Category Archives: Reflecting


Reggio Emilia.jpg

If any one has read my FAQs page or deduced this from my blog posts, you will know that I am not totally tied to the idea of the Montessori Method. I think educational philosophies and methods are a lot like parenting methods, there is no one silver bullet. You can, and should, cherry pick from them to find the right balance of lessons, activities, methods, etc. that works for you and your child.

I think, based on my classroom and educational experience, that there is a lot of value in the Montessori Method and its approach, but I also have some hesitations when it comes to implementing it in its entirety. I like that there is a focus on using and developing all the senses. I like that it’s directed by the child. I like that it has a practical aspect that fosters independence in the child. However, I wondered how current some of the brain development ideas were in it, so I asked a good friend of mine who happens to be studying early childhood development. I don’t want to be basing Cam’s education on debunked or out-dated developmental theory.

One educational theory I have been hearing a bit about and was brought up by this friend was the Reggio-Emilia Approach. It’s a newer approach to education developed in the Reggio region of Italy. (Italy seems to have cornered the market on early childhood education.) I haven’t done too much research yet, but it seems to incorporate a lot of sensorial learning with art as well as extensive, creative documentation of student work. It also uses a child-driven selection of study. I am curious to see if Montessori and Reggio can be integrated because I especially like the idea of the atelier that it uses. Based on my, thus far, extremely limited knowledge of the Reggio-Emilia Approach I think there is some overlap, as well as some new ideas to look into.

If you are interested here are some resources I am looking at as a jumping off point:

There is this general bibliography of Reggio Emilia books.

In all honesty, the Wikipedia article gave me a good, quick overview of the philosophy and its history. I wouldn’t rely solely on this article, but it’s a good place to start.

You can also check out my Reggio Emilia Pinterest board. I have my booklist on there plus ideas for classrooms inspired by the approach. You can also click over to blogs and blog posts that focus on Reggio Emilia from the pins.

Sadly my local library system only has one book on Reggio Emilia, but Amazon came to my rescue and I found a couple books that I added to my wishlist. I think this is the direction my research is headed in next in my eternal quest to cobble together a curriculum and educational philosophy for teaching my daughter.


Traditions: Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar 2012.jpg

Last year I was reading through my Martha Stewart magazine and came across a little article about Advent calendars. I was familiar with the little picture calendars and chocolate Advent calendars, but this article was talking about calendars that didn’t look like those at all. Each day had a box or envelope that contained a tiny “gift” for each day instead of a chocolate or picture. The article was not only a how-to, but was also a fond remembrance of the author’s mother who carefully crafted these Advent calendars for years.

So when I decided to use the holidays to create some meaningful family traditions for Cam, I decided I would like to create her a homemade Advent calendar each year. I didn’t begin the tradition last year, mostly because I was still overwhelmed with a three month old baby, but also because she was a little small to understand the tradition.

Over Thanksgiving my grandmother got Cam a nice wooden bird house that came with three stuffed birds. She thought, based on the picture in the catalog, that the birds would fit into the hole in the bird house, but they turned out to be much too large. Cam still liked to put things into the bird house, though, and that gave me the idea for her Advent calendar. I made up a little pattern, based on a felt bird I had seen on Etsy, and stitched up 24 little felt birds (with the help of my mom since I started the project last week!). They aren’t as lovely as the one on Etsy, but they didn’t turn out too badly.

I placed each bird in a little muslin bag and placed all the bags in a basket. Instead of numbering each bag, a concept I didn’t think would make a lot of sense to Cam yet, I just put them all in the basket. Each day she can reach in and take one out. And so far, she has absolutely loved the little birds. After kissing them, she immediately begins putting them into the bird house. Excellent fine motor practice and fun for Cam! Traditions Banner

Scope and Sequence

There is something I have found very frustrating about the Montessori Method. I can find a hodge-podge of ideas for activities, but I can’t find a scope and sequence of these activities or really even an appropriate time to introduce the activities. I understand it’s when the child is ready, but should I have the materials on hand for land forms at 15 months or 3 years? I don’t even have a place to start from or an idea where to jump in exactly, since I don’t have a list of potential activities that I could just move through sequentially. I have read quite a bit about the history of the method and about the philosophy of the method and this was a great place for me to start. But it isn’t what I need now. It doesn’t provide the day-to-day information I need. Ultimately I don’t have a big picture of the actual method and am finding it to be nearly impossible, or at least extremely daunting, to work with. I think having a scope and sequence will make me a better teacher and will impact the quality of my daughter’s education.

With this concern hanging over my head, I finally took time last week to sit down and write up a plan for homeschooling Cam. It’s mostly a checklist with a lot of research. I would like to mix and match curricula and educational methods in a way that creates a program that is ideal for my daughter. After all, this is the biggest perk of homeschooling. To do that, however, I need a clear sense of where we are going and what skills and accomplishments we are striving for.

The overall goals of my plan are:

  • Research and write a scope and sequence for 0-3 & 3-6 age groups.
  • Create themed monthly units for 1-2 that integrate skill development.
  • Research curricula to use for various subjects to begin at 5 or 6.
  • Research early reading curricula to begin around 3, especially Montessori and Lindamood Bell.
  • Create elementary/primary scope and sequence using chosen curricula.

The first order of business will be to find Montessori scope and sequences and read up on the Method. To that end I have found a few free and a few priced materials. I began reading David Gettman’s book Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives. So far it’s got what I have been looking for and my local public library had it so I was able to avoid buying it. Montessori Print Shop also has a set of teacher’s manuals for the 3-6 set. They do cost, but I don’t find the cost to be exorbitant. Montessori for Everyone has a set of comprehensive skill lists but so far as I can tell they are not connected to the Montessori activities that build the skills. I also find them a bit pricey. Maitri Learning has a couple of resources that look like they may help me. There is a sequence and order of activities for various areas of “study”. There is also a record keeping log that looks especially helpful. Even better, these resources are free.

So that is where I am this month and this week. Cam is enjoying her activities and new schedule (hooray for one long nap!) so I’m not inclined to introduce anything new just yet. We’ll see how my research goes.

Snack Table

Snack Table

Snack Table

About a week ago my husband and I were at the craft store where he spotted this little lap desk. It’s essentially a plastic tray with pockets on either side that can sit on your lap as you work. My husband’s idea was to use it as a little dinner table for Cam by slinging it over a stool and placing it near our table. We tried it out, but it wasn’t nearly as helpful or popular as we thought it would be. In a moment of inspiration, though, I set it on the floor next to our cabinets, placed Cam’s water cup and a little snack bowl on it and turned it into her snack table.

It has been a huge hit with everyone. Cam is able to get herself a drink and little snack whenever she wants. I can monitor when she is hungry and thirsty, but allow her some independence and choice. It has also cut down on a lot of fussing that went on when she would try to communicate that she needed a drink or a little pick-me-up snack. I can still control what she’s snacking on, of course, but she really seems to like it.

Toilet Training: Early Stages

When Cam was about six months old I read the book Diaper Free Before 3. The woman that wrote the book advocates early potty training and I agreed with her ideas and her method. I should note, it is something that fits well with my parenting style, so sticking to it hasn’t been too difficult despite the fact that it’s a bit labor intensive.

You begin by having a small potty chair either in your bathroom or the nursery and just sit the baby on it from time to time. She suggests starting young (six-ish months) in order to get a habit and association formed, plus they can’t run off yet. Slowly you work up to sitting them on the potty each time they wake up, after every meal, and whenever you notice them going. This continues to build the association of going potty in the potty, as well as building “potty breaks” into their routine. At a year or so, you put the child in training pants to begin teaching them the sensation of when they have gone pee.

This is where we are now and I’ve been gradually introducing the training pants (we don’t wear them outside of the house). Sitting Cam on the potty is like trying to pin down a cloud now, but there are times when she picks up the books we keep in a bin by the potty and she spends some quality time on the pot. It’s pretty funny to see actually. To support the potty training we’ve installed little potties in each of our two bathrooms and I set up a “getting ready” area in her bedroom. This is where we change clothes and sit on the potty in the morning and after naps. As a precaution, I laid down an old bath mat to prevent accidents from occurring on the actual carpet. Her clothing drawers are near by and the hamper is behind her. I’m hoping this transitions into the toddler years for teaching her to dress herself.