On My Mind: Contentment

I am content this evening. It's wonderful. I'm not worrying about anything. I'm happy and keep finding myself lost in thought. I'm at peace. It's a lovely and welcome state of being.

We went to parent-teacher conferences for the girls this afternoon. I love these conferences. Thirty minutes with each of the girls' teachers basically just gushing over them. Hearing all the wonderful things our girls are doing when we're not right there with them is wonderful. I'm amazed by them. Cora's language skills have exploded. She's reading and writing, and the world has become so wide open for her. I love that she can develop those skills in a very self-guided way at school.

There are five areas of work in Montessori (the last [culture] is really a sort of extension to the four main areas of work - mostly just an extension of language):

Practical Life
Culture (geography, botany, zoology music, art, physical activity, foreign languages)

Cora is at home in practical life and sensorial work, and she has been since she started her Montessori program at three. I love that her mind is on fire for language right now, but she is equally interested in working hard in math. Last year, on a day when I was observing, she spent about an hour on a math work. (I wish I could remember the name!) In Montessori, the steps to the work are just as important as the work itself. They have to get their mats and supplies (she had help getting the supplies because the cubes of 1000 are pretty heavy). She had to start with 1 and move all the way up to 9,000. I loved watching her work her way through. I can't imagine what she's doing in kindergarten. Here's what the work looks like:

(Can someone help me remember the name?)

When they're done, the teacher comes over and asks specific questions about certain numbers to make sure the child is grasping everything. And then when the assessment is over, the child must put away all of the supplies for the work just as orderly as she found them.

Her math skills keep on blossoming. I'm proud of the hard work she continues to put into math even though I know she'd rather be writing and illustrating stories. In kindergarten, they are in a different classroom with a different teacher everyday, but they return to their "home" circle for lunch, circle time, and combine with a nearby circle for chapter time before they return to their area of the day. Our conference is with her circle teacher, but each of the area teachers writes a report of what Cora is working on and what their goals are for her. It was rewarding to hear how she does with all of her teachers in all of the Montessori areas.

Magnolia is becoming so independent. Three-year-old work doesn't sound as complex  - though it is in every single way for the one doing it. Magnolia comes home talking about two people most of the time, but when we were talking with her teacher, we found out that she and a little girl, Zadie, are just about inseparable at school. She has NEVER mentioned her!

She loves play dough, easel painting, and water work. She's able to come into the classroom, pick a work and stay engaged with something during all of her time. She still doesn't always ask her teachers if she needs help with something. Her teacher told us of two experiences where Magnolia knew she should ask for help, but her stubborn streak [my term, not her teacher's] won.

One was at the play dough table. The lid was still on the play dough, and she couldn't get it off. Her teachers moved progressively closer to her as time went on. Her circle teacher, Ms. Jensen, ended up sitting on the floor right next to the table, and Magnolia would smile at her and motion to the jar the play dough was in. She'd work at it for a minute, then smile again. Eventually Zadie asked to join her, Magnolia accepted her request, and Zadie wondered why they were just sitting there. She [Zadie] looked over at Ms. Jensen and told her about the play dough, and Ms. Jensen told her that she was sure Magnolia would ask for help if she needed it. It took another minute before Magnolia got down and asked if Ms. Jensen would open the play dough.

The other instance was at the easel. There's a clip at the top of the easel to hold the paper. It's a real reach for Magnolia because she's so tiny. She worked for FORTY minutes trying to clip her paper onto the easel. Both teachers were pretty much hovering, letting her know they were available for help. She finally got was able to clip the paper by herself. Ms. Jensen told us she was not expecting that outcome, but she sees how her delay in asking for help is definitely leading to her independence. She hasn't had much trouble with that clip since she figured it out on her own. This is a good lesson for me.

Every time I leave our girls' school, I am so happy they are there. They are loved and cared for. Who they are is nurtured and respected, and that nurturing really helps to stretch them in safe ways that leads to amazing growth. I LOVE MONTESSORI! I love fabulous, caring educators.

More contentment...

This really comes from something I've not been content with: my home. It's all my fault too, I've been neglecting my minimalist desires and letting stuff get out of control. Surfaces have been covered (I hate visual clutter), it seems like dishes have constantly been in the sink. I don't even want to talk about the laundry. The last few months have been hard. I've basically been going at this whole parenting/homemaker thing [extra] alone. Jake doesn't get home until 10:30 most nights. And weekends don't really exist. A day off? HA!!![!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

Let it be known that he does the dishes around the house, but he has been stretched so thin that he hasn't been able to. It would take more than one hand to count the number of times I have walked into the kitchen and wanted to cry at the pile of dishes in the sink from the day before. Sometimes I really want a dishwasher so I can hide my dirty dishes. I don't think I will complain about unloading a dishwasher ever again.

Sidenote: I once wrote a post on my blog about how I loved doing dishes by hand. Proof. I've decided this is only the case if I have a choice.

It's like even when he just does that one thing, it makes everything else so much easier. Because his crazy schedule started around the time the girls started school, I have had an overload of excess paper stuff all over from the things they bring home. I leave them out because I want Jake to see them, but then they just stay out because I forget about them. I'm jumping on the file box bandwagon for each girl. I think it will help out a lot. In addition to school starting and all of that extra paper, we have been getting SO MANY medical bills for Cora's ear tubes. We're up to about $4,000 now. I'm trying to not be overwhelmed by the number because the result of the number is priceless.

I have been on a mission to stick to my "less stuff" guns. I feel like I'm always on this mission, but I've realized that if I'm not always on this mission, then junk piles up fast.

Here's the real deal, when my home isn't in order, I'm not in order. I like being in order - when I'm not I feel stunted. And I really love my sweet little Dot. For real, my house has a name. We were made for each other. She teaches me really important things. Sometimes I'm slow...or really tired and just want to be lazy because mom's need breaks sometimes, and breaks for this mom have been pretty non-existent.

I think a big part of my evening of contentment was getting a little break today. On my way out the door, I asked our babysitter if she could stay a little longer than I'd originally asked her after the PT conferences. She could! I ran to the library and picked up a book, then went to lunch. I had a date with myself. Just me, yummy food, and a book. (I went to Saturn Grill - I was really trying to get to Kitchen 324, but the construction around there is crazy.) My reservoir was filled just enough to make me feel like I was on cloud nine. Shoot, if one hour alone doing exactly what I want to do is all it takes...I'm going to take it whenever I can.  


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