Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I'm sitting in my family room folding laundry while my two girls are having a play date.  They are upstairs in G's room playing doctor.  She is with my friend's two children- one former student and one current student.  The baby monitor was still on, so I was able to catch a glimpse of their little world without spoiling it with my adult presence.  An outsider may not be able to tell that it's a room full of tiny Montessorians, but I can.  Here are some things I've heard:
  • "Sure, you can have some of my snack.  There's enough for all of us."
  • "Let's see, we've only got ten pieces of snack.  That means we can all have three and we'll give 'g' one because she's just so tiny."
  • "You better get the doctor kit from the playroom, I'm going to have this baby any minute.  We should get packed for the hospital."
  • "You'll be a great mother, I can just tell.  You're very patient."
  • "It's 3:00, that means we have exactly one more hour to play. That's a lot of minutes!"
To most people, this just sounds like normal child's play.  To me, each comment reminds me of a lesson I gave one of them over the past four years.  The Montessori lessons truly do stay with the child for life.  They mold and shape their character traits to form caring, loving members of the community.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Peace Table

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Montessori classroom is the peace curriculum.  The core aspect of the peace curriculum is the peace table.  The peace table is a little retreat where children can go to solve problems with their friends.  It's set up in quiet area of the classroom, and children may not bring work to this table.  Typically, there is a peace rose set up on the table in a vase.  The peace rose is used to aid the children in peaceful conversation.  (I will write a post specifically about the peace rose at a later date.)  When a child feels upset, or needs to work out a problem with a peer, he or she walks to the peace table for reflection.  In the beginning of the year, the teachers model proper use of the peace table and proper turn-taking during discussion.  The children catch on quickly and oftentimes the younger students think up problems so they can go to the peace table and "work it out".  The teachers try not to get involved, but stand nearby just in case conversations become heated. 

The peace table is not used as a time out or as a punishment.  It is merely a tool used to aid in problem solving. 

Many teachers place beautiful, cultural artifacts on the table for individual children who wish to reflect.  These artifacts should be changed often to maintain interest.

Book of interest:
The Peace Rose

The peace table can easily be implemented in your home.  Set up a small table with two chairs.  If possible, read "The Peace Rose" to your children and demonstrate use of the peace rose with your spouse or a friend. Explain that the peace table should be used by to people in need of a discussion or one person who wishes to be alone.  As soon as an argument begins, insist that your children sit at the peace table.  Demand respect during this time.  Only one person may speak at a time--the person with the peace rose.  Mom and Dad should role-play at the table sporadically to maintain interest in the peace table and to remind children of the guidelines.  Children will develop deeper, more respectful relationships through this activity.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Great Montessori Poem

Here's a fantastic poem that's circulating the Montessori blog world.  It summarizes a child's feelings when a parent focuses solely on worksheets coming home instead of the hands-on activities that took place during the day. 

Today I did my math and science.
I toasted bread, halved and quartered, counted, measured, and used my eyes, ears and hands.
I added and subtracted on the way.
I used magnets, blocks and memory tray.
I learned about a rainbow and how to weigh.

So please don't say -

You see, I'm sharing as I play, to learn to listen and speak clearly when I talk
to wait my turn and when inside to walk.
To put my words into a phrase, to find my name and write it down.
To do it with a smile and not to frown, to put my pasting brush away.

So please don't say -

I learned about a snail and a worm.
Remembered how to take my turn.
Helped a friend when he was stuck.
Learned that water runs off a duck.
Looked at words from left to right.
Agreed to differ, not to fight.

So please don't say -

Yes, I played the whole day through.
I played to learn the things I do,
I speak a problem, find a clue and work out for myself just what to do.
My teachers set the scene, and stay near-by to help me when I really try.
They are there to pose the problems, and to help me think.
I hope they will keep me floating and never let me sink. All of this is in my head and not in my bag.

It makes me sad to hear you say -

When you attended your meeting today and do your work I will remember not to say to you -

- author unknown

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Cost of Competition

I realize there's nothing more American than "healthy" competition.  However, as a teacher of young children, I personally attest to the negative impact competition has on self-esteem, relationship-building, and overall emotional readiness in preschoolers.  Please take a few minutes to read this fantastic article about competition and young children.  It's a very quick read:  The Cost of Competition.

 I do realize, though, that many of my Montessori children will be moving on to more traditional programs next year.  In order to prepare them for the onslaught of competition in public school, I gradually introduce mildly competitive games into the classroom the last week of school.  It was as if we had a different group of kids today.  For the most part, all kind words and patient behavior went out the window.  I had to literally sit the children down and give them a lesson on how to win and how to lose a game.  I strictly enforced a handshake and the words "Good Game" at the end of each round.  Children involved in sports were already used to this routine, so they picked it right up.  However, they were also the children touting "I'm winning" or "I have more than you" constantly throughout the games.  A few children were obviously uncomfortable with the entire concept and chose to steer clear.
In order to prepare the children for the concept of winning/losing, I bring out the "Orchard" game.  The children absolutely ADORE this game and it actually improves cooperatve teamwork, while introducing competition.  The goal of the game is to collect all of the fruit from the Orchard before the Raven eats it.  I highly recommend this game for family fun nights at home:  The Orchard Game.

Competition is not something typically found in Montessori classrooms due to the increase in stress levels, however, competition is also part of our American society.  If introduced properly, competition can be healthy.  But for those of us with children under age 8, let's just stick to enjoying the pleasure of the game.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pre-Primary Progress

My wonderful husband has been working at the new location day and night trying to get ready for inspection.  It looks like both state inspections will take place in July, so time is slowly slipping away.  The rooms had great, commercial grade carpet, but as every early childhood teacher knows, you need wet space.  Water work, paint, snack, handwashing, mopping, the list goes on.  I found a fantastic flooring that is waterproof vinyl, but looks like hardwood.  I love it so much, I want to rip up all of my carpet in my classroom and replace it with the vinyl plank.  However, my carpet is really glued down and it wouldn't be time-effective to rip it all up, so we're just going to tackle half the room.  We also only ripped up half of the Pre-primary carpet because the little ones spend a lot of time on the floor.  To give you an idea of how hard my husband is working...24 hours later, the moldings are all back on, the tack strips are nailed in, and a tiny 10 in. potty is now installed where you see that drain.  Have I mentioned he's great??

The fencing is coming along slowly, but it looks terrific:

Check back soon for more updates...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Roma, Italia

I returned home last night from a long trip overseas.  It was fantastic.  I was able to learn so much more about my family's culture and I brought back a few momentos to share with the class.  The souvenir shops loved me by the end of the trip because I had purchased an overpriced miniature version of every major monument in Italy.  I showed each object to the children today with a brief description or story to go with them.  Here were some of the priceless comments I heard:

  • "If you throw five coins into the Trevi Fountain, will you return five times?"
  • "I don't see any elevators in the Colosseum.  How did all of the people get to the top?"
  • "I don't really think David is a sculpture of the most perfect male form.  He kind of looks like my dad."
  • "Do you think the Leaning Tower will fall down?  Will they change its name to the Lying Tower?"
We had quite a bunch of jokesters today.