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.