Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Foreign Affairs Writing Contest...with Prize: For College-Aged Children

This looked like a fun and educational writing contest, plus it has a cash prize of $500 that will cover a few text books.

Foreign Affairs Writing Contest

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Free Downloads at Montessori for Everyone

For everyone preparing a classroom or homeschooling with Montessori, Lori at Montessori for Everyone has more free downloads of her fabulous Montessori material for print.

Montessori for Everyone offers printable materials (as PDF files) for all the curricular areas, including language, reading, math, art, music, science, history, and geography.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Color Sorting Project: DIY


Here is a little classroom video clip that we added just to show you the setup of an at home DIY color project. Notice that we used plastic colored bowls with random colored objects for each bowl.

You can introduce the color sorting and other color projects at home without the expense of buying the Montessori Color Tablets.

Montessori curriculum for Toddlers, Kindergarten-aged children, and First Grade available on our site.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Montessori Equipment for Homeschooling 3 to 4 Year Olds

We are sharing the answer to a great question we got in from a parent asking what equipment we would recommend for this age group.

If you purchased our Montessori Curriculum for Primary Class (PreK to Kindergarten ages), there are some basic lists and suggestion in the binders and we suggest you make or buy the equipment that we introduce in the curriculum. Most of it can be made fairly easily, and all of it can be made or improvised if you are handy with DIY projects.

Here is a basic starter list:

1. Sandpaper Letters

2. Movable Alphabet set in a compartmentalized box or DIY equivalent

3. Word cards for CVC (e.g. dog), CVVC (e.g. beak), and CVCV (e.g. cake) words.

4. Practical Life DIY setup including small pitchers, bowls, sponges, clothes, brooms, mops, dustpans, buckets, and similar material (if you have our curriculum, see the list in the binder).

5. Spindle boxes, Golden Beads (units through thousands), number cards (1 to 10000)

6. Red Rods, Number Rods, Pink Tower, Color Tablets (at least set 1 and 2), Brown/Broad Stairs

7. Books using words from #3 above as well as more advanced material designed to be read to your child. See the free downloadable books at Project Gutenberg and check out a sample of our Adobe PDF book for Montessori Pink Level Reading words. You should have a minimum of 20 books that your child can start reading and at least another 20 that you read to your child. You can make these with the Gutenberg books, write your own, browse yard sales, or take out library books, too.

8. Three-lined writing paper, pencils, erasers, colored pencils with pencil holders, blank rolodex cards (for you to make equipment with), watercolor paints, brushes, painting and art paper, smocks/painting clothes.

Questions? Send them along!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Valentines Day card for the Cool Mom Picks competition

Here is our first submission for the Cool Mom Picks Valentine's Day card competition.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Importance of Active Group Play for Toddlers through Kindergarten

Group activities and active play ranging from old-fashioned games like Ring-a-Round a Rosie or catch to nature walks and leaf collecting in the Fall all provide much needed social interaction along with basics such as language practice and gross motor skill development.

If you are working at home with one child, look for opportunities to organize a small group of children in roughly the same age range to meet up and go outdoors every morning before you begin your indoor teaching routine. Ending the day with an additional outdoor activity will be a great boon to your homeschooling day, too.

As you put together your day at home (or at school), you can figure out the best times for scheduling outdoor or active play (sometimes in bad weather, we use active indoor games). Are children particularly restive during certain times? If you are at school, do a lot of parents show up late in the morning, interrupting the quiet morning work routine? Strategic placement of active breaks can help the flow of the day and prepare children for quiet indoor work.

Monday, December 7, 2009

From Britain: The Best Family and Kid Websites

Cool Mom Picks is one of the only websites on which we advertise, so we were pleased to see that they had been mentioned in the Telegraph's list of top family and kids websites.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Children and Vegetables

Surf City Growers
publishes this great book in an effort to help interest children and families in growing their own produce.

Definitely a Montessori favorite activity that is easy to integrate into any classroom or Montessori homeschool setting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Montessori Teaching Album: Multiplication Problem Card Sample

For the multiplication problem cards in the math section, check out this sample of great DIY cards by Apple Ridge Montessori. Easy to put together and lots of fun for your children at home.

Use with the colored bead sets.

Check out our Montessori teaching album samples.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Montessori, Reading, Language: A Great Free Reference for English

A professor at Rutger's University has a wonderful and free reference for English language usage. It is perfect for children who are online and reading as well as parents and teachers looking for reference material.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Science and Kindergarten

Our Montessori science and nature program is quite advanced, so parents typically have many questions about it.

We found this excellent page online from the Park School in Brooklandville, Maryland, which is one of the premier private schools on the East Coast of the US. Check out the similarities with our curriculum!

Park School's Kindergarten Science Program

The benefit of our curriculum is that it is $39 for one year's worth. Admission to the elementary level of Park School is about $21,000 a year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beginning Language and Reading Equipment: Basic Requirements for Homeschool

For those of you facing budget constraints, we wanted to put together a bare bones list for the first year of Primary school which covers ages three to four.

Language and Reading Basic Materials List:

1. Sand Tray
2. Sandpaper Letters
3. Movable Alphabet Letters
4. Word Cards
5. Double Sandpaper Letters (with phonograms)
6. Phonogram Cards
7. Metal Insets with paper and colored pencils
8. Three-lined writing paper
9. Pencils, erasers, and pencil holders
10. Basic picture and word books
11. Beginning reading books including fact books about interesting and stimulating topics such as bugs, animals, vehicles, places, people, and more.

Those of you who have purchased our Montessori Teaching Album for Prekindergarten to Kindergarten can follow along with all the lessons if you make most of the equipment at home.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Montessori and Religious Education of the Child

Many of you have written in to ask about religious education for children using a Montessori approach, so I have compiled a reference list that will provide a good start.

"Godly Play: An Imaginative Approach to Religious Education" by Jerome W. Berryman
"Young Children and Worship" by Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman
"Teaching Godly Play: The Sunday Morning Handbook" by Jerome W. Berryman
"I Wonder...More Bible Stories for Children and Worship" by Janet Schreuder
"The Religious Potential of the Child" by Sofia Cavalletti
"The Spiritual Life of Children" by Robert Coles
And a video, "Discovering the Real Spiritual Life of Children" with Sofia Cavalletti and Silvana Montanaro.

A good description by Faith at Home, "Berryman developed his Godly Play approach after training under Sofia Cavaletti, who developed the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. CGS is yet more Christ-centered and sacrament-focused, and less story-oriented, than Godly Play. CGS takes place in an atrium, requires more significant training of the catechists, and is more similar to classical Montessori education than Godly Play often is, in practice. Perhaps this is the other end of the spectrum from Young Children & Worship."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Montessori Teaching Album: Handicrafts

Handicrafts are a big part of the Montessori curriculum for art because they are ideal for helping young children develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

We found a good resource at Primrose Design's Blog for those of you who asked us about running stitches, cross stitches, and fabrics!

Our Montessori Teaching Albums include a full range of Montessori curriculum ranging from reading and writing skills to art and math.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Montessori Primary Class: Sample Class Schedule for School or Homeschool

This sample class schedule is courtesy of Sue and Fred Eustis of The Apple Ridge Montessori School , a lovely small school based in Baltimore County, Maryland.

8:15 to 9:50 Morning extra-time

8:50 to 9:10 Arrival
Children choose activities independently or with suggestions. They also attend individual and small group lessons given by adults. Work time goes until approximately 11:00 a.m.

11:10 to 11:30 Large Group Time
Soon after 11:00 a.m. we clean up and get ready for large group time. There are songs, poems, games, stories and grace and courtesy lessons during this time. We also talk about science projects, current and upcoming events, holidays.

11:30 to Noon Outside Time
We have bathroom trips for those who need them. The children line up with a partner to walk to the playground.

Outside time ends at Noon as the children gather to walk back inside. Half day children are picked up on the playground between 11:55 and 12:05.

Noon – 12:15 p.m. Large Group Time – calendar, finger plays

We get ready for lunch with another bathroom visit. The children wait with their lunch box to be shown to a table by the child who is currently the “host” or hostess.

12:30 – 1:00 Lunch
We all begin eating together about 12:30 p.m. Lunch is over at 1:00 p.m., including individual clean up. Older children have lunch jobs such as table setting, hosting, and helping with clean-up.

1:15 – 1:35 Rest or workbooksThree-year olds are usually settled on cots by 1:15 p.m. Fours rest on rugs; fives work on workbook tasks for about 20 minutes.

1:45 – 2:00 Group for older childrenWe have a short yoga class before an afternoon group lesson and another individual work time. Nappers join the class when they wake up.

2:50 – 3:10 Dismissal
We clean up at 2:50p.m. A staff member reads to the children or conducts other group activities from 2:50 to 3:05 while children are being picked up. After-school care begins at the end of this transition time.

3:10 – 4:45 After school care

Read more about Montessori at home or at school with our Montessori Teaching Curriculum.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Montessori Terminology: Primary and Junior Classes

As a follow on to our posting on the Montessori for Infants and Toddlers blog, we wanted to write more about terminology in the Montessori system.

The "Primary Class" is for children in the preschool to Kindergarten years (ages three to six). And the "Junior Class" means First through Third Grade and beyond. Our Montessori curriculum for the Junior Class begins with First Grade.

Sorry about the confusion!

Here is our Montessori teaching curriculum for Infants & Toddler, Primary, and Junior Class.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Montessori Homeschooling: Zoology Cards

Zoology cards are part of the biology section of the Montessori Primary and Junior classes.

For everyone who is using Montessori for homeschooling or making DIY Montessori material, here is a great link for creating the zoology cards.

The site covers "natural history and behavior, images, and range maps for mammals in the order Carnivora, which includes the families of Ailuridae (red panda), Canidae (dogs), Eupleridae (Malagasy carnivores), Felidae (cats), Herpestidae (mongooses), Hyaenidae (hyenas), Mustelidae (weasels), Mephitidae (skunks and stink badgers), Nandiniidae (African palm civet), Procyonidae (raccoons), Ursidae (bears), and Viverridae (civets)." With the Mustelidae still pending completion.

Fantastic detailed information and links to excellent photos, the site is also great for research for children around the age of six and up.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Homeschooling Tip: Knobless Cylinder Set and Use

We discuss the presentation and use of these Knobless Cylinders in our Montessori Teaching Curriculum Guide for Preschool and Kindergarten. These four sets, shown above, contain ten cylinders each that vary by height and/or width.

The Nienhuis set is superb. And expensive. If you are purchasing the set of four boxes, which is an important staple in your home classroom, try sharing it with a few other familes. Four families can purchase it, each one takes a set home, and then the children can meet to work on the different sets and then swap the sets to take home (or take home their own set).

This exchange also serves to put children together in a group environment, which is a key part of the Montessori classroom as well.

Photo credit: Nienhuis collection of Sensorial Material Knobless Cylinders

You can purchase our Montessori Teaching Curriculum Guides on the Montessori House site.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Beautiful Montessori Cards...They're Free

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Montessori and Activity

Create a daily schedule for yourself to mark down how much physical activity your child is getting in a day. Ideally, a young child will have two to four active play sessions during the day including simple group games and individual play.

These activities need not be expensive to be great. Group games can encompass such activities as soccer and baseball or a simple game of tag or hide-and-go-seek. Individual play includes everything from swimming and biking to playing on a jungle gym.

We find that many camps and summer schools end up keeping children inside or sitting still for longer periods of time than we recommend.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Montessori DIY for Practical Life: A Braiding Board

This is an excellent example of a great piece of Montessori equipment that is very amenable to DIY initiatives. All you need is a board with a hook or peg and cord in red, blue, and yellow. Look for cord that braids easily and stays in place without needing to be tied.

The three colors serve to show your child the pattern of the braid more clearly. You can demonstrate by neatly putting each cord over the other as you make the braid. If you make two sets, you can leave one braided as a sample and let your child look at it as he or she uses the other set.

Braiding is not just for girls! It is a hand-eye coordination and brain development exercise for both genders and all ages.

This is one piece of equipment that I especially recommend buying from Nienhuis, a supplier you really trust, or making at home. Your child will be handling the cords a lot and an infant or toddler at home might be tempted to nibble on the ends.

Braiding Board photo credit: Nienhuis

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Did Everyone See the Gutenberg Site?

An online book project with over 28,000 free classic books for download.

For everyone who has purchased our Elementary school curriculum for grades 1 to 3, we will be referring to books that can be obtained for free from this site so you can keep your home library fresh and full for the summer!

This is the link for the Gutenberg Project

Monday, June 8, 2009

Geography for Montessori Classroom

Working with puzzle maps of countries is a great way to start learning about geography.

The best way to work with these maps is to have a control map with the names of the countries and capital cities of each country. Your child can look at the control map, work with the pieces of the map -- removing them, reassembling them on a mat out of the frame, and the putting them back into the frame.

When your child is comfortable with the countries, introduce flags and then capitals.

The control map can be a paper map that you have made yourself by tracing the pieces of the puzzle map. It can also be a regular map like the ones sold by National Geographic.

Learn more about Montessori curriculum with our newsletters and teaching binders.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Take a Break from the Classroom: Backyard Camping

Backyard camping is a great way to take a break from school, books, and the outside world!

Here are some child-friendly steps for camping in the backyard:
  1. Roll a sleeping bag into a sleeping bag holding bag
  2. Prepare a small cooler with sandwiches, drinks, and cooler packs
  3. Pitch a tent in the backyard
  4. Take everything outside
  5. Set up the tent and start camping!

Even very young children can apply their Practical Life and food preparation exercises to this fun real life situation. Let your child figure out what to do and how to do it. That's the benefit of these types of projects!

Did you come up with some fabulous projects for a big backyard or a high rise apartment terrace? Let us know and we will share them with our readers!

National Wildlife Federation's Great American Backyard Campout

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Early Elementary Math: Angles and Fractions

This piece of equipment is called the Instrument for the Measurement of Angles and is used with the Fraction Circles to let children see how angles are measured in degrees. As your child places a whole circle here, he or she will see how one whole circle forms 360 degrees and then how smaller pieces form different degrees.

DIY tip: If you are making this at home, the measurements must be super precise! You can probably scrounge these used for fairly low prices.

Montessori House math (and more) curriculum for children in early elementary (grades one to three).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Counting in Mandarin Chinese

Here is a fun tidbit from our Mandarin Chinese project. We have a super good voice volunteer here! She is a former television broadcaster, a graduate of China's most prestigious film and media university, and now a major film producer.

The numbers here are 1 to 20 and then 30, 40, and 100.

More on our Mandarin project using Montessori for kids here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Geometric Solid Shapes in Real Life

Using the exercise below, take the cube out. Encourage your child to handle and observe the cube.

Now ask your child to look around the house (or classroom) and find other objects that are the same shape as the cube. If you are in a Montessori classroom, this will be an easy task -- e.g. the Pink Tower is comprised of ten cubes. If you are at home, it will be interesting to see what your child finds.

Should some of the objects he or she finds not be cubes but rectangular prisms, for example, you can bring out the rectangular prism and let your child compare and contrast the shapes.

The cube also lends itself to being traced with a pencil. Your child can place the cube down on a piece of paper, trace one side, and then roll it to another side and trace that side again. As interesting patterns form, your child will see more properties of the cube.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Montessori Sensorial Work: Geometric Solids

Geometric Solids introduce your child to new vocabulary, while encouraging tactile exploration and practice.

A basket of Geometric Solids includes ten standard shapes: cube, sphere, cone, cylinder, rectangular prism, triangular prism, ovoid, ellipsoid, triangular-based pyramid, and the square-based pyramid.

Some sets include additional shapes such as the hemisphere and different sizes of cylinders.

1. Material needed: A basket of Geometric Solids
2. A small mat for floor work

1. What to do: Invite your child to try this new exercise.
2. Ask your child to bring the mat to the floor and unroll it.
3. Bring the basket of shapes and sit down next to your child on the mat. Remember to sit on your child's non-dominant side (on the left side of a right-handed child).
4. Take out the cube, sphere, and pyramid.
5. Hold the cube and tell your child, "This is a cube" as you hand the cube to your child.
6. Let your child take a moment to hold and feel the cube.
7. Repeat these two last steps with the remaining two shapes.
8. Ask your child to "Please show me the cube."
9. Repeat the question for the other shapes.
10. If this is very easy for your child, then introduce the remaining shapes.
11. Otherwise, move to the third part of the exercise, asking your child, "What is this?" as you point to the cube. Repeat this question and answer process for the other two shapes.
12. If you have moved to new shapes, use the "What is this?" question and answer session at the end of the exercise for all the shapes.
13. Remember to give your child time to hold and examine the shapes. The tactile part of this exercise is very important.
14. Your child can roll up the mat and put it away, while you put away the basket of shapes.

Learn how to teach your child other Montessori exercises using our Montessori curriculum newsletters.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Building Writing Skills for Kindergarten through Elementary School: Creative Writing

Creative writing can take many forms and all of them are good!

Your child can start by creating his or her own sentences to go with the Grammar Sentence or Reading Analysis formats. This is often fun for children because they can see the types of sentences and think of other words that would fulfill the role of article, adjective, conjuction, adverb, and noun... or an action word plus a subject and two direct objects!

Away from structured time, your child can work on creative projects such as crafting and writing holiday cards with inscriptions. The use of language can focus on poetry, rhyming, storytelling, or anything else that captures your child's imagination. Art work suits creative writing nicely, too, and can incorporate everything from origami and mosaics to photography and drawing.

Your child can also write short book or movie reviews, postcards or emails to family members, short stories, trip reports after a family trip, and any other interest-related piece of work.

Our New Blog for Infants and Toddlers

We will devote our original blog, hosted on blogger, to Montessori for Infants and Children. Check it out!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Montessori and Baby Health: Screening Babies for Broken Hearts (New York Times online)

A very useful article appeared in the New York Times online edition today. It is called "Screening Babies for Broken Hearts" and is in Tara Parker-Pope's column. Written by pediatric cardiologist Darshak Sanghavi, M.D., it outlines simple steps you can take to have your newborn tested for a life threatening heart problem.

Instead of trying to summarize the medical information, I put the key information below and encourage everyone to read the article in its entirety here.

Recently, researchers have identified a promising new method, called pulse oximetry, to screen all babies for heart defects. Taped briefly to a newborn’s foot, a small sensor painlessly beams red light through the foot and measures how much oxygen is in the blood. It takes about a minute. (Picture E.T. the extra-terrestrial’s finger lighting up, and you get the idea.) If the screening test is abnormal, doctors perform a confirmatory ultrasound of the heart. Last year, Norwegian doctors published one of the largest clinical trials of this strategy, and checked half of all babies born in the country.

The results were impressive. Within a few hours of birth, pulse oximetry detected three-quarters of critical heart defects that had been previously missed. For every 2,000 newborns screened with the toe light, roughly one with a critical heart defect might have been prevented from going home. The cost-benefit ratio compares favorably to current practices of newborn screening for PKU and hypothyroidism. In January, Swedish doctors published an even more methodical study of almost 40,000 newborns, and showed that oximetry entirely eliminated death from missed critical cardiac defects.

Of course, as with any screening, the technique may miss some defects and also involves some unnecessary, though benign, testing of normal children. But these false positive rates were low (only about 1 in 1000 in the Swedish study), and triggered only about two instances of extra, non-invasive testing for every serious heart defect that was picked up. Many parents and doctors caring for children with critical heart defects subscribe to some variant of the “one-percent doctrine.” If there is even a small chance of catastrophe—like the sudden death of a newborn—they feel justified to push for preemptive action, especially when it’s a harmless and inexpensive screening test.

While the screening test is not done routinely in the United States, some hospitals have adopted it, mostly in Texas and Florida, where some small trials have been conducted. But parents can ask doctors to screen their babies for heart defects using pulse oximetry. It’s essentially free since it needs no specialized equipment other than the oximeter, which is present in every hospital already. A specialized doctor isn’t needed; the test is quite simple, and a nurse can do it if the pediatrician orders it anytime after birth, but before discharge from the hospital. Hopefully they won’t mind doing it. Personally, I do think parents should request it. I did for my kids.

Another great article in Parker-Pope's on Health column!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Montessori and Counting: Preschool and Kindergarten

In response to a question we got about teaching math to children in Kindergarten, I wanted to remind everyone not to introduce math or counting using money!

Why not? Because money has a nominal value. One penny equals one. But one dime equals ten pennies. Definitely not the way to start counting!

Start math with the Sandpaper Numerals, Spindle Boxes, Red Rods, and Red and Blue Rods. They are all designed to give young children hands-on exposure to counting, quantities, and relative sizes of numbers.

Here is our Sandpaper Numerals reprint:

The Sandpaper Numerals are designed to be traced in the direction they are written. Your child uses his or her pointer and index fingers to lightly explore the configuration of each numeral.

You will see that the set includes 0 through 9 (as do the Spindle Boxes). The concept of ten and teens will be introduced in the next stage.

You can use cardstock, fine-grained sandpaper, and stencils to create DIY Sandpaper Numerals (or you can usually find a good used set online).


And here is a link to another DIY counting exercise:


When your child can count to 1,000 easily and understand the link between quantities and counting, start teaching about money.

Montessori for Everyone has a great exercise for this one at a very good price....it is called "Money Matching Cards"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Montessori Reading: Make a Book

As a follow up to the post below, a wonderful way to introduce children to books is to make one together!

After you introduce your child to several Sandpaper Letters (see post below), create a book with the letters written in red or blue, depending on whether they are vowels or consonants.

Take several sheets of large format art paper, fold the pages in half, put in three holes, and weave yarn through the holes. Now write the letters on the pages -- use Century Gothic font because letters such as "a" are written as they are shown in the Sandpaper Letter set (the top part of the "a" does not have the hook on it like it does here in Times Roman).

Voila! Your child's own book Now he or she can write on the book or create new pages and books on his or her own. Younger children will enjoy using a crayon or colored pencil and making shapes far before they can actually make the letters, so let your child enjoy the experience and gain a love of learning without worrying about how the letters look now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to Start Teaching Your Child to Read?

Start with the sounds of the letters using the Montessori Sandpaper Letters (shown above). Using your pointer and index fingers, lightly trace the letter in the direction in which it is written as you say the sound.

When your child has mastered the sounds of the letters using the Sandpaper Letters, introduce the Movable Alphabet (shown above). Short CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words such as "man" and "mat" are the first words your child should learn to read because they are natural extensions of the letter sounds.

What to avoid? You do not need to introduce the ABCs right away and be careful of products that propose teaching your child to read through a special method or souped up phonics! Good old-fashioned letter sounds and basic words is the way to start. In the Montessori classroom, children begin working with the Sandpaper Letters around the age of two and a half or three years of age. Typically, children will be able to read and write short words by the age of three and a half or four.

The most important thing at this age is to introduce a love of reading, so there is no replacement for bedtime stories and other family book times.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Adolescent Health and Development

While our primary focus at Montessori House is on younger children, the Montessori approach to education extends through the high school years.

We found this excellent free course online at Johns Hopkins University's Open Course site that focuses on adolescent health and development! You can start learning on your own for free here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Things Moms Love


A brand new site for Moms (and Dads) with adorable kid tips, fun links, and, last but not least, they have shared our Montessori House DVD set with their readers!

Check out Things Moms Love here

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Montessori Math: Free Links for DIY Materials for Home Classrooms

In case you missed these great links at Montessori for Everyone's site, here are some super useful (and free!) links for math, language, geometry, and much more...check them out

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Montessori Math DIY Project for Kindergarten and Preschool: Numbers and Cards

Montessori equipment can be super expensive, so we wanted to share this great and cheap DIY project for Montessori math.

Material needed:
1. 55 identical disks
2. Write the numbers 1 through 10 on ten different blank rolodex cards (use a green magic marker)

You can store the beads in a small box with a lid and put the cards next to it on a small tray. Your child can work with this exercise on a mat on the floor or at a child-sized table.

Spread the cards out from left to right in order from one to ten. Read the "one" card aloud. Put one disk under that card. Repeat with the other cards. Now put all the disks back in the box and let your child try alone!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New York Times Online: The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess

Finally, the importance of recess and outdoor play is becoming mainstream! Another wonderful article by one of our favorite journalists, Tara Parker-Pope, at the New York Times online edition.

Some key points include:
New research suggests that play and down time may be as important to a child’s academic experience as reading, science and math, and that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior, concentration and even grades.

A study published this month in the journal Pediatrics studied the links between recess and classroom behavior among about 11,000 children age 8 and 9. Those who had more than 15 minutes of recess a day showed better behavior in class than those who had little or none. Although disadvantaged children were more likely to be denied recess, the association between better behavior and recess time held up even after researchers controlled for a number of variables, including sex, ethnicity, public or private school and class size.

The lead researcher, Dr. Romina M. Barros, a pediatrician and an assistant clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said the findings were important because many schools did not view recess as essential to education.

“Sometimes you need data published for people at the educational level to start believing it has an impact,” she said. “We should understand that kids need that break because the brain needs that break.”
Check out the entire article here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Montessori Made Easy: Five Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

Your child's recommended five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables can provide a great Practical Life and Social Skills project, too!

Here is a quick project:

1. Let your child pick out three fruits or vegetables at the store or at home

2. He or she can wash, dry, peel, chop or break apart everything into bite-sized morsels

3. Your child can put everything in a big bowl for serving at mealtime or prepare smaller bowls and pass them around to family members on a tray.

Voila! A great fun and healthy Montessori at home project. Do you have a special recipe or cooking set up for your Montessori child at your home? Send a comment and we'll share it with everyone.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Montessori Homeschool Schedule for Toddlers through Kindergarten

A lot of parents have written in asking us about an ideal classroom schedule for children under seven, so I wanted to put a few thoughts here on the most important aspects of a well-rounded curriculum for this age group.

First, go outside and be active! An ideal schedule has the children outdoors and active at least twice a day with a combination of physical play such as climbing on monkey bars and riding trikes and group games such as foot races and soccer(aka football for those of you outside the US).

One tip for homeschooling parents is that this outdoor play period is a great time to outsource teaching, if you need a break and can afford the help, because a teenager or even older elementary school student can be a wonderful inspiration for active play.

Second, bring one or two active play projects indoors (especially if you are loathe to go out in the rain). Old staples such as ring-around-the-rosy or musical chairs are fantastic.

Third, leave long periods of time for concentrated work. Even very young children have the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time than one usually thinks. Let your child move at his or her own pace and become fascinated with a particular project that catches his or her fancy. Because young children go through phases, a certain piece of equipment may become a favorite for weeks on end. This is fine!

Fourth, don't worry about variety in the curriculum over short periods of time. A lot of Montessori schools have adopted weekly curriculum schedules because parents want to see that the school is "doing something" (never mind that the children are five years old, but I digress). Your goal should be introducing a well-rounded curriculum over a longer period such as one or three months. If your child falls in love with science experiments and art for a month straight, there is no need to start forcing him or her to put aside the paints and microscopes and bring out the math equipment. Of course, if you are following our curriculum, you will see how we incorporate all types of material into, say, science or art projects.

Our curriculum sign up is here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Risks Linked to Asthma Rise: Household Cleaners and More

Another great article by a favorite journalist, Tara Parker-Pope, in the New York Times online edition today discusses the links between asthma and household cleansers (plus other things your child might be exposed to).

Since I have always though the hygiene hypothesis was a bit ridiculous, I was glad to see this article! I am also very allergic to air fresheners and similar products, so it all makes intuitive sense.

Here are some of the highlights of the article:
For years the hygiene hypothesis has been used to explain stark differences in asthma rates around the world. In Western countries, asthma rates are about 50 times higher than in rural Africa, for instance. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that Westerners have less exposure to bacteria, viruses and parasites, altering the immune response and increasing risk for allergic diseases.

But Dr. Harold S. Nelson, professor of medicine at the asthma and allergy specialty hospital National Jewish Health in Denver, says the hygiene hypothesis doesn’t fully explain rising asthma rates in the United States and industrialized countries. The incidence of asthma has doubled in the United States since the 1980s.

In a recent talk at National Jewish Health’s annual Pulmonary and Allergy Update conference, Dr. Nelson noted that lower levels of vitamin D, exposure to spray cleaning compounds, and a wider use of acetaminophen in place of aspirin have contributed to the asthma epidemic.

The concern with household cleaners is that the spray mist can be inhaled and irritate the lungs, increasing risk for asthma. The biggest culprits appear to be glass cleaners and air fresheners. A major European study of cleaning product use in 10 countries found that people who used the cleaners four days a week faced double the risk of adult asthma. Weekly use increased risk by 50 percent. Australian researchers have also found a link with household cleaning sprays and asthma in children.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A New Puzzle Challenges Math Skills: From Japan

We found this great article by Will Shortz in the Feb 8th online issue of the New York Times.

The puzzle requires tons of math skills practice and provides a fun and enjoyable way for children to gain the necessary repetition in the exercises to remember basic skills.

"The rules are simple: Fill the grid with digits so as not to repeat a digit within any row or column, and so the digits within each heavily outlined box (called a cage) go together using the arithmetic operation shown to make the target number indicated.

Two new KenKen puzzles will be presented in The Times each day from Monday through Saturday. The first is a four-by-four-square puzzle that increases in difficulty from easy to medium as the week progresses. The second is a six-by-six-square puzzle that goes from medium to hard.

KenKen was invented in 2004 by the Japanese educator Tetsuya Miyamoto, who founded and teaches at the Miyamoto Math Classroom in Tokyo. Students attend his class on weekends to improve their math and thinking skills. Mr. Miyamoto said he believes in “the art of teaching without teaching.”

He provides the tools for students to learn at their own pace using their own trial-and-error methods. If these tools are engaging enough, he said, students are more motivated and learn better than they would through formal instruction.

About 90 minutes of class time each week is set aside for solving puzzles, usually designed by Mr. Miyamoto. The most popular one has been KenKen."

Read the original NYTimes online article here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Montessori on Teaching Math to Children

Have you ever had a teacher, parent, or spouse who was unable to explain something in a clear and concise way? Here is a great quote from Dr. Maria Montessori in which she discusses the need for clarity and simplicity in presentations:

"I remember being present at an arithmetic lesson where the children were being taught that two and three make five. To this end, the teacher made use of a counting board having coloured beads strung on its thin wires. She arranged, for example, two beads on the top line, then on a lower line three, and at the bottom five beads. I do not remember very clearly the development of this lesson, but I do know that the teacher found it necessary to place beside the two beads on the upper wire a little cardboard dancer with a blue skirt, which she christened on the spot the name of one of the children in the class, saying, "This is Mariettina." And then beside the other three beads she placed a little dancer dressed in a different colour, which she called "Gigina." I do not know exactly how the teacher arrived at the demonstration of the sum, but certainly she talked for a long time with these little dancers, moving them about, etc."

"If I remember the dancers more clearly than I do the arithmetic process, how must it have been with the children? If by such a method they were able to learn that two and three make five, they must have made a tremendous mental effort, and the teacher must have found it necessary to talk with the little dancers for a long time."

Quote from The Montessori Method by Dr. Montessori.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Montessori on Prizes in School or at Home?

I wanted to share this great quote with everyone because the topic of prizes in school and at home comes up frequently.

This quote is from Dr. Maria Montessori herself in her 1912 book, The Montessori Method, and it applies brilliantly to the situation today:
"In the same way we give prizes to school children. And ... the fear of not achieving promotion, withholds the clerk from running away, and binds him to his monotonous work, even as the fear of not passing into the next class drives the pupil to his book. The reproof of the superior is in every way similar to the scolding of the teacher. The correction of badly executed clerical work is equivalent to the bad mark placed by the teacher upon the scholar's poor composition. The parallel is almost perfect."
Remember that telling your child "please" or "thank you" or "I love you" is not praise or a prize! We encourage these three simple phrases!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Interactive, Hands-On Learning Comes to MIT!

After years of fielding questions from parents anxious to know if Montessori's interactive, hands-on approach to learning would be compatible with their children's later entrance into higher education and jobs, I was thrilled to see this article on MIT's new teaching style!

In "At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard" by Sara Rimer, there is a detailed discussion of educational styles and the results thereof. Definitely worth reading the whole article on the New York Times online here.

And here is an interesting discussion blurb from the article

But now, with physicists across the country pushing for universities to do a better job of teaching science, M.I.T. has made a striking change.

The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent.

Do you want to help your child learn math and science at an early age? Take a peek here at our Montessori curriculum guides for parents to use at home!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Pediatrician's Article: Making Room for Miss Manners Is a Parenting Basic

This is a great perspective on children's manners and social skills from Perri Klass, M.D. in the New York Times online edition.

Here is an excerpt that includes some of my favorite parts of the article:

Dr. Barbara Howard, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and an expert on behavior and development, told me that a child’s manners were a perfectly appropriate topic to raise at a pediatric visit.

“It has a huge impact on people’s lives — why wouldn’t you bring it up?” she said. “Do they look you in the eye? If you stick your hand out do they shake it? How do they interact with the parents; do they interrupt, do they ask for things, do they open Mommy’s purse and take things out?”

Dr. Howard suggested that the whole “manners” concept might seem a little out of date — until you recast it as “social skills,” a very hot term these days. Social skills are necessary for school success, she pointed out; they affect how you do on the playground, in the classroom, in the workplace.

We also think of social skills as a profound set of challenges that complicate the lives of children — and adults — on what is now called the autism spectrum. Children with autism, whether mild or severe, have great difficulty learning social codes, deciphering subtle body language or tone of voice, and catching on to the rules of the game.

Therapy for these children can include systematic training in social skills, sometimes using scripts for common human interactions. And one lesson, Dr. Howard said, “is that you can teach this stuff, and we maybe aren’t teaching it as well as we should be to children who are developing normally.”

And of course, one of the long-term consequences of being a rude child is being a rude adult — even a rude doctor. There are bullies on the playground and bullies in the workplace; it can be quite disconcerting to encounter a mature adult with 20 or so years of education under his belt who still sees the world only in terms of his own wants, needs and emotions: I want that so give it to me; I am angry so I need to hit; I am wounded so I must howl.

The doctor's mention of long-term consequences including being a "rude doctor" makes an excellent point that drives home the need for early social development, role models, and interactive socialization from an early age.

Here is the original post.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

An Alternative to Play Doh: DIY or Soy Doh

Cornstarch clay is a great alternative to Play Doh for a quick clay project. If you are looking for a more Play Doh-like experience, we found this great Soy Doh product on the New York Times online edition here.

Your child will enjoy making this simple and easy-to-make recipe for cornstarch clay even though he or she is old enough to work with real clays. The benefit of cornstarch clay is that it is easy to for your child to make independently and it does not need to be fired to keep.

Mix 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of cornstarch, and 1 cup of water together in a large pan. Stir constantly over a low flame until the mixture comes together to form a porridge-like consistency.

You can use food coloring and/or scents to make the clay more interesting!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Healthy Foods for Under $1

Tara Parker-Pope's article, "Healthy Foods for Under $1," on December 29th provides a list of 20 foods for under a dollar. A great way to get kids thinking about healthy recipes for their own cooking projects as part of a Montessori at home (or school) project! Plus, you can use the list as a starting point for the shopping list that your child can help put together. The combination of healthy and economical gives children a wonderful outlook on food shopping, cooking, and eating!

Read the article here on the New York Times website.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New York Times Online: Beyond Cupcakes - Children in the Kitchen

Beyond Cupcakes - Children in the Kitchen is a Dec 8th, 2008, article that I just found by Tara Parker-Pope. It's a fabulous discussion of the merits of including children of all ages in food preparation. Since this is very much in line with the Montessori approach, I wanted to share the quote below and encourage everyone to check out the article itself.

...In one study by researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University, nearly 600 children from kindergarten to sixth grade took part in a nutrition curriculum. In addition to the regular lessons about healthful eating, some of them took part in cooking workshops.

Their role in cooking appeared to make them less picky eaters. When children were involved in cooking their own foods, they were more likely to eat those foods in the cafeteria, and even ask for seconds, than children who had not had the cooking class.

“It’s the act of being involved in the cooking of it that is both engaging and a little more intense than just being told about it,” said Isobel Contento, nutrition education professor at Teachers College and a co-author of the study. “It definitely improved their eating patterns.”

Harriet Worobey, director of the Rutgers University Nutritional Sciences Preschool in New Brunswick, N.J., has seen firsthand how involving a child in food preparation helps overcome fussy eating habits.

In her classrooms, the children use picture-based recipes to make simple foods like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sandwiches and snowman crackers. Because parents tend to focus on dessert-oriented cooking, she said, they do not realize how much their children (even middle-schoolers and teenagers) want to be in the kitchen helping prepare a family meal.

“Kids love doing things in the kitchen — you don’t have to twist their arms,” Ms. Worobey said. “If you teach your child to cook at an early age, guess what? They’re eventually going to cook dinner for you.”

Ms. Worobey points out that cooking also helps children achieve many developmental milestones. They learn to follow directions in the right order, complete an activity and see how tasks can be broken down into small parts. They also develop patience as they wait for food to cook, and get quick gratification when they taste a food.

“It’s going to stimulate all their senses,” she said. “And it also utilizes math skills and reading skills.”...

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Save Handmade Toys

I found this important and timely article on the Cool Mom Picks site and wanted to share it with all of you:

We need your help to save handmade toys in the US, Europe and Canada from the CPSIA.

We interrupt the tidings of comfort and joy to bring you some heartbreaking news.

Of course we're all for strengthening the safety standards of mass-produced toys made in China, and banning toxins like phthalates and lead. But this year, the CPSC passed the ill-conceived Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act which goes into effect in two months and will absolutely decimate the small toy manufacturers, independent artisans, and crafters who have already earned the public trust. The very same ones that we often feature here and in our Safer Toy Guide.

They will all go out of business. Period.

Moms who sew beautiful handmade waldorf dolls out of home, artists who have spent decades hand-carving trucks and cars out of natural woods, that guy at the craft show who sold you the cute handmade puzzle--even larger US companies who employ local workers and have not once had any sort of safety issue will no longer be able to sell their toys. Not without investing tens of thousands of dollars into third-party testing and labeling, just to prove that toys that never had a single chemical in them still don't have a single chemical in them.

In other words, handmade toys will now be illegal.

So many of our past reviewees are pleading for your help. Here's what you can do:

-Find your congress person and senators and write a letter like the sample here, particularly if they serve on the consumer protection subcommittee.
-Send a letter directly to the CPSC.
-Join the Handmade Toy Alliance and check out their proposed changes to the act which make a whole lot of sense.
-Spread the word to everyone you know who cares about helping the little guy, particular in today's economy.

This thoughtful article was authored by the CMP staff on Dec 9th, 2008.

Monday, December 8, 2008

New: Mandarin Chinese for Children on CD-ROM

Yay! Our first Mandarin Chinese CD-Rom for children is finally ready for sale. And just in time for the holidays.

The program includes four interactive bilingual lessons on Adobe Flash to teach beginning words and how to write these characters. A great program that lets children hear the word in Chinese while the character is being drawn on the screen. Button controls let children zoom ahead quickly or review the word over again.

We also included several sets of printable flash cards that were created in conjunction with Lori at Montessori for Everyone. These beautiful bilingual color flash cards are perfect for home or school!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cool Mom Picks

If you have yet to check out Cool Mom Picks, it's a super fun and up-to-date site with tons of shopping and browsing material for the holidays.

We have been occasional advertisers on the site, too!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Grandparents Online

Here is a great site that I found via a New York Times online link --

Nana's Corner -- for grandparents online.

The article itself, titled "Grandma's on the Computer Screen", is also a great reference.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Creating a Rich and Varied Vocabulary: Reading Montessori Style

Lori at Montessori for Everyone, one of our favorite sites, has created an absolutely beautiful set of vertebrates cards that are wonderful for beginning readers.

What do you think?

Read more here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Should Children Study Art?

In our Montessori curriculum newsletters, we include a lot of art and related projects for children of all ages. From time to time, parents ask about the merits of including art in an overall home or school curriculum, so I have included a brilliant post on the topic of art and the Montessori child from Lori at Montessori for Everyone.

Montessori for Everyone's post on the importance of art for children.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Daddy Dolls" Comfort Military Kids

We found this great article on ABC News and thought it was an excellent DIY project for all parents who need to be away from home and their young children.

The concept takes a photo of the parents, records a personalized message from Mom or Dad, and puts everything on a soft doll that young children can hold and cuddle.

Very young children under about 12 or 18 months of age might be a bit confused by Mom or Dad's voice coming from a doll, as the article notes, but slighter older tots seem to love them.

Read the original story on ABC News Online

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Presidents and Vice Presidents

Yesterday's elections provide a great opportunity to introduce the concept of presidents and vice presidents as well as congressional representatives and senators.

Take good color photos from online sources or newspaper clippings to make your own three card sets. The first set of cards can have the picture and a label, the second set of cards will have only pictures, and the third set of cards will have only labels. Your child can mix and match these cards, reading or just looking at the pictures and comparing the labels (children who cannot yet read enjoy being able to compare and contrast the labels visually to finish matching the sets).

A great DIY project!

Older children can look up facts about presidents, write out short biographies, and much more.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

How to Get Fat Without Trying

This documentary hosted by Peter Jennings is well worth watching for everyone who is interested in childhood nutrition:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Future of Reading: Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers

Today's New York Times article titles "The Future of Reading: Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers" focuses on the not-so-recent trends towards trying to use video games and various other forms of technology to interest children in reading.

We have observed a number of children under nine using hand held games such as Nintendo DS, console games, online, or PC based games. For children who are already five or six years old and have no particular proficiency in reading, these games do seem to encourage reading to 1) follow instructions on the screen, 2) read gaming tips and other online forums, 3) blogging give and take with other players including posting of tips and discussions.

The article discusses similar observations, provides excellent quotes from a range of educators, librarians, children, and parents, and has some useful details on books and other new publications that exploit this genre. Definitely worth reading the article!

Regarding games and language development with an eye towards reading ability, the downside seems to be that the fast and exciting pace of games makes it hard for children to develop a spark of interest in reading books if they do not already read fast or well enough to really enjoy the story.

Our solution is to introduce reading using the Montessori approach with Sandpaper Letters, Movable Alphabet sets, and so forth when children are two to three years old, creating an interest and a capability in reading before the topic of games comes up. As always, our curriculum guide information is a useful place to start!

It would be interesting to hear what your experience has been with your own students and children. Send in your comments to share with everyone!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Start teaching your child about money

A simple way to work with your child to teach him or her about money is to include your child when you prepare a grocery list and go to the grocery.

Here are some ideas:
  • Prepare for the trip by having your child put together a list of what we need to buy for a particular cooking project. Go through the fridge and cupboards together and see what is needed. Discuss and decide on ingredients for recipes in the coming weeks (this is also a great way to introduce healthy eating and what it takes to achieve it).
  • Let your child write the list, if he or she is old enough to write. Otherwise, you can write it down.
  • Your child can be responsible for holding onto the list.
  • Go into the grocery store together. Start looking for items. Compare sizes and costs. If the per unit cost of a large container is cheaper, can the item be frozen or stored safely?
  • Show your child how to keep an eye on the register as items are being rung up to make sure the prices and item description is accurate.
  • Pay in cash and count the change.
Keep grocery receipts so that you can start to make a household budget for food with your child. This will help him or her learn how a budget works, see the costs of an additional unplanned purchase, compare the costs of pre-prepared foods versus basic ingredients for cooking at home,
and other useful skills.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Toddlers: DIY Montessori Refined Hand Movements

As parents write us for more DIY exercises, this nifty little project came to mind.

Take three to five cylindrical or cube-shaped beads with holes in them. The beads should be all the same size and color, if possible, or the same color and gradations of sizes (but this can be hard to find). If the holes in the beads are too small, you can use a drill or a file to enlarge them. Just make sure to smooth out any rough edges and re-paint as needed.

Prepare a dowel in a board as shown in the photo.

That's it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Montessori and Homeschooling

In the last few months we have had an enormous amount of email from parents who want to use Montessori for homeschooling for purely financial reason.

After a bit of brainstorming with teachers here as well as others such as Chandra Fernando, a well-known teacher and Montessori teacher trainer, we have come up with some ideas and suggestions:

  1. Focus on the importance of the Montessori teaching philosophy before focusing on stocking up on equipment. Teaching style and presentation that allows your child to experiment in a hands-on and independent manner is key to everything.
  2. Hover parenting is contrary to Montessori philosophy!
  3. Drop in on a Montessori class to observe for the day. If one school turns down your request, try another. The Apple Ridge Montessori school in Maryland is a fantastic small school with reasonable rates and a wonderful administrator.
  4. Short on funds? Here is the link for "The Montessori Method" online. It's free and you can print it or save it to your computer.
  5. DIY equipment works well. You can also use items around the house for practical life and sensorial exercises. Building math and language equipment is harder, but doable. Our curriculum guides are an affordable way to get a step-by-step curriculum.
  6. Make sure you include practical life, sensorial, biology, math, language, group activities, physical activity, outdoor play, and nature observation and study. A lot of people are tempted to skip the "soft" aspects such as nature or physical activity, but these are key to the overall package!
Looking forward to everyone's comments and ideas! Have a great concept that works for you and your family? We'd love to hear it and share it with everyone!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Body and Brain Connection: Three-Fingered Grip

Montessori classes are full of little things that are super important. Showing children how to grasp items is one of them.

The ubiquitous three-fingered grip uses the thumb, pointer, and index fingers. Children use this grip to grasp small objects such as the knobs on the knobbed cylinders, the cylinders themselves on the knobless cylinders, pencils, and dials on radios.

If you put your fingers together slowly and deliberately, grasp the item you want to pick up, and place it in front of your child, he or she will see how you use the grip. Now let your child try.

Trial and error is good and great for the learning process, so kick back and let your child experiment!

More about Montessori in our monthly curriculum guides. Click here for an article excerpt.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New York Times: 6 Food Mistakes Parents Make

The New York Times online edition has a great article titled "6 Food Mistakes Parents Make" and here are some quotes that I found particularly interesting:

“Chocolate milk, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate chip pancakes — it was unbelievable,” said Ms. Worobey, director of the Rutgers University Nutritional Sciences Preschool in New Brunswick, N.J. “His mother just thought, ‘That’s what he wants, so that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”
And, for those of you who worry about your child eating something, anything at all, here is another thought:

“I think parents feel like it’s their job to just make their children eat something,” Ms. Worobey said. “But it’s really their job to serve a variety of healthy foods and get their children exposed to foods.”

Summarizing the rest of the article, basically, the recommendations were very much along the lines of Montessori thought: Involve your child in preparing healthy foods and snacks, make healthy food available on low shelves for your child to snack upon at any time, do not insist that children "try a bite" of food, do not bribe children to try food, and, if you have sweets at home, do not stick them out of reach to tantalize your child (it will only make things worse).

Read Tara Parker-Pope's original article here

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Montessori House is now on Facebook

Okay, we finally did it and joined Facebook. It would be great to know what everyone thinks! Do you use Facebook for educational, toddler, or homeschool things?

My Montessori House on Facebook

For all you Facebook fans out there, if you have suggestions, we would love to hear them! Just send along a comment and we will share it with everyone.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Teaching Reading in the Classroom

Introducing basic letter sounds with the sandpaper letters helps your child start the process of reading. The movable alphabet set follows for introducing short vowel words.

When you get to harder words, we have made it easier with our new intermediate DVD that is appropriately called "Tough Words." Click here to take a peek!

These harder words include spelling combinations such as ch (ch as in peach), sh (as in sheep), th (as in three), and ou/ow (as in cloud and down). We also have a great book in Adobe PDF format to go with the DVD!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Montessori Reading: Start with the Sand Tray

Young children of all ages can start learning the lines, swirls, and circles of letters by using the Montessori Sand Tray. The picture here shows a good example of the tray itself -- you can definitely make a good tray using DIY setups!

Demonstrate how to make lower case letters in the sand by tracing with one or two fingers. Now let your child try.

Simple, effective, and lots of fun.
(Just cover the tray if you have a cat in the house)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Montessori Classroom's Sensorial Equipment: Constructive Triangles

The constructive triangle set is a fabulous piece of material that features prominently in the Sensorial section of the Montessori Primary Class for children between the ages of three to six.

Key to the experience of using this equipment is fitting triangles into rectangles and other shapes, observing how the angles and planes work together.

Curious about Montessori curriculum and exercises for children in kindergarten and preschool years? Check out our monthly curriculum guides for parents to use at home. Popular with teachers and homeschooling parents alike, these are great guides for everyone who has not had the time to get certified in Montessori teaching.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Banker's Game and Long Addition

The ubiquitous Banker's Game that uses the Montessori Golden Bead set to show children the mechanics of long addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

If you have not seen the Golden Bead material, the large cube below represents one thousand, the flat square represents one hundred, the bar has ten beads, and the unit is one. All of the material contains the actual number of beads, making it accessible and fascinating to young children learning math. The setup for the Banker's Game contains a lot of these bead materials!

A sample long addition problem might look like this: 2489 + 9750 = ? Your child would take the representative number of each thousands, hundreds, tens, and units, and then add them to get the sum. The process is very important because it helps create the link between concept and concrete.

Interested in Montessori math? Subscribe to our monthly Montessori curriculum newsletters on our site.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Montessori at Home: More on Strollers

Are you new to Montessori? If so, here are a few tips for making the transition from a stroller to out-of-the-stroller:

  1. Set up the physical environment of your house so that your child can move about and do things independently. You should not need to say "no" or proffer corrections for daily activities, if everything is set up well and stocked with child-sized equipment and furniture.
  2. When you interact with your child, try to kneel down to his or her level and use a normal conversational tone and vocabulary as you speak.
  3. Avoid repeating yourself or raising your voice to get your child's attention. If you feel the need to do this, step back and see what is happening. Do you need to interrupt your child at this moment? If so, can you phrase your question or concern differently? Is there a pattern to this behavior for both of you? How can it be changed to make overall interaction better?
  4. Avoid grabbing your child or physically getting his or her attention. Your child will just stop paying attention to your words, so the result will not be what you desire. If your child is grabbing or breaking things, try to figure out how to prevent it from happening. Is your child bored? Does he or she not have suitably interesting and stimulating equipment with which to work? Does your child know how to hold and touch ordinary objects such as books, plants, and pets in an appropriate manner?

More coming up shortly for the next steps!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No camera when you need one!

I saw a child who was at least four years old strapped into a stroller the other day in NYC. The nanny was pushing a double decker stroller with a younger child strapped into the bottom section, they were walking through a crowded organic food store, and the older child was demanding to be let out of the stroller, but she was securely belted in.

For everyone who hasn't read earlier posts here, get your children out of the stroller when they can walk or even toddle! And, when a child is old enough to use full sentences to demand release, there's something wrong if you keep them tied up. No need to waste money on Montessori school or other private school tuition if you are going to do that.

Later, I realized I should have run home, gotten my camera, come back, and taken a picture for that nanny cam site that I heard about. Next time I go to the store, the camera will be with me, so maybe I'll have a photo to share.

What would you have done? I didn't want to say something snarky to the nanny, or, hey, even rather kind, because then I would have been walking away, leaving her in a bad mood with someone else's children. It didn't seem like a good idea, but I wish I'd done something...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs for Children?

An excellent article, 8-Year-Olds on Statins? A New Plan Quickly Bites Back, appeared in the New York Times on July 8th.

The author, Tara Parker-Pope, covered the current debate on the rather extreme recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that children with high cholesterol be given cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins. The debate includes a number of pediatricians at notable hospitals who vehemently oppose the idea based on safety concerns, lack of historical data for this age group, and lack of overall data for the drugs.

The entire article is definitely worth reading if your child does have high cholesterol. In the meantime, try our Montessori curriculum newsletters for ideas to keep your child fit, healthy, and active during the entire school year!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Montessori Sensitive Period for Language: Introduction

Do you have a child under six?

Take advantage of this sensitive period for language and introduce reading aloud, books your child can read, and spoken foreign languages!

Time spent reading aloud to your child every night reaps great rewards as a lifetime love of reading is developed.

Short of money? Have you seen the copyright free eBooks at www.gutenberg.org? Here is a quick link to their Peter Pan edition.

More coming up shortly on sensitive periods of development, so please check back soon!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sensorial Development Exercise

The Sensorial section of the Montessori classroom is designed to help children refine, develop, and explore their sensory abilities ranging from taste to touch and sight to sound.

Try the Sound Boxes (shown below) to give your child the opportunity to work with his or her sense of sound. There are six sets of matched cylinders in the box that have different contents to make varying degrees and types of sounds. Your child will shake them to listen to the sounds and then match them based on the sound.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Practical Life: Pouring

A classroom favorite in Montessori classrooms for children under six is pouring water.

Start here for younger children and prepare two child-sized pitchers and a tray. You can fill one pitcher 3/4 full of water, place both pitchers on the tray, and put everything on a shelf.

Show your child how to use one hand to hold the handle while placing the other hand on the opposite side of the pitcher to pour it. He or she can pour the water from one pitcher to another.

Once your child is comfortable with the mechanics of pouring, you can provide glasses for the exercise so your child can refine his or her pouring techniques and accompanying fine and gross motor skills.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Help Your Child Develop Good Vocabulary

One important part of the Montessori educational program is that we always use precise and accurate vocabulary with children.

For those of you with infants and toddlers, this may seem silly. Why describe an oval as an oval and not just a funny circle? The reason is that that children under six years of age soak in language at an amazing rate of speed. Everything that they hear gets absorbed and goes into their vocabulary base.

For older children, this language use process continues to be important and key to developing good vocabulary and reading skills. Explain to your child why a decagon is a decagon and not an octagon, for example.

Accurate language also helps your child learn how to describe and understand his or her world.

Montessori curriculum for parents to use at home (newsletter format) on our site here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Technology and Children: So Young, and So Gadgeted

Reading the online article So Young, and So Gadgeted on the New York Times website brings to mind a few comments on technology for children.

Technology aimed at 0-2 and 3-5 year olds is created to sell using an educational twist. For those of you who want your child to be super tech literate as early as possible, these baby tech toys are not the equivalent of training wheels on a bike in that they do not really help children move to that next stage.

The equipment is generally just a toy with some features to entice parents. It's preferable to focus on reading real books to your child, building a Pink Tower, working with sandpaper letters and movable alphabet sets, and then going outside for some physical play.

When your child is interested in using your laptop or a PC, introduce a real one with some practical and fun applications such as emailing a relative, using skype to place a video call to the grandparents.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Montessori Math for Toddlers: Sandpaper Numerals

Sandpaper Numerals, Spindle Boxes, Red Rods, and Red and Blue Rods are all designed to give young children hands-on exposure to counting, quantities, and relative sizes of numbers.

The Sandpaper Numerals are designed to be traced in the direction they are written. Your child uses his or her pointer and index fingers to lightly explore the configuration of each numeral.

Here are the Sandpaper Numerals.

You will see that the set includes 0 through 9 (as do the Spindle Boxes). The concept of ten and teens will be introduced in the next stage.

You can use cardstock, fine-grained sandpaper, and stencils to create DIY Sandpaper Numerals (or you can usually find a good used set online).

Photo credit

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Practical Life for Summer

Practical Life exercises are a staple of the Montessori classroom because they help children develop fine and gross motor skills that promote brain development.

These exercises include such activities as pouring, carrying, squeezing, polishing, learning how to zip or button with dressing frames, and other specific activities that use equipment for small hands.
As summer brings the promise of outdoor activities, we start to move these exercises outside. You can include child-sized gardening tools, water buckets, and small shovels for a host of activities that help children work on Practical Life skills in a healthy outdoor setting.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Bilingual Chinese - English Dinosaur Cards

Our first bilingual Mandarin Chinese and English Montessori material is now available. We even have dinosaur cards!

Using original material from Montessori for Everyone (a great source for printable and printed Montessori material for all topics ranging from language to biology), we put together beautiful color-photo cards with Chinese characters, pinyin (for pronunciation), and English.

Children can mix and match cards, practice writing characters, or work on their pinyin. You can join in, too, even if you speak no Chinese yourself because our master card set has all the words and characters written down.

See the Bilingual Cards here...


Monday, May 19, 2008

Are They Serious? "For an All-Organic Formula, Baby, That’s Sweet"

Baby formula packed with sugar is the equivalent of giving your baby that new Oreos breakfast cereal. Noooooooo!

Kudos to the New York Times for their article on the topic.

Here are some useful tidbits from the original article:

“When I saw the organic at Publix, I bought it, no questions asked,” said Ms. Chase, a self-described “yoga mom” in Atlanta.

Lesson: Read the label and be alert. Products for kids are a profitable sector!

“I would be very concerned about this as a pediatrician,” said Dr. Benjamin Caballero, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in risk factors for childhood obesity. “The issue is that sweet tastes tend to encourage consumption of excessive amounts,” Dr. Caballero said. Evidence shows that babies and children will always show a preference for the sweetest food available, he said, and they will eat more of it than they would of less-sweet food.
All infant formulas contain added sugars, which babies need to digest the proteins in cow’s milk or soy. Other organic formulas, like Earth’s Best and Parent’s Choice, use organic lactose as the added sugar. Organic lactose must be extracted from organic milk, the global supplies of which have been severely stretched in the last three years, driving up the price of the lactose.

Lesson: The experts are warning you. The only reason to cram lots of cane sugar into baby formula is because it is cheaper than lactose sugar and you can put in tons of it and babies prefer the formula. Some mothers put Coke into bottles and babies like that, too. If you would not put Coke into your baby's bottle, compare the labels.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Brain Development & Montessori

Through the years, Montessori equipment has become an entity in itself. Attractively assembled, interesting to the eye, and very expensive, this equipment has become a focal point of classrooms and the idea of Montessori.

However, the original intention of the equipment was simply to use precisely-crafted materials that would allow children to employ their sensory abilities to learn. Using the senses of touch and sight, a child can order a set of ten knobbed cylinders that vary only by height. It is the process of trying to fit these cylinders into their holders that is the point of the exercise. Many teachers and parents mistakenly focus on having children succeed in the getting the cylinders into their holders and, unfortunately, lose focus on the key value of the exercise, namely, the process itself that is key to brain development!

So, forget about having your child "learn how to use the equipment" or "getting the exercise right" and let him or her use the equipment for it's original purpose.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

NEW: Colors & Shapes DVD

Our brand-new Colors & Shapes DVD is now ready to order!

Colors include all of the first and second Color Tablet colors ranging from primary colors to secondary colors as well as gray and pink.

The shapes section of the program introduces all the Metal Inset shapes such as the circle, square, ellipse, and quatrefoil and then goes on to present Geometric Cabinet shapes such as the trapezoid and rhombus.

Adorable short stories are included for all the sections, too!

Enjoyable spelling review for all of the colors and shapes allows beginning readers to work on their vocabulary as intermediate students practice spelling.

Learn more about our Colors & Shapes DVD

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The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori: Online

Has everyone found this free digital version online?

If not, here's the link to A Celebration of Women Writers's posting of the book

The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori online

It's written in the language of the time, 1912, so some of the phrasing is a bit different, but it's super interesting for those of you who already know about Montessori and are curious about her work and method.

If you can get around the phrasing, you will find brilliant observations, pithy quotes, and lots of good ideas!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Sensorial: Knocking Down The Pink Tower

Here is a very pithy quote from Maria Montessori herself in her book "Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook" regarding the Pink Tower:

"Ten wooden cubes colored pink. The sides of the cubes diminish from ten centimeters to one centimeter.

With these cubes the child builds a tower, first laying on the ground (upon a carpet) the largest cube, and then placing on the top of it all the others in their order of size to the very smallest.

As soon as he has built the tower, the child, with a blow of his hand, knocks it down, so that the cubes are scattered on the carpet, and then he builds it up again. " (p. 72)

This makes a lot of intuitive sense! But it's not popular with Montessori schools -- a combination of the high cost of equipment and the general desire to keep kids quiet. Not such a big problem for many children, but it seems especially unfair for children who are especially active or physical.

So, quote Maria Montessori to your child's teacher next time. For all your Montessori homeschoolers out here, keep up the good work!

The book, Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook, is, incidentally quite a good bargain because the language is a bit old-fashioned, it has an unglossy jacket cover, and the photos are in black and white. Since such things matter tremendously in book sales, you can find a used copy very cheaply!

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