All the colours I see

Quarantine Day 18.

We have sewed and painted rainbows, read more books than we would normally do (with zero time to share anything here I’m afraid), we listened to audiobooks while doing household chores, we clapped our hands at the window at 8pm.
We watched our friends and teachers every morning on Zoom, singing songs and having to click a button to raise our hand to talk to them.
We never left the house (no, we don’t go for walks).
This thing hit us as a tornado and although as parents we desperately try to repeat that everythingwillbealright, truth is things are not normal, so the only thing I was sure I would not do, is to pretend they are.

Although our children do need to feel safe, they also are incredibly acute observers. If we constantly check the news on our phone and get obsessive and nervous about hygiene, but then expect from them that they behave ‘normally’ and deal with mountains of homework,  it will simply not work.

They must be allowed to grief their normality, to experience anxiety, to be trusted in their ability to understand, to be helped making questions.
Sometimes we think children might have questions that they are afraid to make, but what I found out is that young children just have mixed feelings, and they often lack a vocabulary for their emotions and the understanding of the world that would allow them to articulate their thoughts first and then a question in words.
So there's a lot of work to do there.

The second thing I was sure about, was that I did not intend to homeschool.
The emotional 'containment' has become the greatest job for us, much more important than homeschooling. All our children will be just fine when they will go back to school, and the learning curve will resume in a heartbeat. But what about their (and our) mental health?
That's the only thing that matters to me right now.

We try to keep things real. I have tried to engage the girls as much as possible in practical life activities around the house, so that they feel they are doing their part in keeping things going.

The family, no matter how little, is the first experience of community life, so learning how to contribute and respect the work of other members is first taught at home. That's such an important social skill to nurture in a moment of unprecedented social restriction.

I am thankful that my girls are still young and they are fine playing at home and doing what they normally do. They attend a Montessori school and my 5 and a half year old is not in Year 1 yet, but even if she was, the Montessori method approaches home-work in a very different way.

In Montessori every child is allowed his own learning pace (that's why there are no exams or worksheets, because they just would not work for everyone) which takes place while working in a prepared environment (the Montessori classroom) and within a community (the class), closely observed by a guide (the teacher).

None of these things can be recreated at home. Parents cannot be teachers. Children cannot learn without their friends.
You might think that's kind of a disadvantage in these circumstances but it's the opposite, as there is no need to overload them with school stuff now, on top of what is happening.
The bottom line for everyone is that the parents' mindset makes all the difference. How much the parent wants to push his child and to what extent we focus on academical performance rather than on life skills.

What we do as Montessori parents is to offer our children purposeful activities, since children (especially very young ones) learn more easily when they see a purpose and feel helpful.

So we baked almost every day, looking for recipes, weighing and mixing ingredients, then writing down our favourite ones in a small recipe booklet.
We made sauerkraut and sourdough bread to observe the fermentation process (and to bake our own bread since yeast is scarce!), soaked beans and planted seeds to observe germination.
And we cleaned the house a lot, since the lovely lady who used to help us is safely at home self-isolating. That's a way to first of all not give her work for granted, and to enjoy a neat environment after working together.

Yes we do try to sit down and read some phonic books every now and then since my oldest daughter was in the process of starting to read, but only if there is no negotiation to do so.
We sew letters on card, and we use 3-part cards and our movable alphabet and sandpaper letters to explore words sounds. And we play sound games. If you are not familiar with sound games, you can find out more here.
We also draw and colour an awful lot thanks to all the very talented illustrators that have shared free downloadable colouring pages and activities on their websites, like Stephanie Hathaway and  Rachel Ignotofsky, and we enjoyed our two subscription boxes from Mudnbloom and from Carine Robin, The Montessori Family, that was all about the animals of the pond this month.

What will we do tomorrow? and in a week?
I have no idea. We go through this day after day, trying to balance the need for a routine and the need for exceptions.
We are writing history here, something that will most likely stay with us and our children for a lifetime.
So I think that probably the best thing we can do with our children is to help them remember.

Start a journal, write what you do, take photos (kids love glueing photos!). You will be surprised to see how often they go back to them and how excited they are to write this story down together.

Where were you in 2020 Quarantine? What did you do? What do you want to remember?

Stay safe.

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