When Dylan attends his Montessori – inspired school, it’s just me and Emmeline in the mornings. Our mornings are based on a three-hour Montessori work cycle, a term which basically describes the ebb and flow of a child’s attention, directed mainly by him, with guidance from the adult when necessary. In a classroom work cycle, a child may try different works, maybe fix himself a snack, before settling on his hardest work. The three hours are essential in providing a long and uninterrupted stretch of time for the child to focus- on what he wants, when he wants.
For our home environment, it.simply means this: the mornings are as child – led as possible. Children are always being told what to do and not to do, shuttled back and forth from classes, and horror of horrors maybe even made to do homework. Our Montessori mornings are my attempt to give the child the time to breathe and work on activities of her own choosing- because if we want to raise a thoughtful, self-directed generation, that inner drive is something that we should nurture, not quash.
Thus, our mornings begin with a long nursing session and breakfast. Emmy will help me prepare breakfast or bring it to the coffee table. We sit there now and not the high chairs at the dining table because it gives her complete mobility.
Meals are simple but involve some element of practical life that can be done from 15mo up, whether scooping and sprinkling chia seeds, cutting banana, or pouring homemade granola. Watch her in action preparing breakfast and cleaning up a spill here.
Sometimes she simply chooses between homemade pancakes or muesli and puts it in her bowl. Sometimes she makes her own practical life task, like helping me.steep my teabag (above)- look at her expression and double chin, that is concentration!
Emmy and I then clean up. She is just 2yo so we work collaboratively. Taking turns, we wipe the placemats with a moistened microfiber cloth, sweeping all the crumbs into that big box, and place the bowls into the box. (We tried putting the glass in too but it was too heavy for Emmy to balance everything while walking so I carry the glass separately.) We wipe the floors and vacuum them too. Sometimes Emmy will only want to do one or two steps- I do not compel her to do everything but it is important for her to see me complete the chores slowly and dare I say even peacefully (click to read more on my experiences with this).
All of this is done in her PJS, so we don’t have to worry about food stains or water spills on going – out clothing.
Emmy then moisturizes and dresses herself. She recently is into putting on her own shorts and managed to get each leg correctly… into each armhole.
Our three-hour work cycle usually reaches the halfway mark at this point. Even in the Montessori classroom, children are not expected to stay seated for the entire duration, but move around calmly and purposefully. Some classrooms with indoor/ outdoor spaces also let the children head outside to do gardening or other gross motor work. Our flat obviously doesn’t have a garden, but to get her gross motor fix, Emmy might choose to push hefty toys around or help me with familiar chores. She prefers spraying herself…
But she will wipe the mirror eventually.
We then move to the “classroom”. Dr Maria Montessori observed that just before a child is to do her greatest work, she experiences a period of “false fatigue” or restlessness. Offering the gross motor work helps alleviate that, and sometimes just changing the tray work to incorporate more movement helps. And sometimes, maybe because I am not Montessori – trained, nothing helps and I start experiencing “real fatigue”. Heh.
Today, she chose to return to this tray, sorting Toob animals into those with two legs and those with four (Orwellian echoes, anyone? Four legs good, two legs bad?). Our entire farm unit can be found here. The dough acts as a control for her to stamp the animals and count the number of prints made.
Emmy elected to wear her “bearbear” too.
How do your mornings look?