Each one of us is a storyteller (whether we choose to believe it or not is another matter). We all have a plethora of unique and interesting stories to tell. Any time you pass along information about something that happened, and it has a beginning, a middle and an end, then that’s a story. This is the message I am continually conveying to the children I get to spend time with every day in Children's House. I like to remind them that even though some of us are more dramatic (so telling a story feels easy and natural), and some of us are more reserved (so telling a story feels a bit more uncomfortable), we are ALL still storytellers are heart!
Here at White Bear Montessori, and in all authentic Montessori schools, the Farm Game is one of the most sought after and longed for presentations in the Children’s House environment. If you watch even the youngest children enter the room, they seem drawn to it by magnetism. I certainly can’t blame them. Of all the materials in the Children’s House, this presentation looks the most like toys they are familiar with. I’m sure some of them have many of these very pieces at home! In our environment the Farm Game includes a barn, of course, but it also has a farmhouse for the farmer to live in, a mud puddle for rolling, a pond for swimming, grass for grazing, and nearly 50 farm animals of different colors, sizes and types. Our youngest children, ages two or three, would love to set up and play with the plethora of animals. For our older children, the Farm Game provides so much more learning.
Has your family personally experienced the joy of labeling yet? Mine has. My son spent WEEKS in Children’s House at White Bear Montessori practicing writing one letter at a time and sounding out the word for every object he saw. One day it all came together for him and he realized he could write a word – and the sky was the limit. He labeled our entire home!
When my kids started showing signs that they were interested in reading and writing, like most Moms, I turned to the internet to research how to teach kids to read and write. I wanted to know the right way to do these things so I don't confuse them. I also didn't want to contradict what they were learning in their Toddler and Children's House - especially during their Kindergarten year. What I learned is that the internet can be a confusing place. Do kids need to be able to recognize letters before they start writing them? That made sense to me, but Montessori teaches it the other way around. Keep reading and I'll clear up the confusion by telling you why writing is taught before reading in the Montessori method.
Montessori assumes a totally different way of teaching reading by teaching writing first. This approach is far more effective and efficient because by the time you learn to read you’ve already learned to write. Traditional education approaches reading through an intellectual process. Montessori begins teaching reading long before the intellectual process is ready giving it a great head start. Montessori education begins with the training of the senses. That is why there is tremendous emphasis on practical life and sensorial materials in the classroom. None of it “appears” intellectually stimulating but it is the basis of success in Montessori reading.
This may sound like bragging a little bit, but I can't tell you how often I am complimented on how well my kids speak. People are always surprised at how articulate they are and that they speak full sentences and use vocabulary usually reserved for much older children. My own sister was amazed that she had a 5-minute conversation with my 3-year-old about how she got a bump on her head. I don't do anything special, I just talk to them the way I want them to learn to talk. I spoke to them in full sentences from the day they were born. We also have a very language-rich environment at home and at school. We read a LOT. And my husband says we also talk a LOT.
Last week my five-year-old son brought home an enormous hand-painted map of the seven continents. I was impressed by his ability to trace and paint the continents with watercolors. But what knocked me off my feet was his beautiful cursive handwriting. He had carefully written the names of each of the continents in cursive. Since when do five-year-old's learn to write in cursive? Most public schools don’t even start teaching cursive writing until at least second grade, if they teach it at all. Some schools have decided that learning to print and use cursive is no longer necessary in this “age of technology.”
At WBMS, learning cursive is an essential skill that is introduced to children as young as four in Children's House. During Maria Montessori’s extensive observations of the child, she discovered the importance of learning through movement and the senses. Research corroborates the vital hand/brain connection, proving that new pathways in the brain develop as children use their hands to explore and interact with the world. Take a moment to watch your child draw. Look at the way he or she holds the pencil and forms the lines. From their youngest age and without even knowing it, they are preparing themselves for cursive writing.