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Why Do This?

Ever notice that kids know to hang up coats, put backpacks away, push in desk chairs, play independently, and clean up activities.......AT PRESHOOL?
What about at HOME?
Hey hold up...what's going on here?!?

Like in many of life's awkward situations... "no, no, it's not you."
But in this case... yes, it's probably you.
Rather, it's us.

We tend to live in our homes from our own adult perspective.
At preschool, our children's environments are designed to be used by them.
Furniture is scaled down, bins and shelves have labels, each space has an identity of it's own.
A place for everything, and everything in it's place.

With road markers that clear, it's not hard to know how to drive and where you are going...ON YOUR OWN.
"Can you get colors (markers) for me, mama?" 
"Right there top shelf in the cups, sweet pea".

Cha-Ching!  Didn't have to get up for that one, nice.

It's no surprise that well designed spaces effect people's interface with their world environment.
Having kids puts a new perspective on this...

Mama's little helper

Missed a spot...

All Clean!
To have ownership or stewardship over something is invaluable to a child.
Something to call their own.
Something for them to take care of.
Something that triggers creativity, independence, and engagement...naturally.

Nagging is over-rated.
I'm tired and I'll gladly let the classroom be the teacher sometimes...
Man, I need a back massage.  Can my classroom give me that too?  Darn.

So anyways... Why Do This?
LESS work for you, MORE fun for them.
Get me some of THAT, pronto.


A flower for me?

It's 6:15am...
"Mama...Enjo is awwwwaaakkkkeeee!!!!!!"

He's enJo.  Sosie.  Soso.  We are still working on his "Z" sound.
And a later wake up time.
So far, both are not successful.

It's a new morning and Zozo is "up and at'em."
He waltzes in to the kitchen, does a double take on the new school set up...
"wwwoooowwwww...., that's niceeeee."
We've been telling him about the new school for him.
He pans around the room, looking at the new tools in each cubby.
Then he spots the Magnolia stem I left for him on the counter.
"A flowah for meeee?" he asks.

Yes, a flower for Zozie.
"It's a new flower for your new school table", I added.

We set about getting the new vase with some glass beads at the bottom, along with some scissors to trim the stem.  We measured the stem to the vase, then snip.
I handed him the flower to arrange.
"Oh... thanks, mama."

He sizes up the vase, looks in at the glass beads, back up and turns to me.

"I be gentle?"  I nod, he proceeds.
His first "Ikebana" arrangement, small, but noteworthy.  Even if only to me.

Adding some water...
My Flower.


Beautiful & Breakable...

It's a real hit....Zozie is loving his new work place.
"I go Mon-tee-so-ree Skoool," he says.

First things first, we made everything kid size, kid level, kid accessible.

It's amazing how placing everything on his level completely changed his participation in his own daily routines.

"Give children beautiful & breakable things."  ~ Maria Montessori

This always made sense to me.
We care and value things that break, things that are not permanent, things that are fragile and fleeting.  With food and with life.  The gentleness with which we treat that perfect bubble that's about to form on that wand...  How else would we learn the physics of the world and our impact on it?

We started in the kitchen, life of the home party.
Ceramic bowls, plates, mini glasses, silverware, bibs, and placemats were provided for Enzo to set his own table, which is also a miniature of our usual dining table.  Everything was placed on a low shelf with complete open access, along with his snacks.  We gambled that if he had full access to his snacks, he would cease to see them as "special" and would not always be begging for them.  True so far...knock on wood.

Self-Serve Dishes & Snack Bar!

Now back to the dishes.
The fear may be that he might break something...Everything.

But how nice is it to handle actual metal, ceramic, and glass while eating?
Just ask ourselves how we eat when we are dining in a sit down restaurant with real china versus doing take-out with a plastic fork?  We can always get sloppy later...but can also just start Zo off "proper", if there is such a thing.
We stocked up at C&B Outlet so there's no loss should there be a casualty.  Plus, seeing the cause & effect of a glass breaking when dropped is a lesson in itself to a child, right?  How weird is it to see a plastic cup bounce back when you've thrown it?  No really, that's weird.

Enzo in action: Breakfast Set Up (Video: Click Link)

We all know this...Life breaks, and it's beautiful.


The Perch...on Fairmount

So we live in a box.
Literally.  A 700 sq ft rectangular apartment above a carport.  On Fairmount Ave in the city of El Cerrito.  It's a city just north of Berkeley, and we are ourselves, just alittle north of the earth...ground, dirt, whatever you want to call it.  We live on a Perch, overlooking the neighbors fences, with a sweet view of the Bart coming in and out of it's station, day in, day out.  All those people with places to go and things to do.  That view has mesmerized Zozo since we moved in at 7 months old.  His first word?  Not Mama or Papa, but TRAIN, in baby sign language.  A little tight in our place, but we deliberately chose this lifestyle.  Reduce expense, reduce income.  Living in a compact space = lower rent = Mama no work = time with Zo.  Plus, "cozy" is what you call this nowadays, right? 

So let's think outside our box.
In my PreZo life as an interior space planner, my brain is wired to always be whipping up the "Layout of the Month."  Humm...the sofa here, the chest there, let's turn that around...no, no, no, scratch that...from the top!
With limited amount of living space, the options are actually limitless!  A box is the best open canvas.  Lucky dogs...us.

As Zo grew in our little abode, his mobility increased but the size of our living area did not.  The challenge was to carve out a dedicated area for Zo's budding curiosities and lessons for them.  He has a place to sleep, to eat, to play, to bathe, but no place to work.  I know, I know.  "Work" sounds so serious.  I just mean things besides "Playing"....Practical life stuff, so simple, yet so hard at times. I wanted "work" to be just another part of life, not something to dislike or to push against.

So here we are...our very small "Great-room" was about to see it's most dramatic transformation yet!  The dining room will find it's new home by the living room.  Our home office is now snuggling nicely next to our bed in the master room.  And the old dining space, a 6x10 rectangular box (60SF), is now Enzo's new classroom!

                                                                   VOILA!  It is done.

For the classroom set up "Breakdown"...click on "Z school" at the top of the blog page, thanks!

Looks like we are not the only ones...for a related article on this same theme:


A Hapa Whapa?

Yes. My thoughts exactly.
When a friend first mentioned that they were looking at a "Montessori" preschool for their then 2 year old, I stuttered "a Monti--wha?" I was clueless. Waldorf? Isn't that a salad? Reggio Emilia? Wait un minuto. Do I need to start studying Italian to know what the heck is going on here?

I thought kids just played in the yard, worked along side their moms, and passed the days away jumping in puddles, rolling in the dirt, and sampling a variety of tasty finds on their daily creative adventures...

Apparently, I was grossly under prepared for the "three progressive approaches to early childhood education that appear to be growing in influence in North America." Ok. Breath. Zozie is only 29 months.
We are NOT behind.

After diving into some literature and reading more online about the various methods, the choice became more clear... Zo is decidedly a Montessori child. With or without the label.

Now... also on the "hit list" is my personal desire for Zo to MASTER, along with his classical violin, concert piano, and competitive tennis, the language of Mandarin Chinese.  Every Chinese mom's dream.  Oh, and be a Doctor.
Again, he is only 29 months so we have just alittle time on our sides.
But only alittle.  No really, I'm serious.  Ok, maybe not.

Having immigrated to the US at the age of 7, I am still conversant in Mandarin, can read it, but have mostly lost my writing for lack of practice...

As you may know, Zozie is 50% Chinese, 100% Hapa.

Hapa is a Hawaiian slang (meaning "half") for someone whose mixed racial heritage includes Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry.
We are all alittle "mixed up" in our toddler home-days anyways. I have no idea what I'm doing homeschooling, didn't know who Montessori was, and I MUST do all this in Chinese!

In this LAB, nothing is Tried, and who knows what is True...So, yes. This should be interesting.

For a short summary of the various schooling types mentioned: