Sunday, June 7, 2009

Introduction to Mathematics

Introduction to Mathematics:

Math is all around the young child from day one. How old are you? In one hour you will go to school. You were born on the 2nd.

Number itself cannot be defined and understand of number grows from experience with real objects but eventually they become abstract ideas. It is one of the most abstract concepts that the human mind has encountered. No physical aspects of objects can ever suggest the idea of number. The ability to count, to compute, and to use numerical relationships are among the most significant among human achievements. The concept of number is not the contribution of a single individual but is the product of a gradual, social evolution. The number system which has been created over thousands of years is an abstract invention. It began with the realization of one and then more than one. It is marvelous to see the readiness of the child’s understanding of this same concept.

Arithmetic deals with shape, space, numbers, and their relationships and attributes by the use of numbers and symbols. It is a study of the science of pattern and includes patterns of all kinds, such as numerical patterns, abstract patterns, patterns of shape and motion. In the Montessori classroom, five families with math are presented to the child: arithmetic, geometry, statistics and calculus. More precisely, the concepts covered in the Primary class are numeration, the decimal system, computation, the arithmetic tables, whole numbers, fractions, and positive numbers. We offer arithmetic to the child in the final two years of the first place of developments from age four to age five and six.

Arithmetic is the science of computing using positive real numbers. It is specifically the process of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The materials of the Primary Montessori classroom also present sensorial experiences in geometry and algebra.

montessori mathematics shelf in a classroomLittle children are naturally attracted to the science of number. Mathematics, like language, is the product of the human intellect.

It is therefore part of the nature of a human being. Mathematics arises form the human mind as it comes into contact with the world and as it contemplates the universe and the factors of time and space.

It under girds the effort of the human to understand the world in which he lives. All humans exhibit this mathematical propensity, even little children. It can therefore be said that human kind has a mathematical mind.

Montessori took this idea that the human has a mathematical mind from the French philosopher Pascal. Maria Montessori said that a mathematical mind was “a sort of mind which is built up with exactity.” The mathematical mind tends to estimate, needs to quantify, to see identity, similarity, difference, and patterns, to make order and sequence and to control error.

The infant and young child observes and experiences the world sensorial. From this experience the child abstracts concepts and qualities of the things in the environment. These concepts allow the child to create mental order. The child establishes a mental map, which supports adaptation to the environment and the changes which may occur in it.

Clear, precise, abstract ideas are used for thought. The child’s growing knowledge of the environment makes it possible for him to have a sense of positioning in space. Numerocity is also related to special orientation. In the first plane of development, the human tendency to make order along with the sensitive period for order support the exactitude by which the child classifies experience of the world. The Montessori materials help the child construct precise order. In the class, the child is offered material and experiences to help him build internal order. It is internal order that makes the child able to function well in the environment. Order under girds the power to reason, and adapt to change in the environment.

Each culture has a pattern of function in that society. This pattern is absorbed by the child, and becomes the foundation of which the child builds his life. This cultural pattern is the context for the Montessori class. Practical life Exercises are the every day tasks of the home culture and include the courtesies by which people relate. The child is attracted to these activities because they are the ways of his people. He is attracted to the real purpose which engages his intellect. As he begins to work with Practical Life Exercises, he is more and more attracted to the order and precision that is required. Participation in these activities help the child become a member of the society of peers in the classroom. Without the child’s knowing it, these activities are laying out patterns in the nervous system. Repetition sets these patterns and leads to ease of effort.

The Sensorial Material is mathematical material. It is exact. It is presented with exactness and will be used by the child with exactness. The activities call for precision so that the child can come into contact with the isolated concepts and through repetition, draw from the essence of each and have a clear abstraction. These concepts help the child to order his mind. He is able to classify experience. Clear perception and the ability to classify leads to precise conclusions. The Sensorial work is a preparation for the study of sequence and progression. It helps the child build up spatial representations of quantities and to form images of their magnitudes such as the Pink Tower.

Spoken language is used to express abstract concepts and to communicate them to others. In addition to the spoken language, humans came to need a language to express quantitative experience, and from this came the language of mathematics.

By age four, the child is ready for the language of mathematics. A series of preparations have been made. First the child has established internal order. Second, the child has developed precise movement. Third, the child has established the work habit. Fourth, the child is able to follow and complete a work cycle. Fifth, the child has the ability to concentrate. Sixth, the child has learned to follow a process. Seventh, the child has used symbols. All of this previous development has brought the child to a maturity of mind and a readiness of work. The concrete materials for arithmetic are materialized abstractions.

They are developmentally appropriate ways for the child to explore arithmetic. The child gets sensorial impressions of the mathematical concepts and movement supports the learning experience. The material begins with concrete experiences but moves the child towards the abstract. There is also a progression of difficulty. In the presentation of the material, a pattern is followed. It is used throughout the arithmetic Exercises. For the presentation of the mathematical concepts, the child is first introduced to quantity in isolation, and is given the name for it. Next, symbol is introduced in isolation and it is also named. The child is then given the opportunity to associate the quantity and symbol. Sequence is given incidentally in all of the work. Various Exercises call for the child to establish sequence.

mathematics shelf with beadsThe mathematical material gives the child his own mathematical experience and to arrive at individual work. There are some teacher directed activities but these are followed with activities for the individual. Some work begins with small group lessons, these too will be toward independent, individual work.

The Exercises in arithmetic are grouped. There is some sequential work and some parallel work. The first group is Numbers through Ten. The experiences in this group are sequential. When the child has a full understanding of numbers through ten, the second group, The Decimal System, can be introduced.

The focus here is on the hierarchy of the decimal system and how the system functions. It also starts the child on the Exercises of simple computations, which are the operations of arithmetic. The third group will be started when the decimal system is well underway.

From then on, these Exercises will be given parallel to the continuing of the decimal system. This third group, Counting beyond Ten, includes the teens, the tens, and linear and skip counting. The fourth group is the memorization of the arithmetic tables. This work can begin while the later work of the decimal system and the counting beyond ten Exercises are continued. The fifth group is the passage to abstraction. The Exercises in this group require the child to understand the process of each form of arithmetic and to know the tables of each operation. There is again an overlap.

The child who knows the process and tables for addition can begin to do the addition for this group. He may still be working on learning the tables for the other operations and these will not be taken up until he has the readiness. The Exercises in the group for passing to abstraction, allows the child to drop the use of the material as he is ready. He can then begin to work more and more with the symbols on paper, without using the material to find the answers. The sixth group of materials, Fractions, can work parallel to the group of making abstractions and the early work with the fractions can begin even sooner than that. Sensorial work with the fraction material can be done parallel with the other groups of arithmetic. The writing of fractions and the operations of fractions can follow as the child is moving into the passage to abstraction.

The adult is responsible for the environment and the child’s experiences in it. It is important to provide the indirect preparation of experience with numbers before it is studied. The arithmetic materials must be carefully presented as the child is ready. Montessori has emphasized that young children take great pleasure in the number work. It is therefore important that the adult not pass on any negative overtone onto the child’s experiences with arithmetic. These Exercises are presented with great enthusiasm. They must be carefully and clearly given to the child. In this work, it is also important for the directress to observe the child’s work. From observation, the directress will know if the child is understanding the concepts or if further help is needed. As always, the adult encourages repetition and provides for independent work, which will lead to mastery.

When the child is ready, the absorption is as easy and natural as for other areas of knowledge. It is empowering and brings the child to a level of confidence and joy in another path of culture. The abstract nature of man is not an abstraction if the child’s development is understood by the adult.

Introduction to Language

What is language:

Language is a system of symbols with an agreed upon meaning that is used by a group of people. Language is a means of communication ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized sounds and signs, thus, being the spoken and written language.

The History of Language:

It is a human tendency to communicate with others and this could underlie the emergence of language. Montessori said, “To talk is in the nature of man.” Humans needed language in order to communicate, and soon, the powers that come with language were revealed. The evolution of the human language began when communication was done through pictograms or pictures and drawings.

It then developed into ideograms when pictures began to turn into symbols. Later, these symbols became words, words involved letters, vowels emerged, one symbol came to represent one sound, an alphabet was created, and then came the alphabet we now use today. And just as language evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago, it also changes with each generation. Unneeded words are dropped and new words come into use. Language rose and continues to rise with the collective intelligence.

The Language Development of the Child:

When the child arrives in the Montessori classroom, he has fully absorbed his culture's language. He has already constructed the spoken language and with his entry into the classroom, he will begin to consolidate the spoken language and begin to explore the written forms of language.

Because language is an intrical involvement in the process of thinking, the child will need to be spoken to and listened to often. The child will need a broad exposure to language, with correct articulation, enunciation, and punctuation. The child will need to experience different modes of language and to hear and tell stories. Most importantly, the child needs to feel free and be encouraged to communicate with others.

With the child's absorbent mind the child by age six will have reached the 3rd point of consciousness in language where he understands that sounds and words have meaning and that these symbols can be used in writing. He will become fully articulate, he will be able to express himself in writing, he will be able to read with ease, and have a full comprehension of the thoughts of others.

The Prepared Environment:

To help the child in his development in language, the Montessori classroom is designed to help the child reach the 3rd period of consciousness. Because the learning of language is not done through subjects as in a normal classroom, the child is learning at his own rhythm. This allows the child to concentrate on the learning of each important step in language so that each progressive step is done easily and without any thought on the part of the child. The special material also plays an important role in aiding the child develop the powers of communication and expression, of organization and classification, and the development of thought.

But the most important tool in the child's learning of language lies within the directress. She must support the child in his learning, give him order to classify what he has learned, to help the child build self-confidence, and to provide the child with meaningful activities. The directress is the child's best source in language development.

Language Completions of the First Plane:

As the child leaves the Montessori classroom after the age of six, he will have become an articulate person, being able to communication his feelings in well-formed sentences and in writing. He will be able to write these thoughts and feelings in a skillful handwriting. He will have the ability to write in different styles and about a variety of subjects. The child will have total reading and a sense of the home language at a level where he will be the master of his words.

Introduction to Practical Life

What is Practical Life

Practical: means basic, useful, purposeful
Life: means the way of living.

Practical life Exercises are just that, they are Exercises so the child can learn how to do living activities in a purposeful way.

Meaning and Purpose of Practical Life

The purpose and aim of Practical Life is to help the child gain control in the coordination of his movement, and help the child to gain independence and adapt to his society. It is therefore important to “Teach teaching, not correcting” (Montessori) in order to allow the child to be a fully functionional member in hios own society. Practical Life Exercises also aid the growth and development of the child’s intellect and concentration and will in turn also help the child develop an orderly way of thinking.

Exercice Groups

Practical Life Exercises can be categorized into four different groups: Preliminary Applications, Applied Applications, Grace and Courtesy, and Control of Moment.

In the Preliminary Exercises, the child learns the basic movements of all societies such as pouring, folding, and carrying.

In the Applied Exercises, the child learns about the care and maintenance that helps every day life. These activities are, for example, the care of the person (i.e the washing of the hand) and the care of the environment (i.e dusting a table or outdoor sweeping).

In the Grace and Courtesy Exercises, the children work on the interactions of people to people.

In the Control of Movement Exercises, the child learns about his own movements and learns how to refine his coordination through such activities as walking on the line.

Reason for Practical Life Exercises

Children are naturally interested in activities they have witnessed. Therefore, Dr. Montessori began using what she called “Practical Life Exercises” to allow the child to do activities of daily life and therefore adapt and orientate himself in his society.

It is therefore the Directress’s task to demonstrate the correct way of doing these Exercises in a way that allows the child to fully observe the movements. Montessori says, “If talking don’t move, if moving don’t talk”.

The directress must also keep in mind that the goal is to show the actions so that the child can go off and repeat the activity in his own successful way. Montessori says, “Our task is to show how the action is done and at the same time destroy the possibility of imitation”. The child must develop his own way of doing these activities so that the movements become real and not synthetic.

During the child’s sensitive period between birth and 6, the child is constructing the inner building blocks of his person. It is therefore important for the child to participate in activities to prepare him for his environment, that allow him to grow independently and use his motor skills, as well as allow the child to analyze difficulties he may have in the exercise and problem solve successfully.

Montessori also saw the child’s need for order, repetition, and succession in movements. Practical Life Exercises also helps to aid the child to develop his coordination in movement, his balance and his gracefulness in his environment as well as his need to develop the power of being silent.

Characteristics of Practical Life

Because Practical Life Exercises are meant to resemble everyday activities, it is important that all materials be familiar, real, breakable, and functional. The materials must also be related to the child’s time and culture. In order to allow the child to fully finish the exercise and to therefore finish the full cycle of the activity, the material must be complete.

In the environment, the Directress may want to color code the materials as well as arrange the materials based on difficulties in order to facilitate the classification and arrangements of the work by the children.

The attractiveness is also of utmost importance as Montessori believed that the child must be offered what is most beautiful and pleasing to the eye so as to help the child enter into a “more refined and subtle world”.

Introduction to Montessorie five subjects

Introduction to Sensorial:
What is Sensorial Work?

Sensorial comes from the words sense or senses. As there are no new experiences for the child to take from the Sensorial work, the child is able to concentrate on the refinement of all his senses, from visual to stereognostic.

The Purpose of Sensorial Work

The purpose and aim of Sensorial work is for the child to acquire clear, conscious, information and to be able to then make classifications in his environment. Montessori believed that sensorial experiences began at birth. Through his senses, the child studies his environment. Through this study, the child then begins to understand his environment. The child, to Montessori, is a “sensorial explorer”.

Through work with the sensorial materials, the child is given the keys to classifying the things around him, which leads to the child making his own experiences in his environment. Through the classification, the child is also offered the first steps in organizing his intelligence, which then leads to his adapting to his environment.

Exercise Groups

Sensorial Exercises were designed by Montessori to cover every quality that can be perceived by the senses such as size, shape, composition, texture, loudness or softness, matching, weight, temperature, etc. Because the Exercises cover such a wide range of senses, Montessori categorized the Exercises into eight different groups: Visual, Tactile, Baric, Thermic, Auditory, Olfactory, Gustatory, and Stereognostic.

In the Visual Sense Exercises, the child learns how to visually discriminate differences between similar objects and differing objects.

In the Tactile Sense Exercises, the child learns through his sense of touch. “Although the sense of touch is spread throughout the surface of the body, the Exercises given to the children are limited to the tips of the fingers, and particularly, to those of the right hand.” (Montessori, Maria (1997) The Discovery of the Child, Oxford, England: Clio Press) This allows the child to really focus on what he is feeling, through a concentration of a small part of his body.

In the Baric sense Exercises, the child learns to feel the difference of pressure or weight of different objects. This sense is heightened through the use of a blindfold or of closing your eyes.

In the Thermic Sense Exercises, the child works to refine his sense of temperature.

In the Auditory Sense Exercises, the child discriminates between different sounds. In doing these different Exercises, the child will refine and make him more sensitive to the sounds in his environment.
In the Olfactory and Gustatory Sense Exercises, the child is given a key to his smelling and tasting sense. Although not all smells or tastes are given to the child in these Exercises, the child does work to distinguish one smell from another or one taste from another. He can then take these senses, and apply them to other smells or tastes in his environment.

In the Stereognostic Sense Exercises, the child learns to feel objects and make recognitions based on what he feels. “When the hand and arm are moved about an object, an impression of movement is added to that touch. Such an impression is attributed to a special, sixth sense, which is called a muscular sense, and which permits many impressions to be stored in a “muscular memory”, which recalls movements that have been made."((Montessori, Maria (1997) The Discovery of the Child, Oxford, England: Clio Press)

The Designed Material

Montessori’s materials for the Sensorial work came from her own observations and from ideas and materials from the French doctors Itard and Seguin. Unlike the material used for Practical Life, this material has either never been seen or never been used by the child in his everyday life. With this said however, the child will receive no new experiences through the use of the material. This was purposefully thought through in order to give the child what he knows, but might not yet realize, and to then refine his knowledge. In order to do this, the material is presented in a specific way or in a specific pattern: the child learns to match the similar things, then he is shown how to grade the material based on its quality, and then he receives the language related to his work. In presenting the material to the child in this way allows him to fully understand the concept of his work.

All of the Sensorial materials were designed keeping the same ideas in mind.

  1. All of the material isolates the one quality that is to be worked with by the child. This allows the child to focus on that one quality.
  2. All of the materials have, what is called, a control of error. This calls to the child to make the corrections himself.
  3. All of the material is esthetically pleasing. Such as with the Practical Life materials, this attracts the child’s attention to the objects and allows the child to manipulate the materials with ease.
  4. All of the material must be complete. This allows the child who is working with the material to finish through the entire piece of work without having to stop and find a missing piece.
  5. All of the material is limited. The first use of the term limited refers to the fact that there is only one of each material in the environment. This calls for other students to build on their patience. The second use of the word limited is in reference to the idea that not all of one quality or piece of information is given to the child. This child is not given every color in the world, but only a select few. This gives the child the keys to the information so it peaks his curiosity and leads him to learn more out of his own interest.
  6. Most importantly, all of the material could be called “materialized abstractions”. This means that though Montessori’s Sensorial materials, abstract concepts are made into concrete materials.

Montessori saw the importance of the manipulation of objects to aid the child in better understanding his environment. Through the child’s work with Sensorial material, the child is helped to make abstractions, he is helped in making distinctions in his environment, and the child is given the knowledge not through word of mouth, but through his own experiences.

The Three Period Lesson

The Three Period Lesson is to be given after the child has had much experience with the material itself. The reason behind the Three Period Lesson is to give the language of the material the child has been using. It is meant to teach the names of objects and the names of the qualities of theses materials. The Three Period Lesson is divided into three steps, so the language will be more easily absorbed. There is the Three Period Lesson for naming an object, and for grading an object positively, comparatively, and superlatively.

The Three Period Lesson for Naming

Step 1: Naming Period

The directress presents the child with three objects of contrast and isolates them on a mat. The directress then experiences the objects one at a time by feeling the object thoroughly. Then the directress will encourage the child to experience all three of the objects. The directress will look the child in the eyes and clearly give the name of one of the objects. For example, “This is an ovoid.” Then the directress will repeat the naming for the other two objects. Then the directress will repeat the names of each of the objects.

Step 2: Recognition and Association Period

Once the child has clearly heard the names of each of the objects more than once, the directress will now challenge the child to recognize the objects by their names. To do so, the directress will ask the child to do something with the object she names. For example, “Please place the ovoid in my hand.” Or another example could be, “Please place the ovoid here…”
The child should then move to the correct object the directress has just asked for. By doing this step, the child will be putting the names of the objects into his long-term memory.

Step 3: Recall Period

Once the child has successfully placed the names of the objects into his long-term momory, the directress will challenge the child to name the objects himself. This will ask for the child to associate the name of the object to the object itself. For example the directress might point to one of the objects and ask: “What is this?” The child should then respond, for example, “This is an ovoid.”

The Three Period Lesson for Grading - Positive

Step 1: Naming Period

The directress places two objects of a group and isolates them on a mat. (For example, a long rod and a short rod.) The directress then experiences the two objects one at a time by feeling the object thoroughly. Then the directress will encourage the child to experience both of the objects. The directress will look the child in the eyes and clearly give the names of the difference of the two objects. For example, “This is the long rod.” And for the other object, “This is the short rod.” Repeat this but replace one of the objects with an object different as to the one taken out. For example if you are grading rods, the directress could take out the short rod and replace it with a shorter rod. Then, what was the short rod becomes the long rod and the new rod becomes the short rod. This way the child understands that the grading of an object depends on what it is being graded to.

Step 2: Recognition Period

Just as in Step 2 for the Three Period Lesson for Naming, the directress will then have the child match the object to the name. For example, the directress might say, “Please give me the short rod.” Or she may say, “Please place the long rod here.”

Step 3: Recall Period

Just as in Step 3 for the Three Period Lesson for Naming, the directress will ask the child, “What is this?” The child should then answer, for example, “This is the short rod”.

The Three Period Lesson for Grading - Comparative

Step 1: Naming Period

The directress places two objects of a group and isolates them on a mat. (For example, two shades of the blue color tablets.) The directress will look the child in the eyes and clearly give the names of the difference of the two objects. For example, “This is dark.” And for the other object, “This is darker.” Repeat this but replace one of the objects with an object different as to the one taken out. For example if you are grading the color tablets, the directress could take out a darker blue than before. Then, what was the darker becomes the dark and the new tablet becomes the darker. This way the child understands that the grading of an object depends on what it is being graded to.

Step 2: Recognition Period

Same as Step 2 of above but this time the directress will ask the child, “ Which one is the darker tablet?” Or, “Which one is the dark tablet?”

Step 3: Recall Period

Same as Step 3 of above: “What is this?”

The Three Period Lesson for Grading - Superlative

Step 1: Naming Period

The directress places three objects of a group and isolates them on a mat. For example, three shades of the yellow color tablets. (Remember: this is not limited to three objects.) The directress will look the child in the eyes and clearly give the names of the difference of the two objects. For example, “This is dark.” And for the second object, “This is darker.” And for the third object, “This is darkest.” Repeat this but replace one or two of the objects with objects different as to the ones taken out. For example if you are grading the color tablets, the directress could take out a darker yellow than the darkest and a lighter color than the dark tablet. Then, what was the darkest becomes the darker and the dark becomes the darker. This way the child understands that the grading of an object depends on what it is being graded to.

Step 2: Recognition Period

Same as Step 2 of above but this time the directress will ask the child, “ Which one is the darker?” Or, “Which one is the dark?” Or, “Which one is the darkest?”

Step 3: Recall Period

Same as Step 3 of above: “What is this?”

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Montessori Concepts and Terminology

Part 1. The Prepared Environment

The "prepared environment" is Maria Montessori's concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child.

In the prepared environment, there is a variety of activity as well as a great deal of movement. In a preschool classroom, for example, a three-year-old may be washing clothes by hand while a four-year-old nearby is composing words and phrases with letters known as the movable alphabet, and a five-year-old is performing multiplication using a specially designed set of beads. In an elementary classroom, a small group of six- to nine-year-old children may be using a timeline to learn about extinct animals while another child chooses to work alone, analyzing a poem using special grammar symbols. Sometimes an entire class may be involved in a group activity, such as storytelling, singing, or movement.

In the calm, ordered space of the Montessori prepared environment, children work on activities of their own choice at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.

Part 2. The Montessori Materials

In the Montessori classroom, learning materials are arranged invitingly on low, open shelves. Children may choose whatever materials they would like to use and may work for as long as the material holds their interest. When they are finished with each material, they return it to the shelf from which it came.

The materials themselves invite activity. There are bright arrays of solid geometric forms, knobbed puzzle maps, colored beads, and various specialized rods and blocks.

Each material in a Montessori classroom isolates one quality. In this way, the concept that the child is to discover is isolated. For example, the material known as the pink tower is made up of ten pink cubes of varying sizes. The preschool-aged child constructs a tower with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on top. This material isolates the concept of size. The cubes are all the same color and texture; the only difference is their size. Other materials isolate different concepts: color tablets for color, geometry materials for form, and so on.

Moreover, the materials are self-correcting. When a piece does not fit or is left over, the child easily perceives the error. There is no need for adult "correction." The child is able to solve problems independently, building self-confidence, analytical thinking, and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment.

As the child's exploration continues, the materials interrelate and build upon each other. For example, various relationships can be explored between the pink tower and the broad stair, which are based on matching precise dimensions. Later, in the elementary years, new aspects of some of the materials unfold. When studying volume, for instance, the child may return to the pink tower and discover that its cubes progress incrementally from one cubic centimeter to one cubic decimeter.

Part 3. The Process of Normalization

In Montessori education, the term "normalization" has a specialized meaning. "Normal" does not refer to what is considered to be "typical" or "average" or even "usual." "Normalization" does not refer to a process of being forced to conform. Instead, Maria Montessori used the terms "normal" and "normalization" to describe a unique process she observed in child development.

Montessori observed that when children are allowed freedom in an environment suited to their needs, they blossom. After a period of intense concentration, working with materials that fully engage their interest, children appear to be refreshed and contented. Through continued concentrated work of their own choice, children grow in inner discipline and peace. She called this process "normalization" and cited it as "the most important single result of our whole work" (The Absorbent Mind, 1949).

She went on to write,

    Only "normalised" children, aided by their environment, show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we describe: spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others. . . . An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child's energies and mental capacities, and leads him to self-mastery. . . . One is tempted to say that the children are performing spiritual exercises, having found the path of self-perfectionment and of ascent to the inner heights of the soul. (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 1949)

E.M. Standing (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work, 1957) lists these as the characteristics of normalization: love of order, love of work, spontaneous concentration, attachment to reality, love of silence and of working alone, sublimation of the possessive instinct, power to act from real choice, obedience, independence and initiative, spontaneous self-discipline, and joy. Montessori believed that these are the truly "normal" characteristics of childhood, which emerge when children's developmental needs are met.

Montessori Activity Areas

Practical Life area teaches children self-help skills, care of their environment, coordination, fine motor skills, attention span and a sense of order. These activities are the foundation for future learning - especially reading, writing and math.

Sensorial Materials help the child to use her senses to learn concepts of size, color and shape, while improving eye and hand coordination. The child compares heights, weights, colors, sounds, smells, shapes and textures.

Math is presented using tangible objects which represent quantities. Children move at their own pace from these objects to symbols and functions. This process includes the introduction of numerals and association of quantity and symbol, sequencing, addition and subtraction, and the decimal system.

Language includes written and oral expression. This is initiated using patterns, association, rhymes and opposites, and progresses through vocabulary enrichment, control of pencil, recognition of letter shapes, names and sounds. The child works at her own pace to build reading and writing skills.

Culture area provides a basic knowledge of culture, science and geography, and builds an awareness of the world in which we live.

The teachers bring additional materials of their own design into the classroom. At Kinderhaus, these include music, art, introduction to Spanish and other cross-cultural presentations. We also have the reading area with the butterfly pillow.

What is a Directress?

The Montessori teacher is referred to as a Directress because she "directs" classroom activity. The Directress carefully plans the environment to meet the needs of the children and helps them progress from one activity to the next. She is trained to work with each child individually allowing him to choose activities within his ability, then directing him to new activities as he is ready. Rather than "teaching" the child, the Directress frequently stands back while the child is working, to allow him the satisfaction of making his own discoveries.

At Kinderhaus, each session is headed by a Montessori certified Directress. All staff members are approved by the Board of Directors and are selected for their love and understanding of children.

help the child to use her senses to learn concepts of size, color and shape, while improving eye and hand coordination. The child compares heights, weights, colors, sounds, smells, shapes and textures.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Montessori materials.

Dr. Montessori, in her initial work in 1907 in San Lorenzo, observed that the younger children were intensely attracted to sensory development apparatus. The children used these materials spontaneously, independently, repeatedly and with deep concentration. They emerged from this spontaneous activity renewed and with a profound sense of inner satisfaction.

"Montessori method is based on the spontaneous activity of the child which is aroused precisely by the interest the child takes in the material."

From this initial discovery, over many years of observation and trial and error, Dr. Montessori and her son Mario, went on to design an entire range of Montessori materials.

In order for the materials to be of optimum benefit they must be presented to the child at the appropriate stage in his or her development by a trained Montessori teacher. The materials then allow the child to engage in self-directed, purposeful activity. The materials are beautiful and enticing and are displayed in an orderly and accessible way.

"All the apparatus must be meticulously in order, beautiful and shiny, in perfect condition. Nothing must be missing, so that to the child it always seems new, complete and ready for use."

Today, the Association Montessori Internationale Pedagogical Committee continues to oversee the development and manufacture of the Montessori materials.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What is Montessori?.


The discoveries made by Maria Montessori, MD, can help parents and teachers in many situations. Her advice has always been to: "Follow the Child." We focus here on information which can be used in school or at home for children from three to six years.

Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, where study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants—doing nothing but living and walking about—came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning; would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so he passes little by little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.
—Dr. Maria Montessori, MD


The most important consideration in deciding to set up a Montessori class is the teacher. A non-Montessori-trained teacher can no more be expected to teach "Montessori" than a biologist could be expected to teach French. Using the Montessori approach to teach is extremely challenging, but equally exciting and rewarding.

Montessori schools have proven successful all over the world, with all kinds of children (blind, gifted, learning disabled, wealthy, poor, etc.) and in many different environments (from refugee camps and slums to elegant schools in beautiful private homes).

There are many kinds of Montessori teacher training experiences, from distance or correspondence courses (useful for parents and teachers who are interested in an introduction to Montessori, but usually not for a teacher in charge of a whole class of children) to graduate school programs.

The following specific elements of Montessori philosophy that one might find in a Montessori class are based on the assumption that the teacher has had the most exacting Montessori teacher training course available.


Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. In her work at the University of Rome's psychiatric clinic, Dr. Montessori developed an interest in the treatment of children and for several years wrote and spoke on their behalf. At age twenty-eight, she became the director of a school for mentally-disabled children. After two years under her guidance, these children, who formerly had been considered uneducable, took a school examination along with normal children and passed successfully. Educators called Dr. Montessori a miracle worker. What was her response? If mentally disabled children could be brought to the level of normal children, Dr. Montessori wanted to study the potential of "normal" children. She went back to school to study anthropology and psychology and finally, in 1907, was asked to take charge of fifty children from the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenz slum in the city of Rome.

Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments, such as gluttony, vanity, or self-love, in order to foster in him a spirit of work and peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts. I then urged the teachers to cease handing out the ordinary prizes and punishments, which were no longer suited to our children, and to confine themselves to directing them gently in their work.

Dr. Montessori was then invited to set up a classroom at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco so that more interested people could observe her methods. A room was built with a glass wall behind which spectators sat and watched the children. Twenty-one children, all completely new to a Montessori environment, attended for four months. The observation seats were filled every day and at noon, when the children served lunch to their classmates and washed up afterwards, there was standing room only in the audience. The two gold medals awarded for education at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition both went to the Montessori class.

After W.W.II Dr. Montessori's concern with education for peace intensified and she was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She instituted the study of Cosmic Education for the child from six to twelve years of age, since she could see that in meeting the needs of the child, the needs of the world would also be met. "Cosmic Education" is the child's gradual discovery, throughout the whole of childhood, of the interrelatedness of all things on earth, in the past, in the present, and in the future

Invited to the USA by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and others, Dr. Montessori made an appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1915. The following is from a 1913 letter from A. Graham Bell:

Dear Dr. Montessori,
On behalf of the Montessori Educational Association of America I have the honor to inform you that we have elected you as its first Honorary member and to express to you in this way our deep appreciation of your great work for humanity.
—Alexander Graham Bell, 1913
. When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work, they appeared rested and deeply pleased. It almost seemed as if a road had opened up within their souls that led to all their latent powers, revealing the better part of themselves. They exhibited a great affability to everyone, put themselves out to help others and seemed full of good will.
— Maria Montessori, MD

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

10 steps to get better grades in school

Every parent knows that success in school is important for success in adult life. Parents want to help ensure that success, but what, exactly, can they do to help? Here are ten steps to helping your child succeed in school this year.

1. Develop a schedule. Many families today are incredibly busy. In the rush to meet all the demands upon each family member from school, work, sports, arts and socializing - school sometimes gets crowded to the rear. One way to prevent that from happening is to develop a firm but flexible schedule - allowing sufficient time to meet each of the essentials.

2. Don't Overextend. Many times, when a family begins creating a schedule, it becomes clear that there are simply too many activities to fit. School success may require being a little less involved in extra-curricular activities. It may also mean that parents find they have to cut a few of the extras out of their lives, too.

3. Get plenty of rest. Many students simply do not get enough sleep. Eight hours is actually the minimum number of hours a child should sleep each night. It is best to get more sleep. And don't count on weekends to "catch up" on missed sleep. It simply doesn't work that way. Adequate sleep is needed for each day to ensure optimal school performance.

4. Eat right. Poor nutrition and skipped meals lead to the same feelings of exhaustion and weakness that come from lack of sleep. Schedule in meals that include a good breakfast and minimal fast food. Make sure there are plenty of healthful snacks available for after school - like fruit, raw veggies, cheese and pop corn. And watch that soda consumption, too much sugar can make you feel sluggish.

5. Stay well stocked. Purchase good school supplies and keep them in stock. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering you are out of glue or your markers are all dried up, just as you are beginning the project that is due tomorrow.

6. Make homework a priority. Skipped homework can shipwreck an otherwise excellent grade average. Be certain to allot sufficient time for homework to be completed in a distraction-free atmosphere. Preferably the time should be after the student has had a chance to unwind from school yet still early enough to feel fresh and alert.

7. Lavish praise…especially when your child is struggling in a particular subject. Be certain he knows that many people struggle in that subject; it does not mean he is stupid. Praise each success as he progresses…no matter how small. Offer help, or even tutoring if needed, but don't force help if your child prefers to work independently. Sometimes the goals that are met after a tough fight are the most enjoyable.

8. Keep communication open. Take time every day to listen to your child. Be certain every conversation is not dominated by you. Let your child tell his experiences at school, with his teacher and with other students, then if problems arise, you have a better understanding of the circumstances that may have led up to them.

9. Keep expectations realistic. It is good to expect your child to do well in school - to be polite and to complete assignments neatly and on time - but do not expect every assignment to net an A. Keep goals reachable to avoid frustration and poor self-image.

10. Be honest. Many children naturally want to do as well as their parents - or better! So, when you reminisce about your own school days, be certain to tell about your failures as well as your successes.

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The first day back to school

The first of day school. Who can forget the jitters and butterflies that this event elicits. Preparing for the first day of school helps children

feel comfortable and less nervous, although the initial excitement and worry is something that will never go away. There are a few things parents can do to make the first day extra special.

1. Talk to your child beforehand. Get a calendar and mark off the first day of school so it's a visible reminder. There will be no surprises the night before the big event. Chatting about their worries or what they are excited about gives children a chance to explore their feelings and gives parents a look into their children. Take their comments seriously because to them, they are serious.

2. Plan a trip up to school, especially if it's a new school or program your child will be attending. If you found out what is worrying your child, you can address this during the trip. Many junior high/middle school students worry about opening their locker and finding their classes. During the trip, have your child practice opening their locker and if possible, get their schedule and walk it with your child a couple of times until they feel confident. If your child is in elementary school, seeing their room and meeting their teacher will help set their minds at ease.

3. Involve them in buying school clothes and school supplies. Once they are bought, arrange a special place at home where their school supplies will go each and every day. It can be either in their room or in a spot such as the foyer or family room. Have your child help arrange this area with bins for their library books, pegs for their coats and backpack and a bulletin board to tack up important school notices or notes from the teacher.

4. Start going to bed early the last week of summer. It's hard to get back into the routine of school if you begin on the first day.

5. Have a back to school party. Some children like to have it the day before; others choose to have a bagel/poptart party that morning. Having a chance to celebrate going to school sends an important message to children.

6. Have lunches, clothes and supplies ready to go the first morning and every morning after that. Give your child an alarm clock so they can get up on their own. Set out breakfast food so your child can quickly grab a bite to eat on their own. Lunches can be packed the night before and in the refrigerator. The less you have to do in the morning, the smoother the first day will be.

7. Finally, take a picture. Every year, take a photo of your child in the same spot on the first day of school. Long after they graduate, they will enjoy looking at how much they grew from year to year.

Going back to school doesn't need to be stressful. With a little preparation, it will be an exciting day for students of all ages.

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Building a family library

Do you love books? Are your kids avid readers? If you have a family full of book lovers, you may want to consider creating a space for a library within your home. The library will allow you to house all of your books in one area, while providing your family with a quiet space devoted to reading.

No room and no money?

If you don’t have the space to dedicate an entire room as your library, pick a corner or a nook in your family room, living room, or bedroom to use as your library space. There should preferably be no television in the room.

Your family library does not have to cost you a fortune. If you can’t afford to buy a wall full of bookcases, go to a discount store and purchase a small bookshelf unit that you can assemble yourself. Ready made bookcases come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, so you will be able to find something affordable that matches the current d├ęcor of your home.

Where to get books

If you love books enough to consider creating a home library space, then you likely already own many of your favorite titles. If you are looking to expand your current book collection, there are many ways to find books at affordable prices:

-- Check yard sales. Yard sales are great places to find old books. Most people sell their old books for just a few dollars. If someone is selling several books that you want, make them an offer to buy the lot of them at a reduced price. Most people that have yard sales just want to get rid of the stuff-- the last thing they want to do is a lug a carton full of unsold books back into the house at the end of the day!

-- Join a book club. Book clubs offer you the chance to get several books (usually 4 or 5) for a reduced price with the stipulation that you must buy more books within the next year or two. This is a good way to get hot, current titles that are still selling for full price at bookstores. Make sure you order the most expensive books on your list during your introductory offer. Order the cheaper books later-- when you have to fulfill your enrollment commitment.

-- Check online auction sites. Many online dealers sell bulk lots of books at very affordable prices. Before you bid, make sure that the shipping charges are reasonable.

-- Check your local library for used book sales. In addition, many libraries periodically offer old books for free. Check with your local librarian for information on programs offered at your library.

-- Join savings clubs at your local bookstore. Bookstores are great, but they can be overwhelming if you are looking for a specific title amidst the thousands of books they have. If you do shop at a large chain bookstore, inquire about their savings club offers. If you plan to buy a lot of books, it may be worth the enrollment fee.

-- Buy books online if they offer free shipping. Popular online bookstores often offer the same (or better) sale prices as the large chain retailers. In addition, you won’t have to rifle through the stacks of books-- just search on your computer and add the books you want to your shopping cart. Only purchase books online if they offer free shipping.

Tips for organizing your library

If you are a librarian at heart, you can organize your books alphabetically by author and/or subject. You may want to have a nonfiction section and a separate section for your children’s books. You may want to offer each of your children their own library shelf that they can arrange as they wish. However you decide to organize your library, make sure you use a system that works for you and your family. You want to be able to find what you are looking for when you need it.

Must- Own Titles

If you are starting out with only a few books and need recommendations on titles to add to your collection, keep in mind that reading is a highly personal hobby and you should go with authors and subjects that you and your family love. It is not recommended that you buy classic titles that you will never read just for the sake of owning them. Make sure that you only buy books that you truly want to own. You may even want to skim through a book at your local library or bookstore before you commit to buying it. That said, if you are looking for some book selections that have remained popular over the years, here are some books you may want to consider adding to your collection:

Adult Fiction

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk

A Christmas Story by Jean Shephard

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Adult Non Fiction

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Steven Covey

Teaching Your Children Responsibility by Linda and Richard Eyre

Preschool Children

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Young Adult

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

The Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling

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What the library has to offer your family – besides books

Of course everyone knows that libraries are the place to go for all your favorite books. But are you aware of the many other resources and services that the library can offer your family?


Story times are a library staple. They’re usually a fun time of listening to entertaining stories and sometimes participating in other activities like songs or crafts. Library programming for kids isn’t limited to story times, though. Some libraries have parties based on favorite books, hands-on science demonstrations, holiday-themed activities and many more ways for kids to spend an hour or two being educated and entertained.

When it comes time to do research for a school project, consider the local library as your one-stop shop for everything your children from a single book, to computer access to type up the paper. You might think that heading to the library for schoolwork is unnecessary if you have internet access at home. However, libraries subscribe to special databases for research. These provide much higher quality information than your basic web search. At the library, you can also utilize the library professionals who are skilled at helping you find the information you need. Some libraries have even set up special homework help times.

Summer reading clubs can provide the extra motivation your kids need to keep reading during the summer. It’s the perfect combination of education and fun. Check for special events like end-of-program celebrations or author visits in conjunction with the summer reading program to get even more mileage out of the event. And who knows, there might even be a summer reading program for adults.


Some libraries plan special programs especially for adults, such as workshops on financial planning or health and wellness. Or if you have an area of expertise that others would love to know about, consider offering to hold a workshop of your own.

Many libraries offer genealogy resources. Whether it has full-fledged archives, a subscription to a special database, or just lots of old newspapers, your local library can get you started on the search for your past.

While they won’t do your taxes for you, every year, libraries stock up on reams of tax forms and preparation booklets as a service to the public.

If you enjoy the library and you’ve been looking for a way to give back to the community, check out your local Friends of the Library group. They do activities that support the needs of the library, like planning fundraisers or facilitating book discussions. You’re sure to enjoy yourself, and the group will appreciate the new face.


Most libraries provide basic office services to their patrons such as photocopying, faxing and printing. Fees for these services vary by library.

Every library subscribes to a selection of newspapers and magazines. These can be fun to browse through while visiting the library, and older issues can be checked out, saving you the need to spend money on a subscription.

Books and CDs on tape are another resource that most libraries offer. They’re great for long commutes or to listen to while exercising. For beginning readers, listening to a book while reading along can help build comprehension and understanding.

Videos and DVDs are two more things that not everyone realizes libraries carry. There may be a small rental fee, but it will be cheaper than at the local video store. And they don’t just have educational titles; you’re more likely to find a Hollywood blockbuster on the shelves than a public television series.

Sure, borrowing books is fun and economical, but don’t you sometimes find books that you’d love to own? Library used book sales are a great place to give in to that impulse. The books for sale are a combination of donations they couldn’t use and books that are being pulled out of circulation. Some libraries hold a large yearly sale, others try it once a month or so, and still others have an ongoing used bookstore on the library premises. Part of the fun is the hunt, and you never know what you may find to build your own personal library.

Not every library will offer all of the programs and resources listed here. Each one is a little different, depending on community needs and budget restraints. Be on the lookout for flyers when you visit the library, visit the library’s website, and check for announcements in your local paper. By being more aware of what libraries offer, you and your family can make the most of your next visit and hopefully plan many more return trips.

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A parent's guide to helping their child with homework

Homework is an important part of a child’s learning process, it is also a great way for parents to get involved and stay informed about what is being taught. The best way to ensure a productive learning experience while doing homework depends on the child. Being stuck at a desk, in a quiet room, alone is not always the best way to learn.

When your child gets home from school, it is important to discuss their day and find out what homework they have been given. This allows you and your child to create a plan for getting the homework done.

Some children would rather jump right in and complete their homework rather than have it on their mind all afternoon. Others need a mental break from the day before they can delve into more schoolwork. Either scenario is fine, as long as there is a mutually agreed upon plan.

It is also important to give your child a healthy snack or dinner before they begin their homework. Hunger can be a major distraction, and kids are usually looking for any excuse to put off doing their homework. Eliminate the chance of this distraction by providing a healthy snack, preferably with protein. Good snacks include a piece of bread with peanut butter, some turkey and carrots or a fruit smoothie. These snacks should keep their energy level up and keep them from feeling lethargic.

Next, decide on the best environment for your child to do their homework in. It could be at a desk in their room, at the kitchen table or in an office. Any area is fine as long as it is relatively free from distractions. Never allow your child to do homework with the television on. Many people prefer light background music, and studies have shown that it could be beneficial to thought, versus a room that is dead silent.

Before your child sits down to work, be sure that all the supplies they will need are readily available at the table. Also be sure that they have used the restroom and that they have a glass of water to drink. Avoiding these potential distractions will save your child time once they begin their homework, as well as preventing breaks in their concentration level.

The amount of assistance you provide your child with their homework, again depends on the child. If you are concerned, consult their teacher for guidance on how much help they should be getting. In general, you should be available to answer questions but not hanging over their shoulder doing the work for them.

It is especially important to not overly assist your child on school projects. Parents tend to put too much emphasis on the quality of their child’s cotton ball igloo or Popsicle stick replica of the White House. Oftentimes, parents end up making it their project and the child loses out on a valuable learning experience.

The most important things to remember when helping your child with their homework is to help them stay organized, provide a comfortable work environment and answer any questions they ask without being too involved.

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