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Our Montessori Journey

  • Yana Yevsiyevich-Smith

A Montessori Rosh Hashanah

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

Throughout the year, there are numerous festivals that our family celebrates. From the secular (Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years) to the religious (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Channukah).

Each has its own challenges and opportunities when raising two young children.

Challenges include:

  1. maintaining general health and safety when at least one child seeks danger like a full time profession; and

  2. maintaining our sanity with the sheer mental and physical load of remembering ... well, everything.

Opportunities include:

  1. providing numerous moments for the children to take part and take pride in the festival celebrations; and

  2. developing our own family traditions and memories to cherish (in the small moments of peace amidst the chaos).

More than previous years for our family, this Rosh Hashanah is particularly meaningful as both the boys can participate in more conscious ways.

Here is what I have learned this year in creating a Montessori Rosh Hashanah experience:

Activity Prep

Use a journal or an activity planner to plan one or two activities relevant to Rosh Hashanah and your child's interests.

In our case, I used my OMJ journal to plan two activities for the boys. The first, Rosh Hashanah cards made with apples and paint. The second, a paper-plate shofar. These ideas came from PJ Library UK and they are a wonderful source of information and ideas.

Whilst Zevi made about 8 (!) cards during the card activity, Yari was wildly uninterested. And that's okay! He was far more consumed by exploring the garden and water play. The point is to invite interest by preparing the environment. It is not to force, cajole or emotionally blackmail them into making holiday cards.

To prepare the card activity, I organised two trays; one with the paints and apples, one with the paints and other stamping materials. I pre-folded the cards, ensured there were paintbrushes, and placed a cloth on the table for wiping (hands and table). Zevi was able to put on his smock and off he went!

Book Rotation

Rotating books to include ones about Rosh Hashanah creates excitement and interest. The boys have enjoyed A Moon for Moe and Mo and Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max.

We made a conscious decision to keep screens out of our family room. Instead, we have plants to care for, a coffee table that opens into a toy chest, and a bookshelf with the bottom two shelves dedicated to children's books and activities (and, of course, a massive couch that invites Spiderman-Ninja jumps).

As we started speaking about preparing for Rosh Hashanah and the new books arrived in the post, Zevi and Yari would often choose it from the shelf for reading. In Yari's case, it is about 15 times in a row.

The family room is also a place for forts. Pillow forts. Blanket forts. Blanket pillow forts. All furniture that can be moved, is moved. And the boys are DELIGHTED to build and cohabitate these forts. The past week, they've taken their Rosh Hashanah books in for reading. Sometimes they just look at the pictures and sometimes they ask us to read it.

Either way, it built up the excitement for Rosh Hashanah in ways I couldn't imagine.

Practical Life Skills

Encourage the little ones to take pride in creating their Rosh Hashanah space. Whether tidying their room or helping clean the pram, they love being involved.

There is nothing more powerful than feeling and knowing you are a contributing member of the family. For our family, I've noticed a direct link between positive behaviour outside the home (be that in a grocery store, a park or some other adventure) and creating a space for autonomy and self agency. When nurtured at home to care for their home, the boys take this pride out into the world with them.

So, as on most days, we encouraged the boys to get involved!

Reflect & Celebrate

Meditate on the past year and the one you hope to have. Rosh Hashanah isn't just about inviting the new year with sweetness and rugelach. It's also about reflecting on the past year.

This year, I opened my OMJ journal and let rip in the 'A Space to Think' section. Everything came tumbling out.

Wishes, fears, excitement, questions, ideas, tears. Hope and regret. The seedlings for Yom Kippur.

And I felt my mind ease, my heart settle.

Take a moment to write your heart and make a card for YOURSELF. I made myself a Very Hungry Rosh Hashanah Caterpillar card.

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