Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Fine Motor Practice

Fine Motor Practice.jpgPart of the Montessori curriculum focuses very heavily on building fine motor skills and control in the young child. There are activities that help build strength, activities that build precision, and activities that encourage movement. Cam has always had excellent fine motor control and awareness. From a very young age she was drawn to small

 objects which she loved to manipulate put them in boxes, baskets, drawers, everywhere. She was never much of a mouther, but when she did attempt to put things in her mouth my husband and I tried very hard not to discourage her from playing with small things, just from putting them in her mouth. I could see not only her intense curiosity about small things but also how manipulating them was building her fine motor.

Because she is so drawn to find motor activities I always try to have a selection of them out on her shelves. It can be a bit hit-or-miss with them though as I can’t seem to put my finger on exactly what it is that appeals to her. Below is a little gallery of her current activities. Not included is a picture of the peg board (which we bought on eBay) but appears in the color study post.

Science Exploration

Science Exploration.jpg

Science is one of those topics that gets short shrift despite how ubiquitous it is. It permeates nearly everything from the muffins baked for breakfast to the stomach digesting them. From the materials our clothes are made of to the mechanics of us putting them on. The prevalence of science makes it one of the easiest topics to allow our children to explore and being that they are naturally curious about discovering how the world works it’s a great combination.

While Montessori encourages allowing the child to discover what it is they wish to study I feel like it would be the rare child that would explicitly ask for a book on magnets and a set of magnets to explore the concept. It would also be the rare child to ask for simple machines or any other number of interesting science concepts. To help Cam discover whether or not she is interested I have set up (and am rotating in) a number of science activities and sets to pique her interest. If she’s drawn to them I read to her from books and discuss the concepts more thoroughly.

Thus far magnets have been the biggest hit and she pulls in any visitor to show her magnets off. She was less interested in the rocks and minerals except as light table accessories. The light & color exploration have also been less popular, but I think it would be better if I actually sat down with her and explicitly demonstrated a few ideas she can try.

Resources Series: Montessori Scope and Sequence

Resource Series BannerWay back in June I posted that I was working on a scope and sequence of Montessori materials and activities. You can refresh your memory here if you’d like. Long story short, I finished it and am ready to share. I know the blogosphere likes to share, especially the Montessori/homeschool crowd and I really want to contribute something.

There may very well be something out there on the Internet like this and it may be better. I haven’t found it though, so I created this scope and sequence. It is just that, a scope and sequence for the infant, toddler, and 3-6 age groups. It simply shows what the various Montessori activities and materials are and in what order they are presented. I have also cross referenced everything so you can see where each material falls in the sequence (often in more than one place) and how the various activities relate to others across areas of “study”. Meaning, you can see how the Red Rods are related to both early numeracy and the sensorial activities, etc.

While I have loosely grouped it into age ranges, none of those are hard and fast rules. My own daughter is ready for some things that would be presented to older children but is not ready for other things that are intended for younger children. It is organized in a couple ways that make sense to my particular brand of crazy organization. :) I included a couple ways of using and looking at it so I could get a handle on everything and how it all functions as a cohesive curriculum. I hope someone else finds it helpful too and that maybe someone else will feel less confused in the way I was to begin with.

As a side note, if you use it and have suggestions or find typos please let me know. I will certainly try to fix typos and would love to consider other input. I am already making changes to it that make sense for us as I am using it. It’s a living breathing document and should be flexible. I want it to be responsive, that’s one of the beauties of a blog and online community. 

Montessori Scope and Sequence Outline – This is truly an outline. With Roman numerals and tabs and everything. It may be the easiest to read, but to me it was the least useful way to work with the curriculum. This was the basis for everything else, though, and I use it in tandem with the Presentation Record.

Montessori Visual Outline – This shows you in a more visual way how all the pieces relate to one another. It does not cross reference anything though. It’s more like a curriculum map, if you’ve ever seen or worked with one of those.

Montessori Presentation Record – This allows you to record when you have presented a material or activity, when the child works with it, and when they have mastered it. This was really my end goal. From a homeschooling standpoint, this is probably the most useful, but I use it in tandem with the Outline.

Infant Activities & Materials Map – This is just a visual representation of the infant materials. It maps out the information from the outline and puts into more of a timeline context. I wish I had done this when Cam was still a baby.

Disclaimer: I would like to make clear that I am not a trained Montessori teacher and these don’t replace reading up on Montessori’s own works. I created this for myself and am sure it is flawed.They are here to help parents who want to do Montessori in the home but are having trouble grasping where to jump in and where they are supposed to go once they have. It in no way is meant to tell you exactly how to follow the curriculum or what your child is ready for. All children are different and learn at their own pace. It is also probably not comprehensive. I included a detailed list of sources that I drew from. It made more sense for me to combine all of that information into one cohesive, useable, workable document and for my purposes it’s comprehensive enough. It is licensed under Creative Commons. You are welcome to share and change it, however I would appreciate you crediting me where appropriate.

Color Study

Color Study.jpg

Color seems to be one of those concepts that you naturally find yourself introducing to your child. You ask, “What color is this?” and answer for them. Or you use the color to describe an object, “Do you see that red car”. It’s such a natural process and we have been doing it with Cam for ages now.

However, recently Cam has begun labeling colors on her own. She’s gotten to the point where she is quite fascinated with color and she appears to have a pretty solid understanding of ROY G BIV, accurately naming colors when asked and independently. To indulge her interest I set up a rainbow area in the classroom.

As you can see from the gallery below there are quite a few activities including: a peg board, nesting boxes, a few sets of paint chips to flip through, a set of stacking rings, a basket objects and mice of various colors, a basket of bean bags and of course several color themed books. So far she’s played with most of the items and read through the books, with the exception of the stacking rings which may just be a bit young for her at this point.

Imaginative Play

Pedagogy BannerOne of the projects I tackled this summer was working my way through my TBR (To Be Read) pile and, while I didn’t make it through many parenting/learning theory books, I did read one that I found very inspiring.
Reading about the place and importance of imaginative play, however, brought to mind Montessori for me. If this blog is any indication, I am far from being a Montessori purist. I don’t follow all her ideas, I won’t use all her materials and lessons, but this doesn’t stem from any distaste for her methods or any disagreement that I have. Except for when it comes to imaginative play.A Child’s Work was not a title I was familiar with nor was the author (although in the education field that isn’t surprising), but I was clued into it by one of the library blogs I follow. It was a quick read, but well worth it just for the pure joy Paley clearly feels for the relationship between imaginative play and children.

Child's Work

Now my understanding of the Montessori method is that it does not contain any imaginative play (meaning building with blocks, dressing up in costumes, pretending animals talk, playing in a toy kitchen, etc.) in the early years (0-6). I have read that fantasy is discouraged, although how strictly any Montessori program adheres to this I am not sure. However, I can’t help but look both at current research and at the natural inclinations of children and think the Montessori method is wrong to discourage imaginative play and fantasy.

One of the reasons I find myself passing on various Montessori ideas is that I find her to be very much a product of her time. (I’m not as concerned about teaching my daughter how to use a dustpan because we own a little hand vacuum.) Child development was a new concept. Sure, she was a pioneer, but we now have a century of research that she did not have access to. She was also very much a socialist looking to help the poor. I won’t argue that it was a lofty goal and one we should all aspire to in some way, but it also really colored her methodologies. The children she began developing her method for needed structure, needed to feel useful, needed to be a part of a collective, needed to keep the house clean in the absence of one or both parents. I would agree that children of all sorts need that and want that to some degree, but I think they also need to engage in imaginative play and the ideas encapsulated in A Child’s Work really hit home that point for me.

A Child’s Work is a bit light on providing real research to back up any of Paley’s claims. It’s a much more touchy-feely book than a hard evidence sort of book. Really it read more like a notebook of Paley’s thoughts and notes and that was fine with me. It went by quickly and its anecdotes and impressions certainly got her point across about the importance of fantasy. I think next up will be another book that I have on my shelf about play. I’m hoping to get a bit more of the science behind the theory in this next round.

Not only do I remember the joy of fantasy play as a child, but I can see the seeds of it starting to grow in my own daughter. Since Montessori is all about observing our children and following their interests I think I will let Cam lead me into the imaginative play realm.

The Autonomous Child

Pedagogy BannerI should warn you I’m about to get up on my soap box.

I recently read an article on positive discipline/parenting that someone in one of my Facebook groups posted. It was a great little article about validating feelings and compromising with children and it’s a practice I use with my daughter. I totally understand it’s not for everyone for a variety of reasons, but we like the method.

Let me give a little background. In the article (which you can read here if you’d like), the parent said her daughter wanted to ride her scooter in the house. The parents didn’t allow her to for fear of damaging their new flooring and for fear of injury to their daughter. When their daughter disagreed they validated her feelings and came up with a compromise/solution that allowed her to sit on the scooter and move very slowly and deliberately through the house once she had cleaned up anything that might be in the way.

What baffled and irritated me (and eventually lead me to write this post) were a handful of the comments that were rather venomous and disagreeable. Most tended along the lines of: if you compromise with children they will never learn any rules or respect, will always feel entitled to getting their way, and will walk all over you. I know these people were just comment trolls trying to pick a fight, but I had two thoughts about them. First, if they so obviously disagree with this type of parenting, what were they doing on the blog reading it in the first place? Second, I think they were confusing the compromise of the activity with a compromise over the underlying worries that caused them to ban scooting in the house. In other words, it wasn’t the scooting that was the issue.

Both Montessori and Reggio Emilia, my preferred early childhood educational philosophies, encourage the parent/teacher/adult to see children as strong and capable. But I feel we could also stand to see children as people. People with wants and desires and feelings. Wants, desires and feelings they are entitled to and will have regardless of whether you want them to or not. Sometimes it astounds me the standards and rules we hold our children to that we wouldn’t dream of holding ourselves, our spouses, or our friends to.

Returning to the scooter incident, by validating the daughter’s feelings and finding a mutually agreeable solution the parents didn’t compromise about the real underlying reason for banning scooting. The solution they came up with, with their daughter’s help, still protected the floor and her safety. I doubt she saw it as her parents being weak and caving. She probably saw that they valued her, valued her feelings, and that this wasn’t some arbitrary power struggle. She probably also felt empowered knowing her parents understood her feelings and felt she was capable of being careful. I think by encouraging your child to find a solution that honors your original concern and addresses the problem, you teach them an incredibly valuable interpersonal, relationship skill.

As a side thought, there are rules and situations that are just not negotiable. I totally understand and acknowledge that. But I think by being flexible in other areas children (and adults) feel more willing to go along with those absolutes when necessary. Especially if they know you are usually reasonable and open and that you would only have a non-negotiable rule for a good reason. Simply explaining that reason can diffuse a potential melt down over an absolute no.

So, I believe in having an autonomous child. A child that is a part of our family and whose feelings and ideas are relevant and taken into consideration. One of my jobs as a parent is teach my daughter how to have a successful relationship, be it a marriage, a friendship, or any other and teaching her that there is give and take and compromise and discussion is a huge part of that lesson. Relationships and rules aren’t (shouldn’t) be about one person or the other getting their way and the other person getting their feelings hurt and ignored. Because what those comment trolls were really saying was that when it comes to someone getting their way in parent-child conflict it should always be the parent who wins. Sounds pretty childish to me.