A Year of Montessori Learning: February


It’s the first day of March! And I’m here to happily tell February “good riddance!” as well as give you guys a report on the second month of our Year of Montessori Learning. I covered our first month here if you need to catch up, but basically, we are picking a theme for each of the twelve months, and finding books, projects, adventures, music and more that fall within that theme. It’s not super strict or rigid, it just helps give us a little purpose and structure to our days. It’s also really fun! Join us, won’t you!?

FEBRUARY

Theme:
Geography + Culture- February is typically a rough month for me. Regardless of my determination every single year to figure out a way to bypass my annual doldrums, I definitely fell victim yet again. The state of our country isn’t helping, the record rainfall and weeks on end of gray days played a part, and the cabin fever struggle is real. So despite very good intentions to hold my head high, there were quite a few afternoons of feeling a bit blue. Regardless of my personal state of mind, however, I felt pretty good about our general rhythm overall. It was as structured as we needed it to be some days, and as lax as we needed others.

To embrace the themes of Geography and Culture, we set out our globe and spent plenty of time spinning it, assembling (me) and disassembling (Emmett) the world map floor puzzle I ordered at the beginning of the month, and reading through the baskets of books we reserved at the library. We printed out and laminated a map of the world that I used as a placemat somedays and we listened faithfully to our February playlist. In light of the current state of our country, it did feel somewhat cathartic for me to read Emmett books about peace and diversity. Though he’s obviously not to the stage where he really grasps these complicated subjects, it felt important for me to be intentional about tackling those issues from an early age. It also makes me feel like I’m doing something to make this world just a little bit better of a place, when most days that feels like an impossible task.

We didn’t dive into any flag or continent work because it felt like Emmett was just a bit too little to understand those concepts, but I really look forward to doing so in the future! I actually really love geography, so a part of me is pumped about teaching those pieces a little more in depth next year. And perhaps exploring food from all over the world, which I didn’t even think of until just now and am really wishing I would have! That would have livened up my dull February days!

Books:
I forgot to take a photo of the first batch of books we checked out from the library, but I have the list, so I’ll link to them anyway. A lot of the books on these topics were a bit over Emmett’s head, but aside from the fact that I really enjoyed reading them anyway, I think just the practice of reading aloud to him a couple times a day is a good habit to get into. We hit the Silverton Library twice in the month, the first time sticking to our monthly theme AND attending a story time, which was a big stretch for mama, and the second time playing in the kid’s area and just grabbing a few books that caught Emmett’s interest.

Library: The Colors of Us.* Atlas of Adventures. Maps. A Life Like Mine. We’re Different, We’re the Same. The Skin You Live In.* Can you Say Peace?* A is for Activist.** Global Babies

Our Collection: What a Wonderful World. Home.* Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Let’s Count Oregon.

*- favorites, **-this one seemed a bit mature for little kiddos and kind of aggressive

I’d been feeling kind of frustrated at Emmett’s tendency to head straight for the bookshelf in his room and dump all the books off the shelf, only to move onto something else right away. I’d watch him head to the crate full of books in the living room and empty them onto the floor just before crawling off to a new task. I wasn’t sure what to do, but while reading one night about the prepared environment in Montessori from the Start, I stumbled upon a section specifically about books. Lillard suggests that rather than keep all your child’s books on one shelf where they can reach them, put the collection away somewhere that can only be accessed with your help, and instead provide small baskets with 3-4 books each in places- away from toys- where your child can enjoy them. She promised that the child would engage with the books more fully and often, and learn to differentiate between how toys are treated and how books should be treated.

I must admit I was a bit skeptical that his behavior would change, but I faithfully followed her advice, gathering and moving his entire collection to the built-in bookcase in my office; leaving only a few small baskets in our room, his room, the bathroom and living room. Well, go figure, the very first thing he did when he woke up from his nap was crawl over to the first basket he saw, pull out each of his books and read slowly through them, placing them gently back in the basket before he moved on. My mind was blown. And once again my faith in the Montessori ideals, deepened. I’ve been changing out the books in each of the little baskets every few days, swapping from the large collection in my office, and I’ve actually really enjoyed the process. I feel like a librarian!

Adventures:
In addition to the two trips we took to our local library, story time and a few stops at the farm (here and here), we also took a couple walks, played with little buddies and took an entire day on the 14th to drive around to all our little friends’ houses to deliver valentines. Taylor has been working on a learning tower for Emmett out in the shop, and one of Emmett’s favorite things to do is head out there to supervise. I’m not sure what he likes more, watching Dad, seeing the power tools in action, or sitting on the little John Deere gators we have stored out there for his eventual use. Win, win, win, if you ask me.

Projects:
Waldorf Window Stars
. Tissue Paper Lanterns/Vases. Handmade Valentines. Coloring work.

This month’s crafty mission was to brighten up our main living area (Living/Dining Room) since it’s been pretty much gray and rainy every single day. We started with some beautiful Waldorf window stars made of kite paper, added some tissue paper lanterns- which Emmett was able to participate in- and put together some fun rainbow heart crayons for our valentines. I also had him do some coloring on his valentines and a few random times throughout the month. Between the fact that he’s still mostly interested in eating the delicious beeswax crayons and the tidbit I read in Montessori from the Start about “coloring” being more about hand use and dexterity, we aren’t pushing artwork too much, but you can bet I’m pretty pumped for the time when he’s ready to jump into it. For now, I’ll just keep doing the crafts and telling myself they’re for him. Ha!

Shelves/Toys:
I didn’t switch too much around on the shelves in the living room, mostly because Emmett’s really at the perfect age for a lot of the work. As you can see from the photos, he’s been a big fan of the ring stacker, loves the homemade coin box I put together, still enjoys the lacing toy immensely and has just started to do be able to do some puzzles on his own (which means I’m basically ready to register him for MIT). We usually sit down together in front of his shelf in the afternoons, working through each tray of work, learning the process of pulling the tray out, completing the task and placing the tray back on the shelf. He’s not quite doing it all on his own each time, but he starts to sing the clean-up song when he’s ready to move on, so I’m counting it as progress!

He still plays with his “four-wheeler” (Radio Flyer Ride Scoot to Pedal) the Toddle Wagon and his IKEA tunnel almost everyday, and this month we added a Tepee and a big basket of blocks I found on Craigslist. So far both have been a hit. He’s so very close to walking, but seems kind of bashful about it, preferring to practice when he thinks we aren’t paying attention. All in your own time, little guy. I respect that.

The shelves in the office upstairs have been updated since I took this photo, mostly simplified by removing books and those cars on the windowsill, but the main work he’s been interested in on these shelves has been the puzzle with the rounds and the shape sorter. He can’t quite get all the shapes where they go, but we usually do it together and he’s catching on pretty quick. I had no idea he could do the puzzle until I looked over from my work the other day to see it nearly completely, him just placing the last piece in it’s spot. A genius, I tell you! :)

Playlist:
We listened to this month’s play list quite a bit, at least 3-4 times a week, usually while we played or did the work on Emmett’s shelves. I really liked the mix, except that I chose to put some national anthems on there, and it always caught me off guard a little bit when they came on. Taylor came home for lunch one day while it was playing in the background, and was rather surprised when “Oh Canada,” began to play. The look on his face was pretty funny. You can listen to or download the playlist here:

February | Geography + Culture

Though I’m happy to see it go and ready to move on towards spring, February has been a great month for us to ease into a more structured rhythm. So looking forward to March and diving into our next theme, Language Arts! See you in a month. :)

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4 Comments

  1. I really love your monthly theme idea. I have 2 girls (a 2 year old and a 7 month old). Your ideas are very inspirational and I love your honesty about what is amd isn’t working for you! Thanks and I cant wait to read about the rest of your year.

  2. Hi Kali, Thanks so much for your detailed account of your experience with this. I love your blog and IG–you’re a great writer and your photos are beautiful. It’s really fun for me to follow what you guys are up to because Emmett is a little older than my baby girl PJ, so your updates are basically projections of what’ll be coming for us in the near future.

    I’m right there with you–February is such a bummer. I am susceptible as well to the winter doldrums…actually I love all four seasons, including winter for a while. But it just lasts sooooo loooooong here in the cold, frozen tundra of Northern WI. I am over it–the coziness and slowness and gray-ness of it all–by the time Feb comes along. BUT, my daughter’s birthday is smack-dab in the middle of Feb, so this year I got to plan and execute her first birthday party, which was a welcome distraction and a lot of fun. I left all her decorations up because they add color to our lives, and we desperately need some color (LOVE your window stars!) I’m grateful to her for coming along and brightening up my otherwise least-favorite month. ;)

    Anyway, this series you’re doing is super interesting to me…I’ve been itching to do some Montessori stuff with PJ, but I thought she would be too young for most of it. When you pointed out that some of the activities are as much for you as for Emmett, it dawned on me that I don’t necessarily have to wait. I think it would really help give shape and purpose to our days, which right now feel pretty stale and monotonous.

    I loved the bit about treating book differently than toys. I am so happy that PJ already shows an interest in books, but yeah, she is a baby and she is pretty rough on them and her attention span is short. One helpful thing I figured out by accident is that she is most inclined to sit quietly through several books if we read about a half-hour before sleepy-times, *before* she is really tired and crabby and just wants to nurse and go to bed. She is a pretty squirmy and active kiddo but she is at her most calm and snuggly at those times, so I seize the opportunity to sit in the rocking chair and read. I think for some babies, though, their snuggly-time is right after they wake up from a good nap. Just depends on the kid. I also give her her infant toothbrush to chew on while we read, and it really seems like having something to occupy her hands and mouth helps to keep her captivated longer. We went from completing 1-2 books to getting through 5-6 in a sitting, and her teeth are getting brushed more often! ;)

    Thanks again for doing this series. I look forward to following along with you guys and sharing our experiences.

    • Tonia,

      Thank you so much for your sweet and thoughtful comment! And for taking the time to reach out. I’m so glad you were able to take something away from my experiences. Like you mentioned, it’s been such a great way to help me provide some structure to days that otherwise seem rather stale and monotonous. Allowed me freedom when needed, and structure when we need that too. And always gives me something to look forward to or fall back on.

      I love your insight on reading times! I’ll have to give that a try. I feel like we are always cramming in a meal before we rush him off to bed, but I’m sure I could multi-task and get in a few extra books while he eats. The more books, the better, if you ask me!

      Looking forward to sharing the journey with you! You’re doing great, mama!

      Kali