Self Directed Learning Isn’t Always Academic

One of the things I love about the Montessori philosophy is the idea of self directed learning. Children follow their interests with some guidance from the teacher (who is literally called a guide in Montessori.) The idea of children learning things they want to learn and when they are interested in them just makes my heart soar.

When children are forced to learn things when they are “supposed to” instead of when they are ready and interested, they are not going to enjoy it and they might not even remember it. Self directed learning is a way to make sure children will (mostly) enjoy what they are learning and remember it as they grow older.

But here’s the thing: self directed learning with younger children might not really look like learning to us. But sit tight, I have an example of that after I tell you some of the traps we fall into with children’s activities. (If you’d like some good ideas for activities to do with your children or other ways to bring Montessori into your life, check out my ebook 30 Ways to Make Your Home More Montessori.)

When kids are little, self directed learning might not look like much. But I promise that even if it isn't academic, it is still valuable. quirkyandthenerd.com

The Two Ways We Spoil Self Directed Learning

When children are younger, it can be kind of tempting to do a couple of things: 1) turn EVERYTHING into a “learning activity” or 2) push the academic. Well, I’m tell you that you don’t have to do that. I’m giving you permission to just let them play and the self directed learning will flow out of it.

So what do I mean? Well sure, go ahead and count things with your child or talk about colors. But you don’t have to force it. I’ve seen way too many scenarios where parents are forcing these “learning activities” and because it is so forced, I have a hard time believing the child is getting much out of them.

The other thing parents will do is really push the academic. Instead of seeing what their child is interested in, they will just try to push anything academic. What if your kid really like numbers, but could care less about letters? Or maybe they love colors, but don’t really care about shapes. You don’t have to force them to like the other things. Wait until they show an interest.

When kids are little, self directed learning might not look like much. But I promise that even if it isn't academic, it is still valuable. quirkyandthenerd.com

Younger children will naturally show interests in things without having to be pushed into it, but the thing is not everything that interests them will be academic. It won’t all be counting and reading. But don’t fear, they will still learn from it.

And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever set up an activity for them. Just make sure you are paying attention to what they are actually interested in or something that would be a natural fit. The other day I set up a quick handwashing activity for my daughter after she did some art. It was then I realized that I had been guilty of overthinking Montessori in my home.

When Play Becomes Learning

The other day, I was home with my kids and I was feeling so internally pressured like I should be engaging my 3 year old in some sort of activity. She was playing with some corn cob holders and I was wondering if I should be setting up something for her to do.

But then I noticed something. She wasn’t just mindlessly playing around with these dumb little corn cob holders. She was using the colors to make a sort of pattern.

When kids are little, self directed learning might not look like much. But I promise that even if it isn't academic, it is still valuable. quirkyandthenerd.com

Now, there was a time or two before when I thought I should be working on academics with her and tried to see if she could understand patterns. It just backfired. She was not interested at all and thought what I was asking her to do was boring. But here she was working on patterns by herself. If I had stopped her from playing with those poky little things, she wouldn’t have gotten that valuable, self directed learning experience that she got.

P.S. Make sure you check out my 30 Ways to Make Your Home More Montessori ebook if you are interested in Montessori. I have some great things to do with your children that will help prompt self directed learning.

Tell me about a time when you realized your children were actually learning during play. I love personal stories!

Montessori at Home Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Montessori seems like such a foreign, weird concept to some. Even parents who send their kid to a Montessori school may only have a vague notion about the Montessori philosophy. But if you are wanting to support your child’s Montessori education or if you are just interested in being more child-led in your home, Montessori at home doesn’t have to be hard.

Look, I’ve worked in a Montessori school for 5 years now. It took a while, but I have a good grasp on the philosophy and part of the reason I write this blog is to help others understand too. (In fact, if you want to learn a little more, make sure you read What the Heck is Montessori?) But even I have been guilty of making bringing Montessori into my home too hard. (If you are looking for more ways to be more Montessori at home, check out my e-book 30 Ways to Make Your Home More Montessori. It is full of easy ways to incorporate more Montessori ideals in your home.)

When it comes to Montessori at home, you're probably overthinking it. Read about how I learned that using Montessori ideas in your home doesn't have to be complicated. quirkyandthenerd.com

Sure, it is one thing to follow Montessori ideals: child-led learning and freedom of movement among other things are easy once you are committed to them. But what kinds of activities can you do with your children that are Montessori based?

Well I’m here to tell you that when you try to come up with these activities, you are probably overthinking it. You don’t need it to be perfect and you don’t need it to match exactly what they do at school. Here is how that looked for me the other day.

When it comes to Montessori at home, you're probably overthinking it. Read about how I learned that using Montessori ideas in your home doesn't have to be complicated. quirkyandthenerd.com

The other day, my daughter had been doing some art and got marker all over her hands. She asked to wash her hands and, instead of sending her upstairs to where her bathroom stool is, I figured I could set up a quick hand washing activity for her.

I gathered a towel for the floor, a tub of warm water, a washcloth, some soap, and a hand towel for when she was done. I set it up on the kitchen floor and she went to town. She already had the hand washing presentation at school, so she knew what she was supposed to do.

Was it strictly Montessori to a tee? No. She didn’t get the water herself, we used a plastic tub, and I didn’t have a nail brush or bar soap. But it didn’t matter. At the end of the day, it was good all around. I allowed her the freedom to do the job herself and she enjoyed exploring with the soap.

When it comes to Montessori at home, you're probably overthinking it. Read about how I learned that using Montessori ideas in your home doesn't have to be complicated. quirkyandthenerd.com

So the next time you are thinking of doing an activity and you are worried about it because it isn’t “Montessori enough,” just relax. You are overthinking it. Things don’t always have to be perfect to work.

(And if you are interested in some easy ways to be more Montessori in your home, check out my e-book 30 Ways to Make Your Home More Montessori. It is full of all sorts of ways to follow Montessori at home.)

$200 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Hey guys, so my last giveaway was so popular that I teamed up with some other bloggers to do another one! So make sure you enter below for this awesome giveaway. Everyone could use an Amazon gift card.

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I Don’t Watch Reality TV, but Kylie Jenner’s Baby Video Made Me Cry

Okay you guys, I have never actually watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Sure I’ve seen snippets of it here and there and I generally have a little bit of an idea what they are up to. (How can you not? They seem to be everywhere!) But today I watched Kylie Jenner’s baby video on YouTube and it made me cry.

I don't watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but Kylie Jenner's baby video made me cry. Not because of how I felt about Kylie, but because it made me wonder if I was really done having my own babies. quirkyandthenerd.com

I didn’t cry because I’m so happy for her (Although don’t get me wrong, I am. I mean I’m happy whenever a new baby is born.) I didn’t cry because I’m so into the Kardashians and this will extend their show for many more seasons. I cried because it brought back so many memories and it finally hit me that even though my baby is only 2 months old, he is most likely my last baby and I’ll never experience those things again.

The video goes through her entire pregnancy, documenting the reactions of her friends and her loving her belly as it grows and grows. She looks amazing the entire time and is thoroughly enjoying every moment of her pregnancy. And it made me feel like I hadn’t enjoyed my pregnancy enough.

I’m scared I’ll forget those little moments that Kylie remembered to document. Why didn’t I take more belly shots with my second pregnancy? I shouldn’t have complained so much about my aching back and feet. I should’ve put on better outfits instead of living in yoga pants for 9 months. Was I just being lazy?

I don't watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but Kylie Jenner's baby video made me cry. Not because of how I felt about Kylie, but because it made me wonder if I was really done having my own babies. quirkyandthenerd.com

My baby hasn’t even been outside of me as long as he was inside of me and I miss it. Pregnancy is beautiful even when it isn’t. Even when I felt huge and ugly, I knew I wasn’t. Pregnant women glow even when they are in sweatpants with unwashed hair. The sheer fact they are growing a life makes them amazing. In fact, the days I got the most compliments about looking good were the days I had literally thrown on a maternity t-shirt and yoga pants.

At the end of the video, the screen goes black as we continue to hear the sounds of the baby being born. That made me cry more because birth is such an intimate moment for everyone involved. Just hearing the sounds brought back all of the emotions. My second birth went much more smoothly than my first. It empowered me so much and I felt so connected to everyone else who had ever given birth. Who knew I would ever feel like I had something in common with Kylie Jenner?

I don't watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but Kylie Jenner's baby video made me cry. Not because of how I felt about Kylie, but because it made me wonder if I was really done having my own babies. quirkyandthenerd.com

But this video made me realize that I need to come to terms with the fact that that chapter of my life may be over. Who knows what the future holds, but we have two amazing children. As much as there will always be regrets about whether I could’ve taken more pictures or videos, I will always remember those kicks and hiccups coming from inside of me. I will always remember looking down and seeing my stomach instead of my feet. I will always remember both of my labors and how different they were, but how fitting they were for each child. There are lots of things that I shared with each of my gestating children that are memories only I have. That is so special.

Kylie Jenner, thank you. Thank you for sharing and making me reminisce for a few minutes. Even though it made me cry, it was happy tears. Happy because my beautiful children are growing and changing each day and even though I’ll probably never hold my own newborn again, the memories will always be there, springing to the surface to remind me not to be sad, but thankful.

Valentine’s Day Outfits for Kids

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you buy through my link, I may receive compensation you. Check my disclosure page for more information.

Valentine’s Day is such a fun holiday. One special day to express your love and appreciation for your loved ones? I’m all in! I also love when you can buy a cute little outfit for your child. I remember as a kid getting a new outfit for each holiday and it made it so much more special for me. And let me tell you, there are plenty of Valentine’s Day outfits for kids out there. I’m sharing a few of my favorites today. Make sure you scroll to the end for some more neutral ideas that will last after the holiday is over.

It is so fun to pick out a Valentine's Day outfit for kids. From over the top pink to a more neutral road, this post provides great options for every kid! quirkyandthenerd.com

Toddler Rainbow Craft & Game

Rainbows are great for so many reasons but one is that they make a great, colorful and fun way to help toddlers learn their colors. With St. Patrick’s Day and spring coming up, I sat down and did this toddler rainbow craft that we even turned into a game. Here is the simple craft we did and how we used it in a similar way to how color tablets are used in a Montessori classroom.

This toddler rainbow craft is perfect for spring and St. Patrick's Day. Not only is it an easy craft, but it can be used for some Montessori inspired color work. Easy and fun! quirkyandthenerd.com

Zippy Slow Cooker Vegetarian Noodle Soup

Here in snowy Minnesota, the perfect meal for a winter day is some kind of warm, filling soup. I have really fond memories of my grandmother’s chicken noodle soup. But as a vegetarian, it can be hard to find a good vegetarian noodle soup recipe that fits my nostalgia.

But one day, my husband (who is most decidedly not a vegetarian) and I were playing around with some recipes and we found something that isn’t exactly the same, but seems to fill that void. Bonus points: it can be made in a slow cooker!

And as always, this recipe is great because you can tweak it however you want. Add in some more veggies, use ingredients you have in your pantry already, or heck throw in some meat. (My husband even threw some chicken in his bowl. If you are interested about how we typically eat the same meals, I wrote about family meals with a vegetarian and a meat eater.)

Need something to warm you up on a cold winter day? Try my Zippy Slow Cooker Vegetarian Noodle Soup. It is easy and delicious. quirkyandthenerd.com

Winter Snowflake Craft to Improve Fine Motor Skills

If there is one thing I remember doing as a “winter” craft, it was making snowflakes. You know, just folding up the paper and cutting away at it. Well as a mom now, I realized that this winter snowflake craft is perfect for helping children refine their fine motor skills. So here is how I used snowflake making to teach my toddler to use scissors and helped her fine motor skills.

Do you remember making paper snowflakes as a kid? This winter snowflake craft helps children refine their fine motor skills while also providing a fun craft for those snowy days. Even toddlers can make a snowflake! quirkyandthenerd.com

5 Things You Shouldn’t Forget on a Road Trip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #MakeIcyMagic #CollectiveBias

When I was growing up in small town Minnesota, in order to do any good shopping or do any fun activities, you had to drive to the “big city.” Many weekends, my family would pack up, hit the gas station, and get on the road. Now, my husband grew up in the suburbs and thinks this idea is ludicrous. He could drive 5 minutes and get to a mall, dozens of restaurants, two movie theaters, and a good handful of parks and other fun places.

As an adult now, we sometimes spend a nice chunk of time in the car. Our families live an hour or two away and if we want to visit them, obviously we need to drive. So when we are going to be driving for a while (especially at rush hour!) I make sure I grab these five things to make the drive easier.

#ad There are five things I make sure not to forget anytime we go for a drive. Read about my absolute essentials for the car ride on the blog. quirkyandthenerd.com

Ways to Make Your Home More Montessori & a $500 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Amazon giveaway

As you know, one of the things I’m most passionate about is Montessori and letting people know more about it. I even wrote a book about 30 ways you can incorporate Montessori ideas into your home. There are so many easy ways to do it that I just had to share some of the information for free in my last post 3 Ways to Make Your Home More Montessori.

Besides talking about some of my favorite products and toys in the ebook, I have also linked them on my resource page. And you know what? If you win the $500 Amazon gift card giveaway, you could buy every single thing on the list and maybe even have some money left over! Make sure to enter below. It is so easy!

Use the form to enter below and good luck!!

$500 AMAZON GIFTCARD GIVEAWAY

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