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

Photo of the Day: Getting in Touch with Nature

DSC_0471Education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

Aiding to the Construction of the Child’s Intelligence through the Education and Exploration of the Senses

When infants first interact with the world, they don’t have words to describe what they encounter, so they absorb their surroundings and new information through their senses. They experience the external world through the use of their senses. Our eyes help us see, our ears let us hear, our hands help us feel, our noses let us smell, and our tongues help us taste. feet

Children are spontaneous learners. Every day is a new opportunity for a child to learn. You can use almost anything surrounding you to help stimulate a child’s senses. Begin by experimenting with different smells, watch their expressive language for likes and dislikes. Visit a park, find nature objects to touch, taste, smell, using language to describe what you’re experimenting with. Children respond differently to sensory experiences. These experiences can greatly improve their motor skills, raise awareness of the world around them, and contribute to language acquisition. They can also be quite therapeutic. Enhancing and building upon the child’s senses helps improve their social, emotional, cognitive, physical and language development.basil

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The Beauty of a Child’s Imagination

The child’s imagination is a beautiful thing.

A few days ago, I was able to witness spontaneous creativity at its best. A few friends chose quiet rug works while the rest of the children were sleeping (hence the dark lighting in the photos below). They chose familiar works that had been practiced so many times before.

The first chose to work with the brown stairs. She fashioned the prisms in a way to imitate an art easel. She took the smallest prism and used it as a “paint brush”. The largest, as her canvas. I have to point out the satisfied look of achievement when she finished her masterpiece, and sat back to observe.13254477_10209963074981699_4247165993987414362_n13255945_10209963077101752_8728604753358836456_n

The other child I observed chose the knobless cylinders as her work this afternoon. I’ve seen her manipulate this work in many different ways, mastering all of its variations. I believe in this particular set of photos, she was pretending the cylinders were little people. The boxes represented their house. She showed such great concentration and enjoyment as she worked. 13256106_10209963076661741_2458312059209810681_nDSC_072813263669_10209963077661766_3575737498091857058_n

Our older 5 and 6 year olds enjoy working with familiar works…as if they’re revisiting something known rather than discovering something unknown. To witness such pure joy and satisfaction is truly amazing. When you let a child’s creativity flourish, letting their imagination lead the way, the end result is very rewarding.

The Remarkable and Timeless Nature of the Montessori Materials

DSC_0013This time of year is typically the kick-off for parent tours, or those looking for fall enrollment. One of the many things I enjoy most while guiding new parents through our hallways is the opportunity to show off the works in our classroom. If they come at the right time, they even get to witness the beauty of a Montessori work cycle in motion. The families seem to be amazed at the pure quality of the Montessori materials, and how everything in the classroom is…real.

Montessori classrooms are beautiful. They resemble tiny living communities for the children, complete with authentic, real materials. It’s common for Montessori classrooms to have wood shelves, filled with wooden works. Porcelain pitchers in the practical life area. Glass cups and plates in the kitchen, and glass vases for flower arranging. The use of real materials shows the child that we respect their work; we want them to have “real life” experiences. We want them to learn to handle the materials with care, and to carry their bodies in a cautious manner.Prepared Environment_Flower Arranging

Montessori materials are absolutely beautiful.

Each material was designed by Dr. Maria Montessori with a specific goal in mind, brought forth by observing the children, as they experimented with the works. She was a scientist, and spent many years creating, manipulating, and revising her works according to what worked best for the children. She understood human development, and developed a pedagogy based on just that. Montessori materials allow for the child to work independently and spontaneously, bringing forth a subconscious love of learning.

Children have a desire to explore; to manipulate objects into whatever their mind desires. For our young, primary students, we do not use computers in the classroom. According to Paula Polk Lillard, “It appears that children six to nine years old develop best when their hands are more directly involved with manipulating materials in their work. It is essential during this period that the children learn to think clearly and read and write in an organized manner. Computers are therefore not included in the prepared environment for use in research studies and creative writing until the upper elementary level.” (Montessori Today) Continue reading

Skip Counting by 4

Skip counting by 4 #hbmh #primary #montessori #longchainoffour #math #recognizingapattern #skipcounting #childcare #preschool

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Bursting the Montessori Bubble

(article source: The Full Montessori)

“At what point do you burst the Montessori bubble?” a friend recently asked.  She has two young children in Montessori, but is considering enrolling them in a traditional private school after they finish Primary.

My first thought (as a Montessori child, parent, and teacher) was, Why would you want to burst it?

Why leave Montessori if you don’t have to?Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 8.20.05 PM

But my friend is not alone in her concern: many parents feel that Montessori shelters children from tests, grades, and competition.  Based on their own background, they believe that only a conventional approach to education can provide the tough experiences that will prepare children to be successful when faced with the hardships of real life.

Finding myself at a loss for a coherent answer, I posed the question to Dr. Steve Hughes during his recent visit to our city.  He looked at me from behind his glasses for a moment, and then asked:

“Which is the real bubble?”

His question was all the answer I needed.

Because the truth is, success in life is not built on a foundation of standardized tests, but on the freedom to make difficult choices and experience their consequences.

Success in life is not built on grades and percentages, but on self-awareness and self-improvement.

Success in life is not built on artificial competition among same-aged peers, but on genuine collaboration between generations.

Success in life is not built on cheating the system, but on having the wisdom and courage to transform it.

In Dr. Maria Montessori’s words…

“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?… The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future.  If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.” 

Attachment to Reality: The Importance of Real Materials in the Classroom

“Yet, when all are agreed that the child loves to imagine, why do we give him only fairy tales and toys on which to practice this gift? If a child can imagine a fairy and fairyland, it will not be difficult for him to imagine America. Instead of hearing it referred to vaguely in conversation, he can help to clarify his own ideas of it by looking at the globe on which it is shown.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

One of the most obvious differences between Montessori and your typical, conventional daycare, is the use of real materials in the classroom, as opposed to plastic toys made from synthetic materials. The pedagogy is only successful if the child has real tools to work with. One of the characteristics of a normalized child is their “attachment to reality”. We strive to provide real material as safely and practical as possible. We want children to develop real skills and habits for living in a real world.

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I use a glass mortar and pestle to grind fresh cinnamon. The sound of the crushed spice against the glass, and the fragrance stimulate my senses.

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with imaginative/fantasy play, however there is a time and a place. Play is the work of the child. Playful learning is done so through many aspects of the Montessori philosophy. Play is beneficial for children in a variety of developmental areas, and different types of play is associated with different stages. The pedagogy is dedicated to meeting all of the developmental needs of the “whole child”. Montessori guides must consider play as a developmental area, and observe and guide the children’s movement in the classroom to support their growth. These areas should contain the same preparation, analysis and sequencing as all other areas of the classroom.

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” -Fred Rogers

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