Monday, January 16, 2012

Our First Day of Tot School

          I've been doing a lot of reading on Dr. Maria Montessori's philosophy on early childhood education. I have fallen in love with the principles of allowing children to choose the activities they want to perform and the subjects they want to learn as well as teaching them how to perform self care and practical living activities when they are ready and show interest. I am also in love with the idea of simplifying our lives, not having too many toys, and focusing on simple, open ended natural toys that inspire creativity. It seems to fit in very well with my style of parenting as well as Daniel's interests.

          Daniel has never been the type of baby who likes to stay in a crib or play yard all day and I've never been the type of mother to force that on him. From the moment he became mobile, he has pretty much been allowed to roam the house. I always supervise him, of course. We did have to start baby proofing the house early but it has been worth it as Daniel has learned so much from exploring his environment. Daniel loves to get into stuff and, if I am doing dishes, he can be found playing with plastic containers or pots from my lower cabinets. If I am in the room, he is taking stuff out and putting it back into drawers or baskets. He also loves to observe what I do and help me to the best of his ability. He helps put quarters in the washing machine and presses the button to turn it on when we do laundry and helps me stuff diapers and put them away as well. He really loves to help and giggles out loud when he figures out how to do something by himself. It makes me so happy and proud.

         Daniel is now almost 14 months and is at the stage where he really wants to learn how to do everything by himself. He loves eating small pieces of food from his high chair tray by himself, brushing his tooth (after I've already brushed it, of course), and brushing his hair. He is also very interested in learning how to eat with a spoon. He has been drinking out of a straw for quite some time now but he now demands to hold his own cup. He also really wants to be a part of everything I do. Due to his new interest in learning, I decided it was time to start a somewhat formal way of homeschooling for him. I did tons of research online and came across Tot School: home school for toddlers. This was just what I was looking for. I still have a lot more research to do but I decided to start with some simple activities.

          Today was our first day of Tot School. Daniel tends to get overwhelmed when there are too many toys out at once so I decided to keep it simple. We took the doors off the bottom shelves on our entertainment center in the living room a while ago, when Daniel kept smashing his fingers on them. We also removed everything that was there so he couldn't get into anything. I now use these shelves to set out toys. This week, i decided to start with his shape sorter house from Ikea, two Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles: one large-knobbed one and one chunky one, a small Bible coloring book and some crayons (kept in a stainless steel container with lid), about 6 board books, a set of stacking cups, and some hand knitted finger puppets my mother-in-law got him (stored in a sandwich bag). I spaced the activities out so that most shelves have only one activity and it is easy for Daniel to choose one at a time and also for him to help clean up after himself. I plan to  switch out the activities each week.

          I will count our first day of Tot School as a success. We started out the day by reading some books, mainly Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, One Fish, Two Fish, Three, Four, Five Fish and Hop on Pop. We also named objects in his Baby Einstein First Words book. We then ate breakfast, read some more, and did some coloring in Daniel's Bible coloring book. I am amazed at how quickly he has picked up on coloring. He absolutely loves it! After coloring, we sorted shapes in his shape sorting house. I am also amazed at how good he has gotten at putting the shapes in the slots. The house currently has triangles, circles, squares, and a pair of mailbox shaped pieces. He can do all but the mailbox ones on his own and really enjoys it. The next activity was stacking cups. He started out nesting them one inside the other until he dropped one and daddy kicked it back to him. From that moment, he just wanted to throw them at his dad and have him kick them back. When he was done with those, he played with his puzzles for a while. Then he proceeded to put toys on the shelf and take them back out. He would bring me and my husband the toys then walk back and forth between us and the shelves with toys in his hands. He did this for quite some time and was really proud of himself. Once the toys were on the shelves for good, I let him play with his hand knitted finger puppets for the first time and he loved it. he thought they were hilarious! We sang songs about the animals and Told him the names in English and Spanish as well. Daniel had so much fun he didn't even want to take a nap!

          We, of course, took a break for lunch somewhere in there. Then there was bath time. That always involves fun for Daniel. We usually take a bath together and he colors on the tub and walls with his bath tub crayons. We also play with his rubber animal friends. He loves it when I squirt him with them and today we had fun naming the animals and making their sounds. He has also discovered water squirting fun with a peri-bottle I never used from when he was born. After bath time, we had dinner and then Daniel decided to take a nap at almost 9pm! When he woke up from his nap, he decided to start some of his activities again. He will probably brush his teeth before bed and have us read him his books some more before we go to bed.

          I am pretty sure Daniel and I will have tons of fun on this journey through Tot School. I plan to come up with many more activities for him in the coming weeks. Some ideas I already have in mind are finger painting (with homemade, edible finger paints), transferring objects from one container to the next, some kind of musical instrument play, opening and closing activities, lacing beads, and going outside to explore nature. I have a lot more research to do online and also nee some more materials for our classroom. I want to get rid of the plastic junk to make space for more useful Montessori style activities. Being that I'm Hispanic and bilingual, I also want Daniel to learn Spanish so, aside from speaking to him, singing to him, and naming objects in Spanish, I would also like to obtain some Spanish books for us to read. I also plan to start going to story time at the library and a free 5 week music class and 5 week developmental playgroup I just found out about as well as his two free Gymboree classes (from his birthday). I hope to be able to turn Tot School into a regular, well planned part of our lives.

          I will be blogging more about the Montessori method at a future date. I will also update you on what new activities we implement and how we're doing as we go along. My current method is by no means perfect as I am just starting out. I hope to get more organized and incorporate many more Montessori principles into our lives and will hopefully have pictures of our shelves for you to see later on. Some blogs I have found helpful so far are:, and I also recommend the book How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin. I will post more resources I find helpful as I come across them.

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