Implementing Montessori At Home

“From small beginnings come great things”

~ Proverb

As a new parent I remember feeling confused and overwhelmed. What did I know about raising a child and guiding one? It all seemed like a mystery to me.

I discovered Montessori when Joshua was quite small. As you may know, my husband is a Montessori graduate, he went through Cycle 1 before transferring to mainstream school. Still, that early experience has stayed with him, he remembers the materials, remembers feeling the sandpaper letters beneath his fingers. When I learned of these experiences I was intrigued and started looking into Montessori Method.

Sadly when I started researching it was hard to find reliable information. Google Montessori for beginners or like phrases and you come across just about everything you can think of. But where was the “how to” guide to implementing Montessori at Home? Does it involve a lot of changes and a lot of money? I don’t believe it has to. In preparing to change our spaces we did a lot of reflecting and evaluating our (then) current situation before moving forward. As tempting as it is to make changes immediately in order for success I am a real believer in planning ahead. Here are the things we did in order to implement Montessori successfully into our household:

1. Read up on the Montessori Method
I highly recommend doing a bit of reading prior to commencing changes. These resources will give some great advice on the Montessori philosophy for beginners. It gives information on what the method is about and you can assess whether it is suitable for your family.Recommended reading:
How to Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way – Tim Seldin
The Joyful Child – Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Child of the World – Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Teach Me To Do It Myself – Maja Pitamic
Internet resources:
Aid to Life

2. Observe your child.
One of the first things that we did before making any changes was to observe Joshua. Impatient as I was to implement changes to our home and to our lives I made myself sit back. This is probably one of the hardest exercises – but also the most cost effective – that I have done to date. I am not a teacher. But something that stuck with me on my reading was about the importance of observation. What should I be looking for? At 6 months old I was looking for developmental milestones, gross motor skills achievements and requirements. Observation is hard. Initially all I could see was Joshua moving around and it seemed randomly doing stuff. Sometimes taking notes helped. As time went on I realised that by simply observing and not interfering I was able to learn a lot about him. He was very intent and interested in colours and stacking and shapes. He was pushing things around a room which indicated to me that he wanted to walk but was not yet able to do so. Observation is a deeper process than just watching. It is also much harder than you would think. After much practice I am able to now observe much more easily and respond to changes in Joshua’s needs and adjust appropriately.

3. Invest in shelves.
Shelves are so important. If possible I would advise to invest in the best quality shelves that you can afford however space and budget are also an important consideration. We use Ikea shelving – affordable and aesthetically pleasing – but if I had to redo this I would choose much more beautiful wooden shelving. At the time we were looking there was very little in the way of affordable Montessori shelving but we have many more options available now. I quite like the shelving from M.A.N. Made creations hereBasic shelves are a must. Anything that gets things into an orderly manner and allows exploration and contributes to the child’s sense of order is a positive change.

4. Invest in the best quality toys and materials you can afford.
There are some things you can get quite cheaply but I would question whether you should. I would rather have one good toy than have 20 cheap quality toys that won’t last or are not visually appealing. This may involve going through your existing stash of toys and evaluating if it should be there. We did this and I ended up selling off things that were not of use and I haven’t missed them at all. The same goes for art supplies – I invested in good quality crayons and paper and Joshua adores his art space. A few good crayons and good quality pencils make the introduction to the world of art a magical one. The first 3 years of a child’s life are his/her introduction to the world. Try and make it the best introduction that it can be.

5. If possible set aside a place in the home that is for the child.
We had a small space for Joshua when he was young but nowhere near to the size that it is now. During our assessment of our space and what we could realistically afford to put aside for Joshua we realised that we wanted him to do his work in an area that was nearby and close to us. Now that Joshua is older and we have had him working nearby to us since he was young it makes so much sense to me. When I read Tim Seldin’s “How to Raise an Amazing Child The Montessori Way” he says:

As your child becomes more independent and busy, try to accommodate his/her activities wherever the family gathers…. left to their own devices, young children may tend to create chaos, but they also have a tremendous need and love for an orderly environment. Try to arrange the rooms where your child spends most of his/her time to make it easy for him/her to maintain a neat, well organised atmosphere. It’s surprising what an impact this can have on his/her developing personality.

Joshua is certainly a reflection of his environment. I have seen this need to know where things belong. He is very good at putting things away as a result. I see how he adores coming to his work area and he knows that everything in it is for him to work with. He is happy to go and work while I am nearby working too.

6. Be prepared to be flexible and to change up the environment if it doesn’t work.
The same goes for all parenting. As Joshua gets older we have adjusted his work spaces significantly. With changes in the child the environment too needs to adjust to support their needs. Sometimes you might set something up and practically it still doesn’t work. We set up Joshua’s arts and crafts area and it has changed since we started. Firstly we had a small shelf to put supplies on but this was very untidy and we had too much stuff. So we moved a small cupboard down to store things in. We then realised that this was not positioned ideally so we moved it again and moved our shoe rack so that it is closer to his little chair so he can sit and put his shoes on and the art supplies cupboard is positioned closer within the art area. With so many changes within such a short space of time it can sometimes feel hard to keep up but if you are observing it should be easier as it does not take as much time to change an already orderly environment (once implemented).

7. Make small changes initially so that you are not overwhelmed.
Small changes here and there are better than none at all. A basket, a few trays, clearing away clutter all contributes to improving the prepared environment.

8. Above all – Follow the child.
If you follow your child’s interests and observe their abilities and needs, I truly believe you can’t go wrong. Truly follow  – just because an adult think it would be great for a child to do a pouring activity or tonging, he/she might not be ready for it and need preparation before attempting this. If the child is truly disinterested then put the activity away for a later date. I have put out activities and then put them away for a few weeks and once rotated there has been a lot more interest simply because Joshua was not quite ready. Pay attention to sensitive periods. I have loved this chart from Voila Montessori, it is a beautiful visual representation of the development from birth to 3 years old. There is one here for ages 2.5-6 as well. I pay attention to the charts as a guide, not as rule, and they have been really great to refer to so that I have some idea of what to expect.

Here is our work space today for a little inspiration.

20141023_Shelves

What changes can you make today? I would love to hear from you if you can make even just one change from this post.

Montessori Life As We Model It – Modelling behaviour

Today I have been thinking about the behaviour we model for Joshua. We work to a “do as I do” rather than “do as I say, not as I do” approach. We teach him how to do things and how to help himself. What are we teaching him by demonstrating all these practical life skills? Why do I spend so much time preparing the environment that he enjoys at home?

“The child does not just observe his surroundings; he becomes them by age three…. If you want your child to say “thank you” and pleast” you must be using this language constantly in his presence from birth on. Children who are spanked learn to use physical punishment to express themselves, and those who are handled with understanding and patience will become understanding and patient.”
Susan Mayclin Stephenson – The Joyful Child

At 2.5 years old we spend a lot of time on practical life. Cooking is a major part of our practical life lessons. There is something about cooking that I enjoy, even if it is a bit of a chore sometimes. I cook with effort and I enjoy seeing the results of my efforts come together (or not!). For us the journey is not about the destination – it is about the effort and the process. We show Joshua how to cook because I want him to know how to do things for himself. To gain this skill I model this behaviour for him. Sometimes I wish I could short cut meals. Sometimes I wish I could have a meal appear effortlessly but I am not a natural cook. I do what I can with what I have and I don’t have a machine that does it all for me, just my 2 hands and my stove. That’s enough for me. Joshua watches me make dinner, eyes wide. Sometimes he is close to me, standing on his step stool, reaching over and wanting to chop, pour or stir. Sometimes he watches standing next to me on the floor. He watches as I stir the hot pots, or take things out of the hot oven. “Hot, Mama, dangerous, be careful” he says to me. This is what I tell him. Don’t touch the hot stove.

We use a dishwasher. We show Joshua how to stack the dishwasher. Joshua stacks the dishwasher everyday to at the moment. He takes our dirty (and sometimes clean) cutlery and plates and puts them into the dishwasher.

We hand wash our pots and pans. Joshua stands on his stool and helps put the soap into the sink. He uses his brush and washes his little pot or plate or bowl. He does the same.

We put sort our clothes and put them into the washing machine and we hand wash our clothes when needed. Joshua puts his clothes in his laundry basket for washing and puts clothes into the washing machine too, he does the same.

We hang our clothes out to dry and tend not to use the dryer. He helps hang out wet washing on the clothes horse, Joshua does the same.

We sweep up things on the floor and put it in the bin. We vacuum the floor when we need to. We mop the floor because it is dirty. Joshua does the same.

We don’t use store bought chemicals to clean our table top and bench top, we use home made cleaning products so that Joshua is not exposed to harsh chemicals unnecessarily. We use as little conveniences as we can get away with. We recycle. We compost. We use power saver light bulbs to reduce power usage. We have a water tank which we use to collect water to water the garden and flush the toilets with. We try to shop regularly so that we waste as little as possible. We try to know our place in the world.

We talk. We tell Joshua why we are doing what we do. We handle his tantrums as best as we can. We let him feel what he needs to feel. We say sorry when we need to. Sorry for not listening. Sorry that he is angry or frustrated. Sorry for being cross with him or in front of him with other people. We model courtesy, please and thank you. Asking for things, not demanding. We treat each other as we would want to be treated. Joshua is still learning this. He is learning how to say sorry, to be sorry even if he is only sorry for hurting someone else. To know that no matter what happens that we are still here and he is still loved.

What we want Joshua to learn from the behaviour that we model how to do things for himself, whether it be preparing a meal, wiping the table or cleaning up the house. We should perform our tasks to the best of our ability. The best of Joshua’s ability and his personality will be what we have modelled for him, for the experiences we have provided in the environment that he lives in.

We hope that Joshua will do the same.

20140923_Joshua cooking

Today on the 1st anniversary of starting this blog I have taken this opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed and how different Joshua is. What a long way we have come in just a year! I hope to share a little of what we have achieved in a year with you shortly.

Activity of the Day – Matching and the Three Period Lesson

We have been working recently on matching activities and Joshua has been demonstrating an interest and ability to match different items so I decided to offer this via the 3 period lesson.

Montessori educators employ unique materials and strategies to formally teach vocabulary and reading. In order to build vocabulary and support a child’s expressive and receptive language capabilities, we utilise a technique called the Three Period Lesson.

Matching activities and the three period lesson has many benefits for toddlers.

  • Improving vocabulary by introducing new objects.
  • Clarifying understanding and ability to demonstrate knowledge.
  • Developing recognition skills and improving the child’s understanding of symbolic representation of objects, a crucial prerequisite for learning to read.
  • Practicing visual discrimination and learning to connect objects to print is a necessary pre-reading skill.

I was aware of the Three Period Lesson but decided to seek some advice in introducing this from a good friend and trained Montessori teacher, Jessica who runs the lovely Montessori Child Shop. She advised me to introduce the names of the objects choosing two or three objects at a time (trying to choose a few that are visually dissimilar) and following this pattern:

  1. Place one object (at a time) in front of the child while clearly stating its name. Repeat this for each object. After presenting each object then move onto the next step.
  2. Place the objects together in front of the child and ask the child to identify the object that you name (eg. “Show me/Point to the strawberry).
    If the child correctly identifies each, mix up the items and repeat the step a few times. If the child consistently identifies the objects correctly you can move on to the next step.
  3. Place one object (at a time) in front of the child and ask the child to identify it by name (e.g. “What is this?” or “What is the name of this?”).

Other uses that these cards can have are as follows:

  • Matching the small pictures to the control card – we have been working on this recently.
  • Playing memory games and trying to match pairs.
  • Leading the child toward abstraction by identifying pictures as items rather than with real concrete items (we started our exercises in matching using real objects, many months ago).
  • Exposure to written words – while Joshua may not be ready for long words or writing, it is important to expose him to the written words as this helps with preparation for reading and writing in the coming years.

This is the three period lesson in action – we are confidently up to stage 2 and wavering between stages 2 and 3 depending on the complexity of the word.

20140312_16093820140312_155509

20140312_155858

20140312_152903 20140312_152907You will note with the three period lesson and specifically the matching component – with the model – concrete learning – and abstract (matching the cards) – that I ensure that Joshua is not placing the cards or items directly onto the control card. This is not desirable as covering the control card removes the control of error component (this allows the child to check their own work and correct any errors).

We have been working on matching vegetables, fruits, animals and other everyday objects and have expanded to musical instruments.

20140331_162022 20140331_162621

20140331_162639 20140331_164033 20140331_164206

In addition to the tree period lesson I also introduced shadow matching as part of the exercise and do this as step 4. If I have the shadow (as with the instruments) I have placed these below the control card so that the model can be matched by placing it on top of it. If I have just the control card then I still encourage Joshua to place it below the card so that he can see what he is matching to.

An expansion on this exercise will be to introduce the real instrument so that Joshua can match the real instrument to the “real” picture that is provided in this set. There are so many ways this can go, our family actually own a fair number of the real instruments so Joshua might be really interested to hear and see the real instrument being played!

For me personally, this exercise has been a learning curve too. I have watched Joshua’s skills develop over a number of months and have been observing him move from concrete to abstract. I had not realised the work involved to move from concrete to abstract, these are abilities we take for granted, having already mastered these skills. I am learning patience and to slow the process down – something that the 3 period lesson helps me to do as I have to make sure I cover all parts before moving onto introducing new objects. I introduce 3 items at a time and stop when Joshua either loses interest or is tired. I also introduce these activities in the afternoon after lunch as Joshua usually likes to spend the morning on physical or art activities.

Me Do It – Rolling Up A Work Mat

At Montessori Toddler Group Joshua is good at pulling out mats and putting them away but these are flat mats for stacking. At home we have a mat that needs to be rolled up so we have been practicing tidying up and rolling away the work mat.

Joshua’s first attempt at rolling up the work mat was a little skewed. In an attempt to please he thought maybe I will stuff it into the space it is stored.

20140210_102426 20140210_102429 20140210_102441

Let’s try again Joshua. Lay out the mat flat and practice rolling up neatly.

20140210_102624 20140210_102626 20140210_102634Joshua’s technique involves rolling the mat up by flicking it to roll with both hands. Beautifully rolled up and put away. This is quickly becoming part of the routine when we clean up at the end of the day.

Is cursive writing dead?

We have been looking into suitable kindergartens for Joshua recently and one question we had was with regard to how reading and writing is taught. While Joshua is not yet at what Montessorians would consider the sensitive period for reading and writing (around the age of 3-5) this is still something we believe requires careful thought.  During our recent tour of a Cycle 1 classroom I noticed a child working with a moveable alphabet and it was in block typeface. However, when I queried the guide she said that cursive is being taught at the pre-writing/writing stages (i.e. sandpaper letters).

So should children be taught block or cursive? Is cursive still relevant to children today?

Cursive writing was originally developed as a method of writing that involved a smooth joining of the letters when people were still writing with quills and ink (what we would consider old writing materials). When newer materials were introduced, calligraphy was introduced as a class a separate subject to retain the beauty of penmanship.

Maria Montessori had this to say about writing:

The development of the hand therefore goes side by side with the development of the intelligence.

After doing some reading on this topic I have listed below some of the benefits of teaching cursive writing first:

  1. Cursive writing is a more natural way of writing. The pencil flows along the paper without frequent stops within words.
  2. The child who can read cursive can also read block letters/manuscript, but the reverse is not necessarily true.
  3. Cursive is a better exercise for strengthening fine motor skills. It takes a reasonable amount of control to push a pencil through cursive letters and form legible, neat words.
  4. Words written in cursive are clearly separated from each other. Run-on words are not as common in cursive as with block print.
  5. Cursive writing “trains the brain” – there are several articles and a lot of research that has been done into the benefits of cursive writing which include helping with learning letters and shapes, and improving idea composition and expression.

Benefits of teaching block writing first:

  1. Block writing is in all educational materials, books, signs and internet and hence is more relevant to what you would read in day to day life.
  2. Cursive can be less legible – think of your doctor’s handwriting on scripts!
  3. Easier for left handers. Left handers tend to drag their hand across their writing (more than right handers) and with cursive this drag is constant and can smudge the print. My husband has adjusted his grip and the paper so that he does not have this drag, many left handers may say they do the same.

This is not an exhaustive list, this is a list of major points that I put together that I felt were the most important to us as parents.  Please note that I did not list cursive writing as being faster than block print as this is debateable. Research was split on whether or not it was faster so I have not put this in as an advantage and I believe that the benefits of either are not based on the speed at which you write. Interestingly, my husband says that by default he writes in cursive, but he uses block print for formal applications such as gift card messages. 

What do you think about learning cursive? Does it matter? Do you have a preference as to what your child learns? I would love to hear from you on your opinion, though please keep this discussion friendly. What works for one family may not work for another and we should respect everyone’s right to have their say.

If you are interested in reading further on this topic these are some articles I read that may be of interest:

http://www.leportschools.com/blog/learning-to-write-right/
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201303/what-learning-cursive-does-your-brain
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518
http://montessori.org.au/questions/cursive.htm
http://homegrownurban.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/cursive-and-art-of-handwriting.html
http://homegrownurban.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/handwriting-importance-of-repetition.html

cursive-handwritng-chart-lower-upper

Ancora Imparo – I am STILL learning

It is fitting that my Montessori educated husband works for an institution whose motto is Ancora Imparo (Italian for “I am still learning”). Joshua has learned so much in 21 months and there is still so far to go! This got me thinking about what we learn as adults and what we learn as a child. There are so many things that a child learns in the first few years of life, it’s staggering to think of how much they can learn and master. So what is Joshua learning and what can I expect him to learn in the next few years?

My chosen profession is all about order and logic. Therefore as Joshua’s first teacher I am always on the lookout for resources that help me to identify and quantify his milestones and assist with my observations on his progress. Coincidentally, there was a flurry of activity/reposts a few days ago from other Montessori blogs that I follow who were sharing a chart that summarises the things that a Montessori trained teacher would use to quantify these achievements. For a non-trained Montessori follower it looked a little overwhelming and, well, too wordy. After an enquiry to a friend, I was directed to the resources of Voila Montessori who provided me with a chart covering ages 3-6, and also a chart for infant/toddlers aged from birth to age 3 that trained Montessori teachers would use. For me it is far more helpful as it visually shows a child’s progress on a timeline of the skills that they are expected to gain through the first 36 months of life.

psycho_sensory_motor_development Birth to three years

Courtesy of Jeanne-Marie Paynel of Voila Montessori.

This is a chart that is actually used by Montessori trained teachers from 0-3 to observe and capture the progress of a child so as to note and work on any skills that might be lacking at any point in time and prepared by an AMI certified Montessori teacher. A close look at the chart shows a lot of skills developed in just 3 years. No wonder this is such a wondrous time for a child and why it is referred to by Montessorians as “The Absorbent Mind”!

So how does Joshua’s skillset fit in with this chart?

At 21 months he is walking up and down stairs confidently with and without assistance. He is walking and running well. He can sort and identify shapes, colours and animals, and identify familiar family members and friends. He is progressing well with his toilet learning: identifying that he needs to go, letting us know and taking himself to the toilet. He can carry things up and down the stairs. He is hefting heavier items and moving things around the room and across distances. He can feed himself competently with spoon and fork, but needs a bit more work on knife usage. He attempts to pull his pants up and down, to pull his socks on and off, can put his arms into his sleeves of his tops and pull them out again, can pull his tops on and off over his head but still needs assistance here and there to get changed. He can throw a ball or an object. He can match like items and identifies several different types of fruits and vegetables. He climbs up and down equipment and ladders easily. He loves painting, drawing and stamping. He can sweep up a little and is attempting to use a dustpan and brush. He attempts to brush his teeth and can comb his own hair. He waters his veggie patch every day. He is curious about how things open and shut and is easily frustrated if he cannot work it out and is not helped to find a solution. He loves books. LOVES THEM. He will devour book after book and will often be happy just leafing through a book on his own nearby while I am busy with household chores. He puts his dirty laundry into a hamper and can stack blocks of varying sizes up high. His favourite colour is blue and he has a few favourite toys that he keeps with him for sleep time. Developmentally he seems to fit in very well with the Montessori chart. Reflectively I can see that I perhaps offered some things that according to this chart might have been a little early but Joshua achieved those milestones earlier because he was ready to and I followed his interests. Follow the child!

This chart is perfect. It captures Joshua’s milestones and those yet to come. Ancora Imparo of the infant/toddler.

(Would that it were so easy to capture the learning of a new mum!)

So how does Ancora Imparo fit into our lives?
For us we feel that Montessori education is the key to Joshua’s Ancora Imparo. We want him to have a lifelong love of learning. The above chart quantifies the beginning of Joshua’s Ancora Imparo journey which we have commenced with preparing our environment as best as possible to support his development.

For my husband, his line of work reflects his need to continue with the Ancora Imparo experience. His desire for intrinsic motivation comes from his love of learning which was instilled from his early childhood Montessori education. He is a researcher, this is perhaps the best choice of profession for him as he is always curious about how things work. He is ALWAYS learning (and teaching too). He is able to seek out appropriate resources through contacts and attending conferences.

I am an Ancora Imparo parent. I am University and postgraduate qualified in my paid profession and my experiences with Joshua are still taking me to parenting school every day. We don’t just talk about it, we DO it. We are open to new experiences and ideas. The point where we stop learning how to parent well and be open to those new ideas, experiences and the advice of others is the day that we fail as parents as well as atrophying as individuals. It would be arrogant to think that we know everything. As an appropriately trained and qualified person in my chosen profession it also goes without saying that I am always learning. Learning about the changes in my chosen field, how they affect me and how I do my paid job.

I am not a Montessori trained teacher, nor even a trained teacher. What I do have is a passion for Montessori learning and the desire and drive to provide my son with the best early experiences possible to maximise his opportunities to learn. This is not about making him the smartest kid or to somehow imply/make him seem to be more advanced than other children. It is about giving him the opportunities to be the best person that he can be, and I truly believe that he will be a better-adjusted, well-rounded person for having the chance to experience a Montessori education. Ancora Imparo is the greatest gift that we can give Joshua.

Learning never ends. I am Joshua’s first teacher and am cherishing the opportunity I have been given to teach someone else everything that I know. There will be other teachers in Joshua’s life, both people he is related to as well as those he is not. Each one of those people will add to Joshua’s Ancora Imparo experience in life and I hope it is a journey for him that is all the things that learning should be: challenging, to exercise his mind, and frustrating when he cannot find the answer. Confidence-building as he learns to ask for help and ask the right questions and understand what is being asked. Satisfaction when he understands and solves what he previously did not understand. Joyful as the process of learning and understanding is achieved and being able to help others if called upon.

What is the most important thing parenthood has taught you? Do you have a lightbulb Ancora Imparo moment you would like to share? I would love to hear them.

Thanks to Jeanne-Marie Paynel of Voila Montessori for permission to reproduce her beautiful chart for this post. She has also provided one for ages 2.5 to age six.

Parent-Toddler Montessori Class

Joshua currently attends a parent-toddler Montessori class once a week. I believe that he has benefited immensely from attending as there is no substitute for firsthand experience. I have done a lot of reading on Montessori at home and in the classroom to date and seeing the theory in practice is invaluable.

So why attend a Montessori parent-toddler group? These are our reasons for attending:

  • The materials are prepared and presented for your child. There are a far wider range of things available so your child has a good chance to access and have a go at these. It provides inspiration for home and can give rise to new interests that you can support at home.
  • The teacher is Montessori trained and can answer any question about the different Cycles in the school as well as provide support on Montessori education and for me, a general parenting sounding board.
  • The Montessori trained teacher who you have access to who can engage your child but also observes and transitions them to the environment that they will be in when they attend kindergarten.
  • Meeting like minded parents – The Montessori community here in Melbourne is reasonably small so it is nice to be able to foster some relationships with people who feel the same way about educating their children.
  • This is a great introduction to the Montessori classroom. The only differences are the parents attending (which is good so they can understand a little what environment their child will be educated in) and the fact that there are not the 3 different ages of children you would find in the Cycle 1-3 classrooms. The next stage is the Early Learners program. It is optional to attend (it is highly recommended to transition though), some parents are more comfortable to continue with the parent-toddler program which is also fine however at some stage the separation to the Montessori classroom for longer periods of time is required. The parent-toddler class is once a week for 2 hours. The Early Learners class is 2 x 2 hours per week. Cycle 1 is 5 x 3 hours per week (in keeping with the 3 hour work cycle Montessori advocates).
  • It is a lovely space for him to interact with other children, have access to activities and materials and enjoy a space outside of home that is calm, orderly and filled with beautiful apparatus for him to select to satisfy his curiosity.

We have modelled our work space at home on the same principles as the classroom so that the bridge between home and the classroom is not as vast. This makes reinforcement of expectations and behaviour much easier to reinforce.

I thought I would show you a little of the toddler Montessori classroom and a typical session that Joshua attends.

Joshua comes into the room – he knows it very well – and we put our coats, bags and other items up on a hook. On arrival his teacher will greet him and ask him how he is. Eye contact is made, a little handshake, a wave hello.

I usually offer the toilet when we arrive and then Joshua will walk around the room to take a look around at what is available (remembering that the materials are rotated regularly) and then decide what he wants to work on.

The room is organised with arts and crafts in one corner, food preparation in another (kitchen), apparatus for mat work and tables and chairs where other suitable apparatus to work on are located. Books are located in another area along with a general area for sitting. This order encourages the child to stick to those areas to use certain apparatus as they generally are not as suitable for use in other areas. For example some of the posting activities are better to be attempted at the table which is closer to child height so they can see what they are doing whereas activities such as cylinders or the small pink tower (stacking) are better done on the floor with a mat. Joshua chooses what he would like to work on, this is a child led environment.  There are only a few rules:

  1. No yelling/disruptive behaviour. The classroom is a peaceful place. At this age it is inevitable that there may be some shrieks but this is discouraged.
  2. No interfering with another child’s activity – if another child says no to playing together quietly on an activity they are working on then I will encourage Joshua to find something else to work with.
  3. No physicality (e.g.shoving, pushing, hitting).

Other than this the child is free to pick and choose what activities they would like to work on.

20131114_094714

20131114_094918 20131114_09492220131114_094934

Today Joshua decided to work with a container of butterflies. He is very interested in butterflies at the moment.  He loves to bring them out of the container and flutter them around and examine the texture and detail of the butterflies in the box. He opens the container, engages with the activity then closes the box and returns it to the shelf.

20131114_095455

20131114_095444

There is a coin box that Joshua finds that he posts some coins into. This is an activity suitable for the mat. He carries the coin box over to a mat he gets out and engages with this activity for a while.

20131114_100145

Threading is an activity that Joshua has been engaging with a bit. This one is blocks on a string, he seems to enjoy the worm going through the apple a little more than this one.

20131114_100459

20131114_100600

These are the Knobless Cylinders. These are presented in a small wooden box and are there are 10 red cylinders. These particular ones are the same height but different diameter. The size differential is slight so it takes a reasonable ability to discriminate and differentiate these in order to stack and sort successfully. They also only fit back into the box if placed correctly so this is also testing the child’s ability to either recall how or work out how to put these in so that they fit and the lid closes.

20131114_101138

Joshua then chooses the yellow cylinders to work with, these are different height and different diameter. He builds these into a wonky tower before they fall down, this is what happens when you place a small cylinder in the centre of the structure. He packs the activity slowly away, the differing heights and diameters of these cylinders makes it trickier to replace in the box.

20131114_101401

Threading with reels and plastic hose. Joshua concentrates so he threads through not just the middle but the outside holes.

20131114_102013

Fruit cutting exercise. Just a fun way to name fruit, introduce the concept of cutting up fruit. This particular activity engages quite a few of the children each class.

20131114_10221520131114_102559

A snack is taken at the communal snack table. Joshua is expected to get his placemat out, plate, cup and water and place them correctly at the table before helping himself to a snack. We are still working on him using the tongs to get food from the platter, he gets very enthusiastic to eat his snack and hands are faster.

20131114_103826

Joshua manages to fit in some painting. His enthusiasm for painting started here when the setup appealed to him. His lovely teacher saves each one of his artworks and presents them to him to take after they are dried and collected in subsequent weeks.

After this a little bell rings and we sit on the mat for songs and each child is given the opportunity to identify and collect a personal item from a communal basket before heading out to the playground for some physical activity. At the moment there are vegetables in the veggie patch that are growing nicely that are tended to by some of the older children as well as some chickens that have been hatched and are laying eggs each morning. Then back to the classroom, we sing our goodbye song and class finishes for the day.

We love these classes. What I love the most about these is the constructive work that the children undertake. If you decide to enrol in one I would suggest getting your child on the waiting list as soon as possible as demand for the classes is quite high.