As I was planning my presentations for the day, I realized that I had reached the last page of my notebook. At first I just though, "Oh, looks like I need to buy myself a new notebook," but then the meaning of that moment dawned on me. When I looked back to the first page of my notebook, I noticed the date and that I had been using this notebook for 3 years now! I then took some time to look through some of the pages, and it filled me with a sense of nostalgia.
When we think of the way that most of us learned about addition, we think of the classic: 2+2=4. Most people think that small children need to start with small addition. Some of our first experiences with addition probably involved a chalkboard or worksheet. If any of you are like me, math was not my favorite subject, and it was a challenge for me. I vaguely understood the concepts I was taught, or managed to remember them long enough to regurgitate them onto a test, and then they left my head pretty much as quickly as they entered.
I’ll never forget how my perception of math all changed once I took the training to be a Montessori Guide. I had so many “aha moments” where I saw math concepts in a whole new way; they made so much more sense. I remember at one point thinking, “If I had only learned math this way when I was a child, I would have probably actually loved it!” It is for this reason that I love presenting the Montessori math materials to the children in my class. I love seeing the moments of clarity and understanding and the way they are able to grasp such abstract concepts after exploring with these materials. Not everyone loves math, but if you would like to learn how math is taught in the Children's House, keep 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.
It always amazes me to watch children dress themselves in a public location such as a restaurant or at the door of a large retail store. There is such a wide variety of capabilities when it comes to children who are capable of zipping their coat, putting on their mittens and hats, or (gasp!) tie their shoes. I've always wondered why there are 3-year-olds who can tie their shoes and 8-year-olds who can't button their shirt or zip their coat. So when I saw the dressing frames in the Toddler room at WBMS, I realized how early a child is capable of learning to care for themselves. As a society, we don't take the time to let children try, fail, try, and then finally learn how to take care of themselves. We are just too busy and I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I certainly do my fair share of zipping and tying to get going faster - especially in the morning, right?!
This is the thrid installment of the Montessori Materials Series. The focus today is on the first practical life exercises that a child will learn in our preschool program.
One of the intangible benefits of a Montessori education is the development of skills such as concentration, respect, grace, courtesy, responsibility and a love of learning. I will talk about all of these skills over the coming weeks, but today I was moved to tell you about my experience with learning to concentrate. This year, my youngest child started the Children’s House program.
Last Friday, she brought home her first folder of work, which was surprising to me because it took almost two years for my son (now in Kindergarten) to do any work that actually produced results like writing or painting. When I opened up the folder in my kitchen, at least 200 very small squares of paper fell out all
Welcome back to the Montessori Materials Series for the Children's House Montessori Classroom. In this edition we are going to discuss the first area of the prepared environment that the children learn in the Montessori method of education: practical life. The Children’s House is designed for children between the ages of 2 ½ and 6 years. During this time, the children are given the chance to learn from each other while they play, to practice patience and compassion, to develop thoughtful leadership skills and team playing abilities.
What is Practical Life?
Practical Life activities are the essential everyday tasks that we are expected to perform as adults. Skills such as caring for yourself (personal hygiene and dressing); caring for your environment (cleaning and gardening); daily tasks (cooking and making work choices); grace and courtesy (interpersonal skills, apologies, complimenting, questioning and observing); and control of movement (appropriate body language and silence) are woven into the Montessori school day. Dr. Montessori uses these tasks to foster self-confidence, independence, concentration, self-control, and a love of learning. They are fundamental characteristics that children use to build the person they will become from the inside-out.
It was really hard to decide which area of development in the Children's House, Montessori's preschool environment I would write about first. I mean, how do you choose? The materials used to introduce reading and writing fascinate the heck out of me. However, what really blows my mind is to see the progression of mathematics. But in true Montessori fashion, all of the guides in our school implored me to move through the materials as a child might, starting on their first day and progressing through kindergarten graduation. Sigh. Ok. You got me. But first, I need to make sure you understand how the classroom, otherwise known as the prepared environment, is setup.
I find it interesting listening to the children’s Christmas and birthday wish lists, hearing the latest and greatest “must haves” of the year. My daughter’s birthday is coming up, so we are purging a lot of toys. It amazed me how much stuff they get that doesn’t have any purpose to it – not even with a good imagination. Every year it is something new: more buttons, more noise and more gadgets. I can’t help but think about what a wise and clever woman Dr. Maria Montessori was: a person who developed materials that children actively manipulate with tireless joy and wonder. I thought about what it is about the Montessori materials that cause children to work with purpose.