Practical Life- Waking up without a trace

Waking up to “without a trace”-

Practical Life- J and B were both Montessori babes from age 3 through Kindergarten. One thing that is really nice about Montessori is that the children’s curriculum includes Practical Life.

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Now, you may be thinking that I mean chores… but it is so much different then that. Here is a link to a brief description of Practical Life, the story behind it and how it helps our kids not just mentally but also physically and emotionally prepares them for life.

When I was a child, I was forced to do chores. It was NOT fun. I only did the chores because I knew my parents would get upset and give me some kind of punishment if I did not complete my chores. Some of you may have been doing it only so that you could get an allowance. As you can imagine, neither of these options make the actual tasks enjoyable. Most likely, you were either mindlessly running through your chores to get a couple of dollars to spend at the ice cream truck… or in my case, running through it so that your parents would let you be 🙂

Maria Montessori and a thoughtful itunes playlist ,however, have changed all of that for J and B. If folding, wiping and tidying up must be done… why not do it with some joy, mindfulness and great tunes? Also, learning for yourself what “living without a trace” means and then teaching it to your children, I have found to be quite helpful.

It did not start out that easy though…

Every morning, since week 1, the girls have a list of items that they complete before we get started with our day. The first 3 days of this routine were agonizing. It took lots of patience on my part to not just shout “Just clean up your room and brush your teeth!”. Thankfully, something about the open sea makes even more mellow then usual and I held it together and stayed calm and consistent. Who knew that those would be the two secrets to parenting… calm and consistence. Now, if I could just tattoo that on my arm ( I am from Austin after all) so that I can ALWAYS remember it.

B is our spunky, do it her own way, creative, cutesy and not afraid to let you know when she is feeling feisty warm hearted bug. J is our routine seeking, justice making, logic knowing, kind hearted bug. Thankfully, they usually, take turns questioning, arguing and putting their cute little feet down ever so abruptly. However, Days 1-3 brought a rare and em… challenging site. J and B decided to join forces in protesting the Dun Dun Dun… making of their bed… “Why would we make our bed when it is just going to get messed up tonight anyway?!!!”. Now, you may be wondering why they do not already make their own bed. Yes, it seems so apparent to me now but it was a lack of consistency on my part. Some months we made it a priority to make our bed… but as school got busier and the year went on… and the evenings got later, and the mornings got shorter before school… making beds did not hit the priority list. So, due to this lack of consistency, we were basically starting from scratch.

“And Mommy, why in the world would I need to make my bed when I really don’t care what it looks like and it is my room anyway?!!!”. Oh man, they really gave it to me. It was hard to argue with them because honestly, I use to think the EXACT same thing as a child. And since I was too scared to ask the authorities that be “Why” I had to do something as silly as make my bed, I never really learned… and when I moved out on my own, I only made my bed when I cleaned my sheets… it was like a secret little protest into my early adulthood.

So, since Practical Life is part of our daily curriculum, I committed myself to do “Practical Life”, the mindful way with my girls and as usual, these girls will only follow by example… so I am teaching them the way I learned (learned as an adult)-  the better and more mindful/enjoyable way to tidy up.

A few years ago, I read an incredible book called Buddhist Boot Camp.

Buddhist Bootcamp is amazing on so many levels, but one of my very favorite parts of it is when the author Timber Hawkeye discusses how to “Live without leaving a trace”.  Here is an excerpt of the chapter I am referring to with in his book.

One of the practices in the kitchen at the Zen Center is to wash, towel-dry, and put used dishes back where they belong (it’s part of the “leave no trace” training). Other residents occasionally left their dishes in the sink, so I did what I thought was the “right thing” to do and put them back. The Temple Keeper saw me doing it one day and gave me “the look” followed by “the speech.”  “How are you helping them with their practice if you do that?” she asked. “Leave the dishes for them to see when they return.”  It was interesting to understand that even an act of kindness could have a negative impact, and that sometimes we cause more damage by trying to help because we’re not looking at the big picture of what “helping” truly means. This is why Buddhist Boot Camp was written without any “should” statements in it. I am not here to tell you what to do, but rather to convey what I’ve learned in the simplest terms possible, so that you can apply the lessons in your own life if you want to. The book’s intention is to inspire readers to be the best version of themselves there is, which sometimes means NOT putting other people’s dishes away, or else you’ll get “the look.”(The above is the chapter “Leave no trace” from  Buddhist Boot Camp). 

The girls really responded to living without a trace. While I can’t say they have fully adopted the “leave no trace” practice, they have certainly gotten close. I must say that the music element really helps the girls. We have a playlist of Mumford and Sons, Enya, Owl City and some other fun groups. When we turn on the playlist, they get going 🙂 This is what they do each morning-

Brush teeth, clean face, fold all clothes and towels that have been left out, clean glass doors (with natural glass cleaner) and Jordan does her Headspace (meditation). While they do all of this, I have time to get a grasp on our school day, follow up on any pressing work and slip in my own headspace or other meditation. It works out quite nicely. The day goes by much smoother and it is actually really amazing how organized they have become!

Thanks so much for reading and please share anything you have taken to get your children to tidy up more and live without a trace and or any comments 🙂

2 thoughts on “Practical Life- Waking up without a trace

  1. Great read, Sue. Love “living without a trace”, my older sister told me when I was very young to leave any place as if no one would know I was there…especially true for spending time/hiking in the forest and our natural spaces.


    1. Dearest Tricia, Thanks for your comment and sharing your own experience 🙂 Yes, I know what you mean by natural spaces…. sand sure travels well. I like it when it pops up on my yoga mat in class… but not so great in my sheets xo


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