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Learning Together Education

My Blog


Family Meetings

Posted on April 14, 2020 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (8134)
We started holding family meetings when the first two children were two and three years old – and held family meetings for most of thirty years.  When I made the invitation, the children were very excited.  They didn’t know what a meeting was, but they knew it was important and grown-up.
Why hold family meetings?
Ÿ  To gain cooperation.
Ÿ  To give children the opportunity to solve problems.
Ÿ  To involve children in some decisions.
Ÿ  To allow children to feel important and “heard”.
How to hold family meetings:
Have a special 3-ring binder available.  I like a binder that has a clear cover into which you can insert a cover page - made by your child.  In this binder you will keep the meeting agenda and minutes.
Children and parents can put items on the agenda.  If it is an issue that affects several members of the family, it can be discussed at the meeting.  Sometimes, if a question or problem comes up during the week, I’d say seriously, “That’s very important.  Why don’t you put that on the agenda for the family meeting?”  If an issue involves only one child, parents discuss it privately with that child.  Try to avoid disciplining one child in the presence of his siblings.
If a child can’t yet write, he can dictate the agenda item to someone who can, or he can draw a picture on the agenda.
The parents could very likely come up with a long list of agenda items.  Restrain yourself, limiting yourself to one or two issues, and keeping meetings under fifteen minutes, perhaps as short as five minutes.  Observe how long your children can stay focused.
Hold your meeting at the same time every week.  Choose a time during the week that everyone is likely to be home.  If someone is missing, we usually don’t meet.
What is discussed at the meeting?
The following three-part meeting has worked for us over the years:
1.  Acknowledgements
We start with acknowledgements or “Thank you’s”.  Ideally, each person thanks everyone else for something, so no one is left out. 
          “Thank you for helping your sister with her project.”
          “Thank you for driving me to my friend’s house.”
Acknowledgements can be written on the agenda so they are not forgotten.  I have seen amazing growth in my children’s ability to appreciate others through this weekly exercise.
2.  Problem-solving
Discuss problems one at a time.  Problems may be listed on the agenda, or brought up at the meeting.  The concerned person states the problem.  It is helpful to avoid blaming.  Ask family members how they have been affected by the problem.  Allow the children to brainstorm solutions, listing them in the minutes.  They usually come up with the same solutions the adults would think of, but they are MUCH more likely to follow through because they thought of the solution.  Decide together which solution to try, and gain everyone’s cooperation.  Record this in the minutes.  At the next meeting, discuss whether the solution is working.
All of your children can contribute to the minutes by writing and/or drawing what was discussed.
3. Planning
Look together at the calendar.  What is coming up?  Who needs a ride where?  What should we do over spring break?  How much can we spend?  What holiday and birthday preparations need to be made?  Plan gifts for relatives and friends far in advance - this allows time for being truly thoughtful, perhaps creating a handmade gift.
Notice that the discussion of problems is sandwiched in between two positives: thank you’s and planning.  Starting and ending positively is uplifting, and seems to help us keep a positive outlook as we work to solve problems.

You might follow up with some family fun!
Let me know about your family meetings: [email protected]


The Easter Story

Posted on April 11, 2020 at 10:43 AM Comments comments (8)

Practical Life at Home

Posted on April 3, 2020 at 10:16 AM Comments comments (216)

Maria Montessori identified the period from birth to age six as The Absorbent Mind. First the child attaches and bonds with caregivers, and then soon imitates everything they do. By age three, the child needs less maternal care, begins to follow the example of older children in a family, tribe, or Montessori classroom. In fact, I observe that the child will often choose the older child over the adult. By six years old the child has adapted to the culture and learned to complete the simpler tasks of that life.  
So then, take your opportunity while your child is young! It is very hard to teach these tasks to a child who has passed the Absorbent Mind.  Observe and follow your child’s interests, you will be guided by your child’s development.
The tasks listed here are taught with example and grace rather than correction and scolding.
Grace and Courtesy
·         Please and Thank You
·         Excuse me
·         Waiting patiently
·         Greeting and saying goodbye
·         Interrupting appropriately and not interrupting
·         “You may use this when I’m done” and “May I…”
·         Heartfelt apology “Do you feel sorry? You could tell them.”
·         Offering to help
·         Letting someone go first
·         Permission to hug or touch someone
Care of Self and environment
·         Sitting and pulling in your chair
·         Pushing in your chair
·         Carrying various items
·         Gathering and setting up your work
·         Putting away work when finished
·         Washing hands thoroughly, drying hands
·         Using the toilet
·         Dressing and undressing, jacket flip, button, zip, Velcro, tie, buckle…
·         Hand washing laundry
·         Hanging laundry to dry
·         Folding laundry and putting away
·         Using a hanger
·         Matching socks
·         Washing a table or countertop
·         Wiping up spills
·         Sweeping with child-sized broom, brush and dustpan
·         Mopping (some mops can have handle segments removed to adjust size)
·         Washing windows, mirrors
·         Arranging flowers
·         Planting seeds, tending a garden
·         Harvesting and cleaning produce
·         Meal planning and shopping for healthy food
·         Food prep: pouring, scooping, spreading, slicing, stirring, grating, peeling, mashing…
·         Using stove and oven as you observe child is careful and obedient
·         Setting the table
·         How to use dishes and utensils
·         Scraping and rinsing plates, washing dishes, loading and unloading dishwasher
·         Collecting compost and recycling

· for Edison’s Day video use code FREEAPRIL 

Home Responsibilities for Children

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 3:02 PM Comments comments (118)
As I prepare for a talk next week on Montessori home environment, I thought I would share my handout on children's responsibilities and chores by age. 

In today’s changing society, children are challenged to become “working partners” with their parents. Challenges such as this can be met in many ways: mutual respect, sharing of opinions, acceptance of decisions, cooperative setting of goals, standards, or limitations, and permitting certain rights and privileges.                         

As the child learns the benefits of order resulting from cooperation, he begins to view himself as a person who is capable of making a contribution to others. Growth in this area is best acquired developmentally, whereby the child becomes useful and needed at early age, with the expectation of becoming more self-reliant and independent as time passes.               

The adult’s personal experiences and situations may lead him to find many ways in which a child can contribute. Sometimes parents, aware of the need for giving the child responsibility, are stymied at knowing what to do and what to expect. The following list is intended to meet this need.                             

The list is CUMULATIVE. As the child advances in age or grade he can continue to maintain past responsibilities as well as assuming new ones. Sometimes a child no longer finds it fun to complete a task once it is no longer a new challenge.  Tasks that are the child’s own personal responsibility, such as making his bed, doing his laundry, and tidying his room, we should no longer do for him.  Tasks that help the whole family may be rotated, or a choice of chores may be given.      

The list, meant to suggest possibilities, is only a starting point subject to the situation and creativity of the adult observing the child.  
In training for these responsibilities, it may be wiser to proceed gradually. First, establish or strengthen the relationship, and then through friendly discussions, the adult and the child together may determine the manner in which the child can become a contributing member of the family.                                             Before assigning duties, it would be helpful to keep the following principles in mind:   

1. Children have rights as well as responsibilities. If these rights as well as arbitrarily and impulsively withdrawn by the adult, the child may feel dominated or revengeful and will  resist any efforts to elicit his cooperation.   
2.  Children should be consulted about the jobs that need to be done. After they have helped identify the work, they help set the standards for work, and be involved in the evaluation of the completed job.   
3. Allow the children choices in which jobs they would like to do. To do nothing is NOT an acceptable choice. They follow through with the choice or accept the consequences.   
4. Allow the consequences to follow logically from the uncompleted job. Do not discuss before hand what will happen if someone does not fulfill the commitment.   
5.  Set appropriate time limits for completion of a task.  If the child participates in setting these limits, he will be more willing to meet them.  I ask, “How much time do you need?”.  Use of a kitchen timer helps.  Some timers can be clipped to the child’s pocket.   
6.  Vary the tasks.  Children become easily bored with the same chores.  They like new challenges.   
7.  Children like to move on to more challenging work; new privileges that they can take on now that they are bigger/stronger/older.   
8.  Use common sense in the number of tasks expected of each child.  He may stage a “sitdown” strike if he feels used.   
9.  Remember that you are the model of “order”.  Do not expect an orderliness and cleanliness from children that you do not expect of yourself.   
10.  Examine your personal standards.  Perhaps you are a perfectionist, you feel uncomfortable if things are slightly out of order, or are concerned about what others think.  Learn to accept the house as a place of activity for family members, not as a reflection of your personal worth.   
11.  Probably most difficult: never do for the child what he can do for himself.           


Home Responsibilities for Ages 18 Months to Two-and-a-Half   
1.  Joins in with adult in putting away toys (adult must limit the number of toys, and remain cheerful while modeling picking up). 
2.  Fulfills some simple requests, such as, “Would you please throw this in the trash?” or “Please put this away” (adult points to the location). 
3.  Participates (imperfectly) in household tasks as interested, usually not yet completing the task.  May attempt to sweep, mop, wipe table, set table, vacuum, etc. 
4.  Participates more and more in dressing self (adult provides easy-to-manage clothing).  Undressing comes before dressing. 
5. Loads washing machine and dryer, pushes start button. 
6.  Diapers are phased out by the second birthday, and the child uses the bathroom with occasional mistakes. 
7.  Feeds himself independently, using fork, spoon, small (less than 8 oz.) pitcher, and small (approximately 6 oz.) cup without a lid. 
8.  Participates in simple food preparation, such as slicing soft foods, peeling, and spreading. 
9.  Arranges flowers in a small vase.   

Home Responsibilities for the Two-and-a-Half-Year-Old  
1.  Pick up toys as finished and put in proper place (adult provides low shelves and containers for each item). 
2.  Put books and magazines in a rack. 
3.  Sweep the floor or sidewalk with a small broom, use dustpan with help. 
4.  Place napkins, plates, and silverware on table (not correctly at first). 5.  Clean up what they drop after eating.  Clean up spills. 
6.  Choose a snack or breakfast from two or three options. 
7.  Clear dish from the table, scrapes leftovers, loads dishwasher, helps wash dishes. 
8.  Independently uses the bathroom, washes hands, brushes teeth and hair. 
9.  Dresses independently except for small buttons or ties. 
10.  Puts away groceries and dishes in low cabinets. 
11.  Involved in food preparation daily. 
12. Uses simple manners, such as “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”.     

Home Responsibilities for Three- and Four-Year-Old Children   
1.  Setting the table. 
2.  Putting groceries away. 
3.  Help with grocery list and shopping. 
4.  Polish shoes and clean up after. 
5.     Follow a schedule to feed pets. 
6.  Assists with work in yard and garden. 
7.  Sweep, mop, and vacuum. 
8.     Make own bed (keep linens simple). 
9.  Helps load dishwasher and wash dishes. 
10.  Dust furniture. 
11.  Prepare food and learn simple recipes. 
12.  Share toys with friends. 
13.  Getting the mail. 
14.  Tell parent his whereabouts before going out to play. 
15.  Should be able to play without constant adult supervision. 
16.  Polish silver. 
17.  Wash and polish car. 
18.  Sharpen pencils. 
19.  Enjoys a sense of accomplishment upon completing tasks on a chore chart.     

 Home Responsibilities of the Five- and Six-Year-Old Children   
1.  Help with meal planning and grocery shopping. 
2.  Help prepare lunch to take to school. 
3.  Set the table. 
4.  Peel carrots and potatoes. 
5.  Involved in more challenging preparation of food, including baking and cooking, with assistance. 
6.  Make bed and straighten room. 
7.  Choose clothing the night before, dresses self. 
8.  Ties shoes. 
9.  Attends to personal hygiene. 
10.  Fold clothes and puts them away. 
11.  Answer the phone properly. 
12.  Yard work and gardening. 
13.  Feed pets and clean their living area. 
14.  Assist in caring for younger sibling. 
15.  At busy times, the child may offer, “How can I help?”     

 Home Responsibilities for Ages 6 to 12   
1.  All of the above with increasing challenge. 
2.  Prepare a simple meal independently. 
3.  Care for own belongings. 
4.  Organize belongings. 
5.  Earn money for special jobs, perhaps receive an allowance. 
6.  Beginning money management: saving, giving, spending. 
7.  Increasing thoughtfulness toward others, appropriate manners. 

Home Responsibilities for Teens   
1.  Earn money through jobs such as helping neighbors and babysitting. 2.  Create and follow own budget, including giving. 
3.  Participate in family budgeting. 
4.  Help with home repair and maintenance. 
5.  Yard work and mowing the lawn. 
6.  Maintain respectful family relationships. 
7.  Take on greater responsibility for his or her own life and choices, gaining independence while maintaining safety and communication with parents. 

Marjorie Barksdale was my daughter's teacher 20 years ago. She gave some of these suggestions to parents back then, and I have expanded them over the years. You may share this list with other parents if you include a link to   

Peaceful Mornings

Posted on August 31, 2011 at 7:54 PM Comments comments (98)
Children in our society are often rushed and ordered around, especially in the mornings.  Parents tell me this is the time they are most likely to become, shall we say, unpleasant with their children.
It is important to consider how mornings are going, because morning sets the tone for the day.   We would like children to arrive at school feeling happy and peaceful, not stressed. Walking in late can be disruptive to child and class, so make an effort to set up an efficient morning routine and avoid running late.
A good morning starts the night before.  Everything that can be done to ease the morning should be.  Some ideas:
  • Tidying up
  • Child packs school bag and/or lunch and places them by the door
  • Check that shoes or boots, coat, snow pants, TWO mittens, hat, etc. are ready.  Provide low coat hooks and manageable storage near the door for these.
  • The child lays out clothing for tomorrow
  • Bath
  • Use the toilet
  • Pajamas
  • Snack and/or drink (if bed wetting is not a problem)
  • Brush teeth
  • Pleasant stories - no monsters or disasters, and no television in the evening. Light from any screen hinders sleep.
Begin the evening routine with the necessities, followed by some pleasant, quiet time together, perhaps reading stories, saying prayers, tucking in, expressing your love for your child.  This could all be done by candlelight. 
Your child should go to bed at approximately the same time each evening to set asleep habit.  Most young children need a bedtime of 7:30 or 8 p.m.  Allow for ten hours of sleep, or more.
Plan an evening routine for yourself also. Prepare for the morning.  Plan eight hours of sleep, or whatever you know you need to feel rested.  This helps you to be pleasant in the morning!
Get up a half-hour before your children so you have time to get yourself ready, uninterrupted.  Then, greet them with a smile!  This sets the tone for a good day. 
Children’s morning routines may include the following:
  • They get up on time, using an alarm. 
  • Make the bed.  Simplify bedding, perhaps using just a duvet.
  • Use the bathroom.
  • Get dressed in the clothing chosen the night before. Provide clothing that children can put on independently.
  • Brush hair
  • When they finish these steps, THEN they may join you for a lovely breakfast.  You have spent the last little while preparing this breakfast, INSTEAD OF nagging your children.  I call this the "Muffin Method". Remember, no nagging. They will know what needs to be done once the routine is established.
  • If they are ready early, then reward them with time spent in an activity they enjoy.  Perhaps they have 20 minutes to play outside before they leave. (Note: Getting outdoors before school aids concentration).
What’s your routine now?  Searching for shoes, laundry, the school bag, car keys…
Easier mornings start THE NIGHT BEFORE.  Do everything you can ahead of time. 
For both morning and night,observe how long it takes your child to get ready INDEPENDENTLY, with no unneeded help from you.  Allow this much time, plus some extra. 
I find that children respond better to nonverbal cues than verbal reminders. Instead of repeating “Time to go!” numerous times, I would just get my jacket and keys, and slowly head for the door, about 10 minutes early.  If a child is not ready and it is time to go, I put a young child in the car “as is” (unless it is dangerously cold).  They might get dressed quickly in the car (they must be buckled before we depart), or at school.  This could be too embarrassing for some children, but it can be a very effective logical consequence.
Once your mornings are running smoothly, you may find you have some extra time.  Enjoy that time together reading a book, playing a game, playing outside, listening to music, or having a conversation…something healthy that your child especially enjoys.  No television before school – it has a sedentary effect on children and adults alike.