Fair warning, going to go on about schools for a bit...
(rant) So, I've wanted to send my kids to Montessori school since I decided I hate public schools while I was still in junior high. My parents had 6 kids, and weren't exactly making 6 figures so we didn't have the option. One of my dad's teacher friends taught there, and when she would talk about the school I would think, now that's a REAL school! Students there don't have to do dumb assignments just because in March in the 6th grade we do (blah). If I already get it, I could move on to something new, or at least show it to some other kids which is more satisfying that writing and rewriting the same freakin word definitions or math problems over and over... (/rant)
Well, now I have a little girl and she's old enough to attend a Montessori school we have in our area. Unfortunately, we don't make 6 figures either, but we make enough that we definitely don't qualify for "aid". So, as a compromise while we try to save up $4000-9000 for a year's worth of school (she's not even 2 yet, but Montessori starts young or the kids have trouble adapting) I've worked it out so I can take her to classes on Saturdays for an hour and a half. The point of the classes is as much to expose parents to the Montessori method of teaching as it is to expose the kids.
She LOVES going. They have so many toys and activities (work) that she doesn't have at home or daycare, so that's fun. Then they also make a point of having everything at their height/size, so she can turn on the sink herself (no hot water), wash her hands and then dry them off (hours of fun right there). They also have little stairs & ramps she can safely practise going up and down, and don't even get me started on how much she likes the ... I think it's called the large muscle room. Which has hoops and stuff to climb & jump on. When I ask her on Saturday mornings now if she wants to go to "school", she just screams YEAH!!! and starts jumping up and down. I have learned not to do it too early in the morning or she gets mad because we haven't left yet.
One of the handouts I picked up last week recommended setting up our home so she has the same advantages - things she needs to do easily within reach, have her put away her "work" (toys) when she'd ready to use a different one, etc. I went through all 8 bookshelves we have downstairs and purged 1/3 of my collection to make room on the lower 2 shelves of each. At first I was really sad letting go of so many of my books, even if I hadn't read them since I met my husband 7 years ago (my criteria for purging). But, once I started digging all her toys out of the 2 bins we have set aside for them, it was so exciting! I mean, first of all, it looked SO much neater to have 2 or three items sitting on each shelf instead of overflowing out of a bin. And the look on my daughter's face when she saw it...well it was infectious. I had to get happy with her.
I also have been having her practise eating w/ a plastic knife (not sharp/pointy/serrated - would take some serious skills to injure yourself with it) and a shot glass or little mini juice glass to drink from. The part of me that hates a child dripping with her beverage after a meal cringes, but I was actually surprised at how well she does with a "big girl" cup instead of a sippy. Don't get me wrong - we've had some messes, but the glasses have survived and she's getting better so fast.
So anyway the highlight of my day today was when I was talking to the other moms and we were discussing night time habits. Two of the boys in the class are apparently waking up in the middle of the night and jabbering away at nothing for awhile before going back to sleep. So I mentioned that we had to move our daughter to a toddler bed when she started to try climbing out of the crib and was falling (back inside) and hurting herself. I figured it would just be a matter of time before she fell OUT of the crib and _really_ hurt herself. The teacher said something to the effect of "Well, Maria Montessori believed in allowing children access to their environments, its very good that your daughter is in a toddler bed." I felt myself go all wibbly with "We're actually doing something right." vibes. Because I gotta tell ya - we agonized over this decision. Especially since now that she can get around her room, she's doing odd things while she winds down for bed. Like taking all the clean diapers and stuffing them in the diaper pail. Or gathering everything that weighs less than 10 lbs and piling it on her bed. Nothing is too pointy or large. Board books, plastic picture frames, more diapers, the rough plastic teddy bear figurine from on top of her dresser, not to mention every toy, blanket, and article of clothing she has. We did this over 2 months ago and last night was the third time that we went to check on her and found her passed out on the floor, with so much stuff mounded on the bed there was no room for her. We've started hiding some things in her closet, so at least when she goes in there to get stuff we can hear the door sliding around and go up and put her back in bed. And we always have to do a sweep before bed and make sure that nothing made it in there during the course of a day that would be dangerous (or really messy) for her to have unsupervised.
She never does this for nap time or when we're in there, either. While we're there, she'll either just try to escape (run out/open the door & hang out in the bathroom), or ply us for songs or books. But after we turn on the night lights, shut the door, and clunk the gate in place (the gate buys us time to get over there if we hear the door open), she'll lie there for awhile (sometimes 15-20 minutes) before she starts padding around. Now, we can go back in and prevent the pile-up, but that just completely resets the process. She'll be up all night if we do that. But, if we let her do her hoarding, she'll stop after another 10-15 minutes and go to sleep...with her diapers scattered about and snuggled up with an empty picture frame. Or.. sleeping on her Hello Kitty rug like she's been booted out by the SASA committee (Stuffed Animals Sleep Alone). I'd love to take a picture (I don't think she'll believe us when we tell her about this in a few years), but its way too dark to get a pic to turn out.
I wonder if "toy mountain" is what Maria had in mind...