come with me, take a tour… part 1

I would like to invite you on a tour to show you parts of my home. It is my interpretation of the Montessori method applied to the home environment. It is my attempt to raise my children in an environment that will allow them be more independent. It is not the most ideal home or the most ideal set up, but it is what we have found suits our family and our needs at the moment. And for anyone looking to give their child or children more independence in the home, it is really about what suits your whole family. If you have toddling twins, but also older children, it is likely you will not want certain activities within the little ones reach for your sanity. More activities may be in cabinets, out of sight but hopefully not out of mind for the older children. Or if you have only one young child, you may have less on your shelves, as not to overwhelm them with choices. Additionally, as a child masters some skill, say the ability to fill water from the bathroom sink and can be trusted to do so, then a water pitcher on the shelf is no longer necessary. As Elliott grew and as he welcomed his baby brother Oliver, the houses we have lived in have shifted for their needs. And it was not just putting on potty locks or moving the cactus. New activities have come out to match their needs and interests, furniture has moved to make it easier for an adult to safely supervise without interfering, whole cabinets rearranged to make space for children’s items.

But I believe that the biggest factor to making your home more attuned to your child’s need for independence is one’s attitude towards the child’s independence. And of course, this is the biggest challenge. We all say and truly believe we want our child to be independent and capable, working to the best of their abilities. But it takes time and patience, something many of us, including me, lack enough of. When I am wrestling the boys into socks, shoes, coats and hats on these cooler fall days, I keep telling myself to give Elliott time to practice his socks, the one tricky thing for him these days. Oliver forces me to allow him to participate. He now juts his foot out when on his stool getting on socks and shoes. He wants to do what he is capable of and he is helping as much as he can.

Our children need time to be shown how to do something and time to practice that skill – without criticism, without constant ‘helpful’ comments, without actual help unless asked by the child. Once mastered, they need the opportunity to use those skills to participate in the home. Though I know this, it is a constant struggle to me every single day. I can set out new activities, I can show Elliott patiently how something works, but in the stress of being with two children under the age of five, I can lose my cool very quickly with yet another water spill or when we need to try the zipper for the 10th time. So please recognize that setting up the home environment is just one step in the process to allowing your child to grow and learn according to their needs and abilities.

Because I will just have to add my commentary to my home, I will spread the tour out over a few days. To begin, step into our backyard.

 

From the back door, I can see the boys playing in their house, in their garden/mud/construction pit, in the sandbox, or by the swings. There is hard concrete for chalk and lately, Elliott’s massive sweeping project in effort to control the leaves. In the garage, we have two large set of shelves with outdoor balls, trucks, sand toys, bug collecting containers, bubble solution, chalk, and children’s garden equipment. Elliott also has a workshop table with tools and wood for a variety of woodworking activities. As an example of adapting, we did move this to be in an adult’s eye sight after a few wild episodes with the hammer and plastic containers! Our backyard is contained on three sides by fence. Since working with Elliott from a very young age, he has learned he cannot leave the back without an adult. Oliver is now starting to explore the backyard more independently so I know soon we will be using short phrases and reminders to keep him back when we absolutely cannot go up front. In our front yard is our garden and most of our flower beds, so it is a big draw. Plus, Oliver loves to walk down the driveway, right into the road. He has places to go.

 

In order to go outside, we have set up coat hooks and a shoe rack right by the back door. With all the rain coats and winter coats and light jackets, the coat hooks were so full I could not bring myself to take a picture of the mess, so I will just tell you that we have adult height hooks and child height hooks. This allows Elliott to hang and remove his own coat and little bags whenever he needs them. Below the coats we have a few pairs of shoes per person. Additionally, each person has a bin to hold their own hats, mittens, glasses, slippers, or other odds and ends. To have everything right there has made getting out the door easier. I can observe and help Elliott gather his gear and dress himself while dressing Oliver and myself. Over the past two years, Elliott has had time to practice and master putting on his shoes, velcroing his shoes, putting on his coat, zipping his coat, putting on a hat, putting on snow pants, putting on mittens, and putting on gloves. All that remains is socks. Those darn socks! Because as adults these skills seem so basic and now innate, it can be hard to trudge through each learning period. But when you see it all click for your child and they suddenly just know, it is amazing and can be such a sweet joy for them and you. And you can hope that what they remember is that self-satisfaction. There will be no external criticism or impatience along the way for them to remember, right?

I will be back soon to continue the tour with more pictures. Our house is not large, but this post is!

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2 Comments

  1. Ghenya said,

    October 22, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Thank you for sharing Diana. I look forward to seeing more of the house! We have the bins marked with each persons mittens etc. but I hadn’t thought of the coats being lower down so Ollie could reach- excellent! We have also moved all the “kid dishes” into a lower drawer so Ollie can set the table or get a glass of water on his own. When you have a chance email me your address. I want to send you a package.

    Hugs from Boston,
    Ghenya

  2. Michelle said,

    October 22, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Diana,

    We struggle too. As Shane is older than the boys, it’s onto new challenges like making his own breakfast and sandwiches for us. Sure the syrup bottle gets extra sticky, but it’s worth it right? :o)

    Great post!
    Michelle


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