Thursday, January 14, 2016

A little bit of Reggio and a little bit of Montessori

Hello Blog. It's been a real real long time :) Today, my 2 year old A had a really great day. When we got to daycare, she was so happy playing with her friends at the gym, she didn't want to leave. When we got home, she had a few tantrums but we stayed firm and gave her consequences that she had to live through without going old school on her and I think it worked, albeit it taking longer to get her to do what we wanted. And the best part, I had totally reorganized the toys in her room to make the toys/activities less cluttered and more attractive, this whole week she's been zoning in on two practical life activities on her own and today she pretty much played quietly by herself. My thoughts are all over the place so let me back track a little.

As a parent in this world of information overload, there are so many books out there, so many philosophies for educating and rearing kids, it gets very overwhelming. I started to educate myself on the different philosophies when I had to look for a daycare that would meet my expectations. A was at a more traditional, play based daycare originally that was not living up to my expectations. My main issues were that the instructors weren't taking the time to speak proper languages to the kids and it didn't seem like they were getting much stimulation from the instructors at all during the day. Hence I began my search for a better place that was still convenient and could fit within our daily lives.

That's when we landed on our current daycare that's Reggio inspired. Montessori is an emerging big thing in my city and I was keen on trying to find one for A but they were just all too out of our way. I wasn't too enlightened about the Reggio method but once I visited the daycare and read up on it via Mr. Google, I realized it would be a really good fit for her. My little girl is quite a social creature. She's also a bit of a free spirit. She's very energetic. She's also very stubborn. When she doesn't want to do something, she's like a rock. She don't budge. I've often told my husband that for a character like such, you can't meet a rock with another rock, you'll just end up breaking each other. You have to be like water, flexible, bending, patient but consistent until you smooth down the edges.

So as much as I admire Montessori based instruction, pending how a school implements it, it may be too strict, stifling and lonely for my crazy little sprite. With the Reggio influence, activities are very much project based, done in groups and according to interest. Reggio believes in allowing kids to use their 100 voices to express themselves. So instructors embark on projects of interest and whatever the kids learn, they express via one of their voices whether it be by painting, sculpting, speaking, singing, dancing, etc. Reggio tends to cultivate social and problem solving skills. Montessori on the other hand is focused on enabling a child's independence and fostering self confidence via activities that teach them to do practical life things by themselves and activities that can be done over and over independently with focuses on math, culture and languages.

A has been at this daycare since September and I've been extremely happy with how she's growing. However, today, I've been extremely happy with another milestone. I've been trying to adopt a more Montessori approach at home, as much as is realistic especially now that baby #2 is on the way. I want her to be more independent with her play and leisure time without relying on electronic gadgets or mommy and daddy.

I knew that the way all her stuff was just stuffed in boxes was a problem. It took me a full day but I finally cleansed all the bins and shelves and redistributed everything. Every shelf had a maximum of 3 toys/activity sets. Every bin was organized by category and only filled to the point where we can see everything with one glance when pulled out. I had to shoot/donate a lot of my own stuff to make room in our shelf space.

My activity sets are not exactly Montessori, there's a criteria for what makes an activity Montessori but it's ok. I try to make them practical life, sensorial/math, language, culturally relevant and so long as she has interest...... here are some examples:

Activity set 1: A metal tray with construction paper and a ziplock bag of more scrap paper, two safety scissors and a glue stick. I call this a practical life activity because A likes to practice cutting with the scissors and then gluing everything together.

Activity set 2: A metal tray with a can of play doh, plastic play knives and spoon, a roller, a heart shaped cutter and a few plastic mini bowls. I also call this a practical life activity because Audrey likes to pretend she's cutting, rolling, sorting, every sort of manipulation the "food" and cooking for us.

Activity set 3: A plastic bag with puzzle pieces on a wooden board. For me, this is math for a two year old.

Activity set 4: A plastic bin with this collection of many many little pieces of spheres, cubes, sticks and other weird shapes that you can build anything with. Kind of like legos but not really. Again, for me, this is math.

Activity set 5: Three books stacked. 1 book for ABCs, 1 book for numbers 1 to 5 and another with animals.

Since Monday, she's been coming home and going straight to activities 1 and 2. Today, she went through activities 1 and 2 and went about doing her thing without me or daddy. Then after 30 mins, she asked me to help her with 3. THIRTY MINUTES. This girl's attention span is normally 10 mins... MAX... if we're lucky. Anyway, the puzzle is still a challenge for her. She's good at matching shapes but doesn't get the concept of linking the pictures on the puzzle pieces. It's ok, with time I think she will get it. Then she asked for me to play set 4 with her. I obliged for 15 minutes and then it was time for a bath and bedtime but she didn't want to stop :)

These aren't new toys or activities for A but Montessori is right. Lay everything out in a sorted, clean, attractive manner and kids will find value in them and want to use them. A even knew that they had to go back to their own spots. Mind you, this could be a daycare taught thing but it's important that her environment outline very clearly where everything goes.

All in all, a good day.

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