Sunday, October 31, 2010

art, floor, and table mats.....hmmmmmm what are those?

In a Montessori classroom you will find art, floor and table mats. Sounds strange, I know, but trust me-they are fabulous. For art mats, think about a plastic place mat. Cut it in half. Now you have two art mats. When a child is doing art work at a table in the classroom, they need an art mat. This mat defines their space. This is their space to do their art work. A table mat works the same way. If a child is bringing, for example, a manipulative to the table, they first need to get a table mat. A cloth place mat works really well here. It again, defines the work area of the child. Lastly, floor mats. If a child is doing work on the carpet, he or she needs to get a floor mat first. A very small throw rug that can be rolled up works well. This floor mat defines the workspace of the child. It is a notice to everyone else that this child is working, do not disturb. The other children and adults in the room need to respect this, and walk around the mat. Imagine a classroom of 18 children. Lets say 8 are working at tables and 10 are working on the carpet. Now, imagine those 10 children and their 10 different activities all over the carpet. Kids, puzzles pieces, blocks, and manipulatives all over the place. Now imagine those 10 children, all sitting at their own designated place. They are each working with their own activity, at their own mat.........ahhhhhhh so wonderful, peaceful, and calm. If you haven't seen it before, trust me, it works.......and it's wonderful. If you have multiple children at home these type of mats can be purchased and used in the home as well.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prepare the environment

Maria Montessori called the classroom the prepared environment. Think about that for a moment, the prepared environment. That makes a lot of sense. The classroom is the prepared environment, the environment (the classroom)needs to be prepared. Well, of course! We don't want our children in a class that is not prepared, do we? No, of course not. We want an environment that is appealing, well thought out, and stocked with materials.  Everything in the classroom should be well thought out, everything should be there for a reason. The furniture in the room should be well placed so that there are no hiding places, all children should be visible at all times for safety reasons. All work on the shelves should be whole, if a piece is missing or something is broken it should not be out for the child to work with. Imagine the disappointment of the child if they went to work with a puzzle only to find out that pieces are missing.
A critical aspect of the prepared environment is the order of the work on the shelves. Here is a phrase that you will hear often in the world of Montessori, top to bottom and left to right. This is how the work should be placed on the shelves.  The easiest material is first, on the top shelf all the way to the left. The most difficult material should be on the bottom shelf all the way to the right. This goes for every shelf in every area of the room. It is set up this way to keep order and structure. The child will learn where the material is kept making it easier at clean up time.  The room is  also structured this way to train the eye for reading, since we read left to right.
I could go on and on about the prepared environment, it is so important. More on another day....

Friday, October 29, 2010

A little independence

One of the core components in the Montessori Philosophy is independence. Independence needs to be taught just like tying shoes. The child should be able to do as much for themselves as they are capable of.  If you want a child to do something you need to teach them, you need to be consistent and you need to start at an early age.  With a very young child, this would include feeding him/herself. A young child can slowly learn to use a spoon and try and get that food from the bowl to the mouth. It will be messy. If you are not fond of messes, I do understand. Dress your child and yourself in clothes that you are not attached to. Put a bib on the child and a splat mat on the floor. You can not spoon feed your child for the rest of his/her life.......they will learn.
Year after year without fail I would have a parent show up at my classroom door and see their child clean up their work without complaining or throwing a tantrum. The jaw of the parent would be on the floor and then he/she would ask "How did you get him/her to clean up, he/she won't do it at home?" Here's my answer- The child knows my expectations from day one. As soon as the school year starts I tell each child, "When you are done with something it goes right back where you got it from." That's it, end of story. If you do not put away your work when it is completed you may not take out anything else. The rule doesn't change. If you put your work away, you may go to the playground, you may go to the easel etc. This rule can be applied at home also. If you want to go outside you need to clean up inside first. The child will then clean up and go out. If the child does not clean up, there is no outside time. Again, that's it, end of story. If you ask the child (at home or at school)to do something and they do not listen there needs to be natural, concrete, timely consequences.
This is why I love Montessori. I started talking about independence,  which led to care of self,which led to natural consequences and so on. Everything in Montessori and in life I think is thing leads to another which leads to another.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm a fan

By now you might have realized that I am a fan of Maria Montessori. Ok, I'm a huge fan. A Maria Montessori groupie if you will.......
Everyone learns differently, some in an auditory manner, some through touch, some learn by watching. This is what makes us unique.
In A Decalogue Maria Montessori states-"Respect the child who takes rest or watches others working or ponders over what she/he her/himself has done or will do. Neither call her/him or force her/him to other forms of activity. "
This is so true in the classroom, especially in the multi-age Montessori classroom. It always fascinated me when, for example, a three year old would wander through the classroom looking for work to do. I would often see a  young child stop and watch another child. They would sit quietly next to the working child and just watch, observing. Imagine it, a child observing another child. We are taught as Montessori teachers to observe and observe and observe again, and here the children are doing it also. They are learning through observation. This young child may be observing a lesson that they are not ready for but they are still learning. They may then come to the teacher and ask to do this same work. They are however, not ready for it. This is not the end though. Now the teacher, who is always prepared,  may say "you are not ready for this work yet but, lets work on something else first" For example, this child may have just observed another child working with the moveable alphabet. The child is not ready for this work yet because he/she doesn't know all of the sounds yet. What a perfect opportunity to bring out the sandpaper sounds and get to work. Children observing each other is a wonderful way for children to learn. Do not disturb this beautiful scene...........

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Watch your language

Language, it's an interesting concept and it is quiet complex.  Throw children into the mix and it is even more complex. Babies love that high pitch tone that adults have when talking to them. As babies grow into toddlers and beyond it is time to ditch the high pitch. It is a pet peeve of mine to hear grown adults speak baby talk to a 3 year old. As adults we need to speak to children in an age appropriate manner. Get down to their level, I mean this literally. Don't tower over them. Sit down, squat down, do whatever you have to do and look them in the eye to have a real conversation. Use words that they will understand, do not talk to them like babies or like little adults. They are neither of these things.
If a young child does not know how to express themselves, give them the words to use. For example, two children are fighting over a toy. You may have seen the whole scenario play out but our job as adults is to have these two children work it out. They may need help with the words. Little Emily is crying because another child took her toy and she is standing there crying. You may say to Emily"Why are you upset" Emily stands there and points to the other child. You then may say, "Did Jane take your toy?" Emily nods her head yes. You then say to Emily " Tell Jane that it is not ok to take your toy." Emily does this and so on. You, as the adult, need to teach the children in your care how to communicate. We have to teach them everything else, walking, dressing, why not language also?
Children will look for approval from the adults around them. It is find to say "Good job" every time your child shows you a piece of art they have created or after they build an amazing block structure. However, lets take it to the next level. If a child shows you their latest drawing, they may be looking for your verbal approval. Lets be honest here, you may look at this drawing and think, "I do not know what this is a picture of". Instead of saying "What is this?" (Imagine how crushing that statement could be to the child) , try saying "Tell me about your picture." This puts it back in the hands of the child. He/she may then tell you a fantastic story about their picture. It is their picture after all. Lets say a child shows you their painting hanging on the easel. Instead of "Nice work" try saying "I like the colors that you used". You are still giving a compliment but the ownership is given back to the child. This is a hard habit to get into after years of saying "Good job" but it is well worth it. Try it and see what great conversations begin.......

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting involved

Yesterday I volunteered in my daughter's Kindergarten classroom. It was rainy and dreary out and I honestly did not feel like going but I did. Those kids are amazing. My own daughter is happy to see me but so is the rest of the class. That really makes me feel great. It's only my third time going in but it is so rewarding. I still get to teach, without any of the added responsibilities, which is kind of nice too.  I find it fascinating to see the different ability levels in the room. From children that are reading to children that need help in basic letter recognition. I wish I could do more for these kids.....
If you can spare an hour a week, try volunteering in your child's classroom. The teachers can use some help. They have large classes with a variety of children in them. The extra hands are always needed. Don't worry if you "don't know how to teach" It's ok. You can read them a story, work on the ABC's etc. More importantly, you can show your child and the other children that you care and that goes a long way. What a different world it would be if more adults got involved......endless possibilities.
How do you help out at your child's school? Let us know.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Halloween song

I don't know how Halloween is almost here, where is this year going?

5 Little Pumpkins-
5 Little Pumpkins sitting on a gate, the first one said. "Oh my it's getting late!"
The Second one said, "There are witches in the air"
The third one said, "Well, I don't care."
The fourth one said, "I'm ready for some fun"
The fifth one said,"Let's run and run and run."
When, whoosh went the wind and out went the lights and the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight."
5 Litttle Pumpkins....
The first one said....
"Oh my it's getting late"
And so on with the hand movements.....
This song is always a favorite.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Breaking Habits

My first daughter never wanted a binky, never sucked her thumb, and never carried around a blanket. Oh, how easy I had it.  My second child wanted the binky, loved the binky!  At 18 months she gave it up cold turkey. Yahoo I thought, that was easy. Well, she then found her thumb. What would I do now? I can't throw out her thumb..can I? No, no, just kidding.  So, what did I do? Not much honestly. I encouraged her to keep her thumb out of her mouth and a few years later it has nearly worked.  Here and there I still catch her with her thumb in her mouth when she is really tired. So, here it is in print (or type I guess), I have no words of wisdom on this topic. If you do, please share your thoughts. Lets get a good Mammasori conversation going.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I did not think when I first started this adventure that I would post two times in one day but I just have to. I just watched the movie "Babies".  It was a wonderful documentary about 4 babies from around the world.  It was amazing to see that even though the four babies come from very different worlds they still met their developmental milestones at about the same time. It was interesting to see the moms and dads still interacting in similar ways with their children. They still encouraged them to play, they became excited for them when they did something new and so on. This movie also made me think that we, as Americans, take so much for granted. I include myself in this group. Or maybe it's just me. It was interesting to see how parents in other parts of the world take care of their children. How they feed them, clean them, provide for them. Above all, babies are still babies no matter where they are from and they are still so darn cute! I loved this movie. If you haven't seen it, give it a try and let me know what you think.


I started this blog because I wanted to share what I have learned over the years with pretty much anyone who would listen. My hope is that I am helpful in someway. I can babble on about any topic that deals with kids. Please let me know if there is any topic that you would like me to cover. I am open to all ideas.
Thank you!!!!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween/Fall fun for school or home

For me, this is the best time of year. I love the cooler temperatures and the fall colors. The fall season lends itself to many activities for home and the classroom. Please feel free to add your fall activities, lets share our best ideas.
If you have water activities in the classroom or a water table at home-turn that water orange and use fall color sponges to clean it up.
Fill your sensory table with rice or pasta that you have dyed orange. Fill the table with small, age appropriate Halloween items. You can use spider rings, fake leaves and so on. You can also use this same idea with language activities. Still fill the table with rice/pasta, put in a few letters to encourage letter recognition. For example, put in the letter H for Halloween, add objects that being with the letter H.Instant language activity.
Go on a nature walk and find some leaves. Tape one to a clipboard and put a piece of paper over the leaf. Rub away with some crayons in fall colors.
Art activity-Cut off the top of a small pumpkin. Hold it by the stem, dip in paint, then stamp on paper. The possibilities are endless.
Make homemade playdough and use orange food coloring. Add some pumpkin spice too, smells great!
If you are working on counting or one on one correspondence in your math area or at home, break out those Halloween items again and count spiders, pumpkins and the like.
Here is my favorite and it's so simple. Get a basin and fill halfway with water. Add a small pumpkin. Give the children some soap, sponges and towels to dry the now shiny clean pumpkin. Pumpkin washing is always a big hit!
Halloween/fall lends itself to tons of ideas!! Have fun, I can't wait to hear what you come up with.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I can't take credit, so thank you...

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while. During that decision making process I have bounced around many titles. A dear friend and very talented writer hit the nail on the head when she came up with Mammasori. It's brilliant and sums me up in one word. So, thank you, thank you, thank you, you know who you are!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finding your passion

How many times do we hear "find your passion"? I have always loved children. They fascinate me and they are cute too. Many years ago I found something called Montessori. I observed at a Montessori school because I was trying to land a job as a substitute teacher. I sat there in awe. While my jaw was on the floor I watched a class full of kids serve their own snacks. I saw them polish silver and work on their letter sounds. I also saw them using very strange materials to learn how to add and I was hooked!
After I taught for 15 years I made the decision to stay home full time with my own children. I love being home to take care of them, to volunteer at school, and to see them get off the bus in the afternoon.
Teaching has its ups and downs as does parenting. I feel that my next journey in life is this, to pass on whatever I have learned through my years as a Montessori teacher and mom. Lets enjoy these Montessori and mom moments together. The good ones and that ones that turn our hair gray(at least that is what I blame the gray on!) Thanks for reading!