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I am a home schooling mom to three amazing kiddos.  We primarily use the Montessori pedagogy to guide our journey.  We also enjoy aspects of classical education and are part of Classical Conversations community. 

I write a Montessori column for Practical Homeschooling Magazine.

I am still a geek at heart and at times miss my former career as an Information Architect/SharePoint Specialist.  I don't have much free time but if I do, it is spent on comic books and video games.
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Not a Fun Mom

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I have a confession.  I am not a fun mom.

If you spend any time on Pinterest or browsing though various Montessori blogs then you've come across an unbelievable amount of activities that cover every interest, holiday or theme.  From President's Day to sloths and quilts, it's all been done.  No really, it has.  Just think of a theme and search.  It's impressive.  There are obviously a number of folks with far more creativity than me.

I'll be honest, I used to be envious of those who had the time to create such elaborate works and at a high frequency at that.  If the stars align, you may find one thing on my shelves that hints at a theme.  But hey, after I realized the fall pumpkin counters have been out for over a year, it was time to let go.

Here's a half effort from way back when.  Tonging snowballs.

If you're someone who has the resources necessary, especially time, then by all means, continue.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with adding themes to your work.  If you're there, then mama, you're rocking it!  However, I want to give a bit of encouragement to those who may find themselves lacking the time and energy to bring all your Pinterest finds to fruition.  Most days I feel like I'm just barely keeping my head above water.  It takes a lot to address the academic basics and simply keep everyone alive, especially if I want to throw speaking kindly into the mix.  :-)

We have to remember to keep the first things first.  We have to love and respect our children first and foremost as we address their most basic needs.  There's nothing more important than that, even from a Montessori perspective.  As we approach the topic of "academics" or education at home, we have to start with the basic needs there as well.  From a Montessori approach, it means working with the senses and fine motor activities as well as laying the foundation for language and mathematics.  This can happen perfectly well without a single heart in February or shamrock in March.  Don't lose sight of the goals.

But then my children won't have any fun, right?

Wrong.  This is where I think we got off track as a society at points.  Consumerism has taught us that everything has to be bright, colorful and demand our child's attention - that children can't learn to count unless a puppet sings about it on TV.  It's a lie.  And in fact, it goes against the very essence of what Montessori envisioned for education.  We vastly underestimate our children.  Put any young child in a room with new flashy toys, and they'll inevitably gravitate towards the box it came it.  They desire to learn.  We don't have to trick them into it.

I had a hard time accepting that the basics were enough, as if the pink tower and spindle box alone wouldn't draw them in.  The truth I found is that when I focused on paring down the essentials, which could be traditional materials or otherwise, that's where the focus went.  While I worried that I wasn't providing enough, my children flourished with a renewed interest in the critical areas.  They were less distracted by the constant new tray in town, so to speak.  I also found that I was far less stressed without my weekly shelf rotations and constant need to raid every dollar section in town to track down supplies.  It really is true that Mom's attitude will be a driving force in her children; whether it be stress or joy.  While I may sound like a stick in the mud - and sometimes fear my classroom feels a bit sterile - I'm amazed at how often all three of my children desire to spend time in the classroom.

So if you're like me and find yourself overwhelmed and frazzled at points, remember that you don't have to do it all.  Find the areas that cause the most stress and let go, even if just for a season.  When you put the first things first, you may well find that simplifying is the most fun for everyone.

-Bess


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