Extensions

One of the activities I felt was lacking in my child’s previous Montessori experience was the use of extensions.  No, I’m not talking about artificial hair pieces!  Extensions are activities that are introduced after the initial presentation with a material, in order to encourage the child to re-visit the material and solidify the skills and/or concepts it’s designed to provide.

Yesterday, my son came out of his new school with a huge smile, holding this painting:

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This is a perfect example of an extension.  In his classroom, there’s a tree puzzle (aff link), used to give three-year olds the names of the parts of a tree.  Once the child has mastered the puzzle (which Zach probably did at his old school), there’s not much he’ll spontaneously do with it.  And most children won’t voluntarily re-visit a material once they’ve figured it out.

Zachary’s new teacher invited Zachary to build the puzzle on top of a white sheet of paper, and trace the outline.  Then, she showed him how to use finger paints to create all the different parts of the tree.  This forced Zachary to slow down and really analyze the shapes of the tree parts and the relationship between them.

When I asked him to tell me about his painting, he pointed out the roots, trunk, branches and leaves.  Through this enjoyable activity (which probably kept him focused for a while), he learned new words and became aware of the relationship between the parts, while enjoying some fun finger painting!

From Montessori to Unschooling and Back

Preface: I struggled to write this because my goal is NOT to cast Zachary’s old school in a negative light.  I believe that this school has done an amazing job of providing a quality Montessori experience for hundreds of families.  However, each school, teacher and family has their own set of values and goals, and it’s the parents’ responsibility to find the most successful match.  I wrote this post mainly as a case study, to share an experience that we all – parents, guides, and administrators – can learn from in our journey to support each child’s unique developmental path.  

It’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning, when my son was very young.  I was planning on keeping Zachary at home until he was 3 years old and ready to enter the Children’s House, but an amazing career opportunity came up, which included guaranteed acceptance for Zach in a wonderful Toddler Community.  So, at the tender age of 19 months, he began his Montessori schooling experience.  He had a great year in the program, with a talented group of teachers who brought out the very best in him.

By the time he was 2 1/2, he was fully toilet independent (meaning I didn’t even have to take extra clothes or a potty along when we went out) and he had basically mastered all the Toddler materials.  His teacher and the Pedagogical Coordinator said that he was ready to transition to the Primary program in the Fall.

Now, being a Montessori guide myself, I know that when a child transitions this young to Primary, a certain set of challenges present themselves (my very first classroom had a whopping 12 children under the age of 3).  More often than not, the guide will have to keep the child in a holding pattern of sorts until they’re almost 3 years old, because they don’t yet have the maturity or interest to work with most of the materials in the Primary environment or participate in some of the more social activities.

You end up doing A LOT of Practical Life, dealing with never-ending spills, and spending a lot of time taking them to the bathroom.  It takes a lighthearted sense of humor (which took me a while to develop) to work with these little people who are slowly, S-L-O-W-L-Y transitioning from what Dr. Montessori called the unconscious creator to the conscious worker.

The first red flag that the transition wasn’t going well came when my fully toilet-indepenent son began having one miss after another in the classroom.  And it wasn’t just a little urine that leaked out; it was full-on wetting and soiling, as if he’d NEVER used a toilet before.  The school tried to tell me he had regressed at home over the summer, but I knew what my child was capable of (he’d been out of diapers during the day since he was 12 months old, and diaper-free at night since he turned two, at his own request).  I also knew that sudden selective incontinence was a sign of emotional distress due to a lack of perceived control.

I asked the teacher what kind of toileting support she offered transitioning toddlers, and she said that she showed them where the bathroom was and told them they could use it when they needed to.  I pointed out that toddlers are used to a regimented toileting routine at school and at home, and that they need help transitioning away from it.  I explained that she would need to set up a routine for him that entailed using the bathroom each morning upon arrival, before any work took place, and then again after snack, before going back to work.  The staff was supportive and did their best to ensure he was comfortable using the bathroom, but his misses had become a habit by then, and it took the better part of a year to get him back on track.

Then, Zachary began complaining that he didn’t have any friends to play with.  He was by far the youngest child in his class, since all his friends stayed behind in the Toddler Community because they weren’t toilet independent yet.  His 2 1/2-year old brain wasn’t developed enough to understand and participate in the sophisticated make-believe games of the older children, whom he so desperately wanted to be friends with.  It took about six months for him to reach a level of maturity that allowed him to play alongside the older three- and four-year olds.

Another challenge was the choice of materials and the teacher’s expectations.  I’m not sure why, but she tried to move him along very quickly through the Montessori curriculum.  Instead of engaging him in the extensions (such as matching activities and distance games) that encourage repetition, help solidify skills, and support age-appropriate development, she began presenting materials that were intended for older children.

On one occasion, I observed as she presented him (at 2yrs 10mo of age) with the Smelling Bottles, a material ideally suited for 4-year olds.  Zach promptly took out the cotton balls holding the different scented items (because he was curious about what was inside) and started stacking the fragile glass bottles (because two-year olds love to stack), so the teacher had to take the material away.  If you constantly give children activities that are too challenging for them, and then get upset when they misuse them, they begin to think they’re incapable of success.  And that’s exactly the attitude my once self-confident son began to exhibit.

I tried to share my insight and knowledge of my son with the teacher, but nothing changed.  When she couldn’t handle his youthful energy, she’d send him and the other little boys to garden outside with the assistant teacher.  Needless to say, my son developed quite a green thumb!

Throughout the year, we had to pep-talk him daily to go to school, telling him about the fun he’d have with his friends.  He didn’t seem thrilled about his experience, but he was developing self-discipline, enjoying his new friendships, and wasn’t getting into trouble.  I thought things would improve the following school year since he’d be more mature.

When school started again this past September, his behavior deteriorated quickly.  The assistant he had grown so attached to (during countless hours of gardening) left the school, and he hadn’t developed a close bond with the head teacher.  He didn’t have a connection with the materials and had a hard time choosing purposeful work since he never had the experience of doing extensions.  To him, the materials were just something you repeated once after the teacher gave a presentation, and then put away.  And since he was now older, more social, and his friends from the Toddler Community had finally transitioned, he was having a blast giggling and goofing around.

I began camping out in front of his classroom’s one-way windows to observe for an hour or more almost daily, tiny newborn in tow.  What I saw was a vicious cycle: He’d be bored of working with a material, so he’d start to play with other friends who were also bored.  The teacher would approach with a stern look, and they’d all fly off in different directions.  At the teacher’s urging, he’d take out another material he wasn’t interested in, do it for a short while to get her off his back, and the cycle would repeat itself.

This was of course a recipe for disaster.  The adults, who were under a lot of pressure to have a calm and perfectly-functioning model classroom, became more and more authoritarian.  And my strong-willed and acutely sensitive son, who hasn’t been raised to fear adults and isn’t manipulated by bribes, rewards, fear, lectures, or punishments, reacted strongly.

This child, who won’t even hit the piñata at a birthday party because it’s too violent, started lashing out physically at unsuspecting classmates.  He also began screaming in class, screams his teacher said “sounded like his soul was hurting”.  And it really was.

I kept ruthlessly analyzing our home life for indications that he was being affected by something we were doing there, but came up empty.  He was gentle and loving with his baby sister, expressive about his emotions and needs, as cooperative as a three-year old can be with chores and routines, and well-behaved with other moms and children during playdates.

Mornings at home were great until he found out it was a school day, and then he would refuse to get dressed (he even went to school in his pajamas a couple of times, which prompted the teacher to ask if something was wrong at home).  In the car, he’d quietly suck his fingers and tug at his blankie (when he’s normally a chatterbug).  When I picked him up at noon he’d report his day had been “bad” (but wouldn’t give any details).  And to make matters worse, one day he announced, “I’m good at making people angry.”

The school director was supportive of my concerns and seemed to understand the problem clearly.  She offered a few solutions, like adding non-Montessori materials to the classroom to engage my son.  However, I felt at that point that the child and teacher just weren’t a good match.

During his fifth week of school, I picked him up and asked how his day went.  He said in a sad, sad voice: “My teacher got angry at me because I didn’t know where to put away the geography material.”  As a guide, I could imagine that he probably didn’t know where to put away the material and began to goof off with a friend.  But the fact that his teacher had reacted to a three-year old with anger, and that he was so sensitive to her reaction, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  My mothering instinct kicked into high gear and I made the decision to pull him out of school that very day.

With no time to prepare materials, and with a four-month old baby at home, I decided that a period of unschooling was in order.  I put aside all expectations and we played Legos, read books, discovered audiobooks, built structures, did simple crafts, visited museums and libraries, cooked, went to gymnastics and yoga classes, and practiced Grace & Courtesy.  I followed Montessori principles (like respecting his concentration, encouraging repetition, and adopting a friendly attitude towards mistakes) but did almost no Montessori work.

I learned a lot about him: how he’d shut down the moment he realized I had an agenda to teach him something; how he loved being the teacher; how he was very insecure about letters and numbers; how he could come up with creative solutions to tough problems; how he enjoyed making his own science experiments; how his greatest joy in life is making people happy.

Some days were beautiful and I cried tears of joy as I watched him explore and discover.  Some days were brutal and involved an episode or two of Mister Rogers to get us through the afternoon.  The idealistic part of me wanted to unschool him for the rest of his childhood, but the realistic part of me knew that I wouldn’t be able to provide the materials and social experience of a quality Montessori program.  And as a Montessorian, I really want this for my child.

I think we would’ve found our unschooling groove if it were our only option.  But fortunately for us, LePort Montessori schools just opened a campus about 15 minutes from our house and three of my talented AMI-trained friends work there.  I approached the school and was able to secure a spot for Zachary in the classroom of a friend and talented guide.

He started on Tuesday, and before he left the house I asked him to please listen to his teacher, since she would show him lots of interesting materials.  That afternoon, he defiantly told me: “I didn’t do anything the teacher told me to do.”  I let the comment go and asked what kind of work he did.  He said, “I did punching, but I did it wrong.  Everything I did, I did it wrong.”  It was as if he was carrying with him a label, an expectation he had to meet at all costs.

I spoke to his teacher, who assured me he had had a good day.  The next morning he left the house without a fight, and when I picked him up he said: “Whew!  I’m tired, I did a lot of work!”  His smile and look of satisfaction warmed my heart.

Our journey has come full circle, and I’ve learned an infinite amount, both as a parent and as a guide.  I hope that by reading our story, you’ve learned something, too.

 

 

Nadia’s home birth: A rainbow baby orgasmic birth story

In June 2014, at the age of 38, my plate was overflowing with working full-time as an elementary Montessori teacher and being the mom of a 2.5-year old boy, Zachary. My husband, Tom, and I knew we wanted another child, but I also knew it would be hard to sustain the type of pregnancy I wanted with my current lifestyle.

At the end of the school year, I handed in my resignation and we started trying for baby #2. We got pregnant on our first try, and we were very excited! A week into the pregnancy, I had a dream that the baby’s name would be “Maya”, and shared my dream with Tom. He agreed that it would be the perfect name for a baby girl. “Maya” means “illusion” in Hindi.

The next day, I miscarried.

Two months later, we were pregnant again. My husband began a sabbatical in Los Angeles the week I found out I was pregnant, so I was alone caring for my son during the week for almost four months… And I was a mess. I had nausea all day long, but the worst part was the insomnia that plagued me for months due to the anxiety of losing another pregnancy.

After the first trimester, I felt a lot better both physically and emotionally. I partnered with the same pair of amazing home birth midwives who had helped me deliver my son, and our appointments were the highlight of each month. I stayed healthy by eating well, walking two miles a day, and playing with my three-year old son at the park.  My dear friend Amber was also pregnant with her second baby, and sharing our pregnancy woes made the nine-month journey a lot easier!

On May 28th, I was four days “overdue” and majorly uncomfortable. That afternoon, my son and I were at our neighborhood park when a fire broke out across the street in a canyon. The firefighters arrived to put out the fire, and I carried my 45-lb. son on my hip for 20 minutes while we watched them work. Afterwards, I took him home, fed him dinner, and carried him upstairs because he was over-tired and had a meltdown at the foot of the stairs. As I put him on his floor bed and got up, I felt a trickle of liquid run into my underwear. It didn’t feel like urine, and I had the sneaking suspicion that my water had broken. Maybe I shouldn’t have done so much carrying…

When my husband got home, I was sitting on my yoga ball and told him what I thought had happened. He started getting nervous and asked what he should do, so I told him to go get me a turkey burger because I didn’t feel like cooking. As soon as he left, I bounced ever so slightly on the yoga ball to stand up and WOOSH, a gallon of water gushed out between my legs! I grabbed a towel and waddled to the bathroom to get a sanitary pad. Then I texted my midwife and she texted back that contractions would likely start within 24 hours on their own, that I should get some rest, and that we should talk that evening and the next morning.

After eating and watching a TV show with my husband, I went to bed without feeling any contractions. I lay in bed trying to sleep but I was too excited! At midnight, the first contraction hit, and from the beginning they were no farther than five minutes apart. This was a very different labor than my son’s!

I labored in bed alone, on my side, in the dark, for three hours, listening over and over to the amazing first-stage meditation soundtrack by Dr. Gowri Motha. The contractions weren’t painful, but they were intense from the very beginning and required all my concentration. I visualized my “happy place”, a virgin beach in Southern Mexico where my husband and I had vacationed when we were first dating. My breath became the sound of the waves lapping the shore, and I was able to stay in this warm, inviting place between contractions.  I felt peaceful and happy the whole time.

My husband was downstairs watching movies, and he came upstairs around 3am. I told him I was in full-blown labor and was getting uncomfortable laboring on my side. With his help I moved to the edge of our low bed and got on my knees, leaning on a mountain of pillows. As soon as I did that, my contractions started coming closer together but they were more manageable because I could move my hips. I continued breathing through them and trying to stay relaxed, but it was getting more difficult.

By 4:45am, the contractions were about two minutes apart and very intense. I hadn’t wanted to call my midwives because I felt bad waking them up, but I felt that I was close to being fully dilated and started to feel like I needed their support. I called them, and then Tom called my dear friend Jeanne-Marie, who was going to be my labor partner while Tom stayed with our son.

And speaking of our son… He was fast asleep in the bedroom adjacent to our room! My labor was so peaceful that he hadn’t woken up!

After Tom hung up with Jeanne-Marie, he asked if I wanted my yoga ball. It turned out to be the BEST idea ever! As soon as I sat on the ball, I felt an enormous sense of relief as my pelvis widened to better accommodate the baby and my body relaxed. I put on the “Divine Birth” soundtrack by Snatam Kaur, which I downloaded after my mom sent me the YouTube video on a whim. (She had seen it on Facebook and thought it looked interesting. Little did she know it would transform my labor!)

The first track came on, and I began to sway my hips back and forth to the rhythm of the music, while my hands rested on my legs, palms facing the sky. I closed my eyes, began breathing gently, and started repeating my mantra, “Surrender to the sensation”. A contraction started, and as it peaked, instead of fighting it I allowed myself to feel it with my whole body while I swayed to the perfect laboring rhythm of the music. What happened next was amazing: a veritable cascade of pleasure poured through my body, as powerful and delicious as any orgasm.

I asked my husband to take my hand, and after the next wave of pleasure I began crying tears of joy, completely overwhelmed with gratitude and love for my body, for my baby, for my husband, and for my life. After a while, my midwives and Jeanne-Marie arrived and my husband left my side to let them in. As they quietly set up their equipment in the dimly lit room, I would take off my headphones to chat with them between contractions and then put them back on to surf yet another wave of pleasure. It was phenomenal!! I had heard of orgasmic birth before, I even saw the documentary, but I never thought it would happen to me! We’re made to think that labor is something to endure, but it can be something to enjoy!

About an hour into my joyride, I decided I had to go pee. In between contractions, I was helped to the bathroom, and when I sat down on the toilet I felt a tremendous amount of pressure. I waddled back to the room and sat down on the ball, but I was very uncomfortable! I knew then that the fun was over, so I threw myself on my knees and bent over the bed again.

The contractions kept coming, but this time at the end of each one my body began to push without my help. I could do nothing but grunt, make horse lips (blowing air through my lips like a horse does), keep my body loose, and let it happen. The contractions became less frequent, but each one was immensely intense since my water had broken 12 hours earlier and the baby’s head was sitting right on my cervix. They soon became full-blown pushing contractions, which were uncomfortable because I didn’t feel in control.

I continued grunting and started whining, swearing, and begging for a break, not because the contractions were painful, but because they were INTENSE and had taken over my body! My husband had been holding my hands but he had to leave me because at that point my son woke up. Jeanne-Marie immediately jumped in to hold my hands and became my rock. I was naked and covered in sweat, so she held a cool towel to the nape of my neck.

After about six pushing contractions, I whined, “I can’t do this for three hours”, thinking this second stage would be like my son’s birth. But then with the next contraction I felt the baby’s head pushing my pelvis open – I was splitting in two and my back was killing me! One of the midwives started applying pressure on my tailbone, which helped tremendously. After a couple more contractions, the baby started to crown. I continued breathing the baby down, felt myself opening, and suddenly the entire head was out! I reached down and felt it: soft, moist, and surprisingly warm!

That’s when I realized I WAS ALMOST DONE (and said so, hahaha)!! I waited quietly for the next contraction, and as a great heave shook me, the baby slipped out and into the hands of the midwives. I WAS DONE!!! They waited for me to turn over, asked if I was ready to hold her, and placed her in my arms. She took a few seconds to start breathing but I just waited, stroking her softly, knowing everything would be fine after such a peaceful birth.

Once she took her first few breaths and started to cry, I looked up with a HUGE smile and yelled, “THAT WAS AWESOME!!!” I checked the baby’s gender and found out she was a girl – our rainbow baby, Nadia Phoenix, was earthside!

I was helped into bed and we waited for the cord to finish pulsing. My son and husband had watched the baby crowning from the doorway, and they joined me in bed to meet our little one. My husband cut the cord and then with a push I expelled the placenta. We all looked at it and marveled at its purpose. Later, the midwives took it downstairs and with my son’s help made placenta prints. They were extremely proud when my son announced the prints “looked like a tree”.

We bonded in bed for a while and nursed for the first time, and then my midwife checked me and did the newborn exam. I had birthed a healthy 9lb. 8oz., 21¼ in. baby girl after only six hours of labor and a measly 30 minutes of letting my body push the baby out. My perineum was intact; letting my body do its job had helped me not to tear!!

My recovery was amazing; I had to force myself to stay in bed for five days because I felt like getting up and getting on with my life right away!

Baby Nadia is as peaceful and sweet as was her birth, and with her, our family is complete. Her name means “hope and rebirth”, which is exactly what she brought to my life.  I am forever grateful to my husband, who supported my wish to birth at home not once but twice; my friends Amber and Jeanne-Marie, who were my rocks through pregnancy and labor; and my incredible midwives, who inspired and empowered me every step of the way.

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Getting Back on the Montessori Wagon

With the birth or our daughter, I found myself slacking off in the “Montessori parenting” department.  Gone are the days when Zach and I could spend 30 minutes cooking together, and my patience and resolve are minimal these days due to sleep deprivation and meeting the needs of a tiny human 24/7.

When I started noticing that my 3-year old was acting a little like an entitled brat, I knew that the changes to his lifestyle were to blame; I realized I had to modify his environment, routine, and expectations to nip this issue in the bud.

After cutting myself some slack for the first six weeks of Nadia’s life (the hugely important symbiotic period), I decided to take some baby steps to provide Zach with the activities and stability he needs.  Here’s what I’ve done and how I’ve done it:

Practical Life:

Our meals are a lot simpler now that I have to juggle a baby, but I am trying to include Zachary in the meal prep at least twice a week.  It can be as simple as scooping frozen peas into a pot of water, but at least he feels like he’s contributed to the evening meal.  I’m also encouraging him to dress himself, because we had gotten into the habit during the school year of helping him with his clothes to speed up the process and be on time for school (yes, even Montessori teachers take shortcuts!)  He has been helping my husband with simple repairs around the house and has been helping me with things like bringing the box of wipes during the baby’s diaper change.

Responsibilities (aka, chores):

To help Zach feel less entitled and more of a contributing member of the family, while avoiding becoming a nag about chores, I wanted to set up a Responsibilities Chart.  I don’t have time to make my own, and online at first all I found were sticker charts that reward children for behaviors that shouldn’t need to be rewarded.  Then I found this AWESOME chart called “Do-N-Slide”.  FullSizeRender

It comes with a label for each day of the week, along with about two dozen pictures of child-friendly chores most three-year olds can do on their own.  I picked out the ones that were relevant to our home, Zach and I talked about them together, and then I invited him to choose five chores for one day.  He slipped them in his chart and as he completed them, he moved them from the “To Do” side to the “All Done” side.  Some chores he was already familiar with (like clearing the table) while others required a brief presentation and some patience (like putting the clean laundry in his closet).

I have to make sure the environment is set up for him to be successful (i.e. make sure the watering can is on the porch, leave his laundry in a basket in his room, and clear a space on the kitchen counter so he can successfully place his dish and cup there) but a little effort on my part goes a long way!

Toys and books:

Zach’s toys and books were getting out of hand.  We got him a few extra toys to keep him entertained while I cared for his sister, but they somehow all ended up on his limited shelf space, which made for some massive chaos!  He was being careless and messy, and it was stressing me out.  Seriously, who needs Duplos AND Legos?!  His books were in two massive piles in the bathroom and in his bedroom, and he would only request the same few books over and over.  FullSizeRender_1

After a particularly stressful incident involving clean-up (or lack thereof), I hit rock bottom and put about half his toys in a storage box.  I made careful choices about what to leave out: Legos, train set, wooden blocks, a numbers activity, a shapes activity, a science activity, a geography puzzle, a few crayons and blank paper, two airplanes and a bus, and the sandpaper letters.  I also carefully selected a few quality books and placed them facing outwards in his new bookshelf.

The change was positive: He began playing with the blocks and then the geometry material, both of which he hadn’t touched in weeks, and he also repeated the science experiment three times.  Eventually, he asked for one of the toys in the storage box, so I invited him to pick one toy to put away for each toy he wanted to take out.  This has worked beautifully and I’m a lot less stressed because there’s a lot less mess!

Montessori activities:

I chose to keep Zach home over the summer instead of sending him to Montessori summer camp so we wouldn’t have to rush in the morning and so he could bond with his sister.  While this was the right decision for us, it also meant that the burden of keeping him going on his burgeoning reading, writing and math skills would lay on me. He had *just* started reading three-letter words when school let out for the summer, but I know he still doesn’t know all the letters of the alphabet.

He was not the least bit interested in doing three-period lessons and kept rejecting any activity that reminded him of school, so a few days ago I introduced the “sound of the day”.  Based on whatever conversation we’re having as a family in the morning, I’ll pick a sound from the Sandpaper Letter box and feature it in a see-through napkin holder (for example, we had read a book about a “giggling gull” so the sound of the day became the “g”).  The entire family takes turns tracing the letter and we all think of words that start with that letter.  Then, throughout the day, I’ll casually bring Zach’s attention back to the letter ifFullSizeRender_2 he uses a word that starts with that same sound.  It’s worked BRILLIANTLY and is a low-stress way of introducing the sounds!

I also put together a simple “Float or Sink” activity with objects I had around the house, and have started introducing the concept of numbers through making and labeling Duplo stacks (in lieu of the Number Rods).  I’m working on other easy-to-make activities like matching hardware store paint chips at a distance and then later finding objects around the house that are the same color as the paint chips; assorted punching activities; and a couple of sewing activities.  I’ll try to post them as we try them out.

Getting back on the Montessori wagon after lowering our standards hasn’t been a walk in the park, but when I feel like throwing in the towel after butting heads with a three-year old I think of the long-term repercussions, and it gives me the strength to take a deep breath, walk away to regroup, and try again later.

Happy Pi Day!

In honor of Pi Day, Zachary and I made a quiche following this tried-and-true recipe.  While not the speediest quiche to make, it was perfect for keeping us entertained on an otherwise lazy afternoon.   Here are some pictures of Zach working, to give you an idea of what a toddler can help with.  Please pardon the shades; he’s 100% three years old and 100% determined to assert his will.  And that includes cooking with sunglasses.

Transferring chopped chard from a bowl to the pan with tongs.

Transferring chopped chard from a bowl to the pan with tongs.

Rolling out the pie dough.

Rolling out the pie dough.

Buttering the "Pi" dish.

Buttering the “Pi” dish.

Grating cheese.

Grating cheese.

He would’ve gladly beaten the eggs and helped to assemble everything, but he had an unfortunate incident that involved forgetting to use the bathroom.  Which then led to him needing a shower.  Which made him tired and grumpy.  And eventually he took a nap and I finished making the quiche by myself.  Such is the reality of Montessori in the home.  Bon appetit!!!

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Bursting the Montessori Bubble

“At what point do you burst the Montessori bubble?” a friend recently asked.  She has two young children in Montessori, but is considering enrolling them in a traditional private school after they finish Primary.

My first thought (as a Montessori child, parent, and teacher) was, Why would you want to burst it?

Why leave Montessori if you don’t have to?Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 8.20.05 PM

But my friend is not alone in her concern: many parents feel that Montessori shelters children from tests, grades, and competition.  Based on their own background, they believe that only a conventional approach to education can provide the tough experiences that will prepare children to be successful when faced with the hardships of real life.

Finding myself at a loss for a coherent answer, I posed the question to Dr. Steve Hughes during his recent visit to our city.  He looked at me from behind his glasses for a moment, and then asked:

“Which is the real bubble?”

His question was all the answer I needed.

Because the truth is, success in life is not built on a foundation of standardized tests, but on the freedom to make difficult choices and experience their consequences.

Success in life is not built on grades and percentages, but on self-awareness and self-improvement.

Success in life is not built on artificial competition among same-aged peers, but on genuine collaboration between generations.

Success in life is not built on cheating the system, but on having the wisdom and courage to transform it.

In Dr. Maria Montessori’s words…

“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?… The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future.  If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.” 

Absolutely the World’s Best One-Bowl Toddler-Friendly Banana Bread Muffin Recipe Ever Invented… Ever!

You might be able to tell by this post’s title how excited I am about this recipe.  It was given to me six years ago by a Toddler classroom assistant on a small piece of scrap paper.  Now, it’s time to share it and record it on the interwebs for all posterity.

World’s Best One-Bowl Banana Bread Muffins (can be made dairy-free!!!)

(makes 18 muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of melted butter (or melted coconut oil)
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar (or 1+ cups if you have a sweet tooth, but honestly 2/3 cup is plenty for kids)
  • 4 room temperature eggs (you can put them in lukewarm water for a few minutes to warm up)
  • 5 very ripe bananas (the riper, the better!)
  • 3 tbsp milk (or milk substitute)
  • 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (the “pastry” part is really important!!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup of crumbled nuts (or slivered almonds) – optional
  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips – optional (but oh so yummy!!!)

Remember, you ONLY need one mixing bowl!!!

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F and line muffin tins with muffin wrappers.IMG_2397
  2. Measure out the butter (or oil) into the mixing bowl and pop it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds to melt.
  3. Add the eggs and whisk until combined.
  4. Add the sugar.
  5. Add the bananas and mash very thoroughly.
  6. Add the milk and mix all the wet ingredients together.
  7. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Fold into the wet ingredients.
  8. Add the optional nuts and chocolate chips and fold in.
  9. Spoon into muffin wrappers about 2/3 full.
  10. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  Allow to cool in the muffin tins for 10 minutes before removing.
  11. Enjoy the gooey deliciousness!!!

Note: You an also make a loaf with the same mixture, just bake for 1hr 15min.