Sunday, July 31, 2011

Creating Parent Community in Your Montessori Classroom

Science Fair
"Goodness must come out of reciprocal helpfulness, from the unity derived from spiritual cohesion."
 - Maria Montessori

In my very first post of my blog I shared my goals for the new school year. One goal was not included. It was to increase parent involvement in our Montessori classroom and community. This will allow all teachers, children and parents to create a sense of well being and to merge the relationships together. We have events throughout the year such as Harvest Day, Festival of Lights, National Montessori Week and Earth Day that all the families have an opportunity to participate in. This year I am hoping to have parents share themselves with the primary classroom. I recently emailed our families a "Happy New Year" email. This is a portion of What's New...

Parent Visit…At least once a month I would like to have a parent share their professions, skills, hobbies, talents, customs, or native languages.  Attached is our culture theme for the year. Think about it and I hope to have this commitment at Parent Orientation. There will be a sign up sheet at Parent Orientation.

Science Fair

Shortly after sending out the email, I am excited to already have two parents commit on Maria Montessori's birthday (Aug. 31) and our South America study. I sent my parents a cultural theme plan for the year to help spark some interest and ideas.

Another idea is to have parents come and read in your classroom. They may read stories or they can listen to your children read their "readers".

What are your ideas at your Montessori school? How are your parents involved?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spiritual Nurturers

This blog is not intended to deny anyone of any religion or spiritual journey you may be on. We are all on one. I teach in a non-sectarian Montessori school with the many religions and cultures in my very own classroom. I myself am on my own religious journey. You may be wondering, "What does she practice?",  "Does she attend church?" and/or  "Does she believe in God."  I believe those are very important questions to make a quick judgement of this blog, however it is not my intention at all. You may be Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Hindu, Buddist, Baha'i', Native American or believe in another religion. Welcome. Our common bond is we are all "spiritual nurturers".

What we do as Montessori teacher's is much larger than we can ever imagine. Our connection with all our children that we encounter is extremely precious.  Spirituality is and has always been present in our classrooms. You may have seen a child help another by picking up beans off the floor, reading to another child, giving a child a picture they just drew. A child may be sitting quietly outside in the garden. These are all aspects of spirituality. Some believe spirituality is present with the religion that they believe in. But as Montessorians in a non-sectarian school, we cannot "teach" a religion but may have to see "spirituality in a much broader sense" (Wolf, 16). It is everyday acts such as compassion, generosity, helpfulness, love, trust and more virtues we can share with the children. How do we show compassion? How are we generous? I am helpful to others by....., I show love when....

"The greatest challenge we all face as spiritual nurturers is to become attuned to the young child's authentic spirituality, which unlike our own - is still such an integrated part of life...Children's exuberant spirituality is reflected in everything they do...A child shows us the extraordinary in the ordinary." (Wolf/Fitzpatrick, p.29)

Quotations from:
Nurturing the Spirits in Non-Sectarian Classrooms,  Aline D. Wolf

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Exploring Kids Brains On Yoga

In our mother’s womb, sixteen weeks after conception, our brains start receiving signals from our ears. This experience of sound begins a life long bombardment of stimulation from the senses to the brain. When we are thrust into the light of day our baby brains are flooded with all the senses: sounds, sights, smells, tastes and touch.
Our baby brains begin organizing neurons to understand this onslaught of sensation. Making sense of our senses becomes a life long project we undergo as infants, toddlers, kids and eventually  as yoga teachers.
As we age we experience ourselves as a “self” exploring a physical world; a self that faces the ultimate questions of life. Who am I? Where am I? What can I do? Modern brain scanning techniques reveal our brains take a starring role in our exploration of the world.  These brain scans also reveal Exploring builds better brains.

Three Ways to Encourage Exploring with Kids Yoga

Kids engage in exploring when they interact with their environment in new and novel ways that pushes their physical, mental and emotional boundaries. Through exploration kids push their brains to develop new connections and learn new skills.
You can foster healthy brain development by providing good exploring activities for kids:
  • Moving the body –  Teaching big movements that involve the entire body and small movements that involve just parts of the body.  Kids Yoga: try a rocket ship launch – start in a squat position and use your fingers to do a countdown from ten to one (small movements) then stand up slowly like a rocket ship launching and flying to the moon (large movements).
    Explore Music in Yoga - Try a Singing Bowl
  • Handling physical objects – Teaching the handling of age appropriate toys, props and musical instruments.  Kids Yoga:  Introducing a Singing Bowl during class is a fun way for children learn to play it, while the other children watch and learn how to play and listen for the sound of the bowl singing.
  • Interacting with others – Teaching singing, dancing, game playing  and partner yoga.  Kids Yoga:  consider partner yoga bicycle legs (see picture).  For toddlers try adult/child partner yoga, with the adult moving a child’s legs like they are riding a bicycle.  Then switch and let the toddlers grab the adult’s feet while they slowly bicycle.
    Partner Yoga - Bicycle Legs
In the Young Yoga Masters kids yoga teacher training we emphasize choosing postures and activities appropriate for the age group. Remember for toddlers merely standing up is a balancing posture.

Exploring Develops Confidence

When kids Explore they not only develop problem solving skills and motor skills they also develop emotional strength in the face of hardship. Kids faced with a hard task or a complex movement will struggle and learn to deal with struggling.
Kids’ yoga teachers need to be keenly aware that stress can be devastating for children; nevertheless, they shouldn’t be too quick to help a struggling child. Struggle in the right doses helps kids go from not being able to do something to being able to do it easily. We don’t want to deny kids this lesson as it is one they will benefit from for their entire lives. Ziggy Marley and Paul Simon explain it perfectly in song, “Walk tall, walk tall, even if you fall get up.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Presence of Mindfulness in Montessori: Sensorial

"The development of the senses indeed precedes that of superior intellectual activity and the child between three and seven years is in the period of formation. We can, then, help the development of the senses while they are in this period."  Maria Montessori - The Montessori Method, Chapter14

I may be stating the obvious when mindfulness is present in the Sensorial area in a Montessori environment. In the book Teaching Meditation to Children, by Fontana and Slack includes an exercise called Kim's Game.  This is a game that is suitable for young  children and very fun to play during your Parent Meetings. What you will need is various objects such as a pencil, spoon, cup, apple, flower, etc. placed on a tray. Place the objects on a tray and cover with a piece of fabric or towel. With a small group of children show them the materials for a limited time. The more objects on the tray, the more time. Cover the tray. The children will then tell or write down as many materials they can remember. After a few attemps, they will improve rapidly. 

The sensorial materials were created to help children in the process of creating and organizing their intelligence. Montessori scientifically designed materials that isolate a quality found in the world such as color, size and shape. The child, through repeated manipulation of these objects, comes to form clear ideas, abstractions and provokes "auto-education". What could not be explained by words, the child learns by experience working with these self correcting sensorial materials. The Sensorial materials are esthetically pleasing and attracts a child with ease. They aid a child in a better understanding of his environment and given the knowledge not by "words" but by his experiences. It includes using the child's hands, senses, and spontaneous activity.

Montessori writes that Sensorial materials are more like "games" where it gathers children to take turns in guessing. "Sometimes the children spontaneously make use of the blindfold, taking turns, and interspersing the work with peals of joyful laughter." Montessori, The Montessori Method p. 187

Isolation of the Senses with Sensorial Materials
Visual: Montessori broke the visual sense down into separate sections.
·       Dimension (size of the object): Montessori Materials are the Pink Tower, Brown Stair, Red Rods, Knobbed Cylinders, and Knobless Cylinders.
·       Color/chromatic (awareness of color): Montessori Materials are the Color Box 1, Color Box 2 and Color Box 3.
·       Form (awareness of shapes): Montessori Materials are the Geometric Solids, Geometry Cabinet, Binomial Cube, Trinomial Cube, and Constructive Triangles.
Auditory: Sound Cylinders and Bells.
Tactile: Montessori broke tactile in four areas:
  • Surface touch: Touch boards, Touch tablets
             and Fabrics.
  • Stereognostic (whole form, volume): Geometric Solids, Sorting Trays, Mystery Bag.
  • Thermic (temperatures): Thermic Tablets and Thermic Bottles.
  • Baric (differences in weights): Baric Tablets
Olfactory (smell): Smelling Bottles
Gustatory (taste): Tasting Bottles

Monday, July 18, 2011

Montessori Mocha Scrub

Welcome Articulate Vermiculate!  This is a wonderful blog of a family and their experiences of growing a garden. It is witty, fun and has great ideas for all of you Montessori gardeners out there. Below is Carrie's recipe for a Mocha Spice Sugar Scrub. It was a perfect gift her Montessori toddlers made for Mother's Day, how about making it a gift for yourself.


Recipe #1: Mocha Spice Sugar Scrub

The kids in my toddler class at school made this for their mommies for Mother's Day. The toddlers helped to grind the coffee using an "old-fashioned" hand crank grinder I purchased at a consignment shop as well as the nutmeg with a little grinder from the Montessori Services Catalogue.

Your own preparation does not need to be so complex. You should have all of these ingredient in your kitchen cabinets. Otherwise, they can be easily purchased at the grocery store. Remember, that you'll need to use the scrub within a week or so of making it.


1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon ground coffee
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 generous pinch ginger
1 generous pinch nutmeg
1/4 to 1/2 cup cold press light smelling oil such a jojoba, almond, grape seed, or safflower (which we used)
                 *note: safflower, grape seed, and almond oil will be found with the COOKING oils not in the beauty section. jojoba can be found at health food stores and herb shops. Olive oil could be used, but the smell isn't really that great with coffee*

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly.  Add the oil slowly until your desired consistency is reached.

Use the scrub before you shower (with or without a loofah, depending on how much exfoliation you want). Beware of slippery bath tubs and shower stalls. If you feel sticky after your shower, wash lightly with soap.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Preparing the Environment at My Kitchen Table

This time of year always finds me in vacation/work mode. It means that the sewing machine has reached the kitchen table. You know what I mean, it is when all of your Montessori books, albums, materials, projects are out and clearing the table for meals becomes a project in itself. I have not stepped foot into my classroom in six weeks, but somehow it does not leave me.
My adventurous task this week is to finish sewing 4 aprons for our food prep works. I chose a pattern that is versatile and could be used with apple slicing to peeling carrots. There are a numerous apron pattern designs and I found the free child apron pattern from Sew Liberated to be most beneficial. A very young Primary child can independently put this on with ease without it getting twisted and bunched up. I am also working on sewing a few threefold pockets to be used for the solid, thick and thin cards for the Geometry and Botany cabinet.

Others things that have been prepared on my kitchen table in the past week are my Parent Orientation notes, Cultural Plan, Record Keeping and the beginnings of a new Land, Air and Water mat.

Don't forget to take time out for yourself.  I have yoga planned for my Monday morning.
Sew Liberated Sewing Child Apron Pattern:

Friday, July 15, 2011

"The immense influence that education can exert through children, has the environment for its instrument, for the child absorbs this environment, takes everything from it, and incarnates it in himself."

– Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind p.66

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Child of the Week: Montessori Lesson Plan

Child of the Week

Poster board
Pictures or drawings
Art Supplies (crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, etc.)
This is a lesson that will be done at home with their families the week before their assigned date.  The teacher will give the parents instructions and questions two weeks before their assigned date.  On Monday, the child will bring in their poster.
1.       The child will tell the class about themselves and read or the teacher will assist them.
2.       The child will share photographs and pictures.
3.       The child may also share a favorite book or share their     favorite thing.
Points of Interest:
1.       Spending time with parents
2.       Art
3.       Looking at photographs
Direct Aims:
1.       Order
2.       Sequence
3.       Following directions
4.       Thinking
5.       Organization
Indirect Aims:
1.       Awareness of Self
2.       Nurturing the Spirit
3.       Confidence
4.       Able to share with peers
Control of Error:
Parents and Teacher
The children can make a booklet form and share a story about themselves. They can bring in something to share (excluding toys), something they made (food or art) or their pet.

Parent Instructions:  Sample
Hello Mr. and Mrs. Smith,
Next week Kate is going to be the “Child of the Week”. We would like for you to help her answer questions about herself, include a photograph and create a poster board display. She will be sharing this with her class on Monday. Be creative and take your time.
Have Fun,
Mrs. Wilson
Free Printable Giveaway!!!!
Follow Mindful Montessori and you will receive the “Child of the Week” questionnaire...Montessori style. If you already follow, comment below and I will be happy to send it to you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Please Excuse My Appearance

Today I came back from a three day trip with my daughter to a cabin on a lake. We had a wonderful time where we enjoyed the simplicities of summer...swimming, canoeing, fishing and the warm summer sun. As we pulled in the driveway, I checked the mailbox... I have a new book called: How To Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness, by Jan Chozen Bayes, MD.

A vacation after a vacation is always advised; I found a comfortable place hoping this new book will entertain me. It did. Included in this book are simply daily mindfulness practices. My first exercise: Use your nondominant hand. I will be using my nondominant hand to do my ordinary daily tasks such as brushing my hair, brushing my teeth and eating my meals. I would tell you more, but the book advises me to stop reading and read later this week. Try it! I think this might be fun.

How is my typing by the way?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Freeze Up! Warm Up!

This is a great lesson from This is a great blog with great lessons to give your children. Some of the lessons also include a follow-up activity. Below is an example...Others include The Balloon Ride and What's That Feeling.

Freeze Up! Warm Up!

Each day is made up of different situations - good and bad. And just like yoga poses, some situations may be difficult causing us to freeze up or want to get out, while other situations (or poses) makes us feel good and relaxed. Being in new places or meeting new people may make us feel so shy we don't know what to do or say. Being in the dark or in deep water may make us feel so scared that we panic. All of that is okay. It's important to notice what makes us "Freeze Up", so we can learn how to handle those situations and learn how to "Warm up!"
On a hot day on the patio by the river, the Alluem Kids stuck their hands in a bowl of ice. Why? To cool them off, sure, but to also teach them a lesson about letting go of stress and maybe even how to deal with the people, places, and things that cause stress. They were encouraged to hold the ice for at least 30 seconds, but knew that if it became too much, they should listen to their bodies and put it down. After holding the ice cubes, it was interesting to see the way each child dealt with the cold sting. Some said, eh, no problem and dealt with it. Some screeched and wanted out after 15 seconds (which of course, I reminded them they could put the ice down at anytime!). Some felt the cold for the 30 seconds and then threw the cube back in the bowl, immediately caring for the cold hand - holding it with the warm hand or wrapping it in a towel. After putting as many feeling words as possible to how our hands felt, we realized that everyone deals with stressors differently.
At times when we "Freeze Up" (like our ice cold hands), we might forget that we can in fact make ourselves "Warm Up" and be the ones to care for our bodies and minds. Some may instinctually react and self soothe, but for some we may need a gentle reminder. Making a list (writing or drawing) of things that freeze us up (things that make us feel bad or scared) right next to the things that warm us up (things that make us feel happy or loved) serves as a great visual to help us through those "Freeze Up" moments. And seeing or thinking of those things that help us "Warm Up" is always a good way to keep us happy and healthy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Child of the Week - Beginning With Inner Peace

I find myself realizing that my journey of nurturing my own spirit and nurturing the children will coincide. I don't know about you but the beginning of the school year "itch" has already begun. I always find myself planning the cultural scheme first. In the first month of school I also plan lessons that will relate to the caring of themselves, the environment and each other. In Aline E. Wolf's, Nurturing the Spirit, she says "If children like adults, feel peace in their hearts, they can more easily relate peacefully to those around them." One of the lessons on building self love uses "Child of the Week" to acknowledge the importance of each of the child. This will allow the child to develop awareness of themselves, self worth, confidence and to be able to share with their peers. Wolf warns us about the "shallowness" of the questions, such as "What I watch on TV," or "What I want for presents." At this time I am complying a list of questions that would be suitable for a 3-6 year old to answer. It will include their name, birthday and the town and state in which they live in.

I like to be helpful by ___________.
I would like to learn about ________.
I find peace in __________________.

I would love for us as Montessorians to come together and brainstorm questions that will not be superficial. My goal is to help guide the children to an inner peace and spirit for themselves. In the next week I would love to have 10-12 questions and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Presence of Mindfulness in Montessori: Concentration

Concentrated attention is present in both Montessori education and mindfulness practices. In a recent activity in Shining Through, A Teachers' Handbook on Transformation, by Sonnie McFarland, it lead me to practice the development of our powers of concentration. It is an exercise that has allowed me to focus on the present moment and to create greater control of my  thoughts. Just as we the Montessori teachers would want to have our rhythm of life respected, we must respect the child in the moment. In Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work, by E.M. Standing, Montessori shares a story of how she was observing a child. The child was working on composing numbers 1-100 and Montessori felt it was dreadfully slow, she decided to help her only to find the little girl to tell her to leave her alone. "I felt justly rebuked," said Montessori, "for my stupidity. I had made the mistake of thinking the child's interest lay in getting to the end of the process and not in the process itself." Practicing to be mindful will allow us as Montessori teachers to allow ourselves to be present in the moment with our thoughts, emotions as well as our actions.

Montessori education has been an over 100 year-old-system that naturally incorporates mindfulness practices and the natural development of concentration. Concentration is highly valued in a Montessori classroom. When concentration is present in the environment, it is the Montessori teacher’s responsibility to protect it. A Montessori teacher acknowledges that this is a healthy state of Normalization which is when a child is "being a contributing member of society". The Montessori teacher will observe the children as constructive and kind in their behavior, calm, intelligent, and expansive and bring out "extraordinary spiritual qualities." In Montessori's, Spontaneous Activity in Education: The Advanced Montessori Method, she writes, "After this phenomenon of concentration the children are really "new" children. It is as though a connection had been made with an inner power...and this brings about the construction of the personality."

A traditional Montessori environment has a 3 hour work cycle. In this cycle it is the goal for the child to have full absorption. This exists when the child is focused in interesting and absorbing work and is consistent with the practice of mindful training of a child's attention. But don't be fooled if you ever enter or experience what Montessori calls "false fatigue". A phenomenon observed in Children’s Houses around the world, often at approximately 10 a.m. The children seem to lose interest in work, behavior becomes disorderly, and the noise level rises. It may appear as if the children are tired. Remind yourself that this is false fatigue and the children will go back to their work where there will be a higher level of concentration and focus.

An exercise from Shining Through, A Teacher's Handbook on Transformation, by Sonnie McFarland

Find a quiet spot where you will not be distracted by external noise. Sit in a chair or on a pillow on the floor with your back straight. Imagine a flow of energy traveling freely up your spinal column. Breathe deeply. Let your eyes close and pay attention only to your breath. Let it become gentle, even and smooth. Consciously relax your body. Release the tension you notice.

Now concentrate on a visual image that inspires you-a sound or a word. Whatever you choose, use it consistently. This image or sound serves as a point to focus for your mind. As you sit quietly, continue to concentrate on the sound and/or image and continue to keep your breathe deep, even and smooth. As thoughts arise in your consciousness, see them and let them go. Return to this point of concentration.

Continue to do this for 10-15 minutes at first, gradually expanding this time. Practicing concentration daily is extremely helpful in the development of your mind's creative capacity.

Monday, July 4, 2011


"To see the child as he is, is made difficult for us as adults on account of our own defects. Between us and the baptized child lies the gulf created by our own sins. Because of this defective vision the adult is generally to much occupied in looking for defective tendencies also in the child and seeking to correct them. We must first remove the beam from our own eyes, and then we shall see more clearly how to remove the mote in the child's. In the "removing of the beam from her own eyes" consists the spiritual training of the teacher." - Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work. (p.300-301)

The answers have always been in front of me. Some were simple, "What are you grateful for?" or "Who do you love?" and some were a little difficult "What is your biggest regret?" or "What was the toughest time in your life?"  for me to answer and just to say it out loud.  This activity was self-searching and brought an awareness to myself. But amazingly it was very liberating. The questions can be found in a previous post, A Montessori Teacher's Mask?.