PARENTING IS A JOURNEY OF A MILLION STEPS

As I sit here contemplating a new granddaughter, Alexandra, and our country’s birthday, a bad case of poison oak has given me the time to think.  During our recent Skype, my daughter-in-law, Alli, said “We are all on the couch now!”  I thought of not only the coziness of a family sitting and being together but also, how the act of parenting is a daily cycle of feeding, changing, listening, driving, getting up too early, cleaning messes, being housebound and all the  ordinary tasks in between.  “Parenting is a journey of a million steps.”(my quote) In our instantaneous world of quick remedies and fast answers, we might want to shorten the journey to a thousand steps or even a few hundred.  For this trip of a lifetime, a GPS or a shortcut doesn’t work.  It is the daily experiences, relationships and ups/downs that bind a family together.  It is the being and”doing” nothing–couch–that is accomplishing everything. Sometimes our “work” is to connect to each other quietly.  As Dr. Montessori wrote “And it is under the conditions of work that liberty…leads to an attainment of a fine discipline which is in itself the result of that new quality of calmness  that has been developed in the child.”(Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, p.187) Blessing to our fallen military whose parenting  journey of a million steps has been so sadly shortened but still guiding albeit on a new plane of  Being…

MIDSUMMER’S EVE

Today is Midsummer’s Eve! For eons, people believed that Midsummer was a magical time! After all, it is the longest day of the year and who does not relish the sun!  Fairies abound and magic lurks!  Even Shakespeare celebrated this time with his play “A Midsummer’s Night”  May I suggest the book entitled FESTIVALS,FAMILY and FOOD by Diana Carey and Judy Large which gives wonderful ideas on activities, songs and cooking that can be done for these special times in the year.  They write that children can cut up raisins and nuts, put them on little doll house size plates and leave them outside for the fairies tonight or bake butterfly cookies to leave outside.  So celebrate, picnic, stay up, watch the sky, read about fairies,hike, light a bonfire and enjoy!   

“What is special about today? asked Black Dog. “Time of year, said a cow. Comes only once like Christmas.”  “I understand!” exclaimed Tooty. “It’s Midsummer Day! That special day for fairies and magic. There’s a fairy called Robin Goodfellow who looks after the cows.He keeps away the bad magic which turns their milk sour”  —-FAMILIES,FESTIVALS and FOOD     As parents, wouldn’t we want to give our children imaginative stories and traditions  rather that the virtual culture out there?

Amazing!

I have had the experience of watching our annual play “The Wind in the Willows” and being a part of our Field Day—truly in our field! I have witnessed our theatrical offering many times, but this play was outstanding not only for it’s length and original language but for the focus and self-discipline of the students.  How does this happen?

Firstly, the children have listened to quality stories since Children’s House. In Lower Elementary, book discussions began with the classics and continued in Upper Elementary. Silent reading happens daily where the teachers read as well and model the importance of this activity.  Secondly, the students learn how to concentrate through the Montessori principle of having an uninterrupted work morning where children move onto another work after they finish their current choice.  Children are not interrupted while they are working on a task.  Thirdly and most importantly, children absorb self disciple by controlling their impulses by directing their movement to purposeful activities that feed their sense of accomplishment and benefit the group. BRAVO!

DISAPPOINTMENT

Our school Field Day for tomorrow has been cancelled (rescheduled for June 3) and it is a disappointment for all the Pirates and Buccaneers.  It certainly would have been helpful if the weather cooperated but perhaps, we can reap a benefit.  If children never have the opportunity to wait or wish for an event or item, they will not learn to appreciate the experiences they have had.  If all desires are satisfied when expected, the value of appreciation will be a scarce commodity.  No one likes to have a much anticipated event cancelled or postponed because of rain but it happens in life.  It seems like a small occurrence but it is the small challenges that prepare our children for the bigger disappointments that life can give.  We need to steer and structure our children’s lives so that they can grow as well as thrive.  However, trying to shield them from all let downs that occur naturally does not prepare them for life.

Today, we can say to our children “I know you are disappointed that you won’t be going to Boulder Ridge in the morning” (reflective listening). “As it will be so rainy, so many events will be hard to do.”(natural logical consequence) “However, you will go in June and we will wish for better weather.”(Hope with wishing and waiting)

We live in society that expects instant gratification but at times we must wait…and hope (right Pandora?)

Holes in Time

Yesterday was a wonderful celebration of our school’s 40th year!  To me, it was a holiday of sorts.  We didn’t go to Litchfield Montessori School on Saturday for business as usual but to come together as a community-past and present-and celebrate!  A holiday is a time to stop and appreciate the break in our routine, a “hole-in-time”. We are blessed in that our daily routines at school are meaningful, purposeful and stretch all of us; students as well as teachers.  Each day can be uniquely different  albeit within the structure and content of  Montessori principles. Therefore, our routines at LMS  are  satisfying and always wonderfully anticipated.  However, there is a time for spontaneity with unlimited popcorn, smiles in the picture booth, luscious pizza, joyful bands and children’s painted faces.  A moment to greet former students, recall memories and laugh.  A time to say thank you to all the people who organized this event and also, to appreciate our colleagues who work tirelessly everyday in different ways but with one common love; the children.  It was time to CELEBRATE and it still is….

Making choices

It is important for children to make choices.  This process begins their decision making powers as well as the beginning of constructing who they are.  Choices are only part of the package.  With this freedom of choosing comes responsibility and boundaries.  The package is then tied up with natural/logical consequences.

We ask “Do you want waffles or cereal for breakfast?”  “Do you want your blue or red shirt?”  “What activity do you want to do after school?”  What time do you want to do your homework or household chores?’   The child chooses but now owns the decision and needs to follow through.  If the child insists on chocolate milk for breakfast, our natural/logical consequence is to say “That wasn’t a choice because it is too sweet and has too much sugar.”  We can add “I know you really want it but won’t it be something to look forward to later in the day!”  You have given choices, set boundaries, listened to the request but gave a natural/logical consequence why it isn’t going to be.   Ride out the storm if there is one and know that your decision was explained in an objective way.    Children want boundaries as they feel secure even if they don’t like them at the moment.

Our Montessori classrooms offer choices everyday. “Do you want to do polishing or pouring?”  “I know you want to do snack but it is not available now.  It will be soon.  It is good manners to let the two children finish their snack without us standing right near them.”  Choices, empathy, natural/logical consequences and grace and courtesy; these are the traits that last a lifetime.

Our structuring of choices and making our decisions contrary to a child’s wishes if it must be do not thwart their personality, it gives them the tools to make wise decisions in the future.   Everything lies in the brief objective explanation.

The Golden Years

Our school’s dramatic offering this spring is The Wind in the Willows.  The play was adapted by a noted playwright from the book The Wind in the Willows written by Kenneth Grahame.  This classic adventure was composed in the Golden Age of Children’s Literature (1900 to 1912) when so many books for children emphasized the fleeting time of  childhood.  The authors knew that childhood was short, adventurous and innocent. The writers as well as parents wanted this time in their child’s life to last. They wished that their children would not grow older; hence,Peter Pan, Toad, Alice to mention a few.

These stories taught  positive values effortlessly as Edmund from the short story ” Kind Little Edmund” by E. Nesbit tried to save his granny from a dragon’s wrath.  How brave he had to be!  How he had to listen to instructions! (sound familiar?).  Also, in the book The Railroad Children by E. Nesbit, she writes a wonderful tale of how the children’s attempt to clear their father’s name  took much perseverance and hard work.

Our children today need literary role  models to emulate. When they experience challenges in life or adverse situations, hopefully, these characters will help show the way…

Explore several authors from this era:  Beatrix Potter, J.M. Barrie, E. Nesbit, Kenneth Grahame, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Hugh Lofting to name a few.

The Allure of Stories

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Welcome parents and friends to my new blog!  As summer will soon be upon us with its’ unfettered days, I would like to begin this entry with a few thoughts on reading.  The word schedule is one we shy away from in the summer, however, it is important to keep some routines with the youngest children.  Reading stories with concomitant trips to the library and bookstore can be relaxed and most enjoyable.  Also, storytelling by you of your childhood and summers will fascinate your children.  Discussing these memories will enhance  your children’s ability to follow a narrative, visualize and create mental pictures.  Forming a logical mental progression helps with future math and writing skills.

For elementary children, read good literature to them that involves heroes and heroines as these characters teach the virtues of courage, loyalty, responsibility for others and the art of friendship.  Allow children this age to read whatever they wish within reason (yes,even the Wimpy Kids series) while you continue to read the classics to them.

My next Chat with Elaine will be on May 23 at which time I’ll bring several books that have excellent compilations of book choices by age.  Join me!

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