January 2, 2011


I have started a new blog and little Montessori shop selling all things Montessori for Infants and Toddlers. Also available are a selection of interesting links for Montessori 0 to 3 (please email more links as I'm sure I have hardly scratched the surface), articles on sleep, weaning and toileting the Montessori way, with more to come.

To celebrate the start of the blog I have made a Montessori Gobbi Mobile to give away to one lucky reader! Please visit the blog for details!

June 24, 2010

The Gobbi Mobile

I have just finished making this Gobbi Mobile for a friend of mine who gave birth to a little girl. I have made the mobile a few times out of various materials with varying levels of success. I am really pleased with this effort and wanted to share. I have been thinking of making Montessori Infant Materials for sale and I'm wondering whether anyone out there would be interested in buying this sort of thing? This mobile is made from pine (natural, unvarnished, unstained), satin ribbon, polystyrene balls, organic cotton for the hanging thread and is glued with a non-toxic glue. I have no idea what I would charge for something like this - it took about 7 hours to make (the wrapping of the balls takes forever!)
I am now making and selling these mobiles (and other Montessori 0-3 equipment) at my new blog http://www.montessorihomes.blogspot.com/
check it out!

June 9, 2010

Freedom and Choice - a Fundamental Concept

I have been discussing the importance of Freedom and Choice with a friend of mine who is teaching in a Montessori School (6 to 9 room). We were digging up some quotes about the topic which supported our ideas about why freedom and the ability to choose were so integral to the Montessori environment. I thought to include them below as food for thought...

About the child and his choices:

If the object meets the inner needs of the child and is something that will satisfy them, it rouses the child to prolonged activity. He masters it and uses it over and over again - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori

We know very well not only that knowledge gained through personal exploration and spontaneous effort is remembered much better but that the method acquired in the course of such learning can be useful for the rest of one's life - Raising Curious Creative Confident Kids - Rebeca Wild (Montessori is NOT about what we learn, but about HOW we learn it. Knowledge is not static, it is continually changing and evolving and it was recognised by MM that if we can help children to learn how to learn, then the highest level of independence will have been achieved, as they will never be dependent on adults or teachers for progress.)

The objects are a help to the child himself. He chooses what he wants for his own use, and works with it according to his own needs, tendencies and special interests. In this way the objects become a means of growth - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori

I would suggest that all this not be taught to every child, but only to those who have shown a special interest in it either by their frequent choice of the material or their questions - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori (this forms the argument for allowing the choice of the child to PRECEDE the lesson from the adult)

Montessori education is designed to awaken interest and to allow children to pursue learning about issues that personally interest them. This is necessary to a system that is beased on intrinsic motivation - Montessori the Science Behind the Genius - Angeline Stoll Lillard

Only the material which really interests a child and which he will freely choose and regularly employ is suitable for a child's education - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori

Each and every child, based on its own individual needs, will make its own choice out of all the stimuli offered for learning. We know how deep the priority of these inner needs is and that a true equilibrium wth the environment is possible only when we allow the child to establish this balance - Raising Curious Creative Confident Kids - Rebeca Wild

A child who shows a desire to work and to learn should be left free to do so even of the work is outside the regular program - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori

If their spirit is not touched, they may compy with our demands for work, but the psychological value of their work will be restricted to a more or less mechanical learning of technique - Education for Human Development - Mario Montessori Jr

The child tends to gravitate towards the types of stimulation they need at different stages of development. If we encourage children to make choices from a selected variety of available challenges, we are no doubt following the wisest course - Endangered Minds - Jane Healy

Children who have choices will spontaneously engage with that which they needs to further their development - Montessori the Science Behind the Genius - Angeline Stoll Lillard

The child has the power to teach himself - The Absorbent Mind - Maria Montessori

He must become independent of will, by using in freedom his own power of choice - The Absorbent Mind - Maria Montessori
For the adult:

Inner forces affect his choices, and if someone usurps the function of this guide, the child is prevented from developing either his will or his concentration - The Absorbent Mind - Maria Montessori 

Only through the art of being able to perceive the spontaneous activity of a child is the teacher in a position to assess the interests and the stage of development of children - Raising Curious Creative Confident Kids - Rebeca Wild

For the most part, the short and simple lesson should consist of an explanation of the object and of the use which the child can make of it. The teacher will note whether or not the child is interested in the object, how he shows his interest, how long he is interested in it and she will take care not to force a child's interest in what she is offering - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori

We always keep in mind that the children's own activity and their experiences come before any information that can be given by the teacher - Raising Curious Creative Confident Kids - Rebeca Wild

The principal agent is the object itself and not the instruction given by the teacher. It is the child who uses the objects; it is the child who is active and not the teacher - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori

One might not anticipate what particular aspect of a lesson will capture the imagination of any particular child and might lead to further explorations that will link to new parts of the curriculum - Montessori the Science Behind the Genius - Angeline Stoll Lillard (this is a strong argument against having a pre-prepared schedule of lessons and a lock-step progression through the curriculum as it takes away the spontaneity and individuality of each child's journey through the curriculum according to his interests and personal links, in short it disregards the essence of the structure of the child's mind and the framework of reference that is unique to him and essential for deep understanding and internalisation)

There is only one basis for observation: the children must be free to express themselves and thus reveal those needs and attitudes which would otherwise remain hidden or repressed in an environment that did not permit them to act spontaneously - The Discovery of the Child - Maria Montessori

The closest we can come to finding out what children really know is to watch what they do when they are free to do what interests them most - How Children Fail - John Holt

If we and not the children choose the task, then they think about us instead of the task - How Children Fail - John Holt

Montessori environments are prepared to facilitate child choice and control, through order - Montessori the Science Behind the Genius - Angeline Stoll Lillard (this is role of the adult: to prepare an ordered environment in which the child is free to teach himself. It is not the place of the adult to control the child. We can influence the child's self-control and choices, by controlling the environment. That is the limit of our influence.)

June 6, 2009

Montessori Infant Toddler Program

A friend of mine asked for some photos of our Infant Toddler learning area at the Montessori Learning Community, so I thought I'd share the pics - there are heaps! Here is the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35832724@N02/?saved=1

If you would like to learn more about Montessori for Infants and Toddlers, check out my other blog http://www.montessorihomes.blogspot.com/ for tutorials, articles, materials to buy and more.


May 16, 2009

Montessori Conference - Part 2

Paul Epstein's Keynote Speech was about looking forward to the next century of Montessori, and building upon the foundations of the previous century. He believes that it is no longer enough to live off the legacy of Montessori without putting something back. He said that the legacy of the first 100 years is centered around the "transformative moment of concentration". But he says that "concentration" is really only one part of the equation.
Traditionally the centrepiece of Montessori practice has been the materials. The child's interest is peaked by the materials, he makes a choice, and his attention is polarised in "concentration"; this is the manifestation of the child's inner being.

Paul argues that this kind of concentration is situation-specific and isolated. He suggests that we need to start with observation of children in relationships and in dynamic environments. This helps us to prepare a suitable environment for our experiment. We can then accept that children manifest different types of attention and different types of normalisation.
We all know that some children "never quite get there" when we are looking for "normalisation" as Maria Montessori described it. Paul suggests that these children may not be displaying traditional kinds of "normalised" behaviour - but that if we observed them through the lens of their social interactions and relationships that we would observe a different kind of attention and normalisation. He strengthens this argument by saying that "socialisation may precede the ability to engage in concentration". And that "shared attention" is a valuable learning tool that should not be cast aside as less worthy than the "polarised concentration" of Maria Montessori's observations. He is not discounting the manifestation of "concentration", but merely proposing that concentration is part of a larger group of learning behaviours (behaviours that we as Montessori educators need to explore, and consciously observe to inform our construction of the prepared environment)

Paul breaks down the teacher's experience of observation into three parts: Perceptual Observation, Rational Observation, and Contemplative Observation. These three parts overlap.
He speaks about the importance distinguishing the importance of Observations versus Record Keeping. He proposes a new kind of observation framework in which we record our Perceptual Observations (what we see, hear, contrast), our Rational Observations (what we analyse or infer from what we are seeing/hearing), and use the skill of Contemplative Observation to bring forth new ideas, and allow us to see the "spiritual truth" of the situation.

Paul claims that relationships have a direct impact on learning. And that different children have different types of attention.
He quotes Maria Montessori: "The different types of deviated children do not shake the faith of the teacher". This is to say that concentration is one feature of attention and that not all children give attention to something in "concentration" , and they may nevertheless be normalised.

He believes we need to prepare the environment to support the other "features of attention" as well. Learning is part of the social experience, and therefore social interaction is the precursor to concentration. Relationships facilitate the learning process. Our brains are designed to be social. Our social experiences influence the number of neurons and their connections. Our social interactions organise our brain functions, our hormones, our immune system and our emotions.
Our preparation of the environment must be in response to our observations of:
  • the situation
  • the setting
  • the activities
  • the social roles
  • the behaviours that manifest in these situations

We then need to fill our environments with materials that cause "attention" and "repetition" to be displayed (bearing in mind that attention is not the same as concentration), and that we can judge the "rightness" of our preparations by looking for the "refreshment and deep satisfaction" displayed by the child who has engaged in work that was "right" for him at that moment.

He urges us to ask the following questions while we are observing:

  • when does concentration occur?
  • when does shared attention occur?
  • how can we prepare the environment for shared attention?
  • what materials can we develop that facilitate collaboration and shared attention?

All in all, an inspirational approach to observation in the true "scientific" method that Maria Montessori felt was so important for all who wished to educate children in the "Montessori Way". If you every have the opportunity to listen to Paul speak - I would highly recommend it. He was very entertaining, and managed to encapsulate a potentially complex subject (social anthropology) in a way that gave me real tools for improving my practice as a teacher.

Montessori Conference - Part 1

I promised some information about my time at the annual Montessori Australia Council Conference in Brisbane, a few weeks ago. It will probably come in dribs and drabs - sorry for making you all wait! I have actually just applied for a job teaching a Lower Elementary Class (6 to 9 year olds) and I got it! This is great because my little boy can join the school community too - in the 3 to 6 class. So I will be spending my days slaving over the laminator!

One of the sessions inspired me to Really Think About the relationship of the 5 Great Lessons to all the possible areas of study for the child. I came up with this graphic... which shows how each of the Great Lessons leads the child to different areas of study, and the outer circle shows how each of these areas can be studied from a different view point depending on the activity that the child chooses to do.
More next time - on Paul Epstein's take on Observation of the Child - and his framework for observations which is based on Ethnography. Deep stuff, but very interesting and progressive.

May 10, 2009

Montessori Infant Ball

I spent the weekend sewing. Not my usual pastime, but I had a lot of fun and I am very proud of the results. The impetus, was the birth over the last month of three new babies into our Montessori community. It has become a sort of tradition for me to make one of these balls for each new baby born to a Montessori family.

I thought to include photos of each step in case any of you are inclined to whip out your sewing machines!

The first step - of which I have no picture (sorry!) - is to make your paper pattern. Draw a circle (roughly the size of the ball you want to end up with) and fold it into quarters. Cut out the quarters. One will form the piece below (you need 24 of these)

Then take another quarter and trace the arc of the circle as a mirror image to form the other shape you need: (you need 12 of these)
Now take the eye-shaped piece and sew it to one of the pie-shaped pieces:
Now fold the pie-shaped piece back to expose the right-side of the eye-shaped piece:
Now lay another pie-shaped piece face down on top and sew to the other edge of the eye-shaped piece:
Now bend the eye-shaped piece in half:
Sew the edges about 3/4 of the way down - backstitching to about 1/2 of the way down:
Now turn the right way out and stuff (I stuff quite firmly but not all the way to opening). You should end up with 12 of these:

Now sew three of them together by the points. Try to make these joins as strong as you can - I double my thread and sew several times through the same spot:

When you have joined all 12 pieces in groups of 3, tie two groups together with embroidery floss in the corners. Keep tying until all the possible points are joined to another point:

You end up with a ball looking like this. Trim the threads (or sew them into the ball if you don't want them showing) and the ball is done. You can sew a small bell into the centre of the ball for the added dimension of sound. Or you can put a loop of ribbon on for hanging.

I made two others (two for little girls and one for a little boy).