Monday, November 28, 2011

Adventures in Autism

We wanted to share David Royko's insightful first-person chronicles of living with his son's autism in The Chronicles of Ben.

Blocks: Finally Getting Recognition

We had to laugh when With Building Blocks, Educators Going Back to Basics appeared in the NYTimes online. This very interesting article outlines the current recognition of blocks as a worthy and useful educational pastime for children in PreK and Kindergarten in the more expensive schools in New York City. They have successfully re-discovered what most of us have known all along, as quotes from the article remind us!
...Studies dating to the 1940s indicate that blocks help children absorb basic math concepts. One published in 2001 tracked 37 preschoolers and found that those who had more sophisticated block play got better math grades and standardized test scores in high school. And a 2007 study by Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital, found that those with block experience scored significantly better on language acquisition tests.

And this one is funny:
But perhaps the hottest pitch of late, particularly to high-stress, high-strung New York City parents, is that blocks can build the 21st-century skills essential to success in corporate America.

The one discussion in the article that we disagree with is the instruction that parents should encourage children to make block creations by photographing their work. There is nothing wrong with taking pics of unforgettable creations, but children should work and play for their own fulfillment, not for a Kodak moment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sensorial DIY: Identifying Scents

A traditional Montessori olfactory exercise in the Sensorial area is the Smelling Bottle exercise in which there are several sets of matching scent bottles. The bottles look identical, so the child receives no visual clues, but matches the scents by scent.

A good starting array of smells includes cinnamon, black pepper corns, and vanilla. You can put them into sets of identical bottles or inside folds of fabric for mixing and matching. Since there are two of each, mark one of the pair in a different color -- you can mark the lids of the bottles or use different colored fabric for one.

You can introduce the names in a separate exercise after your child has worked with matching them. One good way to introduce the names to a group is to have everyone sit on the circle, you introduce the name of one scent, and then pass it around for everyone to sniff.

A fun expansion of the scent exercises is to have children close their eyes or wear a blindfold so they focus on only the scents!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Choosing Books for Beginning Readers

Our Montessori teaching albums all discuss the importance of books for your home or school classroom. Even infants are provided with large picture and word books from the time they show an interest in them.

A good general guideline is to provide three types of books: Books that are at your child's current reading level (if he or she does not yet read, use picture and word books), books that are just beyond your child's current reading level, and books that are more difficult that you can read aloud.

Look for books about real things! Pictures and name labels for infants and toddlers work beautifully, children who are ready to read or just starting enjoy short descriptive books about such topics as the natural world, children in other countries, or things with wheels.

The books you read aloud can range in topic from poems and rhymes to history and and the solar system.

One important note is that when your child is at the library and wants to choose a book, let him or her browse and choose. Developing a love of reading and an interest in exploring the book shelves to see what one might find is invaluable to your child's reading development. Since you always stock the bookshelf with educational material, anything your child chooses to look at independently is supplemental, so you don't have to worry about monitoring and critiquing.

Also, do not tell your child to put a book back because it is too hard or will not interest him or her. If either is the case, your child won't read it. Perhaps you will be surprised. But trial and error needs to be encouraged because we want to help nurture intellectual creativity and the ability to think outside the box.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to Start Using Montessori at Home or School

This post is designed for parents and teachers who have just purchased our Montessori teaching albums, but it should be useful for everyone else, too.

The albums are designed to be followed in section and page order, so the first chapter on Practical Life is where you start.

First, put together the shelves we discuss for each section: Practical Life, Sensorial, Cultural, Language, and Math.

Note that the Cultural section includes a group of topics ranging from geography and art to biology and history. Language includes reading readiness, reading, writing, and other overall language development work.

If you are working with one or several children at home, put out only a few pieces of material on each shelf. If you are starting with very young children, you may wish to keep the Language and Math sections closed for now until the children learn how to work with the material in terms of taking care of it, handling it gently, and putting everything away after using it.

For those of you in schools, put out key pieces in each section. The younger your students are, you need more Practical Life and Sensorial work. Also put out a few pieces for the other sections for the first month. Try a globe, a puzzle map of the world, the Pink Tower, and math spindles.

Make sure you have at least at least three types of materials ready per two children -- this allows children to have work to choose from as they move from lesson to lesson, but minimizes the potential mess until everyone begins to work smoothly.

After the first month, see how it goes. Are the children working without leaving materials scattered around the classroom? Are they moving from one project to another in an organized way? Avoid having so many materials out that they all end up on the floor. If this happens, remove materials to streamline the room and have a circle time discussion about putting materials away.

No matter where you are, if you need to jump start your classroom right now, here are some quick tips:

1. Put together a book area with two books per child.
2. Build your circle area on the floor with tape.
3. Introduce circle time with reading and activities.
4. Have a few repeat materials in the Practical Life section for presentations such as pouring dry peas. Make this simple Practical Life presentation to small groups while your assistant reads to the others (if you have enough children for an assistant, otherwise make the presentation to your children at home).
5. Make individual presentations in the Practical Life and Sensorial area. Include the Mystery Bag work so children can work in pairs or small groups without you.
6. Quickly intervene if material is being dropped, thrown, or left scattered around.
7. Make circle time presentations for such activities as mat rolling and carrying that are key to classroom order.

If you don't have any equipment yet, set up the Practical Life material with supplies from the kitchen (or Walmart), put together books, art supplies, and start taking group nature walks to collect leaves for identification and labeling. Then look for basic pieces of equipment to start with in the second month to fill out the lists needed in our albums.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Montessori Equipment in Australia

A few parents from Australia have asked for site ideas, so I thought to post the link to Bright Tomato Learning here.

In the US, I have dug up a handful of suppliers, but given the high cost of shipping overseas, especially to Australia (I feel so badly about the shipping costs!), I wanted to share this local link for those of you in Australia and New Zealand.

Some of their material that is not explicitly Montessori is also good such as the puzzle maps with small knobs.

Most Montessori equipment is now made in China, so Bright Tomato sources their material here, but they deal with customs, importing, testing, and so forth as retailers normally do.

Btw, we do spot check equipment we purchase here in the US (it also comes from China). Scrape off a bit of paint in an inconspicuous place and test it for lead using an off the shelf kit.

Montessori's Three Period Lesson

Many of you are already familiar with the basics of the well-known Montessori three period lesson: Present, ask what was presented using the name, then point to what was presented and ask your child to recall what it is. For example, you might name a dog, cat, and bird, and then ask your child to show you the bird, cat, and then dog. Then you would point to each and ask what it is.

This simple layout of a presentation makes sense. It minimizes distracting conversation and lengthy explanations that make matters confusing. The person giving the presentation has a clear set of guidelines.

If you find yourself talking more than our quick sample above indicated, you might be adding needless confusion.

Here's a quick test:
1. Do you find that your child/student is frequently unable to successfully complete period 2 of the lesson?
2. What about period 3?

Problems in the presentation will show up above. We highly suggest video taping yourself giving a presentation to your child. Then review the presentation. Find practice partners among other parents or teachers. If you have older children, solicit their merciless feedback. Tell them what your goal is and ask them how you do.

How is it going? The video practice sessions are great for teacher training as are the family and other adult practice sessions. In training courses, we practice with each other, and then practice in a session reviewed by our own teachers. And then we practice as teacher interns.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Montessori Primary Class Curriculum: Helping Children Learn English

A parent wrote in from Greece with questions on presenting the Primary Year One binder to her child in a way that would help introduce English to him, so we have included some ideas and suggestions from our own classroom experience below.

1. Write name labels for everything in the classroom: Shelf, bookshelf, books, mat, pitcher, glass, vase, tray, Pink Tower, Brown Stairs, and so forth. Use lower case and upper case letters where appropriate.

2. Make simple language presentations in English. For example, make picture and word matching cards for different animals. Present these the same way as we discuss in the Primary Year One album. Because there are clear photos, you do not need to explain the translation. If your child asks, you can verify that, for example, "dog" means "un chien."

3. Depending on your child's age, level of difficulty of the presentation, and his or her ability in English, you can also make entire presentations for more complicated material in English. For example, children, who have mastered addition for small numerals under 10, enjoy working with these numerals in foreign languages.

Whether your child is a native English speaker working on learning a foreign language or a non-native English speaker learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) or Second Language (ESL), the approach above will help introduce the target language in a natural in-context way.

In addition to formal work, we highly recommend songs, read-aloud for stories, movies, and select television shows in whatever language your child is learning.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Building Critical Thinking Skills in Small Steps

Montessori uses small deliberate steps to build your child's critical thinking skills.

For example, very young children are introduced to the Practical Life exercise of basic table washing using a sponge, bucket, and towel. This shows your child how to prepare materials, tackle a problem, test the results of a solution (touch the table!), and, if needed, try again.

The above example is a perfect type of exercise for a young child whose mind and body are both growing and eager for new information and skill-building activities.

Later in the Primary class years (2 1/2 to 6), children build on basic skills, learning to handle new materials, test new skills, and tackle and solve more complex problems.

For those of you at home, take advantage of activities out of the house. For example, write out a basic shopping list and give your child one or two items from it to find and bring back to the cart. At home, your child can help create the list, too. On subsequent trips, he or she can take responsibility for finding more items.

As your child learns to read and count, you can expand this type of activity by showing the unit cost of an item and begin to discuss pricing. By the time your child is about six, he or she should be able to look at the prices of, say, different packages of toilet paper and see if something makes sense to buy or not.

Discussion of the prices of, say, a box of brownies versus the ingredients to make them at home make a very succinct lesson. You can apply the same process to buying a pack of precooked chicken slices versus buying a whole chicken to roast.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nature & Art: Entomology Photography Project

Start with the work in our previous post. When your child is comfortable with the first set or so of cards, add a photography component to the project.

You will need a simple point and shoot camera for your child to use, but it is best if the camera can shoot small objects at a close range (something to consider if you will buy one).

Show your child how to use the camera. Keep in mind that hands-on, simple explanations are best -- let him or her hold the camera and try focusing on different things.

Now he or she can make a morning's project out of looking for insects to photograph. Perhaps he or she will be able to spot a small spider's web indoors or on the windowsill, too.

Take inspiration from the Ladybug photo above by Neeku on Flickr, who has graciously shared her photo with us!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Natural Science: Entomology Study Insect Cards

You can make a beginning set of entomology cards for your child when he or she is in the first or second year of Primary class. These would include the traditional three-part card setup: Master cards with pictures and labels, picture-only cards, and label-only cards.

Start with 8 cards for basic insects such as the lady bug and grasshopper.

Place the box of cards on a section of your nature shelf labeled "Entomology". Explain that it means the scientific study of insects.

From this point onwards, make new sets of cards from time to time. You can also start categorizing the insects by type.

We encourage everyone working at home to take advantage of the free educational resources available online such as university sites. Texas A&M, for example, makes available lots of text and high-resolution photographs that you can print to use at home.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Independent Science Work for Elementary Aged Students: Cool Site

Foldit is a web site that allows one to log to solve real puzzles in science.

I like this video and explanation for all students, including elementary-aged children:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nutrition for Learning: Feeding the Starving Brain

We are now offering Jan Katzen-Luchenta's book, "Nutrition for Learning: Feeding the Starving Brain," for sale in an Adobe PDF file on a CD on our site.

Here is a quick peek at the intro of her very useful book:

1. Children who eat more French fries than asparagus reverse letters while learning to read and mice fed trans fatty acids struggle through a maze with reversal learning disabilities.

2. Children who come to school eating breakfast “on the run” are full of added sugar while scientists have identified a child’s physiological response to sugar to be 10 times that of an adult.

3. Glow-in-the-dark confections line bakery shelves while studies indicate irritability and restlessness in children who eat tartrazine (yellow food dye #5) and laboratory mice fed red food
dye are spawning offspring with chromosomal damage.

4. Infants from all socioeconomic backgrounds are being born malnourished and scientists have identified fetal adipose tissue programmed for later “catch up” obesity, putting them at risk for

5. Babies are born deformed, with preventable mental disorders or low birth weight (with a high risk of brain damage), and researchers consistently identify maternal deficiencies of vital nutrients from whole unprocessed foods (born of the earth and sea).

6. Fetuses are growing from embryonic cells that will genetically predispose them to DNA damage while oncology researchers are discovering the protective effect that 12 servings of fruits and
vegetables a day (in utero and until the age of two) have against infant and childhood cancers.

Some little learners never make it to preschool. Others make it into preschool and turn into bigger learners who join the rising numbers of learning-disabled children embedded in special education
programs nationwide.

According to the 2003 Summary of Health Statistics for US children, learning disabilities are amassing diagnostic numbers close to 5 million annually. (Did I mention that reading failure plagues 80% of the learning disabled?) Autism is now reaching epidemic proportions.

She goes on to talk about the science behind proper nutrition for children, and then discusses what we can do to make sure our children get the right food for the brains and bodies. A great Montessori tradition!

Check out her 200+ page book in Adobe PDF format on our site My Montessori House.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Montessori Reading: CVC Words

Once your child has used the sand tray, the sandpaper letters, and formed basic CVC words with the movable alphabet, you can introduce words on cards.

Using small blank rolodex cards (you can use any card, but these can be purchased cheaply in bulk), create word cards with the consonants in red and the vowels in blue (you can set it up on the printer or write them by hand).

Make six or so these cards to start using short "a" CVC words such as cat, hat, rat, and other words that use the short "a" with an ending "t". Next, make short "a" words with an ending "d" and then an "n" and continue until you have lots of little sets.

When your child is working with CVC words, remember to work with one set of short "a" cards at a time. Then use all the short "a" cards. And only then move to the short "e" cards. Do not mix them up until your child has mastered the sounds!

Your child can use these cards for reading practice, forming with the movable alphabet, or writing practice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reading: A Few Fast Tips for PreK and Up

After watching a tutor at the library jam a bunch of flashcards in front of what seemed to be a first or second grader, I wanted to jot down a few quick tips for the transition from reading letter sounds to reading words.

1. Introduce letter sounds first.
2. Now use those sounds to teach CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant words such as "bat")
3. When you teach CVC words, use the short "a" sound first: bat, hat, cat, rat, and so forth. Don't mix in other short vowel sounds until your child is familiar with the other short "a" words: bad, cap, map, mat, etc.
4. Introduce short "e" words in the same way. Then introduce the other short vowel words in order: a,e,i,o,u

If your child stumbles on, say, the word "map" when he or she read "mat" without problem, review the letter sounds. Do this without stress or giving your child the feeling that he or she is not doing something right. Make it natural, easy, and enjoyable.

The point of early reading instruction is to instill a love of reading and language as your child learns the basic building blocks of the language. There is absolutely no point in skipping ahead to difficult or new words if the basics are still shaky. Don't drill your child to death. Take a break, do some reading aloud with stories, and remember that is your one chance to create a child who loves reading!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Field Trips

If your child is home for the summer, try mini field trips to common spots such as a library, bookstore, farmers market, hardware store, lumber yard, or other places you might run normal errands.

The point of the trip is several-fold. You can work on how one should behave, if you have had problems with your child not behaving appropriately for the venue. If it easier to do this on a dedicated field trip, and not when you are running errands on a deadline.

You can also tell your child that you have a certain amount of time to spend at whatever destination you choose, and you can also let your child choose the place. If you are working with children who are interested in, say, working with nuts and bolts, you can let him or her select a few pairs to work with at home when you visit the hardware store.

Coordinating with another parent or two so you can put together a group of three or four children can make the field trip a more social experience. Try mixing age groups to get a three-year range of ages, so older children can learn how to help younger children, and the younger ones can enjoy following the older children instead of their parents. This is one important part of a traditional Montessori classroom that is nice to replicate whenever possible.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading, Writing, and Zoology

Learn more about smolt from this enterprising college student!

Traditionally, children work with zoology classification and fact cards in the Primary class ("Primary" means the years from 2 1/2 or 3 through 6).

Parts of an animal are the first cards your child will work with using picture and label three-part cards.

As your child's reading improves, he or she will work with animal classification, homes of animals, and animals and their young (e.g. cow-calf).

When your child has worked with these basics, encourage further work in the same or similar categories. For example, if your child has completed our Montessori curriculum for the second year of Primary class, he or she can expand on the "Animals and their Young" exercise by finding new pairs.

As your child finds these new pairs, he or she can look up illustrations and use them as a reference for drawing and labeling.

Occasionally parents ask why their four year old is learning what a "smolt" is instead of working on something more traditional. The answer is that learning how to learn and growing the brain is the purpose of our work during these years. It builds real academic skills while building a well-rounded thinking individual.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Montessori Language & Zoology: Using Free Resources

This morning, I came across a splendid article on the NYTimes online, Why Study Hyenas?, by Kay Holecamp, and wanted to share it with everyone.

A perfect example of free online resources you can use at home or in the classroom, the author discusses the habits and habitat of the hyenas, different breeds, and other facts that make for wonderful reading aloud material for younger children as well as independent reading for older children.

The pictures online are fabulous, too. You can print them for younger children and create labels. If you create several every week, you will soon have a beautiful collection of picture and word cards for matching and reading cards.

Create a set of cards with the labels written on them, create another set of picture-only cards, and a third set of label-only cards. Younger children can match by sight. As soon as your child is ready to hold a pencil, he or she can have lots of fun copying the labels (and drawing them).

The author has a fact-filled blog that includes videos, too. Check out Kay Holekamp's Laboratory here. Below is one of the videos:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Montessori Practical Life: Summer Fruits and Vegetables

Summertime brings a wide range of opportunities for you to introduce your child to fresh fruits and vegetables as you work with him or her at home.

Montessori Practical Life exercises can include such exercises as 1) growing plants and tending them, 2) picking the fruits or vegetables, 3) washing and peeling, 4) cutting and serving, and 5) joyful and spontaneous cleanup.

You can also include such projects as writing labels or drawing pictures of the fruit/vegetable with or without labels, drying fruits, making jam, and preparing and using everything in a salad or cooked meal.

For example, you can prepare 1) soil, 2) beans, 3)peat pots, 4) small watering can, and 5) a tray to introduce planting beans. As the beans grow, show your child how to make a small trellis for the vines -- you can use sticks or something more elaborate. Your child can put the pots by a window and watch them grow.

Let these exercises and projects become independent projects for your child, so that he or she can freely go water or taste the work in progress without your help. Once you present an exercise and material, your child should be able to work with it independently.

Children love to eat what they have grown and picked!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brain Development & Learning a Second Language: The Bilingual Advantage

The Bilingual Advantage by Claudia Dreifus in the NYTimes online discusses the overall cognitive benefits to children of learning and speaking a second language.

The brain system development in children who speak a second language is improved, along with a significant boost in the children's executive function which benefits things as diverse as decision-making and driving.

And, thinking far ahead for your child's future, bilingual adults with Alzheimer's have been shown to function for five to six years longer than their monolingual peers, despite having the same level of Alzheimer's!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Creativity and Art: Did You See "Doodle 4 Google"?

Wow, the Doodble 4 Google competition yielded some amazing art! Check out the K-3 section on Google.

This illustration is titled "Got Clean Water?" and it was created by Nathan Hidajat, age 7, at St. Cecelia Elementary School in Ames, Iowa.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Montessori's Three-Period Lesson & Teaching at Home

The Montessori Three-Period lesson is a well-known staple of the Montessori teaching method. We discuss it in more detail in our teaching material, but it basically breaks a presentation down into three parts: 1) name something, 2) use the name when you ask your child to identify the object (do they recognize the association between the name and the object), and 3) point to the object and ask what it is (can they remember which object is called what).

What is difficult is applying it with each different child. Especially at home if you have not had practice presenting material in a Montessori way.

The key is to observe your child carefully, so you do not go too fast or too slow. Montessori teaches us not to quiz young children, but to present knowledge so that they can soak it in. We are not looking for rote memorization at this age. Instead, we are trying to impart knowledge in a way that creates a foundation of knowledge that can be used when your child looks at the world and wants to learn more about it. For example, teaching your child the names of three primary colors helps him or her identify many other things in the world. But, what about those other colors? Now it will be time for another lesson on more colors. We follow up with secondary colors because when your child learns to combine colors it will make more sense to have learned first primary colors and then secondary colors.

Sometimes when we are teaching at school, we do not go beyond the first two periods of the lesson because the child is clearly still in the process of absorbing the material and will probably not be able to answer the third period. Sometimes we just stick with the presentation phase in the first period when it looks like the child has not processed the information. Just wait, and then re-present the material in a few days.

It is easier in a classroom setting because one does not feel the pressure of working with one's own child, and you see the natural progression of a group of children and how it all comes together at the end. There should be no rush in presenting knowledge and material!

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Find a Good Montessori School: Quick Tips

We post on this topic occasionally, and here are some fresh thoughts on a long-standing issue of how to find a good school and teachers. Your child's Montessori experience will only be as healthy and productive as the teacher, assistant, and school, so check wisely and carefully. A well-trained nervous wreck of a teacher will do your child no good at all! And an overbearing unkind administrator's effects will be echo through the school.


1. Visit the school.

2. Are the teachers AMS or AMI trained?

3. Ask how many years the teachers and assistants have been teaching this age group.

4. Observe a full day of class including snacks, meals, and outdoor play.

5. Are the teachers and assistants polite, respectful, and kind to children?

6. Are the children polite, respectful, and kind to each other? When they aren't, what does the staff do? Is unwanted behavior discussed and alternatives suggested?

7. The staff should not helicopter teach! This is not a good thing in the Montessori system, so be aware of overly hovering staff.

8. Do not judge the staff on how they handle you! They are trained to work with children, not adults (though hopefully they do okay with parents, too). Observe and visit quietly. Bring up comments, questions, or observations later with administration (you can ask to meet with teachers separately after children have departed).

9. Does the staff get along well with the administration? Any intimidation or unhappiness tends to trickle down to the students, so this is a helpful hint to anything that might go wrong.

10. Is there a name of a well-known teacher or administrator on the door and website, but this person is not present at school? This is another red flag.

11. Talk to parents. You can wait until pick up time and interact with the parents. Ask if you can attend a PTA meeting in advance of making a decision.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Children and Nutrition: No Dieting, Eating Tips

Our posts and focus is on children from birth through third grade, so we want to share the importance of no dieting for children in this age group.

The other day, a new mother shared her concern that her infant was overweight because her mother-in-law had been saying the child was "fat" and encouraged her to limit food. Since the new mother only breastfeeds, it is obvious that she is not overfeeding her child. It is not as if she were putting soda into the bottle!

Our concern is for all young children because a healthy diet that is free of processed foods, junk food, and sodas should mean that your child is a healthy weight. Adding exercise and active play at least twice a day provides the physical component to weight.

Here are some basics:

1. No "clean" plate policy. If your child isn't hungry or doesn't want to try something, do not force it.

2. No food bribes. Do not use a treat as a bribe.

3. Have only healthy snacks available. If there are no Pop Tarts at home, none can be eaten. Try making healthy snacks together with your child.

4. Provide balanced snacks with proteins and complex carbs such as cheese on a whole wheat cracker or almond butter on apples.

5. Set a positive example. Your child will want to eat what you eat.

6. No whining about dieting or eating healthy foods. Even if we feel fat (and who doesn't from time to time), don't complain in front of the kids. Go prepare an apple and cheese treat for both of you, and then go for a walk together.

7. Your child can participate in making meals so that he or she is sure to like something on the plate. If there is nothing he or she wants to eat, a choice can be made from healthy snacks in the fridge.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kindergarten Shop Class: Woodworking for Kids

Kindergarten Shop Class, an excellent article by Julie Scelfo, that provides wonderful descriptions of young children using tools and working with their hands -- in a very Montessori approach -- and includes great links to programs, too.

One of the quotes I like the best is from one of the teachers, "We’re teaching them the safe use of hand tools. It’s a slow, deliberate process.” As your child works his or her way up from Practical Life material during the ages of 2 1/2 to 5, he or she will use a hammer, nails, screwdriver, screws, bolts and more. Working with wood is the perfect next step.

Those you teaching your children at home have a tremendous advantage over most schools because there is so much fear of liability suits if a child is hurt during shop that many schools have phased out these key programs.

Anyhow, superb article! Definitely worth perusing and following the links.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hands-On Science for Children: Blackawton Bees Project

A group of 8- to 10-year-old children discovered that: "Science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has done before."

As you will see in the video, the children decided to study bees, and ended up with findings that they wrote up in a paper for publication.

Way to go!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Using Montessori Teaching Albums and DVDs: Quick Tips for Our Parents

During the last few days, I got in several compelling questions from parents who had purchased both our teaching albums and DVDs, so we have included some tips here for using them in tandem.

We highly recommend starting with the first year of Primary Class (shown above) even if your child is four or five years old. This basic work is very important and provides the building blocks for more advanced concepts found in reading and math.

As you follow the program in the first year's teaching album, introduce the exercises in more or less the order they appear in the table of contents: Practical Life, Sensorial, Cultural, Language, and Math. The brain and body development that takes place when your child works with the first three sections will set the framework for success in Language and Math, so it is important not to rush or skip them.

However, if your child is older than 3 1/2, you can introduce the Sandpaper Letters now as you introduce the Practical Life through Cultural material, moving to the Movable Alphabet as directed in the album.

When your child is familiar with most of the Sandpaper Letters, you can introduce the first DVD, Sounds & Words, which presents the letter sounds and uses the sounds to create CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words such as "cap" and "pen".

Then your child can practice making CVC words using the Movable Alphabet. He or she should also work with all the other word-making exercises shown in the album such as the Object Box work.

At this point, introduce the Red Rods, Number Rods, and Spindle Box. Now use the Math DVD to practice some of the concepts.

Continue making presentations for the other subjects during this time, too. When your child has mastered CVC and CVCC/CCVC (e.g. "hunt" or "slop"), you can introduce the next DVD.

Your child will practice writing and forming more difficult words as shown in the album. This stage should be lots of fun with your child gaining incremental mastery of different elements of reading.

If your child is struggling, back up a bit and practice with the last material that he or she used easily. Observe your child when he or she works independently and try to figure out what in particular is causing the difficulty as you probably went too fast during some stage of presentation or did not spend enough time on the earlier material. Montessori teacher training is much like this because we need lots of practice to make sure we are presenting material at the right stage for each individual child, so it is important to observe, take notes, and fine-tune our teaching styles.

Introduce the Colors & Shapes and "Big Vocabulary" DVDs at any time now. The Colors & Shapes program includes primary and secondary colors, so you can coordinate this with the Colored Tablets presentation, if wish. It also includes regular polygons and closed curve shapes, a good review for everyone who has forgotten these terms!

If you have our printable Adobe PDF collection, print the relevant material before you introduce the DVD, so you have it on hand for your child to review and work with.

For parents who are trying to decide which album they need, we suggest starting with this first one because it also helps you learn how to present material. It is easy to present harder material once a child has a solid foundation, but it is frustrating for a child to be presented with material that is a bit confusing because the groundwork has not been mastered.

As you teach your child, think of, perhaps, learning yoga. If you are just beginning, the teacher should guide you through the basics, so you gain physical strength and flexibility along with the mental understanding of the poses so that you can help your body learn them. You can go to yoga class every day eager to learn and feeling yourself getting stronger. Now you are ready for a slightly more difficult pose. What would have happened if your teacher had presented a headstand on the first day? You might have toppled over, hurt yourself, become frustrated, and perhaps quit. You might have also seen another student performing the headstand and wondered if you were somehow responsible for failing to be able to perform the headstand.

You can take a peek at the table of contents for each of our Montessori teaching albums here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Learning to Teach Montessori at Home: One Quick Tip

Maintain your patience!

We realize that a lot of parents are starting to teach their children at home because they are unhappy with their current schools or day care providers. This is great, but remember that this is a fresh start for your child. He or she should feel that working at home with Mom or Dad is a wonderful new project.

Set up the classroom at home in a beautiful and attractive manner (see earlier posts about shelves and equipment), complete with paintings on the wall (try a simple poster by Monet), plants, and a fish or animal.

Just starting now? Put a reading corner together first. A good light, comfortable chair, rug, cushions, and a nice book collection of easy to challenging reading makes a perfect start.

Questions? Send them in, so we can share them with everyone!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Children's Book Award Winners: Read Aloud and Independent Reading

You've got to check out the Barnes & Noble's Children's Book Awards page to take a peek at current and past children's boo award winners.

No, we're not shilling for Barnes & Noble, they just have one of our favorite displays of all the award winners such as A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead, Caldecott winner and Newbery Medal winner, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fresh Herbs & Vegetables: DIY Montessori Practical Life for All Ages

Wow, there is a great arugula and mint pesto recipe on Tracey Miller's site. I call it inspiration for everyone's Montessori Practical Life work at home.

You can work with recipes like this for all age groups. If you are working with toddlers, make it simple and have them wash the arugula and put it in a bowl for eating. Older children can start chopping and mixing.

Working with fresh herbs and vegetables (remember to include growing them as part of the project!) makes eating them a natural next step. Children love to eat things they have grown and made.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Counting Coconuts: Found a Great Blog

Talking with a parent in Canada this morning, she suggested a super useful blog, Counting Coconuts. It is indeed beautiful with tons of useful DIY information for everyone teaching their children at home (as well as teachers making new material).

I loved the Life Cycle of a Star cards. They are free on her blog!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Science Experiments for Children

As we started compiling projects and lists, we realized that Ann Zeise's A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling already had a fantastic list, so we we're sharing it! Check out her Science Experiments for Kids page that includes links to favorites such as MadSciNet: The 24-hour exploding laboratory to The Learning Network on the NYTimes online.

Don't miss checking out her Field Trips list of great resources to help you get started on your educational exploration.

As you start working with your child at home, we suggest starting in the kitchen or outdoors. Both are easy -- kitchens lend themselves to great trial and error (be ready for a mess, and prepare a child-sized area) in a super inexpensive way, and the outdoors exploration allows children to do a lot independently (and you don't have to worry about the mess).

Homeschooling? Check out our Montessori teaching curriculum for parents at home as well as teachers.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ideas for Science Project of the Day

This Green Anemone photo is the photo of the day on the National Geographic site. These daily photos with their descriptions provide a wonderful starting point for a daily science discussion at home or in the classroom. You can read the description with your child, find the location on the map, and discuss the details! Much easier than in the days before the internet.

Here are more stunning photos by talented photographer Jens Troeger.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Antarctica: Rocks and Science

The recent Rocks, Ice and Science in Antarctica featured in the inspired us to post these ideas on helping your child explore science using online resources.

The Science section of any major newspaper will have tons of fresh material and photos each week.

For example, one great photo in the slide show discusses the photo with excellent descriptive vocabulary to learn and explore:
"A nunatak on the edge of the polar plateau with a moraine of glacial sediment trailing down one side."
Credit: Jeff Vervoort

Follow up online research with trips to the library to find books to check out on the topic, look for images your child can draw, find the region on the map and globe, and encourage older children to research related topics such as animals or rocks in the region.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Geography and Montessori Homeschooling: Use Google Maps

While we love the traditional wooden maps in the Montessori classroom, there is no denying the fact that they are expensive! We encourage you to try to buy at least one -- perhaps sharing it among several families -- so your child can work with the small knobs and have the experience of handling the pieces, both require hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Google maps is a tremendous resource for parents at home. In the sample above (top picture), we searched for Australia, printed the results in a PDF file, and trimmed the excess. You can print this material for everything you want to use at home.

From the continent level, you can search for a state or country within a continent such as Queensland, Australia, shown in the bottom picture. Now you can print out a sectional map with the names of cities, areas, major bodies of water, and routes within that area.

Suggested exercises:
1. Print out continent maps for each continent. Arrange them on the wall so that the layout corresponds to a flat map of the world.

2. Children can color the land one color and the water another.

3. Your child can look up and draw the flags of each country or the main countries of interest. You can also print a flag for reference.

4. Older children can begin to research the continents, bodies of water, and countries to write short descriptions of each.

5. You can make your own cards with descriptions. For example, the Australia card might say "The Commonwealth of Australia, usually referred to as Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania along with a number of smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia is unique because the country is a whole continent." The cards can be used with pictures to mix and match.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Using Montessori House Printable Books at Home

We have full-color printable books for sale in Adobe PDF format. They provide hundreds of pages for a great price.

For all of the parents and teachers out there who purchased them, we have included below some ideas for using the print-outs:

1. Print out the pages on cardstock, punch three holes in the paper, and bind with ribbon to make books.

2. Print on cardstock to make large picture and word cards. You can also print two copies, keep one as the master, and cut the label and picture out of the second copy to make matching cards.

3. Print the pages out in 1/4 size and make small flash cards.

4. Print a black and white copy for spelling practice and writing. Use the bound color copy as your child's reference copy, so he or she can check spelling independently.

5. Print out color copies, let your child use a glue stick or brush and trace the letters or words with glue. He or she can then sprinkle glitter or sand on the letters to make them into sandpaper letters. It's a messy and fun process that is a great outdoor exercise.

6. Print out two color copies for mixing and matching the picture and word pages. You do not need to print the entire document. Just print the pages with pictures and words. Children can play matching games before they can read.

7. Print out a color copy of a picture your child enjoys onto iron-on fabric. Show him or her how to apply it to a t-shirt or piece of fabric.

See our Montessori House printable phonics beginning and intermediate books here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

DIY Xylophone Ideas: The Cheap (And Great) Piano Substitute

Wow, Jim Doble at Elemental Designs has an online app that lets you hear some of his magnificent handmade xylophones. I posted about his instruments earlier, but I missed this link. Check out the wrenches that he has made into a xylophone:

Play Jim's xylophones online

This xylophone starts at $60, so it's a very good deal for an instrument that will provide tons of musical and creative inspiration for your home classroom.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What Does a Honey Bee See?

An educational site about bees!

"Like most other insects, the honey bee (Apis mellifera) has compound eyes - hundreds of single eyes (called ommatidia) arranged next to each other, each with its own lens and each looking in a different direction. This does not mean, however, that the bee sees lots of little pictures, as each ommatidium sees only one intensity, contributing a 'pixel' to the overall image perceived by the compound eye, just like a single photoreceptor in the retina of our own eye."

Read more and try some great interactive exercises.

Books, Books, and More Books: Learning to Read

I found a wonderful short video about Kindergarten at The Park School. It discusses their focus on reading.

The tuition at Park School is over $22,000 a year (!!), but you can easily replicate their book and reading section at home or in your own classroom! I love how the children are supplied with rocking chairs, cushions, space to lie down, and other simple features that make this a perfect reading environment.

See the video here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Montessori and Reading: Picture and Word Book for Older Children

"They play tunes beyond compare, dancing through my crazy hair" is one of the wonderfully emotive lines in Neil Gaiman's work for children of all ages, Crazy Hair.

Our earlier post despairing the current trend of parents moving away from picture and word books for younger readers sparked an interest here in sharing some of our favorite picture books for older children.

The lines in Gaiman's books for younger readers are always a masterful work of art that inspire reading, writing, and artistry in readers of all ages.

Let these books inspire your child to draw and illustrate his or her own creative writing!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Montessori and Reading: The Value of Picture Books

Today's New York Times Online edition featured, Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children, by Julie Bosman.

An excellent discussion of today's pressure on young children to read increasingly difficult books, she discusses parents reluctance to buy picture books for their young readers as parents pressure their youngsters to read more difficult fare.

The goal of Montessori regarding reading is to nurture a child's natural love of learning, not to force them to approach learning as a rote drill that must be performed.

Carefully selected picture and word books for infants and toddlers should stock their low bedroom shelves, allowing independent access to the books, and a wide array of fact books about a whole range of topics should be supplied for beginning readers. If your beginning reader enjoys books with large beautiful pictures, get them and encourage your child to love reading!

If your child is already in First or Second Grade (or older) and struggling to read, let his or her interests guide library and bookstore selections. Browsing for books that appeal (and will be read joyfully) is an important part of the learning process.

Parents will find that if they adjust their own habits to make room for reading as an activity at home, their children will follow suit.

Learn how to help your child read with our Montessori House teaching albums.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wooden Toys with Tools for Developing Motor Skills

Just as we were looking for good examples of wooden toys, we found this excellent site in Australia, Eco Toys, with this Plan Toys Construction Set.

You do not need to buy a set of anything to help your child practice using small tools, but this is a cool set, if you are looking for a gift.

DIY suggestions:
1. Nuts & bolts in a 2x4 for finger use (intermediate use uses a tool)
2. Screws of two different sizes (pre-drill holes in a piece of 2x4) and two small screwdrivers
3. Small hammer and large nails

Montessori Classrooms: Suggestions for Storing Lunchboxes and Bags During the Day

For those of you in classrooms or child-care setups, we suggest a large refrigerator in which all lunches can be stored.

The assures that everyone's lunch from home will be safe with no bit of mayo or meat accidentally sitting out for hours.

You can put together a cloth or plastic bag with each child's name on it. Put this bag in their cubby. When children arrive in the morning, they can go to their cubby, put the lunchbox or bag into this bag, and then put it in the refrigerator. This will keep everything straight -- even if the children cannot read their names yet, you can help out.

Another tip is to put a photos onto these bags. One teacher suggested asking all parents to bring in a color photo, and then making the attachment of the photos to the bags a group project for older children. You can use a hole punch to put a hole in the photo and then put a cord through the hole. Attach the cord to the bag securely so it won't get lost.

Good luck!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Trailer for "Waiting for Superman" -- Documentary on Schools

"Waiting for Superman" has generated lots of buzz and controversy among educators and parents. And it is almost here for viewing!

Kids off the Couch writes:

"A impressive new documentary, Waiting for "Superman", by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), reminds us that education "statistics" have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily. Guggenheim, whose skill set includes an ability to simplify complex topics and elevate them to the level of national debate, follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth. The documentary dissects the public education system but embraces the belief that good teachers make good schools. The prospect is bleak but Guggenheim explores innovative approaches taken by education reformers and charter schools that have refused to leave their students behind. Whether your kids go to public or private school, the issues raised in Waiting for "Superman" are ones that none of us can afford to ignore."

Check out the "Waiting for Superman" trailer in the meantime.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homeschooling? Exercise and Children's Brain Development

In our Montessori curriculum for parents teaching at home, we discuss the need for vigorous physical activity as part of the regular day. Today, a great article came out in the New York Times online edition, Phys Ed: Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter? by Gretchen Reynolds.

Basically, physical exercise builds better and stronger brains!

Here are some select quotes:

" children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply."

And, "Meanwhile, in a separate, newly completed study by many of the same researchers at the University of Illinois, a second group of 9- and 10-year-old children were also categorized by fitness levels and had their brains scanned, but they completed different tests, this time focusing on complex memory. Such thinking is associated with activity in the hippocampus, a structure in the brain’s medial temporal lobes. Sure enough, the M.R.I. scans revealed that the fittest children had heftier hippocampi."

We highly recommend reading the rest of the article.

The original Montessori curriculum and class schedule always includes physical activity, active indoor (or warm weather outdoor) play and games, along with the school day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Montessori: Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt

For everyone who has asked us about history materials, Montessori for Everyone has just released their beautiful and brand-new Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt materials!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Montessori Sensorial Color Tablets DIY

This is the first box of Color Tablets with six tablets that include three pairs for red, blue, and yellow.

Making the Color Tablets is an easy and rewarding DIY project because the materials are simple and the results will be as beautiful as the originals.

Paint Sample Strips
Any store that carries paint sample strips will let you have a few. Choose the truest red, blue, and yellow strips. Cut away the darker or lighter shades on the strip, so you have a square of the one color you want. Keep the other shades for the third box of shades. You will need a matching pair for each of the colors. Mount the square of color onto a rectangle of card stock that is longer than the colored rectangle by about 1/2 inch on either side, so that the card stock acts as a frame and provides a place for your child to hold the card.

Construction Paper
Mount a 1 1/2 inch square of color onto white card stock with the same 1/2 inch of card stock frame on both sides of the square.

Use child-safe watercolors or other paints. Cut a piece of white card stock 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Color in a 1 1/2 inch square -- make sure the lines are precise, so that each square of color is the same size. Repeat for the rest of the colors.

Cut a 2 1/2 inch long and 1 1/2 wide piece of card stock. Prepare enough red, blue, and yellow yarn for the tablets. Put child-safe glue on the 1 1/2 inch portion. Wrap the yarn around it so that the card stock is covered. Tuck the end of the yarn back inside and secure with glue (put the glue on the end and stick it in, so nothing is on the outside).

Photo courtesy of Little City Kids.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Children, Reading, Gift Giving Traditions: Mama: a True Story

Start a gift-giving tradition in your family of giving books. Shop for the perfect gift book for your spouse or parent and take your child along. Let him or her look at the books and brainstorm with you for the right selection. This will show your child that reading is a valued activity that holds a special place in your family.

The book here is a wonderful pre-reading book with a message of love that extends to all ages. It is the story of a baby hippo that became separated from its mother during the tsunami. The baby hippo is rescued and becomes attached to an adopted mama, who is a 130 year old tortoise.

A Hippo and Tortoise, the true story.

Interestingly, I read a nice blog posting from a parent who read the story to her adopted daughter from China with quite good results. Here is a link to her post.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Practical Life: Flower Arranging -- Fun Link with Great Photos

One lovely exercise in the Montessori practical life section is flower arranging. Children gather flowers and leaves, prepare them, and arrange them in a glass vase. Before working with this exercise, children have already practiced walking with a delicate vase, so their handling skills and coordination is well-honed.

Searching for inspiration, I found this wonderful link to the Little Flower Shop via the New York Times online's article "Flower Arranging Finds a Younger Audience." Hoping they will share a few photos with me later which I'll post to show everyone.

If you are putting a flower arranging exercise together for your child, the two of you can search for and use any variety of materials such as pine cones, fresh herbs, tall grasses, stems with berries or cherry tomatoes, leaves, and, of course, freshly cut flowers.

Did your child put together an arrangement today? We'd love to share it with our readers!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Montessori and Music: Those Bell Sets are Expensive!

We just included the Montessori Bell sets in the new edition of our Primary Year One curriculum with some trepidation. The bells are so expensive! And they are not nearly as important as a lot of other pieces of equipment.

Searching for good alternatives... a pair of xylophones would work well. And then this very neat YouTube Homemade Xylophone jumped out at me.

So, for everyone who is looking at the bell writeup in our albums, you can use the xylophone sets in lieu of the bells.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Art for Young Children: Color Shades and Labeling

Once your child has mastered the basics of color name and color association for the primary and secondary colors, he or she can begin work with shades of color.

Prepare crayons and paper on a tray.

Show your child that a single color of crayon can be used to create a wide swath of shade by taking the paper off the crayon and rubbing the side of the crayon on the paper. This allows your child to experiment with making the visual effects of shading while developing hand and wrist control as he or she holds the crayon with an alternate grip.

Labeling the shades of color is optional. If your child has worked with the 3rd Color Tablet box, go ahead and introduce labeling using these terms he or she already knows from the presentation.

Photo and presentation credit: Apple Ridge Montessori School

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Article: The Importance of Early Childhood Education

The New York Times article by David Leonhardt The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers is certainly an eye-catching title, but I wondered what the article was about... It turned out to be pretty good. The basic premise is that Kindergarten makes a huge difference in the making of the adult (we know this in Montessori, so it is always interesting when others research it).

As Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, says: “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes.”

Early this year, Mr. Chetty and five other researchers set out to fill this void. They examined the life paths of almost 12,000 children who had been part of a well-known education experiment in Tennessee in the 1980s. The children are now about 30, well started on their adult lives.

They go on to focus on the money side of things, which, well, is easier to count than other things:

Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more.

All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten. A student who went from average to the 60th percentile — a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher — could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.

I was disappointed that they didn't discuss Montessori, but, of course, the research focused on the end result.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Montessori Children in Nature

The active, exploratory, and outdoor component of a Montessori education cannot be emphasized enough. In addition to child-sized environments and brain-challenging equipment, children require outdoor experiences and time to soak in their environment in a way that allows them to include their time in nature in their everyday curriculum of self-development.

This article on Planet Green by Matt McDermott, We Need More 'Free Range Children' has an article on children in the outdoors that works beautifully with Montessori ideas.

Even if you live in the middle of New York City, make sure you include time outdoors exploring your neighborhood, going to farmer's markets, and walks and drawing exercises in the local park in your daily repertoire.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sensorial Work: New Patterns with Standard Equipment

Most of you have worked with the standard Red Rods presentation in the Sensorial section of your Montessori room at home or school.

Once your child has mastered the Red Rods and moved onto the Number Rods, try these expansion exercises by introducing him or her to different ways of using the same material.

Here are a few ideas to get your child started:

1. Try pairing the rods to create different length combinations. How many pairs do you get?
2. Mix and match other combinations of rods. What happens?
3. What other shapes can be formed with the rods? Do they stack?
4. How long are all the rods put end to end? Use a measuring tape to find out.
5. What patterns can be made with the rods? Draw the results to scale using a measuring tape or yardstick, markers, paper, and tape.

Your child can add the Number Rods (Red and Blue) to the exercise, too!

Just starting a Montessori curriculum? Read a sample from our Montessori Curriculum on our site.

Photo credit: Nienhuis

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grace and Courtesy in the Primary Years: Coughs and Sneezes

One of the beginning lessons in the Primary class is how to properly cover coughs and sneezes:

Turn your mouth the crook of your arm (inside of the elbow).

You can practice with fake coughs and sneezes in a short role play with your child.

Yuck: Few people correctly cover coughs, sneezes is a great article on the topic by Yahoo News.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Throwing Exercises for Gross Motor Skills and Hand Eye Coordination

Active outdoor play is a regular part of your child's Montessori day that should be scheduled into the day at least once in addition to other active play periods.

Throwing exercises aid gross motor skill development and hand eye coordination. Here are some throwing and related activity ideas (a few can be used indoors):

1. Throwing a baseball across a field. You can also play catch with your child.
2. Passing a basketball back and forth with another person.
3. Dribbling a basketball.
4. Throwing a basketball or other large ball against a wall and catching it. The ball can also be bounced on the ground before and/or after catching.
5. Playing a game of basketball.
6. Tossing foam balls into a large washbasin.
7. Tossing tennis balls into a laundry basket.
8. Tossing a beach ball into the air and hitting it.
9. Tossing a beach ball to another person to play catch.

Do you have ideas to share? Let us know!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Developing your Child's Stereognostic Sense: Summer Mystery Bag

Our stereognostic sense allows us to identify objects by touch. Many of the pieces of equipment in the Montessori classroom's Sensorial section work on developing this sense.

An excellent summer exercise is to put together a Mystery Bag with objects that your child can identify by touch while closing his or her eyes or wearing a blindfold.

Look for a beautiful bag that has a drawstring or flap to hide the contents.

Fill the bag with tantalizing contents such as glass marbles, miniature wooden blocks, a tiny metal car, a penny, a dime, a quarter, a piece of beach glass with soft edges, a big feather, a soft downy feather, a sunflower seed, a metal chopstick, a piece of a beehive, a ribbon, and anything else that you find.

Your child closes his or her eyes, reaches into the bag, feels the objects, and identifies it...without looking at it. Then he or she takes the object out of the bag and sees what it is.

This is a great group game that children can play anywhere.

This wonderful handmade Mystery Bag is one I happened upon on the My Montessori Journey blog by Laura. Thanks tons for letting me use this inspirational picture!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Montessori at Home: Nutrition

We found a very useful write-up by Jan-Katzen-Luchenta, "The Making of Great Little People – A Diet For Little Learners: Food balancing, fats, and focusing"

Hopefully, we will include an interview with her soon! In the meantime, here is an excerpt of her article:

"Very early learners also wear what they have eaten or not eaten into their classroom or life's experience.

I have stumbled into this awareness after many years of observing uncharacteristic behavioral changes in some children from one day, sometimes one minute to the next!

Why did Wyatt who normally is well mannered at the lunch table suddenly become a loud, kick your neighbor kind of a child? And how could good natured, Maxie transform into a grumpy, aggressive bully twenty minutes after arriving to school?

The coup de grace unfolded one day when exceptionally focused, even-tempered Ellen came to school portraying an easily distractible, hysterical child who couldn't follow the simplest of directions. I began to ask myself, Are little children just naturally moody and unreasonable? Is their educability just a crapshoot dependent on the barometric pressure or the day of the week? Thoroughly confused and exhausted I decided to do a little investigating. Through lunchbox analysis, persistent cross examinations of parents, and consults with local nutritional gurus it became evident that diet could be playing a significant role in this inexplicable emotional drama playing out before my tired eyes and body. My grandmother was right. As trite as it seemed at the time, we truly are what we eat"

Read the rest of her article on the site

Friday, June 25, 2010

Diagnosing and Thinking About Behavioral and Discipine Problems

This is a lot of material circulating about dealing with children's behavioral problems, so we wanted to discuss here the issue of health and well-being in a child's ability to be self-disciplined.

Here is a short sample from the Center for Disease Control's website that addresses lead poisoning. While lead poisoning is only one of many factors that can influence a child's health and behavior, this case study is great for getting one to think outside of the classroom discipline box:

"A 5-year-old boy is brought to your office by his mother, who is concerned that her child is hyperactive. At a parent teacher conference last week, the kindergarten teacher said that the boy seems impulsive and has trouble concentrating, and recommended evaluation by a physician as well as by the school psychologist. The mother states that he has always seemed restless and easily distracted, but that these first 6 months in kindergarten have been especially trying.

Family history reveals that the boy lives with his sister, mother, and maternal grandparents in an older suburb of your community. The child's monthly weekend visits to his father's house are working out fine. However, he seems to be fighting more with his sister, who has an attention-deficit disorder and is repeating first grade. Since the mother moved in with her parents after her divorce 4 years ago, she has worked with the grandfather in an automobile radiator repair shop, where her children often come to play after school. She was just laid off, however, and expressed worry about increasing financial dependence on her parents. She also worries that the grandfather, who has gout and complains increasingly of abdominal pain, may become even more irritable when he learns that she is pregnant. Her third child is due in 4 months.

On chart review, you see that the boy was last seen in your clinic for his preschool physical 1 year ago, results of which were normal. A note describes a very active 4-year-old who could dress himself without help but could not correctly name the primary colors. His vision was normal, but hearing acuity was below normal, and speech and language were slightly delayed. Immunizations are up to date.

Further history on that visit indicated adequate diet, with no previous pica. Spun hematocrit was diminished at 30%. Peripheral blood smear showed hypochromia and microcytosis. There was no evidence of blood loss, and stool examination was negative for occult blood. The diagnosis was "mild iron deficiency anemia," and iron therapy was prescribed. The family failed to keep several follow-up appointments, but the child did apparently complete the prescribed 3-month course of iron supplements. He receives no medications at this time and has no known allergies.

On physical examination today, you note that the boy is in the tenth percentile for height and weight. His attention span is very short, making him appear restless, and he has difficulty following simple instructions. Except for language and social skills, he has reached most important developmental milestones..."

We encourage everyone to read the rest of the case studies along with the answers.

Lead poisoning is an extreme situation. The most common situation we see in the classroom is that a child has had a poor breakfast or none at all. More in our upcoming post on nutrition...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where to Buy Montessori Equipment?

We have gotten a few questions about where to purchase equipment, so here are a few ideas:

The original Montessori equipment manufacturer. Super pricey. Great quality.

Alison's Montessori
We have never purchased anything here, but the prices and material look good.

Etsy stores have some amazing people with fabulous handmade products. Here are two of our favorites:
Goose Designs
Just Hatched

Montessori for Everyone has an excellent and thorough set of affordable printable material

DIY Montessori Math: Working with Shapes

All you need for this simple exercise is a pair of child-safe scissors, a ruler, a pencil, and construction paper. Prepare the exercise by making squares out of the construction paper for your child to use.

Tell your child that the object of this project is to cut triangles. Take a piece of paper for yourself. Use the ruler and pencil and draw a line from one corner of the square to the other. Cut along the line. Show your child the two triangles. Push the triangles apart. Push them back together to form the square again.

Let your child work with his or her own square to cut the triangles. In the meantime, you can work with your triangles and cut them into more triangles.

The two of you can experiment with reforming the original square and reforming the larger triangle pieces that you have just cut.

Encourage your child to experiment with different shapes, even if they do not form triangles or squares.

This is a great group exercise.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Montessori Summer Science Experiment: Conductors and Insulators

This is a fun, and cool, way to illustrate the difference between heat conductors and insulators. You may want to have several metal and rubber balls in the freezer so you can repeat the experiment quickly so your child can get a better understanding.

Materials needed:
* A metal ball (if you don't have one, make one from aluminum foil)
* A rubber ball
* Freezer

What to do:
1. Place both balls in freezer for at least an hour.
2. Take both balls out of freezer and have your child feel each ball in their hand.
3. Have them keep holding the balls for 30 seconds. Which ball felt colder for longer?

The science behind it:

Metal is a heat conductor, while rubber is a heat insulator. Heat conductors quickly heat-up and cool-down because electrons can easily move through the material. This movement is a transfer of energy/heat. The reverse is true for insulators.

Find more science experiments for your child in our Montessori teaching albums for Kindergarten and First Grade.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Writing & Art: Ribbon-Bound Books

A wonderful project for children who are working on their beginning writing skills is to create handmade books. Ribbon-bound books provide a great opportunity for them to combine art skills with writing.

Your child can think of how he or she wants to approach the project:
1. Create the blank book first. Add written work and art to the book gradually.
2. Start with a writing project, create the art, and then make the book to suit the finished products.

Some ideas:
1. Children who love all things motorized can combine photographs and technical drawings along with written descriptions and story. The colors of the ribbons and cover pages can match some of the contents.
2. Your child does not have to use ribbon or paper. He or she can look for interesting and eco-friendly alternatives such as aluminum foil with wire for binding or fabric covers with braided rope.
3. Is your child just beginning to write? Copying word lists (see below) onto three-lined paper that can be pasted into the pages will make a wonderful work book.
4. Gifts. Your child can create a baby gift with soft touchable fabrics pasted onto the inside pages or a grandparent gift with lots of art work and photographs combined with poems and essays.
5. Trip log of a family camping trip or a field trip to a botanical garden.

Your home classroom should have lots of word lists. These are lists of words that contain a similar element such as all words that have "ch" or "aight" in them.

A great way for you to interact with your child in this project is to create a book for yourself. This is an excellent group project for children of all different ages, so it is perfect for a classroom of children or a family at home.

This beautiful ribbon-bound book photo was kindly provided by Nuvonova, a shop on Etsy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sentence Diagramming: Review for you

Looking for some sentence diagramming review before you present it to your child?

We found a very useful video online that we wanted to share:

Note that this is not the presentation that we suggest for your Junior class aged child. The Montessori sentence diagramming material streamlines the presentation for your child, but this is a great video for you to brush up on the key concepts before you start helping your child at home!

Montessori Curriculum and Brain Development -- Link

Our recent post on Montessori and Brain Development on our Montessori for Infants and Toddlers blog turned out to apply to all ages, so we are sharing the link here for those of you who do not subscribe to that blog.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Montessori Physics: A Simple DIY Physics Project

This is a great hands-on project for children of any age.

Material needed:
1. One bowl 2/3 full of uncooked rice grains
2. Ten large pieces of dried fruit
3. A spoon for stirring

Substitute any available material for the rice and dried fruit. For toddlers, substitute safe, non-choking material, and let your child play as long as he or she wishes.

Let your child mix the larger objects into the rice. You shake the bowl until the large objects rise to the top. We start with ten because your child can count them.

A fun exercise that will entertain for ages.

Here are the physics behind it:

WHY DO LARGE THINGS RISE TO THE TOP? Shaking grains of different sizes in a container creates large-scale flow patterns which are responsible for separating the grains by size, new experiments have shown. An important problem in industry has been to determine why, when one shakes a pile of sand, mixed nuts, or other granular material in a container, the larger particles end up on top and the smaller ones wind up on the bottom. New experiments, performed by Sidney R. Nagel (312-702-7190) and his colleagues at the University of Chicago, uncover a previously unsuspected mechanism: the separation is caused by large-scale flow patterns, or "convection," in the grains. The researchers studied the rise of a single large glass bead through a vibrating cylinder filled with smaller beads. They found that the large bead, once it had reached the top of the pile, was unable to follow the convection cycle through a very narrow region of downward motion along the walls of the container. The researchers discovered that container boundaries play an important role in the convective process that leads to separation. (James B. Knight et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., 14 June 1993.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Junior Class Exercise: Learning About Media and Advertising Language

The New York Times online had a very useful article titled In a World of Ads, Teaching the Young How to Read Them that I highly recommend.

It discusses the federal educational effort, directed at children in grades four to six, but children following our Montessori at home curriculum should be able to start by first or second grade, via the website admongo, which is well worth a look.

The idea is to teach children what language in commercials and advertisements actually means. The site takes a middle of the road approach to the concept of commercials and advertisements that you can modify in whatever direction you prefer at home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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The Foreign Affairs Writing Contest...with Prize: For College-Aged Children

This looked like a fun and educational writing contest, plus it has a cash prize of $500 that will cover a few text books.

Foreign Affairs Writing Contest

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Free Downloads at Montessori for Everyone

For everyone preparing a classroom or homeschooling with Montessori, Lori at Montessori for Everyone has more free downloads of her fabulous Montessori material for print.

Montessori for Everyone offers printable materials (as PDF files) for all the curricular areas, including language, reading, math, art, music, science, history, and geography.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Color Sorting Project: DIY

Here is a little classroom video clip that we added just to show you the setup of an at home DIY color project. Notice that we used plastic colored bowls with random colored objects for each bowl.

You can introduce the color sorting and other color projects at home without the expense of buying the Montessori Color Tablets.

Montessori curriculum for Toddlers, Kindergarten-aged children, and First Grade available on our site.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Montessori Equipment for Homeschooling 3 to 4 Year Olds

We are sharing the answer to a great question we got in from a parent asking what equipment we would recommend for this age group.

If you purchased our Montessori Curriculum for Primary Class (PreK to Kindergarten ages), there are some basic lists and suggestion in the binders and we suggest you make or buy the equipment that we introduce in the curriculum. Most of it can be made fairly easily, and all of it can be made or improvised if you are handy with DIY projects.

Here is a basic starter list:

1. Sandpaper Letters

2. Movable Alphabet set in a compartmentalized box or DIY equivalent

3. Word cards for CVC (e.g. dog), CVVC (e.g. beak), and CVCV (e.g. cake) words.

4. Practical Life DIY setup including small pitchers, bowls, sponges, clothes, brooms, mops, dustpans, buckets, and similar material (if you have our curriculum, see the list in the binder).

5. Spindle boxes, Golden Beads (units through thousands), number cards (1 to 10000)

6. Red Rods, Number Rods, Pink Tower, Color Tablets (at least set 1 and 2), Brown/Broad Stairs

7. Books using words from #3 above as well as more advanced material designed to be read to your child. See the free downloadable books at Project Gutenberg and check out a sample of our Adobe PDF book for Montessori Pink Level Reading words. You should have a minimum of 20 books that your child can start reading and at least another 20 that you read to your child. You can make these with the Gutenberg books, write your own, browse yard sales, or take out library books, too.

8. Three-lined writing paper, pencils, erasers, colored pencils with pencil holders, blank rolodex cards (for you to make equipment with), watercolor paints, brushes, painting and art paper, smocks/painting clothes.

Questions? Send them along!