A Day of Gratitude

Why do we have segregation in Montessori?

Thanksgiving is turned into a day of gratitude. A mere symbol to be grateful for bountiful food, football, Black Friday shopping, and really celebrating the excess. However, nobody remembers or even thinks that when Pilgrims reached this New World in the Mayflower, it was followed by the annihilation of the Native Americans. They were slaughtered because they were different. Their way of living, their religion, their skin color, their language were different from the Pilgrims, so they felt like a threat. Apparently, being different is a crime.

Are we so different now?

Come to think of it, we are not so different even now. The death of Black Americans, Muslims, Asian Americans, the deportation of Hispanics, and keeping them away from their children doesn’t weigh on any of us as long as we are sleeping comfortably in our beds knowing our children are safely tucked in their beds. We do not care about these issues or sometimes we care but we don’t do anything about it. But, those are still major issues and sometimes require a different kind of courage and resources to stand up. However, we don’t do anything about the micro-segregation that most of us have faced in our society. We accept it sheepishly because we think speaking up will be too much effort.

Segregation in Montessori is as real as the air we breathe….

What about the segregation we often encounter in our Montessori world? It is sad to say but it is the truth that the Montessori world is a highly segregated world. The idea that it is for rich white people isn’t wrong. That stereotype is very true and not just in private Montessori schools but also the so-called charter Montessori schools. Shouldn’t Charter schools accept everyone?

Is this even developmentally appropriate?

Recently, we had an interview in a local Montessori school for my 2-year-old. First of all, the whole idea of a 2-year-old interview seems preposterous. My son was invited for an Open House which is basically vetting out the process of anybody that doesn’t fit their “Montessori Box”. He was invited along with 6 other children and they were asked to go to the classroom all by themselves with a brand new person (a teacher, an assessor). Everything about this process is developmentally and humanely wrong! A toddler is not equipped to be separated from their primary caregiver and judging them on how well they will separate from parents isn’t a realistic expectation.

My son passed this test but at the cost of what, I wonder. How much harm did I do? How did he feel? Did he feel that I abandoned him? His fears seem so real and I couldn’t help to think that something in our mother-son connection was broken that day. The shame and guilt that followed were so big for me to recover from. I felt helpless because if he doesn’t go through this process then he may not get in and our financial conditions require me to go back to work. The schools that prey on parents’ fears like this are NOT Montessori in my opinion.

He was invited to a second interview, this time in the full functioning classroom with students. The teacher didn’t come out of the classroom to greet my child or make him feel comfortable one on one. We walked into the classroom and my son totally freaked out to see all the children and this time a brand new teacher, not the teacher who he was with the first time. The trauma he felt was so visible on his face. He was anxious and wanted to get out and at this moment he wanted to be with his safe person, which wasn’t me. He wanted to be with his dad because he identified me as the person who dropped him in this strange place before.

It broke my heart and I don’t think I will be able to gain my child’s trust the same way again. My husband and I were interviewed and the series of questionnaires felt like a big vetting process. I was asked if I had any complications during pregnancy or if our family had any mental disorders, if my son was ever told to be diagnosed for special needs, if he needs speech therapy, and the list goes on.

The idea is to segregate any neurodiversity. Neurodiverse children are not welcomed. Everybody should fall into the category of their “normal”. Needless, to say that this particular Montessori school is 98% White population even though they claim to be a “Charter” school. There are other charter schools in the area but when it comes to diversity of any kind they are all the same more or less.

Nobody talks about desegregation in schools

How many times do you open Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest do you hear about segregation in Montessori? None, of the influencers or content creators, talk about the topics that really matter. What do we focus on, wooden toys, prepared home, things that we can just buy with a swipe of a credit card. And lately, there has been a trend of talking about “Risky Play” and once again completely ignoring neurodiversity. Not all children are into risky play and continuous posts about showing off toddlers rock climbing or independently doing things that may not be developmentally appropriate for all, leave parents feeling inadequate in themselves.

Segregation is happening everywhere and all the time. From the smallest world of Montessori in social media to Montessori schools.

We must speak up and start small. We must start with our Montessori world and stand up to schools that are practicing these unethical ways of choosing students. Only then we can honor Dr. Montessori’s work and bring the change. We must believe in our hearts, “All are Welcome, Loved, and Respected.” Honestly, the whole idea of “Normal” when it comes to children seems highly “Abnormal”.

Resources on Segregation in Montessori

https://journals.ku.edu/jmr/article/view/5848

https://news.ku.edu/2021/05/13/examining-racial-justice-and-equity-montessori-research

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In November

“November is a month in which nature prepares to numb”. This month reminds us to be more grateful for all the wonderful blessings in our lives, to slow down and enjoy simple things in life, to give more, and to be more present. We all have something to be grateful for and when we shift our mindset from what is lacking to what is already here, we manifest more joy in our everyday life.

One of the most important things we do every night with our son is to practice gratitude. Before we go to sleep, we count all the things we are grateful for, which for my toddler means he is grateful for his quails, his trucks, and the little blankie that he sleeps with. However, that is not the point but the point is to really appreciate little things in our lives by being more grateful than complaining.

November is also my favorite month to do some fun shelf work. Some of the Montessori activities that we are doing this month are simple nature-based activities. Here are a few ideas from this year and the previous years for you to try at home.

Sensorial Color Matching

Practical Life Acorn Spoon Transfer

Math: Roll the die and match the number of leaves on a tree

Study the real leaves and changes in colors

Parts of the leaf puzzle

Leaves: Three Part Cards

Creating a gratitude tree or a gratitude jar

Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving history

Parts of the Turkey Three Part Cards

Kandinsky Inspired Fall Tree Activity

Make your own turkey craft

Download this Freebie Kandinsky Inspired Fall Tree from our November Monti-Story Box

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Montessori Short Bead Stairs

Great creations come from the mathematical mind, so we must always consider all that is mathematical as a means of mental development. It is certain that mathematics organize the abstract path of the mind, so we must offer it at an early age, in a clear and very accessible manner, as a stimulus to the child whose mind is yet to be organized .”

Dr. Maria Montessori

Montessori materials are very intentional. There is a science behind each and every material. In Montessori (3-6) classroom, children get the first introduction to mathematics. This abstract concept is very concrete for Montessori children. In fact, it is so concrete that children learn binomial theorem with material and can learn to manipulate this abstract concept in a concrete way. Did I spark your interest in Montessori math yet?

Needless to say, Montessori math is my favorite. It begins in a sensorial area, where children learn to visually discriminate among different sizes and learn three dimension and two-dimension shapes.

Montessori math follows a pattern of left-right, concrete to abstract. The very first material that your child will ever work with is Number Rods. Number Rods are so big and concrete for children to deeply understand the difference between rising quantities. The number 10 rod is exactly 10 times more than the number 1 rod. This concept is fascinating for children.

As we move away from concrete and more into abstract, the first introduction is to the short beads material. Montessori short beads material is small compared to Number Rods and Spindle Box. This is the first lesson that will build a solid foundation in Montessori math material. The colors of the bead repeat in other Montessori materials such as bead chains, decanomial work, checkerboard, and more.

Children do this work over and over that they learn the colors for each number. This lesson is so appealing to children due to their sensitive period for counting and for small objects.

Did you like this material? You can get this now in our shop. We also added some printable activities that you can do with your little one after the presentation.

Montessori Pre-Writing Material

One of the classic Montessori pre-writing materials is Metal Insets. The design of this simple material is genius. By tracing each shape in the set, a child actually learn every stroke of letter formation. Not only that, but this work also builds curiosity in geometry and encourages art appreciation. Now, wouldn’t you call this material genius Montessori design too?

So, what is Montessori Metal Insets? Montessori Metal Insets are made of metal consists 5 straight line shapes and 5 curved line shapes. We recently launched our wooden shapes inspired by the original Metal Insets in our shop.

In Montessori, we emphasize learning the proper technique for handwriting. Research shows that tracing letters is not as effective as preparing the hands for writing. The typical tracing activities involve tracing broken lines. Children would be so focused on the tracing part that they forget the letter formation and shape. “It is important to remember that learning to write letters starts with learning the motor plan for the letters and being able to fluently link the successive strokes to form the letter”

The Metal Inset builds:

  • correct pincer grasp
  • control of small movement
  • the result of pressure on pencil by forming dark versus light lines
  • geometric sense and artistic abilities
  • concentration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • movement of tracing curved shapes and straight shapes which directly transfers to letter formation

The beauty of this material is that there are 7 different presentations with the same material. This work is explored in early childhood for tracing and then in the elementary classroom to understand plane geometry. I love the versatility of this material. It can be used in so many different ways. Here are some of the resources on Montessori Metal Inset Extensions

Jack-O-Lantern Shapes for Matching Lesson

Metal Inset Extensions Cards by Missy Montessori

Montessori Services

Living Montessori Now

Observations from this Week

The most important thing we can give our children is space.

Space is the greatest gift we can give to our children. Space to be themselves, space to explore on their own, space to learn, space to grow, space to embrace and express all their emotions, space to love, space to fall, space to make mistakes, and space to spread their wings.

This week while we were enjoying our weekly Timbernook class, I saw my son walking ahead of me with a group of adults that were mere strangers to him. Some part of me wanted to remind him to “Slow down” and say, “Wait for me”. I realized those concerns were coming from my deep-rooted fears. Fear of losing him, fear of him getting hurt, fear of not being able to protect this perfect little person. Being a mother is overwhelming; on one hand, we want our children to be outgoing, confident, resilient, and social, and then wanting to protect them from everything at the same time. As I let go of my fear, I could really enjoy watching him being independent, brave, courageous, adventurous, and absolutely at peace with himself. He didn’t care who was with him, if he walked funny, if people liked him, or if he looked a certain way. He was happy collecting acorns in his walk and listening to the storybook being told by the teacher. He was completely present at that moment.

Giving space to our children is sometimes hard for us as we grew up with the idea of parents own their children. How wrong was that idea? How wrong were our parents to think that they own us? At that moment, as I saw my son walking confidently with the group of children, I truly understood the meaning of “My child came through me, he is not mine or a thing that I can own.” I am just a carrier to bring this wonderful, precious being to this planet. He was already someone before he met me. How naïve of me to think that I am supposed to do anything other than to follow him!

I really believe space is the best thing we can give to our children to blossom. Space on this planet to stay who they are. They don’t need to be anything else but themselves; the most perfect, beautiful, miraculous, and enlightened beings on this planet are our children.

Folktales

Folktales are an ancient form of art. This is the way generations of humans shared their wisdom, morals, values, and the meaning of all the unexplainable things around the world. Stories was the only form of communication and literacy. People gathered around the fire and told stories about the stars, earth, rain, animals, and so worth. These stories usually had an important message and wisdom to share, to inspire people to do the right thing.

If we think about it, we are still quite similar to our ancestors in that terms. Even today, we prefer a good story and are much more likely to remember them compared to simply stating the facts. Perhaps our story delivery has changed, we certainly don’t gather around the fire to tell stories but we use media to tell our wonderful stories.

For this, reason this month’s Monti-Story Box is African Folktale. We chose African Folktale for this beautiful book, Bringing Rain to Kapiti Plains, which tells the importance of rain in a small community of Africa. Rain is the most essential for farmers in the poor countries. This story depicts how everything is linked in our ecosystem and one event like draught  can affect people and animals.

Folktales are a great way to introduce different culture and art in our kids’ lives. Lets look at some of the activities included in Monti-Story Box and some additional ones that you can do with your child.

Fine Motor Activities such as pre-writing board and puzzle are a great way to strengthen the pincer grasp. Moreover, puzzles help understand the pattern and putting two parts together.

 

Adinkra are visual symbols with historical and philosophical significance originally printed on cloth which royals wore to important ceremonies

Montessori three part cards, also known as nomenclature cards are important Montessori literacy materials. You will find these cards in every area in the Montessori classroom. They can be used in so many ways. Children use the big cards with pictures and text as flashcards to learn new words, they can be used for object – picture matching lesson, picture-picture matching. Refer to my previous post on the importance of these lessons for reading development.

Also, check out our private Facebook group to learn how to present these three part cards in a Montessori Way. The group is only open for Monti-Story Box customers.

Art activities are a great way to learn about different culture. Children can make masaai bead necklace with paper plates, African mask with paper towel roll, or animal silhouette painting. In the Monti-Story Box, we included a canvas of Masaai stick figure art along with paint.

Masaai Stick Figure Art

 

Additional Resources for Incorporating African Unit Study

Free Africa Unit Resource by Living Montessori Now

African Recipes to do with kids

Africa Shelf Ideas from Trillium Montessori

Additional Books to include in your unit study

Africa Fact Cards & Parts of the Animals

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Social-Emotional Activities for Toddlers

Do you want to raise confident, caring, and resilient children? That starts with not reading and mathematics but teaching children social emotional awareness. Social Emotional Awareness means:

  • Learning about me
  • Learning about others
  • Learning about coexisting on this planet

Research shows that about 80% of the job success is social emotional awareness. It is our ability to learn our emotions and manage them in a positive way helps us understand and relate to others’ emotions. Our daily interaction with the world is based on our social emotional awareness.

For toddlers this is a new feeling and something they struggle to understand. They feel it in their bodies but do not know what it means and how to deal with those big emotions. When toddler is going through this big emotional wave, it is best to ride it out instead of redirecting or interrupting that behavior. However, adding some social emotional learning activities can help your child understand their own emotions. It will give your child appropriate vocabulary to express what they are feeling.

This week on our shelf, we’ve added some fun social emotional learning activities. Here is a small glimpse of how we are supporting our son’s social emotional awareness.

Make your own Calming Bottle

This calming bottle is a part of our self-calming/peace corner. It helps children to slow down and observe the movement of confetti

Object-Picture Matching.

Being able to identify each face with the emotions is a big step for toddler. This subtle differences in faces with emotions helps the children to understand more about feelings. The wooden emotions discs and matching cards are included in our Monti-Story Box.

Sorting by Colors

Give the emotions some colors so child can understand this abstract concept. Let your child drop a pom-pom in a cup based on their feelings.

Coloring

This coloring activity is a part of our Monti-Story Box but it is a great self-calming strategy

Identify My Feelings

This is a great way to let your child choose how they are feeling. This is also an activity included in our Monti-Story Box

Playdough

Playdough is the best sensory and calming activity for toddlers. I often make a simple salt dough at home and provide some cookie cutters in a tray. This work sits on our shelf.

Our recent Monti-Story Box includes most of these activities for your toddlers and preschoolers.

July Monti-Story Box

All Emotions are Healthy

Did you know that our body responds faster to our basic emotions than our thoughts? The next time your toddler throws himself on the floor with an emotional meltdown, watch which emotions triggered that behavior. Emotions can move us to react quickly. When our children are feeling scared, tired, hungry, sad, or overwhelmed, they often express that in form of tears, meltdown, or asking us for extra love. Children do not know how to express what they are feeling and often do not know what they are feeling. More so, it is a cry for connection. It is a way our children is telling us to be PRESENT.

When little children are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share their calm, not join their chaos.

L.R. Knost

Toddlers are learning to self-regulate their emotions but before they can do that, they need us to help them co-regulate those emotions. “Feelings and emotions begin deep inside our brain.” They can affect our body in many ways that we are not even aware of. For toddlers, these emotions can be scary. Think about it, they’ve only been here since only few years and experiencing those emotions for the first time can be such an overwhelming experience.

Social Emotional Development is often neglected component in early childhood education; however, it is the most important skills for our children to learn. We cannot expect our children to be never angry, what we can do is teach them how to cope up with those emotions in a healthy positive way.

This process begins with us. We need to assist our children by co-regulating their emotions. Follow the steps below for co-regulation to help your toddler develop a healthy relationship of expressing and embracing all emotions. “All emotions, including anger, fear, and sadness are important for our growth. They are natural and make us who we are. So embrace them all.” – Elinor Greenwood.

Creating a peace corner can help your children by providing a safe space to regulate those emotions in a positive way. In Montessori environment, peace corner holds a very special space. This is the place where children learn to calm themselves down, resolve a conflict with a friend, or simply learn to make silence. To find out how to create a peace corner in your home environment, be sure to order our upcoming Monti-Story Box. This box will include activities to help your child identify their emotions and self-calming strategies. It also includes detailed step by step resource to create a peace corner.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Louisa May Alcott

July Monti-Story Box is All About Emotions. This box includes many activities for your toddlers to help identify their emotions and for you to help your child create the calm within themselves.

Joys of Toddler Led Walks

Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is the purest joy that anyone can experience.

Constance Zimmer

Children are meant to explore and learn from their environment. Once they start walking, they are meant to walk to refine their gross motor skills and experiment with their body in a safe environment.

In our modern world, we are consistently dependent on vehicles and gadgets to make our lives easier. Although, those are all wonderful inventions they also make us more dependent. Children are constantly being transferred in strollers and car seats hindering their natural growth and development. Child’s inner need to move and explore is obstructed by modern equipment like strollers.

“Surely, in our modern world, loving parents do not obstruct an infant’s positive moves to develop an independent and fully functioning body. Unfortunately, we do so everyday. Our present commercialization of childhood contributes to these obstacles in the infant’s path as she works to develop her body for full use and independent movement. We have manufactured every manner of conveyance and confinement for young children…some of these items were developed for safety, others for the convenience of adults, and still others from the false idea of what promotes meaningful skill development in children.” 

Montessori From the Start

Benefits of Toddler Led Walks

  • Promotes independence & freedom
  • Lets your child discover new things in the environment
  • Child feels equal and contributing mem
  • ber of the family when given the choice of walking together

Tips to Promote Safety During Toddler Led Walks

Safety is the most important aspect of child led walks. It is important to let our children know about the safe behavior and model those safe behavior during our walks.

How to Avoid Power Struggles

It is important to be consistent and clear about ground rules during child led walks.

-Give children positive choices to let them feel empowered and make a decision.

-Follow through by modeling what you say

-Avoid saying simply “No” without any explanation or offering an alternative.

Examples of Choices:

  • “I see a car approaching on our road, would you like to hold my hand or daddy’s hand?
  • “I would like you to do my hand so we can make sure we are both safe. Would you like to hold my right hand or left hand?”
  • “I can see that you love collecting things. How about we place them in this basket and when it is full, we know to stop gathering more?”
  • “I love that you are using your listening ears and the way you stopped when I asked you to. Could you also show me your walking feet?”

When we approach our children with respect and stop being a dictator, we form a relationship of mutual understanding, love, and respect. Children want to do the right thing only if we understand that parenthood isn’t about raising a “mini me” but it is about honoring our child’s unique self and seeing our children as humans first.

At the end, always remember to enjoy the present moment with your child and have some fun along the way!

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Journey from Absorbent Mind to Mathematical Mind

Dr. Montessori have mentioned a lot about the different planes of development. She has spoken widely on the importance of planes of development and the sensitive periods in each planes. Below is a chart by Aubrey Hargis that helps us understand these planes a little better.

Copyright by Child of the Redwoods

The first period of child’s mind is what Montessori called it “The Unconscious Absorbent Mind” which lasts about the age of 3. In this period the child just absorbs through their senses. They learn about the world unconsciously and absorbs from the environment without any effort. This is a very sensitive period in child’s life and it is extremely important for us to prepare her environment carefully as this environment will transform her to an independent child.

The second period of child’s mind is called “The Conscious Absorbent Mind”. This period is still in the first plane of development but this period is between 3-6 years of age. In this period, the child is no longer a helpless infant who is mastering her neck muscles but this is the period of learning and refining those skills that she learned as a baby. This is period of repetition where the most cognitive development will take place. In this period, most children learn to read, develops the memory, and can do multi-step lessons.

The second plane of development which is between 6-12 years of age, which we call it “The Mathematical Mind”. Dr. Montessori also refers this phase as peaceful period. In this period, child has a reasoning mind and it all about big ideas, social justice, social connection, and also an ability to do conscious learning. In this phase the child is no longer absorbing from the environment. In this plane, the child is actually memorizing, analyzing, computing, and organizing.

Hope you enjoyed this brief overview on planes of development. Please share it with your mom friends who and give some love to our blog and our instagram page!