Thursday, March 5, 2009

Recovering from School Room Visitors

I was recently asked:

...I’m curious to find out how your kids did back in the school room after having their cousins invade their room and set non-Montessori examples on how to “play with their toys”.

 We’ve had visitors to our home since we converted our game room to our school room, but I have not invited other children to the room because I wasn’t sure how to handle it… After the cousins visited, I expected the boys to try not using rugs, to take multiple items off of the shelves at once, dump all of the different sorting activities into the flower arranging bucket, stir the cylinders from the cylinder blocks with a wooden spoon, build odd things with the pink tower and crash it to the floor, and generally have to be retrained.  The reality is that of this happened.  

I started the session after their cousins left outside the locked school room door.  I said (as I usually do anyway) "make sure you each get out a rug first."  They always burst into the school room when I open the door like shoppers who have been standing in line outside Walmart since midnight the day after Thanksgiving.  As usual, they burst in, and went straight for the rugs.

The rest of the session went better than ever.  That day Kal-El had a need to give me  a verbal play-by-play of everything his cousins did in the school room.  He would say "that not how we do it."  Then, he demonstrated nearly every material in the room as if he were giving a presentation.  Each time he made it clear (verbally) what his cousins did with it and what was supposed to be done.  Along the lines of "Cousin turned the block upside down and dumped all the cylinders out and stirred them around.  Kal-El takes them out one at a time with his fingers like this (demonstrates pincer grasp)."  It was clear to me that he was upset by what had happened in there and was glad to have everything back to normal.  Me Too is just happy to behave the same way Kal El is behaving, and was completely unchanged.

It is taking much longer to untrain him on more regular "big kid" things he learned such as sliding down slides head first, whipping toys at the slide, using his fire hoses as a jump rope (nearly hitting Me Too in the eye), and a couple phrases that sound normal coming from a seven-year-old but unattractive coming from a three-year-old.  I am not blaming them or trying to complain that they were a bad influence on my kid.  That's just what happens sometimes when groups of kids get together.  If only we could program them so only their good habits rubbed off on other kids then with enough exposure they'd all be perfect angels.  I'm pretty sure my nephew peed on the floor in a store because he heard the story about Kal-El peeing on the floor the day he came.  It is pretty much my fault because I'm the idiot that related the story.  What goes around, comes around and a little clean up is necessary on both sides.

I don't know exactly what the reader's question meant by "visitors."  I've had other three-year-olds over for playdates and I wouldn't want to invite them into the school room.  It's too short of a time to bother with "play" that needs so much preparation.  I think they would have more fun just playing together.  Some of our materials were certainly damaged during the experience and it wouldn't be worth damage for a playdate.  What was different with the cousins is that they were staying in our home for four days and they are relatives who have a stake and an interest in the boys education.  It would have been wierd to declare the school off limits.  
If the boys had a particular friend who was over all of the time I would probably teach that child the ground rules and invite them in occasionally.  An example of someone who has taken that approach is Montessori Free Fall.
If another family was staying with us as house guests for a period of time, it would be on a case by case basis.  It depends on the personality of not only your own children but the personality of the kids that are visiting.  Some of Kal-El's friends would be like tornadoes and others would have blended right in.  Kal-El was really excited and but also a little bit upset by having all of the rules broken in the school room.  I was really lucky this time with a smooth transition.  I don't think I could let that happen too many times without the boys starting to think that behavior was normal. 

The boys' Grammy visited the school room today and I wouldn't say that it was business as usual.  Kal-El was more interested in showing her everything for a minute than working for real and in his excitement was having trouble with the "one thing at a time" rule.  That was fine because we were in the school room to show Grammy, that was the point.  I know real Montessori school must have visitors all of the time and I'm sure those kids have learned to ignore them to a point. I imagine that if a students personal friend or relative visited they would be pretty excited as well.
There was a second half to the reader question and I am still working on writing my post about that and should be done soon.


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