The last few weeks, Astroboy has been getting up earlier than me and roaming around the house with nothing to do. Sometimes he’s really good and puts on a jacket and feeds the cats (it’s his morning chore), before I get up and nag him to do it. (Yes I know. I’m trying really hard not to!)
But I finally got tired of it and decided it is time for him to learn to make his hot chocolate. Especially after my last post where I reminded myself that I need to remember to break down steps and take it one step at a time. He drinks it every morning now because our house is like 60 degrees when we get up in the morning.
Since last year, Astroboy has learned to get his mug, hot chocolate mix and sugar from his cupboard and mix it himself. He waits for Thumper or me to pour the warmed milk in for him. Beginning this Monday, I walked Astroboy through the process.
- Get milk from fridge. (I put his milk in a little Ikea jug)
- Get small pot and place on counter
- Get small stool
- Pour milk in
- Get down from chair
- Hold pot (in a certain way) and transfer to stove
- Turn on stove
- Look at digital timer, add 5 minutes to it (yay! Learning kindergarten math!)
- Wait said 5 minutes
- Turn off stove
- Call for Mama
I’m listing all these steps out for a particular reason. I read an enlightening post a year ago about children doing house chores. The lady basically said, your child will want to do them really young. (It fills a developmental need). Let them, don’t tell them where they’re doing wrong all the time. Show them each time how to do it right. The goal for them is not the end product, it’s often the repetition of task. They repeat so they can develop their small and large motor skills. And they will get it eventually and it’ll be part of their habit. And most importantly, break the steps down.
Okay, a tangent here. “But...”, you say, “I can teach it to them much faster when they’re older.” Yup you can. Nothing wrong with it. Children grow up learning house chores either young or old. They all get there. My thing is, younger children, because they want to work on their motor skills, will really really really want to do them. Why not honor their developmental desire when they express it?
In any case, I broke the steps down and have been just observing Astroboy while he goes about doing it all this week, reminding him to hold his pot properly (two arms tightly to his bod to stabilize), showing him again how to turn on the stove, etc. And today, he was able to mostly complete the steps himself while I read my morning email.
Oh, so here’s the thing. It’s okay to make up the steps to this process on the spot. But figure out every little step and stick to the same order. It helps the child learn how to do something.
It also helps me when I break the steps down, because I don’t get frustrated at the children, thinking, “I told you how to do this 5000 times! How come you didn’t get it? Argh, the kids are too young” When you break down the steps yourself, you realize how many little steps you’re asking the child to remember. Case in point, notice how I put “Get down from stool” as a separate step. Without specifically telling Astroboy that, he could just try and hold the pot, and then get down from his stool, thereby spilling his milk in the process of stepping down.
Secondly, for each step, show it to the child very slowly. This is something I learned from Montessori. It takes children a few more seconds than adult to register what they’re seeing. Slowing down your actions help them remember. For example, the act of turning on a stove is actually a 3 step process: push the dial in, turn to lite and listen for click, when gas comes out, turn to medium high. I usually show Astroboy the whole process of turning on the stove, then I show him each step individually 2-3 times, have him try it, before we move on.
“I’m lazy, and this is too much work.”
Maybe. Depends on how you look at it. As I mentioned above, the too much work part for me is really about getting frustrated at the children. I get frustrated, I yell at the kids, they argue with me about how to do something, the whole thing takes a long long time. Much quicker if I do it myself. I don’t have to feel unhappy in the process!
Alternatively, when I remember to slow down and break down each step, to take the time to show the children, to expect them to only learn about half the steps each time, to remember to lower my expectations, to mindfully enjoy the process and time spent making hot chocolate with Astroboy, everything goes so much smoother. The effect also snowballs because Thumper can be relegated to either teach Astroboy or perform the task for me.
Anyone, those who are into Montessori or not, those who homeschool or not, those who have time or not, those who are lazy or not, can do this. Because I’m lazy. My happiest is often not doing some straight Montessori presentation or practice but just going with the flow and then applying some of Montessori’s underlying philosophy as it comes up. For Practical Life, it’s:
- break steps down to the smallest possible unit
- show each step slowly
- Show them how to do it right each time rather than tell them what they did wrong. Internally accept that it may takes a few weeks or months to master each little step.
What I get at the end of one week of “work” is a child who can make his own breakfast and I get to (mostly) sleep in! Totally worth it for me.
- Hot chocolate – 熱可可
- sugar － 糖
- cocoa － 可可粉
- milk – 牛奶
Typically the kids do 2/3 tea spoon. We use cane sugar or turbinado sugar so it’s even less sugar than white sugar
- A cup of milk
- 1:1 ratio of cocoa powder to milk, this gives you slightly bitter hot chocolate.