Category Archives: Montesorri Learning

Ready or Not

I’ve been a mix of emotions lately, and they seem to be just mixing more, getting bigger and more unclear.  Some days I think things are all settled and I’m good.  I’m at peace.  She’s ready to move on, the teacher in me knows this.  I see her on the playground leading games, and cracking sarcastic jokes – clearly she’s moving… er has already moved into the next plane of development. She’s barely small enough for the little chairs, and hunches over every day to wash her hands.  I’m sure that little potty is really far down there too.  The little circles are all checked in Montessori Workspace, she’s keeping tabs on everyone and everything, reminding me that we need to get more paper towels, and she noticed two friends fighting on the playground  said, “I think maybe we need to have another Peace Flower lesson before we graduate.”

Graduate. That word hit me like a ton of bricks.  She’s going to be a graduate.  Just breathe that in for a moment.  It means she won’t be part of our class anymore, and that I won’t be her teacher anymore.  It means that her work, and mine (as her teacher) are done.  The mother in me is having a hard time accepting that.  I’m going to miss her smiles, and surprise hugs.  I’m going to miss hearing her belly laugh from far away on the playground.  I’m going to miss staring at her while she works, standing back in awe as she helps little ones like it’s in her genetic code.  I’m going to miss racing her to the front door in the early mornings, and listening to her talk about her day, knowing most of what happened already because I was there too.  But she is ready.  My head knows this, just not my heart yet.

I remember I couldn’t wait for her to start school – she was a spirited toddler, with an unquenchable thirst to learn and I was thrilled that a team of some of the greatest teachers I know were going to punch her in the face with some Montessori.  Not much has changed in four years – our teachers are still some of the greatest that I know, and she is still as spirited as ever.  And that unquenchable thirst for knowledge? It’s still there too.

 

In three short days, she will walk over our bridge, and I will shake her hand and whisper congratulations.  I’m sure there will be tears rolling down my eyes but hopefully they won’t show behind my sunglasses I’ll be wearing because I want her to know that while I feel sad for all the things I’m going to miss about her not being there, I’m extremely proud of her, and feel more lucky than ever to have had the honor of being her teacher.  Ready or not, here she comes.

photo credit: Mary Pantier Photography

It’s Their Home Too

You may or may not remember this post from a while back when I talked showed you our new yard, and I talked about how dirt is a good thing.  If you haven’t read that post it’s a good read, but I have something else to talk about today.

Almost two years ago our family moved into a new home.  I was so excited, all I could think about was how this new house was going to have everything I needed.  It was going to be one where everyone could have their own room, and I would have enough cabinet space for all my kitchen necessities.  I remember being excited about getting to pick out carpet and tile, and lighting, and stressing about deciding whether we should go with maple or hickory. I remember picturing my children happily playing in the yard or in the playroom while I prepared dinner.  I remembering thinking everyone will love this house!

Flash forward to reality.  Yes we love our house, and yes it has lots of wonderful features and things, but in the heat of the move and design we may have lost sight of the fact that this is their place too.  All of my children do have their own rooms, but they rarely sleep in them, in fact they tell me that they miss our old apartment because we were all so close together there.  Most nights all three kiddos are sleeping in my youngest son’s room because they like to be together.  We ended up going with hickory floors, and I’m glad we did because they are dirty more than they are clean and all the variation in the wood color hides the dirt well.  I still don’t have enough cabinet space, and I usually find myself preparing dinner during the “witching hour” when they are all tired, and hungry and needy.  But the yard… the yard!  It’s finally done!  It’s taken us two years to get our landscaping completed and thank goodness it did because since we’ve lived here we’ve been observing more, and listening more to their needs, and because of that we made some changes.

For two summers we had a back dirt lot, not a yard.  During those two summers we got to “watch” our kids (read, strongly encourage) play outside.  They found bugs, went “hiking”, learned that thorns and bare feet don’t go well together, made “soup”, and asked us almost every single day, “When are we going to get grass?”  We worked tirelessly with landscape architects, collected ideas from Pinterest, and saved every penny we could.  We felt like this was our one shot to get it right.  We wanted it to be beautiful, and welcoming, and a place to gather.  In the beginning, I was picturing this.

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The thing about that, is there is really nothing there for my little ones.  No place to run, or hide, or roll, or dig, or explore.  So we adjusted our plans.  The backyard has lots of grass, we added a hill, and a path.  We planted raspberry bushes so that they could explore and pick fresh berries.  We have an awesome patio that we eat at every night, and we will soon have a sandbox.

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The front yard is quite small and simple.  Our plans called for a tree, a patch of grass, and a planter box off the front of our front porch.

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I was excited about the idea of quietly drinking a cup of coffee on my front porch as the day awoke.  It was going to be perfect.  So construction started and there were many exciting days filled with back hoe’s, front loaders, and concrete trucks.  All was going to plan until this happened.

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I got a text from my husband.  “Planter box or sandbox?”  I knew right then that we needed to make a change.  Sandbox, most definitely.  And that is what we did.

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Now I sit on my front porch and quietly drink my coffee while my kids play in the morning sun in the sandbox.  And in the afternoon we gather with neighbors and their children and seek shade in our front porch sandbox, and after school I cook dinner while my kids play in the sandbox.  The peonies can wait, because this is their home too.

Bubble Wrapped

Can I just be real here for a moment?  Can I just be brutally honest, and lay it all on the table?  I’m kind of fired up, and ready to fight.

Back in December I received an email from the Colorado Office of Early Childhood (COEC) stating that the updated child care center rules had been reviewed and were passed and would go into effect Feb 1.  The message from the Director of the OEC goes on to say,

“I am thankful for everyone who took time to participate in this process: the Child Care Rules Re-write Committee for providing leadership and guidance; early childhood professionals for submitting recommendations; parents and stakeholders for pushing for higher standards and quality care; and Division of Early Care and Learning staff for their commitment to making sure child care providers are supported during the implementation period.”

My heart sank, I felt a little noxious, and I quickly “starred” my email to be read at a later date.  I just couldn’t bear the thought of reading about all the things we were going to have to change in order to keep doing what we are doing.

Let me go back a bit.  Every year we are inspected by the COEC.  Every year we are written up for some rule violation – usually something small like leaving the hammer out (from the pumpkin hammering work that the children most definitely do NOT do because it is waaaaaay to dangerous for them), missing some paperwork in a child’s file – small infractions.  Back in 2012 we were cited for the use of “chokeables” in our classroom, and were told that we needed to remove all objects small enough to be swallowed from the classroom.  What this entailed was about 60 % of our classroom – not an option.  So we prepared for battle; it was a long and costly battle that included lawyers, negotiations, tears, money, time and stress.  I’m happy to say we won that battle and were granted a waiver that allowed us to move forward with what we do, chokeables included.

Let’s move forward to last September.  We were inspected as expected, and cited for exceeding maximum group size (20) during line time.  We’ve been exceeding group size for almost 10 years and were just this year cited?  The consistency in regulation is amazing let me tell you.  Anyway, long story short – we appealed, our appeal was denied, we hired a lawyer and were headed down the path to once again battle it out in court with the OEC about this rule being applied to stringently.  We were going to look awesome in our pant suits!  As luck would have it the new Rules and Regs came out just in time and the very rule we were cited for violating had been amended and no longer posed an problem for us.  Yay!

So where does this leave us?  Well, we can still have line time, and give group lessons, practice grace and courtesy, and celebrate birthdays has an entire class, however; there are mountains of other rules that we need to find our way through.  Some of those rules, depending on how they are interpreted, could pose a real threat to the authentic Montessori Classroom.  This is the part that infuriates me.  There are people making sweeping decisions (supposedly with public input) about what is safest, what is too dangerous, what is risky, what is quality.  There are people (who may or may not have ever been in the classroom with children) making rules about how many paint brushes need to be available to children, and how many photographs representing nature, and how many dolls representing different ethnicities need to be present in the classroom.  There are rules about annual training requirements for teachers (cpr, first aide, universal precautions, child abuse, immunization records, etc) and countless areas of overlap within these trainings.  Despite having all these trainings about how to safely care for children, in the eyes of the State we are too incompetent  to teach children to safely work with small materials like the Golden Beads so that they can tangibly learn about the difference between 1 and 1000?  And given all the research on cancer causing chemicals in plastic we are not allowed to drink from glass cups?  How is it that a 15-year-old life guard with far less annual training can safely watch your young children in the swimming pool yet early childhood teachers with 10, 20, 30 + years of experience in the trenches cannot safely teach a child how to handle a chicken or cut a carrot?

Regulation is getting tighter, and that which is acceptable is getting narrower.  Schools are closing, teachers are becoming deflated, uninspired, and tired of fighting the fight.  In an industry where the financial reward for the work that is done is minimal, this type of regulation poses a huge risk the quality of care and environments that will be available in the future.  Parents will no longer have choices in their child’s early childhood learning experience – it will all be same.  They may have a say in how far they want to drive their child, and to what building, but it will all be the same.  I fear that if things keep going the way they are going – preschool will end up being an opportunity to play with plastic toys, in a bubble wrapped room.

The good news?  I’m fired up!  We are going to fight the good fight.   We passionately believe that we’ve got a good thing going on at Blue Mountain.  We are going to find our way through all these rules, challenge them when necessary (we may call on you for support), and still do what we do best – offering young children an opportunity to experience a rich hands-on environment to learn about their world in which they live, and discover their potentials.