Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Real Life Practical Life for Olders (Muffin Mania Part 2)

When I first started implementing Montessori in our home school years ago I faithfully prepped all of these wonderful age-appropriate tasks for youngest dd (2 or 3 at the time).  She used a few but mostly they sat there... and sat there... and sat there; no matter my encouragement, taking them out, doing them myself, etc.  The exception that I remember was the scissor cutting basket.  She used that non-stop for about a week and then was done with it.  It was great and was the right moment for her.
She sometimes liked a few things but she just wasn't drawn to isolated practical life.  When she finally had enough verbal skills (and pantomime skills) she was able to express to me that, basically, she liked doing those things as part of a meaningful task but not just for the sake of doing it.  Okay, the impressive part is that *I* finally got it!  We then did more things that incorporated those isolated skills like washing apples for making applesauce, bathing her baby dolls in water at the play table with all of the materials like talc (cornstarch), shampoo, etc.

Fast forward 7 years...

Oldest dd (15) helped me prep 8 batches of muffin mixes Friday night in preparation for Saturday baking (otherwise known as choosing to ignore what I should really be doing and hyperfocusing on mundane tasks to preserve my sanity and feel some sense of accomplishment).  She did all the dry ingredients (except any leavening agents) while I fiddled and figured out what to do for soaking in kefir and got the liquids ready (except for any egg).  Many isolated skills are incorporated into cooking no matter how old they are.  It was nice to know I didn't need to look over her shoulder and just left her to her part while I did my part (which took enough of my attention!).  It was pleasant, fun, and I enjoyed her company.

What were dd-14 and dd-9 doing during this?  They were trimming and painting their bedrooms!  Yes, start to finish the 3 dds painted their rooms working as a team, listening to music, and chatting.  It was wonderful seeing them undertake this big task, problem solve, stick with it, and finish the job(s).  Hopefully when they look back they'll realize that it involved trust on our part and a variety of skills on their part.  They felt pride through an accomplishment rather than just praise from me.

Both of those were real life practical life activities that benefit the entire family.  There also happened to be a finished product in each of these examples so there is eventual closure to the task.  As a "project person" that is really important to me when I do an intense task.

"Practical Life" may look very different in a home setting than a school setting.  Allow yourself the freedom to adjust to your child and family instead of ONLY trying to make your shelves look like the Montessori school down the street (like I did at first!).  Those isolated practical life skills are great and practical life shelf work is important - just don't feel like you have to fit the mold or it's not "Montessori."  Montessori is about following the child more than the materials.

Here are a few Montessori resources for littles:  Montessori Play and Learn; Montessori from the Start; Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years;
Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives.

What's Cookin'?

This is what 35 pounds of cheddar cheese looks like!  I sure hope we like it!  1 is a friend's but the other 6 are mine.  I literally saved for MONTHS to buy cheese.  Why?  I spend at least $20/mo on cheddar cheese - the plain ol' grocery store brand of cheddar on sale.  This way I spent just barely over that for grass fed cheddar (or rather cheese from grass-fed cows!) from Minerva Cheese Factory.

Also in the picture you can see our elegant homemade mac and cheese leftovers, some fresh cream, and some whey sitting on top (that I had drained making cream cheese for one of the muffin recipes).  There is also a jar of blueberry jam we made last season recently opened and a bag of the ubiquitous muffins (I love that word - now that I know what it means!).  Humbling photo.... but the cheese is impressive, eh?  One day I may even open them, cut them into 1/2 pound sections, shred (or slice more) and freeze.  I was a little busy with muffins :).

Here are a few pictures of the muffin mania prep session and a few of the finished muffins.  Then I ran out of steam!  In fact, today is Tuesday and I baked 2 more of the batches prepped that day... today.  I still have one batter left to finish baking.  The amazing thing is that the batter is still good because I soaked with kefir (and no egg yet, remember).  When I saw that I couldn't get to all of them Saturday I put 3 batters in the fridge.  Then I took them out as I was able to finish them.  By that phase I only needed to add baking powder/soda and egg to them (plus blueberries for the blueberry muffins).  I ran out of bowls and had to resort to a stainless steel saucepan.

Every single adjusted/soaked recipe worked (well... the blueberry muffins that I sort of, kind of burned a little didn't work so well but that was my fault).  The trick is to add everything except the leavening for the dry ingredients and the liquids except for the egg [someone correct me if I'm wrong with this because it's really been working for me this way].  For the liquids I mainly used straight kefir.  Then leave out overnight to soak.  The next morning I actually kneaded in the baking powder or whatever leavening the recipes says.  This helps incorporate it better into the batter - making it a better batter :).  Then I added the egg and worked it in really well before folding any add-ins such as strawberries or blueberries.

Plain Oatmeal Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins
Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins
This post about adjusted muffin recipes is part of Kelly's Real Food Wednesday:

 Quote of the Day:

"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” A. A. Milne [Boy, I must lead one exciting life!!]


  1. What does "dd" stand for?? I've seen this before, but am unfamiliar with the abbreviation. ~Lisa :)

  2. Lisa,
    Dd stands for "dear daughter" and ds is "dear son" and dh is "dear husband." If there is a number attached it's usually the age or sometimes birth order.

    I really enjoyed taking a peek at your blog - I'll be back with more time later :)
    Thanks for your comment!