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Montessori Our Way Part 4: Not So Montessori

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We initially approached Montessori from a purely academic perspective and have slowly integrated more and more principles into our daily lives  However, we do not follow every aspect of the Montessori Method, sometimes by choice and sometimes by circumstances.  In some areas I'm simply too ignorant to know better.

There is virtually nothing inline with Montessori in regards to our sleep arrangements.  In the early days we prefer to cosleep.  Both my husband and I adore it and it has been pivotal in my successful breastfeeding relationship.  While our little ones spend virtually no time in a crib, we do not use a floor bed.  Honestly, it has never interested me, although I do find them adorable.  My oldest two have moved to toddler beds by 18 months of age.  However, they are still welcome in our room whenever they feel the need.  Yes, it does lend to musical beds sometimes but no arrangement is perfect and this is working well enough for us.

This is the cosleeper where our little ones sleep next to our bed.  And yes the sheets are in the wash.

Congrats to those of you who have been able to incorporate independent food service areas.  I truly mean that.  This is something we tried and boy did it fail.  I started out by providing a few small items they could pour for themselves for a snack such as gluten-free pretzels.  They would either end up eating an entire bag or eating just a few and using the rest to decorate the house.  And sorry, but I need my kids to eat their dinner and not just fill up on rice cakes.

Elora decided to make a snack for William.
I did try to change up my strategy and only provide enough for a daily snack.  It mostly worked until one child would eat the other's and I didn't have the wherewithal to constantly replenish the snack area.

I did allow them to retain access to water, dishes and most of their food prep supplies.  As much as we have discussed the fact that these items are not toys I have stopped pinching matches with the serving tongs and cleaned out a flooded play kitchen sink.  We also went through a spell where I had to remove all the glassware.  William accidentally broke a glass and found it so fascinating that he tried to break them on purpose.  Thankfully we're past that now.

I do try to allow the kids to help with food prep as much as possible but until my two year old has better impulse control, cooking and baking will mostly occur during special planned projects where I feel I have enough time and energy to control the situation.

Sometimes I wish he didn't know how to move a chair correctly.

Safety and Sanity
We use child locks.  Liberally.  I have locked cabinets/drawers, doorknob guards, gates and top locks.  In fact, I'm about to put a top lock on the pantry door since Elora has mastered the doorknob guard.  She loves to raid it but she doesn't understand her food allergies.

I know it's important to make their environment accessible but there's simply places within our house that aren't safe or reasonable for them to access freely.  Of course, I'm not exactly sure that is this completely out of line with Montessori.  Controlling access to the dangerous or "difficult to control oneself" areas of the home means they can have more freedom.  When I find myself nursing a little one from time to time I don't have to require them to stay in the same room with me.  Given that most of our home is open concept, that's an extremely difficult request anyway.

The doorknob guard on the school room protects the classroom pet.
One area in particular that I had to be wary of was the art area.  Our learning cabinet and writing table used to posses a lot more than colored pencils.  I tried to keep going after multiple pen and crayon on the wall incidents.  The marker the appeared in multiple rooms, molding, toys, curtains, carpets, couch, windows, doors and light switch plated ended it for good.  I am in the process of setting up an art area in the basement where they would have more access but in a controlled manner.

We have to be cautious out and about too.  William is a runner and he can out run me.  We will take family walks if both my husband I can go.  If not, then walks outside of the home involve a stroller.  Since we have a retention pond in our backyard that he has tried to jump in, we have to go out back as  family as well until we get a fence installed (coming very soon).

Come on.  Let me out!  You know you need the exercise.

My kids have toys and not just those that are wood and educational.  They have plastic toys and toys that take batteries.

William passed out after a plastic toy play frenzy.
 One of the favorite toys is this:

They also love the Cool School Computer.  While I certainly don't buy into all the education hype on the packaging, I don't have an issue with them having fun with them from time to time.  With Elora's condition it is common for us to spend the better part of the day gallivanting around the Children's hospital from appointment to appointment... just three children and myself.  You can bet you'll find the Leapster in my stash.  I used to pack all kinds of busy bags and try for mobile school.  While those are great in the right instance I'd invariably end up with clothespins and index cards all over the waiting room at the exact moment they called us back.

One debated topic in the world of Montessori is whether pretend play based toys are acceptable.  Children should be fully grounded in the real world before they pretend.  Why pretend to cook when you can actually cook?  We have embraced dramatic play.  Our play kitchen is one of the most popular toys we own.

And as to TV, yes they watch it.  We do limit it and control the programs they have access to.  I try to be very careful not to offer it as a reward.  I have noticed that when we initiate our family routine successfully there's virtually no room for it and no one minds.  However, we do have our bad days when it's crutch for me.  I don't feel guilty about it anymore.

This is the area my husband and I are working on the most lately.  We both were raised in the standard achievement-focused, punitive household.  That is how we intended to raise our own family.  We are very enthralled with grace based styles and are working diligently to change the paradigm in our household.  It's difficult when you haven't experienced anything else.  I know we're on the right track but something the transition seems like we're blending the worst of both.

We are making much better progress on avoiding rewards and unnecessary praise.  I never knew dropping the phrase "good job" would be so difficult.  This area demonstrates that sometimes having the desire to change a particular behavior certainly doesn't mean you're there overnight.

So what's the point? 
Hopefully you see that it's okay if you can't be the "perfect" Montessori family.  I'm not even sure what that is. Every child and every family is unique.  To compound matters we all deal with vastly different circumstances.  There is a reason your children were given to you so do not be discouraged when your daily life looks different.  It isn't supposed to look the same!  As much as I believe in the Montessori Method it's important to be honest with ourselves about what is and is not working in our homes.  We should all be striving for peace in our households.  If implementing something causes you great stress or simply doesn't work, it's perfectly acceptable to come up with plan B in that area.  Sometimes Plan A isn't worth the cost.

I highly suggest setting aside regular time to evaluate life, even if it's just 5 minutes of focused thought every other week.  It's so easy to get into our routine and continue with something that isn't working simply because we feel we must.  To quote Dr. Sears "If you resent it, change it".  You children will be much happier when you are at peace, even if it means letting go a little.  Parenting is hard enough and we all deserve a measure of grace, even from ourselves.
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