My Apocalyptic Life and Finding Gratitude

Hectic is an understatement. I recently graduated in May from an AMI accredited training program as a Primary Montessori Guide. Two weeks later my family packed up our small (895 sq ft) apartment and headed to Baltimore, Maryland so I could finish an intensive Masters of Education program at Loyola. We stayed in the Charles Village neighborhood a block from Hopkins and two blocks off of York Road which puts the phrase “night and day” in new perspective. On one side of the Victorian painted lady we were occupying (without air conditioning in 100 degree weather) were preppy young co-eds and on the other side, a lower socioeconomic neighborhood that had lines of police cars with rollers on stationed at each corner come 5 pm and helicopters circling above all night. It was a little surreal.

Flash forward three weeks and the kids and I were on a plane to Nashville, TN for a job in a small town school while my husband headed back to Oregon to facilitate the expansive and expensive move of our belongings via UHaul’s U Boxes. UHaul missed the mark at several stages during our move but here we are using them again because they are convenient, cost effective and offer onsite storage. My job did not pan out the way I had been expecting which was sad because I had gotten used to the smell of sweet grass as I cycled to work, a 2400 sq ft updated town-home, the donkey in the field behind our home, and had even resigned myself to living in a town without a library, where the biggest attractions were the fountain in our fabricated village neighborhood and the Sonic drive-thru. I had also secured a second part-time job teaching fitness and yoga classes at a local gym. I liked that when I was late coming home my husband had two places to look for me and could find me and my bike in under 10 minutes. What I could have done without fills a small part of my personal journal journeying my road to becoming a Montessori Primary Guide and I am sure I will never forget all of the reasons I left this job and town – but I am trying my hardest to bring my past life as a yogi into play and leave it all behind me.

Zip forward to the day after we unpacked our last box and then decided we were not going to stay in TN. Instead, we were headed back to Portland – the place I kept referring to as home. To solidify this idea we took a 6 hour car trip back to Illinois to visit our previous home and take care of some errands in person. Then back to TN after three days and onto a plane for Portland, OR -just me and the three kids. Not a big deal for most people, but I really abhor flying, think panic attack, white knuckled gripping of armrests fear – with three kids in tow.  I have a great game face.

So here we are; you, me and my kids on the end of my first full day back in Portland. I have not yet found a place to live, I have been to the ice rink more times than I care to recall in this day and a half but that knocks out steps to my older son’s dream of skating in the Olympics. I have watched and listened to my children deal with the stress of moving, uncertainty and a missing father with very open eyes and wounded heart. My own relations with them are strained more than I like because of all of the stress. I have been reading The Biology of Beating Stress: How Changing Your Environment, Your Body, and Your Brain Can Help You Find Balance and Peace and of course reading that stress could literally kill me, cause cancer, and obesity does nothing to help my mounting stress – I jest, a little. We tried a no yelling or screaming day, it lasted exactly one and a half minutes before one from the backseat yelled at one in the front seat as I tried to calmly diffuse the situation through gritted teeth. I realize more and more how having a second adult helps, my son commented “When daddy isn’t here I am a better son because I have to be, when he’s around I’m worse”. That prompted a discussion about independence and responsibility, I corrected him that all of them are the best thems they can be, but when daddy isn’t around they have opportunities to take on more responsibility. For example, I had to have the kids come with me to a job interview today because there was no-one to watch them my eldest did so by taking his younger siblings around the neighborhood and giving them snacks.

I want to cultivate gratitude so that I don’t get into this kind of situation again,  looking for something better and not appreciating what I have, but even more than that because I really do know the value of all that I have, sometimes I don’t have gratitude for myself or grant myself the time to just be.  I rushed to find the perfect job and what that boils down to is a lack of gratitude for who I am and the special talents I bring to any situation.  I hope to recognize all that I actually do accomplish and instead of playing it down or worrying what someone else thinks – I want to validate myself and be grateful for who I am.  Along this line I decided to document this next year, I hope daily,  to prove to myself that I am doing the best I can do and making the most out of my time with my kids.

Some of the things we did and places we went today:

  • Mio Sushi – extensive menu for vegans with gluten free tamari and kids’ bentos.  I love the use non-dyed ginger, the wasabi is delicious and the kids like eating here.
  • Portland Children’s Museum- a great place rain or shine with newly opened outdoor exploration area.  You now have to pay for parking but it isn’t too bad.  Great little cafe with vegan options inside.
  • Llyod Center Ice Rink – a great place for kids or a date and reasonable rates to skate.  Located inside the mall so you don’t have to watch a lesson, you can shop!
  • New Seasons Market – one of our favorite places to shop, somehow it feels friendlier than Whole Foods, the stickers flow for kids and the Williams St. location has my children’s favorite cashier so we had to go and say hi today.
  • Back to Eden Bakery – gluten free vegan bakery serving soft-serve ice cream and some really great baked goods, the scones are scrumptious and the rotating selection always impresses with innovation.

Olympic Dreams

Taking a Twist on Hairbands the Damage Free Twistband

 I received several samples for review.  I was not compensated in any way, all opinions are my own and freely expressed.

image Normally I prefer reviews be just that, my opinion, but honestly there is not too much to say about a hair band, is there?  I will be upfront – hair ties that are tight and rubber band like do give me headaches, they pull on the roots of my hair, I experience breakage, etc.  When I opened the delightful little carton for review I was not that impressed.  When I stepped into a local boutique and saw similar items priced at $14 for 3 I was even less impressed thinking “WOW! How can I put a review together that does not discuss that these are 300 times the cost of hair ties you can pick up at any convenience store, or even *Gasp* the one buck shops?” But then I gave them a try.  I may not personally spend $3 on one hair tie but I can honestly say the Twistband is not your average hair tie.  I would bet that the headbands are also quite nice – not the squeeze your brain out of your ear feel I normally get.  I could even see them being perfect for babies if you go in for adorning your little miss with bows – a flower or bow could easily be sewn on.  The company also offers shoelaces, gifts, customization and limited edition pieces.  These could easily become the new collectible for fashionistas.

Right now they are offering free shipping, loyalty points and even a monthly subscription service. These would make a great gift at baby showers, bridal showers, for the yoga lover in your life, as goody bag stuffers, giveaways and incentives! Check out a little more on how this woman owned company got its start:image

Meet the Founder: Jessica Frandson

Like all great inventions, Twistband was born out of necessity. After having a baby, Jessica Frandson grew tired of having her hair tugged by the little one and quickly learned the least painful hairstyle for a new mom was a ponytail. She made sure to always have her hair up and kept a second band on her wrist as a backup. Traditional hair bands hurt her head and her wrist, so she twisted a soft piece of elastic trim to hold back her hair, thus creating the first Twistband. A few weeks later she was looking to write down a phone number and in the absence of a notepad, she wrote the number onher Twistband, and the custom message Twistband was born. In 2009 she officially launched the Twistband brand and began selling the product at retail stores nationwide. Jessica serves as the president of Twistband, overseeing all aspects of the emerging brand.

All about Twistband

We all remember the days of the hair scrunchy. Easy to wear, enough styles to match any outfit, and they slid comfortably on your wrist between wearings. But as style evolved, our once-beloved scrunchy became a fashion “don’t,” creating the need for a new breed of hair accessories. Elastic bands tug on hair, cause headaches and can leave dents in your hair when you take it down. But with the introduction of the Twistband that is all about to change.
Twistbands are ponybands and headbands made of elastic trim. They stretch to support any hairstyle, yet are slim and sleek enough to wear on your wrist when you want to let your hair down. Twistbands are available in a variety of colors, patterns and fabrics to complement any style. And with prices ranging from $5-12 for a set of three you can have one in every color!
Twistbands are offered in a wide range of styles and collections to suit anyone or any need, including couture and fashion, athletics, toddlers through tweens, and licensed and branded logos and messaging. In addition to the fashion Twistbands sold at retail, the line is also available for corporate and promotional branding. The ponybands and headbands can be printed with logos or messages, making them a perfectly unique and stylish way to spread your word.
Twistbands provide a slew of uses beyond a hair accessory. Wear it as a bracelet; wear a branded Twistband to make a statement; commemorate a bachelorette or birthday party with custom-printed bands … the uses are endless!


Price Range: $3-$12

Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy

I absolutely love this book for its illustrations, give me an anatomy book hands down any day and I am glued to the pages.  This book is broken down into specific muscle categories with clearly verbalized to the point execution notes, a meter for level of difficulty, variations and specific muscles targeted (yes the category may be chest, but there is more than one muscle in there!).

image SO how will this book play out to the fitness neophyte?  Probably not too handy.  There are several brief tables in the back that breakdown some sample push-pull, split or whole body workouts, and if you aren’t sure what some of those mean…that is kind of my point. This is another great book for the fitness professional, someone working with a fitness professional, or anyone looking for more information on anatomy and how muscles work.

While Contreras believes all strength trainees should master their own bodyweight as a form of resistance training before moving on to free weights and other training systems, he is adamant that a person can maintain muscularity and fitness solely by performing bodyweight exercises. “As you progress to more difficult variations and increase the number of repetitions you perform with the various exercises, you will continuously challenge your neuromuscular system,” he explains. “Your body will respond by synthesizing more protein and laying down more muscle tissue. In essence, your body adapts by building a bigger engine.”

Featuring drawings, instructions, and descriptions of 156 innovative and unique exercises, along with a rating system to help you determine the level of difficulty of each exercise, Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy goes far beyond standard pull-ups, push-ups, and squats to work every muscle in the body. Contreras, who maintains a popular blog at, also has instructions on creating a customized, equipment-free workout program for building a stronger, more toned physique.

I received a copy of this book for review, I was not compensated in any way and the opinions expressed are freely given and my own.

Better Body Workouts For Women

image Dean Hodgkin and Caroline Pearce team up to bring Better Body Workouts for Women to the market.  This book is chock full of material and that is quite honestly its downfall.  As a fitness professional even I found it hard to read, it was laid out almost like a text book though the charts and text did give way to photos and descriptions of exercises, but you would have to jump around a lot to build a workout plan.  From my experience the average fitness consumer would prefer something boxed and packaged, ready for use.  There is great information in here, but more than the average individual needs to be successful, however; if you are within the fitness profession, grabbing a copy of this book could not hurt.  It is written as well, if not better than a lot of those produced by certifying agencies.

In line with the review of this book I have been provided a great little article from another source, hopefully it steers readers down the right course:

Five Exercises to Avoid

From professional athletes to green gym goers, thousands of people find themselves injured each year when exercising.  To maximize your workout both safely and effectively, Dan Geraci M.S., Head Strength Coach at Hard Pressed, debunks the myths surrounding injury-prone practices.

“Incorrect form when lifting weights is one of the top contributors to sports-related injuries,” says Geraci.  “To prevent pulled muscles and other ailments, it is important to take age and fitness level into account as well as any neck, back or spinal issues you may have.”

Below are five exercises to avoid as well as alternative methods for a safer workout:

  1. Box Jumps:  A compound movement that works the musculature of the hip and knee joints, this method also places excessive pressure on the Achilles Tendon which can lead to a rupture or tear.  Missing the box with an uncoordinated misstep can result in a twisted ankle or scraped shins while the repeated jumps on a hard surface can cause knee pain.
    •  Alternative:  The leg press works these same muscle groups but can create stronger muscles without the negative impact of box jumps.  “The leg press targets the muscles around these joints as well,” says Geraci.  “This produces more explosive and higher jumps, often the reason many turn to box jumps in the first place.”

  1. Dumbbell Chest Fly:  Without a spotter or when using heavier weights, dumbbells can be difficult to control properly which can potentially lead to catastrophic muscle tears.  Furthermore, most individuals use a shortened range of motion (ROM) for chest flys, which misses the mark for the most effective portion of the exercise.
    •  Alternative:  Machine Chest Fly and cables can be much more effective and safe as these alternatives place you in the proper positioning to utilize a full ROM without leaving your muscles and joints vulnerable to free weight errors.

  1. Walking Lunges:  Improper form is the main problem with walking lunges as the majority of people perform them incorrectly.  “Bad form leads to increased stress on the knee and places it in a vulnerable position,” says Geraci.  “Putting excessive force on structural components of the knee such as the Patella Tendon and the Meniscus can lead to injury.”
    • Alternative:  Doing stationary lunges (and having a spotter) will keep the knee in the proper position and allow you to maintain proper form while reaping all the benefits of lunges.

  1. Upright Rows:  This exercise puts the rotator cuff muscles in an extremely pinched space (referred to as the sub-acromial space).  In many individuals the Acromion Muscle is hooked or slightly hooked which leads to increased impingement.
    • Alternative:  To work your traps in a similar method, use the Shrug and Pull technique.  This allows you to target the same muscles while moving the joint in a much more natural way, thus decreasing the chance of injury.

  1. BOSU/ Stability Balls:  The extremely instable platform these balls provide can lead to a myriad of injuries.  They put you in a vulnerable state while performing movements that often times lead to injury when in completely stable environments.  Contrary to popular belief, doing exercises on these balls has no functional purpose outside of training the body to better perform these exercises while on a stability ball.
    •  Alternative:  Perform the exercises in a stable environment rather than on the ball.  You will better target the primary muscles (i.e. chest for chest press) while not leaving your joints, muscles and tendons susceptible to injury.  Then, exercise your core muscles and abdominals separately.  “Working your chest with a chest press movement on a stability ball is a poor attempt at a two-for-one type of deal,” says Geraci.  “While killing two birds with one stone sounds good in theory, if it leads to injury you are worse off than when you started.”

Tips for Soothing and Shrinking Your Belly with the 21 Day Tummy

I received a copy of this book for review.  I was not compensated in any way, all of the opinions expressed are given freely and are my own.

Health journalist Liz Vaccariello brings a third book to the market with 21-Day Tummy: The Revolutionary Diet That Soothes and Shrinks Any Belly Fast, the latest in a chain of books written about weight loss and digestion.  While the book held no help for me because of its reliance on meats, eggs and limited dairy, however; page 105 has a sidebar of Vegetarians Welcome Here stating that vegetarians are used to making substitutions. It did hold some interesting hypotheses on what causes bowel pain and digestion issues, including pregnancy.  Research regarding the gut conditions of pregnant women shows that they undergo dramatic changes which explains a great deal of the complaints mothers have during and after birth, the high need for modification of diet and even the high incidence of elimination diet in treating breastfed children.

There are some quick tips given regarding the “Belly Buddies” that should be included in meal plans such as:

  • fiber
  • magnesium
  • anti-inflammatory fats

Most of these may already be known, but the authors do go into greater detail into these categories, and they also include a quick reference list on page 95. At the end of the book there are “Belly Bully” tests which are propositioned as reverse elimination diets.  You add a certain amount of these foods to meals across a span of time and see if you have an adverse reaction.  Garlic and onions, my own nemeses are on this list.

There are recipes and meal plans given including make a head meals.  There are three phases, and a fairly lengthy bibliography referencing where some of the research for this book came from.  Convenient shopping lists are also provided and an index of recipes to make meal planning quicker.

Also present is a nice discussion of exercise and studies that conclude too much exercising not only impedes weight loss but it ruin the intestinal lining – a fascinating read and research but the test subjects were postmenopausal women, so it may not apply to all groups. Several studies are sighted that support the use of moderate exercise in maintaining a healthy weight and health GI tract.

This book definitely provide some interesting recipes and may be just what someone looking for an alternative way to manage their gut health is looking for.

Please read more about the book and its authors below:

Trim Tummy Fat – and Target Bloating, Gas and More – with 21-Day Tummy,

imageThe Revolutionary Diet That Shrinks and Soothes Any Belly Fast

Treat Common Digestive Disorders While Dropping Pounds and Inches in Three Weeks

NEW YORK October 28, 2013 From burps and groans to discomfort and moans, millions of Americans have stomach issues. One of the most common? Extra weight – which frequently brings indigestion, painful stomach cramps, uncomfortable bloating, and other tummy troubles. Research shows that foods that lead to gastrointestinal problems are often the same ones that pack on the pounds. Reader’s Digest editor-in-chief and New York Times best-selling author Liz Vaccariello suffered from these embarrassing symptoms, so she followed her own gut and teamed with Kate Scarlata, RD, LDN to distill the latest science and create 21-Day Tummy, a new healthy eating plan that shrinks and soothes any belly fast.


21-Day Tummy, available now at and in stores nationwide December 26, does what no other diet plan can do: it trims tummies while tackling the “big five” most common digestive problems that no one wants to talk about: heartburn, gas and bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. The easy-to-follow plan focuses on carb-light, anti-inflammatory foods scientifically proven to balance gut flora, reduce inflammation, soothe the digestive system and shrink fat cells (“Belly Buddies”), while avoiding pro-inflammatory fats and high-fructose foods (“Belly Bullies”).

“When I uncovered research linking two of my own challenges – weight gain and digestive slowdown – I knew I had a fresh solution to a common problem. I’m amazed at how great I feel eating this way – my digestion is regular and I don’t suffer cramps or feel bloated anymore,” said Vaccariello. “It’s possible to lose weight and improve digestion at the same time, and 21-Day Tummy will show you how, leaving you healthier, happier – and more comfortable!”

21-Day Tummy includes:

  • · Real-Life Success Stories & Advice Reader’s Digest recruited real men and women who tried out the 21-day plan. All lost weight – up to 19 pounds – and belly inches. The grand tally of weight loss in three weeks: 90 pounds! They each reported major improvements in their digestive issues and most found that their gas, bloating, nausea and bellyaches disappeared. The top tester dropped 19 pounds in 21 days and completely stopped taking medications for acid reflux.

  • · Recipes: 50 scrumptious recipes that incorporate Belly Buddies – foods that help shrink and soothe stomachs – such as Tomato-Ginger Flank Steak, Ratatouille Frittata and Strawberry Soufflé-lets.

  • · Workout Plan: An optional equipment-free workout plan created to soothe and sculpt your belly with a mix of core strengthening, walking, and yoga exercises.

  • · Belly Bully Tests: Guidelines on how to identify which Belly Bullies are problematic for your system and what you can reintroduce to your diet, so you can enjoy a variety of foods.


21-Day Tummy will help you target the foods and behaviors that challenge your personal digestive system and show you how to eat in a way that keeps you feeling great – and looking lean – for life.


21-Day Tummy

Pub date:  December 26, 2013

ISBN:  9781621451112



Available now at and wherever books are sold.


About Liz Vaccariello

Liz Vaccariello is the editor-in-chief and chief content officer of Reader’s Digest, one of the world’s largest media brands, with 26 million readers. A journalist with 20+ years experience in health and nutrition, she’s also the coauthor of the New York Times bestsellers The Digest Diet, The 400-Calorie Fix and Flat Belly Diet!. Vaccariello regularly appears on national programs such as Good Morning America and The Doctors, and has been featured on The Biggest Loser, Today, Rachel Ray, and The View. Previously, Liz was the editor-in-chief of Prevention. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and twin daughters. Her blog, Losing it with Liz, lives on She has over 3,000 followers on Twitter (@LizVacc).


About Kate Scarlata, RD, LDN

Kate Scarlata, RD, LDN, is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 25 years of experience in the nutrition and wellness field, specializing in digestive disorders. Kate completed her postgraduate training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate. The author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well with IBS, she has been interviewed in many national publications, including Ladies Home Journal and Fitness magazine. She lives and practices in Boston, Massachusetts.


About Reader’s Digest Association

Reader’s Digest Association (RDA) is a family of iconic brands that celebrate reading, sharing and doing among consumers on print and digital platforms. Our portfolio of products includes our flagship magazine Reader’s Digest; Taste of Home, the world’s largest circulation food publication; The Family Handyman, America’s leading source for DIY; and a suite of Enthusiast titles including Birds & Blooms, Country, Country Woman, Farm & Ranch Living and Reminisce. For more than 90 years, we have simplified and enriched the lives of a passionate readership by discovering and expertly selecting the most interesting content in family, food, health, home improvement, finance, and humor. Reader’s Digest casts a global footprint by providing products and services around the world through owned and licensed operations. Further information about the company can be found at

Being Active Everyday is Easier with Music

image Truly, it is easier to be active with music – it speaks not just to our souls, but to our muscles.  The right type of music can entice even a tired body to wiggle, and giggle.  Music is mood enhancing and can be positively uplifting during routine workouts.  Research supports that the tempo of music has motivational properties so why is it then that more people are not dusting off the mp3 device and taking to the trails? Donning headphones or relays can be a real pain.  It seems the only things that stay put are heavy and burdensome while the ones that come with most of our favorite (insert vowel)devices are just plain useless.  They slip out of your ears without provocation and are uncomfortable even when they manage to stay in the ear.  Even worse they lack the ability to transmit the quality of sound one expects.

Enter Sol Republic Relays. In-ear Relays offer the benefits of a sports headphone but have amazing style that looks great anytime. With Relays, they introduced FreeFlex™ technology, which is wrapped around the new i5 Sound Engine. FreeFlex enables Relays’ universal fit and makes them easy to put in your ear and stay there regardless of how intensely you move. Relays deliver the sound and style to keep you going whether you’re commuting on the Max, running after work or pushing through to meet a deadline.
I love Relays because they just fall right in, without needing adjustments or fidgeting, and they are easier to use than most earbuds. The lightweight, low-profile design is the perfect teammate for any sport, but Relays stay put without the cumbersome, heavy clips or bulky bands that are standard on most sports headphones. From the streets to the trails, the train to the slopes, Relays keep up with you and your music without sacrificing amazing sound or style.
For sports and outdoor use, Relays are water and sweat resistant, and have a clip-on cable that ensures the cable won’t ever get caught.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had earbuds ripped from my ears while lifting free weights – it is actually an embarrassing occurrence, especially when my players comes crashing to the ground!

No need to change headphones when commuting or working because the easily accessible mic and phone control lets you seamlessly stay in touch. Adjusting volume or switching tracks is easy and essential for finding the right song for the next step of your day.
Like all other SOL REPUBLIC in-ear headphones Relays are part of an exclusive “Ear Tips for Life” program so you never have to worry if you lose your ear tips. SOL REPUBLIC is the only manufacturer that will replace your ear tips anytime they are lost, misplaced or if you simply want a different size. Relays ship with four different size ear tips for the perfect fit as well as a carrying case to keep them protected when not in use.
SOL REPUBLIC Relays are available now in Black for $79.99 at Verizon Wireless: and and will be available nationwide in Black & White, Horizon Blue and Lemon Lime at leading nationwide retailers in February 2014.

So that is the fitness, exercise activity side of these little guys, now let me get really real with you.  I am currently finishing up the last half of my training as a Primary Montessori Guide, having recently moved to Portland from Chicagoland, and confined to one fourth the sized living space my family of five is accustomed to. I have a decent amount of classwork for this and the accompanying Masters degree in Education. This would not be a problem if we were not on the third floor of an apartment building with no way to send the kids “safely out to play” (since the nearest park is several blocks away.) My children experience bouts of excitement and of course sibling rivalry like all children – agreeing with Montessori theory and principles does not make me immune from parenting mistakes – and when this happens the cacophony that ensues can be debilitating. I just plus the Sol Republic relays into my computer, pop the buds into my ears and instant silence, or relaxing ambient sounds.  Concentration I am back!  I’m not sure that this was the intended design purpose but what mother can deny noise cancelling ear buds!*

*My husband is always present, I do not recommend using anything that does not allow for a child to be heard when needed, this is merely a way for me to remove auditory distractions from my focus when I am not the one in charge.  

I received a pair of Sol Republic In-Ear Relays for review.  I was not paid in any way for this review and the opinions expressed are given freely.

Freedom and Discipline Montessori Classroom Management Discussed

Reflections of a trainee in Montessori Primary Education

For a long time I have wondered about classroom management and how a guide keeps chaos from reigning in the class. At first we were just presented with the three rules of work and the three rules of intervention, next came positive phrasing, these all seemed liked wonderful but not powerful tools. Even now I completely agree with all that I have read regarding freedom, discipline, limits, independence and liberty but I can’t help but think they are being presented in a very ivory tower manner.

I appreciate the open ended nature of the theory and interpretation, that limits are based on the individual and the situation so they are flexible – this is a far cry from the conventional method of managing a classroom eg: when you talk in class you are sent to the principal – regardless of the reason of talking (someone could be hitting you and you say stop versus a snide remark to someone) or the blanket punishment and reward system (everyone on the boat either floats or sinks together).

I also think the interpretation of discipline takes a great deal of pressure off of all involved. When it is no longer something imposed by an adult the adult is empowered to look at different avenues to help a child and observe the child as an individual (there is no longer a “blanket policy” on discipline in a sense) and realize that discipline is a development within the child that they internally achieve and outwardly manifest. The pressure of immobility and silence is taken off of the child, especially when it is illogically doled out.

All of these are wonderful ideas and ways to discuss these often volatile topics, however; I remain skeptical. I do not assume that Montessori literally “wrote the book” or that her observations are carved in stone. I strongly believe in individualism and so most of these appeals to me because it honors where each individual child is in the process, but I also a concerned that this method takes at its premise that Montessori’s observations are absolute, that children only develop and manifest as she observed, or her colleagues observed and that her writings contain all there is to know. This can’t possibly be true to me because I believe in evolution; I believe in the fluctuation of truth and the inaccuracies of perception and most importantly the fallibility of each individual – myself at the top of the list. I do not want to step into my first Montessori classroom and be blindsided by truths not conceived, or to feel like I am drowning without a life jacket. I wish we could observe in several different classrooms so we could get a more, broad, well-rounded view of Montessori Methodology in practice

The Theory of Freedom and Discipline in Education

Freedom and discipline are naturally at odds in the conventional system of rearing or educating children, a child only obtains freedom from the adult after a show of discipline which usually involves immobility and silence. These two requirements of discipline are at their core in direct opposition to the child in the first plane and their sensitive period for movement (making a child immobilized is at obvious odds) and order (often times an adult imposes discipline upon a child with no rhyme or reason, no logic and seldom does the “punishment” fit the crime). Another consideration is the absorbent mind that has taken in snapshots of the environment, including the adult’s own “disciplined behavior” which seldom, if ever, involves immobility and silence imposed by others. Adults tend to discuss their “will” and “discipline”, their self-control as their own exertion over themselves, “Mommy isn’t having a piece of cake because she is dieting”.

The new interpretation of discipline and the resulting interpretation of freedom no longer juxtaposes them during conversation, instead they become intertwined and codependent with different denotations. Freedom becomes the internal knowledge, developed from experiences, that one can make choices and follow through on them. It is an internal state best summed up by the idea that even when the body is imprisoned by others, by ailments, we can still have a “mind that is free”, others cannot take away our thoughts, our feelings, or our emotions – we poses these and therefore freedom at its root can never be taken away from or granted to someone because it is a state of being.

Discipline is then a preparation for living and making choices. It is a way to educate children and ourselves, a developmental potential guided by natural laws (for children in the first plane that can be the sensitive period for movement) that undergoes a process of learning. The outer manifestation of discipline is an external window to these internal processes that are ongoing. In meditation the practitioner first allows themselves movement through yoga, readying the body for long periods of immobility, and then they discipline the mind by becoming aware of their thoughts without becoming entrapped or attached to them. This discipline allows for freedom and the realization of atman, the “true self”, a realization of the cosmic connection, an attainment of Samadhi or bliss. It very closely parallels Montessori’s belief that spontaneous self-discipline is an outcome of normalization.

Within this discussion, freedom and discipline are regulated by liberty and limits. Liberty, when given in a complete and non-lacking way supports the development of both freedom and discipline. It is closely connected to choice and action, and has an implication of permission (eg: “How dare you take such a liberty!” meaning you were not given permission to act in that way). Limits are set with the goal to protect the environment and individuals, defined by the context of a situation and based on the capacity of the individual to understand them, act independently and adhere to their parameters; this makes them flexible and varied.

At the heart of all of these ideas is independence. As an individual’s independence increases the personal limitations to their freedom, their ability to make choices lessens, more opportunities exist. Just as the student who completes a degree has lessened the limits of their personal knowledge the limits to the jobs they can attain are lessened. When they are given the liberty to apply to multiple jobs they are also now capable of the freedom to choose which job suits them best, which has better benefits. The freedom to choose their job would not have been available to them if they had not independently sought out education and lessened their personal limitation of pertinent knowledge. It is that same freedom that allows them to think about the consequences of choosing one job over the other; less time at home versus more money, less time at home and the possibility of an unhappy marriage, etc.

This new interpretation of freedom and discipline seems straight forward at its roots. When Patrick Henry and others before him proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death” they were spot on. Liberty is something that can be granted, without it the ability to make a reasoned choice (freedom), the ability to control oneself and follow through on that choice (discipline) and even independence (the ability to act for oneself without reliance on others) is for naught. Without the complete and necessary granting of liberty to an individual, all of the internal self-development is a means to no end; the individual metaphorically dies and in the context of Montessori possibly deviates. A casa guide must be fully aware of this paradigm for it is one very important facet of the prepared environment.

In Conclusion

Since I am still at the beginning of my journey to becoming a primary guide with a Masters of Education, I really can not say form experience if this works.  I do know from experience as a secondary education teacher, an afterschool program director and the instructor for hundreds of children’s fitness classes, that the conventional beliefs that discipline can be taught, freedom is something you can give a child and that rewards/punishments work are not all they are cracked up to be.  To leave on a positive note, here are some adorable photos of my youngest in her home Montessori environment, she is 22 months.