Finding a Family Rhythm

As we begin adjusting to a new normal in our world and family life, we wanted to take some time to discuss what this might look like in terms of daily family living and new found homeschooling.

Finding a “Family Rhythm” that really works under normal circumstances can be stressful, but under our new circumstances, challenging at best. We want you to know that we are here to help even if it is from afar.

“Children of all ages, especially toddlers and preschool children, thrive on consistency and routine.”

During the start of our school days at our Montessori school in California each year, we implement and follow a predictable, simple, yet extremely important pattern that eventually creates a well polished “School Rhythm”. Daily schedules, routines and consistency give children a sense of calmness because knowing what comes next is important in their desire for order. According to Maria Montessori, “a child between the ages of one and four has a keen desire for order in their environment.”

Creating a “home or family rhythm” is important for harmony and balance and it can be similar in scope to a routine that we would set at school. Children of all ages, especially toddlers and preschool children, thrive on consistency and routine. We realize that it might seem difficult to set up a home routine that complements a school routine, but just keep in mind that the “what” of the routine isn’t as important as the “consistency” of the routine.

A family routine will look different for each family. And honestly there is no right or wrong. It’s just about figuring out and working through what is best for your crew.

The first step we would recommend in setting up your family’s new routine is to structure your day in blocks. Some families might find that creating a schedule of precise times works best for them and others might find that having larger blocks of time with a little more freedom works. At our school and in our own homes, we have large blocks of time as recommended by Dr. Montessori, that allows for several things to happen during that block. We will list an example of a Montessori block schedule from our school below. But however you decide to set up your routine, just remember that any routine is better than no routine at all and your routine or rhythm will evolve as you go through some trial and error periods. It’s all part of the process.

We’ve created a great FREE resource for you, iML’s Daily Routine Cards! Take a look at them here and print them off to start using in your home today.

Here is a great daily routine by Montessori in Real Life that we love.

While Carrots are Orange gives more chore chart kind of ideas, they do list a large number of ideas that could be incorporated into whatever daily routine you set up.

This is an example of how we block out our day at Children’s House Montessori

7:00-8:30 Children are Arriving
Students prepare for the day by helping teachers with practical life activities such as folding towels, cutting napkin squares, preparing snack foods, putting dishes away, and laying materials out for the line.

8:30-9:30/10:00 Outside Classroom
Students work outside in the garden, the outdoor school classroom or have free play on the grounds. During this time, we also serve a small snack and children have water breaks and participate in group teacher-led activities.

9:30/10:00-1:00 Work Period and Lunch
Children have class line time with lesson instruction, singing, attendance, weather, calendar, etc. They choose work from shelves and are given individual instruction or work by themselves or in small groups exploring materials and carefully prepared work. During this time they also prepare for lunch by setting their own tables and warming up their food and putting it all out on their plates. Mats are prepared for naps and following lunch, children clean up all of their own space and put their lunchboxes back and prepare for a short recess before naps.

1:00-3:30 Naps
Children come inside and prepare for naps using the bathroom, getting water, washing hands, finding mats and resting or sleeping on their mats until about 3:00 pm at which time they begin the clean up process of putting all of their nap materials away, use the bathroom, wash hands and have a snack. Once everyone is up, the teacher might do a short singing or story time line before going outside.

3:30-5:30 Afternoon Daycare
Children play outside similar to the morning outside routine. They are picked up anytime between 3:30 and 5:30. By 5:00 anyone still at school cleans up the outdoor spaces and comes inside for a small snack, hand-washing and daycare activities.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while you are creating a family plan that works for you.

Try Creating a Picture Schedule for your Child.
Since most preschool children aren’t reading yet, making a picture chart of their daily routines could be helpful for them to understand “what’s next” and could be empowering for them and might even prevent power struggles. (I think this is where we should put the routine cards that I haven’t created yet) hahahahahahahahaha

Include Preparation for Transitions in the Routine.
Don’t rush preschool children. It never works. Always provide ample time for transition from one activity to the next. We like to use verbal warnings along with things like setting a timer, or ringing a bell letting our students and our own children know that in a few minutes we will begin to transition into the next activity. You could use sand timers, bells or chimes on your phone to signal transition time. This works well when it’s time for bed, time to clean up, time for dinner, etc. Think of it as keeping your child in the loop.

Practice Routines with Activities that are Fun, as well as Chores.
Routines could be for things that parents have to do as well as things we want our child to do. Our daughter enjoys making breakfast with her dad most mornings. It has become a predictable and fun pattern for both of them. Your child could help you make the bed in the morning or go get the mail with you. There are many routines that would be fun for them to do with you.

Keep your Daily Schedule as Predictable as Possible.
Children need to know what to expect, so when you can, keep to your routine and schedule. If you need to change directions, give lots of warning time and even just sit down and explain what the change is going to be so that they have time to process that a change is coming. Believe it or not, this is one of the most difficult things for preschoolers to do. Change direction. Especially when that change isn’t their idea.

Stay Flexible.
If you are flexible, your child will learn to be more flexible as well. Routines and patterns can change and will change as we have all found out over the past several months. This is all the more reason to have a strong and predictable pattern or routine for our children. When the foundation is there, it is easier to explain to your preschool child that you are doing something different during this block of time today, knowing and assuring them that you will return to your pattern later on.

Include Opportunities for (limited) Choice.
Preschool children like to be in control. When we can, we should allow children time to make limited choices. A great example of this is allowing your child to choose from two outfits that he or she wants to wear that day. Instead of choosing for your child, allow him to feel more in control by choosing from two options that you give him.

Have Fun!
While Barbara was raising her preschool aged children and even her high school children, she found it very helpful to keep a sense of humor and not always try to get them to conform with sternness but sometimes and more often than not, joke them into making good choices. Play is an important part of family life. We aren’t talking about permissiveness because that would lead to pretty poor behavior eventually, but being silly and having fun can go a long way with young children! One thing Barbara likes to say to a child at school or one of her own when she notices they are having a hard time making a good choice is, “I know you can do it!” and give them a high five, or a quick hug or a big smile and believe it or not, they eventually make the better choice.

The predictability of a child’s day brings with it safety and peace to his/her mind. Which in the end means more peace for you. We wish you luck as you work to figure out your new “family rhythm” and encourage you to check back for more ideas on creating a fun and peaceful learning space with your family. Feel free to leave comments and questions below, we would love to help where we can!

-Barbara, Rachel and Kayla

Peace Tables

Every September 21st, many people around the world celebrate International Peace Day. Because Dr. Maria Montessori promoted peace education as an integral part of her innovative curriculum and was herself nominated three times for the Nobel Prize of Peace, we have a very strong reason to celebrate peace not just on September 21st but daily.

With all that is happening around the world today, when we think about our role in promoting cultural awareness and understanding, not only to the students and families of our school but in our homes, we feel we can contribute by teaching peace daily through an environment that is prepared to receive even the littlest of learners.

At our school in California, we incorporate many fun peace day activities on International Peace Day. We sing beautiful peace day songs, we light candles for peace, we create lovely art work of peace and of course we learn of peace in many different forms. But truly understanding all that peace involves cannot come to us because we celebrate just one day a year. We must celebrate and cultivate a life of peace education daily if we want our children and students to rise up as a generation that sincerely lives a life of peace, harmony and understanding one with another. There is actually a beautiful peace education model that many schools try to follow and incorporate into their daily school lives called “Nurturing the Peace Flower” put out by Shining Mountains Press.

In this model, children learn valuable peaceful skills in areas of:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Community Awareness
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Environmental Awareness

Peace tables have long since been used in Montessori Classrooms around the globe as a place where children can go to work out conflicts, share concerns with each other, find a quiet place to relax or rejuvenate or complete calming and meditative tasks. It is also a place where our students can read and learn about people who have been great instruments in promoting peace around the world.

Peace tables are not only for schools, they are a great tool to have at home as well. Best of all, they are very easy to set up! With a few ideas of what we have listed below, you too can help your children learn to be promoters of peace!

Here’s a brief list of ideas to help get you started:

  • First, designate a special area of your home as the “peace place” where you can put your peace table.
  • Place things like books about peace, pictures and info cards of creators of peace, photos and information cards of children around the world, objects that promote peaceful feelings such as seashells, stones, crystals, mini water fountains, sand raking work or mini labyrinths on your peace table.
  • Consider teaching family members to use a talking stick (we use a peace rose in Montessori classrooms) when teaching children to take turns talking during conflict resolution.
  • Have quiet music or soft musical instruments available. A small chime or music bowl is perfect in this space.

We hope these ideas are helpful as you prepare your own peace tables. We would love to hear how your home and school areas turned out and even see pictures!

-Barbara, Rachel and Kayla

My First Impression of Montessori

One of the most inspiring Maria Montessori quotes to me is, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.”

I began my Montessori journey when I was 19 years old. I stumbled upon a job ad in the newspaper (yes, that is how we found jobs pre technology days) and I had no idea what a Montessori School was but I was a brand new child development major and I had just finished my first work experience job at a local elementary school in a kindergarten classroom during my senior year of high school. I found out during that time that I loved working with children, so I thought “let’s just see what this Montessori thing is.”

“I loved the idea immediately of how the owner transformed this space. Her school reminded me of a little farmhouse school in the country.”

A few days later, I found myself at the cutest little house turned school that was located on a peaceful and mature downtown street close to my hometown. I loved the idea immediately of how the owner transformed this space. Her school reminded me of a little farmhouse school in the country.

Following my interview, I was allowed to observe for a while which gave me time to see a Montessori classroom in action. I couldn’t help comparing and contrasting it to the Kindergarten class that I had worked in for a year where we brought children to our kidney shaped table in groups and gave them worksheets and standardized lessons until the timer rang. The Montessori preschool children, even younger than the Kindergarten children in my previous class, were busy working independently on things like: making snacks, washing dishes, letter sound practice, manipulating materials I had never seen before, counting lessons, and even washing the big windows at the back of the school.

I remember that I was struck by the beauty and flow of the moment. It is kind of weird to say, but in that moment I felt a sense of gratitude for the experience of witnessing this class of about 30 students just moving about attending to their inner needs. Although I knew nothing about Montessori, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it somehow. I knew I wanted to know more.

That very moment began my studies and love of the program that Maria Montessori began over 100 years ago. A woman well ahead of her time in every aspect you can imagine and one not just dedicated to the academic learning of her students but to the discovery of the inner child as well as helping to promote a peacefulness in life. During my years of study and work in Montessori to follow, I would come to learn what a leading pioneer she was in her theories, observations and educational implementations. Her way of thinking and teaching would become not just a big part of my life but my whole life. I would later learn that the roots of my pull towards Montessori were deeper than I knew.

Montessori is the very foundation of learning and growth. It encompasses honor and respect for the child, develops peace, kindness and grace and guides children through their social and academic lessons naturally. Montessori education is a celebration of the child.


Why We Love Montessori

If you are like us, you might not have grown up knowing anything about Montessori philosophy. When each of us discovered the beauty behind a Montessori mindset, we never looked back. If you are just starting your journey or you’re a long time veteran, we wanted to share why we love the Montessori way.

We love Montessori because it’s a beautiful flow of children of different ages working together in harmony. It’s philosophy emphasizes children learning skills they need in everyday life alongside their academics. Montessori is more than just learning, it’s a daily lifestyle. It establishes an environment with routines that provide opportunities for the child to explore and create. A place where they can master practical life skills and challenge their mind. Overall, it allows them to experience the beauty and wonder of this Earth through their senses.

“It’s a beautiful flow of children of different ages working together in harmony.”

A Montessori lifestyle creates a foundation of learning for these young minds to build on in their future years. Each activity and educational experience is for the individual. When a child chooses an activity to work on, they are able to pursue their interests while promoting self reliance.

In normal classroom settings, teachers are there to lecture and give out standard and formulaic worksheets and activities for the children. Meanwhile in Montessori, the teacher is there to guide the children as they navigate the learning materials, striving towards independence. As parents, this gives us a unique opportunity to follow the child. It is ok to be attentive to their needs, but it’s important to let them lead. This will allow for the most growth mentally and developmentally in our homes.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed strongly that little children had the capability of learning and absorbing information at a very early age and from what we have learned and observed with our own children, she was right. If you were to enter a Montessori classroom for the first time, prepare to be amazed. You will see children collaborating together, washing dishes, tracing letters, cleaning, using their imaginations, and so much more. They will be working in small groups or independently concentrating on tasks of interest to them. At our school in California, we love promoting independence and allowing the child to lead. This brings out the best kind of playful learning and adventures! As we have replicated this kind of learning in our homes, we have seen our children grow and develop in the best ways. It honestly has made for a happier parent and child.

These special little humans are in the most important period of development and they are eager to learn if we give them the freedom to do so. Maria Montessori said, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.” We believe that this doesn’t need to be a scary notion for parents. It is possible, and easier than you might think, to create a Montessori minded home. That’s a huge reason why we created iML. We want to partner with parents to make it easier for their children to find access to this type of learning. We want to help set you and your family up for success. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey. We can’t wait to see where it takes us.

-Barbara, Rachel and Kayla