A sneak peek into the woman behind it all – Dr. Maria Montessori

Dr. Maria Montessori is the founder of the Montessori theory that we here at Healthy Beginnings Montessori House hold so dear.  Let us learn more about this amazing woman who was a trendsetter over 150 years ago and continues to make a significant impact in children’s lives all around the world.

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. Her parents were Alessandro Montessori and Renilde Stoppani. She initially lived in Florence and then moved to Rome, where she did most of her schooling. She was enrolled in an all boys technical school, with hopes of becoming an engineer. She soon had a change of heart and decided to pursue medicine which was totally against cultural norms at that time. She was highly discouraged by others to pursue a career in medicine and was also met with hostility & harassment from some medical students and professors because of her gender.

She went through great struggles including working alone on the dissections of the cadavers, after hours to complete requirements of medical school. Eventually she graduated from the University of Rome, as a doctor of medicine in 1896. She began studying and researching children experiencing some form of cognitive delay, disability or illness. She then spoke and published articles on that topic, eventually leading up to becoming an advocate for women’s rights and education for developmentally challenged children.

When Maria Montessori was working as a voluntary assistant in the University of Rome’s psychiatric clinic, she visited asylums there which gave her an opportunity to observe children with mental disabilities. This is the basic foundation to her future educational work, which we now call as the Montessori education.

She was very fascinated by the studies and research of the physicians and educators in the 19th century like Itard and Sequin, who heavily influenced her work. She later went on to name some materials she created after them.

1st Montessori school

The 1st Montessori environment was created on Jan 6, 1907 in San Lorenzo, Rome by Dr. Maria Montessori. There were about 50 children on the first day, between the ages of 2 or 3 and 6 or 7. These were children of the construction workers and other daily wage earning workers, that nobody really cared much about. She described the children that came to the school as undernourished, dirty and uneducated & said she was amazed by their innate ability to learn. Dr. Montessori found an older woman to assist her to watch the children. These children had no toys to play with.

Initially, the classroom was equipped with a teacher’s table, a blackboard, small stove, small chairs and group tables for the children and a locked cabinet filled with materials that Dr. Montessori had developed at the Orthophrenic school.

In this first classroom, she observed behaviors in children which is the basis of the Montessori system of Education. Children had deep attention and concentration, repeated activities and a deep sense of order. Given a choice, the children gravitated to more ‘real life’ purposeful activities than to toys. They also didn’t seem to be interested in external rewards. Their motivation seemed to be internal and spontaneous.

She replaced the heavy furniture with light weight child sized tables and chairs, neutral color shelves and included many purposeful activities for children like sewing clothes, washing floor, food preparation etc. These tasks helped children become more independent and later became a hallmark of the Montessori philosophy that remains evident to this day.

Growth of the Montessori system of Education

Dr. Montessori combined her knowledge of medicine, scientific studies of the brain and child development, experiences of working in the psychiatric clinic and observation of children in her care at San Lorenzo to create a prepared environment to help meet the needs of the child for them to grow and reach their full potential. Within 6 years of opening her first school, there were numerous teacher training sites and Montessori schools on 5 continents. Her 1st book, “The Montessori Method” had been translated into 10 languages.

Though some originally believed her theories were too radical, the social and education reforms of the 1960’s helped pave way for it to become more popular and develop in the U.S and many other countries.The ‘Whole child approach’ backed by scientific research makes the Montessori method very attractive to parents.

She strongly believed that “What the hand does, the mind remembers”. All Montessori materials were created with natural materials and are aesthetically appealing to the child. They provide hands on learning opportunities for the children, which helps them internalize and cement the knowledge.

Dr. Montessori went to write many books, gave speeches and lectures, provided training to many people around the world to become a “Montessori guide”. According to the Montessori philosophy, children have the natural desire to learn and the ‘adult’ should watch upon them and observe them to create a prepared environment for them.

She later went on and founded the International organization called AMI(American Montessori Internationale), which was managed by her son, Maria Montesano Montessori for a long time. This organization currently works on upholding the integrity and authenticity of her philosophy and educational method.

Montessori’s Famous Quotes

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed”

“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child”

“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education, all politics can do is keep us out of war”

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help develop in them”

“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world”

“The child making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future”.

“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence”.

“The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge”.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment”

“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence”

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration”

“The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself”.

“Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole, which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future”

“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength”

Books authored by Dr. Maria Montessori

She wrote some amazing books that serve as a great resource for parents, educators, caregivers and anyone who wants to learn more about the Montessori method of Education.

Some of the books are as follows:

The Absorbent mind

The Montessori method

The Secret of Childhood

The Discovery of the child

Spontaneous activity in Education

Dr. Montessori’s own handbook

The Child in the Family

Education for a New World

To Educate the Human Potential

…….and so much more.

Resources

Want to learn more about Dr. Montessori and her contributions, check out these great websites mentioned below.

https://montessori-ami.org/

https://amshq.org/

http://montessori-namta.org/

https://montessori-mint.org/

https://livingmontessorinow.com/about-montessori/montessori-resources/

https://www.montessori.org/

http://www.michaelolaf.net/maria.html

https://www.montessoridaoshi.com/single-post/2019/03/30/Teacher-Talk-Misconceptions-and-the-Elevator-Speech

Maria Montessori, the trail blazer, revolutionary thinker who changed the course of Education for generations to come ….

Interruption to a child’s work

Imagine you are preparing for a very important meeting at work, figuring out logistics in your head and making notes, when all of a sudden a co-worker calls out for something or your phone rings: it disrupts your focus. It breaks the continuity of the momentum. The flow of thoughts or the rhythm is disturbed. For many adults, it takes a long time to put things back in their mind and get back to task at hand with 100% commitment.

The child whose attention has once been held by a chosen object, while he concentrates his whole self on the repetition of the exercise, is a delivered soul in the sense of the spiritual safety of which we speak. From this moment there is no need to worry about him – except to prepare an environment which satisfies his needs, and to remove obstacles which may bar his way to perfection.” (Dr. Maria Montessori,The Absorbent Mind)

What happens when we interrupt a child’s work? How do they feel? Does it interfere with their process of building their inpendence?

Children right from birth are experiencing most of the things for the first time and they need their space & time to explore them to internalize it, save them in their memory to build on for future learning. A young infant may look at a bird outside in the garden very intently and observe the finer details/color etc. In that scenario, what does interruption look like? Apart from the bird flying away from that spot, which could probably be the most common outcome, the interruption usually comes from the adult who is with the child and observing the bird too.

The adult curious to know what the child is learning from the bird, might start bombarding them with questions like Hi baby, what are you seeing? Are you watching a bird? Even make some noises like a bird and ask/state the color of the bird and on & on …..

The adult may think they are helping the child learn, but in this case with a young infant – the adult is “interrupting” the child’s learning by asking the questions.

If the child were able to focus on the bird without any interruptions from the adult, they would have created an imprint of the bird in their memory and built on it by learning more about it in future interactions.

Children are still developing and building their focus & concentration skills, they would experience the same kind of obstacles like an adult would, if they are interrupted. Building attention is a process, doesn’t happen overnight. When children are focussed on an activity, do provide them time to do so. Attention span in a young child may be small, but it is still important that it is not broken. When an infant is observing a bird or looking at designs on their hat or stroller, ‘watch them’ and wait until they look away from it on their own, to ask or say anything to them. Words can be extremely interrupting to their focus at that time if done before they look away from it.

When an older child is building with their blocks or figuring out the lock frame or puzzle, wait until they ask for help or move away from that activity to say anything. It is extremely critical to respect and protect those moments of concentration especially those that are independently chosen by the child. This will allow it to increase with time and consistency over the child’s growth process.

Similarly in a Montessori classroom, the adults observe the child and prepare the environment to suit their developmental needs to achieve their full potential. A prepared environment to foster independence without any or minimal interruptions goes a long way in helping a child build focus & concentration, eventually leading to self-actualization or normalization. That’s why Montessori guides do everything in their capability to protect and safeguard the work cycle which provides for enough uninterrupted time for a child to work with different materials, refine the skills based on their developmental needs, build concentration to aid in their overall growth.

How can adults help to promote concentration?

Adults knowingly or unknowingly are the primary cause of interruption for a child. Avoid rushing children or asking questions when they are focussing on something or even asking them if they need any help.

Model concentration and attentiveness.

Avoid technology or other distractions when playing with child.

Avoid multitasking as much as possible in front of children.

Quietly and gently touch a child on their shoulder/head/hand(something that you have discussed earlier) and wait for them to acknowledge if you have to interrupt for some reason.

Avoid calling out your child from another room or from across the room when they are engaged in an activity.

Practice technology free meal time

Give full attention to child when interacting with them

Prepare environment to ensure safety and success of the child and avoid using words like ‘be careful’, ‘watch what you are doing’ etc when the child is in the middle of the activity. This causes more interruption and break in concentration than anything else.

In summary, a prepared environment with almost no/minimal interruptions is the best way to help child realize their full potential and be successful in the classroom & in real life.

Also, remember even a young infant has the ability to build impressions in their brain from what they observe which could lead to them learning more about it, taking it up as a passion or even a profession. Nothing is too small or too short for the child at that time. The best thing we can do is to avoid or minimize interruptions.

“My aunt was a science teacher. Her son, my cousin would look at her books when he was a young child and was extremely fascinated by picture of trees. He would observe them repeatedly in his childhood and later learnt that they were called ‘sequoia” trees. Those images stayed in his mind well into adulthood and when he visited California recently, he visited “Sequoia National Park” to internalize that image from the book and match it with a real life experience.

Unique Features of Montessori Materials

Montessori materials were created by Dr. Maria Montessori out of natural materials, especially wood. These were scientifically designed after hours of observation. These materials are not like the commonly available toys /blocks in the market. They have some very unique features embedded in them which reinforce the Montessori principles of fostering independence, building focus and concentration & helping the child reach their full potential.

Montessori materials are ...

Simple, aesthetically beautiful and complete

Very inviting to the child

Minimalistic: Simple, clean lines, devoid of excess features, orderly and utility in teaching the skill.

Isolation of difficulty: In order to refine and encourage the child to master a specific skill at a time, each Montessori material follows this feature of isolating it. For example, Pink tower has 10 cubes- all of which are made of wood and are pink. The only difference is in the ‘dimension’ of each cube. So, the child needs to focus and learn only the ‘concept of big and small/dimension’ through the pink tower. So, there are no distractions or added features to it. This encourages the child to hone in on that skill and master it comfortably.

Each material has a set of similar items exploring the same property in various increments- the child is then stimulated to use their hands and mind to make the comparisons. In most cases, this hand on exploration of ‘1 specific trait’ encourages child to work with the material for extended periods of time to figure various ways to decipher it. This in turn builds focus and concentration in the child.

Extensions: Montessori materials are designed for the multi-age grouping seen in their classrooms. Almost all the materials can be used by a young child like a toddler or 3-year old and can also be extended out for an older child who is 5 or 6 years old. Different areas of the curriculum can also be combined to extend out the use of the materials.

For example: The Pink tower in Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom has 10 cubes made of wood, are pink and differ only in the ‘size’.

A young child can bring the cubes to rug and create a tower from big to small. You could also use it to make designs that are 2-D or 3-D. They can also be traced on paper and painted pink. Child can trace and pin prick the cubes on a pink construction paper – they can just glue the pieces from big to small to reinforce the skill. Pink tower can be combined with other sensorial materials like brown stairs, knobless cylinders etc to make lovely designs. Older children can also write the terms, ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘Pink tower’ etc on the paper. Staying true to the Montessori philosophy of basing the lessons on the child’s ability and not on the chronological age, a material introduced to the child can be extended out to provide the right amount of challenge for them to master the skill.

Provides opportunities for creativity and imagination: Montessori materials are colorful and aesthetically beautiful. This encourages the child to explore them using their creativity and build/design different things with them, enhancing their artistic abilities and imagination. Especially the Sensorial materials call out to the child to use them creatively in turn helping build a variety of skills in the child. You could observe towers, trains, bike, castle etc built from the Sensorial materials.

Purposeful: Montessori materials are built after hours of observation and understanding of the skill it should teach and removal of any obstruction in the path of the child to learn it. Most materials especially the sensorial materials encourage ‘Movement’ which is very important for children in the 1st plane of development(especially for those in the 3-6 years of age). For example, the Pink tower has 10 cubes, the child carries one cube at a time from the shelf to the work rug. This means for the child to complete the activity, they would make 20 trips from the shelf to the work rug to bring the materials, build the tower and return it back to the original spot so it would be ready for another child.

Control of error: This is probably one of the most defining characteristics of Montessori materials. The material has a way for the child to correct themselves. It is almost as if the child receives instant feedback about the progress they are making, allowing them to recognize, correct and learn from an error with any intervention from adults/other children in the classroom. This helps the child see it visually and correct it independently.

This aids in fostering independence, building self-esteem and self-discipline eventually leading to confidence.

One of the greatest examples of ‘Control of error’ in a Montessori material is the Knobbed cylinder. There are 4 cylinder blocks, each having 10 cylinders in them. They have different width, diameter, height etc.

Child won’t be able to fit all the cylinders properly even if one cylinder is out of place.

If you are building a DIY Montessori material , ensure ‘Control of error’ is embedded in it. It can simply be done through color coded ribbons or stickers at the back.

Last but not the least, each component of the material is there for a reason and satisfies a specific need in the child’s development. They provide awesome opportunities for hands on learning.

What the hand does, the mind remembers”

Dr. Maria Montessori

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.

Music Lessons with Ms. Marlie

Today’s music lesson: Ukulele.

It’s always wonderful when our teachers share their love of music with our students. This afternoon, we got the opportunity to listen to Ms. Marlie strum a few tunes on her ukulele, while experimenting with the strings ourselves. One of our friends even knew the names of all the chords! We played a few familiar songs, and even made up a few original tunes of our own.

picture2guitar_2 imageMusic is a beautiful thing to share in the classroom. It allows for an opportunity to meditate, or self-reflect. Music brings forth a great deal of concentration, self-discipline, creativity, and helps strengthen gross and fine motor skills (among many other things). Find any opportunity to share music in your classroom, and at home!

“There should be music in the child’s environment, just as there does exist in the child’s environment spoken speech” – Dr. Maria Montessori

 

 

146 Times Around the Sun: Happy Birthday, Dr. Maria Montessori!

146 times around the sun; Happiest of Birthdays, Dr. Maria Montessori!

Today is a day we celebrate the life and legacy of the most important, influential developer of the Montessori pedagogy.maria-montessori

Our Primary community celebrated by participating in a traditional Celebration of Life for Dr. Montessori.DSC_0710A few friends were chosen to walk the earth around the sun, signifying the years of her life. Naturally, we didn’t make it around the sun 146 times, however we did talk about significant milestones in her life after each lap.

Students were asked “What do you like most about Montessori?” One child said they thought she had good ideas about children. Another reflected on how she worked in a hospital. We learned lots of interesting facts today!DSC_0715Following tradition, we baked muffins for the occasion, and shared them as a class.

Happy Birthday Dr. Montessori!DSC_0721

—————————————————————————–

Biography

A physician, scientist, educator, innovator, child rights advocate…

Dr. Maria Montessori spent a lifetime developing an educational method focusing on the way that children learn. This method is still widely known and practiced today.

Dr. Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. She later graduated from the University of Rome in 1896, becoming the first female doctor in Italy. She chose to focus on pediatrics and psychiatry as her specialties.

Maria Montessori became the director for the Orthophrenic School for developmentally disabled children in 1900. It was there that she began her research on early childhood development.

The first Montessori home was developed in 1907, called Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House). This is where Montessori first practiced her pedagogy, preparing each classroom environment to promote creative learning and exploration. Her methods soon became internationally recognized.

Around 1940, the Montessori movement began to fade, and Maria was forced out of Italy. She fled to India, where she developed a program called Education for Peace, which earned her two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

In the years following, Maria Montessori continued to advance her approaches to education. She lectured all over the world, documenting her theories in books and articles. She developed a program to prepare teachers in the Montessori method; through her efforts, her pedagogy was adopted worldwide.

MONTESSORI READING: A JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY

MONTESSORI READING

Article credit, voilamontessori.com 

For conventional educators, reading is a skill that must be taught by means of drills, homework, and tests.  Yet, most children who go through authentic Montessori programs are not taught to read; they discover reading on their own!

How do Montessori children learn to read without direct adult instruction, and is it possible to give your child the same experience at home?

In a Montessori environment, preparation for reading is everywhere.  It’s in the left-to-right hand and eye movements required to wipe a shelf; in the rhyming songs we sing; in the vocabulary we give.

Presentations that guide a child towards reading start around 2 ½ years. With a fun group activity called Sound Games, children realize that words are made up of individual sounds.  Each sound is then associated with a symbol when Sandpaper Letters are introduced.  These symbols – the 26 letters that make up our alphabet – become the plastic (or wooden) letters of the Moveable Alphabet. Continue reading

Happy back-to-school season!

first day of kindergarten

 

Photo of the Day: Plant Care

Photo of the Day: Fresh Vegetable Cutting