Monday, December 28, 2009

Before and After

I was able to spend a few hours over at the new school building and got many things accomplished. I scrubbed the walls, added a few plants and some wall hangings. There were a few nails already in place, but I'll need to lower them so the children can enjoy the hangings too. Of course, there's really not much I can do in my classroom until June because I'll simply be moving my materials over at that time. I'm preparing the front office for the host of interviews we've got lined up for the month of January. I'm looking forward to meeting all of these new parents who are eager to learn more about Montessori. It will be so nice to welcome these families into the new school building, separate from my home. My husband knows that I work 24/7 1) because I love it, and 2) because it's here in my house. It will be refreshing to turn work off for a couple of hours every evening. Check back next year to see if I actually do take some time in the evening!

Front Office:



Main Entrance:



I also added a small leather bench in the foyer for children to sit. It's great because it also opens up for storage. Thanks to my husband for setting up the beautiful fish tank:

Sunday, December 27, 2009


You won't believe this. I was reading my favorite magazine Montessori Life (I know, I know...obsessed) and there was an article all about the concept of teaching gratitude to children. They did mention that unbridled materialism in adults causes depression, hypercompetitiveness, and anxiety, to name a few. Researchers are now finding the same ills in children. Companies are now spending $17 billion dollars in programming and advertising to influence the minds of young children. Check out the book Buy, Buy, Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds for more information.

One simple way to get started is to simply change your language to sound more grateful. For example:

Child: Mommy! Look at the new shoes Grandma bought me!
Mom (typical answer): Wow, aren't they lovely.

Our goal is to take the focus off of the material object and on to the kind act of giving. An opportunity to teach gratitude might look like this...

Child: Mommy! Look at the new shoes Grandma bought me!
Mom: That was very generous of her. How do you think we could thank her?
Child: I don't know, I guess I could say 'thank you'.
Mom: Sure, we could do that. We could also write her a thank you note or draw a picture to say we're thankful!

Another important skill is differentiating wants and needs. Cut out pictures of items from a magazine and glue them on index cards. First, discuss with your child the difference between the two, then help your child sort the pile of cards. Use a control of error, so the child can self-check, such as a red circle on the back of all of the want cards and a green sticker on the back of the needs. Some suggestions might be photos of: a TV, a banana, jewelry, medical care (a photo of a doctor or hospital), a toy, a home...

Feel free to comment if you have any ideas to share about teaching children how to be more grateful.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity...It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~Melody Beattie

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I'm sitting amidst a pile of toys so big I could get lost in them. My head was spinning all day as I tried to get all of our Christmas gifts organized and put away. Both of my girls are in the process of switching to the next size up in clothes, so I put all of their old clothes in bins and put the new clothes neatly in the drawers. At least one thing is organized! That brings me to the toys. We have a large shelving unit from Home Depot set up in our storage area in the basement.

Every few months, I go through the playroom and donate some toys, throw away toys that are broken or otherwise non-functioning, or sort the rest on this shelving unit. On the bottom shelf, I've placed toys for children ages 0-18 months, the next shelf up is for 18 mo- 36 mos, next is 3-4, then 5-6. The top shelf is where I store blankets/pillows. From time to time I take some of the toys on the shelf and bring them back into the playroom. As every parent knows, the children treat those toys like they're brand new! We rotate in this way every few months, in an effort to make the best use of our space.

Now, I've known Montessori couples who have children and I find it fascinating how they organize their home. The playroom typically consists of an easel, a small table with two chairs, a very uncluttered bookcase, and a single shelving unit with a few beautiful, handcrafted toys displayed. I don't know, they must have an enormous storage area. Believe me, if it were only me, my entire house would probably be miniature, I'd have only a few toys out in the playroom that would be rotated weekly, and I'd be eating dinner in a tiny child's chair. However, my husband also lives here and has a say in how we furnish and decorate our home. I respect that he is not obsessed with the Montessori philosophy, like I am, but I do wish I could go back to basics with my children.

Don't you feel like our children today are so overwhelmed with *stuff* that their little heads are just spinning, like mine? My oldest daughter was just tearing through her gifts and at one point, I noticed she wasn't even registering what each one was. My youngest opened a gift and played with it for some time before moving on. Of course, she was still opening gifts at 8pm last night!

So, next year, I've decided to implement my Rule of Ten. Each child will receive ten presents and each parent will receive ten presents. There are families all over the world that would do anything for ten presents at Christmastime. My goal for this new year is to teach my girls about the gifts of simplicity and gratitude. In such a materialistic culture, how do you teach your children to be grateful?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


These gorgeous handmade seating solutions were created by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds:

Do you know anyone who would be up to the challenge?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Natural Materials

Thanks to all of the people who offered to help with our playground project. I've compiled a few lists of materials needed to start this project. Some need to be purchased, but others can be made or found. Some of these objects seem a bit odd for a playground, so check the pictures in one of my previous posts for clarification. If you feel you could contribute by making or finding any of these materials, please contact me.

Materials to be Found or Made

  • Stumps for stepping

  • Boulders
  • Twine branches for entrance way
  • River rocks for "riverbed" and/or labyrinth
  • Fill (for body of slide)
  • birdhouses and birdfeeders
  • Garden benches (for the handyman/woman)

Materials to be Purchased

  • A-frame swing
  • hammock
  • Maple trees
  • 6 x 6 posts for sandbox
  • slide
  • bridge
  • children's picnic benches

I'm sure we'll think of many more items that we need, but that should get us going for now!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Even during our holiday party, these kids just want to keep working!

D.A. completing the Continent Map

J. P. adding tinsel to the class tree

G. G. creating a pointsettia picture

L. D.'s Australia map

Most Montessori schools handle holidays the same way. We teach the children the history of the holiday, we show the children traditional holiday dress, we listen to holiday music, and talk about how the holiday is celebrated today. We discuss Christmas, New Year, Hanukkah, Diwali, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Easter, and several other holidays. As a private school teacher, I'm able to fully discuss the history of each holiday, without imparting my beliefs, of course. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with all of the children knowing about the birth of Jesus Christ or knowing the Hindu story of Rama and Sita. Again, educating children about different cultures and religions takes away the mystery that creates fear and eventually prejudice.

These books are a fantastic way to introduce different holidays to children.

Enjoy spending time with your families and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nature-Based Playground

I have been doing a lot of research on children and nature lately, mostly stemmed by my interest in the lack of children playing outside in my neighborhood. Even on a beautiful, sunny day, you can hear a pin drop. I've seen many books written on this subject: "Where have all the Children Gone?" , "Last Child in the Woods"...

The moment I realized this was a severe problem was when I brought a group of children outside to play on the first day of school. Two of the children came outside and just stood there. They had NO IDEA how to play outdoors. I used the Montessori approach to show them (one age 3, the other age 4) how to kick a ball, run up and down a hill, go down a slide...They had never played outside or gone for a walk outdoors. This new generation is desperately in need of more unstructured free time outside in order to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. I read an article recently in a Montessori publication about this topic. The writer interviewed an 8-year-old boy and asked him, "Would you prefer to play indoors or outdoors?" He responded with this jaw-dropping response, "I'd rather play inside because that's where all the electrical outlets are." Oh my.

Cheryl Charles, President of Children & Nature Network, reports that "Children are smarter, cooperative, happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors."

After coming to these conclusions, I'm going to do my best to incorporate a Nature-Based Playground into our new location. I found a company who specializes in planning and implementing these types of play spaces, however, that type of expense is way out of our budget. I did find several pictures that depict my vision. I've recruited some family and friends to help us make this vision a reality. If any of our current or potential families feel they can offer time, materials or creative ideas, please contact me. It is so important for us to get our children back outside.

The company that created this beautiful children's retreat is called Natural Playgrounds. Couldn't you envision the children using their imagination more and enjoying their natural surroundings in an environment like this?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Control of Error

I cannot imagine how children feel when parents or teachers constantly point out their mistakes. It must be both frustrating and irritating to live in a state of fear over making mistakes. It is very important that children feel comfortable making mistakes, so that they can push the boundaries of their skills. Parents should try to take on the philosophy that a mistake is simply an opportunity for learning.

If your child accidentally spills or breaks something, remain calm and show the child how to clean up. Then, show your child how to carry or use an object correctly to avoid future spills. You'll find that next time something spills, your child will know what to do immediately.

Another way to encourage learning opportunities is to allow your child to point out his own mistakes. Whenever possible, try to incorporate a self-checking system into the games that he plays. Montessori teachers call this a "control of error". For instance, after a child is finished using the smelling bottles, he might peek under the bottles to find matching colored circles.

When "writing" words with the movable alphabet and picture cards, a teacher might print the correct spelling on the back of the card for control of error. When your child is old enough, you can teach her how to check her work using a reference book.

When a child learns to check herself, she feels more in control of herself, feels more independent, and feels ready to take on tasks even when they look difficult. Teaching a child to judge her own efforts is much more valuable than teaching her to become dependent on others for judgement.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Money Game

A few days ago, I pulled out a work that I haven't used in years. This is an activity you can easily set up at home, after a trip to the bank! It's called the Money Game- an extention activity used by many Montessori teachers to reinforce the concept of money value and equivalence. Many of my students this year have shown a lot of interest in our coin stamps. They're making coin vocaulary booklets, coin equivalence booklets, and even drawings with coins incorporated into the theme! I thought it was time to challenge some of the older children with this fun, engaging activity.

Start with a seven compartment tray- six compartments around the edge and one in the middle.

Fill one space with pennies, one with nickels, the next with dimes, then quarters, half-dollars, a dollar coin, and one die in the middle. The youngest child rolls the die first and picks up that many pennies. Children take turns rolling the die and picking up coins. I use an equivalence book, made from the coin stamps, to assist the children in exchanging coins. The little equivalence booklet is kept in the middle compartment with the die. After some time, when children roll a five or a six, they realize they can immediately pick up a nickel instead of five pennies. The children keep exchanging all the way up until they receive two half-dollars. At this point, that winning child can exchange for the dollar coin. After the game, I show the children how to shake hands and say "good game". Due to the caring nature of the Montessori classroom, children feel comfortable both winning and losing. They are then asked to wash their hands, after handling the coins.

With 2-3 children playing, this game can take up to 30 minutes. Younger children stop by from time to time to observe, but I think they realize it's a bit over the top for them. This game is ideal for children ages 5-9, although some four year olds have been known to master the game.

This activity is another excellent opportunity for community in the classroom. If I'm unavailable and the children have an equivalence question, they can go to an older child for help. The older child feels a sense of confidence and belonging when he/she is able to helpa younger friend in need. That's the beauty of the Montessori classroom.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Key Day!!

This evening, I received the keys to our new school building! The place looks great and I'm so excited to make it feel even more like "home". As promised, here are some pictures. Below are pictures of the foyer, part of the Primary classroom, and the main office. One of the best aspects of the building are the expandable walls. I can have one enormous classroom (practically the length of the entire building) or I can section off a room for nappers, kindergarten pull-out, yoga, or anything else I can imagine. The sky's the limit!

Here is G proud to be one of the first to sign the visitor log...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Montessori's 10 Commandments

The Montessori Foundation has published a list of Dr. Montessori's 10 Commandments to educators who wish to follow her approach. This is a great guideline for new teachers or for experienced teachers who need a review:

1) Never touch a child unless invited by him (in some form or another).
2) Never speak ill of a child, either in his presence or in his absence.
3)Concentrate on strengthening and helping the development of what is good in a child so that its presence may leave less and less space for the bad.
4) Be active in preparing the environment: take meticulous and constant care of it to help the children to establish constructive relationships with it. Show the children where everything belongs and demonstrate the use of the materials.
5) Be ever ready to answer the call of a child who needs your assistance. Listen and respond to his appeals.
6) Respect children when they make mistakes. As soon as they can, allow them to discover their error and correct it by themselves. Stop firmly any misuse of the environment and any action which endangers a child, his development, or others.
7) Respect the child who takes rest or watches others or ponders over what he himself has done or will do. Neither call him nor force him to other forms of activity.
8) Help those who are in search of activity and cannot find it.
9) Be untiring in repeating presentations to the child who has refused them earlier; in helping the child acquire what is not yet his own and overcome imperfections. Make your ready presence felt to the child who searches- and hide from the child who has found.
10) Ever treat the child with the best of good manners and offer him the best you have yourself at your disposal.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thoughtful Tree

A friend of mine, who also happens to be a mom in my school, shared with me her great idea for a "Thoughtful Tree". Her family creates the tree ahead of time and uses it as their Thanksgiving table centerpiece. This would be a great idea for teachers in a classroom. Each child can write one thing that they're thankful for on a leaf, and add it to a branch. This idea was just too beautiful to keep to myself:

My question is, how did she take a picture into a mirror without her reflection showing up? She's a photographer, so I'm sure she's got lots of tricks up her sleeve (or she uses photoshop!). I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mats, Rugs and Carpets...Oh My!

In the Montessori classroom, mats are used to delineate work space. The mat concept reinforces Montessori's theory of "freedom within limits" and teaches children to respect other people's space. Some schools refer to them as rugs, others as carpets. At our school, we use the term "mats". During the first few days of school, the children are shown the proper way to roll a mat, carry a mat, and walk around a mat. We make a maze out of mats and try to walk around them without touching the mats with our feet. Then, we go over some of the classroom guidelines for mat usage:
  • Work either belongs on a table or a mat.

  • We roll up our mat when we are finished, thus completing the work cycle.

  • We sit on the carpet next to the mat so that the work is not interrupted.

  • We walk around our friends' mats, instead of hopping over, to avoid damaging the work.

Typically, children coming from large families embrace the idea of a work space because they are used to defending their work (or toys, or books, or clothes...) at home. It is a relief to them, knowing once their work is on a mat, no one will touch it. Of course, the first six weeks of the year are an adjustment and new children are gently reminded to walk around the mat. Older children are often overheard using the catch-phrase "please do not touch my work" with the younger ones. After a few weeks, they get the idea.

We use one type of mat in three different sizes. The largest mat (29" x 42") is most often used for maps and large floor puzzles. The medium-sized mat (24" x 36") is used for just about everything else. We use a small matching placemat for holding bead cabinet arrows or puzzle pieces. I don't care for the mats from Montessori Services because of the fringe on the sides. I, personally, find them distracting and I wind up finding fringe littered about the classroom throughout the day. The children like this one from Montessori-N-Such:

Eventually, I'd love to get the fancy mat holder too! For now, we've got ours rolled and propped up in a tall basket, which works just fine.

Some Montessori families choose to incorporate mats into their home life. I recommend this idea when the child has difficulty putting activities away after use. Some toys, like blocks and legos, tend to spread throughout the entire room. The mat creates a confined playspace for that particular activity, avoiding lost toys and a messy room. Also, when there are siblings who are constantly taking each other's toys, some mats and a few basic rules can create a peaceful playtime.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

101 Great Ideas

I stumbled across a fantastic article by a Montessori writer, Barbara Hacker. Take a few moments to look over this list of 101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children. I'm sure many of you already incorporate some of these ideas into your daily life naturally. However, there are also several very creative suggestions listed. Most importantly, just spend time with your child and enjoy every minute of it!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Roles of the Family

This week we've discussed Native Americans and Early Americans. The children LOVE this topic every year, and I still haven't figured out why. They are intrigued by the feelings the Native Americans must have had when they saw those tall ships arrive. This year, the children were most interested in the roles of each family member. I noticed their interest, so we took some time to compare and contrast these roles. All of a sudden, hands shot up in the air and here are some of the hysterical comments I heard:
  • "My mom doesn't do any of the cooking like the Native American moms!"
  • "No one in my family cooks, we just get food from a restaurant."
  • "My mom is always too tired to cook, so my dad does it sometimes."
  • "My daddy is so strong, he could be a Native American warrior."
  • "My daddy knows all the rules in our house, so he would be a chief."
  • "Maybe my daddy is a Pilgrim blacksmith, because he has a lot of tools."

I really should write a book of all the things I hear on a daily basis. The amazing thing is how these children relate their daily activities to the activities of those who came before us. They also found it heartwarming that after all of the fear and confusion from the early years of the Pilgrims, both groups of people were able to put it behind them and come together to form a new community (at least for one day). I guess that's what America is all about!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Volcanic Eruptions!

After our space studies, we like to dabble in the Earth Sciences with mountains, continental drift, and volcanoes. Today, we talked about the parts of the volcano, we watched a video of a real volcanic eruption, and we sang this adorable song:

Later, we went outside to create our own active volcano.

Build your own Baking Soda Volcano:


  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 cups salt
  • 4 Tbsp cooking oil
  • warm water
  • plastic water bottle
  • dishwashing detergent
  • food coloring
  • vinegar
  • baking dish or pan
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda

Here's what to do:

1. Mix flour, oil and 2 cups warm water. The mixture should be smooth and firm, add more water if needed.

2. Stand the bottle in the baking pan and mold the dough around it into a volcano shape. Don't cover the hole or drop dough into it.

3. Fill the bottle most of the way with warm water and some red and/or yellow food coloring.

4. Add 6 drops of detergent to the bottle.

5. Add baking soda to the liquid.

6. Slowly pour vinegar into the bottle...Eruption Time!!

In this reaction, carbon dioxide gas is produced, which is also present in real volcanoes. As the carbon dioxide is produced, pressure builds up inside the bottle, until the gas bubbles out of the "volcano".

This activity takes approximately 30 minutes from start to finish. Have fun!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A New Chapter

Today began a new chapter in my life...we made our school expansion official!

Due to the very high demand for Montessori programs in this area, our little home-based school receives one or two information request phone calls a week. This high volume is attained simply through word of mouth from our current and/or previous families- I have them to thank for the spread of interest throughout our area. I am thrilled to be able to provide an educational program based solely on Maria Montessori's famed theories and to an even larger group of children in our community.

I'll be working with another very passionate Montessori teacher- which is so very exciting for me. It is essential for teachers to brainstorm and problem-solve together. She will be the head teacher of the Pre-primary classroom. This room is for children not yet old enough to join the Primary classroom, and also for children who are still toilet learning. I've heard time and time again that there are no educational programs for children under 3, even though Montessori believed that the most critical period of brain development is between 0-6. Very young children will now have the same opportunities as preschoolers. My vision of this school is to encapsulate Maria's concept of Casa dei Bambini, or The Children's House. The environment, indoor and out, will be meticulously prepared to suit the needs of the children and their interests.

There are endless possibilities for the future of LVMA and the future of our children. I look forward to sharing this journey with to come soon!

Montessori in the Home

At my most recent parent workshop Discipline Toolkit, I stressed the point that a child actively engaged in purposeful work is not going to need discipline or redirection. We discussed several aspects of positive discipline, but the most important concept is prevention. Just like when you're at the dentist and they keep telling you to floss, floss, floss. They stress that with a little extra time each day, flossing can prevent cavities and tooth decay. It's the same concept (I know, it's a stretch) with children. Take a little extra time each day to provide purposeful activities for your child and you will prevent the little cavity called misbehavior. The easiest way to get your child engaged is in the kitchen. Washing dishes, shredding lettuce, chopping carrots, setting the table...your children love to be near you and work alongside you. This nifty invention, called the Learning Tower, allows for safe exploration at the kitchen counter:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big Dipper Discovery

GG was using the coin equivalence board from Hello Wood and made an interesting discovery. He noticed that all 25 pennies together looked like the shape of the Big Dipper. He pointed out the handle and the "scooper". The image is reversed, but take a moment to see if you can differentiate what he saw...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Funny Afternoon

I found myself giggling through the afternoon yesterday. I overheard so many funny things, I just had to jot some of them down...

After someone accidentally knocked over the pink tower, the top piece was missing. Another student said "It rolled away!" EK said, "But it's not a sphere, it's a cube...cubes don't roll!"

After using the Phases of the Moon cards, GG said, "I love looking at the faces of the moon!"

OP said, "I think I need to move to another table because he's making me feel crazy inside."

Monday, November 2, 2009


Montessori teachers are supposed to be unbiased while presenting lessons or new topics. We are to follow the child's interests and not spoil that purity with our own likes and dislikes. Today, however, we started our studies about space. I just can't resist showing my enthusiasm for the topic. I've got space books littered about the classroom, planet three-part cards displayed in the language area, spaceship designs on the light board, and the list goes on. I guess I'm just so fascinated by how tiny our little world is compared to the rest of the universe. Here's a great video to show your kids to give them a perspective on the size of our Earth compared to other planets:

The children were amazed by the pictures I showed of the Horsehead nebula, the Eagle nebula, and a black hole. They were very interested about the fact that a nebula is the beginning of a star and a black hole is the end of a star. Below is a fascinating, simulated video of a black hole- suitable for children a bit older:

You'll be amazed to hear some of the interesting facts your children bring home. They soak up this information like a sponge...I can't wait for them to visit the planetarium next week!
GC had an intriguing thought when she said, "So, even when the sun is shining, parts of our universe are still dark." This comment proves that children of this age are capable of understanding the complex, abstract concept of space.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sweet Stories

We had such a sweet day all around. It is so much fun watching the children try to compose themselves during the school day, just knowing that the excitement of Halloween is just around the corner! U.P. wrote and illustrated a Halloween story:
Once upon a time,
there was a ghost in a village.
He was nice. He didn't hurt.
One day he met a girl.
They were friends.
Now that's a Montessori ghost story if I've ever heard one!

This student, RB, must be trying to control his excitement with the Individual Silence Game. He waited there with the lavender pillow for a full minute of silence. After rolling up the mat and putting the work away, he noticed a framed picture of Maria Montessori. He brought the frame over to me and asked, "Who is this woman?". I replied, "It's Maria Montessori. She loved children. She invented most of these materials you see." RB's response was this, "Oh. That's sweet of her."

Have a sweet Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2009


In the spirit of Halloween, we studied spiders today. We used the lightboard to trace a complex spider web, then we added spiders with ink thumbprints. I was so happy to see many of the children adding eight legs to their spiders, after we read a book on parts of a spider. U.P. loved the word "arachnid" and wanted to know more about these animals. We also discovered that spiders can make as many as seven different kinds of silk, each used for a different purpose (egg cases, wrapping prey...). Can you believe that a thread of spider silk is stronger than a thread of steel that is the same thickness?

Here's a spider web activity you can try at home. Finding a web is easy on foggy or dew-covered mornings because the water droplets reveal the silk threads. You'll have to wait to see the spider at work because a spider can't catch a meal until its web dries out. If your child would like to check out the intricate design of a web, here's a trick biologists use to make spider webs visible.

Step One: Put one sock inside the other to make a double-thick bag.
Step Two: Fill the bag with cornstarch or talcum powder.
Step Three: Close the opening by tying a knot in the top of the "bag".
Step Four: Hold the bag next to a spider web (not over the top of it).
Step Five: Pat the bag gently to force poweder out of it onto the web. Hint: Stand upwind so the air carries the powder onto the web.
Step Six: Keep patting the bag until the web is lightly dusted.

Another great extension to this topic is installing a Garden Spider Web Frame from Montessori Services in your backyard. With a little time and a lot of patience, children can observe a web being formed and eventually a spider hunting for a meal.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Halloween in a Montessori classroom is much different than in a traditional setting. There are no scary images posted around the school and the children are not coloring pictures of witches on their brooms. Instead, the children are learning about bats and the way that they "hear" with echolocation. They are studying the many uses of a pumpkin and exploring the pumpkin life cycle. Check out this book from your local library, it's fantastic. You can also preview half of the book here. We do sing Halloween-inspired songs that allow for use of the imagination, but are not scary or threatening. The children haven enjoyed singing Stirring the Brew, while adding their own concoctions to the brew! We also sing Five Little Pumpkins, but we remove the word "witches" and replace it with "bats". Here are the lyrics if you'd like to sing it at home, also, each child gets a chance to shut off the lights when we sing "out went the lights" near the end. That's their favorite part!

"Five Little Pumpkins"
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
The first one said "Oh my, it's getting late!"
The second one said "There are bats in the air!"
The third one said "But we don't care."
The fourth one said "Let's run and run and run!"
The fifth one said "We're ready for some fun!"
Woooooo went the wind and
Out went the lights!
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.
There are several different variations to this song, but this is the one that we've always liked. If you would like to make a "Five Little Pumpkins" mini-book at home, follow the directions here.
Scroll down to the printable templates at the bottom of the page. On Halloween celebration day, we continue to sing songs and I will paint little decorations on their faces. We do not dress up for several reasons. Many times children dress up in very scary costumes and this changes the child's peaceful personality entirely. Younger children spend the day frightened and/or crying because of these costumes. Also, parts of the costumes break easily or are lost and the teacher spends much of the day consoling or trying to fix swords and wands. Instead, we have lots of fun and enjoy a non-threatening aspect of the holiday.
Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maitri Learning

In order to expose the children to zoology, we teach a series of lessons. Ideally, the first lesson is an introduction to the animal through actual observation. As with all Montessori activities, we start with the concrete then move to the abstract. Our children have daily interactions with our classroom fish and sometimes with our school dog, but the reptile, amphibian, and insect are a bit more difficult. If anyone at home owns a reptile or an amphibian, we'd love to borrow it at some point throughout the school year! Next, the child is introduced to the zoology puzzles. These puzzles surely are a classroom favorite.
Next, we teach the children the language of the parts of the body. Typically, I use the puzzles to introduce the vocabulary, but we were able to purchase the Maitri three-part nomenclature cards this summer. I was very excited about these cards, but I wasn't sure how the children would respond to them- you never really can gauge their reaction to new materials. It turns out, they LOVED them. I introduced the parts of the horse cards to a small group of two children and by the end of the lesson, I had five "observers". The cards and beautiful and very well made.

Each "part" of the horse is highlighted on the card. The children thought it was amazing that only a small part of the horse was colored in and they thought the pictures were gorgeous. Check out the website for information and references for parents.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pumpkin Science

I put out a new science experiment yesterday entitled "Pumpkin Sink or Float". I have this work set up at a permanent "station" so that the children can just sit down and perform the activity. I leave work out like this on rare occasions, maybe if it's only going to be out for a few days and I want the children to see it and work with it, or if there are too many parts involved in the work for the child to carry from the shelf to a table.

On the table, I have a tray, an apron, a large bowl, a sponge, an orange colored pencil, and a stack of experiment papers in a plastic folder. The experiment paper has an area for predictions (a space for a picture and a line for the word "sink" or "float") and a similar area for conclusions. After putting on the apron and filling in the paper, the child carries the bowl to the sink. There is a black line drawn on the bowl to show the water's surface line.

Now for the fun part...the child carries the bowl back to the tray and places the pumpkin gently into the water. It typically bobs up and down for a few moments and then settles on the surface of the water. It fools them all! Finally, U.P., my afternoon kindergartner, commented "We keep guessing that the pumpkin will sink. And it floats every time. Will the answer ever change?" That is the point of the experiment. Are there any factors that change the composition of the pumpkin so that it will sink? I'm curious to see if any children will alter the pumpkin in any way before putting it in the bowl. I'll keep you posted on any progress of the pumpkin experiment!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Diwali!

This weekend starts the Indian holiday Diwali/Deepavali. I was told of a story about a good prince named Rama who traveled to save his wife, Sita from an evil king. Rama prevailed and returned home following a lit path of candles. Hence, the holiday is oftentimes referred to as the "Festival of Lights". Another Indian parent told me the holiday acts as their New Year. I find it fascinating that different regions of India celebrate the holiday differently and even refer to it by different names.

We had two Indian parents come into the class to give demonstrations on Henna designs, or Mehndi, and also to distribute Bindis. One mom explained to the class that the purpose of the Bindi is to strengthen concentration.
The children were fascinated by the beauty of the Indian culture. We are very fortunate to have such a diverse school, the children come to know and respect other cultures as much as their own. Thank you to our parent volunteers for contributing your time and energy into our classroom. You make such a difference!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Look What I Found!

I stumbled across this great article by the author of Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn. Please take a moment to read it, hopefully it will open your eyes the way it has mine.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


We're gearing up for conferences here at our little school. An important fact for parents to understand is that Montessori schools do not distribute grades on traditional "report cards". Instead, we respect each child as an individual and compare him only to his own progress, not to his classmates' progress or to progress set forth by a "standard".
In previous years, our progress report was made up of a list of lessons given throughout the year. There would be six columns next to each lesson- enough space for two semesters during the course of three years. In each column would be a symbol. The first side of a triangle meant the child was presented the lesson, two sides of a triangle meant the child was practicing the material, and a full triangle symbolized mastery. A short narrative was also given for each subject area.
This year, we started a new record-keeping system which contains a program for Montessori progress reports. The layout is very similar to our previous reports, but with some minor changes. Change is difficult for everyone, and it's taking some time for me to get used to this new approach to reporting. I know, however, that this approach is more convenient and more state-of-the-art. Overall, my goal is for each parent is for them to get an overview of their child's behaviors, strengths, weakness, likes and dislikes.
I do ask my school parents to bring along questions that they have in order to make the most of their conference time. Here are some sample questions that a parent might ask:
  • What is my child's favorite work?
  • Does my child prefer to work alone or with other children?
  • Does my child seem eager to receive new lessons?
  • How often does my child share thoughts during group time?
  • How does my child express himself artistically?

I am truly looking forward to meeting with each and every parent to discuss goals for their children this academic year.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


There has been a tremendous amount of interest in cultural geography this year in BOTH the morning and afternoon session. I have been giving lesson after lesson in the globes, maps, and continent poking work.

The "poking work" is easily a class favorite this year. I have all of the continents traced on to corresponding card stock. The children choose a continent, a piece of felt or cork, and a "poker"- this could be a large push pin or any other device with a fine point. These items are placed on a tray and brought to a table. The child pokes out the shape of the continent and pulls the completed shape out of the paper. We do not use scissors for several reasons. The poking aspect significantly strengthens the fine motor skills needed for writing. This activity also is a lesson in focus and concentration. After many hours, or even years, of continent poking exercises, the child has a concrete image of every continent etched in their brain for life! If children were to use a scissor, the small angles of a continent would most likely be cut off and an inaccurate representation would be left. After poking all seven continents, the children create their very own Map of the World. The children trace both hemispheres onto a large piece of paper and paint them blue to represent the oceans. After waiting a full day (the hardest part of the activity), the child can then glue on all of the continents. Some children choose to label the continents, but others like the look of just the land and water. Eventually, the third year students start to create maps of Australia, South America, and I have even seen one child accurately poke out and label every country in Africa.

In her book, To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori said, “If the area of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than an interest and more satisfying. The knowledge then acquired is organized and systematic. His intelligence becomes whole and complete because the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centered. . . No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe.”

HM and NC poking the continents.

LD completing his Map of the World

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Feeling Angry

We've been talking about feelings this week and today we focused on the feeling of "anger". The children typically have a lot to say on this subject, so I planned for a long circle time. I'm glad I planned ahead- I heard story after story of children feeling angry at times and not knowing what to do with their anger.
I read the book Feeling Angry and we discussed several aspects of the book. First of all, it's important to stress to children that anger is O.K. The hard part is what we can do with this energy called anger. It's not healthy to bottle the anger up inside our bodies, and it's not healthy to physically put our anger on other people.
Before reading the book, here were some answers to the question, "What do you do with your anger?":
  • "slam doors"
  • "hit my sister"
  • "cry to mommy"
  • "stomp my foot"
  • "push my friend"

After the book, here were some answers to the question, "What could we do with our anger instead?":

  • "count to ten"
  • "breathe deeply"
  • "go outside for a walk"
  • "squeeze playdough"
  • "hit my pillow or my bed"
  • "talk to the person that made me angry"

Immediately following our discussion, I asked the children to close their eyes. I told them to pretend they were very angry and then imagine what anger looks like. They opened their eyes and were given the opportunity to draw "anger". Some children drew angry faces, others drew large, violent-looking explosions. Today almost felt like a children's therapy session, but it was a healthy discussion and could very easily be reinforced at home.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Apple Picking Mini-Tour

Our school made a trip out into the community on Friday to visit a local farm with a pick-your-own fruit operation. Before visiting the farm, we discussed types of apples, changes in an apple tree throughout the four seasons, and the legend of Johnny Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed. Here's a glimpse of our fun apple outing.

Bumpy ride to the orchard on HALF of a school bus!

Children choosing apples and "turning them up to the sky" to pick.

Great demonstration in the school house, reinforcing Johnny Appleseed and changing of the seasons.

Goats, Alpacas, and Pot-Bellied Pigs, Oh my!