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My back story to my Montessori madness (passion)…

It’s not unusual for teachers to give so much of themselves and find themselves struggling with infertility.  In particular, while every moment in the classroom serves as some sort of reminder of ones inability to bare or be a parent, teachers like myself put our own needs aside and instead treat each child as if they were their own. Day in and day out imagine giving 500% in hopes to be that the teacher you hope your child would have one day. You work your butt off and frankly you hope God will return the good with your own miracle. You wait patiently. Your students grow and then you begin to witness siblings enter your classroom and this simply signifies time…time that has lapse. You pray. You work harder. You try not to go to the place of depression, yet you don’t see the results you eagerly pray for. Despite this, you try your best to see the beauty in each day and count your blessings.

So then imagine in the course of 8 years you go through IUI (Intrauterine Insemination…aka turkey baster method).You pray. You pray. You pray. Nothing. You try again 1 more time. You’re then are hit with catastrophic traumatic and frankly numbing news of not 1 but 5 loved ones passing in a 3 week period. You go into a state of numbness for weeks which leads to months to years. Somehow in between the grief you continue to pray and hope for a miracle baby and God gives you a chance. Nope…nothing again. So then, you try IVF (In Vitro Ferilization). Nothing. Another disappointment. Another failure. Tens of thousands depleted from your savings. You mourn the death of your loved ones, the failure of your own body and financial loss.

So you leave the teaching profession because your body is mentally and emotionally tapped. You crave change. You pray you’re making the correct decision. You enter another field within the field of education working with children with autism. It’s less stressful yet allows for challenge in a different way. You embrace it.  You realize the similarities with Montessori. You feel born again. You think…lets try this baby thing again. You pray. You hope and then it finally happens. God grants you not 1, but 2 babies. Your wish finally presents itself.

My current state….

This is my journey of infertility in a nut shell. Thank you for allowing me to take you on my short ride. So now here I am at 23 weeks. I  started to revisit my Montessori books and I haven’t been able to stop. I feel renewed and inspired. I will admit that prior to revisiting my books, I didn’t think our twins needed a  room of their own because in my mind I figured they’d be sleeping with us. As I began to read more, I realized that I wanted my lil ones to be as independent as possible. Coincidently, at during this time of renewed learning, my neighbor invited me to her home where she created the most gorgeous room that looked as though it came from a Pottery Barn Catalog. Her crib actually was from Pottery Barn catalogue and her room was breath taking. I immediately became inspired to create a sanctuary for my twins.

With that being said, the more I read, the more excited I became. The book in my possession and my go to book was Paula Polk Lillard’s book, Montessori From the Start. She reminds readers how Maria Montessori’s belief was that when infants are born, learning outside the womb immediately begins. There’s no waiting for learning to happen in formal settings such as preschool as she believed how learning happens when they take their first breathe or when gazing into parent’s eyes. Montessori further reminds us that because attention and concentration are the roots to all learning, the most immediate place where we begin this facilitation of knowledge is the child’s immediate environment, their room. My work in early intervention certainly evidenced this core foundational piece required for all learning to take place. This reminder took on a whole new meaning and importance as I had students ages 3-4.5 on the spectrum where this was worked on for weeks and sometime months. As a new parent, I am aiming for better for my children? Absolutely! I knew I had work cut out for me and that environmental planning (one that i always loved as a teacher) was now my dream and something I have waited to do for my own for years. Was it finally my turn? Yes, yes, yes!

Creating my perfect space meant that I had to do some research as well. Here’s what I gathered…

What does a Montessori Nursery look like, feel like?

This room has four components: a sleeping area, changing table, and rocking chair for the adult and an activity area. To facilitate concentration or deep involvement for the child, a few things must happen. This environment is their space and created to meet their needs, not ours, but their needs. Again the space is calm, soothing and simplistic. The room is minimally furnished with furniture that is at their level. Every item placed is placed with intention and purpose. A shelf is low to the ground and allows the child to pull themselves up when they’re ready. On this shelf is a basket readily available for exploring various items. Adjacent to the sleeping area is a mirror for the child to see their own reflection and mimic their movements and hung above their head is a mobile (to learn more about these items stay tuned to upcoming posts) used to facilitate hand – eye coordination, strengthen vision, grasp, focus on a moving object, tracking of an object, perception of color and depth. Other items that are low and may seem unconventional, is a floor mattress.

On a side not, my husband said to me back in June, “There’s something about cribs that seem cruel and disrespectful.” My husband knows the premise and rational to Montessori, so when he shared this with me, I felt as though I had fallen in love with him all over again. Cribs were designed to keep children safe. Now, if we create a space that is safe for them, this negates this notion to keep them confined, correct? Additionally most injuries occur when babies are trying to escape their crib! To ease the transition from mattress to the the ground one can use towels as a bumper or place a swimming noodle under the bed sheet. A secure gate is placed at the door to protect the child when moms and dads are sleeping. Again this room is the chid’s room. It’s theirs to explore. From a developmental stand point, allowing this freedom of movement helps them learn how to be independent. The goal for any Montessori environment is to allow freedom of movement. This idea supports physical growth and development, brain development, and respect for the child’s natural need to explore and learn. Why limit their abilities? If the environment is prepared, the child will initiate and learn on their own without the interruption and distractions of adults.

More over, the infant room created with their needs in mind allows the child to lie down and move freely. The activities given to the child follow a progression that aligns with their developmental need to lengthen concentration and focus. I have begun to create activities addressing how to sustain their concentration, eye-hand coordination and visual sense. See my post under Montessori DIY activities.

Onto the nursery…

With all these thoughts in mind, you might ask,  ‘Where did I start?’  First, I discussed with my husband a workable budget. Oddly enough, because my husband gives me free reign financially, I feel even more compelled to save our hard earned money. Call it reverse psychology on his part… who knows. I have tremendous respect for him and his hard work. I thought $200 was more than enough so with that being said, I first looked at what we already owned and began to think about what I could reuse. We live in a small condo, so giving up my craft room was a must. I’m not going to lie this was difficult and sad. This was my space to create and frankly to close the door behind me to walk and work away from my husband’s lovely OCD.

I began to think about what I currently had and what I could reuse to save money. The current color of the room was painted Tiffany Blue with Espresso colored furniture. Thankfully, there wasn’t a need to repaint as my twins are boys. With those colors in mind, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. Here are the pin’s that inspired my room…

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Next, I began the long and tortured task of decluttering. The teacher in me finds value in everything! It’s an awful illness. At the time I was 14 weeks pregnant and experienced nausea and extreme exhaustion. If you ever feel the need to put yourself on budget to curve spending, declutter. You’ll realize you don’t need half the things you own. Here’s my horrid before photos with mounds of crap.

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A task like this would generally take me a day or two…however this undertaking with babies in utero took nearly a month! I had to think of a plan of action. This plan kept me moving forward and work through the frustrations of working at a turtle’s pace. Working slowly was in my opinion the greatest challenge!

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Seven garbage bags of recycled garbage, 4 bins of give away items and 4 bins of items to sell was the outcome of this conversion. I sold items and gave a lot of things away. This helped tremendously. I sold my beloved desk and chair for $25.00 (Yes, crazily cheap), children toys, clothes, etc. Selling items on a Facebook garage sale site made it easy and I made roughly $150.00. What I ended up selling, I ended up reinvesting in my room, so i actually didn’t use money saved for a rainy day. Here’s what I originally came up with…

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I loved the set up, however it wasn’t before long that I realized some flaws due to ongoing readings. In creating my Montessori infant room, my plan was to use the room as a giant play pen. My husband will eventually put up a baby gate, so if they awake early, I wanted them to explore freely and safely. The shelves on both ends of the multi-storage cube shelf were reused from my craft room. They were an inexpensive purchase from Walmart. My concern was that the weak and wobbly shelves could fall on them. This had to go. Second, after going to an amazing garage sale, the furniture added to the room gave a  claustrophobic feel.

I had to go back to the drawing table and declutter once more. Removing the two shelves and rearranging the cubby shelf to another wall proved to be a winning decision. I also placed the changing table and rocker next to one another which made sense.

On the hunt for deals…

With a limited budget, you must be open to be flexible. I despise paying full price on anything unless it’s ladies undergarments. Now especially with baby items, babies grow fast. Why spend a large amount of money when in a few months the need will be nonexistent! To make hunting easier and efficient, I looked for specific garage sales on Craigslist selling baby items. As it turned out the garage sale I attended was pretty epic. I was able to get a changing table for $30, mattress for $10.00, a rocker and ottoman for $25.00! I wasn’t planning on purchasing these items but several highly experienced moms recommended these purchases. Coincidently, the remodeling of this room took place in August where discount stores such as Ross have dorm room accessories and decor priced at a discount. With my mom’s assistance, we found the rug and curtains at a steal!

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Ready for the break down and how I was able to stay under budget?

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Besides shopping second hand, don’t forget to reuse items. Items that were reused from my craft room were: cubbie shelf, lamps, and pillows from Z Gallery. Lastly, in looking around my home to repurpose items and save cost, I found an old magazine rack behind my couch. It has probably four years of dust (sadly). I’ve read about the need to have ‘on hand’ items available, so I turned the magazine rack into a basket that holds diapers, cloths, bibs, toys, etc. This was free, free, free!

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Now this is still a work in progress. I’m electing to not use a low mirror next to the floor bed because I have an entire wall of mirrored closet doors (not photo’d). Second, is the mobile which will be discussed in upcoming posts! This room will always be a work in progress. I have plans to take down the photo frames hung above the changing table, the clock sitting at the edge of the shelf and I’ll be adding a sleeping area for my fur babies because they too need a space when I nurse. And lastly,  a baby gate will be added. Stay tuned for those updates.

Staying on a budget is completely doable. Start with what you have, look for inspiration and don’t be afraid to look for second hand items. My Montessori room will grow with my lil ones. With that being said, I refuse to get hung up on spending a lot of money on new items. The essentials in a Montessori room are minimal and as I demonstrated, this can be achieved at nearly no cost. Granted, you have to be willing to part with items and have a good base to start with, but once you look around and hunt wisely, you’ll discover you have almost everything you need!

I don’t miss my craft room at all. I am so proud of the effort and feel prepared to take on two…well kind of. As I read more, I’m certain this anxiety will ease. In fact a book I’m loving is Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.

I welcome your thoughts! For updates, you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. You can also pin photos to Pinterest by following the links below. Thank you for stopping in and I hope I’ve made you a believer in helping you facilitate learning for your infant by creating an intentioned and appropriate environment that caters to their developmental need.

Warmly,
Mandi