The Montessori Lifestyle

One of our most popular parent education topics is “Montessori in the home”. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a desire for consistency between home and school. Parents are very curious as to what their child is doing in the classroom, but more importantly, parents want to know what they can be doing in their home environment to continue to help their child thrive. Consistency is key!

Montessori is a wonderful concept that can easily be incorporated into any home setting. Focus on your child’s independence above all else. Do they have everything they need to succeed independently? For example, can they choose their own clothing in the morning, is there a stool in the bathroom so they can brush their teeth or wash their hands on their own, do you have an area of the kitchen set aside for them to grab eating utensils or a drink of water whenever they feel thirsty or hungry, do they have works and activities that stimulate their senses while strengthening their concentration and inner motivation? There are several factors to consider while implementing Montessori in the home. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Develop a Routineimage (19)

Children have a great need for order and routine. The child’s sense of order is similar to a child’s thirst for water, or hunger for food. A child cannot succeed until there is order in their life. E.M. Standing said that “everything in [the child’s] environment should be kept in its accustomed place; and that the actions of the day should be carried out in their accustomed routine.” (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work) It’s really no different than us adults needing routine in our life.

When a child knows their routine, and can predict what’s going to happen next, they’re able to be more independent. Place a few baskets in their closet, filled with clothes for the day so they can easily put them on, on their own. Offer choices as to what they would like to eat for breakfast, encourage them to help prepare the food. Place objects around the house to help them easily access the things they need (for instance, a stool in the bathroom to help them reach the sink).image (21)

Transitions are part of the child’s routine. Explain everything that you’re going to do, before you actually do them. This will help your child know the expectations, and not be surprised at the sudden change of activities.

Responsibility

Children want to have responsibility; to feel needed in their home environment. How much responsibility does your child have throughout their daily routine?dsc_0260

Encourage your child to make their bed every day, put dirty clothes in the hamper, fold/put away clean clothes, feed pets, put away toys or works after each use, help set the table for meals and clean up dishes afterwards, sweep/mop/vacuum floors, and so forth. These responsibilities don’t just come at a certain age, they can be provided as soon as your child shows an interest, or “readiness” to help around the house. Model for your child how to carry out each task, and share in their enjoyment once complete.

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” (Dr. Maria Montessori)dsc_0306

Grace and Courtesy in the Home

Grace and courtesy is a major component of our Montessori environment. Grace and courtesy lessons give the child the vocabulary, actions, and steps required for him to build his awareness and responsiveness to those around him. When we sneeze, we cover our mouths. When we have a runny nose, we use a tissue and throw it away afterwards. We say “excuse me” when walking around others who might be in our way. We say “thank you” when a friend helps. We know not to interrupt a guide during a lesson, but to wait patiently instead. The same practice can be done so at home. If you wish for your child to say “please” and “thank you”, you must do the same.

You can provide activities to help your child learn grace and courtesy. For instance, practice setting the table. Ask your child to help bring a few dishes, napkins, silverware, etc. to the table, remember to say please and thank you after each exchange. Practice different scenarios where your child would need to use grace and courtesy to achieve the end result.

Care of Environment/Care of Self

Our children are constantly tidying up after one another. When we spill water, we clean it up. We wash our own dishes after meal times. We clean the tables and chairs whenever needed. We care for plants through watering the soil and polishing the leaves. Often times, you might see a whole classroom full of toddlers cleaning or doing “practical life” works. This is very normal. Through care of environment, the child learns self control, scope and sequence, control of error, discipline, focus, and so much more.dsc_0226

You can encourage your child to do the same at home. Allow them to tidy up after themselves. Remind them to put away works when they’re through. Clean the table after mealtime. If you have a garden, allow your child to help water and harvest. Encourage them to help bathe themselves during bath time, brush their hair, teeth, and so forth.

There are so many other things that you as a parent can do to help your child succeed, while implementing Montessori in the home. Practicing Montessori in your home is a beautiful gift that you can give to your child. By doing so, you’re allowing your child the opportunity to grow and flourish successfully in an environment prepared specifically for them.

Happy International Day of Peace!

“…establishing peace is the work of education” – Maria Montessori

This week, and every day, we celebrate peace. Peace is a fundamental principal integrated into our daily curriculum in the Montessori classroom.

On Wednesday, we celebrated International Day of Peace. We talked about ways we can help be peaceful in the classroom and at home. We made special “peace pinwheels” to carry on our peace parade. A few children pin-pricked peace doves or peace signs to help commemorate the holiday. We read books, practiced yoga, sang songs and enjoyed special works that promote peace and self-reflection.

We started the morning with a special peace parade to the flag pole, where we sang the “peace song” and recited the peace pledge.

DSC_0114“I pledge allegiance to the earth and to all life that it nourishes, all growing things, all species of animals and all races of people. 
I promise to protect all life on our planet, to live in harmony with nature and to share our resources justly, so that all people can live with dignity in good health and in peace.”
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dsc_0784dsc_0791We discussed ways to practice peace… Continue reading

What is my Child really learning through Exercises of Practical Life?

“If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities, which they can perform themselves. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down the stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence.”  Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

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I find it fascinating how children have an innate desire to be a part of a community; to belong. They want to be involved in purposeful work, and to keep their tiny communities clean and orderly. It’s not necessarily something we have to teach, but something that can come about by providing the right tools, and making sure these tools are easily accessible. We model for the child how to carry about one’s body, how to handle fragile things, that everything we do has certain steps that have to be followed, and that their are effects or consequences for everything that we do. In Montessori, we teach the child skills that can be used in “real life”, beyond the classroom. These lessons are done so through their persistent participation in exercises of “practical life”.DSC_0265There’s much to be said about the Exercises in Practical Life, and how beneficial and extremely crucial they are to the child’s overall development. It’s through practical life works that the child learns concentration, focus, scope and sequence, pre-writing skills (cleaning a table with a bar of soap from left to right in circular motions), fine and gross motor development, small and large muscle development, they develop a sense of order, and generally learn to take pride in their work. They learn to be independent young adults, free to think critically and problem solve. Continue reading

Photo of the Day: Pizza

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Enjoying a pizza party under the gazebo with friends, on this beautiful Friday afternoon.

On the menu for today: tasty cheese pizza, organic milk, and refreshing watermelon…yum!

The Art of Table Setting

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Today, I had the opportunity to witness a few of our primary community members prepare the tables for lunch. Although they carried out this work flawlessly, it did seem quite challenging. They are required to take one item at a time, carrying it from the cabinet to the table, which can take several minutes. It truly did resemble a form of art, placing each item carefully on the table in the correct order.

What impressed me most was the dialogue that was shared between our two, pre-selected lunch helpers.

“Can you help me tie my apron, please?”

“Here, you lay out the napkins while I do the spoons.”

“We need to get the water from the refrigerator, but I need your help.”

“Would you hand me the napkin?”

I enjoyed hearing these two young people interact and collaborate with one another. It was truly delightful! They found pure joy in the work they were doing, and carried themselves in such a way that they knew this was important and purposeful work.

Not once did I see the guides intervene because it was simply not necessary. She didn’t step in to correct their errors, or straighten a napkin that was slightly offset. The task was carried out in full by the two friends, who relied on one another for help.Tabel Setting_4Setting the table can be defined by many adults as a “chore”, but for a child, it is a purposeful, meaningful, and fulfilling work that stimulates all of their senses. Through this work, they enhance their concentration as they focus on each minor detail, self-control as they learn to carry one item at a time, critical thinking through exploring and manipulating different styles of place setting, collaboration, delegation, and leadership skills, care of environment and care of others, and they develop a healthy self-image because the work is real and necessary. And because of this, we cannot call it a “chore” since it is joyful, purposeful work. Just like an artist carefully and meticulously paints or sculpts his masterpiece, so do our children carefully and meticulously complete their work.

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They understand that this is important work, and gain self-confidence as they see the outcome of their efforts; a room full of happy children eating and socializing in a well prepared environment.

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#happyinternationalpeaceday #internationalpeaceday #hbmh #toddler #montessori #peaceflag #peacepledge #peacefulyoga #hugs #outdoors #childcare #preschool #peace

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This is how our toddler community celebrated International Day of Peace on Monday; peaceful yoga and friendship hugs.

The Child is a Wellspring of Love

Love is a guiding force within the Montessori curriculum, and something that is palpable in our classroom environments. Love guides each lesson that is taught, through the soft, gentle voice of the guide as she demonstrates how to trace a sandpaper letter with her finger, or even modeling how to use the correct vocabulary and body language when diffusing a conflict between two friends. Love is one friend helping another comb their hair and wipe their face at the self-grooming table, or tie each other’s shoes in preparation to go outside. Love is a fundamental building block for nearly every lesson taught in the classroom.

One of my favorite blogs is from Baan Dek  Montessori, which emphasizes the power of love shown in the classroom, and the influence that the true nature of the child has on society.

A few of my favorite passages taken from the article…

“The child is the only point on which there converges from everyone a feeling of gentleness and love.”

“People’s souls soften and sweeten when one speaks of children; the whole of mankind shares in the deep emotions which they awaken. The child is a well-spring of love. ”

Montessori implores us to take a step back, to study the phenomenon of love, with fresh, careful, and uninhibited eyes. If love holds the secret power to unite mankind, she says, why shouldn’t we spend more time concentrated on its practical implications. In particular, why don’t we focus our attention, and turn towards the nature of childhood: the child is the point of convergence.

Montessori, then, changes the landscape of how we normally think about love by shifting the terrain. She tries to tell the story of love from the ‘point of view of life itself’. It’s not about desire or imagination, she expresses, but a commitment to reality. A commitment to see things how they are, and envision what they might become.

“Love has not been analyzed by the poets and by the prophets, but it is analyzed by the realities which every child disclosed to himself. ”

Love draws us together. The love of learning draws us further towards what Montessori envisioned. While love may not be overtly taught, it is something ever palpable, in classrooms throughout the world. We can feel it in the pride our teacher tries to hide as we accomplish a task only days before we were too afraid to even try. We wonder, with the generosity only children can deliver, what these classrooms of love might one day yield.

See the link below to read the article in full.

http://baandek.org/posts/drawn-together/

Flower Arranging

flower arranging

It’s not uncommon to see small flower arrangements adorning tables in a Montessori classroom. This is a work called “flower arranging”, and is a favorite for any young child. Each week, our families participate in a “flower basket” program, and bring fresh flowers for the classroom on a rotating basis. The flowers are then used for flower arranging. It’s impressive to watch a child carefully engage in this exercise. They start with putting on an apron, and then fetch water in the small pitcher provided. Now, they must control their movement while walking across the room without spilling water. If there is any water left in their small pitcher, they pour it into the tiny funnel placed in a small vase. They repeat this step several times until the vase is full. Once the flowers have been arranged, the child will display them on the shelf.  Sometimes, they change the location of the vases throughout the work cycle.  Now, they must restore the work area in it’s original condition.  Cleaning up is a big job. They must dump and wipe up all extra water on the table, then Swiffer the excess water from the floor which is usually a large area.  It’s not uncommon for a child to be engaged in this work for over an hour.

What are they learning while arranging flowers? They are refining gross and fine motor skills, concentration, self-regulation, control of movement, sequencing, eye-and-hand coordination and practical life skills.

In the toddler community the focus is on “care of self”, “care of environment” and “grace and courtesy”. Activities such as this help the children work with purpose and concentration as they move about the classroom.

“A child who has become master of his acts through long and repeated exercises, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.” -Dr. Maria Montessori

Grace & Courtesy

One often hears the words “grace” and “courtesy” throughout the hallways of a Montessori house. Grace and Courtesy lessons are given on a daily basis, which in turn are executed beautifully by the children with little to no adult guidance. These lessons help give the child the correct vocabulary and actions to help respond efficiently to social situations around him, molding him into a beneficial member of the classroom community.

Grace and Courtesy can be given not only through the kind/polite words we share with one another, but also through our actions. A Montessori student is driven to always have these thoughts in the back of their mind: “Are my actions going to harm others around me?”, “How will my words affect them?”, or “What can I do to show grace and courtesy to my friends?”.

Often times, I get the pleasure of assisting in the classrooms whenever needed, which is something that I thoroughly enjoy. In the short amount of time that I was in our Pear Classroom this afternoon, assisting Ms. Heather as we gathered the children for outdoor playtime, I witnessed many different, small acts of kindness and courtesy. I saw friends help one another to sharpen their pencils, or put the smallest of the pink tower cube back on the display as the other friend rolled up their floor mat. I saw a friend offer to help put away nap rolls for our “late nappers”, without being asked by Ms. Heather. Kind words, such as “May I help you roll up your nap roll?” and “Yes, please” were shared. Two friends shared an exciting story over a snack of cheddar bunnies and cantaloupe, helping one another clean up their dishes afterwards. Children walked quietly around one another’s work so as not to disturb their concentration…the list could go on. This is why our community functions so well; friends helping friends in need!

A few moments captured from my classroom visit this afternoon…

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Helping hands…I help my friend tie her newly-made bracelet on her wrist so that she can enjoy wearing it.

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I’m helping my friend complete his red & blue rod worksheet by sharpening his pencils.

“It is interesting to see how little by little, these children become aware of forming a community which behaves as such…Once they have reached this level, the children no longer act thoughtlessly, but put the group first and try to succeed for its benefit.” -Dr. Maria Montessori

What can you do to help spread grace and courtesy?