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Welcome

I would like to extend a warm welcome to you and am happy that you found Edussori. Our vision is to create an online Montessori community where we can support, teach and enlighten each other while also creating a larger Montessori presence in the world.  I am AMI trained from 3 years to 12 years of age and have my Master’s of Education from Loyola College. For the past 20 years I have worked with children in a variety of settings that encourages hands on experiences and children taking the lead in their own learning. I am very excited to share this knowledge with you.

I am taking a year off from guiding in a classroom so that I can guide my 2 year old son for a year before he enters a Casa program. I am not trained at the Nido/Toddler level but I have been  extrapolating what to do from my Casa training, relying heavily on my Montessori Theory Album. It is these adaptations and experiences that I will share with you as well as some articles I have written.

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Follow the child

Providing Experiences that Match your Observations

If you have been around Montessori for long, you have probably heard the term, “following the child”. For anyone not Montessori trained, you may not know exactly what is meant by this. In essence it means that we observe the child and then take our direction from our observations by providing them with experiences that fulfill their inner drive.

Observe first

My son has been very keen on carrying our keys around and putting them in any place they will fit in an effort to unlock things. Expertly, he is imitating what he sees. If we hold him up to a lock and give him the correct key, after some time, he can get the key in the hole. He is also capable of taking it out.

Providing Activities Based off of Observation

While this real world experience pleases him tremendously, it also is a minor burden on us. First off, there have been several times that we have been on the way out the door only to discover that our keys were not where we left them. Fifteen minutes later, they were discovered in some overlooked crevice. Because we are in a foreign country and don’t have access to all the same toys. We were unable to purchase a ready made lock box for children for just this purpose. Instead we improvised and purchased a padlock which we locked to a chair in our living room. The keys went on a keychain and now Orion has his own set. We ended up putting them on a lanyard so he could wear them around his neck. He is quite keen right now with putting and taking things off his head/neck.
boy learning fine motor skills keys locks

Allow Child to Independently Work with Activity

After we secured the lock so that it was parallel to the floor, thus easier for him to access, we showed him how it was done. He immediately became focused on this new task and sat for over 20 minutes with this activity. The first time he succeeded in getting the key in the lock, he clapped. He was so proud of his accomplishment. And just like a scientist, he experimented more, in the attempt to achieve the same results. Which he did, time and again. While absorbed in this activity, you can see that he is further developing his hand-eye coordination and his fine motor skills. Children are externally drawn to activities and materials that help them to further create themselves. It is our job to make sure that the objects they need to fulfill this internal drives are available to them.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article and have a little clearer idea of what it means to follow the child. You can read more on following the child here.

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Update to Theory Albums on the subject of Sensitive Periods

 

euproctis similis sensitive periodsIf your album is like mine, in the Four Planes of Development, there is a mention of how the term Sensitive Period came to be. In both my Primary and Elementary Theory Albums, it is stated that Maria Montessori got the term from Hugo de Vries. Hugo is said to have been a biologist and studied mutation in the Porthesia Butterfly. I just came across this blog post and wanted to share.  “Sensitive Periods: Hugo de Vries, Jacques Loeb, and the Porthesia Larvae” was written by Uma Ramani in 2015. It is interesting and informative and shares the investigative work done to uncover the true history behind the story. She shares information that disclaims the Montessori version of Dr. Hugo de Vries work with Porthesia butterflies. Because Uma did not go further into where the term Sensitive Periods actually came from, I did a bit of my own research.

The term Sensitive Period is not associated with either Hugo de Vries or Jacques Loeb in Wikipedia. Hugo de Vries still contributed some very interesting things to the world, it is just entirely different than we were told. Hugo de Vries coined the term “pangenes” which throughout time was shortened to genes. According to Wikipedia, Hugo de Vries postulated that different characters have different hereditary carriers. He specifically postulated that inheritance of specific traits in organisms comes in particles, which he referred to as pangenes. He was also responsible for The Mutation Theory, a two-volume publication for the argument that evolution may occur more frequently with large scale changes than via gradualism as described by Charles Darwin. Jacques Loeb was a famous scientist in the early 1900s. According to the Encylopedia Brittanica: “Through his work with bringing about the development of sea urchin larvae from unfertilized eggs by exposing them to controlled changes in their environment. Loeb’s work was significant in showing that the initiation of cell division in fertilization was controlled chemically and was in effect separate from the transmission of hereditary traits. Loeb also is remembered for his work on the physiology of the brain, animal tropisms (involuntary orientations), regeneration of tissue, and the duration of life. He is noted for his arguments in favour of mechanism, the belief that the phenomena of life can be explained in terms of physical and chemical laws.”

I then searched for Sensitive Periods in Wikipedia, which is nested under Critical Period. Neither Jacques Loeb or Hugo de Vries are listed. Maria Montessori gets one sentence: “Dr. Maria Montessori was one of the earlier educators who brought attention to this phenomenon and called it “Sensitive Periods”, which is one of the pillars of her philosophy of education.” After an extensive though certainly not exhaustive search, I can not find any history of the term Sensitive Period that is not related to Montessori. In many of the pages I looked at, the term Sensitive Period is synonymous with the term Critical Periods.

So what we are left with then is a mystery. Where did Maria Montessori get the term Sensitive Period? It may have been Jacques Loeb though the term Sensitive Period is not mentioned in his Biographical Memoir published by the National Academy of Sciences. Several articles I read cite his work involving the Porthesia butterfly in which he referred to the caterpillars sensitivity to light in the beginning of their life.

Please let me know if you find anything else!

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Cooking and Imaginative Play

Cooking

Food 3230799 1920

One of the essential parts of Montessori Education is in the area of Practical Life. Practical Life activities constitute the work the child does to take care of themselves independently. Unlike the Sensorial Area, Practical Life activities are found throughout the different aged Montessori prepared environments, meaning Elementary or Cosmic Education, the Adolescent Community also known as Erdkinder and High School. Learning how to feed yourself is a key component of taking care of yourself and so every authentic Montessori program involves food preparation and cooking. This specific post has to do with children under the age of 6. With the First Plane child, imaginative play allows a child to further connect with daily activities they see others doing all around them.Were I to write a cooking post geared towards Elementary students I would call it Cooking and Socialization and for the adolescents, I would entitle it Cooking and Cultural Identity. 

With the First Plane child (aged 0-6 years) cooking is mainly about simple food preparation such as cutting a banana, peeling potatoes, stirring and mixing and flipping eggs. Because of the mysterious functioning of the Sensitive Periods much of what we think of as mundane activities may be internally driving some form of the child’s development so if a child gets really into a specific activity or task, allow them to perform it until they are satisfied. This may mean that you have more potatoes peeled than needed at the time. You can put them in a container with water in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.

Modifications and Delegation

When cooking with a young child, there are some modifications and preparations that can be made to make the experience successful and not too messy. The work that child completes may not be to your standards which you can either make an exception, draw attention to it or discreetly correct it. There will also be some tasks that the young child is not yet ready to accomplish but by watching you, they are seeing what needs to happen. In some ways it is like a mini presentation. Because every child is different, it is the responsibility of the adult to decide and delegate which tasks will be done by whom. Before you begin food preparation, it is best to gather all of the ingredients and materials you will need so that everything is within you and your child’s reach.

Preparing the Meal

The other night my son and I made a meal that I wanted to share because it was easy and delicious. It is roasted sweet potatoes and baked chicken breasts. To make the baked chicken breasts and roasted sweet potatoes we gathered the peeler, a baking sheet, a spatula, olive oil and the food; 3 chicken breasts, 1 sweet potato, 2 cloves of garlic and the spices; salt, pepper, oregano, basil and rosemary. We had a fairly large sweet potato which was enough for our family of 3. The beauty of this recipe is that you can cook as much as you will all eat and if you make too much, leftovers are delicious too. Little O helped gather some of the ingredients and then brought over his stool as I collected the last few items.

We turned the oven to 415 degrees and while we waited for it to heat up, we peeled and cut the sweet potato and seasoned the chicken breasts. The first thing we did was put some oil on the baking sheet. Depending on how much control your child has, they can pour the oil and spread it on the sheet, or just spread it. To spread the oil, we used a small cloth but you can also use a paper towel. Next we moved on to the sweet potato. Peeling is something that many children over 18 months are capable of doing, at least to some extent. Remember, we should not expect adult results from children. Once the sweet potatoes were peeled, we worked on cutting them. I gave Little O a butter knife and a part of a sweet potato to cut. He worked on that while I cut the rest of the sweet potato into ¾  inch cubes. We put the sweet potato pieces onto the oiled baking sheet. If you are cooking for only a few people, one baking sheet should be sufficient to hold both the sweet potatoes and the chicken. To make the sweet potatoes a bit more savory, we peeled and cut 2 cloves of garlic. Most young children should be capable of completing both of these tasks. We mixed the garlic pieces with the sweet potato directly on the baking sheet.

The last step before putting it all in the oven was to season the chicken. Because the chicken is raw and subject to disease, I placed the chicken on the remaining half of the greased baking sheet. I then gave the spice jars to Little O, one at a time and supervised while he sprinkled each spice onto the chicken breasts. The spice jars we buy have a plastic lid with holes in it so the amount that comes out is small. If your spice jars are different, you can also pour out the amount you want to use into small bowls and have them sprinkle it on from the bowl. Once all of the spices were used, we put on our oven mitts and put the baking sheet into the oven together.

Precautions and Redirection

If during the food preparation process he was ever veering from what I wanted him to be doing, I would first give a verbal redirection such as, “we are cutting the sweet potatoes right now” or “the other side of the knife is the side we cut with.” Remember to keep your verbal redirections positive. If these verbal prompts don’t work then I ask if I can take a turn and then I model for him what I expect. I make it a point not to physically take over without asking first, that way the experience remains an empowering one for him. Of course, that doesn’t include unsafe behavior, which should be stopped immediately. When dealing with hot surfaces, I make a point to repeatedly remind that the area/item is hot. In the case of the oven, when we open up the oven, we stand back to let that first wave of heat escape before we step close.

Imaginative Play

When we had finished preparing the meal and put it in the oven, Little O was not yet finished with performing the task of cooking and so he went over to his little kitchenette. He was so interested in the activity of peeling potatoes that he collected the materials he needed, the peeler, a potato and a knife. He then proceeded to peel and cut the potato, I helped him to put these pieces into a cup with water and place it in the refrigerator for another meal. Once he tired of that, he began making sandwiches, he has a beautiful set of felt ingredients for sandwich fixings. He even served it up on a platter and brought it to his grandmother and I.

Little O extended the activity of cooking with imaginative play which allowed him to continue practicing the skills and actions necessary for cooking real food. Through imaginative play, a child can try out roles he sees others doing, so essentially they can be a chef, an interior decorator, a paleontologist, a construction worker, a race car driver, a fashion designer, a parent, the list goes on and on. Through imaginative play the young child can connect with the larger society and feel a sense of place within the world.

I have written more extensively on Imaginative Play in the Montessori Environment. To read this post, click here

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Learning Language

Language has been on my mind lately. I have been so amazed at how much of early child development is about language. Sure they are also learning to be crawl and walk and learning to develop their small and large motor skills. These are monumental development milestones but with these skills they are essentially learning to control parts of their body. It is a cultural adaptation. Language is something external to them or at least that is what I used to think. My interest, sparked by my almost 3 year old, has led me to doing some research on the topic.

We live in exciting times because the emergent technologies are allowing us to pinpoint in the brain where language originates and which parts are involved. These new discoveries will lead us towards greater understanding of human language acquisition and are reconfirming the findings Maria Montessori made over 100 years ago. Patricia Kuhl has done groundbreaking research around language. What Patricia Kuhl and her team discovered was that one on one interaction between an adult and a child is the optimal way for children to learn language. Interestingly, they also concluded that learning via audio recordings or television does not yield the same results as in person connection and conversation. Between 6-12 months of age, infants are in what Patricia Kuhl refers to as a Sensitive Period for Sounds and speaks of the ages between 0 and 7 as the Critical Period for Language Development. The amount of sounds that they take in during this time effects their language development later on in life. Patricia Kuhl has an excellent Ted Talk video that you can view if you would like to learn more.

Patricia Kuhl’s work in 2017 has extended into exploring how music plays a role in language development. “Results showed that a 1-month laboratory music intervention focusing on rhythm learning enhanced 9-month-old infants’ neural processing not only for music but also for speech. Together, these results suggest that these enriched auditory experiences in infancy may improve infants’ general auditory pattern-detection skills and their sensitivity to phonetic information.” This provides parents yet one more way to provide vocabulary enrichment to their children. I know for us, when our son was under 2 years old, he wasn’t interested in having books read to him. Although I hadn’t heard about this research, I sang songs to him instead. I would often sing a familiar tune while making up the words to make it more relevant to the situation. When he began using the “ba”sound, I started singing songs that emphasized that sound, such as “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Barbara Ann” and encouraged him to join in.

When he first began speaking, you could see that he was using language as a way to get his needs met. Just recently, he has begun to use language as a way to describe the world around him and to connect with others. He picked these clues about language on his own. Now I see that it is because his brain is hardwired to do so though there are certainly ways in which we encouraged and nurtured this internal strive for acquisition. For one, we have always been keen on speaking to him on a regular basis.When he did start to vocalize, we would try to match or at least always made a point to respond to his verbalizations so that he would naturally pick up that language was a back and forth process. When the babbles turned to real sounds, we would repeat the words to show understanding and if a sound he made wasn’t clear, we would gently correct it. I believe that this not only gave him the correct model for the sound but demonstrated that what he was saying had importance. Research shows that infants pick up on the mechanics of a conversation as well as the phonetic makeup of sounds. “By around age 7 months, babies begin taking turns “speaking” with others instead of talking at the same time as others do. They may initiate conversations with others as they begin learning how conversation between people works.” This is why it is again so important for the caregivers in infant’s lives to talk to them and include them in on conversations with others on a regular basis.

Knowing about the Absorbent Stage from the Montessori Pedagogy, we had conversations with him before he was verbal. Even before knowing about Patricia Kuhl’s work, we were always trying to enrich his vocabulary and to immerse him in other languages. We were fortunate to have given birth in Bali, Indonesia, so the for the first two years of his life he was raised bilingually and because Bali is such a travel destination, he was regularly surrounded by other languages being spoken. We are currently living in the US and it will be interesting to see how much of the Indonesian language he will retain throughout his life. Either way, I look forward to witnessing his further developments in language and what others have experienced with the children in their lives.

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Decimal Fractions Extension

I recently came across a question from another Montessori educator about how you bring awareness to the fact that adding a zero to the end of a decimal number doesn’t change its value. I looked through my album and couldn’t find such a lesson or extension. I then thought back to how I have dealt with this in the classroom. When there was confusion or questions about it, we would pull out the Decimal Board. I would have the student write the number and place it in the appropriate places above and then have them lay out the beads and cubes. They could then concretely see that 4.2500 is the same as 4.5 because there would be no cubes for the zeroes. Usually they would see that they are the same but if they were still having difficulty, I would encourage them to write 4.25 and then put out the corresponding beads and cubes.

 

 

I wanted to share this extension with others who might find themselves in this place as well. I have recently posted the Decimal Fraction Accessories packet which include the decimal pinwheel and decimal fraction strips. Click here to view this product.

 

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Following the child

I have never considered introducing, “Walking on the Line”, until the other day when my 2 year started walking on the line created for a football field. Once he saw it, he was instantly drawn to it and made a beeline for it. It was wide which made it really easy for him to follow it while being able to stay on it. Walking on the Line is an activity done in the Children’s House, the Montessori 3 – 6 environment. It involves a series of lessons to assist the child with achieving coordination of movement of the whole body, development of equilibrium, opportunities for normalization, social cohesion and development of the will (self-control and self-discipline).  

This event further pressed upon me two things. First, the fact that children will use whatever is available to them for their own self construction and two, the importance of following the child. From a Montessori perspective, young children, aged 0-6, have an internal drive to be the master of their own development. This drive is largely unconscious and driven by Sensitive Periods, Human Tendencies and materials they can manipulate. Maria Montessori’s observation of children in an asylum rubbing food crumbs between their fingers led her to conclude that children will use whatever is available to them to aid in their development. This is why she created the materials that are now well known components to the Montessori Environment. It is also the reason why we, as the adults in children’s lives, should offer them a variety of experiences and materials to explore because we can not always be fully certain what they will utilize and why. In this way, the child is a wondrous unsolved mystery to us. In the Montessori prepared environment, the materials were chosen by the children under the supervision of Maria Montessori and all authentic Montessori Programs use the same materials. In the home, I believe that we have a bit more freedom of what we can offer our children. Sticking to the basic Montessori principles of a material will ensure that we are staying true to the Montessori pedagogy. Here is a bulleted list with short descriptions:

 

Characteristics of Montessori Materials

  • Kept clean, complete (no missing parts) and in good repair: If something breaks or goes missing the whole activity should be removed until the item is replaced
  • Aesthetically pleasing and attractive: Use a variety of natural materials such as wood, metal, ceramics, glass, grasses, cloth, etc
  • Appropriately sized: ergonomically scaled for child’s size and use, not too heavy to lift
  • Breakable items: support natural and logical consequences
  • Easily accessible to the child: everything a child needs for the activity is accessible to the child so the child can do the work without outside assistance. Some exceptions such as boiling water for tea
  • Self guiding/self correcting: Control of error built in
  • Mathematically precise: helps to develop the Mathematical Mind and appeals to the Human Tendency for Exactness
  • Non standard items reflect material culture: Can include multi-cultural items as we live in a global world today
  • Limited in quantity: Only have one of a material
  • Logical progression of materials on shelf and similar activities placed together: External order helps children to develop internal order

Dr. Montessori believed that education should be an aid to life, a system of learning that enables people to develop into their fullest potential. By sending your child to a Montessori School or utilizing the Montessori Method at home, you are helping to raise an individual who will be self-sufficient, self-motivated, confident and kind. Click here to explore Edussori’s selection of printable Montessori Materials, for the home and the classroom. Here’s to nurturing the mystery of human development.

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Imaginative Play in the Montessori Environment

You may have read that imaginative play is not encouraged in the Montessori environment. While it is true that children are not encouraged to dress up and play make believe, every material in the Casa allows for imaginative play. Imaginative play is the child’s constant attempt to imitate the models they see in the world. We give them this opportunity over and over again. We honor children by giving them complete and productive images that are safe and open-ended for them to incarnate the world in themselves. In other words, the child explores the world with their hands. They manipulate objects and use the sensorial messages in response to further their play.

Dr. Montessori said that toys are an imperfect and unproductive image of reality. Montessori Education strives to have objects/materials in the environment that are complete (perfect) and productive (show results) image of reality, meaning they reflect the real world. People can interpret her words in many ways. For example, children making mud pies are using mud instead of real ingredients to make a pie. But why not help them to make a pie? Or children having a tea party can make tea and then serve it. It is our job, as the adult in their lives, to make sure they have the materials they need to carry out what is in their imaginations.

Children learn through repetition and will be thrilled to do the same thing over and over again to master the skill. For this reason, it is not always practical to supply your child with real ingredients to fulfill their need of repetition and skill acquisition. My 28 month old son loves to cook and often helps out when I am preparing meals. He can cut, dump, peel potatoes and stir. We have even been working on cracking eggs and peeling potatoes. He loves this work and often wants to do it beyond the three meals a day. For this reason, I have provided him with his own kitchen complete with bowls, pans, fake food and a stove-top. He will prepare and serve us meals often experimenting with different food combinations.   

As a parent and a trained Montessorian, I have interpreted Dr. Montessori’s words as supplying toys that reflect the real world. We have trucks, airplanes, brooms, a kitchenette and a musical keyboard, all child sized. Until he was about 18 months old, our son never really showed interest in playing with toys that we received as presents. His favorite toys for the first two years of his life were the broom and dustpan. As he grew, he started showing interest in some toys such as cars and a kitchenette. He uses these toys to imitate what he sees adults doing. His current interest is racing cars, this interest started after we had taken him to a couple of stock car races. In addition to racing cars, he spends time “working on cars” as well, using whatever is near as a tool for tightening up car parts and “changing the oil.” Again, he is imitating what he has seen but he is in control. This work not only reinforces the things that adults do in our world but offers him opportunities for skill development such as hand eye coordination, pincer grip (for writing) and small motor control.

Because he is in control, all of this work allows him the opportunity to develop time management skills, develop a healthy concept of work, nurture concentration, develop his will and increase his self esteem as he sees that he can do things for himself and thus takes pride in what he does. Working with concrete abstractions at a young age is crucial to building imagination in the later stages of the First Plane and into the Second Plane. No wonder why Montessori Education is referred to as an “aid to life.” For more resources on Montessori Education, click here to browse through our resources or become a member of Edussori.

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Transition from Diapers to Using the Toilet Independently

Recently at our house, we have been absorbed with our 2.5 year old learning to use the toilet. We decided to use the 3 day cold turkey method inspired by this article, How I Trained My Kid to Use the Potty in Three Messy Days. As we are raising our son with the Montessori pedagogy, we do not normally use rewards and punishments but in order to keep the process short and sweet we used a few. Currently, O really loves all things associated with birthdays; cakes, singing and candles so we made a cake and put some candles on it. The idea is that every time he successfully uses the toilet we make a huge celebration out of it, complete with high fives, singing “Happy Birthday”, lighting and blowing out the candles and eating cake. I also decided to allow him to watch videos while sitting on the toilet, something that is severely limited in our normal daily routine.

Preparation for Day 1: O and I went to the library and borrowed all the books we could find about using the toilet that didn’t have animals wearing clothes. We also bought what we needed to make the cake, made and frosted the cake. We bought underwear, the article I reference above says 20 to 30 pairs but that seemed excessive to me. We bought 9 pairs and that number seems to be sufficient. We also talked about how in a few days we would no longer be using diapers. We used this same approach for weaning from breastfeeding and it worked really well for the last big step. One of the books was used the term, “no more diapers” and that became our mantra, O started saying it too.

Day 1: We don’t normally watch TV, at times O is allowed to watch some videos on Youtube, such as people singing happy birthday to each other, animals people and pets, anything that is reality based. So we sat in the bathroom for a good chunk of the day watching videos. The first time he went pee in the toilet, we made a really big deal of it and lit the candles on the cake. The rest of the day was spent asking him, near constantly, to let me know if he felt like he was going to pee. He answered no every time and so I would just take him into the bathroom and help him onto the toilet. By the end of the day we were at an even count of the amount of times he had used the potty versus the amount of times he went in his underwear and we were both tired of cake.

Day 2: The day started out great, his first two times were in the toilet and another time he went into the bathroom on his own and was trying to get his pants down when I came in. He had his first official poop in the toilet. I asked him frequently if he felt like he had to go pee or poop though there were still a few accidents. After I had to clean up a poop in the pants accident, I allowed him to go naked for the rest of the evening and for parts of Day 3.

Day 3: He is starting to consistently connect peeing with going into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet. We did venture outdoors for a walk around the block today, the first time we left the house/yard since this adventure started. He is certainly not potty trained yet but is happy to go into the bathroom and sit on the toilet. 

Two Week Update: It has now been two weeks since we started the potty training process and we are still not fully there. He has had dry underpants for the past 10 days. He is still not initiating going to the bathroom the majority of the time which is why I say we are not quite there yet. Comically, there have been a few times where he has pulled his pants down when he felt the urge to go, even though we were still in the kitchen. He is also still not able to fully undress and redress himself independently. We have resumed our normal lifestyle, which involves going out of the house and he has had no problem using other bathrooms.

What I would do differently: The cold turkey method I used was not Montessori in most ways and I think I would try to take a more Montessori approach next time. For starters, during the preparation period, I would talk to him about starting to identifying the feeling that comes when you have to pee or poop. In hindsight, I would have started having him undress and dress himself more during the preparation period. In addition, I am not sure how effective the rewards were, in fact, I think that some of them were a bit detrimental to the process. For instance, because I allowed him to watch videos while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom, he wanted to stay in the bathroom. While this was a safer bet for me, as he was sitting on the toilet, it didn’t help him to begin to use the toilet independently.

 

In conclusion, The process has been relatively hassle free and a year from now, I will look back and probably reflect that the transition from diapers to toilet was easy. Please share your comments below for do’s and don’ts from your own experiences. If you are looking for more information on Montessori parenting resources, click here.

 

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Spontaneous Science for Children Under 6

Science has enabled humans to reach great heights yet in the Montessori Curriculum, there is no Science Album. In my Casa training, I learned that science is not a separate subject but is incorporated into the rest of the Montessori Curriculum. This is because the human mind is Mathematical and science is a result of the Mathematical Mind at work: observing, creating order out of what is observed, seeing patterns/finding relationships. Maria Montessori borrowed the term Mathematical Mind from Blaise Pascal, a French physicist, philosopher and mathematician who said the “nature of the human mind is to be mathematical.” The Mathematical Mind operates, without awareness, in the First Plane of Development as the Absorbent Mind. The Mathematical Mind is active throughout all ages of a human’s life but it is dependent upon the knowledge and experience the child gains in their first few years of life. Click here to read more about the Mathematical Mind and how it pertains to Mathematics in the Montessori prepared environment.

In Montessori Theory, the Mathematical Mind describes the brain’s tendency to develop and function with exactness, with imagination and in an orderly fashion. Because the Mathematical Mind works within the Human Tendencies such as the ones just listed, the opportunities for scientific inquiry will come up naturally. It is the role of the educator to recognize the opportunity (if the child has not already done so) and draw the child’s attention to create awareness of a scientific situation. Adults can also encourage and model curiosity when they see an opportunity to do so. 

First Plane children (ages 0 – 6 years of age) are developing their Mathematical Mind and constructing their imagination from concrete experiences they have. We do not need to explain the world to the children, instead the guide provides children with the connection to the to the environment/materials. In this way, the guide creates an atmosphere that is more conducive to the child picking up on the science all around them.

Here is a list of examples broken down into areas of the Casa environment:

Practical Life
  • Washing the Leaves of a Plant: how leaves grow, textures of the leaves, color difference, leaf shape difference, that leaves grow, properties of water, cotton ball in water
  • Polishing Table: cause and effect, change in texture and look of the table
  • Pouring Activities: angle of pouring rate of pouring, what you are pouring, gravity
  • Walking on the Line: feel balance, carrying different weights, varying speeds
  • Washing Cloths: changes in temperature of water and effects on stain/soap, absorption quality of different cloths, chemistry with soap and water
  • Food Preparation: chemistry, logical sequencing change in form when heat is applied, effects of spoilage, density
  • Flower Arranging: displacement of water, surface tension, evaporation, capillary action, decaying
Sensorial Area
  • Variations and extensions give the child the opportunity of experimental investigation
  • The result of the Sensorial Area is refinement of Sensory Perception which is essential in Scientific Investigation and becomes preparation for conducting scientific experiments
  • Pairing and Grading Activities: do you always get the same results, use of variables in experiments through the isolation of individual qualities, experience with the Scientific Method
Language
  • Vocabulary: have accurate language to describe and explain
  • Reading: child has access to other people’s discoveries
  • Writing: child can communicate their own discoveries
  • Nomenclature cards: demonstrate how information can be shared
  • Classification cards: break down whole into parts
  • Attaching language: the abstraction (the word) makes it possible to then explore in your own mind
Mathematics
  • All materials in the Math area show relationships and patterns
  • Control of error and exactness in design and answer

It wasn’t until my child reached the toddler age that I finally comprehended the concept of Spontaneous Science. Although I am not Nido/Toddler trained, I take my Casa training, especially the theory, and adapt activities and materials to my toddler’s developmental needs which I am aware of through observing him on a regular basis. At times, it is very apparent that his Mathematical Mind is engaged. In many cases, I just bring out a specific item and let him explore it, on his o

wn, in collaboration with me or a bit of both. Sometimes, I will look up ideas of things to do with an item to further extend the exploration or to indirectly target a specific scientific concept. As we play around with different items, I started developing a list of things that can be used to explore Science spontaneously with Toddlers:

  • Magnets: magnetic vs non magnetic, attraction, repelling
  • Balloons: static electricity, gravity, pressure, expansion, collapse
    • For added exploration, tie two balloons together
  • Water: wet/dry, float/sink, bubbles, water energy, density, states of matter, surface tension, displacement
  • Feathers: structure, flight, applying different force when blowing
  • Toy Vehicles: aerodynamics, transportation, displacement of earth, speed
  • Gardening: biology, zoology, ecology, Plant and Animal Classification, decaying
  • Liquids/household agents: density, chemical reactions, solutions, mixtures, suspensions,
  • Blocks: architecture, forces, cause and effect
  • Leaves: biology, changing color, photosynthesis, shade
  • Prisms: color, sunlight
  • Balls: Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion, aerodynamics

As children get older, we introduce them directly to scientific concepts, science experiments and famous scientists to invoke their imaginations and spark their curiosity. I hope that you now see how scientific experimentation is important, relevant and necessary at all ages of development though the way it is presented depends on where they are in their development.

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Find a Montessori School Near You

The process of finding a Montessori School near you might seem daunting but it really doesn’t need to be. Doing a google search may not pull up all of the options. Many public schools are now adding Montessori Programs, especially Charter Schools. Here is a helpful list of sites that will help you find all the Montessori schools near you.

After your initial search for Montessori schools in your area, make sure you read my blog post on What to Look for when Choosing a Montessori School.