Kellen’s really into the potty these days. Other than a brief stomach bug this week, he’s been out of diapers every day for several months and rarely has accidents. Surprisingly, the biggest joys of having a two year old potty trained isn’t the financial savings or not having to change diapers all the time. Nope. It’s getting to take said two year old into a public restroom and have him narrate the entire experience.
Today at Costco, I suggested we go to the bathroom to wash hands after the free sample of nacho cheese-that’s-not-really-cheese. And because, well, I needed to go. Kellen, donned in an oversized sweatshirt and his monster boots, strolled his way through the front of Costco, making me an anxious mess that he was going to pee on the floor in front of the bathroom, look up with those big blue eyes, and say “potty,” in case I wasn’t aware… and then worse, “hold you,” as though I wanted to carry a urine soaked child through the store.
Thankfully though, we made it to the potty after a game of chase to get him to hurry it up.
Into the last stall we went, a paper towel in hand to wipe his hands. Off come the monster boots. Off come the jeans and underwear. Thankfully we’ve gotten to the point where he allows socks and shirts to remain ON.
“Kellen potty,” he says.
And then when he’s done, “Kellen flush potty.”
As I sit down to use the bathroom, he announces that the potty is, actually, “scary” because of the loud noise. I ask him to come over and put on his underwear, at which point he loudly announces, “NO WAY!”
Then, he leans over, my half-dressed child, and peeks under the stall, getting what I can only assume is a good look at several people’s feet. “Oh, potty over there,” Kellen says. Thankfully I was hidden behind the closed stall door.
“Kellen, we need to put on your underwear,” I say.
“Mommy potty,” he responds, standing in a corner so I can’t grab his arm to get him dressed.
Then, “Mommy poop,” he says. I love having my bodily functions announced to the other bathroom dwellers.
I tell Kellen he can flush potty if he puts on his McQueen underwear, so he allows me to dress him as he continues to talk about all the potty-ing going on in our stall.
I stand up, and he peers into the potty, giving an out-loud description of what he sees inside. We haven’t explicitly taught him the concept of big and small, but pooping is apparently a boy’s best teacher. He flushes and again yells, “Scary.”
We wash hands and escape before anyone else can exit and see the cute young boy and his embarrassed mom as they leave the bathroom.
I am a behavioralist by training. I believe in positive and negative reinforcement. I believe in direct teaching, especially for literacy skills and for those kids who struggle in “typical” environments. I am a special ed teacher. I’ve seen profound improvements using behavioralist strategies.
But now I’m a mom. And my kid isn’t like the kids I’ve worked with in the past. I still believe in reinforcers. I gave Kellen M&Ms to potty train him, and it worked. But he also is a passive learner, acquiring skills that I’ve never directly taught (like saying “Oh shit” when he trips). Even when he was a tiny baby, he always seemed to be thinking, observing, learning. And he’s very internally motivated to learn. (All of this is important to my point about Montessori school, I promise.)
You also have to understand that our education options in Idaho are limited (I know you’re shocked). As I’ve written before, Idaho’s schools rank very poorly, and even in Boise where the schools are better, they are still behind (the one year I spent here in elementary school put me an entire year behind in math when I got back to Virginia). If there were other preschool options, I might never have seriously explored Montessori education because of my behavioralist background.
The Montessori approach is very constructivist, believing that children are intrinsically motivated to learn (compared to behavioralism which has a far less optimistic perspective where children need motivators to learn). I don’t believe either theory is really correct, truly. I think kids (and adults) ARE motivated by external factors whether that’s adult approval or food or stuff or praise, etc (and most adults are motivated by their paycheck). But I also think we are all also intrinsically motivated to do certain things as well. I like to write, and I am motivated by the pure enjoyment of writing. Kellen loves trains and doesn’t need M&Ms to play with them. And the Montessori approach uses those interests to teach other concepts (I guess Kellen’s interest in poop and using comparative terms like “big poop” and “little poop” is a Montessori strategy?).
Honestly, for Kellen, I believe this approach is good for him. I like the fact that the actual principle is for young learners from 3-6 because I really think we don’t do enough during those years. Kids are capable of far more than play, and there is no reason why our kids can’t be multiplying by first grade. A true Montessori school should comply with national standards on teaching literacy and math concepts so that kids are ready for the more advanced skills by early Kindergarten. I am much happier with their program than just an introduction to letters that occurs in a number of other schools. I also like that the kids seem to truly enjoy school. Kellen loves going to “play with Miss Rose” (though today he told me “no way” after sitting at the doctor for over an hour, but if he was feeling anything like I was, I don’t blame him!).
I’m still not sure I think Montessori is for every kid, though I’m sure they would tell you that every kid can succeed with their methods because they are all individualized. I think some kids need more structure than Montessori education provides. And some kids need direct instruction (discrete trial training is the only proven teaching method for kids with autism for example). But, for now, this is the right school for us.
It started with bra color and then moved to where to put your purse. Now it’s cartoon characters. All in the name of awareness?! I hate them. And maybe you a little bit.
1. It’s not awareness. Ok. Go find me ten people who were unaware of child abuse and breast cancer who were enlightened by your cartoon character avatar, and then maybe we can talk. I never see these campaigns trying to bring awareness to issues that really need awareness (like, say, Lyme disease).
2. It’s more likely to prompt a discussion of the cartoons you watched as a kid or the nature of why your purse is under your bed than it is to prompt a discussion about the actual issue you are trying to raise “awareness” of.
3. It’s obnoxious. I’ve had several people argue that it shows the issues they care about. Well then I guess that makes me a heartless bitch. I actually do care very much about children. But I don’t believe that changing my avatar in any way raises awareness or even shows any compassion on my part. If I changed my avatar or status every damn time someone posted an issue to be *aware* of, well I’d never get to post about things that really matter: like the fact that my kid took a shit in the toilet today.
4. It doesn’t prompt action. Another person (can you tell I’ve been fuming about this for a few days) wrote that awareness is the first step to action. Well, no, not really. Action is the first step toward action. I would likely feel much differently if there was SOMETHING tied to any of these campaigns, like donating a dollar to research or women’s shelters. Or if a company was sponsoring the updates and donating. Or if you were going out to volunteer in response to seeing the cartoon characters. Or calling a friend who is struggling with an illness related to the campaign. Because the action of changing your status is not action that matters. Quite frankly, I think it’s bullshit.
My facebook picture is currently a butt, courtesy of a friend’s husband. His response to all this madness is as follows:
“Change your profile picture to a butt and post this as your status! This is to raise awareness of how many of us are asses if we think that anything we post on Facebook will cure cancer, prevent child abuse, abolish starvation, or otherwise solve any social ills merely by “raising awareness” of them.”
Remember the list of college courses I said I wish I had taken? I’m thinking toddler train design should be added.
My son is a wooden train addict, which is great! But in order to keep him interested, I have to keep changing up the design. Thankfully for his birthday we asked for pieces to add to his train, so I have a ton of track to be creative. He demands that we use his bridge.
And his railway crossing:
And he demands “ups.” We learned quickly that the regular risers don’t work that well, especially on carpet. I bought these instead and HIGHLY recommend them:
My favorite starter track was Melissa and Doug’s Figure Eight set: