Friday, 1 July 2011

So many ideas from such a simple thing

For some time now, I have been toying with (warring with, might be a better turn of phrase to decribe the turmoil of my thoughts) the different educational options available to Niamh.  I was decided before she was even born that she would never, ever attend a state or public school.  I hold with neither the curriculum, nor the methods of teaching.  I won't go into why now, as it will no doubt be the subject of many future will the two main methods we are exploring, Montessori or Unschooling, and which of those we eventually choose.  Whatever we choose, the path will be one of natural, non-invasive, child-centred learning.

To that end, Niamh has been attending a Montessori pre-school (0-3 year olds) once a week for over a year.  She loves the jobs, and has a blast going from shelf to shelf to see what is there each week.  For all my dreams of setting up a learning environment for her at home along similar lines, however, I have to admit, I have been a bit lapse.  We do have a child-sized area with shelving at her height, where all her toys and books are stored for her to use at will; we don't allow battery-operated toys and prefer natural, beautiful toys made of wood; we encourage her to do tasks herself (eg clean her own teeth, wash her own hands and face)...and I have made a few brief and rather pathetic attempts to provide her with Montessori-inspired tasks, manipulatives and puzzles.

Here she is with a basket of  number cards (1-20) I made for her to explore.  She is ball-obsessed, hence the theme:

(You'll notice the very non-Montessori mess in the background...)

The last few days, mama-guilt has taken over a bit.  So today, I got my act together and made her a pouring job - two small glasses, one filled with rice, one not, on a tray.  Frankly, it didn't go well.  She has never really gone for the pouring jobs at playgroup (kind of my reason for wanting to try it), and this was no exception.  She poured the rice a few times, then ran off to do something else.

Right, thinks I.  How do I make this fun for her?  Some pink food colouring and some pink and purple beads later, my little glasses of rice looked quite inviting (bad photography aside - it was very dark and the camera just wouldn't focus):

Well!  I am proud to report that it was a big hit!  She sat there for probably half an hour (not bad for a nearly 2 year old), pouring and pouring and pouring.  Then, she asked for a spoon.  And without prompting spent another few minutes spooning the rice from one glass to another:

From the look on her face, you can see how much fun she was having. At one point, she was shouting with excitement, "Oh, THERE'S a pink bead!  THERE'S a button!  THERE'S a purple bead!  I found FOUR!"

Then, she spent another good twenty minutes exploring all the beads inside the rice - and to do so, she had to use the pincer grip in order to extract individual beads from the glass!  Then, she happily sorted the purple beads into a small pile, and the pink beads into another pile.  (No prompting or intervening from me at all, other than to take a few photos).  Here she is holding her favourite pink bead:

Her hunger for learning just AMAZES and humbles me.

Who knew so much learning could come from a little glass of pink rice and wooden beads?

Montessori Monday - One Hook Wonder

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