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April 2020

Family Meetings

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: susan@learningtogethereducation.org
 

 

The Easter Story


Practical Life at Home


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
Food
·         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
Resources:

·         Namta.org for Edison’s Day video use code FREEAPRIL 
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