Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On letting go so learning can happen...

Linking up with Montessori Monday (even though it's Tuesday!).

It was just about a year ago that I started doing Tot School with Sister Stinky.


A much littler Stinky being given a chance to try hand washing.

We both loved it, for very different reasons - she loved having my undivided attention, as well as having permission to interact with things that are normally off-limits for toddlers (like water, soap, shaving cream, breakable bowls and cups, etc.). I loved feeling like our time together was productive, like I was teaching her something. I also loved observing her and realizing how much more attune I was to her development just by spending some focused time together each day.

But, in time, Tot School was becoming more of a burden. I felt like I "had" to do it with her, and she lost interest. Then, I got pregnant with Baby Sister and took a long hiatus from everything as I battled the terrible hyperemesis nausea. But then, slowly, I became interested in schooling our little Stinky again, realizing that I didn't have to do it perfectly, but also realizing that she wanted to learn. And, after teaching religious education at a local parish for the last year, had a little bit of extra money to get some real Montessori materials. So, I cobbled those together with some other teaching materials I already had and ta-da...a preschool space was born!


All too quickly, I found myself falling into the same old not-helpful mentality, though. I would present materials to her, and then if she didn't show much interest I second guessed our education method. Oh, no. Did I waste all that money on these beautiful materials? Am I actually capable of homeschooling her?

But then, friends...summer arrived. Glorious summer. And it arrived on the tails of prolonged time away from home, and it coincided with my third trimester of pregnancy (and nearly never-ending nausea). And so, I didn't push her to spend time in the preschool space. I focused more on letting her experience summer. I made a point of incorporating pool time (we live about a block from our community pool) into our everyday. We're also blessed to live right next door to other kids (close in age to Sister Stinky) so I started making time for us just to go outside every day with no agenda...just time to play! (I'd even bring a book so I wouldn't interfere with her exploring and playing, unless she asked for help or invited me to play with her.) I'm happy to say that she and I are much healthier for it, and both sport nice tans (that will probably disappear as soon as Baby Sister is born and we're stuck inside in the a/c for more of the day, but at least we got our yearly summer tans, haha!). And then, something else happened...she started exploring the materials in the preschool space on her own. 


Working with the pink tower.

I didn't push her into her preschool space, and I don't even know when she finds the time to go in there and work with things, since most of her time is spent watching me do things or playing outside or running errands. But all of a sudden, I keep finding her random works (which she knows how to do, since they were presented in some form to her previously) scattered throughout the living room. And for the first time, she's not just playing family games with individual pieces...she's really exploring the materials!


Trying to order her wooden stacking toy.

This, friends, is exactly what appealed to me about Montessori...the fact that I could establish a prepared environment for her, but that she was free to tinker or not tinker in it as she pleased. The fact that her preschool work didn't need to feel like work. The fact that she could explore and satisfy her various developmental needs without me pushing lessons on her. 


Not only is she getting better at putting the knobbed cylinders back into the cylinder block but she is forever experimenting with them, trying to find new places where they fit.

And all I needed to do was let go.

This has definitely been the hardest part of Montessori for me, as a type A personality. I envisioned her learning being something I would hover over and control. But little by little, Montessori is teaching me to step back and let her "build herself." It's a hard lesson to learn, this letting go...but I am truly treasuring this learning journey with her. 

For those who reassured me back when I was second-guessing myself about homeschooling you were all so right...I just had to pick the method and give it time and just DO IT. I feel so at peace with our pace of learning now, and can begin to see why God drew our family to using the Montessori method in our home. Sister Stinky is really starting to take to it, and it is such a blessing for our family! I think it will especially be a blessing to our Stinky in the initial chaos of the post-partum period!

2 comments:

  1. Yay! I'm nowhere near schooling time (of course!) but it is so wonderful to see the effects of even a tiny bit of Montessori action. A friend of mine and I are discovering the methods at the same time, but she has a toddler. Her stories of him learning his independence just blow me away. It is such a roll-with-the-punches method that makes sense. Sigh... I love it and I love seeing pictures of your little "preschool"!

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  2. I love Montessori, I used to work in a Montessori school as a preschool teacher's aid and discovered so many new ways of teaching small children. It is definitely what I want to incorporate in my homeschooling preschool program this fall. And I understand the type A personality. I am the same way :)

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