Friday, August 5, 2011

This is a sweet photo of a student who just baked banana bread.  She is in an all-day program, and baking is the best thing that ever happened to all-day Montessori.  It is such a wonderful opportunity for the child to either contribute to the environment or to the family dinner or breakfast.  We all want to feel like we have contributed in a meaningful way.  The perfect project and, for me, the perfect snack at the end of the day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Value of Humility

I have been considering the subject of compromise and humility lately.  At the Aspen Idea Festival, David Brooks spoke about how we as a nation have turned away from the idea of humility, and into a nation concerned with self-empowerment.  The sixties and seventies spawned the "me" generation.  It seems everyone these days thinks they are above average in most ways.  Most Americans feel that compromise is for those who are unsure or  possess a weak opinion of themselves.  There is a lot of ego involved in this self-confidence -- in effect saying, "I'm right and you're wrong".  Yet, our forefathers compromised heavily to create our nation. They were humbled by the task and held the notion that we were all created equal, with valid points of view. We show our intellect when we acknowledge that others may have ideas that are relevant, and perhaps, ideas that even lead us to change our outlook.  We show our compassion when we give up a little for the greater good.  I know that in our Montessori schools we present the art of compromise every day.  We respect others and their opinions.  Sometimes, the solution the children arrive at involves giving up a little, and acknowledging the needs and wants of others.  Most often, we become aware that everyone possesses wants and needs, and the trick is discerning the difference.  See the David Brooks speech below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another Year

What a great school year we had!  I have only been off two days and I am already missing all the funny and thoughtful things the children say and, of course, all their hugs!  Here are the graduates and a few of their activities:  baking, writing, enjoying our feast together, celebrating birthdays, and visiting the elders.  They are a strong and self-assured group, more than ready to make the world a better place!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Preschool Pays Off

Today in the Minneapolis StarTribune there was an article on a study the University of MN did on preschool efficacy.  Again, as in other studies,  the importance of preschool to later adult success was noted.  It is obviously necessary to find a way to offer all children the opportunity to go to a quality preschool.  When these studies are coupled with the brain research studies that are mapping the young child's brain, the evidence points to a Montessori approach.  We have a responsibility as educators to find avenues that lead to at least the possibility of a Montessori early childhood experience for all children.  Here is a link to the article:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Whole, Wide World

I wanted to share this with you to note my sister's work.  Years ago, after she returned from a Peace Corps assignment she made this scaled copy of the world.  While she was in Cameroon, she helped paint a larger version of it on the side of her village school.  It makes me happy to see this painting in our Casa.  It almost feels like the earth itself is looking over, protecting, and blessing our environment.  It also is a great reference tool and conversation starter.  What a very cool planet we live on.  That is my assistant of nine years with two of our children in the photo.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sunnier Days

Being that it is "supposed" to be spring, we have been working on the flower in our Casa.  One of the children took this work a step further.  I have classified cards of the scientific names of flower shapes.  This child did watercolor renditions of the flowers and labeled them.  As much as it has rained this spring, this work brought a ray of sunshine to the day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back on the Farm

A few pictures say it all.  We had a great day out in the country.  The children saw, fed, touched and interacted with chickens, cows, sheep, lambs, HUGE dogs, pigs, and also cooked and planted seeds.  All in a day's work on the farm.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Empathy in Action

Last week, I overheard this conversation:  "I feel like nobody likes me, " states one girl.  "Why do you feel that way?" asks another.  "I don't know."  A third girl says, "It seems like you need a hug."  "Group hug!"  they exclaim.  Everyone then goes back to their work.  I don't care how many tests these girls score 100% on, or how many times they win sporting events--the perfection of this exchange tops all of that.  In its essence, this is how education prepares a child for life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Still "Good at Doing Things"

I wanted to remind all of you of the wonderful resource we have in Dr. Steven Hughes.  As a pediatric neuropsychologist, he has special insight into what school environment is the best for children.  He became a huge proponent of the Montessori method as he noted that two facts:  how the method correlated to the actual stages of the development of the brain, and how a Montessori education emphasizes what parents, children and teachers find to be important for success in life.  Here is the recording of his entire talk.  It takes a while to get going, so be patient!  Check out his website, for other information.

Good at Doing Things: Montessori Education and Higher Order Cognitive Functions from Steve Hughes on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meditation and Children

We have been using meditation as a tool in our Casa to relax and release stress.  Our favorite chant is "Om Shanti," with the "om" indicative as the sound or symbol of the universe, and "shanti" meaning deep peace.  It is usually chanted in threes.  We use a song from a yoga cd that we like.  Our children are beginning to go off and take a few minutes to meditate when things in the Casa are too loud or chaotic for them, or when they need to calm themselves because they are frustrated over some incident.  I hope we can all carry some sort of coping device within ourselves that helps us be calm, relaxed, and aware of the great gifts inside and around us.  I came across an article about meditation and children that you might enjoy:  The photo is from a children's meditation garden in Wimbledon, London.  They are a Buddhist club, but I think it would be lovely to develop meditation gardens in our Montessori schools, complete with a labyrinth!  I know I would love to spend a portion of each day there.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I had to post this beautiful poem by Sara Kay, as hands are the cornerstone of our Montessori work.  Montessori says, "The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence," and "The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself."  In a myriad of ways, our hands create lasting expressions of life, both concrete and abstract.  For more Sara Kay, see the TED website.

Interpreting the Farm

I had to share this rather humorous take on the farm.  This child has only been presented through the preposition, so there are a few mistakes, for all you Montessorians out there.  She decided to embellish her work by drawing pictures of the animals.  I think it says, "The pig is feeding her pigs.  The geese ate the mother dog.  The horse is standing on the barn and the geese on ________.  The big fat _________ fainted on Sunday and the donkeys on _______________________ in the barn."  If you have any ideas to fill in the blanks, let me know by commenting!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Bunny Love

Can you stand the cuteness!  Marley, our rabbit, is going on five years.  He is a Mini-Rex and their lifespan is 5-7 years.  Get ready for the tears when the big day comes!  I hope he takes a cue from our guinea pig Robby and lives much longer than predicted.  Robby lived to be 9 or 10, which is extremely long for a guinea pig.  Cross your fingers for Marley--he turns 5 on July 4!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tea Time

There has been a lot of tea work in our room lately.  It is a lovely activity.  We use herbal tea and have an airpot of warm water.  The children prepare the tea, and while it is steeping, they may invite a friend to share teatime with them.  After they prepare the tea table, they clean up their work, bring the tea to the table, and enjoy the time with a friend.  The sort of crumbly cheese snack in the middle photo is a quesadilla, which is another activity in our room.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Searching for Spring

We are all a little winter weary in our Casa.  We put the window washing work out in hopes of spring cleaning being just around the corner.  I love the juxtaposition of the spring dress and kelly green tights against the window and the never-ending snow.  On this same day, we also started some seeds.  Now, all we need is a little sun and a little luck.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Честита Баба Марта-- Happy Baba Marta

Today we celebrated Happy Grandmother March (a Bulgarian holiday) in our Casa, as one child's mother is originally from Bulgaria.  Here is what has to say about the holiday:

Martenitsa (Bulgarian: мартеница /ˈmar.tɛ.ni.ʦa/, plural мартеници, martenitsi) is a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn and worn from March 1st until the 22nd March (or the first time an individual sees a stork, swallow or budding tree). The name of the holiday is Baba Marta. "Baba" (баба) is the Bulgarian word for "grandmother" and Mart (март) is the Bulgarian word for the month of March. Baba Marta is a Bulgarian tradition related to welcoming the upcoming spring. The month of March, according to Bulgarian folklore, marks the beginning of springtime. Therefore, the first day of March is a traditional holiday associated with sending off winter and welcoming spring.

We made our own martenitsas in our room, and welcomed the first day of March, which was sunny and warm.  Hopefully, spring is on the way soon!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Continents and Confusion

This continent work has been popular in our Casa lately.  The children punch out the continents in colors that correspond with the puzzle map, cut out the hemispheres, glue the continents on the hemispheres, and label the continents.  My trainer always said we MUST NOT do this because the punched continents are not accurate representations of the continents.  However, many of my colleagues (AMI and AMS) offer this activity so I decided to try it. It does seem to give the children a real and remembered sense of the continents and their names.  I always try to help the children realize what our continent is in relation to country, state (in our case) and city.  On Thursday I asked a small group, "What is our continent?"  Most replied with our city name, finally, "North America!"  "Okay, what is our country?"  City names again, then, from the same child, "United States!"  "Okay, what state do we live in?"  A few missteps but eventually, "Minnesota!"  "And what city are we in?"  Thank goodness they got that.  I then went the other way, what city, state, country, continent.  My last question was, "And what planet do we live on?"  Someone shouts out, "The Sun!"  I've got some work to do. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Truly Logical Consequence

I thought you might enjoy seeing our little baking set-up.  We've been making tortillas (gluten-free) for some time now.  The children use them later to prepare quesadillas for a snack.  This looks like a fairly successful baking adventure as I don't see flour all over the floor.  Rice flour can be extremely slippery.  Yesterday two children had "accidentally" spilled all of their flour and were slipping around on it as they "cleaned" up.  I just said, "Oh, it looks like you could use some help cleaning up," and we moved on.  Later, one of the children said, "Where are my tortillas," and was truly confused.  I said, "Remember, your dough fell all over the floor?"  He wore such a crestfallen look.  I love it when logical consequences are actually natural.  There was no need for any further words.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Serendipitous Success

We have a Parent Night every school year where the children show their parents the room and the work.  We teachers and assistants sit back and let the children take the lead.  It is sometimes necessary for me to sit on my hands as I see:  1)  Children using the material incorrectly, and 2)  Children choosing material that they have never been presented!  Imagine my delight (all you Montessorians will understand) when this girl went up to the sandpaper letters, traced them, and told her parents the sound!  I'm glad I decided to display the letters this way.  It takes up a great deal of space but gives the letters the importance they deserve.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vertebrate Floor Mat

This is a project we created for a fundraiser our school is having.  Each Casa donates a project for the live auction.  We decided to do a canvas floor mat of the five animal vertebrates.  We used primed canvas and cut a square.

We folded the canvas into a square and used a pencil attached to a string to cut our circle.  The children help cut it out and lay it down.

 Next, we paint on the background color with acrylics.

I pencil in the basic design that we devise, and the painting begins!  We use the fractions of five to draw evenly spaced lines for the five spaces by setting the fraction in the middle and extending the lines.

After the basic design is done, I pencil in the animals and the children paint them.

 We paint the outer border next.

 I add details to the animals, do the lettering, we edge with binding, and add a coat of polyurethane.  Voila!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Baby Penguins are Chicks

I forgot all about this sweet (and very short) video a parent made for me.  The children remind me of giant penguins--just hanging out and having a good time! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I went to a great workshop yesterday on Special Needs Children and Montessori.  Dr. Ann Epstein from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse was the presenter.  She is a former Children's House teacher so she had wonderful ideas for making special needs work in the Montessori environment.  One school she mentioned that has had much success with special needs and inclusion is  Topics of discussion at the workshop:  Risk Factors, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (United States), Assessing Special Needs, Cognitive Disorders and Delays, Inclusion, Learning Disabilities, Behavioral Disorders, Sensory Integrations Disorder, Autism and Asperger's, and Partnering with Families.  I hope to blog on some specific disorders and the adaptations in the Montessori environment in the future.  What a great resource:  a Montessori teacher with a doctorate in Special Education!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who is the love?

One of my students came in at four years old knowing all her letter sounds with the manuscript letters (we generally present cursive first but I always check to see what they know when they are older).  I dictated the first phrase and then got busy with something.  She came up with the second phrase.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tests Are Not The Thing

This is an excerpt from Dan Pink's (wrote A Whole New Mind) blog at  Brian Greene is an amazing physicist whose books include The Elegant Universe and Fabric of the Cosmos (fabulous reads).  As one commenting reader says (and I paraphrase), "If Brian Greene says it, I'm going with it.

Interview exchange of the day

From Deborah Solomon’s New York Times Magazine interview with superstar physicist Brian Greene . . .
SOLOMON: Do you think SAT scores define intelligence?
GREENE: No. They define the capacity to answer questions on an SAT test.

Just another reminder that the tests are not the thing.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What Makes You a Good Parent?

In the November 2010 issue of Scientific American Mind a new study is covered that examines what makes a good parent.  Notably, the number two attribute is managing stress for yourself and your children.  The number three attribute is having good relationships with people both in and out of the home, as opposed to a more child-centered relationship model.  Take a look at the article at:  Here is the list of the top ten attributes:
1.  Love and Affection.
2.  Stress Management.
3.  Relationship Skills.
4.  Autonomy and Independence (treating your children with respect and trust).
5.  Education and Learning.
6.  Life Skills.
7.  Behavior Management.
8.  Health.
9.  Religion.
10.  Safety.
Here is a link to take Robert Epstein's (author of the article) parenting test:   For those of you who are teachers, this might be an interesting conversation on a parenting night.