Grace and Courtesy in the Montessori Home of Something Sweet & Neat

Let’s Talk Grace and Courtesy With Something Sweet & Neat

***All the pictures and quoted brown text in this blog are from the account of Something Sweet and Neat. You can check them out on Instagram here or their blog here.

To say we were excited to interview Sandra from Something Sweet and Neat is an understatement. If you’ve seen her account on Instagram or her blog, you know just how beautiful, inspiring, and genuine her account is. ‘Something Sweet and Neat’ follows Sandra’s daughter “A” in their Montessori home. Sandra is a Certified Montessori Early Childhood teacher. Her account offers ideas for learning through play, self-directed lesson inspiration, and at-home learning approaches.

We’ve followed this account for quite some time and were impressed with the Grace and Courtesy that seemed to flow from the screen. We knew we wanted to highlight them so we could share the light they bring into the world. Below you will find an interview we did highlighting how they incorporate Grace and Courtesy in their home.

To begin, Sandra offers a great sentiment to the importance of the Montessori environment. She says,

“One thing that makes a Montessori environment exceptionally unique is the way the children and adults speak to one another and the way they carefully move about. We practice Grace and Courtesy daily in our home, when we are in the social world, and especially in the classroom.”

Montessori is more than just pretty shelves and materials. The emphasis on Grace and Courtesy lessons proves this. When we practice Grace and Courtesy in all areas of our lives, you will see a positive shift in communication, outward action, peace, and harmonious living for individuals, families, and society.

1. Why do you think practicing Grace and Courtesy is important? How have you seen it make a difference in your home?

“Grace and courtesy methods are what makes a Montessori environment special and unique to the rest. I noticed at a very young age with Adelaide, she began interacting with others in a more mature manner. She learns how to interact with others in a respectful way, play nicely with her siblings and other children on the playgrounds, even when engaging with adults.”

Respect. I love that Sandra mentions A’s experience with learning to play with respect. In a world with so much noise and hatred, we are missing on a very fundamental level, the basic respect that each individual deserves. Children and adults alike must be treated with respect. Grace and Courtesy lessons build respect and we can clearly see through A’s example to us that it’s for children and adults of all ages.

Now, let’s dive into what lessons have inspired this beautiful behavior during interactions with others.

2. What are some of your favorite Grace and Courtesy lessons?

“There are a multitude of Grace and Courtesy lessons, from opening a door to mealtime etiquette to blowing your nose.

Our current favorite is introducing Adelaide to the phrase, “Excuse me.” We have lots of tea parties (essentially a snack party), we are learning through play. I usually prepare fruits, dry snacks, and cups of water.

First, I would model using “excuse me”, as in,

“Excuse me, would you pass me a slice of apple please?”.

Then, I would offer her a turn and tell her, “Now it’s your turn!”.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all, children learn through play. Some other examples of Grace and Courtesy lessons we love are how to solve a disagreement, how to get someone’s attention without interrupting, and how to walk carefully around the classroom.”

So many lessons mentioned and we love them all! Sometimes it can feel intimidating to try and ‘get through’ all the important teaching points for our children, especially when it comes to Grace and Courtesy. There is a lot that goes into it. But I love the method here of learning through play.

Learning through play is important for our children. It’s learning by doing, which they will have far more growth with than being talked at for 8 hours at a desk like in most academic settings.

They also learn through our behavior and actions. Take a peek into Something Sweet and Neat’s home as they discuss this below.

3. How important is modeling when it comes to Grace and Courtesy?

“I always model the behavior I hope that Adelaide will reciprocate.

Grace and courtesy starts with intentional modeling. As parents, we are both very careful about how we behave and interact with one another. I am always thinking about showing her what I hope to see mirrored.

For example, I have a deep respect for her autonomy by always being very careful not to interrupt her work. When I do that, she learns the importance of doing the same. I am very aware of the power of my modeling, because they are always watching us and learning from our behaviors.”

Those are some powerful points. I am so drawn to this statement when she says, “They are always watching us and learning from our behaviors.”  They really are. I will be the first to say that when I model a behavior that isn’t good in front of my child, they pick up on it. They see it. They do it.

I will also say that when I correct my mistakes and begin modeling the behavior I wish to see from my child, my son also picks up on it. We are shaping the future with our actions. Wouldn’t we love to see more Grace and Courtesy in the world and less quick to anger and cause commotion?

Next, we wanted to know what interests sweet A as they have implemented Grace and Courtesy in the home.

4. What things are your daughter drawn to? Or what did she incorporate easily as you began to share lessons with her?

“Adelaide was always drawn to “Order” in her environment. The easiest lesson that was incorporated was how to handle the work rugs. In a world so big, order gives them a sense of control and comfort. When the environment is respected, there is a sense of order.”

Order is everything! I think I can speak for most people when I say that order is an innate need we all have within ourselves. When we create an environment or order, we facilitate a place with more happiness, calmness, and peace.

However order doesn’t mean absolute control of the environment and room for flexible learning or lessons. Our next question to Sandra was how Grace and Courtesy can be taught in an impromptu manner.

5. Do you plan for these lessons or do they come up spontaneously? How does this work best for you and your daughter?

“Many of the Grace and Courtesy lessons arise naturally in our environment. In a day, I typically notice certain behaviors that Adelaide seems to not have learned or mastered yet. These are what we call as guides “teachable opportunities”.

One of the Grace and Courtesy lessons we practice most often in a day is “Walking in the Home”. Beginning around age two, Adelaide was given lessons on walking around her work rug and on a line to practice. One of my goals as her guide at home is to try to help her understand the peace of walking feet brings to our environment. My other goal is to model my walking patterns for her to mirror and follow my lead.”

It’s beautiful when natural opportunities to teach something new arise. I experience moments like these in my own life where out of the blue I am taught something or see something that helps me learn and grow as a human.

And I love this idea of the power of walking. With an athletic and spunky boy, sometimes, peaceful walking seems to be anything but our reality. This is a lesson I think I will start implementing within my own home so we can see the beauty and grace behind this action.

This next question is a favorite of mine and Sandra’s answer is something I think we can all agree is an important part of everyday routines. Keep reading to see what she has to say.

6. Walk us through a typical day in your homeschooling routine…can you share with us how you might incorporate Grace and Courtesy?

“Grace and Courtesy begins early morning when we prepare for the day. For example, our morning exchange typically looks like this:

I will crouch down to be at her level, look her in the eye, and say, “Good morning, Adelaide” with a pleasant smile.

“Good morning, mommy.

“Greeting someone” is exceptionally important to us and we incorporate as many chances of greeting her older siblings and Daddy in her morning routine.

Once she starts greeting everyone daily, it becomes second nature as she learns to be a thoughtful young lady when she’s out in the social world.”

This is so important!!! In an age of technology sometimes greeting people or even acknowledging them can become awkward or difficult for us. Most people would rather look at their phones and avoid eye contact at all costs.

I love that Sandra points out that it will become second nature for A to know how to greet people as she practices this Grace and Courtesy lesson in the home. It’s something we all might need more practice at. A friendly hello, yes ma’am, no sir, thank you etc. never did the world any harm. ;)

Our final question for Something Sweet and Neat ties the whole interview together in a beautiful conclusion of thoughts.

7. Do you think Grace and Courtesy lessons should be given daily? Or at least practiced daily? How easy is it to do this?

“Grace and Courtesy lessons are demonstrated both ways in our home environment. I will present a lesson when I feel like a demonstration of polite etiquette is needed, but for the most part, we practice Grace and Courtesy daily.

Grace and Courtesy lessons or practices essentially help her to understand polite social norms and how to appropriately communicate her feelings. 

In our home, the best opportunity to model this is during meal times through role-play demonstrations given by me and/or her older siblings.”

As “role models” we demonstrate the following:

  • Pulling a chair out
  • Sitting forward
  • Placement of utensils and dinnerware
  • Serving herself and others
  • Cleaning up her area after a meal
  • Restoring dishes to the dirty basin
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Interrupting with “Excuse me”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Children will use Grace and Courtesy lessons throughout their entire lives.  Children are eager to copy our behaviors and follow our lead, we need only to give them the opportunity. By inspiring your child’s home environment with these lessons, they will become second nature as your child grows into a thoughtful and considerate adult!”

Wonderful thoughts to consider as we implement Grace and Courtesy into our homes. We can use everyday routines to teach important life lessons. Like how Sandra teaches several lessons at meal time, we can find ways to naturally teach our children many different Grace and Courtesy lessons through everyday activities.

And we can guide our children toward excellence as we model the behaviors we are trying to teach. Our children will follow our example. Our actions can be some of the best opportunities for learning and growth.

We wanted to give a HUGE thank you to Sandra from Something Sweet and Neat. We are so grateful we had the opportunity to interview you and highlight your amazing account. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with such thoughtful answers.

If you aren’t following Something Sweet and Neat, you need to check them out! You can follow her on Instagram here or her blog here. And again, all of the quoted brown text and pictures above comes directly from Something Sweet and Neat’s account. Thank you Sandra!!

And if you want to learn more about Grace and Courtesy lessons and ideas on how to implement them in your home, check out our other blog article here.

Wonder House of A

Interview Spotlight With Wonder House of A

Our Interview With ‘Wonder House Of A’

The prepared environment is something that we are really passionate about here at iML. Whether in the home or the classroom, the materials in these learning spaces have a specific purpose and are presented to children in a way that allows them to learn independently and at their own pace. A Montessori prepared environment is by nature, child-centered, child sized and promotes independence and freedom of movement. What’s not to love, right?

We interviewed Sara from ‘Wonder House of A’ who shares this same love of the prepared environment. We’ve followed her account for awhile now and it is filled with beauty, inspiration, and the Montessori mindset. We know that as you read through her interview and analyze the beautiful pictures of her prepared home, you will learn from her words and example.

What is the “Prepared Environment”? Why is it important to you?

“The prepared environment as we know is a pillar of the Montessori approach. It was
actually one of the first things that drew me to Montessori. I just loved the
beautifully-prepared, child-sized and simplistic Montessori spaces I came across.
But I quickly realized the importance of the prepared environment was a lot deeper
than the beautiful aesthetics. It is truly a foundation on which us as parents can
encourage independence, offer freedom of movement and choice, inspire learning
and provide a sense of order in our homes. What I love the most about Montessori spaces is that they are designed with the child’s needs in mind. They are typically accessible, organized and inviting; “yes
spaces” by definition. They give the child ownership over her environment and
allow her to develop the competences required to care for herself and her
environment. And on a deeper level, for me as a parent, it tells my child “this is your
space. You matter. You are seen, heard, supported, loved.” And that’s a solid
foundation for a growing, learning, little human I think.”

I wanted to highlight the idea of “yes spaces.” I love the verbiage on this because it’s so important that our children have places that feel safe and comfortable to them. So much confidence and independence can come from an environment that is tailored just for them. And there are so many places we can draw inspiration from. Sara has wonderful suggestions below!

Where do you draw inspiration for your prepared environments at Home?

“When I was just starting out I certainly drew inspiration from Pinterest and
Instagram accounts by more experienced Montessori moms. I was fascinated by
how beautiful and inviting some of the spaces were and how at ease and confident
toddlers looked in those environments. And I felt this strong urge to re-create that
feeling for my daughter.

Since starting my journey and delving deeper into Montessori though, I realized my
child and our own family life is my best inspiration. Every child is unique and on
their own individual developmental path. The spaces we create as well as the
materials we offer our children should cater to their unique interests and to our
particular living conditions and family life. This means that Montessori can look
different from one home to another. What works in one household may not
necessarily work in another. And that’s OK. Montessori shouldn’t have to be an all or
nothing approach.”

What beautiful and thought provoking words. She mentioned the Montessori isn’t formulaic and rigid by nature but rather is something to be catered to each family and family member. I love this idea of supporting our children and the family through Montessori. It reminds me of a beautiful talk by Joy D. Jones. In it she says, “When we Strengthen the child, we strengthen the family.” The Montessori approach does just that!

 

Where and what kind of materials did you need for these spaces?

“Like many parents starting off on their Montessori journey the first thing we did
was purchase a set of shelves to display her toys. Before that we had all of her toys
out at once and it would get pretty messy. We uncluttered her play space and
started rotating toys according to her interests. This really set the tone for a new
chapter when it came to play and learning. Having the materials displayed on low
accessible shelves, a few items at a time, seemed to stimulate interest, focus and
continued practice, and made it easier for me to observe what was actually
capturing her attention.

After that we set up her floor bed and the reading corner in her bedroom when she
was around 13 months. The rest of the spaces followed gradually. Rather than
having a playroom we opted for areas – “prepared environments” – in most rooms of
our home so that she would be free to move around and this has worked really well
for us. She is now 26 months and we have a few prepared spaces in our home:
In our kitchen, my daughter has her own functional kitchen with her dishes and
utensils, cleaning supplies, a child-sized table and chair, and her learning tower. This
is where we do most of our practical life activities.

In her bedroom she has a floor bed, toddler wardrobe, self-care station, shelf and
reading corner. It’s her own little world where everything is accessible to her.
In our living area we have another set of shelves, an art space and a music and
movement area.

In her bathroom there is a potty learning area and we made small adjustments to
make the sink accessible to her with a faucet extender and a stool. She also has her
own entryway station and a plant care station in our balcony.
These spaces continue to evolve with her interests and skills and I imagine our
home will look very different a year from now.”

It’s amazing how fast our babies grow and evolve! And with their learning and growing, the spaces we create for them are always changing to fit their needs. We have seen our own homes change so much over the last year so that we can honor the natural development of our children. Continue reading to see how Sara’s little girl has been impacted by these child-sized and uniquely tailored spaces in her home.

How have your children reacted to these spaces in the home? How
do these areas affect your daily family rhythm?

“These spaces have not only helped my daughter become more independent and self-
confident in her abilities, but they have also helped things run more smoothly when
it comes to daily routines. Having designated areas that are accessible to the child,
where specific tasks are performed, encourages practice, provides choice, and
makes it easier to keep things organized. It also appeals to children’s sense of order
and makes it clear what our expectations of them are. Essentially, it helps to set a
foundation for a home based on cooperation.

When it comes to play patterns, having a prepared environment that responds to
the developmental needs and evolving interests of our child has also helped us
gradually increase independent playtime.”

Adults need order, routine, and expectations. Why would children be any different? It’s innately human to crave the stability that the Montessori environment provides. Although it can be overwhelming when you first begin your Montessori journey because there are many elements to the Montessori world, but at its core is simplicity.  Montessori is meant for everyone. Read on for great advice when it comes to Montessori beginners.

 

What advice would you give beginners wanting to set up “prepared environments” around the home?

“For parents just starting out on their Montessori journey the task of creating new
Montessori spaces can be so fun but also a bit daunting at first if you don’t know
where to start. Scrolling through IG can also leave you feeling like you need to buy
all new wooden toys and child-sized furniture when in reality you can make small
adaptions to your home and existing toys to make it more toddler-friendly and
Montessori-aligned. Please know that you don’t have to and shouldn’t do it all at
once.

My advice is to start by simplifying. Limit toy choices and start rotating toys based
on your child’s current interests. Display them in low accessible shelves or even on
the floor if a shelf is not an immediate option, in baskets or trays, and model putting the activities back in their place. Keep it simple and orderly. This will make it easier for the child to understand what is expected of her and for the parent to observe the child.

Work with what you have at first and improve from there. Before we had our
current reading corner we started off with just a cozy carpet on the floor with some
pillows and a few books in a basket. The important thing is to make it accessible and comfortable.

Let your observations guide you in the creation of new spaces, always keeping in
mind what your child’s immediate needs are and what works for your family.
Montessori is fundamentally about following the child. This means respecting the child’s natural interests, abilities as well as her unique ways and pace of learning, and the prepared environment should be a reflection of this. Allow the spaces to evolve gradually in tandem with the child’s interests and abilities. Our art space
evolved from a child-sized desk with a choice of two art activities to our current set
up with a choice of 4 art trays and a lot more art supplies within reach. With more
choice comes more responsibility. Give your child as much or as little responsibility
as they can handle and build up from there.

Montessori left us a guide for how a schoolroom should be designed. As parents we
are adapting our homes to align with a learning pedagogy, which to many has
effectively become a lifestyle. However, the home shouldn’t look like a classroom
(unless you are homeschooling). It’s a learning environment but also a family / play
environment. Don’t be afraid to express your own unique “flavor” of Montessori. As
long as you follow and respect the child, you can’t go wrong.”

I love this advice! Sometimes scrolling through these perfect Montessori homes, it can seem like you’re not measuring up. But Montessori was never meant to be this grand thing, out of reach for most. The exact opposite is true. Montessori is meant for everyone! We often find materials, activities, and DIY’s from things around the house, thrift stores, and bargain hunting. You can do Montessori anywhere and with any budget. :)

Do you have any other comments or thoughts you would like to
highlight?

“I would like parents to remember that though the prepared environment is
important, you can start implementing Montessori at home before you even begin to
prepare the environment. One of the easiest ways to start can be to simply include
your child in practical life activities such as baking, cooking or cleaning. Give them a
chance to do things for themselves, without interrupting. Let them struggle to put
on their shoes even if it takes a few extra minutes to get out the door.

Montessori starts with a shift in mindset; the realization that children, even the
smallest of them, are immensely capable. As parents this can challenge us at times
because it requires us to slow down, be fully present, and trust the child to lead her
own learning journey. But if we can do this, we will set them up for success with
self-confidence and a foundation for life-long learning.”

We wanted to conclude with a big THANK YOU to Sara from @wonderhouseofa. We have loved being able to highlight her knowledge, thoughts, and ideas when it comes to a prepared Montessori environment at home. If you like anything mentioned above or the beautiful pictures provided, you should really check out her instagram account. It is full of inspiration, beauty and education!

Montessori Basics Principle #5 – Following the Child Through Observation

Following the Child Through Observation

Observation is a scientific study of something. Scientists observe to gather and record data in order to develop and test hypotheses and theories. Observations can and are made for many different reasons. Observation in the Montessori classroom is a tool that is used by the adult to gather information about the environment, such as a child’s behavior, learning styles and even about oneself. By observing children, we can learn to follow their lead.

Maria Montessori knew the great value in observations and recorded her observations of the children at her school regularly. She approached a child’s learning very scientifically which has proven to be one of the most valuable tools any parent or teacher could use when raising children through their developmental years. When we spend time observing and reflecting, we begin to see things through a child’s eyes and look at how we can support and honor them.

“The vision of the teacher should be at once precise like that of the scientist, and spiritual like that of the saint. The preparation for science and the preparation for sanctity should form a new soul, for the attitude of the teacher should be at once positive, scientific and spiritual.

Positive and scientific, because she has an exact task to perform, and it is necessary that she should put herself into immediate relation with the truth by means of rigorous observation…

Spiritual, because it is to man that his powers of observation are to be applied, and because the characteristics of the creature who is to be his particular subject of observation are spiritual.” -Maria Montessori

As the Owner/Head of School and Guide of a Montessori school in California for the past 25 years, I have used observation not just with our students but with our staff, as well.  It is my job to make assessments especially during training periods so I can see what other training might be needed or how to effectively help a teacher or assistant move forward in their professional growth and development. This same skill is of great importance with children whether in a classroom or home setting.

Over the years I have been asked many times about what to do regarding a child’s behavior, how to move forward with a child as they are developing different skills, and how to meet certain needs in a child who is struggling.  My answer has always been, “Let’s observe!” I feel that observation is the key! Before knowing what direction to move next or what guidance  I should give to parents or teachers I know I have to observe.

It’s easy to say, “Observe,” but it’s a little more difficult to understand how to observe and then interpret what you are observing and why it is important. Let’s discuss a bit about the why, what and how. Maybe it will bring some clarification.

Why Observe?

Follow the Child

As we watch and see where a child is going or what he/she is doing, we can learn more about their interests and current abilities. As we get to know them in every sense, we are better equipped to help guide them to meeting their needs

Watch for Sensitive Periods

“Through her years of study and observation, Maria Montessori discovered what she called ‘sensitive periods.’ Sensitive periods are developmental windows of opportunity during which the child can learn specific concepts more easily and naturally than at any other time in their lives. A child in the midst of a sensitive period will show an especially strong interest or inclination toward certain activities or lessons.” – Age of Montessori

To See the Need for Grace and Courtesy Lessons

As we watch children in action, we can see not only what they are doing but also what they are not doing. Based on the sensitive periods, we can plan appropriate lessons for our students and children. As well as what Grace and Courtesy activity or lesson to introduce. 

Once we had a student at our school, who was about 2 years old and was still mastering his language and communication skills. Each morning, he would throw a block or toy at an approaching child when they would enter the class. Of course we intervened because this child was being unsafe with the materials.  Most people would think the best way to change this behavior would be to tell the child throwing the blocks “No”.  But because in a situation like this, we want to ensure that both children feel safe, we tell the child who is throwing materials something like, “let’s be soft and sweet to our friends” or “the block is for building” or even, “the block stays on the floor.” as well as comforting the child who may have been hurt.  

I was curious about why the child was throwing blocks, so I decided to observe. In preparation, I did station a teacher near the arriving children and made sure that the materials the “block throwing” child was working with were lighter and softer in order to protect the innocent of course. :) Then I watched quietly as this little boy started his throwing behavior again. Interestingly enough, once all of the students had arrived, the block/toy throwing stopped. This made me curious. I watched the child’s body language and behavior.  He was always smiling and would run up to the other child as soon as he threw the block at them and would kind of dance around the child coming into the classroom.  Based on my observations, I was able to determine that the block throwing child was just greeting and saying hello or welcome to the other children. Although it’s a funny way to say “Hi,” it was the best he had without full verbal skills. To help correct the situation, I knew that a few grace and courtesy lessons were needed. Once these lessons were given both in a group and  individually to the child who had been throwing blocks during a neutral time, he began to greet his classmates differently, much to their relief I’m sure. :)

 

To Give Direction in Preparing the Environment

One of the most important roles of a Montessori guide is to prepare the environment for their children or students. It is important that the Montessori home and school environment allows children to find what they need, feel inspired to work, foster independence and allow for movement with grace and ease.

During an observation of a prepared environment, you can pay attention to and take note of things that might hinder a child’s learning or disrupt the flow of self learning.  

Is the furniture arranged so that it is easy to move from activity to activity? Are things placed where they are easy for a child to reach? Are there enough work mats and work rugs? Do the prepared works have all the necessary components? 

Everything in a Montessori environment is placed with a specific purpose in mind. If it doesn’t seem to be serving its purpose, it will need to be removed and maybe reworked or reintroduced at a later date. Or maybe you will find that it isn’t necessary and remove it altogether.

To Document the Natural Development of the Child

Assessment of skills – The word assess is derived from the Latin form to sit beside. A basic fundamental element of Montessori is to let the child lead and the teacher stay back and guide. The guide will essentially ‘sit beside’ or assess the child to better understand their needs. Therefore, the guide can use their notes to further prepare the child’s learning environment based on their needs. Montessori schools do not determine mastery with the use of tests, but rather by utilizing observation. Instead of giving children a piece of paper with questions on it, we watch them in action.

When a child is able to independently place number tiles in random order on a hundred board, we know they have grasped the concept of ordering those numbers.  A child who is able to complete complex patterns within the shape they traced using a metal inset, and who also frequently uses the sandpaper letters correctly is likely ready to learn the written formation of letters using a pencil on a piece of paper.  This assessment, of course, ties back into planning appropriate lessons, as the guide has concrete information to inform their instruction.

To Gain Insight into Yourself as a Guide and Facilitator in Your Child’s Learning

Sometimes, without knowing, as adults we are a hindrance to our child’s learning and their natural progression. This can happen for a variety of reasons. It happens when we step in to help too often or begin to help without asking our child if they want help. Maybe we are too permissive and allow our child to do whatever he wants instead of creating solid boundaries.  

We have to observe not only how we respond to our students and children but why we do so in certain ways. Do our children do things that trigger us? What are they? And Why? Are we trying to control the situation? Trying to keep things from getting messy or spilling? Too tired to intervene at all? Do we get upset when our child says, “No!” How do we handle this? And why? 

All of these are important questions to ask ourselves and important observations to make about ourselves. More than likely, you will begin to realize that the behavior a child is exhibiting that is upsetting to you is more about you than them. When we follow a pattern of positive disciplining and honor the needs of the child in an environment that sets them up for success, we learn to let go of some of the tendencies we have that cause power struggles, hurt feelings and even defeat.  This is actually a huge subject and we will be talking in great length about this in our next principle but for now, just begin to pay attention to how you react and respond to your child and possible reasons why. :)

What to Observe

There are so many things that you can observe and honestly, nothing is off limits. However, in case you need ideas of where to start, here is a great basic list of important things that you can begin to look for during your observation journey.  We have also included a more detailed graphic below. You can print it for free on our website here.

  • Communication/Language Skills
  • Cognitive development/Interests/Work Cycle
  • Emotional development
  • Social development/Play
  • Fine motor skills                  
  • Gross motor skills/Movement                                 
  • Independence                 
  • Sleep Patterns                      
  • Eating Patterns              
  • Clothing                                                                                          
  • Self Observation

How to Observe

There are two kinds of observations; formal and informal

1. Formal Observations – In a classroom setting, we like to observe daily allowing for 10-15 minute intervals of uninterrupted observation notes several times a day.  We usually keep a notebook or a binder or even an observation page on a clipboard for our daily notations.We encourage the students to go to other adults in the room for help if needed so that we can focus on just watching our students for a period of time to gain insight into behaviors, needs and development. 

In home environments it may be a little more challenging especially if there isn’t another adult at home, but we encourage you to steal away a few minutes here and there to just write what you see.

2. Informal observations – These notations are made quickly and without writing them down necessarily. They are more like mental notes you would make to yourself to remember. Maybe as your child is cleaning up an activity, you note that there isn’t material to replenish that activity so you will need to prepare that later. Or maybe you note that a puzzle piece is missing from a work or the pouring material your child is using needs to be replaced, etc.  If you have time to jot down a quick note for later you can, but we all make several informal observations each day in many different situations that we remember to come back to. So, take those mental notes!

In order to help you get started along your observation journey, we have created an observation page that we use in our homes and invite you to download it here. Print off several of these and put them on a clipboard. On an observation day:

1.Date and highlight an area that you are going to focus on that day.

2. Write down under “What I See” exactly what you see happening.  Remember no judgement or agenda just the action.

3. Once you have gathered enough data and feel like you are beginning to see a pattern or learned something important about your child, his needs or his environment, write it down under “What I Learned.”

4. From here you can decide what you are going to do to help change, correct or help the situation so that your child continues to be in a safe learning environment that is best suited for his continued growth and development.

As a recap, here are a few things to keep in mind while you observe:

  • Have a notebook ready or a clipboard so that you’re are prepared when an opportunity for formal observation arises
  • No matter how much you want to, don’t talk to the child or interact or interfere with what they are doing (unless it is unsafe of course)
  • Refrain from any kind of judgement. Only write down what you see. Ie: “Crew hung up his jacket.” instead of “Because Crew was cold, he took off his jacket.” Just state the facts, not your interpretations of what is happening.  There will be a time for that later.
  • Sometimes just observe without goals.  Instead of looking for a particular thing to observe just watch to see what your child shows you in that moment.
  • Observe the environment and how it is serving the child.
  • Observe yourself. Are you neutral? How are you reacting? How are you influencing your child’s outcomes?

We hope that we have been able to paint a picture of the value in observing and that you will try using observation as a tool in your home Montessori environments! We would love to know how it goes!

 

-Barbara

How to Present Shelf Work

How to Present Shelf Work

We are often asked, “So now that I’ve set up shelf work for my child, how do I get them to use it and clean it up?” As you all know or are learning, there are many facets to a Montessori environment and mindset. There are so many important details that go into preparing an environment for your child as you set them up for success. Knowing when and how to introduce  and present materials is a very important step in creating a flow in your child’s Montessori spaces.  

Keep in mind that sometimes we set up work for a child and because of the intricacy or challenge to the child it will need a lesson. Other times we set up work for a child and just wait to see if he/she notices it and chooses to explore with it. Both are correct and both are necessary. Even after giving a lesson to a child on something like preparing a snack of crackers and jelly, we leave them to work and explore the activity on their own so that they begin to draw conclusions and understandings.

Here is how we present work in our school and in our homes allowing for as much freedom and exploration within limits that we can. Remember that solid boundaries and gentle reminders are a big part of setting your child up for success, too!

Presenting Shelf Work (How to’s and What to’s)

  • Always start with an invitation:
    •“Would you like me to show you this work today? Or I have a work to show you, would you like to see it?” or
    •Your invitation can be simply laying a work out on the table or the shelf and see if your child gravitates towards it.

If your child answers “yes” to your invitation, then proceed with the following steps:

  • Lay a mat to define space.  
  • Demonstrate how to take the work from the shelf to the table or floor.
  • Show your child with as few words as possible how to work with the material.
  • Demonstrate how to clean up the work and return it to the shelf. 
  • Return the mat to its correct place.
  • Invite your child to try the work. 
    • Ask: Would you like to do this? If the answer is “Yes.” 
  • Allow your child to explore the work.
  • Before your child moves on to the next work, encourage and remind him/her to put the work back where it goes.

Important Reminders

  • Remember when giving the lesson or introducing the shelf work to say as few words as possible. Let your deliberate movement be the teacher, not your voice. If your child seems a little squirmy or maybe not totally paying attention, you can say, “Watch this” or “Look at this.” Remember to do it with quiet excitement, not as a command.  
  • We have found when we draw back attention to a task with peaceful excitement, it brings the child into the presentation. If this doesn’t work, then you will need to determine if maybe your child isn’t really interested in the work or isn’t quite ready to receive it yet. If this is the case, you can suggest they choose something else or ask if they would like to see this work later. Then gently clean up and move on to something else.
  • If a child refuses to put his/her work away whether following a lesson or at any time during the day, simply state, “I’ll do it this time and maybe next time you will want to do it yourself” or “Watch how I do this.” They might watch and even start helping, but either way, don’t make a big deal or try to get them to help or watch, just invite. 
  • Finish the clean up and quickly move on to the next activity. By doing this, you will avoid power struggles which can come naturally for this age group as they are growing in independence. It also allows you to be an example of how something should be put away or be cared for. Our experience has shown us in classroom and home environments that after doing this a few times, the child begins to understand that cleaning up and restoring work is part of the daily routine. 

Take Time to Observe
When your child is engaged in work or play remember that observation is the key! Try not to intervene unless your child is being unsafe with the work (such as throwing it)otherwise, just watch! Take note of:

  • Your child’s interests
  • Are there certain things that your child gravitates to? Seems to favor? Doesn’t like or doesn’t show interest in?
  • How does he/she choose to use the material?
  • How well does he/she follow the set up and clean up steps?
  • Did they remember where to return the materials or how to prep them for the next time?
  • How much time was spent exploring the work or materials?
  • Did the material seem too easy? Too difficult?
  • Are your areas and materials prepared in a way that allows your child to be independent and find success?

These are important notations and can help you plan further shelf work or maybe change up your shelf work presentations.

Try these steps and let us know how it goes! We would love to hear your experiences with preparing and presenting work to your child and we are happy to answer your questions!

Montessori Workroom

Montessori Basics Principle #2 – Structure, Organization and Simplicity in a Montessori Environment

Principle #2

Structure, Organization and Simplicity in a Montessori Environment

Step into any Montessori environment and you will see right away a few key things that stick out and are pretty universal.  You will notice the…

  • Organization
  • Order
  • Simplicity
  • Beauty and
  • Structure

Let’s Talk Organization
When small children are developing their understanding of how things work and move in their world, the Montessori environment is very grounding and directly assists with this important process.  Montessori environments are set up so that everything has a specific place and a definite purpose which is very calming to a busy mind.  Everything is child sized or has been modified so that children have access to the things they need. They can help themselves as they easily move into an independent way of thinking and doing.  Maria Montessori taught us that this independent stage, even at an early age (think as young as one years old), is normal for the child and crucial for the adult to recognize and accommodate in order for the child to properly grow and develop.  In reference to her school in Italy, Maria Montessori wrote,

“When a child is given a little leeway, he will at once shout, ’I want to do it!’ But in our schools, which have an environment adapted to children’s needs, they say, ‘Help me to do it alone.’”—Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

Finding the Flow
Montessori children are shown early on how to organize and keep their environment. They quickly feel at home and at peace because of the organization.  It reminds me of Feng Shui….are you familiar with this? On the blog, “the Spruce,” they give a definition for Fung Shui that resonates with us. They say, Montessori Shelf“it is a practice of arranging the pieces in living spaces in order to create balance with the natural world. The goal is to harness energy forces and establish harmony between an individual and their environment.” Makes sense doesn’t it? Think on it a bit.

By creating an orderly, inviting play and work space for your child you will help them to establish harmony between ‘themselves and their environment.’  Wouldn’t this bring you peace and harmony as well?  I know it does for me.  My energy flows so much better and deeper when I’m working in an organized space and children are no different.  When children’s toys and work are all over the floor with no real defined place for them to go, our children miss the “flow” that  comes from defined and organized spaces.  It has been my experience over the years that organization can help bring about a peaceful and calm learning space.  If you have ever observed a Montessori classroom or home environment in session you have seen evidence of this structure and flow.

Experiences in Their Environment
Montessori EnvironmentMontessori children are naturally drawn to the materials in their environment and how to use them, as well as the organization. They begin early on emulating what they see a parent or older siblings do as members of a household or students in a classroom. They are eager to learn how things work and how to purposely use them. Presenting a material to a child, then allowing them to work with the material is very satisfying for them. Modeling daily living such as cleaning, cooking, and care of self makes the child want to do what you are doing. It is up to us as the adult to provide the opportunities for children to practice these skills. There is no better place than in the home to make this happen.

“Children acquire knowledge through experience in the environment.” –Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures

Simplicity and Structure
One of the things that drew me to Montessori was the peaceful, mindful, organized and structured environment. I loved the idea of preparing an environment based on a child’s needs and simplifying the content in a way that would ring true for each individual child in the environment.

The structure is not about control, but providing an environment where the child is free to move about and make choices within limits.  The order of it all has a purpose and the simplicity of the Montessori way of life brings peace.

Montessori environments are simple in the decor. While they are colorful, the colors mainly come from the materials which are made from natural earth elements such as wood, glass, metal, rocks, porcelain, paper, etc. You will notice the use of artwork: maps and photos of things representing cultural studies and things that have been brought in from nature like seashells, rocks, stones, flowers, etc. You will not notice a lot of plastic toys, if any at all. This is because Maria Montessori believed that children, especially who are young and trying to make sense of their world, need real objects to gather their information from. While I personally feel that ‘toys’ have their purpose, I also feel that they will best serve our children if they are more realistic in scope and made from natural materials.

We try to keep Montessori environments free of clutter especially for younger children who are in their early formative years. Montessori recognized that there is no need for massive amounts of work or toys. If there are too many things in general or too many fantasy type things it can be very overwhelming for a child to navigate so we keep things a little more simplistic and realistic and add more to the environment as children get older and have different needs based on our observations of them.

How Much Stuff is Enough?
Do you have too many things in your child’s environment? If you are finding toys and work all over the floor each day, and children resistant to cleaning up, you might have too many choices. Helping children to focus on 4-6 works or activities is really enough. Of course this number changes if you are in a classroom setting, but for the purposes here I will be addressing more of the one on one home environment. During a daily work cycle, 4-6 activities will allow a child to spend more time on one thing, which helps them in developing their sense of concentration. The development of a child’s ability to concentrate is important for learning academically. When a child has a room full of baskets of toys and shelves of playthings, it can be very overwhelming, which can cause a child to become over stimulated. This can lead to undesired behaviors, meltdowns and of course this means less time practicing important concentration skills.

“At some given moment it happens that the child becomes deeply interested in a piece of work; we see it in the expression on his face, his intense concentration, the devotion to the exercise.”—Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

In our next segment on “The Prepared Environment”, we will dive deeper into how to get started on preparing your home and school environment and how to store, rotate and organize your child’s materials and toys.

Montessori Materials
Maria Montessori is known for the beautiful, didactic materials that she developed for her classrooms.  Montessori classrooms around the world are filled with these materials and they are not only beautifully made, but they were created to offer order to children while engaging in important foundational academic, social and mental work.

Geometric Solids Shapes Geometric Shapes Montessori

It’s important to note that in a homeschool environment it isn’t always feasible to have these materials (they can be very expensive) and honestly, they aren’t completely necessary.  There are so many ways that you can provide a more Montessori inspired work to your children and in return still provide them with much of the same foundational growth! But if you can afford or want to add any of the formal Montessori materials to your child’s work studio, you can find them at places such as these: Nienhuis Montessori or Gonzagarredi Montessori. For a less expensive sourcing you can use one of these places. Alison’s Montessori, Montessori Outlet, or Kid Advance.

We have used all of these companies while curating materials for our homes and schools and we will talk about the pros and cons of both the more expensive versus the less expensive materials in a future post, so stay tuned for that.

You can also read more about Montessori Materials and Toys in a previous post about gift giving here.

In Montessori, learning is characterized by joyful work and purposeful play. A few well made materials and containers that can be used for a wide range of learning activities and reused to house new materials, is really all that is needed. Your supply of materials will grow over time because that is human nature but honestly, you will be happy to know that “less is more” in a Montessori Environment. I think the main thing to take away is the kinds of things you keep in your child’s work or play space is the key…..not how much you keep.

Bring Nature Inside But Go Outside Too
Having live plants and trinkets collected by your children on walks or hikes adds so much to our indoor spaces. For those of you that can, we suggest pets in your learning spaces as well. Having pieces of nature inside just adds so much to that peaceful feng shui feeling and it offers other learning opportunities for your children, too. So when you can, bring the outdoors…..well in!

Do your children bang on the back patio window from the time they can barely walk and say over and over again, “outside, outside”? I can almost bet they do and mine did as well. While we always had a full classroom environment set up in our home and our children loved working there, their absolute favorite place to be was outside!  We notice such a sense of concentration while children are outside.  They are free to move from activity to activity and explore their natural environment.  My favorite seasons of the year have always been fall and spring when the weather is perfect and doors to classrooms and homes can be left open connecting the indoor environment to the outdoor spaces, allowing children to free flow between both. Seriously……..Heaven on earth!

Have you heard of the 1000 hours Outside Challenge? As stated on their website, “The entire purpose of 1000 Hours Outside is to attempt to match nature time with screen time. If kids can consume media through screens 1200 hours a year on average, then the time is there and at least some of it can and should be shifted towards a more productive and healthy outcome!” You can find great resources at 1000 Hours Outside.

“When children come into contact with nature they reveal their strength”-Maria Montessori

I will be honest, our outside spaces at our California school are some of my favorites.  While we are in the city limits, we have several large outdoor play spaces, a large garden and an outdoor classroom.  The garden and outdoor classroom are the sweet spot for me.  I love to watch our students absorb all that nature has to offer outside and work in our outdoor classroom (which is set up like an indoor class) but children get the added benefit of working out in nature. It really is unique and special!

Time outside ignites student curiosity and engagement with their learning. Nature-based education uses a hands-on approach to experiencing the natural world. Nature-based education is learning about nature, and also learning through nature. Through active work and learning play in natural environments, children learn about themselves, their peers, and the world in which they live.

Getting children outside and into nature is a daily MUST! This was so important to Maria Montessori that she made sure that her schools were equipped with a lot of outside space, and she allowed the children ample amounts of time for daily work in the gardens.

Rhythms for Families and Classrooms
Creating a “home or family rhythm” is important for harmony and balance and it can be similar in scope to a routine that we would set at school.  Children of all ages, especially Toddlers and Preschool children, thrive on consistency and routine.  I realize that it might seem difficult to set up a home routine that complements a school routine, but just keep in mind that the “what” of the routine isn’t as important as the “consistency” of the routine.

A family routine will look different for each family.  And honestly there is no right or wrong.  It’s just about figuring out and working through what is best for your crew.

We have a whole post that talks about how to establish a daily family or classroom rhythm that you can access here. We will give you ideas on how to do it and we list resources as well.  We are also including our favorite Routine cards for FREE that can be used in classrooms and homes alike.  If you haven’t tried using Routine Cards in your classrooms and homes, you really should.  Children love knowing what the “plan is for the day” and when they can see it listed by pictures (as ours are) or in writing, it becomes a big part of creating a place of order and organization.

Because of this organization, simplicity and structure, you will find that most Montessori environments are very beautiful and refreshing.  Montessori Practical LifeIt takes a little bit to get these spaces ready and it may take time to see the difference or understand why we suggest such simplicity and so few activities available, but once you do, it is such a joy to be in that space for both children and adults.  The care of the environment both inside and outside which we will discuss in a later article becomes important to the child.  They can see how beautiful the space is and I believe it drives them to want to respect their place of living.

Stay tuned for next week where we will explain how to get your spaces ready for learning in “The Prepared Environment” segment.

We covered a lot this week! There is so much to absorb, digest and think on.  We are here if you have questions and we will continue all week long to break down each area that we covered with more details so hopefully it will be helpful.  We are excited for you as you start along or recenter your Montessori journeys!  And don’t forget your self-care this week!

Montessori Basics Principle #1- Personal & Spiritual Preparation

A Montessori Journey

Starting out on a Montessori teaching journey can be a little overwhelming. It probably feels like there is a lot to learn and begin to understand. Even veteran teachers continue to study and learn about the many facets of Maria Montessori’s Method for teaching and guiding children well into their own Montessori teaching careers. With that said, your own personal journey of learning when broken down into smaller sections is very obtainable. We’ve heard from several of you that you don’t know where to start and you might need some help so we wanted to let you know that we have got you covered! We are happy to say that as promised, our Montessori Basics series is here! We will be spending the next 8 weeks sharing with you several principles that we have collated from the many principles of Montessori that we think will help guide you as you start or even continue your personal Montessori journeys. So without further ado, let’s get started!

As a quick reminder, these are the areas that we will be covering over the next several weeks.

•Personal & Spiritual Preparation
•Structure, Organization, & Simplicity
•Preparation of the Environment
•Seeing the Child and Learning as a Whole
•Following the Child through Observation
•Positive Discipline & Freedom of Movement
•Encouraging Independence

Today, we start at the beginning……“The Spiritual and Personal Preparation of the parent or guide”

Principle #1

Spiritual & Personal Preparation
Probably the most important principle of Montessori Education to embrace is that of the “Preparation of the Teacher.” This is not just for teachers in formal school settings but for parents and caregivers as well since we all are here to guide and assist our children and students in their various learning settings.
Before we even worry about the curriculum and preparation of the learning environment, we must prepare ourselves personally and spiritually so that we can provide the most effective ways to guide our children in all areas of their development.

“The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit.” —Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

You might be wondering what that means. How does one prepare themselves personally and spiritually to teach and why is it important? Let me explain:

Maria Montessori felt that before we can start our time as teachers, first we need to carefully consider our thought patterns and beliefs about children and their behaviors, recognize in ourselves our own limitations and prejudices and also be keenly aware of our negativities.

What is Your Parenting Style?
Most of us parent and teach how we were parented and taught. Sometimes this is a great thing. Many times it isn’t. Ask yourself what type of style did your parents or caregivers have when guiding you in your formative years? Was it authoritarian or disciplinarian, permissive or indulgent, uninvolved or maybe even authoritative? Anyone of these styles are common. Maybe you were really lucky and you were governed by a more “Montessori inspired” plan, but for most people, we fall into one of the above four categories. If this pertains to you and even if it doesn’t, we still need to take the time to examine how our beliefs and thought patterns for raising and disciplining children were formed and how that aligns with our thought patterns now.

Because Montessori is rooted deeply in ideas such as freedom of movement (which will be discussed in a later post), respect for the child and peaceful modeling of behaviors, it is important to be aware of how we work with children, prejudices that we might have towards children that might affect the way that we guide and teach and that might in the end be problematic for our children and students.

We all want the same things for our kids. We want them to be happy, to feel loved, to have security and safety and grow to be adults who are peaceful, love others and contribute to society. So when we take the time to examine our feelings, our beliefs, our own faults and imperfections then set out to change those for the benefit of our children, we truly give them power to grow in amazing ways!

Now don’t get me wrong! I understand that we are all imperfect! We cannot and will not be a perfect parent to our children or students everyday, but I promise with a little introspection and desire to do our best, we can have perfect moments with our children as we learn together how to become the best versions of ourselves! As we are awakened to our limiting beliefs and how it affects our children, we can open new doors of possibility for growth and development for the child and adult!

Becoming Less Controlling and More Controlled in our Approach
Maria Montessori also taught that we need to learn to give up our own need to control and learn ways to support children along their own individual learning path.

Again, ask yourself, “Am I controlling in my ways with my children? Do I seek perfection in the process? Do I allow my child or student to do things on his or her own even if it’s messy or done in a way that I think is not correct?” If you answer yes to any or all of these, it would be important to stop and figure out a way that you can learn to be a presence that allows children more gentle guidance and less control. As we recognize that the process of the activity a child is doing is far more important than the result, we truly empower our children. Allowing the process to take center stage will do more for your child’s or students’ growth as far as building confidence and independence than they could ever reach if we control every aspect of their learning.

“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world.”
Maria Montessori

Respect
Another key component in working with children is the understanding and importance of treating the child with humility and even reverence. It is important to note that the relationship we have with our children and students depends upon the way we approach and treat them. (we will learn about this more in another segment) but think on this idea a little. When we recognize the child as a human spirit equal to us in value, we will tend to see the importance of being a better example in our actions.

When I was a new teacher many years ago, I witnessed another teacher get frustrated with a child because he was not using a material correctly. To be fair, the child was acting out quite a bit. But the teacher’s reaction kind of surprised me. Quickly and unexpectedly, the teacher grabbed the material out of the child’s hands and he began to cry. I thought about the injustice of that experience a lot and when a few years later I had opened my own school, I used it as an example of what not to do with a child. I actually did a little experiment during one of my staff workshops where out of the blue I snatched a teacher’s pencil from her hand. You can imagine everyone’s shock and confusion wondering what I was doing. I went on to apologize of course and asked how this made the teacher feel. She said, “I felt shocked and embarrassed. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong.” I used this abrupt action to show what it might feel like to a child when we take things from them because they are being unruly or maybe they are using a material inappropriately or maybe because we are in a hurry and want to change directions, etc.

We should always ask a child’s permission before acting upon a child. Unfortunately, we forget this sometimes. Things as simple as, “May I touch your work?” or “May I help you with your shoes?”, shows our respect and in turn teaches the child how to respect us and others as well.

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future… Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” – Maria Montessori

Using a soft voice and creating an environment of peace are other ways we can show reverence and respect for our children. I know, I know, this is in a perfect world but I truly believe that if we take the time to nurture ourselves and prepare ourselves for the big task of teaching/guiding, we will be better equipped to handle different situations as they come along with patience, kindness, understanding and love. This will take practice, but “practice makes perfect,” right?

Spiritual Preparation
Preparing yourself spiritually to be the best version of yourself might sound a little overwhelming but it can be done in so many simple ways. Honestly, most of us work on this often because it’s human nature to want to progress, to want to do better and to have the desire to be better each day. Don’t worry about spending hours and days ahead of time trying to figure things out. Instead, be aware that you are going on a journey with your child and you may have preconceived thoughts or notions of what it all should look like, but in truth you are going to grow together as you take time to nurture yourself along the way so that you are prepared to honor and nurture your child too.

What things do you find deeply meaningful? What things do you do that connects with your heart and grounds you to earth? When we are grounded and connected, we will naturally bring peace to our learning environments and we will be able to nurture our students and children in a way that is meaningful and supportive of them as well.

Here is a little list that we’ve compiled of things that we use that allows us to prepare for our roles as our children’s teaching guides. While I’m sure there are so many other ways, we hope this list might get you started thinking about what brings you peace.

•Spending time in Nature
•Meditation/Prayer
•Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Dance
•Journaling
•Reading Poetry
•Creating
•Walking or Running
•Listening to or Playing Peaceful Music
•Being Silent (listen to your inner spirit)
•Reflecting (what do you know about yourself? What do you want to learn?)
•Deep Breathing

It’s all about the Breathing!
I have often shared with our staff at Children’s House the importance of arriving to work a few minutes early each day so they can take some time to ground themselves through some simple deep breathing exercises or simple meditation moments. Before I started our school, I taught public school for a few years. During these important learning years in my early career, I quickly found the value of grounding myself daily with simple breathing. Deep cleansing breaths can make a huge difference in how we approach our day. It’s a great idea to take these breaths throughout the day as well.

Takes moments each day to do breathing exercises. Teach your children to do the same. It can be used for calming down, regulating behavior, or just to reinvigorate oneself during the day.

In the classroom and with our children, we like to do regular breathing breaks. The children always remind us when it is time to take a breathing break and some even enjoy leading the class and their siblings in doing so. Don’t underestimate the power of breathing! :)

Material & Technical Preparation
Another important aspect of preparation is being prepared with the work or materials that you will be placing on shelves and presenting to your child or students. If you are like me, you have a lot of fun creating work and putting learning activities together, but before we put the material out, we should spend some time working and practicing with it so that we are sure it has all the necessary components needed. We should know the intricacies of the work and the potential interest that our child might have for it.

Technical preparation is in reference to the Montessori Materials developed by Maria Montessori in particular although it also can refer to any materials that you or someone else prepares for your child. It is important to have a sound understanding and knowledge of and the aim of each material. Through this understanding and your observations of your child, it will be clear on what material to present and when. A few important things to learn about presenting Montessori lessons are: how to present a three-period lesson; the importance of using controls of error; using minimal words when giving lessons; and how to maintain your child’s interest. We will be discussing all of these things in further posts so stay tuned for that information soon.

It is Most Important!
While all of this preparation might not seem super important or even necessary to some because, let’s face it, you are just excited to delve into the more social and academic areas of your child’s learning, I promise you it is the MOST important aspect of your teaching/homeschooling journey that you will do. I encourage you to find the time to nurture yourself while reflecting on your thought patterns regarding children and their learning. If needed, make some positive changes in yourself so you are free to allow your child to guide you and themselves along their learning journey as well! This kind of teaching, the Montessori way of guiding a child’s learning, is really rewarding!

We have included a set of FREE Yoga Cards that you can practice first yourself and then introduce to your child. We have also provided a set of FREE Positive Affirmation Cards. Again, use these yourself and share with your children. They are a step in the right direction when preparing yourself daily! Let us know how the journey goes! We welcome all of your questions and look forward to dialoguing with you as we continue to grow ourselves!

My First Impression of Montessori

One of the most inspiring Maria Montessori quotes to me is, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.”

I began my Montessori journey when I was 19 years old. I stumbled upon a job ad in the newspaper (yes, that is how we found jobs pre technology days) and I had no idea what a Montessori School was but I was a brand new child development major and I had just finished my first work experience job at a local elementary school in a kindergarten classroom during my senior year of high school. I found out during that time that I loved working with children, so I thought “let’s just see what this Montessori thing is.”

“I loved the idea immediately of how the owner transformed this space. Her school reminded me of a little farmhouse school in the country.”

A few days later, I found myself at the cutest little house turned school that was located on a peaceful and mature downtown street close to my hometown. I loved the idea immediately of how the owner transformed this space. Her school reminded me of a little farmhouse school in the country.

Following my interview, I was allowed to observe for a while which gave me time to see a Montessori classroom in action. I couldn’t help comparing and contrasting it to the Kindergarten class that I had worked in for a year where we brought children to our kidney shaped table in groups and gave them worksheets and standardized lessons until the timer rang. The Montessori preschool children, even younger than the Kindergarten children in my previous class, were busy working independently on things like: making snacks, washing dishes, letter sound practice, manipulating materials I had never seen before, counting lessons, and even washing the big windows at the back of the school.

I remember that I was struck by the beauty and flow of the moment. It is kind of weird to say, but in that moment I felt a sense of gratitude for the experience of witnessing this class of about 30 students just moving about attending to their inner needs. Although I knew nothing about Montessori, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it somehow. I knew I wanted to know more.

That very moment began my studies and love of the program that Maria Montessori began over 100 years ago. A woman well ahead of her time in every aspect you can imagine and one not just dedicated to the academic learning of her students but to the discovery of the inner child as well as helping to promote a peacefulness in life. During my years of study and work in Montessori to follow, I would come to learn what a leading pioneer she was in her theories, observations and educational implementations. Her way of thinking and teaching would become not just a big part of my life but my whole life. I would later learn that the roots of my pull towards Montessori were deeper than I knew.

Montessori is the very foundation of learning and growth. It encompasses honor and respect for the child, develops peace, kindness and grace and guides children through their social and academic lessons naturally. Montessori education is a celebration of the child.

-Barbara