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).

April 12, 2009


I am away for two weeks - attending a Montessori conference in Brisbane, and a Master Teacher's course with Tim Seldin. Was hoping to get my next two Philosophy papers posted, but for some reason, can't get the pdf converter to work. Will post them when I return, and hopefully will have some other useful stuff to talk about.


March 25, 2009

Montessori Philosophy Series

I have decided to remove the box.net links to my Montessori Philosophy series, as nobody seems to be sharing who they are when they download them (thanks to those people who did identify themselves!)
I am still more than happy to share the documents with anyone who wants to read them, but you will need to email me for the link. I can also email to you in PDF format if this is easier for you.

Amendment Jan 2011 - You can also find these on my new blog (Google Reader) at http://www.montessorihomes.blogspot.com/

March 7, 2009

Tell me who you are!

My computer skills are limited to web-surfing, emailing, typing word documents, and occasionally drawing up household budgets on MS Excel (which are subsequently saved in the archives of documents never to be seen again!).

Being relatively new to blogging, I have not been able to work out who is downloading my box.net files.

Whilst I am not claiming copyright to these Montessori Philosophy documents that I write (the ideas are not mine, I merely put them in into practical terms, which benefits me as much as the families I write them for..), I would love to know if you have downloaded any of the documents, and what you are using them for, or how they have impacted on your life with your child/ren. Please take the time to send me a comment or email. I would love to hear from you.

And if you do use them outside your family, or share them with others, please give them the link to my blog, so that at least my little contribution to the Montessori community can be acknowledged in some small way!



The stages of obedience

Montessori has a unique approach to discipline, and views obedience as a developmental skill that the child attains through natural processes and environmental support. The most frequent question I get as a parent educator, is how to implement the Montessori approach to discipline and obedience in the home. Anyone who has visited a Montessori classroom and witnessed first-hand how amazing this approach can be for helping children to become normalised will empathise with the desire to recreate this utopia in the home environment. This article, on my other blog, shares the Montessori perspective on discipline, the role of the parent in helping the child to develop self-discipline, and quotes from various sources which back up Maria Montessori's ideas.
A word of warning though! Changing a lifetime of habits can be challenging at best, and very discouraging at worst...I recommend implementing these changes with a friend, or partner, who will encourage you, be honest about your failings, and celebrate your success. Parenting is the most important job anyone can ever have.

January 25, 2009

The Sensitive Periods

As a result of her opportunity to observe children who were free to act upon in their environment in a natural way, Maria Montessori was able to identify several Sensitive Periods that occur in every child's development. Sensitive periods are now widely accepted in the scientific community, and are sometimes referred to as critical periods, or critical windows. This link on my other blog will take you to a document about the Sensitive Periods of the First Plane of Development. Hopefully a better understanding of these periods will encourage parents to provide an environment that is supportive of the child's natural development.

January 7, 2009

The Absorbent Mind

Between birth and age six every child demonstrates an amazing capacity to learn and absorb everything they encounter in their environment. Maria Montessori coined the term "Absorbent Mind" to describe the way in which children in this period learn. She pointed out that this type of learning is completely different from the way that adults learn. Adults learn as a result of a conscious effort, but little children have the unique ability to absorb everything around them, and make it a part of themselves. This learning requires very little effort and the child who learns in this way is constructing himself. The learning that takes places before age three, is mostly unconcsious, whereas the learning between age three and six moves towards a more conscious state as time passes. This link, to my other blog, should take you to a more detailed article about the Absorbent Mind.

The Four Planes of Development

The Four Planes of Development were used by Maria Montessori to describe the path of development that every child follows, from birth to adulthood. She recognised that each period of development came with its own set of characteristics and needs. She also recognised that one could only experience complete development and fulfilment of potential if the needs of each period were fully met, before moving on to the next phase.
Please visit my other blog for the link to an article fully describing these planes.