KonMari and Montessori

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(chaos of family life! 3 years ago!)

I have another confession to make. First, when I started my #montessorihousechallenge, I was very focused on my children’s belongings, their tidy up habits, their independence skills. You see, since becoming a mother, I have focused most of my attention towards my children. Meanwhile I have developed skills and a business related to parenting and children. So I have always observed children; how do they play, can they tidy up, can they do this independently. If you go to my blog post here, you will read that I was failing at this task for around 18 months, mainly because we moved from London where I had a good network of friends and support to the countryside and also because I went back to work full time (well school times hours but the kind of job that I was committed to and I was bringing a lot of work at home).

While going through each area, as planned in the challenge, I started to face the ugly truth. Most of the clutter/belongings/objects were mine and were preventing me to organize my house to suit my children’s needs. Note that I have always been aware that I’m a “hoarder” and worst, an unorganized “hoarder”. I could go in a deep analysis to explain why I’m that way and why I was not tackling the issue but it’s not the object of this blog post. Let’s say that I have finally seen the light and faced the truth. I suppose I was ready (to make it short, let say that these past two years, I have worked on many issues and I have now a clear mind-set of what I want in life and it’s not the clutter).

Now you might be surprised that a Montessori teacher is a hoarder. I admit that even me, I was under the impression that most Montessori teachers must be very orderly, organised and borderline OCD.  I thought I was an exception. However, I have noticed over the years that many parents (and potentially teachers) are attracted to the Montessori education to teach the opposite of what they are to their children. Maybe also because they want to overcome their own issues and deep down, crave order and organisation. It was totally my case and since I have explained this a bit on my Facebook page, many parents have come forward, admitting the same difficulties.

Sometimes, parents also become a hoarder after having the kids. Let’s admit it, children bring lots of joy but also lots of chaos! How do we control the amount of toys, clothes, kitchenware, babyware that come with having children? No everybody is a born minimalist so it’s very common to be drawn in an incredible amount of objects after having kids.

In my case, I was using my children as an excuse to fulfil my hoarding tendencies: it’s for the kids, I can use it in the Montessori playgroup, it’s educational, children never have too many books, etc…

Also a classroom is not a home environment. When I worked in a school, it was easy to organise and keep everything in order because it’s only the Montessori space and none of my personal belongings.

Well while I was in the middle of decluttering my children’s toys in January, somebody mentioned to me the KonMari Method. I checked the lady and her books and decided it was not for me as she wasn’t a mum (well in fact she is now, but she was not when she wrote her books and she didn’t explain much about children in her books). In the end, I finally gave the method a go and let me tell you that it has already changed my life. And my children’s life too. I’m documenting this process and especially I will show you how I make some decisions regarding my children’s belongings based on the Montessori principles. As Marie Kondo doesn’t give any tips about what kind of toys to keep. This is the area that I feel able to make a judgment based on the Montessori principles.

I help parents on a regular basis to design their children’s play space at home, I also help homeschooling families. Just before I started my KonMari process, I was reflecting on this service as I have noticed that families who are quite organized for their own belongings are well able to tackle the changes that I suggest for their children. However, some families had great difficulties making changes and those families had many belongings and clutter.

Let’s say that  I am now sure that even if many parents will come to Montessori first for their children, at some point, the Montessori education could help them to realise that their own life is full of clutter and until they declutter their own belongings (and life and parenting, but more on this in another post), focusing on the children only might be pointless and counterproductive. It’s a least what I felt and observed in my own house. So I urge you if you have started the Montessori house challenge and you’re feeling overwhelmed to have a go at decluttering your own belongings first. Follow my progress here and on FB and comment down below about your journey!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever

Too many toys!

 

Are you screaming when you enter your child’s bedroom/playroom? Are you fed of tidying up your child’s toys? Is your child complaining that he cannot tidy up when you ask him to do so? (well he might not be that clear but he might say like mine: “I’m tired”)

20170126_11361320170321_090628How to get from the picture on the left to the picture on the right?

Is your child not able to play independently? Is your child saying that he is bored despite owning 100 toys? If your child is younger, does he require your presence and input to play?

One of the reasons (if not the main reason) might be that he has too many toys!

When families visit my playgroup for the first time, they are generally impressed by the layout of the playgroup. As I would do in a home environment, there are different areas and every activity is set up on a mat or in a basket/tray. Children can clearly see every activity and are able, with support, to put them away. Although there are many more activities that you would need in a home (as I cater for around 12 children), children are not overwhelmed, distracted, disruptive or bored, they choose and are happily playing for one or two hours.

 

So what’s the secret?

In the Montessori education, less is best. And what kind of toys/activities you offer is also important as well as the way you present them to your child. Many parents coming to the playgroup will quickly decide to change the kind of toys they offer to their children as they notice how much their children are engaged in the playgroup.

So what is too many toys exactly? Can we give a number? I was kind of stunned to share pictures of my child’s car’s collection in a local FB group, asking for advice as I thought he has too many. Other parents quickly replied to me that the collection was nearly “minimalist”. You see I was kind of worried regarding my own children’s amount of toys as my youngest was still not able to put them away. The amount started to add up: cars, train set, plastic animals from all around the world, soft toys, dressing up, building blocks, Duplo’s, a growing collection of Legos, little peoples, kitchen and all the accessories… Not to mention the art and craft material and all the various board games or educational material available. Every category of toys was fine I suppose but the sheer number in each was overwhelming. And that amount might be very different for each child.

I have noticed that over the last 3 years, I have let the toys collection growing without paying too much attention to it. As we moved from a two bedroom flat to a house I was able to hide the mess in a cubby storage and I agreed to tidy up after him as he was still “little”. However, my Montessori training was coming back to me and my desire for my children to become more independent was more and more acute. Therefore I decided to purge drastically. It’s not that our toys were not great but we had too many in each category. Mainly I divided by two the train set, blocks set, duplos and stored away the remaining. I sorted the animals by continents/habitats and left only dinosaurs and one other category out at a time. I sorted the cars by kind too (wooden cars, metallic cars, cars from the movie “cars), set of diggers with people…) and left out just one set with his garage. And so on for each category. Since, oh miracle, my son has mostly put away his toys by himself after playing. He also spend more time by himself in his bedroom.

However, my son is 5 and your situation might be quite different. When I had only my daughter and when my son was a baby and a toddler, I was more aware of the importance of the environment and took a long time to set up trays and baskets of activities for them. I had around 8 trays/activities at any one time and it worked wonders. Along the way, I lost my Montessori principles but thankfully I’m back, for their own good, and my own sanity as it really helps our family life when both kids are able to tidy up and are happy and contented with their play.

My playgroup is a good sample of what you could do in your own home for a child under 4 and the principles are still the same for older children.

Do you want to find more about my classes and support? Do you want to find more about my classes and support? Just click here!

 

 

A Giveaway!

I have reached a milestone on my fb page! I said that I will run a competition when I reach 2000 likes and I have now 2003 likes! So a big thank you!

I’m delighted to see that many of my new likes are also local and families who come to my playgroups so even better.

I have this great book to giveaway:

Learning together: What Montessori can offer your family from Kathi Hugues

It is published by the Montessori centre International and an invaluable reference for parents.

It’s easy to read with many ideas to create a Montessori inspired house but also tips about behavior, child’s development, communication, … It is also beautifully illustrated.

This competition is open for a week starting the 14th of February to the 21st of February.

To enter, please follow the instructions on the rafflecopter giveaway below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Montessori challenge – the planning!

Hi everyone!

This coming Thursday, I will go live on FB for the second month of the #montessorihousechallenge. I hope you will be able to join me or to watch the replay later.

I’ve been very busy since the first video making lots of changes in my house but also in my “life” in general in order to simplify it, to bring more of Montessori at home,  to promote independence for my children and to help us all to connect as a family. (or I would say that the connection is a natural consequence of the changes).

So the challenge itself will be as follow:

  1. January: Bathroom
  2. February: kitchen, snack and food preparation
  3. March: Cloakroom, getting ready to go out of the house
  4. April: Clothes storage in children’s bedroom and dressing skills activities.
  5. May: Art area, how to access art material, art activities and process art
  6. June: Books: storage, display, rotation, reality based books
  7. July: Toys storage and rotation
  8. August: Hopefully, a video during our camping trip or time abroad!

While writing this list, I realize that I don’t have enough “house” ideas to cover 12 months properly unless I repeat myself. So from September, what would you like me to show you? What would you like me to talk about? Let me know in comment as I’m open to your ideas!

See you this Thursday!

 

Positive songs

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In addition of being a Montessori teacher, I have recently qualified as a Yoga teacher for children. In the yoga children classes, I use lots of music. I started to be very careful choosing positives songs only. Some popular songs with the tween/teen have such a degrading message so I have started to listen carefully to the lyrics making sure I make them listen only to songs that are appropriate.

At the same time, at home, my 9 years old started to sing loudly all the songs on the radio. Very popular songs… And one more, most of the songs have content that are not appropriate (heavy sexual content, lots of sad songs, crude words…). And I was constantly explaining the meaning of those songs as my daughter was asking questions.

Two years ago, we stopped listening to the news on the radio. I was in the car with the children much more and I was able to tune out when there were the news, the kids were not. At least twice a day, they were exposed to local news of murders, kidnappings, war in the world, news about cancer. While all that is the reality of this world, my then 7 and 3 years had no need to be exposed to it every day. They were anxious about it, asking questions: “where did it happen? will they die? will I have cancer? Is it dangerous to do this or that?”. After two years without news (as we don’t listen to news on the radio as a family and us, parents, we don’t watch, read or listen to news otherwise), we feel much better, less concerned on a daily basis and we have less fear and anxiety. It’s such an habit that as soon as we hear the news jingle, we turn off the radio and my daughter makes sure she reminds me.

According to a survey, one of the biggest contributors to daily stress is watching, reading or listening to the news (see here).

If you’re interested, read here how we can be literally addicted to the news. Very interesting!

Since I make sure I read good news on my fb feed through pages such as Uplift connect, Good News shared, Actions for happiness, etc… They are many others! That way my feed is covered of ultra positive stories of people helping the best way they can their direct community.

So, on the same principles, I started to question the songs we were listening to. I noticed that I had a tendency to listen to sad love songs, melancholic songs about life (lost of youth, regrets, past mistakes and failures were recurrent themes of those songs) or politically engaged songs (but with no positive solutions more about the world is damned, what are we gonna do!). And as my children were more able to understand the lyrics, the messages started to concern them too.

Clearly I was raised with those songs. But clearly they were not uplifting songs and I started to notice how much they were impacting my mood. I think I noticed it more recently as I was using positive songs in my “work” and coming back to my “sad classics at home” or enduring songs that I didn’t choose on the radio. It’s new for me to spend so much time driving so I’m more exposed than ever.

So recently, I have consciously decided to listen to positive, uplifting songs “only”. I have created my own playlist and if my mood is low, I put those songs on and quickly my mood changes for the better. It makes me sing, it makes me dance, and my children love those songs too. They also have a positive message about appreciating live, about trying, about pursuing and accomplishing your dreams. They make me strong, fearless and happy!

Studies have found that hearing happy songs can raise heart rate, lower stress levels, and increase immunity to illness. Check this article about the surprising health benefits of listening to music.

So here my playlist in no particular order:

  1. Robbie William: Love my life. I use this song in my yoga class and we practice the 3 warrior poses with positive affirmations, my 4 years old knows it my hearth and what is a better message that to say “I love my life, I’m beautiful, I’m powerful, I’m free, I love my life, I’m wonderful, I’m magical, I am me, I love my life”
  2. Marvin Gaye: Ain’t no mountain high enough. It seems to me that it could be a message from a parent to his child, it’s how I understand it and it’s the message I want to send to my children
  3. Pharrell Williams: Happy. Just a happy song!
  4. Happy days (generic of the tv show): because every day is a happy day (good bye the argh it’s Monday!)
  5. R Kelly: I believe I can fly: If I believe it, I know it’s inside me… I believe I can fly!
  6. Louis Armstrong: What a wonderful world.
  7. Lou Reed: Just a perfect day
  8. Jimmy Cliff: You can get it if you really want it. Another one that my two children sing along. They keep saying what they want to do with their life after singing this one and how they will achieve their goals! Yes even my 4 years old (he will be a builder, build an entire city named after him so he has to be strong and to be strong, he has to do sport and eat lots of proteins!)
  9. Israel Hawai: Somewhere over the rainbow
  10. Katrina and the waves: Walking on sunshine.
  11. Shakira: Try everything. (and if you have seen Zootropolis, you can use the story of the rabbit becoming what she wanted to be to reinforce the message of the song)
  12. Bob Marley: three little birds. I’m sure you will agree, that using “Don’t worry about a thing, because everything is gonna be alright” is surely uplifting.
  13. Bobby Mc Ferrin: Don’t worry, be happy.
  14. James Brown: I feel good
  15. Josh Groban: You raise me up. This is the message I want my children to get from me. I would feel that I have done my “parenting job” properly is as adults, they want to sing me that one!

They are some other on my list that are more for me to listen to as part of the text is not enough children orientated like Cold Play: hymn for the weekend (as telling to teenagers in my classes that love is like a drink, and life like a drug is not a great message) or Relax from Mika (I love that song so much! I danced during my first pregnancy daily on it and with my daughter in my arms for months but there is a sad side in it and as my children are very inquisitive, I don’t want them to question too much about the meaning).

What about you? Do you have positive songs that you like to listen to? Share in comments!

 

 

Montessori at home

Here the article I had published in Juno Magazine, Winter edition 2014

I’m a Montessori teacher, but first a mother. When I had my daughter, almost 7 years ago, I already had plenty of experience in childcare and a background in psychology but I was also living abroad and isolated from family support.  I remember spending a month at home in Belgium and all my family members were carrying her around, she was delighted and contented. Alone with me, she didn’t want to stay anymore on a playmat.  She wanted me to help her to sit up or to carry her around.

As a first time parent, I fell in the trap of buying lots of stuff to try to keep my daughter occupied.  It didn’t really work. A good friend of mine recommended How to raise an amazing child by Tim Seldin based, among other philosophies, on Montessori  education. The book promotes the freedom of movement and an uncluttered environment. I was hooked and tried straight away with my daughter.  This was how Montessori education made its entry into our home and is still very present in our family life.

You might be familiar with the Montessori as a school system, but what does it mean to raise a child the Montessori way? In our everyday life, we prepare our home to help our children to thrive, explore freely and become independent. We observe them and adjust the activities we provide in order to respect their needs and sensitive periods of development.

Babies and toddlers observe us all the time and they learn that way. Their only purpose is to learn life skills to become independent human being. That’s why they are so interested by kitchen utensils, laptops, keys, purse and mobile phones! For a young baby, a treasure basket full of everyday objects to explore is far more interesting than any plastic noisy toys.

There are some simple steps that as a parent you can take to have a child-friendly home. For example, why have fragile decorations that your toddler is not allowed to touch? This intense phase of exploration doesn’t last for long. In our house, we don’t have knick-knacks and fragile vases. I have plastic containers, kitchen utensils and baking material in the lower drawers so they can explore it.

What about toys? We have toys of course but only toys that follow our children’s sensitive periods. I rotate their activities regularly to avoid boredom and I present them in an orderly way. Children less than 6 years have an immature brain and the order outside helps them to order their thoughts. If their toys are classified by type, they will be able to classify in their head too. It will improve memory and concentration. And they will play better! You don’t have to buy anything expensive, some of the best activities for my toddler are just a collection of little boxes and bottles to open and close.

Now that my eldest is almost 7, I can see the long term benefits of this philosophy. As long as I prepare the environment, she can be totally independent. She knows where the art and craft material is and decides what to do and take what she needs to do a piece of art. She is in charge of her toilet and dress up by herself every day. During the school holidays, she loves to have projects and to learn about something specific. Following the Montessori ideas of learning through the 5 senses and hands-on material, I help her to explore a subject of her choice. In this way, I have found the Montessori philosophy to be of benefit to us all.dscf2346dscf2347dscf2348dscf2349dscf2350

Update from that beautiful space that was our home!

We had just moved in our new home, my son was 2 and 5 months, my daughter just 7. I had managed to have all their toys downstairs, saved a few very girly that belongs to my daughter in her bedroom (and more books upstairs) but look at those uncluttered shelves!

As I’m “challenging” myself and my hoarding tendencies (with the excuse that it’s for the kids!), I will take an “horrible” after pictures of those shelves and an after “after” picture when that toy’s space is organized again!