Tag Archives: children

It Is OK

I have a secret that I want to share with all of you new moms. It’s for moms who have had kids for awhile too. And for dads. It’s for everyone who takes care of kids. Are you ready? Seriously, are you ready for it?

No mom has it all together.

Incredible right? No, none of them do. Not one. It might seem like some of them do, but you are not seeing what they are letting slide.

This image appeared in my Facebook newsfeed recently and it seems particularly appropriate.


It is absolutely true, because you cannot have all three. And I would like to add to that: Please be gentle with yourself. If you are a parent, your job first and foremost is to raise your children. Everything else is a way to accomplish that or a distraction from that. That means that:

  • Sometimes people will ask you to do things and you will have to say no. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes the house will not be clean. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes dinner will be takeout. Or from the freezer section. Or from the canned section. Don’t beat yourself up.
  • Sometimes the laundry won’t be done.
  • Sometimes you won’t get a shower.
  • Sometimes you will be late.
  • Sometimes it will feel like you have it all together, but
  • Sometimes it will feel like it is all going to pot. Probably more of the latter than the former.

It is OK, it is OK, it is OK because you have kids.

  • Sometimes you will need a break from everything because you have kids. Sometimes, you will even need a break from your kids.

Cut yourself some slack. No mom has it all together. You just aren’t seeing what they are letting slide.

So the next time it feels like everything is spiraling out of your control, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is the nature of having kids.

And that it is OK.

Part Twelve of Many: The Montessori Life: Teaching Addition

Once the children start to get the hang of one’s, tens, hundreds and thousands, you can start introducing addition. It’s pretty simple: you come up with two four digit numbers that do not require you to carry. When you’re demonstrating have one child get the beads for one of the numbers from the bank and have another child get the beads for the other number. Then on the mat, lay out one number with the Thousand cubes to the farthest left, then the hundred squares, then the tens strings, the units and finally the cards with the zeros overlapped on the right side. Follow the same process with the other four digit number. Now group together all of the thousands and have one child pull out the card that shows how many thousands there are. Follow the same process with the hundreds, the tens and the units. Overlap the zeros on the cards and read the number to the children. At that point simply say, “________ (the first four digit number) plus _________(the second four digit number) equals _________ (the four digit number that the groups combined to make). Would you like to record that?” and present the children with a paper that has spaces to write down the addition problem they just solved.

Part Eleven of Many: The Montessori Life: Teaching One’s, Tens, Hundreds, Thousands

Children as young as two start recognizing the significance of what we call a specific number and the value of that number. In our home, we started by telling the kids to use two hands when they carried something and counting the hands they had holding it, “one hand, two hands.” It didn’t take long before they understood. Preschool age children don’t struggle with concepts so much as abstractions. If you can present information in a concrete way, they’ll catch on. In Montessori, after the children have started associating numerals to specific values, the next step, whether it’s in preschool or kindergarten, is showing them the values in different places in numbers with multiple digits.

Bead Work:
The first step to this work is introducing the different parts of it. A single bead indicates one unit. Present the bead and tell the child that it is one unit and show him the corresponding card with a one on it and then place it below the bead and to the right of the child.
Now, count out ten beads verbally, one at a time: one unit, two units, three units… and pull out a string of beads that indicates one-ten. (You can also count each bead on the ten) Now pull out the card that says “10” on it and place it below the one-ten, just to the left of the one unit, and put the 10 beads away that demonstrated that 10 units is the same as one ten.
Count out ten tens one at a time: one ten, two tens, three tens… and line the strings up next to each other so they make a square. Put a bead hundred square over the top of the strings so the squares are lined up with each other. Explain that 10 tens is the same as one hundred. Pull out the card that says “100” and put it below the hundred square just to the left of the ten card and put the 10 strings of ten away.
Count out ten hundreds one at a time: one hundred, two hundreds, three hundreds… and place them on top of each other so they make a cube. Place the thousand cube next to the hundreds and let the child investigate them both so they can see that 10 hundreds is the same as one thousand. Pull out the thousand card and place it below the thousand cube to the left of the hundred square.

We normally lay out works from left to right in the order we do them, because that is the direction we read. The reason we don’t with math is that, we read from thousands down to ones, and not the other way around. Don’t worry: the child doesn’t understand the theory behind how works are laid out, so they aren’t confused. Just accept as a teacher that this work is demonstrated backwards from the others and let it go.

Because the ideas are shown in a concrete way with only loose ties to the arabic numerals, kids are quickly able to internalize the tens, hundreds and thousands. This way when they start learning addition, they can go immediately to 4 digits because in their heads whether it’s four digits or one digit, it’s the same principle.

Part Ten of Many: The Montessori Life: Classroom Seasons

One of the aspects that preschool and kindergarten age Montessori teachers find themselves trying to express to their kids is the passage of time. From a philosophical perspective, time is a human construct but it’s a necessary part of daily life both for dealing with our society’s obsession with punctuality and for recognizing seasonal changes. There are a few things that teachers can do for small children to get this idea across:

1. Have a days of the week song. There is one you can sing to the theme from the Addam’s Family.
There’s Sunday and there’s Monday
There’s Tuesday and there’s Wednesday
There’s Thursday and there’s Friday
And then there’s Saturday
Days of the week (snap snap) Days of the week (snap snap)
Days of the week, Days of the week, days of the week (snap snap)

There’s also one sung to the tune from My Darlin’ Clementine
Sunday, Monday
Tuesday, Wednesday
Thursday, Friday
Sunday, Monday
Tuesday, Wednesday
Thursday, Friday

Usually you sing one of these songs with either clapping or yelling for the day you’re currently on. Then on your calandar you should say something to the effect of “Today is Tuesday, so yesterday was Monday and tomorrow must be Wednesday.” It’s also helpful to show the progression of the date within the month.

2. Clock works can be very helpful for distinguishing the passage of time, but even more so when you can associate certain times of day with a specific schedule the kids have regularly (every day is best). So if every day at school, your classroom has recess at 11:30, has lunch at noon or has work time at 10:10 after circle, the children start recognizing the different times as significant, and when the progression is always the same, they see the schedule and eventually the clock and understand what the significance is.

3. Seasonal change is marked by certain things you can observe out the window, but frequently if something out of character with your region happens, like getting rain in January in New England or having 80 degree weather during November in the West, it can confuse very little kids about what the seasons really are. It can help for teachers to have a paper tree on the wall that has buds in spring, green leaves in summer, colored leaves in fall and snow on it during the winter. I have a town on the wall that we decorate with snowmen and lights during the holidays and we make paper people who go swimming during the summer. However you decide to show seasonal changes, it should be something consistent that the children help making the decorations. If you laminate the pieces of your tree, it will last much longer and be much more resilient to 3-year-olds who want to touch it incessantly with messy hands.

Home learning versus public school

I am biased toward homeschooling over public school, so there are certainly going to be those who read my opinions on the subject and feel like I am unfair to the public school system. To you, I have this to say: the public school system in the United States was designed to teach children how to work in factories and get them a rudimentary education that would allow them to function in a society that required them to be able to read, write and do basic mathematics. Think about the typical classroom setup for a public school and you see the similarities between it and a factory work room, especially when you combine the need to raise your hand to say anything or ask permission to use the restroom. When you consider that there are still children who make it through the entire school system without being able to read, write or make change, in spite of the no child left behind program (which might have been more aptly named “every child left behind”), you can see my point that it really isn’t a functional system. Now, we have nothing on such a large scale that’s any better and we are constantly trying to improve it, but that doesn’t mean we should all send our children there. That said, here are some of the things I’ve been ruminating on in home learning.

Children have a natural love of learning. You can say that a baby’s job is learning. They pick up everything and examine it, shake it, and put it in their mouths to learn about it and try to understand it. Obviously, there are things that we have to keep away from them, or they might hurt themselves, but this is how babies absorb their environments. Children maintain this love of learning right up until they encounter a situation where they are forced to do something they either aren’t ready for or don’t want to do, and then they either feel like they failed or their wills were crushed. Teaching preschool age children letters and sounds and mathematics concepts is easy, if they’re ready for it. Most children have interest in something, and letting them follow that interest is the best way to keep them learning. Some children are ready to start reading very young. Others aren’t ready until later. Letting them take the lead on it, allows them to learn at their own paces and they continue to enjoy learning. That doesn’t mean that you can’t give a helping hand.

I learned fractions and conversions from my mother while we were baking. Two of these is the same as one of those. Eight of these is the same as one of those. I learned about dinosaurs (and unwittingly about other animals) from the natural history museum trips when my mother took me. I learned about 17th century New England from the trips to the historical sites when my mother took me. She never drilled me about any of it later to make sure I understood or absorbed anything. She just presented opportunities to learn and let me go from there. When it’s real, it’s much easier to see the value in your learning. When children see that it’s real, it’s much easier to capture their interest.

I found a website that provides enrichment experiences to help your children better understand the world around them. It’s called The Home Learning Coach and a subscription provides you with complete enrichment experiences to any educational style to help your children gain a more well-rounded education. You can also just look at your environment and see what there is that your children don’t yet understand. Participate with them in it and find ways to let them experience those things that they might be interested in.

Part Nine of Many: The Montessori Life: Troubled Kids in Your Classroom

For any number of reasons, you might have troubled kids in a Montessori Classroom. Traditionally, this wouldn’t be a problem if you’re homeschooling, unless you take in foster children and have license from the state you’re living in to school your foster children in your home rather than the local public school, but if you’re teaching in a private school, or you have set up a private school in your home, the chances are that at least one of your students (out of your 30 kid classroom) will have emotional problems or be otherwise “troubled.”

One of the great things about the Montessori Method is that it was originally developed for the “unteachable” (read: the poor, mentally or physically challenged) so there are aspects of Montessori that can reach out to any child. The normalization period is going to be longer for a child who acts out or shuts down but it can happen, and if you are patient and tenacious, it will happen. There are some things you can do to minimize the lean times until the child has reached the same level as the rest of your class.

-Be sure you encourage appropriate behavior and provide reasonable consequences when the child acts out.
-Be patient and treat the child with the same expectations as the rest of the class.

I promise, it will be ok. Just give it time. He will normalize, just like the rest of the children in your class did.

Part Six of Many: The Montessori Life: Disciplining Small Children

Whether you have a preschool or kindergarten classroom, or you have toddlers and young children at home, there are many ways to approach discipline. The way you discipline should be in direct correlation with the kind of crime that’s been committed, and before you decide what punishments to mete out, there are a few things about small children of which you should be aware.
1. Toddlers have no impulse control. They are incredibly tactile little creatures, and if they see something that they find interesting, they want to touch it, hold it and maybe even mouth it to understand it better. Rather than telling children “no” all the time, it’s much easier if you put the things you don’t want them to handle up high where they can’t reach. Obviously this is true of things that break. Consider putting books, electronics, important papers, remote controls, movies and anything else you don’t want them to touch, up out of the way. Put other objects that they can’t hurt within their reach. You’re best off with bright colors and soft materials for kids just learning to be mobile. Find objects with interesting tactile sensations or things that keep kindergarten age hands busy (paper, scissors and glue, crayons and coloring books or toys that help develop hand-eye coordination.
2. Choose your battles. Kids start asserting their independence when they’re about 2 (though some are more precocious than others) and push boundaries to figure out how social situations work and to get to know their parents and teachers better. Toddlers are master manipulators and have no scruples about doing whatever they can to get their own way. You’ll go nuts if you try to control every action, so choose the ones that affect their safety or the safety of others and fight battles worth winning. Reserve yelling for situations like these so your kids recognize that it’s actually important and it leaves an impression. If they want to wear a yellow shirt and purple pants, just let it go.
3. Kids throw tantrums. They mostly do this when they feel like they’re being misunderstood, and you’re telling them “no” and it feels arbitrary to them. Bear in mind that they also throw tantrums over things that wouldn’t normally bother them if they’re tired, hungry or under a lot of stress. You can cut a tantrum off at the pass if while you see it coming, you stay calm and try to reason with the child. Ask him to explain what he wants and why, and you respond logically. If the tantrum happens anyway, hold the child firmly in your arms so he can’t flail and hurt you, himself, someone else or something else until he stops struggling and screaming. Reward him for stopping by loosening your grip or letting go. This is a great way for him to learn that tantrums are unacceptable behavior without you scaring him. This takes some patience in the beginning. If a tantrum is limited to crying, tell the child you’ll talk to him when he’s ready to talk, but not while he’s crying and then remind him that you’ll talk when he’s ready to talk and not before until he stops crying. If he grabs for your attention, repeat that you’re just waiting for him to stop crying so he can talk to you, and you’ll be glad to talk to him when he does.
4. If a kid is hurting other kids, remove him from the situation and hold him firmly until he’s ready to be respectful to others. If he squirms or gets angry with you, tell him that you’ll gladly let him go when he’s ready to be respectful to others. This also works if you have Montessori works around and he’s not treating them as he should. Gentle restraint for a rowdy kid helps calm him and teach him the proper and respectful behavior in the classroom.
5. Give your kids play time when it’s OK to be loud, and to run. Little kids have enormous amounts of energy. Don’t ever let kids get away with hurting each other, even if they’re running around outside, but don’t try to keep them cooped up and calm all day, either.
6. In this day and age where teachers have unfortunately become adults that can’t be trusted to behave appropriately around small children, many schools have decided that teachers are no longer aloud to touch or hold children at any age, at all. If all you are permitted to do is speak to a child who is acting out, I can guarantee that for preschoolers and kindergarteners, the behavior will not improve. Ever. Avoid working for schools that have a strict no touching policy, if you can, because firstly, you’ll drive yourself nuts and secondly, toddlers and preschoolers sometimes need to be held. They need the physical contact, because anything you say needs to be backed up by actions. They need to know that their teacher cares about them as individuals. They need to know that certain behaviors are unacceptable, and if they choose not to listen you will help them to follow the instructions with your own hands. They also need to know that you will do your best to protect them from physical harm, and sometimes that means physically removing them from a situation. This is yet another reason why it’s best to have another adult around at all times: So you have a witness. Explain that sometimes you have to hold the children, and most parents will understand. If they don’t, they can take their kid to a different school. The Montessori method is about teaching kids in a clean, caring, low-stress environment, and there is no way to do that if your only recourse for unacceptable behavior is raising your voice to get small children to tow the line.
The bottom line to disciplining is teaching children that certain behaviors are unacceptable. If they are restrained gently when they engage in harmful or disrespectful behaviors and released when they’re ready to act the way they should, they catch on pretty quickly. Start small and work your way up. If your classroom is really crazy and you can’t maintain the peace alone, ask for an assistant or two to help keep things going when one or two people need to be held until they’re ready to rejoin the group. If you’re just getting started, start with two kids in your class and add others gradually so you can focus on helping the new ones adapt and they catch on to the rules. This is the ideal way to maintain the peace in your classroom. Too many small children added too quickly is just a recipe for anarchy.