Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fund Early Childhood Education

Researchers consistently call out the first six years of a child's life as the most important in terms of brain function and personality development.  Yet, early childhood education lacks federal, state and local funding of the kind elementary and secondary education receive.  If we truly want to make a difference in the life of a child, the place to start is at least age three and ideally, from infancy on.  There is funding for the most disadvantaged, and of course, the high income families can afford to pay for quality education.  But what of those in between?  Three day a week preschools do not offer the quality care and education that children, families and communities need to thrive.  If we hope to change our world; less crime, less poverty, peaceful co-existence, we need to start where and when we have the most chance of success:  the child prior to age six.  FDR said, "The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize."  It is time to examine our methods.  We fund schools that are based on an agricultural calendar and an outmoded factory model.  The times have changed and so have families.  Let's fund for the future.  Let's fund where we find the greatest payback, for the child and for all of our lives.  Contact Senator Al Franken at, Senator Amy Klobuchar at and Governor Tim Pawlenty at   (just in case).  Just a few words will do.  Ghandi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."  Maria Montessori said, "Establishing lasting peace is the work of education;  all politics can do is keep us out of war."  We can all make a difference, one person at a time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Power of Concentration

I've added a very short video of a 3-year-old child working on wood polishing.  She shows great concentration in the video, which is edited down from the 30 minutes of actual polishing to a view time of less than 2 minutes.  The unedited video shows the same activity, as she continues to work at polishing the same piece.  The intensity of her concentration throughout everything happening around her is amazing.  My assistant is guiding children with baking and filling the dishwasher.  I am giving various presentations.  The child is obviously fully absorbed by what she is doing,  fulfilling her need to work and to perfect her movements. Once the child's body can obey her mind and the two can work in concert, the child can achieve what she sets out to do.  I can tell you this child was immensely satisfied by her ability to execute the polishing, and to clean it up and put it away so that it was ready for the next person.  She didn't need to tell me that--I could see it in her face.  I simply propped my camera on the shelf in front of her in video mode and we went about our work for the next 30 minutes.  Stay with it for the first 30 seconds as she becomes more in the center of the camera view after that.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Children Connecting with Elders


We have a partnership with an assisted-living facility where our children interact with the elders about three times a month.  We do crafts, sing, play bingo and just generally hang out.  The elders love to see the children and are often inspired to remember their own children and their own childhood.  The children develop an appreciation for the elders and their own ability to help.   The above photo is of the beautiful aviary the elders enjoy.

The children attend an orientation each year where they gain a familiarity with wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen-assistance, vision impairment and the like.  We feel lucky to have this wonderful interaction with the elders!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kind and Firm

We had our first book club meeting Thursday evening.  The discussion involved about 20 parents and teachers discussing the first chapter of Jane Nelsen's Positive Parenting.  It seemed that many issues with our children revolve around control, or lack thereof.  How do we inspire our children to be the best they can be and still be sane through our daily routines?  Jane Nelsen says we need to use kindness and respect at the same time.  She writes "Kindness is important in order to show respect to the child.  Firmness is important in order to show respect for ourselves and for the needs of the situation.  Authoritarian methods usually lack kindness.  Permissive methods lack firmness."  While punishment doled out in an authoritarian method usually yields short-term results for us, it does not result in the long-term outcomes we are hoping to develop in our children, like self-discipline, respect for self and others, and openmindedness, to name a few.  We discussed the importance of a united front with our significant other so that children experience consistency.  We saw the value of involving the child in the decision-making process of the family so that they have a vested interest in the outcomes.  We also acknowledged the importance of taking time before reacting so that our "reptilian" brains (fight or flight reactions) can calm down and we can access a more rational response.  We will be reading and discussing Chapters 2 and 3 for our next meeting, which will be on the first Thursday of November.       

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Our guinea pig, Robby (officially Robin) is eight and a half years old.  My son told me the oldest guinea pig in captivity died at age 14 (he loves the Guiness Book of World Records).  I'm guessing for guinea pigs in the wild the life span is about 2 minutes, given their poor eyesight, slow gait and inability to perceive height. Anyway, Robby is a much-loved part of our environment and we will miss him dearly when he is gone.
The children take care of him with very little direction from me.  The older children teach the younger children how to hold Robby, how to pet him, how to give him food and water, and how to clean his cage (with gloves of course).  They know they are needed and they rise to the occasion.  Meaningful contribution is a necessary component of our perceived self-worth.  The children realize their competence and it shows, not only in how they take care of Robby but in their approach to all the work they do.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Adjective

Here are some of my fabulous older children working on the adjective with the farm.  They have worked with the material several times and were using the prepared labels to do the work themselves.  They put the symbols below the words instead of on top, but otherwise completed their work beautifully and had fun!  Fun, working with grammar!  What a concept.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sensorial Simplicity

This little guy is marching around his brown or broad stair creation.  Every morning he comes in, and makes some new creation with the brown stair or the pink tower and then moves on to other things.  We all have our routines.  He knows geography better than most adults, can read and do basic equations yet is drawn to the sensorial materials.  I am amazed at how basic these materials are, yet they have such intricacy just below the surface.  I'm sure that is why so many children are drawn to them, to some unconscious complexity in the world that finds order in these materials.  I know that the materials make geometry easier when it is later introduced in the more conventional way.  My own son asked me, "Have I taken geometry before, because it seems like I understand it before it is explained?"  The simplicity of the genius of Dr. Montessori.