Welcome to 'A Montessori Home'.
With so many of our friends and family living in far-off lands, I hope that this blog might help our loved-ones get to know our gorgeous Finlay as he grows up. I also hope that these posts may provide inspiration, provoke thought and conversation about creating beautiful Montessori environments for infants and toddlers at home. I'm always happy to hear your comments, thoughts and suggestions. Feel free to pop in now and then to see what we're up to!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let there be light

Didn't I promise a tour of our new house when we first moved in....? Well, that was back in November - three months ago! I've been putting it off, waiting to 'finish' arranging the furniture and Montessori materials into their 'perfect' places, but that's never really going to happen, is it? The entire house will always be a work in progress and I will have to continue adjusting the layout and content as the children's needs change. It never ends!

So here it is, our (not so new) light-filled house we were dreaming of way back when...

This is our lounge area. The daybed serves as our sofa (guests just have to get comfy and put their feet up!) and I find that the children love climbing up here to read books or throw themselves on the cushions. Finlay has a passion for opening and closing the windows and a few days ago he nearly climbed out (I literally had to catch him and pull him back in... heart-attack material!), so it's time for some safety latches that only allow them to open a safe distance.

We have materials on low shelves which I have been rotating from a full set in storage. Our speakers sit on top of the shelf and I usually play music through my iPod, though i would love to have a full stereo in here so the children would see actual CDs and LPs (remember those?!) going into the machine to be played. Whenever the music goes on, Finlay usually heads straight for the tray of instruments (on the bottom shelf, next to the chair) to play along :)

The mirror which used to be attached to the wall by Fin's bed is now in the lounge. I figured that he spends much less time in his bed now, and it is being used by all the children out in this space. The step-up is actually a toilet step, and is a new addition to this room since Finlay became obsessed with it last week. I would find him in the bathroom stepping up and down on it, and decided to move it out here where I could keep an eye on him without having to spend my entire day in the bathroom. Unwittingly, I placed it next to the mirror which has proved to be the best fun ever, since he gets to see his face appearing and disappearing each time he steps up or down. He has even started saying "Uppah" whenever he steps up!

Next to the mirror is the book shelf, where we keep just three or four books at a time. This makes it really easy for the children to return the books carefully to their place when they're finished. I have a big collection of books on a higher shelf close-by and we rotate them regularly.

The picture hanging above the books has proven to be troublesome because Finlay delights in pulling it off the wall at every opportunity. I'm sure that he will grow out of this phase eventually, but in the meantime I am finding it exhausting to constantly model 'looking' without touching, and rescuing the frame from the floor. Perhaps I should replace it with a laminated picture in the meantime? I would be very happy to hear advice on safely attaching pictures to the wall without making lots of holes (we're renting).

Opposite the mirror is our fireplace, ball tracker, balls and soft toys. These will all have to be relocated come winter time and replaced with a fire-guard. A few days ago I took away the soft toys because they were never being used. Perhaps they will be of more use when Finlay gets a bit older? The ball tracker, on the other hand, is a constant hit with all the children and I still find Fin repeating the activity over and over. He calls it "I did it". He'll point at it from across the room and say, "I did it", crawl over, put the ball in the hole and again cry out "I did it!". I find that amazing - I don't remember ever saying "You did it" or even "I did it" with this material, but somehow he has made the connection between those words and what he is doing. Incredible.

Looking from the lounge across to the kitchen, you can see why we chose this house. The space allows such great visibility from the kitchen, through the dining area and into the lounge. This allows me to cook, clean and supervise all at once. From the kitchen, a door leads out to the enclosed deck and a wonderful view of the garden. I'm still working on our outdoor environment, but for now the children are enjoying watering the plants and drawing on our black-board table.

Moving on to the dining area (I'm calling it this because I suppose we would have a dining table here if it weren't set up as a Montessori environment)... Off to the side I have put Fin's change table and potty station. I did this so that I would be able to remain in the room when changing nappies, and so that the potty would be visually connected to the change table. All his nappies, wet cloths and training pants are easily accessible and in the little cupboard we keep old thick pre-folds for mopping up accidents. I should also put a bucket here for Fin's wet pants so that when he is walking he will be able to participate in cleaning up his accidents. Ideally, we'll have this set up for each child (though space might be an issue...).

This is where the majority of our traditional Montessori toddler materials are kept. I should point out that I am not 0-3 trained (though I would love to be!) so I'm not sure if the layout would be considered 'correct'. I have tried to place the materials in groups according to their purpose, and also according to the space we have. Some things, like the cylinder blocks, just fit perfectly on that little shelf, so I placed them there. Other things, like the puzzles on the top shelf, have been arranged in order of difficulty. I then rotate materials as needed to maintain interest and according to their stages of development. The children eat at the little table and I am intending to set up the longer table (under the painting) as a food-preparation area. Our plates, glasses and cutlery are set up in the kitchen (a post for another day), and Miss. I is loving setting the table each time she is hungry. I must make some place-mats for her...

This painting was by my dad, by the way! At the moment, we have been using the long table for art but I'm hoping to dedicate a different table to art... where, I don't know. And the hand-washing table is waiting patiently for me to set it up beautifully. Maybe I'll wait until Finlay is walking properly...

Here is where we also have our fish tank (Fin's Christmas present) and some lovely shelves which were built into the old fireplace. Unfortunately the middle shelf is not adjustable and is
a bit high for toddlers but they're coping just fine with it.

Finally, this lovely space also has a shelf for my precious Montessori albums and our children's book collection.

So there you have it, our home as it stands today. It will probably be a bit different tomorrow. And different again next week. There are so many materials to make and activities to set up. I haven't even started on language materials and practical life is looking a bit sad and sorry in the kitchen, but these are all on my mental to-do list. I'll be sure to document my creations as they happen :)

A happy weekend to all! This ought to put a smile on any face...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What a week

Baby rage:
This expression has graced our household all week long... poor Fin had his first virus and wanted to tell the whole world how terrible he felt. To keep myself sane amidst the fevers, tears and tantrums, I set myself the task of making some art smocks for our Montessori environment.

(What I haven't yet updated here in the blog-world is that our Toddler Community is well and truly underway! We currently have two little friends joining us through the week which has been a joy for both me and Fin. Miss.I and Mr.J have settled in beautifully and I can't wait to share some of our adventures with you. It's high time I posted a tour of our new house.... that's a project for the coming days!)

During Fin's naps (the only time he would let me put him down!), I got to work....

I searched online for a pattern and decided upon this one. I used the downloadable pattern pieces as a start and made my own adjustments as I went along. I wanted the smock to be made of a double layer of plain calico which would absorb paint stains and become more individualised over time. I also had some lovely printed fabric which made for a cute detail along the bottom of the smock. Then I found some plain blue bias tape for the cuffs and collar. Elastic sewn into the top of the shoulders and tied behind the neck finished it off! And because I was in a crazy mood I decided to embroider each child's name on the front of the smocks. Here is the finished product (on my very un-willing model...!):

I made sure to leave Miss.I's smock unfinished until she joined us a few days later, so that she could watch me complete the embroidery of her name and the finishing touches on the sewing machine. At 21 months, this all seemed fascinating to her! Now every time she sees her smock she points to it proudly and says her name :)

Happily, when Finlay woke up a few days later and smiled at me, I knew the worst was over. Our happy Fin is back! Now, let's get out the paint....