Friday, March 26, 2010


Vacation time is among us, and we, as parents, may be wondering, "What are we going to do during Spring Break?"  Some of you may be traveling to exciting places, but for those of us staying home here in San Diego, we don't want to feel short-changed.  Keep in mind, San Diego is a destination spot for millions, so there are plenty of wonderful adventures we can experience right in our "own backyard." Here is a handful of fantastic activities that may not have come to mind when planning your spring break here in San Diego!

The San Diego Botanical Gardens (formerly The Quail Botanical Gardens), located in Encinitas, has two gardens specifically designed for kids.  The Seeds of Wonder Garden is an interactive garden designed for preschool age children.  It features a dinosaur garden, playhouse, topiary, and miniature garden railroad.  The Hamilton Children's Garden is geared for kids of all ages. Here you can climb Toni's Tree House in a jungle canopy, hop through an elephant foot tree forest, see live quail, play in a mountain steam, make music, and so much more.  
Kayak La Jolla Shores.  Ready for a real adventure?  Rent a kayak or take a kayak tour at La Jolla Kayak and head out to La Jolla Shores to explore the caves.  Bring your mask and snorkel, too!  (or you can rent them.) You will see seals, girabaldi, and leopard sharks!  (Don't worry, the sharks are harmless to humans.)  It  is an incredible adventure - you shouldn't miss it!  When you get home, your child can do "research" on the wildlife they experienced.  
San Diego is home to thousands of miles of hiking trails and parks.  Spend a day with nature in our great city.  During, your visit, pay homage to mother nature.  Let your child choose a tree to sit under.  He or she can draw a picture of the tree, write a story about the tree, or make tree rubbings from the bark.  Since Earth Day is just around the corner, this 
The New Children's Museum located in downtown San Diego is a great place for kids to create.  The environmentally sustainable building provides a dynamic playful space and community center for children and families.  It is one of the most unique children's museums in the country in that is truly a "hybrid of a children's museum and an art museum."  The artists' work comes alive as children explore and create.  The space supports unstructured play, and if you let yourself, you may have just as much fun as your kids.  The mattress room, as I call it, is one of my favorites.  A room filled entirely with mattresses, kids get to literally, "bounce off the walls!"  The museum extends outdoors, as across the street is a quaint park.  Oh, and bring your chalk!  The park's concrete is a great place to bring out your inner Picasso!  If you want to add to your adventure, you could take the trolley!
Try MonArt!  North San Diego MonArt holds ongoing classes for kids and families.  Some of your children may participate in MonArt at school.  Now they can share this activity with you! What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon with your child - you can both take the class!
Visit one of San Diego's beautiful art museums, and bring along a sketch book and pencils. Both you and your child can choose a painting or sculpture you adore and bring it to life on your own page.  
The World Beat Cultural Center in Balboa Park presents a Children's West African Drumming Class every Tuesday.  (3-3:30 for 6 months-6 years, 3:30-4:15 for 7-12 year old.)  Parents are welcome to get involved.  I highly recommend this one!  The classes are led by Nana Yew Asiedu.  He is a wonderful storyteller!  The kids feel the rhythms as they use djembes and other West African instruments, they sing, they dance - it is a magical experience!
How about a cooking class?  Check out these local schools for hands-on cooking classes for your kids and your family!  Or, if you love to cook, invite a small group of your child's friends over for a kid friendly class at home!   
Jodi Komitor, founder of Next Generation Yoga,  teaches yoga in a beautiful way to children and families all over San Diego.  She has a unique talent to "connect families' gifts of harmony, love, laughter and fitness through the ancient practice of yoga." Check out the website for locations and times.  After my son's first class (when he was 3), he remarked that "he felt such peace inside him."  


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO with your Montessori child

Yes, that's right!  Located in Ramona, The Oasis Camel Dairy is home to 34-rolling acres of pasture and America's first camel dairy.  Gil and Nancy Riegler, the owners and caretakers, have devoted themselves to caring for the magnificent creatures for over 20 years.  
We ventured up to Ramona one weekend afternoon, meeting up with a few other families from our son's Montessori school.  The Rieglers introduced us to several of the camels and showed us how the babies nurse, and also showed us how they milk the camels.  It was fascinating and fun!  We all took pictures and had an opportunity to pet the massive creatures.  My son was a little shy - they are very, very big.  And, no, they did not spit on us - maybe we were lucky.  There was talk of one day allowing camel rides at the dairy.  We all purchased several bars of Camel's Milk Soap - which is actually quite lovely.  A good time was had by all - what a unique experience!
I am sure you are wondering "Camel DAIRY?"  Well, here is what the Rieglers have to say:


The most commonly asked question we hear is simply ... why?


Why milk camels?  Why invest so much professional and personal time and resources, completely change your life, move to a large, rugged property where you can toil away at a "pet" project that you don't know is even marketable?


The answer is because it is important.  Because it needs to be done.  Because in other countries across the oceans, adults and children suffering from a wide variety of maladies including colitis, crohn's, autism and diabetes have found relief and reduced their symptoms with raw camel's milk.


We are not scientists.  We are not suffering from nor do have children suffering from any of these diseases.  But we know people who are.  We know people whose children are.  And we are working to find a way to help them acquire camel's milk.


This is a long reaching project with many steps to take.  The first steps have been huge.

1) Awareness and education.  We do outreach ... lots and lots of outreach.  Through live presentations, newspaper articles, television appearances and magazine articles, we educate the public about the wonder of these magnificent animals and the benefits of their milk.

2)Viable retail product.  What good is milking a bunch of camels if you can't do anything with the milk yet?  That's what we asked ourselves ten years ago.  Gil came up with the idea of making camel milk soap.  Based on a modified goat's milk recipe with special steps to maintain the delicate properties of the camel's milk, our camel milk soap
(made right here on the dairy in own kitchen) now sells around the world. Everything is done right here on the dairy. 


3)Availability.  Until we started the Oasis Camel Dairy, camel's milk was not readily available in the United States.  Although there are thousands of camels living in America, nobody had trained them to offer their milk on a daily basis.  Now, any research project can come to us and be supplied with the raw milk they need for their studies.


We now have four camels trained to share their milk with us.  We have three more going into training this spring after they have their calves. Our goal is to have twenty females with an average of ten milking each year.


4) Making Raw Camel's Milk available to those who need it.  The laws concerning the public sale of raw milk are very stringent.  However, individuals who own camels can legally drink their own camel's milk.  So Gil and I get to enjoy fresh, raw camel's milk whenever we like.  People always ask us what it tastes like... ours tastes like very fresh, mildly sweet low fat cows milk.  Like with any milk, taste can change depending on what the animal is eating.  

There are definitely obstacles.  We are forging ahead into territory unfamiliar to American mainstream.   Female camels are expensive to purchase, slow to mature, and don't always mother their calves.  Their reproductive cycle is very long.  After a thirteen-month pregnancy, there is still no guarantee the camel will be milking.  If after calving she does not bond or something happens to the calf, it will be well over another year until you have the opportunity to try her again.  Because when it comes to milking camels, no calf... no milk.


So here we are just a 40 something married couple with a BIG idea and a small bank account.  Our camel milk soap, tours, camel safari rides plus our other interests including the bird show, the wild west turkey stampede and Gil's work as a quartz crystal cutting artist pay the bills while the camels continue to gestate our "pet" project.


Trying New Foods - Outdoors!

My son is the world's pickiest eater.  A friend of mine who is an Ayurvedic chef suggested that when trying new foods, take him outside.  She said, "In India, we always take our children outside when we are introducing new foods into their diet."  They only have to try a bite.  They are not forced to eat all of it.  Being outside, the children are able to examine the natural world around them as they eat.  They equate the new food with something lovely outside.  I know that my son will always remember dangling his feet in our pond, watching the trickle of the water fountain, hearing the chirping birds and the buzzing dragonflies as he tried a Mango Lassi for the first time.  

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children

The following article is from The Montessori Foundation

101 Things Parents Can Do to Help Children

by Barbara Hacker

1. Read about Montessori education and philosophy and how it applies to your child. 

2. Purchase a copy of The Michael Olaf Catalog(s). These wonderful publications are a clear introduction to Montessori for parents as well as a source book of ideal toys, materials, books, etc. for the home. ( 

3. Take the time to stand back and observe your child carefully and note the characteristics he/she is displaying. 

4. Analyze your child's wardrobe and build a wardrobe aimed at freedom of movement, independence, and freedom from distraction. 

5. Make sure your child gets sufficient sleep. 

6. Make both going to bed and getting up a calm and pleasant ritual. 

7. Teach grace and courtesy in the home. Model it. Use courtesy with your child and help your child to demonstrate it. 

8. Refrain from physical punishment and learn ways of positive discipline. 

9. Have a special shelf where your child's books are kept and replaced after careful use. 

10. Make regular trips to the public library, and become familiar with the librarians and how the library works and enjoy books together. Borrow books and help your child learn the responsibility for caring for them and returning them. 

11. Read together daily. With younger children stick to books with realistic themes.

12. See that your child gets to school on time.

13. Allow sufficient time for your child to dress himself/herself. 

14. Allow your child to collaborate with food preparation and encourage your Extended Day child to take at least some responsibility for preparing his or her own lunch. 

15. If possible allow your child a plot of land or at least a flower pot in which to experience growing things. 

16. Take walks together at the child's pace, pausing to notice things and talk about them. 

17. Help your child be in a calm and prepared mood to begin school rather than over-stimulated and carrying toys or food. 

18. Eliminate or strictly limit TV watching and replace with activity oriented things which involve the child rather than his/her being a passive observer. When the child does watch TV, watch it with him/her and discuss what is being seen. 

19. From the earliest age give your child the responsibility to pick up after himself/herself, i.e., return toys to place, put dirty clothes in laundry basket, clear dishes to appropriate place, clean off sink after use, etc. This necessitates preparing the environment so children know where things go. 

20. Hug regularly but don't impose affection. Recognize the difference. 

21. Assign regular household tasks that need to be done to maintain the household to your child as age appropriate. (Perhaps setting silverware and napkins on the table, sorting, recycling. dusting, watering plants, etc.) 

22. Attend school parent education functions. 

23. Arrange time for both parents to attend parent-teacher conferences. Speak together in preparation for the conference and write down questions to ask. 

24. Talk to your child clearly without talking down. Communicate with respect and give the child the gift of language, new words and expressions. 

25. When talking to your child, physically get on his/her level, be still, and make eye contact. 

26. Sing! Voice quality does not matter. Sing together regularly. Build a repertoire of family favorites. 

27. Refrain from over-structuring your child's time with formal classes and activities. Leave time to "just be," to play, explore, create. 

28. Teach your child safety precautions. (Deal with matches, plugs, chemicals, stairs, the street, how to dial 911, etc.) 

29. Teach your child his/her address, phone number, and parents' names. 

30. Count.  Utilize natural opportunities that arise. 

31. Tell and re-tell family based stories. For example, "On the day you were born..." 

32. Look at family pictures together. Help your child be aware of his/her extended family, names, and relationships. 

33. Construct your child's biography, the story of his/her life. A notebook is ideal so that it can be added to each year. Sharing one's story can become a much loved ritual. It can be shared with the child's class at birthday time. 

34. Assist your child to be aware of his/her feelings, to have vocabulary for emotions and be able to express them. 

35. Play games together. Through much repetition children learn to take turns, to win and lose. 

36. Together, do things to help others. For example, take food to an invalid neighbor, contribute blankets to a homeless shelter, give toys to those who have none, etc. 

37. Speak the language of the virtues. Talk about patience, cooperativeness, courage, ingenuity, cheerfulness, helpfulness, kindness, etc. and point out those virtues when you see them demonstrated. (Virtues Project resource information available in the school office.) 

38. Refrain from giving your child too much "stuff." If there is already too much, give some away or store and rotate. 

39. Memorize poetry and teach it to your child and recite it together. 

40. Put up a bird feeder. Let your child have responsibility for filling it. Together learn to be good watchers and learn about the birds you see. 

41. Whenever you go somewhere with your child, prepare him/her for what is going to happen and what will be expected of him/her at the store, restaurant, doctor's office, etc. 

42. Express appreciation to your child and others and help your child to do the same. Send thank you notes for gifts. Young children can dictate or send a picture. Older children can write their own. What is key is learning the importance of expressing appreciation. 

43. Help your child to learn to like healthful foods. Never force a child to eat something he/she does not like, but also don't offer unlimited alternatives! Make trying new things fun. Talk about foods and how they look or describe the taste. Introduce the word "savor" and teach how to do it. Engage children in food preparation. 

44. When food shopping, talk to your child about what you see -- from kumquats to lobsters. Talk about where food items come from. Talk about the people who help us by growing, picking, transporting, and displaying food. 

45. Provide your child with appropriate sized furniture: his/her own table and chair to work at; perhaps a rocker in the living room to be with you; a bed that can easily be made by a child; a stool for climbing up to sink or counter. 

46. While driving, point things out and discuss -- construction work, interesting buildings, vehicles, bridges, animals. 

47. Teach the language of courtesy. Don't let your child interrupt. Teach how to wait after saying, "Excuse me, please." 

48. Analyze any annoying behavior of your child and teach from the positive. For example: door slamming -- teach how to close a door; running in the house -- teach how to walk; runny nose -- teach how to use a tissue. 

49. Spend quality time with people of different ages. 

50. Teach your child about your religion and make them feel a part of it. 

51. Help your child to have positive connections with people of diverse ethnicities, language, and beliefs. 

52. Laugh a lot. Play with words. Tell jokes. Help your child to develop a sense of humor. 

53. Share your profession or occupation with your child. Have him/her visit at work and have some appreciation of work done in the world. 

54. See that your child learns to swim -- the younger the better. 

55. Have a globe or atlas in the house, and whenever names of places come up locate them with the child. 

56. Make sure your child has the tools he/she needs -- child size broom, mop, dust pan, whisk broom, duster, etc., to help maintain the cleanliness of the household. 

57. Learn to say, "No," without anger, and with firmness and conviction. Not everything children want is appropriate. 

58. Arrange environments and options so that you end up saying yes more than no. 

59. Refrain from laughing at your child. 

60. Alert children to upcoming events so they can mentally prepare, e.g., "In ten minutes, it will be time for bed." 

61. Help children to maintain a calendar, becoming familiar with days and months, or counting down to special events. Talk about it regularly. 

62. Get a pet and guide your child to take responsibility for its care. 

63. Refrain from replacing everything that gets broken. Help children to learn the value of money, and, the consequences of actions. 

64. Take a nighttime walk -- listen to sounds, observe the moon, smell the air. 

65. Take a rain walk. Wear coats and boots to be protected, but then fully enjoy the rain. 

66. Allow your Primary-aged child to use his/her whole body and mind for active doing. Save computers for the Elementary years and later when they become a useful tool of the conscious mind. 

67. If you must travel without your child, leave notes behind for him/her to open each day you are gone. 

68. Expose your child to all sorts of music. 

69. Talk about art, visit statue gardens, and make short visits to museums and look at a couple of pictures. Make it meaningful and enjoyable. Don't overdue. 

70. Help them learn to sort: the laundry, silverware, etc. 

71. Help them become aware of sounds in words. Play games: what starts with "mmmm?" "What ends with 't'?" 

72. Organize the child's things in appropriate containers and on low shelves. 

73. Aid the child in absorbing a sense of beauty: expose him/her to flowers, woods, and natural materials, and avoid plastic. 

74. Help your child start a collection of something interesting. 

75. Talk about the colors (don't forget shades), textures, and shapes you see around you. 

76. Provide art materials, paper, appropriate aprons, and mats to define the work space. Provide tools for cleaning up. 

77. Evaluate each of your child's toys. 

Does it help him/her learn something? 
Does the child use it? 
Does it "work," and are all pieces present? 
Is it safe? 

78. Refrain from doing for a child what he/she can do for himself/herself. 

79. Provide opportunities for physical activity -- running, hopping, skipping, climbing. Teach them how. Go to a playground if necessary. 

80. Teach children how to be still and make "silence." Do it together. Children love to be in a meditative space if given the opportunity. 

81. Teach your child his/her birthday. 

82. Read the notes that are sent home from school. 

83. Alert the teacher to anything that may be affecting your child -- lack of sleep, exposure to a fight, moving, relative visiting in home, parent out of town, etc. 

84. Provide a place to just dig. Allow your child to get totally dirty sometimes without inhibitions. 

85. Refrain from offering material rewards or even excessive praise. Let the experience of accomplishment be its own reward. 

86. Don't speak for your child to others. Give the space for the child to speak for himself/herself, and if he/she doesn't it's okay. 

87. Apologize to your child when you've made a mistake. 

88. Understand what Montessori meant by sensitive periods. Know when your child is in one and utilize it. 

89. Learn to wait. Some things people want to give their children or do with them are more appropriate at a later age. Be patient, the optimal time will come. Stay focused on where they are right now. 

90. Play ball together: moms and dads, boys and girls. 

91. Tell them what you value in them. Let them hear you express what you value in others. 

92. Always tell the truth. 

93. Go to the beach and play in the sand. 

94. Ride the bus; take a train -- at least once. 

95. Watch a sunrise. Watch a sunset. 

96. Share appropriate "news" from the newspaper: new dinosaur was discovered; a baby elephant born at the zoo; a child honored for bravery; the weather forecast.

97. Evaluate your child's hairstyle. Is it neat and not a distraction or is it always in the child's eyes, falling out of headbands, etc? 

98. Let your child help you wash the car and learn the vocabulary of the parts of the car. With this and other tasks take time to focus on the process for the child more than the end product. 

99. Talk about right, left, straight, turn, north, south, east, west, in a natural way so your child develops a sense of direction and the means to talk about it. 

100. Place a small pitcher of water or juice on a low refrigerator shelf and a glass in a low place so your child can be independent in getting a drink. 

101. If your child is attached to things like pacifiers, start a weaning process. 

Enjoy life together! 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Montessori at Home

The following article is from The Montessori Foundation

Designing a Montessori Home

by Tim Seldin

Organizing the Home

The Bedroom
“We must give the child an environment that he can utilize by himself: a little washstand of his own, a bureau with drawers he can open, objects of common use that he can operate, a small bed in which he can sleep at night under an attractive blanket he can fold and spread by himself. We must give him an environment in which he can live and play; then we will see him work all day with his hands and wait impatiently to undress himself and lay himself down on his own bed.”
Maria Montessori

Children’s bedrooms should clearly reflect their personalities and current interests.
Even though on their own they may tend to create chaos, young children have a tremendous need and love for an orderly environment.  Everything should have its own place and the environment should be organized to make it easy for the child to maintain a neat, well organized atmosphere.
• Ideally, the young child’s bed should be low to the floor, making it easy for toddlers to get in and out on their own.  Rather than a crib, Montessori urged parents to modify the bedroom to facilitate both the child's safety and his early independence.  Consider a Japanese futon or a mattress  without the bed frame.
• By age five, you may wish to allow your child to use a sleeping bag on his bed instead of sheets and blankets. This will make it easy for him to make his own bed in the morning.  
• Mount a nice little coat and hat rack low on one wall where your child can reach them easily.  
• Decorate the walls with high quality art prints of children or animals hung at the child’s eye level.
• Mount a wall clock at the child’s level. Select one with a large easily read face.
• Modify your light switches with extenders to allow the young child to turn his lights on and off independently.  
• Hang a bulletin board on the wall at your child’s eye level on which he can hang art work school papers.
• Don’t use a toy box.  Imagine the chaos in your kitchen or workshop if you threw your tools and utensils together in a chest.  Instead use low shelves to display books and toys  Try to duplicate the look of your child’s classroom.
• Notice how Montessori teachers avoid clutter.  Place toys with many pieces in appropriate containers, such as tupperware “boxes” with lids, basket, or in a sturdy plastic bag.  
• Use a sturdy wooden crate to hold your child’s building blocks.  
• You may want to create a model town or farm on piece of heavy plywood.  Paint it green and sprinkle model railroad “grass” on it to simulate a meadow. Placed on a low table, your child can create wonderful displays with model buildings made of wood or plastic. Add little trees and people from a model railroad set.  You could set up a doll house this way as well.
•  Store Lego blocks in a large, colorful and sturdy canvas bag with handles. Sew on strips of velcro to fasten the bag closed. In your child’s bedroom the bag will serve as a sack to contain his Legos. When you travel it is very easy to pick the bag up to come along. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO with your Montessori Child

La Milpa Organica in Escondido hosts a free potluck the third Saturday of every month.  The potluck is open to all.  Guests arrive, bearing fresh, organic dishes, to the farm.  The owners fire up the outdoor brick pizza oven.  Pizzas are cranked out - and guests just pick what looks good.  Could be a vegan pizza.  Could be four cheese or veggie - grown right at La Milpa.  Children play on the swing set and run through the rows of lettuces.  It is the epitome of a community gathering...Meeting people from all walks of life, talking about shared interests, enjoying the spirits of those who are dedicated to organic farming.  At nightfall, a movie is shown underneath the canopy of a large, old tree.  We watched one on bees.  Sometimes, guests bring their guitars and break out into song.  Check it out.  

THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO with your Montessori child

THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO will be an ongoing addition to the Montessori Parent blog.  Look for fun, creative, enlightening, and educational experiences right here at Montessori Parent!

An afternoon of PEACE at Swami's Beach.
I love taking my son on a "date."  It's just the two of us - exploring new things together.  He loves it, too! Even though he is rapidly growing into a very independent 6 year old - this "mommy time" is still very special to him.  
On this "date," we first went to the Self Realization Gardens.  It is a very quiet place - so I have to remind him of that before entering.  It is one of the most beautiful places in San Diego.  Nestled on the cliffs of Encinitas, the gardens feature koi ponds, tropical and native Californian plants, and stunning ocean views.  It has plenty of nooks for meditation and reflection.  
Sometimes, my son will say "I need peace."  He knows when things are too loud, too crazy, too frenetic.  Taking him to the gardens gives him a moment to connect with nature and himself in a peaceful way.  
After about 20 minutes at the gardens, we head over to Swami's Cafe.  Always busy, this local eatery provides yummy organic dishes.  Breakfast is served all day, as well as a nice selection of wraps, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.  The tables are all outside and it is nice to feel the warm San Diego sun on our backs as we gobble up our lunch.  It is at this point you may start to think, "I am being really good to myself today."  
Just south of the Self-Realization Temple, is Swami's Beach.  This is a favorite among locals for surfing.  We descend a long series of wooden stairs to the dark sanded beach.  We walk. We talk.  We dig our heels in the sand.  There is no agenda.  No schedule.  No lesson plan.  Just a day at the beach.  Mom and son.  Life doesn't get much better than this!
Self- Realization Temple and Gardens  
215 West K Street, Encinitas (between 2nd and 3rd Street - closed Mondays)
Swami's Cafe  
1163 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Children's Farm Stand

Yesterday marked the inauguration of the "Children's Farm Stand" at my son's school.  We are so lucky to have a school which has a thriving vegetable garden, fruit trees, and chickens!  The chicken coop was put in last year and the students have enjoyed watching the chicks grow. Now, the children are using this experience to incorporate their practical life, science, reading, writing, and math skills.  Each week, two children are assigned to the "Farm Stand".  On Monday, they took orders from the parents and grandparents at the end of the school day.  The children wrote down the name of each "Customer," as well as list how many eggs they would like.  Yesterday, these children were in charge of washing the eggs and drying them.  They placed each egg order in a small egg carton.  They wrote the "Customer's" name  to on the carton.  At the end of the school day, they set a little table outside with their order list and eggs cartons.  As each parent came to pick up their child, they visited the "Farm Stand" and paid for their egg orders.  The children collected the money and checked their name off the list.  What a wonderful way to incorporate so many aspects of education into one project.  

A Montessori Primer

The following is an article from Tomorrow's Child Magazine
A Montessori Primer
By Dr. Paul Czaja
While driving away from my doctor’s office the other day I began to muse about the medical profession. My thinking soon led me to the surprising fact that Dr. Maria Montessori left her thriving and quite lucrative medical practice in Rome to become an impoverished, itinerant educator of young children. As you and I know, she actually became one of the foremost educational reformers of our century. She single handedly set out to reform the mass education of her day precisely because she saw that mass education was failing to help the youngsters of Rome reach their fullest potential as learners.
She had observed as a clinical scientist that the large urban schools of her day were ignoring the needs of individual children. These large schools, following the example of the methods used by the large factories, went for mass production of education. This meant moving away from small village schools of inter-age children to the squeezing of same age children into the boxes of narrow age classrooms in one big building: this bunch in first grade, this bunch in second grade, and so on. It made great logistical sense, but educationally was nonsense. Children lost their identity as individual persons and were put through their academic paces en masse as if they were all clones – everyone on the same page doing the same lessons to the same beat of the ruler on the teacher’s desk, regardless of their individual needs, strengths, weaknesses – no one respecting their actual potentials – no one responding to the person each of them was in truth. Montessori saw that the large graded schools of Rome tended to be blind to the individual and so were doomed to cause harm. When people deal with people in ways that ignore personality, some form of tragedy ensues as surely as illness does from poor hygiene.
And so, Montessori left medicine and labored for the rest of her life to create a new way of fostering the development of a child’s learning and personal formation. She experimented with and then formalized learning environments in which children could be grouped within developmental age spans as they are naturally found within a family or neighborhood. The learning of academic and social skills would go hand in hand through a progression of individual presentations so that each child would be respected and his or her growth would be truly progressive from personal mastery to mastery of each human competence. Real communities of learners were formed so that new children would be introduced into an established caring learning community where the elder students not only were present as models but actively shared leadership with the teacher. A Montessori learning environment is not only well prepared for individual learning but also functions as a true caring dynamic in which one is for all and all is for one. Teasing or neglect or disrespect of another member of the class are immediately seen and felt as communal offences – such offenses stand out like sore thumbs and are addressed immediately. They are not tolerated or ignored but attended to and healed. The health of a community depends directly on the health of every member.
The true character of a Montessori learning environment is that the life of love is a constant. The primary goal within our school is that each and every child will not only learn academics but also will become truly convinced that love is in this world as surely as sunlight and rain. Rightly so, for a school is meant to be a garden.
If I were asked to name the season that most represented Montessori philosophy I would immediately answer, “Autumn!” The time of the year when all the trees put on their beautiful colors and send off a rainbow of leaves flying at every breeze! It is in the season of Fall that, instead of seeing the forest for the trees – crowds of trees all blending into one big mass of green, we can see tree by tree by tree. Now, in Autumn, each tree stands out with its unique color of red or orange or yellow or copper or gold or brown and green – and shows itself singular, proud and happy to be an individual! Right here in the morning sunlight, all by itself even though surrounded by so many other individual trees, each so unique tree says, “Look at me! Here I am!”
The major difficulty for most schools has to do with their problem of dealing with mass education. It is a logistical problem. Children, alas, there are too many of them, so let’s pack them into separate rooms according to grading by chronological ages. That way we can manage them more efficiently. With so many bunched together, the teachers are not able to discern any individuals but have to deal with them en masse. So it is: “Pay attention to me, First Graders. Everybody turn to page 63 and do all the exercises on that page.” – all marching to the same step – to the same marching tune—a condition of always being “lined up.”
The Montessori reformation is found in the unique strategy of presenting academic learning to children as individuals – respecting each child’s level of natural development, learning aptitudes, pace of work, personal passions and individual genius. “Tim, what material are you going to begin working on this morning?” – every child in the room absorbing knowledge in a singular way – each one nurturing personal mastery.
This is why a Montessori learning environment reminds me of an autumn forest all year long. All through the academic year, the children shine out with all their individual characteristics - just like the maple tress and willow trees and elm trees in October and November -- we can see them each bright and beautiful with their own colors, their own shapes, together yet so separate in the forest. Even with twenty or thirty or forty children to a room there is no mass education at all. Living and learning within a Montessori school is Autumn all year round.
How I wish my brother Peter and I had had the opportunity of attending a Montessori school when we were young. No such luck! We were taught our lessons the old fashioned way of mass education with fifty of us packed into a room, made to sit like statues in rows of screwed down desks. There weren’t even text books in those days. We had to copy all our lessons from the blackboard into our note books first and then go home to memorize them as best we could for the quizzes of tomorrow. All day long it was copy this copy that and then recite it back all in one voice like parrots. Pretty dull life for so many hours of each glorious day.
But all was not completely bleak for Pete and me. We had our Grandma at home, and everyday when we got back from school at 3:30 we would find her in the kitchen preparing the family’s supper. She always asked us to help in some real ways – like shelling peas into a big bowl or scraping the skins off carrots and potatoes into the kitchen sink so that they would be then cut and made ready for cooking. We enjoyed doing these jobs with her for it made us feel useful and to really have a key role in that wonderful operation called making dinner. Once in a while she would give each of us a freshly killed chicken to pluck. It was hard work – I remember how tired my fingers would get from pulling at the millions of feathers, but it also was great fun, I tell you!
Years later I learned that such daily practical life opportunities was one of the six primary characteristics of a true Montessori learning environment. Dr. Montessori had observed the truth that children need to work if they are going to develop the great virtue of independence – the life skills of possessing autonomy. self-direction, attentiveness – personal traits that are the very foundation of making moral decisions in life.
Ever hear the expression: things tend to get lost in translation? Being someone who has a passion for the deep meanings of words, I find misinterpretations happening all the time. For instance there are many little Montessori schools all over the country named “Children’s House” supposedly after the name of Dr. Montessori’s first learning environment of 1907 in the San Lorenzo District of Rome which she called “Casa Dei Bambini.” However, the Italian word casa does not translate to “house” but rather to “home” – a significant difference. Dr. Montessori created another home for children not a “house.”
There were “school houses” a plenty in which children were packed in cold, impersonal recitation classes and there were monkey houses too in the zoos with their sad, so barren cages. But she knew as a doctor and as a mother that children need to be within a home full of life where they could continue to grow and to learn naturally within familiar, communal settings. And so, the very first Casa Dei Bambini was a bright, comfortable home setting containing a number of beautifully prepared rooms with small children sized tables and chairs and shelves full of colorful learning materials – even bouquets of flowers here and there. Children were free to walk around, to talk quietly with each other, to work at individual tables or on a mat on the floor. The teacher was not a teacher but a caring, friendly presenter of interesting, learning opportunities.
Dr.Montessori was a medical doctor, a researcher in anthropology – a scientist of the human child – and yet she knew from her maternal wisdom that the proper setting for children to grow within was not a factory classroom or a clinical laboratory but rather must be a homey, friendly environment in which a child could be a child – free to converse, with time to think, to rest, to work at his or her own pace, to collaborate with friends – to be respected as a developing child – and to be loved as a “homebody” – as a “somebody.”
Isn’t that why you and I have chosen to be here within just such a wonderful place of children that has the nomenclature and the principles of Montessori alive and well? Here you, the children, and I have found a home away from home in which we all can live the life of love – a happy, caring place where children not only learn to write and read and do numbers but also can be as sure of love in their world as they are of the rain and the sunlight.
“You’re a primary color,” she said smiling from ear to ear and pointing to my bright blue shirt with joy. One of our little girls from Room 2 had run up to me out of the crowd of children. I was standing out in the back yard of the school at the beginning of the day talking with one of our dear grandmothers who had just dropped off her grandchild. It was eight twenty, and school had not begun, but this little Montessori child was living her learning all the time. For her, school is not ruled by a clock made of cog wheels. For her, learning was all the time. Learning for her was connected to her life. She had already learned how to learn purely with the pristine power of her burning intelligence and her absorbent mind. She is now and already always a learner and always a teacher – like the Law of Gravity, as a Montessori child, she is always “on.”
By announcing to me that I was a “primary color” she was revealing her unique character of being “Montessori grown” – right out of a flourishing Montessori garden of learning. As a Montessori child, she not only knew the nomenclature of the primary colors, she reacted to experiencing them wherever and whenever she now experienced them. Just a four year old, she had become forevermore a keen observer of them and absolutely delighted in finding them all over the place – even on me, the old, gray bearded, rotund head of school who happened to be wearing a cobalt blue shirt just to sport a snazzy bow tie.

Welcome to Montessori Parent

WELCOME!  This blog is dedicated to parents, grandparents, and guardians who are interested in a Montessori education for their children.  Some of you may already have children in Montessori schools, while others of you may be looking to find out more information on the Montessori philosophy.  Hopefully this blog will provide a forum for all of us!  Here is a brief synopsis out the Montessori method:

The Montessori method is an educational approach to children based on the research and experiences of Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952). It arose essentially from Dr. Montessori's discovery of what she referred to as "the child's true normal nature" in 1907, which happened in the process of her experimental observation of young children given freedom in an environment prepared with materials designed for their self-directed learning activity. The method itself aims to duplicate this experimental observation of children to bring about, sustain and support their true natural way of being.

Applying this method involves the teacher in viewing the child as having an inner natural guidance for his or her own perfect self-directed development. The role of the teacher (sometimes called director, directress, or guide) is therefore to watch over the environment to remove any obstacles that would interfere with this natural development. The teacher's role of observation sometimes includes experimental interactions with children, commonly referred to as "lessons," to resolve misbehavior or to show how to use the various self-teaching materials that are provided in the environment for the children's free use.

The method is primarily applied with young children (2–6), due to the young child's unique instincts and sensitivity to conditions in the environment. However, it is sometimes conducted with elementary age (6–12) children and occasionally with infants and toddlers, as well as at the middle and high school level.

Girls at a school learning with Montessori materials.

Although the "Montessori" name is recognized by many, it is not a trademark, and it is associated with more than one organization. Schools differ in their interpretation, practical application, and philosophy in using this method with children.