Posts tagged 3 - 6
This Is the Way We Wash a Wall: the montessori way!

An hand-crank eggbeater utensil, a bowl, and a drop of concentrated soap is an activity any toddler or preschooler will enjoy….and after the fun inside the bowl, why not have a cleaning frenzy?

Children love to clean, and when they get into it, sometimes they can't quite stop.

Let’s give them a huge canvas to explore possibilities.

All you need is a bowl of soapy water, a sponge, and a drying cloth.

I recommend very little actual water. You can always add more later. The sponge should be child sized. That means if you have a toddler, you may want to cut a regular sponge in thirds and give your child a third.

If your child is older, half a sponge may be quite appropriate. This way little hands can feel secure with the right sized tool. I also recommend that if you have more than one child, you give each child his own sponge and bowl so he can go where he likes to clean in his own space.

It is helpful if you give some boundaries. If you want your child to focus on a small section of wall that is especially dirty, you may consider putting some masking tape around the area that you want cleaned and asking the child to stay within the square.

I also recommend giving a lesson on how to wash the wall first.

The Lesson

  1. Carefully gather your supplies and put them right in front of the wall to wash. If in the classroom, this would include putting on an apron (children, too).
 

  2. Silently inspect the wall and use your fingers to point to dirty spots. You may even wrinkle your nose a little and say matter of factly, "This wall is dirty." 
 

  3. In exaggerated fashion, dip the sponge and squeeze out the water. Drip, drip, drip. Again. Dip. Squeeze. Drip, drip, drip. Say, "Now, I am ready to wash the wall." 
 

  4. Scrub. Smile and nod in satisfaction. Put the sponge back down. Use your drying cloth to dry the area.
 

  5. Say, "Now this part of the wall is clean. It's your turn."

 
Montessori Water Play PIN1
 

Ready. Set. Scrub!

Well, after this long lesson, the children are probably dying to jump in there, so go for it! Sing songs about washing like "This is the way we wash the walls" to the tune of "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush." 

Make a big soapy mess and then use your whole body to dry the soapy area. You can see in the pictures how my kids were loving this and dancing around. If you're dancing and having fun, they will, too.

Bonus: Your house gets cleaner, not messier! ;)

Print This Free Montessori Lesson

Download the printable version of this lesson and add it to your homeschooling binder or share with a friend.

Here’s what it looks like, except unfortunately, I will be unable to email you the soap & sponge! I know you’re disappointed, but at least you can get the lesson, right?

washing wall lesson photo.jpg

Download your free printable lesson.

  1. Download the lesson. You’ll get the lesson, plus gentle, compassionate parenting tips and information about educating your child at home.

  2. Print and add this lesson to your binder, share it with a friend, or use it with your Montessori homeschooling planner.

  3. Try this activity with your child! It’s a winner!

    Your Child Can LOVE Learning to Write…Just Start With Sand!

    Soft to the fingertips, not many can resist the temptation of playing with a pile of sand. Whether on the beach, in a box, or on a tray, sand provides an unforgettable tactile experience for all ages.

    This Montessori sand tray letter-writing activity is best for children older than age three. It comes after your child has been introduced to a few tactile, or sandpaper, letters, although the delight of drawing freeform in and generally playing with sand can be introduced in toddlerhood.

    What You Need

    • A medium-sized tray (the size of a piece of printer paper works well)

    • A good handful or two of sand or salt - enough to thoroughly coat the bottom of the tray

    What You’ll Do

    1. Immediately after reviewing the tactile or sandpaper letter you have already introduced, tell your child that you have prepared a special activity for the two of you.

    2. Sit in front of  the tray of sand and say, “This is sand.” Then, set clear expectations for use by telling your child, “The sand stays in the tray. It is not for the table or for the floor. It stays in the tray.”

    3. Now draw your child’s attention to your hands by rubbing them together and then extending only your index finger.

    4. Silently and slowly draw the letter in the sand as your child watches. Say the sound (not the name) of the letter.

    5. After a few seconds of gazing at the letter, shake the tray gently back and forth with both hands to smooth the sand.

    6. Say, “Now it’s your turn to draw the ______ [sound of the letter, such as /b/].


    girl writing in sand.jpg

    Tips for Success

    Make sure that your child can be trusted not to eat the sand and always provide adequate supervision. If you’re using salt, please note that ingesting too much salt can be toxic to children.

    Try This, Too

    Encourage your child to write in the sand at the beach or in her sandbox. You can also write letters, or even her own name for her to “read”. For another variation on this activity, try a dollop of shaving cream on a table.

    What Your Child is Learning

    When your child is learning how to write, her fingertips softly pressing and sliding into a tray of sand will bolster her muscle memory of letter formation. This activity also provides a pleasant sensory experience and aids fine motor skill development.

     
    Love Learning To Write Pin 1
     

    Print this free Montessori lesson

    Download the printable version of this lesson and add it to your homeschooling binder or share with a friend.

    sand tray printable photo.jpg

    Download your free printable lesson.

    1. Download the lesson. You’ll get the lesson, plus gentle, compassionate parenting tips and information about educating your child at home.

    2. Print and add this lesson to your binder, share it with a friend, or use it with your Montessori homeschooling planner.

    3. Try this activity with your child! It’s a winner!


      Going Grocery Shopping With Kids? Read This First!

      It’s a common scene in the checkout aisle: a tired-looking parent is hurriedly putting the grocery items on the conveyor belt. A baby sits in the front of the cart clutching a teething toy. A three year old stamps her feet impatiently and then inspects the candy bars at eye level.

      It begins with a tiny whine but quickly turns into an attention-getting wail. Two options are quickly obvious to the parent: buy the candy bar or endure an embarrassing meltdown in public. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid grocery store tantrums and it comes down to four steps.

      1. Role-play It at home

      2. Give Reminders first

      3. Be Responsive to Their Wishes

      4. Set Realistic Expectations

      1. Role play it at home

      A little preparation goes a long way. Here’s how.

      1. On a table or on a rug, have your child help you set up some objects to “buy.” Get a piece of paper and only write down a few of the objects on the list.
      2. Get a basket to gather the items you need to “buy.” Then, pretend you are going shopping. Show your child the list and read the first item on the list. Select that item.
      3. Intentionally reach for an item that you know is not on the list and stop yourself before putting it in your basket, reminding yourself that you aren’t going to buy it at this time.
      4. When you are finished with your pretend shopping, return the items to the rug and help your child make a list for his/her own basket.

      Example

      “I’m going to go grocery shopping, but first I need a list….Okay, I’ve got my list! Now I’ll shop. First I need… Oh look at this! Wait - it’s not on the list. Maybe I’ll put this on my list for next week, but I’m not buying it today. Let me look at the list again. I need….”

      2. Give a reminder just before you go in

      Before you actually enter any store, remind your child what the expectations are for shopping. Do this by taking the time to bend down to your child’s level, make eye contact, and speak clearly and calmly. Tell your child exactly what you will do in the store together.  

      Example

      “We’re going to go into the grocery store now. You will get to sit in the cart, and we will do our shopping together. Do you remember how we played grocery shopping yesterday? Well, here’s our REAL list! I’m going to need your help. We only need things that are on the list… Can you help me stick to the list?”  

      Example

      “Remember that when we go into the grocery store, we will walk, not run. We don’t want to bump into anyone and hurt them! We will choose the items on our list, and we’ll be done soon. Then, we’ll be ready to take you to the playground this afternoon.”

      3. Be Responsive to their Wishes

      Grocery stores are designed for one thing in mind -- to get you to buy what’s on the shelves! Everyone can be susceptible to the desires for wanting to buy what isn’t needed. Your child may want something that is definitely NOT on the list, and if you say “no” and argue as to why it’s a “no," you may be in for a meltdown.

      The trick here is to respond and respect your child’s wishes as valid, human feelings that are worthy of your attention. Be prepared to listen, answer empathetically (yet firmly!) and move on.

      Example

      “I see that you really want to buy this, but it’s not on our list for today. Would you like for us to consider putting it on a list for next time?”  

      Example

      “I know how you feel! You really want this. I wish we could buy it! I want it too!” 

      4. Set Realistic Expectations

      What grocery store will be easiest for you and your child to navigate? Is it the tiny, local shop on the corner with fewer purchasing choices? Or is it the big superstore with wide aisles? If you go shopping at 8:00am on a weekday, will it be less crowded? Or is the better time on a weekend in the evening?

      If you can pinpoint the right store and the best times for doing your shopping, it could be worth the effort.

      Young children have limited attention spans and limited tolerance for overwhelming situations. Consider bringing a toy to fiddle with in the cart or snack to eat while shopping. Don’t forget that even with very small children, taking the time to smell the oranges that you are buying can engage their short-lived interest a little longer.

      For older children, consider giving them a list of their own to help shop with, or send them on mini-errands to pick up items. Most children love helping out when the work is purposeful. If you can involve them in the planning and in their own behavioral expectations, you'll have even more success!

      Example

      “Oooh, look how red and smooth the apples are this week! Would you like to feel how smooth it is?”

      Example

      “The next thing on my list is bread. What’s the next thing on your list?”  

      Your Plan of Action

      Do you see a common theme here running throughout all of these suggestions? Having an overall plan and including your child in the responsibilities involved with shopping will help you get through your shopping experience in the smoothest way possible!  

      Start now by writing down the answers to these questions on a pad of paper and make your plan now.

      1. Where do you commonly go shopping? List all the stores. 
      2. Which stores seem to be easiest for your children to navigate? List the top 2. 
      3. Which stores seem to be the hardest for your children to handle? List the worst 2. 
      4. What are your expectations for your children in the store -- Sit in the cart? Walk beside you? Snack while shopping? Make sure YOU are clear on these answers before talking to your children. 
      5. Have you role-played shopping? If not, put it on your to-do list now. 
      6. Practice your language. Your child wants to buy a candy bar. You've decided it's not on your list. What are you going to say? 

      Happy shopping! 


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      Don't Feed Your Kids. Organize the Fridge!

      Did the kids eat this morning? I didn't see it with my own two eyes, but what have we here? A hodgepodge of mugs filled with varying amounts of milk or water or.... something... on the dining table. And here, a couple strawberry hulls on the tile floor. And here, a mostly empty bowl of oatmeal by the sink.

      Either the kids ate breakfast or we have the most capable rats this side of NIMH living in our house.

      I don't need a mountain of evidence (or a secret society of super rats) to know the story. Since they were very young, we have given the children wide latitude in the kitchen. Kids being kids, I can usually tell what they're eating and how much -- with little effort.

      Free Range Children

      The idea that even young kids can feed themselves can strike people as odd. Isn't setting food out in front of the child two or three times a day one of our most basic duties as a parent?

      No.

      Certainly, we must ensure our children are eating well, but allowing children some control over their diets doesn't shirk this duty. In fact, it can actually support another critical duty - teaching children independence and self-control.

      Choice Leads to Good Choices

      Giving kids some control over their diets doesn't mean a free for all. If you want your kids to make good choices, you need to make sure they have access to good things. That takes adult planning and preparation -- keeping the pantry and fridge stocked with easy to access choices like mason jars with precut veggies or a big pot of cooked oatmeal.

      But the payoff is worth it. I find that children will ingest more healthy foods and a wider variety of healthy foods when they have control over what they are eating

      Five Tips

      Want to give it a try? Here are some tips for encouraging your children to serve themselves.

      Don't feed your kids! Organize your fridge! Five steps to food independence

      1. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods.

      It seems like all of us have different opinions on what is "healthy," so do your own research here and run with it. I think we can all agree that getting kids to eat veggies is a good thing, so make sure to stock up on lots of those!

      I strongly recommend keeping the junk food completely out of sight or better yet... don't buy it at all. Kids can't make good decisions about cookies. Sugar is just too tempting! We keep a limited amount of chips, cereal, candy, and snack foods in a high cabinet far out of reach.

      2. Prepare your veggies ahead of time.

      After grocery shopping, I try to give myself about 30 minutes to do some food preparation. I chop the celery and carrots into sticks. I cube the beets. Wash and spin the lettuce. Separate the broccoli florets. Slice the bell peppers and squash. Not only does this make fresh, raw food accessible to my kids, it makes cooking meals MUCH faster!

      3. Store your food in child-accessible containers. 

      In my fridge, I use more than one type of food container. Mason jars have the added bonus of being see through. Plastic tops seem to be easier for my kids to open than screw tops. Plastic baggies work great for some things. Recently, I've been really into these plastic freezable containers, but large yogurt containers and the like are great options for food storage, too.

      4. Make sure the kid dishes and utensils are reachable. 

      You can provide a stool so they can reach the family cabinet, you can choose a kids cabinet at eye level, or you can keep their dishes on a shelf. Our kid dishes are on a shelf very close to the kitchen table where they eat.

      5. Designate a place for the dirty dishes.

      In my house, the children put their dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and wash them. When they were younger, we kept a plastic tub on a low table near the sink that they could easily reach. They didn't have to wash their dishes themselves, but they were strongly encouraged to put them somewhere ready for washing.

       
      Five Tips (1).png
       

      And One More Thing... Be Ready for Weird

      Once given free reign, your newly independent kids may choose to eat things that would not occur to you... like a tub of shredded parmesan cheese or a clove of raw garlic or the entire 2 pound container of strawberries.

      Click here  to join us in the next session!

      Click here to join us in the next session!

      Be cool with it.

      They're experimenting and exploring their senses.

      If they are eating something inappropriate, you can troubleshoot this a couple of ways. You can say, "Hey, kids, I'm saving the parmesan for the lasagna, so if you want some of that, tell me first, ok?" Or you can put the parmesan in the back of the freezer out of sight. Or you can put a Post-It note on the parmesan that says "MOM OR DAD ONLY." 

      Over time, they will figure out what foods you allow and what foods you want them to ask about. In our house, all of the condiments are "ask an adult first" foods.

      So give it a shot. If your fridge is full of all kinds of good food, they will thank you for it, and more importantly, they will learn competence and confidence in the kitchen.

      Surprising Ways to Encourage Cooperation

      At one point or another, we all feel the terrible aftertaste of envy in our social relationships. We see the venal colleague who gets ahead or the layabout relative who repeatedly falls into success.

      The resulting envy and jealousy is all too human, as Shakespeare well understood. Still, we don't have to reinforce the traits in children.  

      Consider the classic parental headache - sibling rivalry. Siblings get jealous of the attention the other receives. They become intensely concerned with equity. They fight. This is all natural.

      But we parents all too readily add fuel to the fire. We pit the children against each other and declare one the winner. We visibly reward the child who is on "good behavior" and punish the child who is "acting out." We allow them to fight with each other without intervention. We may even ask them, "Why can't you be more like your brother?"

      Want two children who hate each other? Do these things.

      (Need more evidence? Read Alfie Kohn's excellent No Contest: The Case Against Competition.)

      No Simple Solution

      Here's the really tricky part. We may not even be aware we're setting kids up for failed relationships. Imagine a parent who, with the purest of intentions, regularly praises her oldest child for his math skills.

      Does the always alert younger brother understand that the intention is to build the older brother's confidence and sense of accomplishment or does he interpret the message to be "you're never going to be as good as your brother"?

      And what if it is the latter? Should the parent forgo the praise? Doesn't the older child deserve the kudos? 

      To praise or not to praise, that is the question -- a simple question without a simple "yes/no" answer. Ironically, our culture is rife with social rules, linguistic queues, non-verbal tics, and more emphasizing duality as the norm. It's either victory or defeat, right or wrong, good or bad. We learn this as kids and live by it as adults

      Musical Chairs Isn't Fun

      Teaching kids that there are winners and losers is so deeply engrained in our culture, it feels nearly impossible to root out. Think about that most benign of children's birthday party games -- musical chairs.

      The very thought that musical chairs could be harmful may feel absolutely ridiculous -- the kind of hippy dippy nonsense destroying our world. And, true enough, to an adult observer, the game is a kind of old timey fun. 

      But let's imagine you're not an adult watching the amusing, chaotic scramble. Instead, you are a five years old playing the game.

      You're feeling a bit awkward as you nervously walk to the music. With each step, you steel your nerves. Suddenly, the music stops. You lurch toward the closest chair and crash into the seat, edging your best friend out.

      Everyone laughs and yells your friend's name. You laugh too, but it's fake. You're a bit sorry your friend didn't get a chair, but gosh you are so much more thankful it isn't you!

      A chair is removed. The music begins again. The anticipation builds. You get the hang of the game and intentionally hesitate with each step so that you are always in front of a chair, never in the middle.

      More chairs are removed as your friends join the crowd of losers. You realize suddenly that there are only a few chairs left. You're starting to think about winning. Your confidence is high.

      The music stops again, and you lurch for the nearest empty seat only to find that there isn't one. Everyone is laughing, and your face burns in humiliation as everyone is pointing at you and yelling.

      You smile good naturedly, but inside your stomach is churning. You join the group of losers, and once you sit down, you are immeasurably relieved in the solidarity. Your best friend sits beside you, and you are equal again. You are both losers.

      The positive skills taught through the game must outweigh the other, especially in their interactions with each other.

      The Lessons We Teach

      So is musical chairs destroying our children? Should we toss it and other competitive games out because it might hurt someone's feelings?

      Not at all. Competition is natural and has pushed humanity to great heights -- funding the space race and Renaissance -- and great horrors -- fueling war and exploitation. 

      By exposing children to healthy competition, we can arm them with the social skills they need to handle victory and defeat with grace and courtesy and guide them away from internalizing -- or worse yet, replicating -- its darker side.

      But teaching healthy competition means being aware of the implicit lessons the game or competition is teaching. The positive skills taught through the game must outweigh the other, especially in their interactions with each other.

      Consider what is learned from musical chairs.

      • It's okay to put winning above friendship.

      • Rooting for others to lose is socially acceptable.

      • Losing is humiliating.

      The answer isn't necessarily to toss musical chairs, but we may want to do it differently. We want children to value their human bonds! We want them to root for each other! We want them to feel good about themselves! What would a version of the game look like that fostered those lessons?

      We Make the Rules

      The other day, our family got out a bingo-style game the kids had received for Christmas. The kids were excited to play it, but instead of reading the rules for determining a winner, they made up their own rules, making it a cooperative game.

      We each used more than one bingo card so we would have lots of pictures to look at. We enjoyed matching the picture cards to the pictures on our bingo cards. We stacked them up when we got extra pieces.

      When another player needed a piece, we noticed. It was the perfect opportunity to practice skills like generosity and what Montessori called "grace and courtesy" like this: "My brother needs a bat! I have this extra bat. Would you like to have it?"

      Competition was alive and well in that moment -- the drive to complete the puzzle. But so was the cooperation. Not long after the game ended, the boys were back at it - arguing about who got the bigger apple.

      The game didn't end the sibling rivalry, but it did reinforce a critical lesson. People may disagree, but when one wins, we all win.

      Five Tips (2).png
      Let's Nurture Children's Intrinsic Joy of Work

      You don’t have to look very hard to see just how deeply society links work and self-worth. Our fables teach children that work means life - the industrious ant survives the winter while the lazy grasshopper starves. We extol the virtues of labor in idioms like "an honest day's work" and sayings like "haste makes waste.” We equate hard word with spiritual worth in proverbs (literally in Proverbs) like “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”

      There’s a good reason we have these expression and stories; the community’s survival relies on people doing their jobs. It's why we've designed so many extrinsic motivators for work - from salaries and promotions to gold stars and letter grades. We want tangible proof that our work has value to society.

      But beyond the fear of societal ruin, a job well done (another great idiom) just feels good. It is intrinsically motivating. And when the social benefit and the inner joy find balance - magic! Your body and mind feel good, born from the inner satisfaction of personal success and the quantifiable contribution to something greater.

      The Daily Grind

      But if work is so satisfying, why are an ever increasing number of Americans unhappy at work? For one, the nature of work has changed dramatically in recent decades, growing increasingly abstract. Consider - In 1860, over half of the American labor force was in agriculture. Now it’s less than 2 percent. 1860 may seem far off, but when talking about social change, it’s like an atomic blast - fast, hot, and destructive.

      If you want to put it in the context of one person’s lifetime, in the early 1970s 1 in 4 Americans worked in manufacturing. Today, it’s less than 1 in 10. That’s fewer than work in healthcare, retail, or business. All told, over 80 percent of Americans work in the service industry, largely making intangible things that contribute to a bigger, slightly less intangible thing.

      And as work becomes more and more intangible, the assigned extrinsic value becomes more and more important. I can’t point to the miles of rail I helped lay, but I can point to the money in my bank account or the size of my car.

      Old Challenges Made New

      To be clear, the paycheck is not a new idea; the concept of wages likely goes back to the Neolithic Period. Likewise, this isn’t a romanticized notion of a past where everyone owned the fruits of their labors. Historically, few people truly owned their work, just as few owned their land. Wealth inequity is as old as wealth accumulation.

      But we underestimate the radicalness of social change at our own peril. Ultimately, it’s a matter of tempo. What is the tempo at which our biology can change versus to the tempo of change around us? When they sync, you have a music. When they don't, you have disharmony.

      The measure of a Person 

      The coupling of one person’s labor to a machine few understand and fewer control makes our tangible contributions to society so abstract as be practically invisible. Or, to paraphrase Eliot, we measure out our lives with coffee spoons.

      Over the years, as abstraction has invaded our lives, we’ve come up with lots of ways to give it intrinsic definition. We talk about “climbing a career ladder” or “building a future.” No surprise that these idioms give the abstract (career, the future) physical properties (climbing, building).

      And it all works fairly well. It’s not perfect. There are many workers struggling with the shift from more tangible industrial work to the service industry. But when you look at how many Americans have access to clean water, reliable food stocks, health care, education, and other living standard indices, society as a whole is in a better spot than it was in 1860. Plus, abstract work can be very fulfilling. The service industry creates many social goods.

      But there is danger in the system’s complexity. What any one person does at work is a very small cog in the insanely complicated machine of modern capital and finance. And like all complicated machines, when something goes wrong, it's a huge task to figure out what broke, why it broke, and how to fix it (see also, subprime mortgage crisis).

      And for more and more people, the machine is feeling broken, our faith in it misplaced or abused.

      Finding Frederick

      So what to do? To start, we must acknowledge - as a society - that meaningful work isn't always (or only) quantifiable on a spreadsheet. I'm reminded of Leo Lionni’s wonderful children's book Frederick about a mouse (the titular Frederick) who prepares for winter by collecting memories of the summer.

      His peers (who are all collecting food) mock him for laziness until the dead of winter comes and the others find that Frederick's memories (expressed through art) have immeasurable value - helping keep the group warm through the very long, cold winter.

      Perhaps more than ever, as the old tangible forms of work disappear, we need to weave this lesson into our social contract. We must build a society that values its Fredericks, and we must start by updating our attitudes about education.

      Training children for jobs is practically a guiding tenet to schooling, but it must end. As Maria Montessori warned in The Absorbent Mind:

      “The child is not an inert being who owes everything he can do to us, as if he were an empty vessel that we have to fill. No, it is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child who once he was.”

      In other words, respectful education prepares children for life. It doesn't train children for job success; it nurtures their creative and intellectual powers, divorcing them from any external mark, and doing so keeps alive their intrinsic love of work.

      A chance to get it right

      If it's any comfort, these are not new problems. Lionni published Frederick in 1967; Montessori The Absorbent Mind in 1949. Eliot’s “Prufrock” goes all the way back to 1915.

      But all the more reason that we must engage. This problem isn't going away on its own. Industrialization, automation, modern finance -- their effects aren't ending. But as parents and educators, we can play a critical role in helping society redefine its attitudes about work.

      In fact, it could be our generation's truest, most authentic and important work.

      Let Spring Grow a Love for Nature

      The winter is long. The grass dry. The wind biting. Fingers numb. We retreat to our warm homes and look inward toward each other, and we wait.

      And then... a robin is sighted. Buds on trees give us hope. The emergence of a lone daffodil seals the deal, and we feel relief in our connectedness to the warm earth once more.

      Spring is returning.

      Young children are naturally inspired to go outside and explore during this time of year. Reading books about Spring, celebrating Spring holidays, and engaging in the ever-popular Spring cleaning ritual are great ways to acknowledge the seasonal shift.

      However, if we are to truly nurture the whole child, we must stimulate all of their senses. 

      The education which a good mother or a good modern teacher gives today to the child who, for example, is running about in a flower garden is the counsel not to touch the flowers, not to tread on the grass; as if it were sufficient for the child to satisfy the physiological needs of his body by moving his legs and breathing fresh air.
      — Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method

      Teach the Child How to Touch

      April showers bring May flowers, the better to entice eager little fingers. The phrase "Don't touch!" may accurately reflect the parental instinct to protect fragile flowers from a toddler's grasp, but it is not a phrase that fosters learning.

      The next time you see your child reach for a flower in someone else's garden, teach him instead HOW to touch - gently, with one finger, on one petal.

      Whisper that the flowers are fragile. Convey the reverence for nature's beauty with your own brief caress. Feel the dirt and look up in the sky. Say, "These flowers are here for everyone to enjoy. We want to leave them just like this so that they can keep drinking water from the ground and reaching for the sun."

      Find Opportunities for Fewer Rules

      Asking your children not to disturb garden flowers is one thing. Asking children not to touch any flowers ignores their need to explore. Children need to engage all their senses (touch, smell, taste) and talk about the little green, growing things in the ground. This means being allowed to freely explore.

      If you have access to an open space where children can pluck daisy petals and examine roots, seek that experience right away and return often! And don't overthink it. Even a patch of weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk can offer a satisfying experience to a child. What matters is that you've nurtured the child's natural curiosity.

      Plant a Garden 

      Long gone are the days when most children were told to go outside and play unsupervised. Likewise, modern farm technology and urbanization have significantly changed how most people conceptualize their source of food.

      The nature deficit has dire consequences for humanity’s future

      Ask ten adults what, say, a broccoli flower looks like and how to collect the seeds to plant more broccoli, and you are likely to get nine furrowed eyebrows. This nature deficit has dire consequences for humanity's future.

      When we lose touch with how our vegetables are grown and meat is raised, we begin to make lifestyle choices that are not conducive to sustaining our physical lives here on Earth. 

      Get Involved

      Change begins with us. Together, examine the seeds in an apple. Spit a cherry pit into the grass. Roll an avocado's curious, ball-like seed across a table. Put a potato halfway in water and see what happens. Visit a petting farm. Look for ants.

      Go to a farmer's market and let your children pick out something locally grown to taste. I promise it will be different (and better) than what you can buy in a grocery store.

      Because nature can feel more and more remote from our daily lives, we must create hands-on outdoor experiences for their children. As Maria Montessori said, "place the soul of the child in contact with creation." 

      And remember - you don't need to go crazy creating official gardening lesson plans. Simply set aside some time for puttering and weed plucking. If you can grow a whole garden of food to eat, that's wonderful. If you don't have the time, resources, or inclination for it, grow one herb in a small pot, and help your child tend it daily.

      Small changes can lead to great things. Just ask the seed.


      Note: I'm teaching a new course on introducing children to botany. Learn more here. 

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      Human Development is Messy. Montessori's Four Planes Helps.

      Have you ever raised a litter of kittens? It's pretty amazing. Kittens are only kittens for a short time, little nothings with sharp claws and silky fur. Within just six months, they have changed into long, sleek, almost-adults capable of having litters of their own. 

      Watching kittens grow -- or plants sprout -- makes development seem so orderly and straight. We ingest calories; we grow bigger. We acquire information; we get smarter. Inputs and outputs.

      Not a Line But a Wave

      The truth is that growth happens not in a steady trickle but in waves of passion, long periods of lethargy, occasional bouts of depression and changed interests. Growing is push-pull, grab and release, ache and exaltation.

      To us, the cat is the miracle of life in miniature. In July, it's a kitten. By Christmas, it's having kittens. But to the cat, the journey is long and hard and begins before it takes a breath. The time spent in the womb and the effort made in his own birth are intense and miraculous.

      We forget that when our kitten's eyes were sealed shut, it must have felt like he was seeking nourishment out of the darkness for ages.

      We overlook the energy it required to learn the physical skills needed to hunt for food -- to try and lift his entire body into the air and - for the first time - pounce.

      It is the same with humans, but since our childhoods are so much longer, so, too, the journey. By adulthood, we've lost our memories of the darkness of the womb, the ache in our muscles from learning to stand upright and walk. Even the long, painful years we spend yearning for independence yet subject to the whims of adults fade in time.

      But these events shape us -- whether in our conscious minds or not -- and when we take it all in, from conception to maturity, we see it is a long road worthy of our admiration. Growing up should be celebrated.

      The Four Planes of Development

      Still, our drive to find linear order in growth is strong. To counter, we find guidance in Maria Montessori's work. She described human development as occurring in a series of four planes, or periods, and in 1951 developed a graphic to help explain the concept. Here's a version:

      Planes-of-Development-triangle-chart1.jpg

       

      The flame at birth represents the beginning of life: the spark of existence. As the child grows up and passes into and out of each plane, different characteristics emerge. They are surprisingly consistent across all of humanity regardless of culture.

      The graphic is powerful because it lets us see that development is not as a single, smooth line but rather like waves. It very clearly distinguishes the different planes of development from one another yet shows their balance and unity. Notice, for example, how infancy and adolescence mirror each other, as does the elementary child and the college age almost-adult.

      Moreover, it captures the journey within each plane itself -- for example, the change at age 3 from toddler to preschooler. Growth and development become like waves within waves, a turbulent ebb and flow that captures the truth of the matter. Growing up is hard.

      The Story Continues

      For all it's strengths, no single image can really capture the complexity of development. The sharp points of the triangles and the heavy lines convey too much rigidity or structure. Growth is more like the gradual lift and decline of a hill, not the stiff peak of a mountain. (Maria must have felt the same hesitation because she later developed a more organic visualization).

      None-the-less, thinking of child development in this way is truly powerful, for it simultaneously recognizes the ebb and flow of development while giving it an understandable structure. Like the kitten that seems to age before our eyes, the chart makes tangible what is abstract. The miracle of life in miniature.

      Singing Together Is More Important Than You Think

      Ever meet someone who claims they can’t sing? Maybe you even greet that person when you look in the mirror. Well, science has a message for you -- you’re almost certainly wrong.

      Researchers estimate that only about 2 percent of humans lack the ability to detect differences between musical notes. Plus, music is found in all human societies and dates back ages (we’ve found 40,000 year old flutes).

      In short - while the other 98% of us may not have a secret Diana Ross buried inside, we’re almost certain to have the ability to sing.

      Circle Time is Good Medicine

      Singing makes us feel feel good (promoting the release of oxytocin and endorphin) and is a critical tool for social bonding. In fact, singing may have evolved specifically for that purpose.

      In other words, sharing music make society work better. The only reasonable conclusion is that daily circle time singing also makes our classroom communities work better.

      And if all that’s not enough to convince you to sing with children, music is great for building up the brain. Researchers have positively linked college students’ access to music programs with their likelihood of graduation and shown that, for younger kids, intensive exposure to music at an early age improves cognitive outcomes.

      Teaching Cumulative Songs

      Because singing is basically as human as human can be, you don’t need a degree in musicology to make or enjoy it. However, a bit of knowledge about how music works might boost your confidence and get your creative juices flowing. You might even know more than you realize!

      Case in point - if you’ve ever sung “Old MacDonald” or “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” you’ve sung a cumulative song. “Cumulative song” is a fancy way to describe a song where each verse builds on the last (i.e., the lyrics accumulate) in a repeating pattern.

      Here's an example using the cumulative classic “The Green Grass Grew All Around”:

      The Benefits to the Child

      Cumulative songs are fun and beneficial. Because the singers must remember an ever growing list of items (e.g., birds, bugs, eyelashes), cumulative songs have a game-like quality good for sharpening memory.

      Additionally, because they have simple, repeated structures, they’re easier to teach and learn, making them great for social bonding events.

      Their predictability also make them great for improvisation. For example, try leading children in a version of the “The Green Grass” where you get absurdly tiny (e.g., a germ, an atom, an electron).

      So get out there and sing with your kids. You may not be pitch perfect, and that’s perfectly okay! 

      Ready to try it yourself? Check out our guide and printable for “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”

      9 Never Fail Name Games and Songs for Circle Time

      As a Kindergarten teacher, I spent years collecting songs and name games that were winners for breaking the ice in a new class during circle time at the beginning of the year. I kept a large stack of index cards of my favorite songs and added to the box as I learned new songs from other teachers.

      I now am the proud owner of an index box ridiculously full of hundreds of songs appropriate for the 18mo-6yo crowd. Because music is meant to be shared, I pulled together some of my favorite chants and songs. Who knows...maybe you'll learn a new one to add to your own collection!

      1. Hicklety Picklety Bumblebee

      For this name game, sit cross-legged on the floor and pat your knees while you chant in a regular, somewhat emphatic voice . It's not an easy one for little ones, so it will be mostly the adult chanting. You want their attention to draw toward you as you get softer so that by the time you are mouthing the name silently, the children are totally focused on your mouth and you have their full attention.

      Hicklety picklety bumblebee

      Who can say their name for me?

      Allison! (loudly)

      Allison. (whispered)

      All-i-son. (mouthed without vocalizing)

      2. Johnny Whoops

      This is a name game that starts with your index finger pointing to each finger in succession. Start by pointing at the pinky and when you get to the index finger, "whoops" toward your thumb, say the name on the thumb, then whoops backwards again toward your pinky. The sillier and more drawn out your "whoooooooops" the more laughter and excitement you'll generate. This is a real crowd pleaser. Every child loves to hear his/her own name whoopsing back and forth.

      Johnny Johnny Johnny Johnny

      Whoops! Johnny

      Whoops! Johnny

      Johnny Johnny Johnny!

       
       

      3. Jack in the Box

      name games and songs for circle time pinnable

      For this name game, the child sits on the floor all curled up hiding his head (the yoga "child's pose").  When you shout, "Yes, he will!" the child pops up...just like a jack in the box, arms up overhead as if to say, "Ta-da!"

      Christopher in the box, sits soooooo still.

      Will he come out?

      Yes he WILL!

      4. Willoughby Wallaby Woo

      First listen to and learn the tune to Willoughby Wallaby Woo by Raffi. Then just sing this short verse below, substituting in the child's name. If you have an elephant puppet or little stuffed elephant to literally "walk" over and "sit" on the child, all the more giggle-inducing!

      Willoughby wallaby woo

      An elephant sat on YOU (point finger toward child whose name will be used)

      Willoughby Wallaby Wistopher

      An elephant sat on Christopher!

      5. Pig On Her Head

      First listen to and learn the song Pig On Her Head by Laurie Berkner. Fill a bag with small toy animals. Let the child reach in and take one out of the mystery bag and place the animal on his head. Switch the song up by choosing another animal out of the bag or by placing it on another body part. This is a delightfully goofy song.

      George has a sheep on his neck,

      George has a sheep on his neck,

      George has a sheep on his neck,

      And he'll keep it there all day!

      6. Who Is Missing?

      Lay out a blanket or very large scarf on the floor. Ask the child to curl up (child's pose) on the floor, and make a dramatic point of draping the blanket carefully on top.  It then becomes a game of peek-a-boo. It's so foolishly simple, but always a winner! I never had a child who didn't want to take a turn hiding after this game was played a few times and everyone was comfortable. Sometimes you  have to speak quickly because the child won't want to wait for the dramatic pause and will swoosh the blanket off him/herself very quickly. That's just part of the fun.

      Hmmm....someone is missing! Who is it? Who's missing? It's...(pull off blanket in a big swooosh).....Kaitlyn!"

      7. Yoo Hoo! 

      I learned this one back in my college music education class and I have no idea who wrote or published it, so feel free to link up the tune if you find it. Until then, make up your own little tune to sing to the words. This time the child hides behind something in the room (a desk? the couch?). You begin by singing and "hunting" with your eyes.

      Somebody's hiding inside the closet.

      I wonder who it could be... Yoo hoo... You hoo...(child sings back from the hiding place)

      I wonder who it could be. ....It's Evan!

      8. Clapping Names

      So simple but also fun! Just go around the circle clapping each child's name with each syllable.

      Let's clap Harriet.  Harr-i-et!

      Now let's clap Kathy. Ka-thy!

      9. Who Do We Appreciate? 

      Be forewarned. This is not a quiet chant. It's a rile-em-up and make them feel like a million bucks chant. For this one, you're going to put on your very best cheerleader voice and grin, clap your hands and at the end wiggle your fingers up in the air like you've won the game!

      2-4-6-8 Who do we appreciate?

      Zachary! Zachary! Yaaaaaaayyyyy Zachary!

      Woooo!

      The Continent Song

      One of my favorite things about teaching the 3 - 6 age group using Montessori philosophy is the heavy focus on cultural studies, including geography.

      We want children to understand not only that they live on a planet called Earth but also that humans are just one piece of a complex web of life.

      Teaching them the names of the continents will open up their eyes to the entire world they live in. The new awareness will lead to questions about different climates, landforms, animals, and cultures.

      Click HERE to watch The Continent Song video on YouTube, or you can just watch below.

      Share your love for our planet Earth daily and act very interested in inspecting your map; your child will catch Continent Fever before you know it.

      CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE LESSON PRINTABLE

      The Journey to Adulthood: Birth to Age 6

      This is part of a series about the four planes of development. Each plane corresponds to a significant period of human development, running from birth through early adulthood. 

      Unlike many of our mammalian cousins, newborn humans arrive essentially helpless -- half blind, completely reliant on others for food, no ability to escape danger. Some even consider the first few months of life more an extension of the pre-natal journey (a fourth trimester). 

      Still, in the grand scheme of things, that early period of extreme helplessness is brief. Within months, baby has gone from an eating and sleeping machine with few communication tools to a curious toddler navigating the world.

      A few years later, the toddler is a child running, playing, speaking, reading, doing math, telling jokes, and otherwise well on her way to becoming a regular, old human being. 

      A Time Like No Other

      Early human development may seem a snail's pace when compared to horses, who all but walk out of the womb, but don't let looks deceive you. While gross and fine motor skills may be crude (or non-existent) at first, there is a raging fire of growth and development inside that most complex of machines -- the human brain.

      Consider - "Research has shown that half of a person's intelligence potential is developed by age four" and that the brain reaches "half its mature weight by about six months and 90 percent of its final weight by age eight." 

      The First Plane: Birth to Age 6

      While humans never stop developing, what happens in those very early years is unique, remarkable, and greatly responsible for shaping a person's entire life. The scientist and educational pioneer Maria Montessori defined this period as the first plane.  

      Montessori work stems from an era when our understanding about how the brain works reached new heights (both Freud and Jung were contemporaries). A physician by training, Montessori applied her skills of observation and diagnosis to her studies of childhood development and learning. From this work, she was able to define and describe the qualities four distinct planes (or phases) of human development. 

      The Absorbent Mind

      During the first plane (birth to age six), the mind is like a sponge, greedily soaking up information and experiences primarily. Montessori describes the mind of a young child as "absorbent" with good reason.

      Just how absorbent is the mind? Consider the gulf between what a one week old and a six year old knows and can do.

      We can make sense of this epic journey if we think of it as a move from unconscious to conscious thought.

      In the early years, the child absorbs information fairly unconsciously, primarily through the senses. At around age three, the child enters the second half of the plane, becoming increasingly susceptible to direct adult influence and instruction. Still, the two halves of the journey remain bound by the supreme absorbency of the mind.

      Adult Mindfulness

      Because first plane children are so absorbent and ready to learn, adult interactions require a high-level of mindfulness. What an adult says or does will have a lasting, perhaps permanent, effect on the child.

      That said, the human brain is also incredibly malleable and never stops growing and developing. In other words - "Parents and teachers, you WILL make mistakes. The child WILL survive. Relax!"

      The key to success with a first plane child is to follow the child's lead. If you provide the child enrichment, let her naturally curiosity drive the learning, and model with regularity (not perfection) the characteristics and behaviors you hope to foster, you will succeed. The child will learn and explore with a ferocity we adults only wish we could replicate.

      Babies -- we could learn a lot from them.

      The Garlic Peeling Work: A Lesson in Mindset

      If you ever find yourself wanting to practice patience, I suggest no greater classroom than a house with a toddler. 

      Case in point. One morning, as I sleepily stirred oatmeal on the stove, I glanced over to the fridge just in time to see the door fly open and my youngest son jump out clutching a bulb of garlic. I hear him "oooooh" and giggle mischievously to himself.

      He brings the garlic over to his child-sized kitchen table, sits down, and begins to peel the cloves.

      I think to myself, "Garlic?  Yuck. That's going to make a mess."

      I close my eyes and imagine myself wrestling the garlic bulb from his baby fingers and then enduring the tantrum that will likely ensue.

      Not worth it, I think.  I'll clean up the mess later.

      So I just turn around and pour my coffee. The smell of garlic starts to mix with the smell of coffee. Gross.

      The Work Finds the Child

      The melange of oatmeal, coffee, garlic combine with frustration and helplessness. Then I turn around and see that the concentration on his face. With extreme care and focus, he's getting those papery garlic peels off with his itty bitty fingernails.

      At this point, some part of my brain recognizes that this is his work. It is taking focused effort, and I see that he is using the pincer grip, developing his fine motor skills.

      In fact, Montessori believed that this kind of fine motor skill practice was essential in preparation for writing.

      The Garlic Peeling Work

      In Montessori classrooms, you will see many different ways teachers inspire their youngest learners to strengthen their fingers.

      I have never heard of the "garlic peeling work", but that's probably because it is very smelly and the entire classroom would end up smelling like my kitchen.

      The child is very aware of the strong smell, too, and he loves it.  He rubs his nose all over the garlic.  He tastes it.  He sucks on his fingers.

      He is very intense and not aware of me at all. He gets two cloves of garlic totally peeled, stands up, and rummages around in the kitchen drawer. He emerges with the cherry pitter and says, "This?"  

      It dawns on me that he is looking for the garlic press.  I retrieve it from the drawer and exchange it for the cherry pitter.  "Yes, this!" he exclaims.

      He returns to his table and proceeds to press the garlic cloves one at a time, squeezing as hard as he can.  I wordlessly set a bowl down on his table, and he carefully places the garlic cloves into the bowl, throws the garlic press into the sink, and races upstairs because he hears his brother.

      Recreating the Lesson

      The house is reeking of garlic, and I sip my coffee thinking... the garlic peeling work.  What a great Montessori idea. Except for the smelliness.

      I think about how I would set it up in my classroom.

      A tray, preferably easily washable.

      Two little bowls on it. 

      On the left, a bowl just big enough to hold the garlic bulb. On the right, another bowl for the peeled cloves.  

      Maybe a red tray with little white bowls.

      A garlic press between them.  

      The teacher would model cradling the garlic bulb, probing it with her fingers and sniffing it. She would pick at the garlic and act surprised when she revealed the clove inside. She would demonstrate how to peel the garlic, press the garlic, and perhaps quietly suggest that the peeled, pressed cloves will be stored and used for cooking later that day.

      She would show the child how to put the garlic skins in the classroom compost bin and make sure the tray is all clean and ready for the next person before returning to the shelf.  She would finish the lesson by washing her hands and drying them.

      This is how I see "doing Montessori" as a teacher.   

      Preparing the Environment

      Do you know that in general, Montessori teachers spend hours thinking a simple work through like this - every single work in the classroom! The perfect sized tray is selected and the perfect bowls are chosen...the bowls that are the most functional and aesthetically appealing.

      The teacher practices both the activity and the lesson several times to make sure no steps are left out. The work on the tray is set out from left to right, to mimic the way a person reads and writes. This is the teacher preparing the environment for the children.

      Montessori is A State of Mind

      When I talk to parents how to "do Montessori" at home, they are often amazed. In their minds, they're imaging the famously beautiful, prepared Montessori classrooms. This is not what they would see if they walk into my perpetually messy home. 

      What they would see, though, is respect for the child's choice - a cornerstone of Montessori. Example:

      • In the classroom, the child chooses the garlic pressing work off of a clean, inviting shelf, takes it to his table, and performs the work with concentration.
      • At home, the child sneaks into the fridge, selects the garlic to work with, takes it to his table, explores it, retrieves the press from its home in the kitchen, and feels purposeful about it.

      Different but no. In both, the adult is driven by a respect for the child's choice and his work. She honors this moment. She allow it. She recognizes that it is the child's real work and that is what makes you "doing Montessori" in your home, not because you have set up some pretty shelves with works on trays.

      How do you see yourself  "doing Montessori"?  I bet it's more often than you realize!

      Conflict Resolution Starts in the Sandbox

      The sand beckons them. One child reaches for a shovel and kneels, prepares to dig. The other takes off his shoes and swishes his bare feet back and forth. “A sand angel!” he exclaims. His whole body is in the game now, back flat, head still, arms flailing. Again and again he returns to recreate the form his body makes in the sand. Each time, more sand is kicked up into the air, his vigorous movements creating a spray in the blue sky above.

      As the sand flies higher, the digging child, the neighbor caught beneath the storm, must make a choice. Sand is getting into his hair and into his carefully dug hole. But what should he do?

      Here are five possibilities he might consider:

      1. Yell “HEY!” and forcefully shove the offender away.
      2. Quickly get up and leave the sandbox until the offender has finished.
      3. Draw a line in the sand and tell the offender never to cross the boundary.
      4. Threaten to destroy the offender’s project in return.
      5. Engage the offender in the digging project.

      Depending on the child’s temperament and also based on what has worked well for him in the past, one of these options might be more appealing.

      But which is the right way to handle it? The ethical choice?

      The Parent’s Dilemma

      To the adult observing, perhaps it is clear who was in the wrong and who should be the one to change his behavior or leave the sandbox. We, the adults, have created a rule, and that rule is “No throwing sand - EVER,” because let’s face it: a sobbing child with sand in the eyes is no joke!

      As parents, our instinct is often to intervene immediately and not risk the possible sand-throwing war that could ensue between the two parties. We are also aware of a culturally confining unwritten book called Good Parenting, which instructs: Remind everyone of the rules and strictly enforce them at all times. The consequence of not adhering to this parenting format puts one in a bit of social danger. No one wants to be thought of as the bad parent.

      Really Good Parenting

      Courage is required for thinking outside of the box. As well, constantly intervening in potential conflicts is both exhausting and, to be honest, a thoughtless approach to child rearing. It is the dog barking at every passing stranger - regardless of whether or not he is here to burgle. If we want our children to learn how to make the ethical choice in the sandbox, we must see ourselves not as rule enforcers but as ethics mentors.

      We must teach them to think critically and very quickly through a series of questions that may look something like this:

      1. Does the sand-throwing pose an immediate danger to oneself, the community, or the environment?
      2. Is the sand-throwing intentional?
      3. Does the sand thrower see the digger sitting there nearby?
      4. Is violence (shoving) necessary in order to stop the danger?
      5. Would stepping away to observe allow one to get a different point of view (and out of danger)?

      Why World Leaders Throw Sand

      Imagine, now, that we are not talking about two children in a sandbox but two world leaders engaged in an international conflict. Their options are very similar: retaliate physically, ignore, build a wall, threaten to destroy, negotiate by finding mutual interests…

      To make these choices, leaders need the ability to see the world from a different culture’s point of view and also to be able to quickly determine the most probable positive outcome of an action.

      We want skilled, experienced persons who will think not just about satisfying their own ego or ensuring their nation’s safety but also about the global community at large and the effect of their actions on the Earth. The questions they must ask themselves are, not surprisingly, similar as well.

      If we want to create the ethical leaders of tomorrow, where do we begin?

      We begin in the sandbox.

      How to Give a Fabulous Lesson Like a Montessori Teacher

      Before giving a work to a child aged 2 to 6, a Montessori teacher almost always gives a “lesson” to demonstrate the activity while the child watches. Montessori believed strongly in the importance of good modeling, writing:

      “The lessons, then, are individual, and brevity must be one of their chief characteristics. Dante gives excellent advice to teachers when he says, ‘Let thy words be counted.’ The more carefully we cut away useless words, the more perfect will become the lesson.” (from The Montessori Method)

      Five Rules of the Road

      1. Remember to sit side by side next to the child rather than across the table. This allows the child to see the work from your point of view. We often recommend that you sit on the child's left side if the child is right-handed.

      2. Let your fingers do most of the talking. By speaking very quietly and only when necessary, you will be directing your child’s attention to your hands and how they are interacting with the materials.

      3. Model activities from left to right. This is intentional. It prepares a child for reading and writing, which is also oriented from left to right.

      4. Exaggerate your movements especially regarding care of the materials. If you want your child to care for the work and not be careless, make sure that you also model this. Hug the materials if you like as you get them out. They are special.

      5. Note that formal lessons are not always necessary. Use your own instincts for when to cut a lesson short or allow a child to work even without a lesson at all. If the child is engaged, draw it out a bit. If you are quickly losing interest, encourage the child to take a turn. Toddlers especially often cannot sit through long formal lessons. For a toddler, the modeling should be very brief.

      Keep Attention on the Child

      Maria cautions us to do our best to remove our own egos and personalities from the lesson. When the focus remains on engaging the child in the material, the formal lesson will be most effective. However, as an experienced teacher, I can tell you that it is also important to establish a very real, physical human connection with the child...otherwise, a robot might as well be giving the lessons!

      Children who receive more eye contact and verbalization from their parents develop better interpersonal skills and have higher vocabularies.

      For example, current research tells us that lower student-teacher ratios are all around better for children in the classroom because there is more adult-child personal interaction and attention.

      We also know that children who receive more eye contact and verbalization from their parents develop better interpersonal skills and have higher vocabularies.

      You might note that a typical Montessori classroom has a fairly high student-teacher ratio, and this is because we are not providing a teacher-directed environment but a child-led environment.

      The Child Leads

      In an authentic Montessori classroom, you would see a lot of student-to-student interaction. We believe that even more important than the proper lesson is the role that the children play in their interactions with each other as role models who learn from each other. The way the entire classroom functions is dependent upon these human connections.

      As with anything, it's a balance. Don't let these lesson-giving "rules" deter you from having a deep conversation with your child about the work, and keep your formal lessons strictly to a minimum when working directly with concrete materials to teach a very specific skill.

       
      Lessons like a Montessori Teacher.png