling over. The changes are small, but I can see how they’re making the bigger differences.
Pretty interesting stuff. 🙂 I’m excited to learn from the next session.