How to Raise an Amazing Child – The Montessori Way by Tim Seldin

Read this book if: you want to learn more about Montessori or if you want some ideas of how to interact with baby, toddler or preschooler.  You’ll find topics such as: sensory stimulation/movement, dressing skills, bathroom skills, housework, garden, nature, games, creating peace, language, music, reading, writing, math, science, spatial relationships…

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Beginning parts about life with a new baby (chapter 1) was nothing new, but I enjoyed the activities later in the book. Title of book a bit odd – should be more like creating a Montessori household.

 

Was written in a magazine style, so was easy to read, and could just read certain sections at a time. Also had plenty of pictures of different Montessori styles and toys.

 

I like that Montessori was less strict about TV compared to Waldorf – it says limit the time and be aware of what they are watching. Waldorf also has no learning at all whereas Montessori seems to teach traditional preschool concepts such as ABCs and counting.

 

Book written by a father who attended, taught and led a Montessori school based on his observations; he is now president of The Montessori Foundation.

 

“While not every teacher is a parent, every parent is a teacher”

 

Chapter 1 – Why Montessori?

 

Don’t need to attend Montessori school – can implement style in your house.

 

Maria Montessori was born in 1870 in Italy and was the first Italian woman to become a physician. Through her work with the poor, she became convinced all children are born with amazing human potential, which can develop only if adults provide them with the right stimulation during the first few years of life. She oversaw a daycare for working-class children in a Casa dei Bambini or “children’s house.” Their behavior changed from that of street urchins running wild to models of grace and courtesy. She had furniture built their size. The first children’s house received instant acclaim and interest surged around the world. She gave up her medical practice to spread Montessori schools around the world. Her systematic approach can be replicated and sustained in almost any situation. Some people are attracted to the calm, responsible behavior shown by these students and appreciate their love for learning. Others applaud the freedom, spontaneity and independence that Montessori gives young children.

  • Sensitive Periods for Learning – represents an opportunity which, if taken advantage of, can profoundly influence our children’s development. From birth to age 6. For example, in first few years of life attuned to language (why language easy for toddlers and not for adults). Once children have mastered the skill or concept in which they were absorbed, the sensitive period seems to disappear. The skills can still be learned, but now requires years of hard work and drill.

 

  • Sensitive Periods: Movement: Birth – Age 1; Language: Birth – Age 6; Small Objects: 1-4; Order: 2-4; Music: 2-6; Toileting: 18 months – 3; Grace and Courtesy: 2-6; Senses: 2-6; Writing: 3-4; Reading: 3-5; Spatial Relationship: 4-6; Math: 4-6
  • Children who are treated with respect and who are encouraged to try new skills learn more readily to do things for themselves. Young children are shown how to pour liquids, write letters and compute sums. Older children are shown research techniques, internet search routines and more advanced forms of writing.   There are basic ground rules, but beyond that, they are free.
  • Neat and tidy – Montessori classroom creates a sense of order that encourages children to become self-disciplined and independent. When finished with an activity, expected to put materials back where they belong; can be replicated at home.
  • Activities: Buttoning Up (practice on a dressing frame so they can dress themselves); Learning to Pour (use small pitchers their size); Learning Letters (use plastic letters); Handwriting (trace shapes on paper); Sensory Equipment

 

Babies:

  • Bonding with newborn – research has shown that the extent and quality of care mother provides the child are strongly conditioned by the way they spend their time together during the first days after birth. Both parents should take turns holding and caressing their newborn. Skin-to-skin contact. Infant massage. Soothing talk.
  • Breast is best; let dad give expressed breast milk from a bottle so he is not excluded from feeding routine (once breastfeeding latch established).   Antibodies help protect newborn from infection. If unable to breastfeed, strengthen bond by holding baby close and gazing into eyes while talking soothingly.
  • Diapers and clothing – of finest natural cotton or other fine natural fibers to avoid skin irritation. Keep baby’s fingernails short. Keep snuggled if they like it. Disposable diapers filling landfills and natural cloth is less irritating to baby’s skin and can recognize when wet themselves easier.
  • Sleep – does not need to be held as she goes to sleep, but keep her closeby by the action on a large piece of fleece, small futon or mattress for baby in family room. “Don’t wake a sleeping baby.” Keep voices soft and lights down low and don’t move her roughly.

 

Making Home Child-Friendly

Organize home to help child become more independent and self-confident, always keeping health and safety in mind; design a home that conveys a sense of beauty and order. Accommodate home to youngest child.   Want child to be able to move freely.

  • Safety: cover electric outlets; install safety gates and window guards; secure or remove any wires; remove houseplants (many poisonous when eaten); remove or lock cabinets or closets where store anything dangerous; use safety lock or switch on stove; secure bathrooms.

 

Planning Perfect 1st Bedroom:

  • Visual Stimulation: Mobile over bed and diaper changing area – handmade mobiles can be changed from time to time. Artwork – hung very low and use lovely scenes with children and animals, not cartoon or commercial images from TV or movies. Let them see beautiful art.
  • Music: simple stereo system and collections of recordings and play music for baby. Simple melodies and clearly defined instruments such as recordings of bamboo flute, classical guitar or a harp. Not too loud
  • Beautiful Toys: Infants don’t need many toys; a few rattles and a stuffed animal or two. Don’t buy expensive battery-operated toys, especially for kids under 3. Look for ones beautifully made they can stack, assembler or interact with. Avoid any toy that simply does something while child watches. Want to encourage child to be actively engaged, not a passive observer waiting to be entertained. Choose well made wooden toys over plastic. Instead of toy box, keep toys neatly on shelves. If consists of lots of small parts, keep together in a basket.

Instead of confining baby to playpen, put a stairgate across her bedroom doorway creating a larger and more interesting play area.

  • Infant and Toddler Bed: Crib or small futon or mattress on floor – right height they can crawl out of and not confined to crib. Sheets and blankets (snug fit); progressing to pillows and duvets only after child is 1. Low futon with waterproof covering is safe alternative to changing table.
  • Family Room/Play Room: Accessible shelves where can keep books and toys neatly and attractively organized. Avoid putting out too many books or toys out at one time. Child sized table and chair for projects. Furniture right height. Basket with small rug that child can put out for his play area.
  • Kitchen: Once reaches 2, have child-sized work table and use bottom drawer to store utensils and cookware. Set aside bottom shelf in fridge – use non breakable plastic containers to hold peanut butter, jellies, lunchmeats and spreads. Older child can pour her own juice from a pitcher (kids size). Prepared yogurt.
  • Bathroom: Should be able to reach sink, turn on water and reach toothbrush and toothpaste without help. Towel and washcloth easily reached. Use sturdy wooden bathroom stool that fits high around toilet and sink.
  • Hall: Low bench where can keep shoes clipped together with clothespins (so know left/right and pairs kept together) and position coat hooks at a level she can reach herself.
  • Bedroom: After 2, can use duvet or sleeping bag because it is much easier to make bed. Child sized furniture. Make sure child can reach door knobs and light switches without help (can be modified with extenders sold at hardware stores). Art table for non messy art work, such as drawing or paper and paste projects. Bulletin board low to hang artwork. Small shelves or tables can also display artwork. Simple stereo system and give child step by step demonstration on how to use. Model town or farm on low table. Avoid clutter. Building blocks in canvas bag and sew on Velcro.
  • Bedroom Design: Open Storage – small baskets are ideal for toys with lots of pieces and enable child to tidy up herself. Crayon Box – keep crayons sharpened and stored in box easy to carry around. Nature display – space for objects from nature. Basketware – instead of chest of drawers, install low shelf unit where you can put small baskets for socks and underwear. Low shelving – toys on low shelves and set up rotation. Coat rack – mount low one so they can hang coat, hat and robe by herself.
  • Arts and Craft area: Choose area with tile floor so spills easily cleaned or lay down large plastic drop cloth. Set up easel and art table with washable tablecloth. Small shelf unit to store art supplies. Clothes drying rack to hang up artwork with clothespins. Washable markers, crayons, paste, paper, fabric scraps and recycled household articles for making collages. Keep tempera paint fresh by storing in plastic container with lid. Provide very best art materials and show them to take care of them properly and store when not being used. Encourage child to display for family to see- fridge or buy nice mounts or frames and hang in other places. Properly mounted and framed, child’s art takes on different look.
  • Follow Child: Keep notebook or journal and take notes – regularly set aside some time; will be an interesting record of your child’s behavior at different ages and can see pattern emerging. Notice toys he selects. Play alone or with others. How child moves around house. What food does he most enjoy. How does he behave at mealtimes. Think twice about interfering- goal is to learn, not jump in and correct.

 

Chapter 2: Discovery through the Senses

 

Basket of Treasures: objects should be large enough they can’t be swallowed and free from sharp edges or anything else harmful. Gather 50-100 objects with distinct characteristics: shape, color, texture, weight and smell. Ex: wallet, large walnut shell, pine cone, brush, feather, silver bell, smooth stone. Infants and toddlers use all of their senses whereas adults rely on sight. Distinct aromas or cool touch are nice.   Ideas: metal (whisk, bell); natural (pine cone, sponge, avocado stone, father, shell); wooden (spoon, block); glass (spice jar, salt shaker, string of beads); fabric and leather (satin and velvet ribbons, ball of knitting wool, silk scarf). Don’t say a word – carefully observe object and put back and they will follow. Children like us to be nearby but not always to interfere.

 

Tasting: Sucking great satisfaction for baby; make sure object safe

Looking: sharp contracts important in early days

Hearing: Beans and seeds in small sealed bottles and jar make interesting sounds as do tiny bells or crackly paper inside tightly tied drawstring bags. Measuring spoons clatter against each other

Touching: pine cone or smooth stone nice to touch unlike plastic toys which all feel the same

Smelling: Bags of herbs, sachets of lavender, lemon. Put scented sweets, vanilla pods or coffee beans inside salt shaker.

 

Sorting Objects (2-5 years): according to shape, color or other properties. Be careful with small objects for toddlers so that it does not end up being swallowed, in ears or nose. Button sorting.

 

Stacking Blocks (18 months-3 years): Wooden stacking blocks. Montessori Pink Tower. Graduated blocks or cups that nest inside each other and build into a tower.

 

Geometric Shape Stacker (2-4 years): many variations, but stack shapes according to size

 

Simple Puzzles (2-5 years): attractive images, made from wood.   Under age of 4, puzzles with knobs.

 

Matching paint swatches (3-5 years): Same size, just different color. For younger children start with 6 colors – 2 of bright yellow, red and blue. Ask child to match primary. Then Set of 11 primary and secondary: yellow, red, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, brown, grey, white and black. Can also have them sort from lightest to darker shade. Find shade closest to something in room. Show one and ask them if next one is lighter or darker. Teach to make lighter or darker by mixing black and white.

 

Concentration Game (3-5 years): 8 different geometric shapes or pictures of animals. Turn over two cards, one at a time. If they match, keep. If not, pick again

 

Dried Lima Beans (18 months – 4 years): Large glass or pottery salad bowl fill (lima beans good because too big to go in ear or nose and make pleasant sound when dropped in glass bowl). Give child ladle and have him scoop and empty. Show how to pick up any outside bowl.

 

Matching Bells (2-5 years): 8 or more pairs of bells. Picks up two and puts back if not same sound.

 

Sound Cylinders (3-6 years): Wooden, plastic or glass containers that you find around house – opaque so you can’t see inside. Small baby food jars you paint can be used. Fill with something that makes interesting sound (dried peas, beans, rice, sand). Match same sounds.

 

Silence Game (2-6 years): When silent we can hear our own thoughts and we become more aware of the world around us. Develops self discipline. Ring small bell. Children stop what they are doing, sit down, close eyes and remain perfectly still. Challenge them to stay like this until you whisper their name. Then they quietly join you. Can challenge them by having them carry bells quietly. At first, young children may not be able to stay still for 30 seconds. Make it a daily ritual. Can also guide through visualization: describe scene for them to imagine.

 

Listen to Music (18 months – 6 years): Maracas, xylophone, drums, guitar and encourage her to sing with her favorite tunes. During these years they are in a sensitive period for music and have an interest in pitch, rhythm and melody. Encourage clapping, dancing and singing along.

 

Texture Matching (2-5 years): small tablets or blocks of wood with distinct texture on one face: piece of fabric, Velcro, seeds, sand etc. two matching. Eyes closed or blind folded, find matched pairs.

 

Fabric Matching (2-5 years): Basket filled with different kinds of fabrics: silk, wool, cotton, tweed. Matching types and have them find with eyes closed.

 

Sandpaper Tablets (3-5 years): wooden tablets with different grades of sandpaper. Identify same.

 

Mystery Bag (3-6 years): A favorite. Cloth bag or box with hold for child’s hands and fill with different sizes, shapes, textures and have them guess before pulling out of bag.

 

Perfume bottles (3-5 years): cylindrical spice jars with screw on caps ideal but can use baby food jars. Put cotton ball inside a jar with drop of two of same perfume. Or use vanilla, almond, peppermint, lemon or cologne. Instead of cotton ball, can use potpourri, spices such as cloves or cinnamon or orange or lemon rinds. Need to refresh from time to time. Have matching sets.

 

Herb Scents (3-5 years): If have herb garden, rosemary, lavender, basil and thyme great. Use mortar and pestle to crush herbs or make sachets or bowl with potpourri that add pleasant fragrance to home. Children have a much more sensitive sense of smell than most adults.

 

Taste: 4 basic: sweet, sour, salty and bitter

 

Tasting Bottles (3-5 years): 8 small bottles with squeeze droppers and paint lids of 4 bottles blue and other 4 red. Have each one represent each of the 4 basic tastes. Ex: sugar water (sweet), lemon juice (sour), salty water (salty) and black coffee diluted with water (bitter). Child washes hands, carefully unscrews and drops on back of left hand. Lick slowly. Try second set. Does it taste the same? Child needs to wash hands before returning to second set.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3: Let me Do It

 

First step is to have tools and utensils the right size. Child sized toothbrushes, cups, plates, forks, spoons, watering cans, broom, brushes and toothpaste.

 

Buy child sized cutlery. Outline each piece on paper and show her how to set table.

 

Sense of Order: In crucial sensitive period for order, world needs to be well-organized. Can select something from shelf and play with it for as long as she wants but must put away before playing with something else. Some objects can be played with together. One book at a time.

 

Photographic Labels on storage containers: So everything in right place.

 

Practical Storage: No toy boxes. Low shelves to hold child’s books, toys, games in bedroom and in playroom. Contain toys with many parts.

 

Defined Work/Play areas: Playing on a mat or rug confines activities so pieces don’t spread out all over the room.

 

Safe Maneuvers: Carrying many pieces on a tray

 

Pride of Ownership: When toy breaks, don’t punish or buy replacement. Take time to show her how to use things correctly. Encourage to repair. Encourage her to take care of home. Pick up stray pieces of paper, beads or debris from floor

 

Control of error: Using glass cups that can break teaches children to be careful.

 

Beauty and Harmony: Avoid cheap things made of plastic. Instead of most attractive materials that you can find and afford. Children respond to beauty of wood, glass, silver, brass and similar natural materials.

 

Bathroom Skills:

Turn Faucet on and Off: Small platform so she can reach. Small hand towel close by. Show child to open drain and not let water overflow. Show her cold and tell her hot water can hurt you so be careful. Can put cold on first, then hot. Don’t put on water too fast because it will splash.

 

Washing Hands: To get rid of germs. With soap under running water for at least 30 seconds.

 

Brushing Teeth: small toothbrush, pleasant tasting toothpaste, mirror and instruction. Teach to brush after every meal

 

Bath Time: Between 3-5, child will let you know she is old enough to bathe herself. Make sure she knows correct way to wash hair and use wash cloth

 

Brushing Hair: Child owns own brush and show her how to. Might want easy to use hair clips and bands

 

Introduce Toileting: Children learn when they are ready, not when their parents get around to training them. Depends on maturation of child’s nervous system, as well as the desire to feel independent and grown up. Cannot hurry process and patience is a virtue. Between birth and 18 months, the cells of the nervous system become coated with myelin, a fatty substance which facilitates the transmission of impulses from cell to cell more efficiently throughout the nervous system – this allows infants and toddlers to gain more and more refined control and coordination of movements. It develops in stages – infants gain control of head, then arm and trunk and eventually legs and feet. From random movements, they gain the ability to move with conscious intent and control.

 

Toilet Curiosity – become curious ~ 1 year (like to flush and play with water – give more appropriate forms of water play). Children also become fascinated with “poop” and “pee” at this time. ~ 15 months, children are interested in dressing and undressing themselves. Often express interest in wearing underpants and may try on siblings or parents – probably an indication they are becoming curious about learning to use the toilet. ~18 months, children enter sensitive period where they can most easily gain control of their more developed and integrated nervous system. Most children now have physical ability and interest to control bladder and bowels. Spend more time in underpants rather than diapers so they can gain greater awareness of bodily functions. Children wearing disposables can rarely sense they went to the bathroom. Many want to sit on toilet like others even though don’t have full control of bladder and bowel. Show how to pull down pants, sit on toilet correctly, use toilet paper, pull pants up, flush toilet and wash hands. Be prepared for occasional accidents – stay calm and reassuring. Keep clean underpants where child can reach, provide hamper and stack of old towels to wipe up accidents; help child when he asks or is overwhelmed but don’t rush in and make him feel ashamed. We don’t train children to use toilet, but support them when ready.

 

The Art of Getting Dressed – between 6 months and a year, most children hold out hand or foot while being dressed. ~18 months, many start to want to wear underpants and try on others clothing. Sit on floor next to child and put on pants together, then socks, and a shirt. Make it into a game. Take a look at bedroom and make sure everything is accessible. Let them practice dressing skills before wearing: fastening buttons, bow tying frame to practice tying shoes. Give kids choices as they get older – two outfits to choose from; discuss next day clothes the night before. Simple technique for putting on winter coat: lay coat on floor and squat down, slip hands into sleeves and lift coat over head. Low hook to hang coat. Use clothespins to clip pairs of shoes together helps child with right order.

 

 

Helping Out Around House – Child sized broom, mop, bucket, own feather duster, cleaning clothes and access to her cleaning supplies. Can put tape around a square in kitchen to practice sweeping into small area. Make it fun and not a chore. If you approach things correctly, without nagging, impatience, criticism, and redoing something your child has done because it is not quite perfect, she will take delight in helping to care for the home.

  • Learning to Pour: Learning to pour liquids is much easier if you give child small pitchers which aren’t too heavy. Use something dry like uncooked rice or lentils and pour from pitcher to another. A tray catches spills. Can use water after mastered lentils. After mastering, can give larger pitchers and then teach to pour into a glass.
  • Spooning food: Start with tray and two bowls with something fairly easy to spoon such as dried lima beans. Show her how to pour from one bowl to another. Use dried rice after. Can use a fork with cubes of cheese or cooked green beans.
  • Preparing a Snack: to encourage eating healthy, let him prepare his snack. Make sure can reach everything easily without help. Store items on low shelf in fridge. Can add toothpicks to slices of banana and share with everyone in family.
  • Knife Skills: Teach how to use small knife – small cheese knife great. Soft cheese or banana. Show how to spread butter, jelly etc on a cracker. Once master soft foods, give harder ones like celery.

 

Chapter 4 – Keeping the Peace

 

Creating a Loving Climate

  • Baby Behavior – infants and toddlers don’t respond to discipline, rules and punishments, but do respond to unconditional love. They don’t know right from wrong and want everything now. They imitate our actions when we model polite behavior.
  • Teaching Older Children – they want us to be pleased by them. They need to develop a social conscience and sense of self-discipline, which can only happen as they slowly mature. Children have same emotions as adults but can’t express frustration and anger appropriately and can’t solve conflicts. Don’t take for granted they know how to handle situations. Need to teach. Always better to teach the right way than wait for him to misbehave and scold. If acting inappropriately, stop misbehavior calmly and show how to handle appropriately.
  • Importance of Respect – Need not to overparent so they can learn about life through experience. Treat with respect and let them be themselves. If they believe that they are not living up to your expectations or that we are disappointed in the people they are becoming, there is a good chance that their lives will be emotionally scarred.

 

Sidestepping Tantrums – during tantrums, both children and parents can get completely out of control – but one of you has to be the grown up.

  • Typical among toddlers but can go on for many years if they find out they’ll get what they want. Usually happens when child tired, irritably hungry, emotionally overwhelmed or feeling sick. When become more “knowing”, can be your child’s way of testing the limits to see how you will react. They pick the worst times – at restaurant or when you least suspect. Our tendency is to do something right away to get them to stop since we are embarrassed and our stress levels soar. Try to address child’s needs rather than resorting to threats and punishments.
  • Types of tantrum – Difference between one tired, hungry or sick vs one by child who is angry, frustrated and testing the limits. Second type is child trying to assert some control when they feel powerless. When they say no and have tantrum, stay calm, step back and try to determine hidden message. Might just need to listen; sometimes they feel ignored.
  • Behavior Patterns – leave with sitter if they have tantrums when going shopping; talk through plans in advance – children often play up when plans change abruptly; explain limits to child before do something (such as toy in toy store you agree on)
  • Resolving Issues: Avoid power struggles by giving child choices (ex 2 outfits to choose from). Carry around food in case child is hungry. If child tired, minimize talking and speak in soothing voice and take to bedroom. If child sick, speak in soothing voice and quietly reassure her; if going to vomit, get bowl and warm washcloth; make medical arrangements calmly. If has hard time with transitions (leaving playground), let know in advance you’ll be leaving soon (would you like to swing or go down slide for last ten min). If child clearly testing limits, stay calm and avoid getting into argument – understand that she is angry, but this is still the rule. If talking to friend on phone or at lunch tale, make sure to give toddler plenty of attention when finished. Don’t give into children’s attempts to get you to back down – distracting with a game at first sign of tantrum can work. If she doesn’t calm down, disengage by sitting down to read or by leaving room.
  • Don’t overload – toddlers prefer fixed routines and get angry/tired when swept from one activity to another. Allow enough time so you aren’t racing.
  • Coping tips: Don’t resort to violence (this teachers her to be violent to others). Don’t try to restrain physically unless ready to harm self. Don’t resort to threats and punishments (when they are being irrational, this doesn’t work and only escalates). Don’t argue (can’t win with someone irrational). Don’t try to embarrass child (teachers her to lash out at others). Don’t deal with tantrum in public (take them somewhere private).
  • Banishing Bedtime Battles – children resist because they are being told they have to, they fear they will miss something, they aren’t tired or want to remain close to parents.
    • Establish a routine – bedtime snack, bath, brush teeth, read story, snuggle, tuck and kiss goodnight. Bedtime rituals help children calm down and feel reassured. Begin an hour before you want child to be in bed. Give warning 10 min before. Give choices – “do you want mommy or daddy to tuck you in?” If child has difficulty going to bed, try guided visualization w soothing music in background, talk about happy memories or say what you appreciate about one another – ask what the best thing about today was rather than what they did today, which prompts the response “nothing”.
    • Be consistent – tell in advance if she leaves bedroom, you will take her back unless emergency.
  • Positive approach to discipline – when children test adults, its often expressing feelings they don’t understand.
    • Family ground rules – few basic rules such as: treat everyone with respect, if you use something, put it back correctly when done; if you break/spill something, clean it up, tell the truth and don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Explain positively rather than prohibitions. Instead of “don’t” say “do”.
    • Cut down on the word “no”
    • Don’t punish, teach: threats and punishments are not good tools to get children to behave. When children are angry, or are asserting their independence, they often act out and don’t care if they are punished. Punishments are rarely long lasting and work only if threatened person cares. Emphasize the positive rather than using insults and anger. Try not to ask “How many times do I have to tell you?!” If you ask a silly question, you will get a silly answer.
  • Strategies to reduce number of power struggles and use of the word “No”
    • Give children choices; water or tomato juice?
    • Teach child to say “no” politely; “mom, I really don’t feel like doing that now”
    • Robert Heinlein’s golden rule of family: kindness and courtesy are even more important between husbands and wives, and parents and children than between total strangers
    • Don’t simply give in – through compromise, both can get what you want
    • Give child meaningful levels of independence and responsibility – makes her feel grown up
    • Reserve “no” for really important issues such as an activity that might harm child or others or cause damage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Lessons in Grace and Courtesy – practicing with games that teach good manners can help your child learn how to behave well in any company. Teach to shake hands, greet a friend, say goodbye, how to interrupt someone who is buy and how to tell someone “no thank you” politely, how to speak indoors, how to play nicely, how to offer a sincere apology and resolve conflicts peacefully.

  • Children enjoy these lessons if kept short and have not been embarrassed or threatened for making a mistake
  • Ex: talk about outdoor voices and indoor voices. Was I using my outdoor or indoor voice?
  • Have a courtesy of the week. Practice at meals and around the house.
  • Being helpful to younger children is a key lesson in grace and courtesy
  • Courtesy lessons: Saying “please”, “Thank you” and “You’re Welcome”; using a kind tone when speaking; no whining or yelling; how to ask for a turn or if you can play too; how to introduce yourself; how to open and close doors; what to do if you have to cough or sneeze; giving people compliments and encouragement; allowing others to pass in front of you or to go first; saying “excuse me” if you bump into someone; responding politely when someone calls you or says your name; walking around areas where other children are working or playing on the floor and not stepping over them; learning how to wait; not interrupting other people when they are talking; answering the telephone politely
  • Role Models: example we set through our own behavior is more powerful than anything we say. Choose wisely the children and adults with whom they will spend time. Avoid loud, chaotic situations where large groups of children are over-stimulated and generally behave rudely. Choose playdates thoughtfully. It is not your place to judge other families and how they behave, but it is your obligation to make good choices for your child
  • Meet and Greet: teach child correct way to welcome visitors into home; Care and Compassion: Encourage child to show concern for a friend who is upset; Table Manners: Child can learn to pull chair out and put it back and how to sit on it correctly; Coordination and Control: practicing walking carefully along a line, watching where she is going teaches balance; Careful Carrying: teach child how to bring something to you, carrying it using both hands and setting it down correctly; Saying Goodbye: offer warm goodbyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solving Problems at the Peace Table: when children need help to resolve issues themselves, direct them to the peace table

  • Child sized table with two chairs, a bell, and a flower or ornament that symbolizes peace, perhaps a rose, olive twig or dove (2 chairs, rug in corner or steps are fine)
  • When used to ritual, may go without being prompted
  • Child who feels wronged places one hand on table and her other hand on her heart, indicating she speaks the truth, from the heart. She looks at the other child, speaks her name and explains how she feels about what has occurred and how she would like the disagreement to be settled. The second child then has a turn and the dialogue continues until an agreement is reached. If cannot manage themselves, may need a mediator. If too involved, may ask for family council where whole family listens to both sides.
  • Children learn regardless of their size, age, or position in family, they will be heard and treated fairly
  • When come to an agreement, they ring a bell to let rest of the family know

 

Taking Control of the TV: children’s values and knowledge shaped by: home, school, religion, peer groups and now TV

  • Violence a concern: in a year, child might see thousands of murders, fights, car crashes and explosions
  • Hypnotic viewing: children in a trance. It is a passive experience that requires no thought, no imagination and no effort
  • Quality children’s programming can be terrific, but most available isn’t
  • Making Rules: planned and measured doses. Limit number of hours a day and pick programs. Give them as much choice as possible: pick among these shows. Can only watch 3 in any one day.
  • If questionable content, sit together and discuss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5: Exploring the Wider World

 

Children are Little Scientists

  • Child’s world is up close and low to the ground. Keep in mind the slow moving pace of her world. Follow child’s lead and be prepared to stop and examine anything that captures her interest – ladybug, flower. Don’t get impatient – adjust to her pace
  • Best way child learns is by doing not by being told about them; books and other materials help children to pull these powerful impressions and experiences together in their minds, but foundation needs to be laid
  • Outdoor World: wander around, climb trees, pick berries, collect pine cones. Family garden, feed small animals such as ducks, rabbits, chickens. Hike with parents in woods, play in creek. Walk along beach looking for shells. Clouds, smell of flowers, wind rustling leaves. Point out small things.
  • Stewards of the Planet – care for distant places such as rainforests and ice caps as well as pockets of nature within city and preserve for future. Teach reference for life. Teach them to respect good, rich soil and all the lift that it supports on Earth. Treat every living thing with care. Don’t pick flowers or leaves aimlessly and toss aside, but gather for a good purpose. Never over pick and one plant. Teach child to walk gently on Earth and only take what she needs. Enjoy forest and meadows. Never litter. Pick up trash found and throw away, esp ones that can hurt animals such as broken bottles.

 

Working in Family Garden – getting children to eat veggies is rarely a problem when they have grown them themselves

  • Make spot where child is free to experiment and grow things
  • Don’t forget herbs
  • Child sized equipment – garden tools their size; teach child to clean and return them
  • If no space, consider window box or container garden. Strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, beans and herbs all easy and convenient to grow.
  • Flower Power – leave space for flowers – both wild and native. Teach to arrange in little vases in house (young children often prefer just one flower). Can use Perrier or Orangina bottles. Have small pitcher easily available, a funnel for small vase openings, sponge for clean up. Doilies for under vase. Brings beauty into home and deepens child’s awareness of different plants.
  • Garden Vocabulary – teach correct names along with adjectives. Aloe’s different uses. Hang beautiful pictures of plants and flowers in your home – close up art and prints of famous paintings. Library collection should include books about flowers, animals and natural world. They enjoy finding plants they’ve seen in a book.
  • Crafts from Nature – Small flower press to preserve leaves and flowers to mount in scrapbooks. Weave with grasses and make pine-needle baskets. Pine cones for table decorations. Nature collages.
  • Animal Values – Family pets instill compassion and sense of responsibility. Consider rabbits, chickens if home allows. Animals are our fellow travelers on this Earth. Protect from cruelty – attitudes begin at home.

 

Taking a Walk in the Forest – make a regular thing

  • Make walks exciting be adding a goal- collect something specific such as flowers, leaves, rocks, grasses (carry small paper bag to collect). Explain it’s something you find interesting or want to know more about. Put limit (3-5 samples at most).
  • Talk about weather, seasons, sky, colors of leaves, seasonal clues, sounds
  • Don’t be deterred by bad weather
  • Children can walk a mile for every year of their age
  • Stopping for snacks or picnic gives times to recharge & enjoy outdoors
  • While Out & About: follow squirrel, adopt tree, roll in leaves, sit by lake and watch geese, look for wild strawberries, hunt for unusual stones, search for wild flowers (don’t pick), lie on back under tree and look up at branches, listen to wind, watch birds in their nests, follow a butterfly, study shadows cast by sun, learn names of trees around your house, study shapes of leaves, use charcoal and tracing paper to make bark rubbings, collect seeds, look for tiny baby trees, search for pine cones, look for animal tracks, find a fallen tree whose wood has begun to decay – explore what lives here; sit still with eyes closed; listen to birds calling; look for baby ferns; smell the breezes; find a little glen where fairies might like to live; have a picnic outside in a meadow; run down a hill with arms spread like an airplane; float popcorn boats down stream; pick up trash along trailside; look for mushrooms – but don’t eat!
  • Preserving Nature – once back home, enjoy contents of specimen bags on plastic garbage bag. Ask child if it’s living, where they found it, what they know about it. Make the weather, birdlife or forest sounds the focus of your walk and jot down what your children see and hear in a notebook. Explain if people always collect things from nature, there will be nothing left.
  • Have child talk about shape, texture and color of leaves; Watch a living creature such as a worm climbing over a leaf; Use binoculars to bird watch and take a guide book.

 

Make Your Own Nature Museum – When your child brings specimens home, help him to create his own nature area where he can observe and learn.

Caterpillars changing into butterflies in covered terrarium; frogs eggs into tadpoles. Baby chicks in incubator. Study flowers – different species, counting petals and stamens. Collect fruits, nuts, berries in fall – which animals eat them. Collect and press flowers and leaves, put in scrapbooks. Root boxes. Journal observations – write poems/stories that capture beauty around him. Draw/photograph nature.

 

Nature Equipment: magnifying glass/lens, microscope, sound-amplifying microphones, bug boxes and jars, terrarium, ant farm, aquarium, bird cage, cricket cage, guide books for identification, cards for labeling

 

Nature Based Party Games

  • The Waterhole game – 8 or more children. (play in yard so house doesn’t get wet). Pretend to be animals, such as antelope, coming to waterhole at night to drink. One child is predator such as mountain lion. He sits in middle of large circle, surrounded by cups of water, wearing blindfold and is “armed” with spray bottle. One by one, they come up to take a drink and carry back to their seat. He can spray once if hears. If child caught, must leave group. Once every antelope has taken a “drink” or been caught, game is over
  • Food Chain Game – choose food chain w 4 levels. Ex: plants eaten by grasshoppers, eaten by frogs, eaten by hawks. Divide children into 3 groups (in group of 10, have 7 grasshoppers, 2 frogs, 1 hawk). Give grasshoppers small plastic bag, which represents tiny tummy. Tie colored ribbon on arm. Give frogs bigger bag and tie different color ribbon. Give large bag to hawk; tie different color ribbon. Spread thin layer of popcorn across lawn to represent plant food for grasshoppers – they “eat” by picking up one at a time and putting in bag. If frog catches grasshopper, they take their popcorn and grasshopper sits out. After 5 min, see how many grasshoppers and frogs are left.
  • Web of life Game – 10 or more children. Stuffed toys or pictures of animals – a bird, worm, frog, turtle, fish, bee, cow etc. Pics of tree, grass, flower, ocean. Diff strands of diff colored yarn. Have “sun” sit in circle and ask which plant, animal etc needs the “sun”. Have yarn connect them. Have them take turns sitting in center.

 

Making Cultures Come Alive – introducing our children to different cultures helps cultivate their sense of wonder and curiosity as well as dispel prejudice. Introduce to different places in the world and fill with fascination for other cultures.

 

  • Cultural Studies – Celebrate world celebrations and contact with people from other cultures. Study Africa and study the land itself, the climate, the plants and animals that live there, the people and their housing, food, dress, lifestyles, stories and legends, art, music, traditional dance and celebrations. Young children love hearing about young children in other cultures. Dressing up in different costumes is fun and creates a lasting impression, especially if accompanied by food, song, dance and a good story.
  • Which culture? Focus on one country your first year – lovely picture book or video. Collect pictures/postcards. Admit you don’t know everything but you are studying and are learning more. Pretend you are going on a trip and you need to prepare. Speak with respect – children pick up on underlying emotions. Make sure what you share is authentic and accurate.
  • Create a Display – Gather as much info as possible about a country from local library/bookstore. Borrow artifacts, music, costumes from friends. If visit, collect stamps, coins, money, souvenirs, newspapers/magazines, postcards, crafts, dolls. If have a friend going, give them a wish list. Set up special area in home to display. Useful to have wall behind to hang poster or artwork. Decorate with paper lanterns, flags, flowers etc.
  • Cultural Holidays – Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Chanukah, Passover, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Election Day, Thanksgiving, Ground Hog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Arbor Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving…

 

 

A Montessori Birthday Party – Children are given a relationship between Earth and Sun and taught a year is the amount of time it takes Earth to circle the Sun one. Children are told the story of their lives, year by year, from birth to the present day.

 

  • Use small globe to represent Earth
  • Candle or lamp to represent Sun
  • Circle (or ellipse) drawn on floor with masking tape or yarn representing the orbit
  • Make notes about important events in child’s life. Use photos to help tell story of her life.
  • On birthday, gather family around. Put candle in middle and light tit. Have her carry Earth around sun for each year and talk about each year one at a time before circling again. Keep collection (photos, family videos, letters, art) and put in memory box for her to look through when she pleases.

 

Chapter 6 – The Best Time to Learn

 

The Foundations for Learning – Learning is not a race. Children learn at their own pace. The more parents push, the more children resist.

  • Reading Aloud – Read to her everyday, not only at bedtime, but whenever you can. Children absorb by repetition. (reading to them regularly gives them a love of books)
  • Keep Talking – Talk about what you are doing as you care for baby/toddler. “You seem thirsty”. Her eyes will tell you if she understands. Use more complex language as child grows. Turn TV/radio off as noisy environment hinders language development. Help to communicate without words when young – pantomime to act out stories/situations. Act out certain words (big, slow, smile). Invite to play (flap your wings like a bird, pretend you are carrying a big puppy…)
  • Teaching Household Names – Learn names of familiar animals and birds found around neighborhood, flowers, trees, fruits vegetables, body parts and things found around house. Use correct word instead of their silly version.
  • Using Descriptive Words – Once they know words, use descriptive words to describe. Start with colors. First primary (red, blue, yellow), then secondary (green, orange, purple, brown etc), then familiar shades (lilac, rose, pastel blue, tan etc). Teach words to describe colors (pale, deep, bright). Describe size, taste, weight, texture. Then introduce comparative language (big vs bigger). Ask child to describe things in neighborhood.
  • Command Game – ask them to bring red truck on table etc. They may get lost if object is in another room. Can become more complex as they grow.
  • Enriching Vocabulary – 3 steps: 1) Show child color orange and name it. Show green and name. Show purple and name 2) Show me orange. Show me… If they make a mistake, reteach the lesson 3) What color is this? Reteach if incorrect
  • A Broad Range of Words – Use 3 step approach for everyday objects. Introduce terms from geometry, botany, land and water forms etc
  • Telling a Story – Ask child to choose an interesting picture in magazine and cut it out. Ask her to tell you about it. Older child may make up story. Write down what she says, word for word, type in computer with large font and paste in book, once sentence per page. Punch holes in paper and tie ribbon through each hole. Help child sign name.
  • Questions and Feelings – Listen when child wants to talk. Prompt her by asking what she thinks will happen next in story. Open ended questions help child develop ability to organize and communicate thoughts out loud (How did you know someone ate porridge?) Encourage talking of feelings – cut out different emotions from magazines and ask her about them, then ask her about her feelings (What happens when you feel scared?)

 

The Writing Road to Reading – the process of learning to read can be as simple and painless as learning to speak

  • Present letters a few at a time in these groups 1) c, m, a, t 2) s, r, i, p 3) b, f, o, g 4) h, j, u, l 5) d, w, e, n 6) k, q, v, x , y, z
  • Sandpaper Letters – tactile + visual. 26 tablets (8 in by 6 in)maid of painted thin Masonite board (non toxic spray enamel paint). Lower case letter cut out of fine sandpaper and pasted against smooth, colored background. Consonants pink or red and vowels on blue. Begin at age 3 or when shows interest, 1 letter at a time. Show her how to trace with her finger. Use the sounds. Now think of 3 words that begin with this sound. Can download instructions on Montessori.org (alphabet_caps) – print out and use razor knife to cut each of black letters and make stencil that you can use on sandpaper. Or get on Amazon. Use 3 step process – first show, then ask to point to letter, then have her pronounce each. Gradually introduce more – 2 or more each week. If she seems bored, stop. Teach sounds, not the name of letter.
  • Tracing Letters in Fine Sand – after tracing on paper, have her try in sand
  • Developing Pencil Control – good quality colored pencils. Small chalkboard and chalk useful. Have trace on paper and try to write it.
  • Playing with Letters – Gather 5 objects that begin with same letter. Place sandpaper letters on mat. Ask what sound they hear when they say “truck”. Pronounce carefully, sound by sound. Continue with rest of objects.
  • The Movable Alphabet – Once recognize several letters and sounds. Can buy Montessori moveable alphabets or substitute various other forms of plastic or magnetic letters. Use letters to spell words. Sounds out words one letter at a time. English not completely phonetic language. Don’t worry about spelling yet – encourage right sounds. Move to 4 and 5 letter words later on.
  • Starting to Read – Usually smooth transition from reading and writing single words to sentences and stories. Some 4, some 5 or 6. Most before 1st Begin to teach when they show interest. Use computer to make cards printed with names of familiar objects.
  • Verb Game – when child can read whole words, put verbs on flash cards – smile, yawn, sleep, clap, sit, stand, wave, eat, drink, put hands on head etc.   Use sentences.

 

First Steps to Mathematics – learning to count by rote is easiest activity to build into daily life – count when cooking, walking, playing catch.

  • Use rote first – counting 1 to 10 before using objects. Use segmented rods rather than counting separate objects.
  • Making Number Rods – wooden lathe or strip board same dimension as a ruler. Cut 10 lengths: 4 in, 8 in, 12 in through 40 in. Spray paint entire set red. Use masking tape to mark off parts to be painted blue – alternate red and blue sections. Can have them arrange in a stair from smallest to largest. Can buy Montessori number rods.
  • Counting Baskets – 10 small baskets each with a card labeling form 0-10. Need larger basket with 45 identical objects (wooden beads). Count correct # to go in each basket. (Can play subtraction)
  • Simple Sums – mommy and daddy got married – there was 2. Then had a baby – how many now? Count fruit.

 

Exploring Science in Your Home

  • Magnetic or nonmagnetic – Some made of ferrous (iron) and can be picked up with magnet. Two cards – magnetic or nonmagnetic. Ask them to pick up correct card.
  • Living or Nonliving – fill basket with things that represent live things vs nonliving. Use two cards and have them set living near Living card
  • Sink or Float – Which objects sink or float – have him guess before
  • Sprouting Seeds – dried, uncooked lima beans, paper towels and plant mister. Wrap up lima bean in paper towel gently and spray with water every day to keep damp. Show sprout and transfer to small flowerpot filled with potting soil and remind him to keep it moist.
  • Basket of Living Grass – fill bottom with plastic wrap. Add 1 in of small pebbles and 2 in potting soil. Sprinkle grass seeds and press them in. Put basket by window and remind child to use plant mister several times a day to keep damp. 2 weeks should germinate.
  • Grow a Sock – in autumn, socks pick up burrs and clinging seeds. Put tall white athletic socks over pants and go hiking. Place socks in basin where will get lot s of sun. Soak socks, leaving one end in water to continue to soak more moisture. After week or two, seeds will germinate.
  • Exploring Roots – dig up plant with root intact. Put on newspaper and pull away soil to expose roots – show them that’s where they absorb water and nutrients from soil. Repack and replant.
  • Walnut Shell Sailboats – deep tray filled with water as a little lake. Make small sail boats from walnut shells. Open walnut shells along edges. Make sail from sturdy cardboard – square or triangle. Use toothpick as mast and poke toothpick through cardboard at right points so it can catch breeze. Put modeling clay in bottom of shell and put mast into it to hold it upright. Blow.
  • Pouring Air – bubbles by submerging container filled with air underwater and releasing air by tipping container upward. Use tub or glass container so can see bubbles. At bathtime, blow bubbles underwater using straws.

 

 

Is Montessori right for your child?

Choosing a school– Montessori not protected by copyright nor a central licensing or franchising program. Anyone could open a school and call it Montessori. Sign of excellence is membership in one of the professional Montessori organizations. Some good ones choose to remain independent. Trust your eyes and go with your gut. Stay for 30 min group meeting or watch children play.

  • Shouldn’t find rows of desks. No teachers desk and chalk board. Should e set up to make it easy for children to talk and work together. Furniture is right size
  • Classrooms bright, warm, inviting filled with plants, animals, art, music and books. Interest centers with maps etc. Elementary have computers and scientific apparatus
  • Classrooms organized into several curriculum areas: language arts, math & geometry, everyday living skills, sensory awareness exercises and puzzles, geography, history, science, art, music and movement. Each area will be made up of 1 or more shelf for ready use
  • Full Montessori materials appropriate for that level
  • Few if any toys. Instead extensive collection of learning materials
  • Led by Montessori certified teacher with Montessori credential for age level. Also a 2nd certified teacher or teachers assistant. Teachers work with 1 or 2 children at a time
  • Mixed age groups. Balanced in terms of boys and girls. 25-30 children; lower at infant/toddler level
  • Students found scattered around classroom, working alone or with 1 or 2 others
  • Children feel comfortable and safe

 

 

Montessori Way:

  • Intelligence is not rare – with right stimulation, reasoning and problem solving can be nurtured in young children
  • Most important years are first 6 years
  • Children need to develop high degree of independence and autonomy
  • Academic competition and accountability not effect to motivate. Learn more effectively when school Is seen as safe, exciting and joyful
  • Direct link between children’s sense of self-worth, empowerment and self-mastery and their ability to learn and retain new skills and information
  • Children learn best through hands on experience, real world application and problem solving

About The Author

Jessica