Monday, December 28, 2015

Montessori Parenting Giveaway: Free E-Course

Simone over at The Montessori Notebook has gifted me a free Montessori Parents e-course to one of my blog readers!  To enter, please comment below this post with an email for me to contact the winner.  Additional votes when you share another post from this blog, and link the sharing in the comment.  Very high tech, my 9 year old daughter will pull the lucky winner from a hat on Saturday 1/2/16.

Simone's work lines up very well with what my blog has been about for the past six years, Parenting with Montessori Principles, and Designing Spaces for Montessori Children.

Good luck!  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ways to Aid Good Concentration

Children have visible cues that show concentration.  It happens at school and at play; take a peek!
aid concentration in children
Iris, age 2
Signs like a tongue out, rocking, stillness, even a quickly moving leg can tell us that the child is focusing.  It’s important to know what it looks like when your child or student is concentrating.  Through recognizing this, we become aware of this vital learning skill for each individual.  Once we learn the ways in which each child finds concentration, it is the adult's job to aid and protect it.
Here are some simple ways to aid concentration in children:
  1. Don’t interrupt.  A wise woman once told me; do not interrupt the focusing child unless you observe disrespect, danger, or destruction.  I always run over that checklist in my head before engaging concentrating child.  It can be a challenge for little ones to return to focus.
  2. Set the stage.  Clear the clutter and prepare the environment.  Children can have a hard time focusing if there are too many distractions.  Get low and imagine how it feels to a child.  Remove the unnecessary.  Be sure the work or activity is complete, and that all parts needed are nearby.  For Montessori work, most is kept on a tray where all needed materials are right in front of the child.
  3. Be aware of your influence.  In the most valuable concentration experiences, the child’s motivation comes from within.  Hovering or over-correcting can make the child feel less capable, or nervous about performance.  As parents and teachers, it’s important that the child’s process be about their needs, not our external expectations.
  4. Only help the child when it is absolutely necessary.  Dr. Montessori said,  “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  If you jump in to the rescue to quickly, the child misses the opportunity to concentrate and complete the task.  Waiting and observing the child instead of helping can ensure that he/she gets the chance to succeed. Standing back pays off, anyone who hears a child explain, “I did it!” knows the value and joy that comes with independence.
  5. Follow their interests.  If you see a child concentrate on a task, be sure to provide the opportunity it again.  The repetition helps the child concentrate, gain skills and satisfaction.  And for us, we are still squeezing juice.

Originally posted in 2011, edited in 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Education Trends Today...Over One Hundred Years Old

I read all the education journals and magazines, so I'm finding the 'latest trends' in education to truly be 'old trends' from a method developed over one hundred years ago.  An article written just this May, lists 12 Education Terms To Know in 2015.   I read them, and I smile.  Then I think, oh yeah- we (Montessori Teachers) do that!  Here's to the "Progressive" schools, I thank you for thinking outside the norm, and I wish these things below for all children.

The practice of one teacher keeping the class of students for more than one year.  In Montessori Schools, it's for three.  Imagine a child not having to readjust to new expectations, new classmates, new adults.  The month of September would be full of learning.  Imagine the adult, greeting students in the beginning of the year, knowing them inside and out- on a very individual level.  Teachers get to see the full transformation of the child.  It's beautiful.  And not new.....

This pairs up with Looping for Montessori.  The new students are typically the youngest, and the class builds from the bottom.  It goes by Planes Of Development, in three year cycles.  
There are many reasons why Montessori classrooms are multiage.  
Consider the experience for each age grouping.  In any of the classes or levels, there is a first year student, a second year student, and a third year student.  The first year student has the chance to see the scope of what the next few years might look like for them.  The first year student has the older children, generally 2/3 of a class,  to help guide and support them.  This new child comes with a blank slate, ready and open to experience work.  In the view of the second year student, they are now midway, no longer the youngest- and yet not the oldest.  They are getting deeper into working, and they have the ability to model for the younger children and the guidance of the oldest group of children.  The third year is where is all comes together for Montessori children.  It’s the year that has been building on all previous experiences and the child becomes the leader.  There is so much to be said for learning and retaining what is taught to someone else.  Each day the third year child gains a chance to teach and lead, imagine the confidence that comes with that.  It's magic, and not new....

Individual. Education. Plan.  is done for children that are either gifted or behind.  Montessori Teachers have in their minds and in their plans an individualized plan for each child.  A student is taught to their unique level and needs, not to a group.   EVERYONE is DIFFERENT, and that is a good thing.  It's like the world of education forgot.  We teach to each child.  Follow the (EVERY) Child, they say.
Cartoons are not used to teach a skill.  If we are learning about Mammals, real images or life-like replicas are used in the child's hand.  Oh, there's imagination in Montessori- it's just not done in a Dress Up Corner way, but in a Literature-Based Project-Based, Reality-Based way.

Science.  Technology.  Engineering.  Art.  Math.
Again, this is not a new idea- just a new acronym.  Every day, I see my students problem solving, creating, researching, and ciphering in ways WAY above their grade level (or what standards say they should be able to do).  Itty bitty kids are learning about Botany, Zoology, Engineering, Art (always art- this is vital!), and Math.  Oh the math.  Little kids multiplying and using numbers into the thousands?  Yes, please.  Not a new idea, just new initials.

Delayed introduction to Tech.
This article talks about how parents of Silicon Valley, the tech leaders- choose non-tech education for their own children.   Fact is, children need real experiences, and delaying the introduction to technology keeps those experiences exciting and keeps the mind from developing learning issues.  This article discusses why young children should not have hand held devices.
Montessori Schools differ on this, from class to class and from school to school.  In my class, technology is for research.  Curious?  Let's look it up.  One of the most memorable moments was watching Providence's Peregrine Falcon Webcam.  It launched us into a whole unit on birds of prey.  This has been the Montessori stance on tech since the times of the first computer.  Not so new...

Please take a moment and visit  It is all about how to manage a classroom without shame and embarrassment.  If you struggle with classroom management, stop there first.  In a Montessori Classroom, rules are made and protected by the adults AND the children. When an issue arrises, the class meets to discuss what needs to be done.  No one's name goes on the board, no one's clip is moved to an undesirable color.  Discussions about behavior and expectations can be done privately between teacher and student.  Some of the most memorable conversations I've had with students is during a meeting about behavior.  There IS discipline in a Montessori class, it's just not posted for the world to see.  It's done with kindness, while maintaining the family/community feel of the classroom.

There are no rewards charts, no stickers, no prize box.  Why do they work?  Why do anything without being bribed for it?  Well, people are forgetting, but kids naturally want to learn.  Yep!  It's called intrinsic motivation.

21st Century Skills.
This image says it all.  Visit one good Montessori Classroom, and you'll see that this is already happening.

Yes, Montessori Materials are expensive.  YET, you buy it ONCE.  The materials in my classroom are over 40 years young, and have been used by hundreds of children.  Invest in good work, you'll have it forever.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Food For Thought

I promise not to use food for anything else but consumption.  And repurpose our water usage for nature.  Sounds like a funny promise?  Well, think hard, teachers.....

For eleven years I have been using beans for my pouring work.  Quinoa for my spooning work.  Cereal for necklaces.  Flour & Salt in my special play dough.  It has to stop in my class and in my home.  This is food, and it's being wasted.  That's a shame, and I promise to stop.  Can you?

When I rethink anything about the classroom, and it requires a change I always tell my students, "Teachers are always thinking" to avoid lengthy over-their-heads-teacher-talk.  This one, I will be sure  to explain my answer.  I will be sure to tell my little 3-6 year olds that not everyone has the food they need.  So, I'll have to think of something else.  Here's a small list (keep in mind, children who put things in their mouths should not be around these items):

  1. beads
  2. stones
  3. sand
  4. marbles
  5. acorns
  6. fish tank stones
  7. sea glass
  8. beeswax for modeling instead of play dough 

My lovely co-teacher volunteers at a soup kitchen every weekend.  I will take donations for food pantries.  We lead by example.

A little more info:

Children are the most visible victims of undernutrition.  Black et al (2013) estimate that undernutrition in the aggregate—including fetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc along with suboptimum breastfeeding—is a cause of 3·1 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths in 2011 (Black et al. 2013).  Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%) (Black 2003, Bryce 2005). Malnutrition can also be caused by diseases, such as the diseases that cause diarrhea, by reducing the body's ability to convert food into usable nutrients.
  • Globally 161 million under-five year olds were estimated to be stunted in 2013.
  • The global trend in stunting prevalence and numbers affected is decreasing. Between 2000 and 2013 stunting prevalence declined from 33% to 25% and numbers declined from 199 million to 161 million.
  • In 2013, about half of all stunted children lived in Asia and over one third in Africa. (UNICEF et al. 2014b)
 Wasting and severe wasting ·
  • Globally, 51 million under-five year olds were wasted and 17 million were severely wasted in 2013.
  • Globally, wasting prevalence in 2013 was estimated at almost 8% and nearly a third of that was for severe wasting, totaling 3%.
  •  In 2013, approximately two thirds of all wasted children lived in Asia and almost one third in Africa, with similar proportions for severely wasted children. (UNICEF et al. 2014b)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Montessori Teacher, A Prepared Self

Teachers need renewal, just like any profession.  Montessori Teachers require a bit of a different 'up keep' of sorts, and sometimes it's an active choice to maintain our particular level of self-care.  Below is a small list that helps me in my teaching practice.

  1. Find an outlet. For creativity.  For inspiration.  For decompressing.  Being a teacher (any type of teacher!) requires that you leave all of your outside-of-the-classroom baggage at the door.  Able to greet each child- each and every day- with a warm and open heart.   It takes an active plan within each of us to keep that magic going.  Try:  
    • art
    • music
    • volunteering
    • yoga & meditation
    • reading
    • writing
    • dancing
    • hiking
    • cooking
    • sewing/knitting
    • building and tinkering
  2. Go to a Montessori Conference or Session.  American Montessori Society, Association Montessori Internationale, North American Montessori Teachers Association.  Or, go visit your training center.  The Montessori Training I attended accepts students back for refreshers at no cost.  Get there, make connections, refresh your craft!
  3. Go to a conference for the age group you teach.  I can't tell you enough how eye-opening and wonderful it is to be at an Early Childhood Education Conference such as NAEYC, to share Montessori with others and hear about ideas and new findings in our age group's field.  Staying current on the age group you serve is vital.
  4. Follow your interests.  Yep, it's YOUR turn.  Go to a conference about something that you are interest in, within education or child research. This year, I went to a conference on Social and Emotional Learning. It's a subject that interests me in my personal life, that will enhance my teaching directly.  
  5. Go to another Montessori School.  Observe.  Observe. Observe.  Most schools offer teacher observations, just call and ask.
    • see your age group
    • see the one before yours
    • see the one after yours
  6. Find your tribe.  Find local friends that teach with your same pedagogy, or have similar interests.  Join list serves or Facebook groups to keep you connected with other teachers.  Sometimes schools feel small, and it's nice to connect with others who can relate.  Friends in your field can help you through a transition, hear your struggles and successes, and grow with your experience.