Monday, April 19, 2010

Making Memories Monday & Montessori Monday

My newest bloggy friend, Jennifer, over at Adventures in McQuill Land, has decided to start Making Memories Monday, where folks will link up and share a fond memory.

Now, my dear bloggy buddy, Jody, over at Mommy Moment, does a Montessori Monday, and that also sounds neat, especially since we use mostly Montessori materials in our homeschool.

Jody is such an amazing person and friend.
Since she knows what she is doing when it comes to blogging and came up with the idea of having a different themed day, I thought that it would be nice to be able to do the same sort of thing and to follow her lead and try to also do the Montessori Monday idea...

So, what is a girl to do who wants to participate in both?

Making Memories Monday and Montessori Monday altogether?!?
Why, yes!
That's easy...
Each week, I will tell you about something that hopefully everyone will enjoy reading...a memory that has a bit of a Montessori-ish quality to it...

Kind of like a peanut butter cup...two great tastes all together or in this case, two great themes...

So, here goes:
When I was a child, the whole concept of following the child, one of the central themes in Montessori, was for the most part, in my upbringing, non-existent...grown ups by and large did not follow their children, as children were expected to be obedient...pretty much to do what their parents and other adults told them to do without ever questioning or proposing something different.
I luckily had very kind, loving parents, but they still expected me and my siblings to pretty much do what we were told to do because they said questions asked.

There were a few exceptions to this, and one of them was when we got to be toy testers for a company called Marx Toys.
I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Marx toys were made there, as well as in West Virginia.
It was awesome, let me tell you!
Children were invited to the factory several times a year to test toys.
We would go to a big room and would test all of the various toys they were planning to put out in production.
The toys we tested included various prototypes for different riding toys, including the Green Machine, action toys like Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, and various play sets and trains.
Many of the toys seemed to be more for boys than girls as far as themes, but it did not matter, as it was still so much fun to get to go and to try out new toys.

My mom loved having us participate too, as she could drop us four oldest kids off at Marx, go do a few errands, and then come back a bit relaxed, as she had had a few minutes to herself to get things done without having so many children in tow.
My younger brothers and my younger sister  used to get to go there more than I did, as sometimes my mom would take me with her to do errands, but on the times when I got to stay and test out the toys, it was a blast!

What made the experience interesting is that all of the adults seemed to really care what we thought of the toys and any suggestions that we made about the toys.

So much freedom...
We were free to work with any of the variety of toys that they had in the room for as little or as long as the item held our interest.
We did not have to try any one toy, it was up to us to go around and choose what looked interesting or appealing to us.

What I remember most was the testing out the Green Machine riding toy.

Here is the link to the riding toys page at the Marx Toys Museum that shows the Green Machine
The Green Machine prototype initially seemed uncomfortable, as it hit us kids on the wrong part of our backs... it was not nearly as comfortable as the Big Wheel riding experience was for us.
They tweaked the design and had us try out the upgraded versions of the Green Machine and this one seemed to just fit us better, more ergonomically designed for a child.
It was so neat that they asked us for our opinions and that we were encouraged to be very open and frank about whether or not we liked the toys and why.

When I think back to this toy testing time in my life, it is with much fondness, as it was really great to have adults ask us for our opinions like this.
Am pretty sure that it made every child participant feel special.

Then, flash forward to learning about Montessori and the cornerstone of her philosophy...following the child.

When Dr. Montessori was given the huge task of educating a bunch of inner city orphan children, she took it seriously and really worked at developing materials that fit the needs of the child.
 She had children try the materials and through careful observation, and I would have to imagine some trial and error, she developed materials that really met the needs of the child.
She initially put out a box of more traditional type toys to see if children would choose those and instead, they all chose the lovely, handcrafted materials she had designed for them.

Here are some Montessori quotes that tie in with this...
(Both quotes and this photo are as they appear on  the American Montessori Society  pages on their website...not sure of the original source of this photo, but it appears to be public domain...)

The objects in our system are instead a help to the child himself, he chooses what he wants for his own use, and works with it according to his own needs, tendencies and special interests. In this way, the objects become a means of growth.
- Dr. Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child 

There is only one basis for observation: the children must be able to express themselves and thus reveal those needs and attitudes which would otherwise remain hidden or repressed in an environment that did not permit them to act spontaneously. An observer obviously needs something to observe, and if he must be trained to be able to see and recognize objective truth, he must have at his disposal children placed in such an environment that they can manifest their natural traits.
- Dr. Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child 

Now, as a homeschool mom, I try hard to keep this Montessori cornerstone alive and really follow my children when it comes to their really allow them to take the lead in their learning.
Following the child does not mean that they can do whatever they want without any has to be something that is within the scope of our homeschool classroom we have set up, or else some sort of hands on learning experience outside, say at the park, or in the yard, or even at the beach.

It can be a challenge at times, as sometimes, it would be so much easier to jump in and say, "This is exactly what you are doing and this is exactly how long I want you to do it", etc. but then, they would not feel nearly as respected as when I let them select their work.
I just have to work all that harder at having an excellent environment so that anything they choose to do as a work will be worth their time, and that it will tie in with what they are passionate about learning, not just some fluff to pass the time.

Well, hope that you liked my combo. Making Memories and Montessori Monday post...happy Monday to everyone!


Mommy Moment said...

Very cool! I never know you were a Toy tester!



Jennifer said...

What fun: a toy tester! I've never ridden a Green Machine, but my neighbor in Jacksonville had such fond memories of the one he had as a kid that he bought his daughter one for her birthday... long before she was big enough to ride it... and then HE rode it up and down the street, pedaling and spinning and whooping out loud! It was HILARIOUS! See how fun memories are... one thing leads to another!

Thanks for linking up. I love the way you managed to combine the two memes for the day... and I'm looking forward to sharing more of your memories and Montessori ideas in the coming weeks.

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