Curriculum

Curriculum

A New Bed

If you have read my About Me page you will know that what sold us on the Montessori Method was the idea of the floor bed. When Cam was 4 months old she began having issues with acid reflux that led to a lot of crying at night. Once we got her back to sleep the only way to keep her asleep was to lie next to her. This was difficult with a crib (obviously) and our bed is not big enough for three of us. Not to mention she is a noisy sleeper and my husband is a light sleeper- a terrible combination. So in an act of desperation and inspired by Montessori, we drove out to IKEA and bought a twin mattress. We have not looked back. Best. Decision. Ever.

Co-sleeping on a floor bed, which admittedly sounded really weird to me at first and certainly it isn’t for everyone, really revolutionized how I looked at parenting. The good night’s sleep we all got that night didn’t hurt either. I suddenly looked at Cam and realized that she was a person with her own preferences. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t know that or think that before per se, but it became a very explicit thought in my mind. I didn’t like sleeping alone, especially when I didn’t feel well, so why would she? Plus she was so small and new, why was I relegating her to a big cold room (besides the fact that she is quite a restless sleeper)? Co-sleeping worked for us. I could start the night out in my own bed and when she needed me, I could move into hers. I began to reassess how I looked at every aspect of parenting and began to find my own way.

Unfortunately we just discovered a downside to the quickly assembled floor bed: mildew. Since it is winter we have been running a humidifier in Cam’s room every night. The mattress was up against the outside wall and our house is on a raised foundation. Lots of moisture in warm air + cold air underneath and around + a mattress = mildew on the carpet and underside of the mattress. Whoops. I discovered it the other day and cleaned it up. Mildew isn’t a great substance to be exposed to, but it is by no means dangerous. But we did need to figure out a way to get some air circulating under the bed.

Another trip out to IKEA yielded a mattress foundation on short legs and Cam’s new bed was born. She is thrilled. The first night I was worried about her rolling out of the bed until I read about the proprioceptive sense. This is, in essence, the sense that tells you where your body is in space and allows you to assess the dimensions of your environment. (See here for an excellent description.) This is why adults do not (usually) roll out of their beds. While the sense is still developing in children it is possible that they will roll out of bed, but this is yet another reason the floor bed works so well. Cam has been sleeping on this mattress for over a year now. She is very aware of the size of it and the shape of it. I put down a few pillows just in case, but there really wasn’t a reason to worry. We all slept very well that night.

 

A Little Weekend Reading: Emergency Planning

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In addition to my New Year’s Resolutions, I have some projects I want to tackle around the house. They’re pretty mundane and boring, like replacing our can lights in the living room with LED can lights, but they need to be done. However, I thought I would share one of them here because I think it’s important for all families to at least consider.

Emergency BoxAwhile back I read an article in Parents magazine that was all about creating a disaster preparedness kit. I thought it sounded a little daunting, but also kind of practical. The idea wasn’t new to me. We have several birds and I am always meaning to purchase travel cages just in case we ever had to evacuate. We also keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

Now I am not the paranoid type. My kid occasionally touches chicken poop in our yard, eats food that has fallen on the floor, and goes out without a coat (it’s okay we live in California :)). Sometimes she bangs her head or scrapes her knee. But I did take a CPR class through the Red Cross and it really hit home for me the importance of being prepared for something major (an earthquake, a broken bone, a car accident, etc.). Add some of the scary things that have happened over the past year (school shootings, hurricanes, etc.) and I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be prepared. I don’t expect anything to happen, but with minimal effort we can be prepared just in case.

I highly reccommend you read the article (I’ll post the link below) and consider doing a bit of emergency preparedness this year. It walks you through preparing your kids, preparing a box of supplies, and writing a letter in case you are not present when something happens to your child (say a flood or earthquake while they are in school). It shouldn’t take much time or money, but better safe than sorry.

Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Photo credit: “Unnamed.” Parents. 2011. Web. 14 Jan 2013. <http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/emergency-preparedness/>

Reflection

Homeschool Manifesto BannerA recent conversation about homeschooling with one of our friends has led me to do some reflecting. The conversation made me realize not only that I was still on the fence about committing to homeschooling but that, if I was going to, I needed to clearly articulate why.

After a lot of thought and discussion, my husband and I decided our tentative plan would be to homeschool after one year in the preschool at the school where my husband is employed. (I would just like to thank my husband here for being understanding and willing to follow my lead.) I love their program and the teachers and I think being in a classroom with other children will be good for Cam. Even with that plan in place, though, I felt that I needed to go further and really commit my ideas about homeschooling and education to paper. The following is a list of ideas I want included in my manifesto (of sorts):

  • The big question: Why homeschooling?
  • In light of my research on the Reggio Emilia approach, I want to articulate how I define Cam as a child which should include qualities and values.
  • I need to state our values as a family and as a community (or at least, as part of a community). Values I want Cam to internalize.
  • What kind of learning outcomes do I want her to have?
  • What is my educational philosophy? Meaning not how I teach, but what I believe about education.

I’m going to be working on this document this week. Obviously it isn’t something I would distribute to some one who asked about why we will homeschool (although that would be pretty amusing), I will share it here. Mostly I need to internalize these thoughts and ideas so I can refer to them when we get questions.

A Little Weekend Reading: Diaper Free Before Three

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I know this method can be controversial and I want to begin this post by saying: you must know your own child. What works for one, may not work for another. You need to watch for signs of readiness for toilet training and many other things. Only you and your child can decide if and when they are ready for something.

That being said Cam has been ready for potty training for awhile. I read the book Diaper-Free Before Three back in March or April because I was struck by a sentence in Montessori From the Start (see here for more on how we are toilet training). She mentioned something about toilet training at a very young age, which is not the current position most parents take.

If early potty training is something that sounds appealing and you want to learn more, as well as how, I would certainly recommend Diaper-Free. It’s not very long; it’s very readable; and she gives a bit of everything for everyone, from history to theory to practical how-to. I tended to agree with the case she made saying that, culturally, the late potty training that is popular now is a very recent shift and there is not much research to back up benefits of potty training late or back up claims that early potty training is harmful.

The method is rather labor intensive with a very young child, but I think it can really pay off by making your child feel capable and empowered early on.

Rich Experiences Quote

Toilet Training

One of the first books I read about the Montessori Method was Montessori From the Start. I was looking for a manual that would give me a sense of the philosophy behind the method, some history, and a glimpse at how to go about implementing the principles. For the most part the book did that. But it also piqued my curiosity about toilet training, oddly enough. There was just a passing comment made about potty training around 18 months, but it stuck with me. Eighteen months sounded really early, but also rather appealing. Who wouldn’t want to be done with diapers that early?

I started to do some research, both in books and by asking around. What I learned was that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends toilet training closer to three years old and outlines some pretty ambiguous readiness signs, but this is a recent change in culture and practice. There is a movement of people, including many Montessori proponents, who advocate “early” potty training (18ish months). I ended up reading the book Diaper Free Before Three, which I found interesting and meshed well with my parenting philosophy/approach.

We began the process of potty training around 9 months which involved nothing more than sitting Cam on the potty from time to time and getting her to associate it with going to the bathroom. We’ve also been using training pants on and off since a year old, especially as we battle some nasty bouts of diaper rash.

I was excited to come across this post on How We Montessori last week that gives excellent advice about how to go about potty training. The post also gave me courage to ditch all of our diapers (except the nighttime ones) and go completely for training pants. I think this is going to be a process, but I can already see Cam beginning to take to it. She never ceases to amaze me and I really need to give her more credit for being capable.

My Mantra for 2013

Never do for the child

Cliche Alert

Happy New Year, everyone. In light of the season I decided to commit to paper (so to speak) a few things for our family to focus on in 2013 . I, personally, really hate the idea of resolutions. I think it makes you sound as if you have been bad and are now resignedly changing your ways. I also don’t like to call them goals because I’m not really looking for an end product, just a process of becoming more engaged with life. So, without further ado…

1. Cut down on waste.

We aren’t an especially wasteful family, but I think we could focus on being sure food isn’t spoiling in the fridge and that we’re thinking about purchases before making them. I also think we can be sure we’re not wasting water and are being as energy efficient as possible. I especially like the idea of conscientious spending as it ties into our next goal.

2. Give more. Create a culture of giving.

I recently came across Giving What We Can through an NPR piece about the founder. I like their philosphy that you can give 10% of your income to some very effective charities and that will help alleviate a lot of suffering. They have a very scientific method for assessing the effectiveness of charities and give very detailed information on why they haven’t evaluated or recommended various types of charities. I really want Cam to grow up knowing how lucky she is to live in a first-world country in a middle-class family. I also want her to grow up helping those that are less fortunate, not in a condescending way, but in a genuine, caring way. If this is going to happen, Tom and I need to lead by example.

3. Get that garden going!

Cam was so little last year in the spring- she couldn’t even sit up on her own much. This year she can help! I also want Cam to know and love nature and the rhythms of the year. I think there is no better way than to get your hands dirty in the garden. She can see farm to fork, where her food comes from and how labor intensive it is to produce. She can also see how rewarding it is and how exciting each season is when you garden.

So, those are the things I want to focus on this year. I’m sure there are other projects and the like, but these are really the major points. I will try to check back in with them in a month or two to reflect on how these things are going and to offer any suggestions and advice for sticking to these ideas.

For Your Bookshelf: Natural History

For Your Bookshelf Banner

On a recent trip to Costco I came across the book pictured below, which I had seen in the library before. It is absolutely beautiful and features thousands of photographs of every type of living thing. Except, oddly enough, for whales and dolphins which are lovely drawings. Go figure.

Natural History

Cam is in love with this book. She flips through it despite its enormous size. She is particluarly fond of the owl pages (big surprise there), the colorful birds, the penguins (another shocker) and some of the small brown furry mammals. In my best attempt at following her interests, we bought her a smaller sized book (also published by DK) that is essentially an abbreviated version of this one. It is more portable and I think she’ll have a much easier time flipping through it. Plus if the pages get torn or worn or rumpled I don’t really care.

I know the book is pricey, although I found it for $20 less than its cover price at Costco and I imagine it will eventually pop up on sale tables, I think it’s worth the investment if your child is interested. I can also see it really tying in well with the Montessori Great Lessons as well as a science curriculum and an introduction to the diversity of life on Earth.