Learning to teach and mother // Part 1

I feel like I have a whole segment of life that I keep meaning to include on my blog, but it never quite makes it. Lately, unless there’s a deadline for something, I can’t seem to find/make the time to sit down and do this. So I’m making a huge life dump all in one post. There’s lots of iPhone shots of life in here – regular everyday stuff and school activities.




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I’ve got this new project going. About a month and a half ago I started taking an online course to learn Montessori education, with the goal of being able to teach my kids with a Montessori emphasis…..or at least Hawthorne if I can’t get my act together quickly enough with the older kids. Lol. It’s a year long course, and I’m incorporating things in hitches and bumps as I learn, in a desperate attempt to reign in the culture of insanity that my kids and I have going.


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Clover on her own doesn’t have much of a problem settling down to learn and focus on a task. But Violet is like a bouncy ball stuck inside a small box, endlessly pounding and vibrating, making noise and commotion until the weight of sleep eventually ceases her movement in one great motion, and she conks out at night. She brings activity, excitement, noise, and distraction into every corner of the house that she visits. Three and a half is a very exciting age. The transition from toddler to small person is pretty intense.

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One of the concepts behind the Montessori method is that the child eventually “normalizes” and discovers a task that awakens their inner ability to focus and concentrate. And then a flowering effect happens as they begin to settle down and learn deeply. This week has been one that challenges my very small amount of hope for my ability to normalize Violet – given my limitations and those of the environment. Or both kids for that matter.

Clover hasn’t been submerged in the prepared Montessori environment yet because I haven’t been able to get it going too well  – she’s just working off her preexisting inner discipline. That sort of came out when she began to read. I would find her buried in books for long stretches of time, where she would just bounce around from thing to thing a lot before (although she has also been known to play with Legos for a long time if not interrupted by the human bouncy ball. What might she be able to accomplish with even better circumstances?

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I’m trying to hold things sort of loosely and to take things as they are at the moment, but it’s hard. I’m tired. Discouraged often. Looking for those magic moments that look like mile markers to show that progress HAS been made. It’s a sad but true reality that in a world where it’s not “normal” to keep your kids home with you during the preschool years, let alone kindergarten and beyond, I feel the need to have evidence to justify my decision to go against the grain. Not only that my kids are equally as well off in my care, but even better.

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Truth be told, if I could send my kids to a Montessori children’s house or a Waldorf school I would! But that’s not feasible, and so we’re doing the best that we can here. One disorganized but trying to improve, distractible, ambitious, loving mama, one 5 year old girl who loves to read, build Legos, and dance and refuse to eat her food, one 3 year old who blurts and flails and snuggles and climbs, and one 10 month old who avoids sleep, nurses, cuddles, cruises, beats down the gates that come between him and the rest of us, and gets into everything.


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There are many different dynamics happening which make this place kind of a zoo a lot of the time.

Disappointment and frustration often come down to expectations I suppose. I have some storybook notions about family life.

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I would like to avoid the pitfalls of the Pinterest brain, where merely appreciating something enough to file it with the things you like almost amounts to having done it. Because when you’re talking child raising, good ideas and intentions mean nothing if they don’t happen or help. I think I’m great at ideas…..the rest…eh.

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Family rhythm is another thing that could use some work. I’m hoping that rhythm will hatch into existence when we’re out of the perpetual baby in the family mode that’s been happening for the past 5 years. But it seems like lots of people are able to do it even with the babies and little kids around. I’m just not strong enough a pillar I think. Growing up, I don’t really remember any family rhythm so I don’t have a great basis for making it myself. My soul didn’t come into this parenting thing pre-tuned I guess. I’m just making it up as we go along.

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I think the scariest thing about trying to find our way as we go is that time starts moving differently when you have kids. Suddenly it’s just speeding by and you feel like you’re running out of time before they’re grown up and gone. I can see why people think their kids’ life is over if they don’t get into the right preschool. They’re basically about to leave for college in a couple of years.

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Every day I think “just slow down and enjoy everything more” but it never really works out. I’m the remedial parent, trying to catch up – learn to cook and organize, sew and create, to teach and have wisdom. And this all happens while I’m nursing babies, cleaning the kitchen for the 5th time today, monitoring chaos and likelihood that any particular activity will result in death.

It’s a cruel reality that the very section of childhood that you’re just supposed to hold your breath and fight through is also extremely formative.

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At least their amazing minds are so absorbent. Violet has learned so much by “siphon” off of things I’ve done with Clover. They can gather so much if they’re given the information in a way that they can make sense of. The scary part is that they’re absorbing all the not so great stuff you have to offer as a parent.

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So that’s us right now. Learning to learn. Doing the every day. Getting some fun stuff done along the way.


  1. Amy says

    I love this post- I’ve got a 6, almost 3 year old and almost 1 year old that I find myself constantly trying to achieve some sort of balance between housework, teaching them, and just trying to keep our daily schedule going without the constant frustration/delight of kids (arguing! yelling! cheering! singing!). I’m lucky enough to be able to send my oldest to a Montessori school, and we strive to incorporate Montessori in our home. I, too, feel like I have so. many. ideas., and sometimes I just need to slow down and focus on 1 at a time. Anyway, I wish you well- little kids are a struggle and a delight and they do seem to grow up at an alarming rate. A resource you might want to check out is http://www.howwemontessori.com/, although, fair warning, it may make you feel grossly inadequate (as it usually does me, and our sometimes less than beautiful efforts at Montessori)

  2. Kara says

    What a great post. Don’t be too hard on yourself – sometimes I feel like if you care enough to worry that you aren’t doing a good job parenting, that is a sure sign that you ARE doing a good job. As long as you are trying, learning, and growing your kids are doing the same right along side you,

  3. Karen Stopper says

    You are a great mom, a super- teacher & role model and in love with your family….I would want to be like you ; fearless! “Hang in there” is trite, but true. You are creating an excellent pattern to follow X that is unforgettably pure!

  4. says

    Oh Tara you’re kids are so young still. It does get easier. I mention to Dan quite often that I think this current culture does us a disservice by trying to make us moms feel like we have to make everything epic. “You only have 18 Christmases with your kids – make them memorable!” Christmases are memorable. Dan’s parents and my parents didn’t do 1/8th of what parents these days do and you know what, Christmases were still memorable. I don’t know that that philosophy is healthy for kids, either. I’ve listened to a couple podcasts and read a lot of articles on how young adults right now have more anxiety and depression and narcissism that any generation before them. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

    Regarding rhythm, I did a class through the Waldorf connection and their section on rhythm was immensely healthful to our family and my husband and I both came from families with very structured schedules. This link isn’t to the class, but to the section on rhythm which is what I found to be the most helpful. http://thewaldorfconnection.com/rhythm/

    Also, I have really enjoyed Donna Simmons Waldorf/Christopherus audios. They talk a lot about being neither child nor parent-centric. I don’t agree with every philosophical point behind Waldorf (some of it is pretty out there) but their practical information is so helpful and has worked so well for our family. http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Audio-Talks-for-Homeschoolers-by-Donna-Simmons-s/3.htm
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  5. ute says

    Thank you for opening that window into your life. Improv quilting and improv living – it sounds like you are very skilled at both! I admire you for teaching your children with a Montessori emphasis. I learned about it in college (I studied social pedagogy.) and this approach has always appealed to me. Form my work I know what it means having to show progress with the kids I work with; often it is not possible as some seeds need a long time to grow and sprout. I think you are doing a wonderful job and your kids could have no better circumstances. They will grow and learn with you and the way you talk about them shows that you are there for them, trying to understand them, love them. This post had a different pace and I loved you wise words and thoughts (so true about the pinterest brain!). Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. says

    I have a 9,7,5 and 5 month old and still feel like im a circus leader, lol! Homeschooling is hard but i hear it gets easier and your kids are better off no matter what you do simply because you are trying and care its sad but not many parents do.

    • Bree says

      Sorry, iphone malfunction. I know how you feel. We sent my oldest to Montessori preschool and now my middle daughter is there. It has been a significant financial sacrifice so I understand that it is not feasible for all.

      Regarding what you said about your middle daughter bring a bundle of energy, we just had this conversation with my daughter’s teacher this morning at conferences. They said they have seen tremendous progress throughout the year and that as we approach 4 they have noticed Isabel come into her own and settle down. You will get there! And your oldest will be such an awesome example for her. Isabel had been helped greatly be older kids in the class that have taken her under her wing. Soon you’ll have the joy of watching her teach your son. It all comes full circle :)

  7. says

    Oh my goodness, you make lovely things, and lovely children, and you home school. There is no hope for me! I love the idea of homeschooling, but mostly for other people. I think you are brave and courageous and no doubt infinitely patient. Your children will be terrific for it.
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  8. says

    Tara, just look at all those pics and tell me again that you don’t do enough! You have 3 kids that obviously are happy and love you. And you try to learn new stuff with them and to show them this thing called “life”. I feel that all this trying to make children learn and know more and more at a young age by sending them to kindergarden and similar things is not the right thing. We do have a Kindergarten in Germany, too, and my daugther is there 5 mornings each week since she is 3. However, there they just have other children to play with, they sing together or paint something. I think it’s much more important that they learn social things at this age than to learn other languages, the numbers, the alphabet or whatever. Just go with what your kids like. Montessori should be really great for this. If you see that your children are interested in something, let them learn more about it. If not, let them just play, without fearing not to do enough! I’m sure you’re a wonderful mom!
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  9. says

    I feel your struggle. I have five little ones (10,7,6,3, and 5 months). It truly is a circus all the time. I do love it and I’m probably my greatest critic. We homeschool too. It gets easier as far as that goes, the more you do it. We sort of school all year with breaks whenever we need them. I get the kids tested once per year and that helps me to be encouraged that they are learning what they should (usually more). But in our state that testing doesn’t even start until age 7. Growing up in the environment of creativity does so much for them. I’m convinced.
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  10. says

    We homeschool and my girls are 10, 8 and 4. When my littlest was a baby it was so hard. I remember feeling like just getting basic needs met was a good day! I used to take pictures of the mess to try and appreciate it a little more instead of getting so overwhelmed. It gets easier as they get older, I promise. Different struggles. I was a teacher before kids and I realize now that I know my kids better than anyone. That gives them the best education they can get. Even in waldorf and montessori classrooms the teachers can never intimately know your kids like you do. So nice job mama! keep up the good work. If you ever have any questions about anything just send me an email. I love talking homeschool!

  11. says

    keep fighting the good fight, tara! you do so much. not that i know anything about it, but i like the idea of taking homeschool breaks/vacations just like conventional schools have. lord knows we all need a break from our “routine,” whatever it may be, every so often. sometimes stepping away makes coming back so much better/easier, right? 😉
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  12. says

    You’re doing fantastic, just look at their smiles on the pics! My twin girls are now 1 year old and since they arrived in my life, everything changed! I totally agree with you, there is a massive learning to do as parents! And I don’t think it ever stops. But this is the most amazing and beautiful challenge I will ever faced and even in the tough moment, I keep in mind how lucky I am to have two beautiful and healthy kids. Having twins pushed me to quickly set a routine and this keep me sane! But the most important is finding something that works for you and your kids!
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  13. says

    Wow, can I just say I’m right there with ya sister. I understand and feel everything you’re saying and have been trying to find our path, our rhythm as a family recently. This post made me emotional because I read it when I was feeling in a similar place. Thanks for sharing.

  14. says

    There’s just so much here that makes me want to cheer: your outsized love for your family, for education in every sense of the word, for creativity. You just hunker down and just get to it, which is really all that matters because life, it’s messy and weird and hard but always full of wonder. At least, that’s what I suspect.
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