Great post on the absorbent vs reasoning mind/First plane of development (3-6) and second plane (6-12) over at Grace and Green Pastures.
When you decide to start homeschooling, if you’re starting with no outside schooling at all, this is the main challenge and probably the most intimidating; teaching your child to read and write. We know they have to learn their letters, we know they have to learn to sound them out, we know they have to learn to write their letters. But how does one put it all together? How to you make a child learn and comprehend and develop a love for reading? In traditional schooling one teaches a child to sing A,B,C,D….and the names of the letters. Then they teach them the sounds of the letters and how to write them and read them. Montessori approaches things different. How I am teaching Pumpkin 1 is according to a little booklet with a long name put out by NAMATA written by Muriel Dwyer called, “A Path for the Exploration of Any Language Leading to Writing and Reading; As part of the Total Montessori Approach to the Development of Language”. (see link to purchase, the booklet is inexpensive but shipping is rather steep)
The first step is to help develop the vocabulary of the child through interactions, stories, songs and poems. Use lots of language with the child, their little minds at a young age absorb language and no word is too difficult for them to learn. It’s amazing how many new words a child picks up a day. Reading and singing to a child should not be neglected and should be a part of every day.
When a child is 2 to 2 1/2 one can begin the Sound Game or I Spy Game. The purpose of this game is to help a child understand that words are made up of sounds and to attune the child’s ear to hear all the different sound that make up a word. You start off very simple by holding an object and saying, “I spy/I am holding something that starts with ‘buh’. What is it?” And the child responds with, “A ball” or “A bear” or whatever it is that you are holding. Play this game several times a day as the child is interested. It may take some time before the child catches on so don’t hurry this stage or move on before the child is ready. Gradually you can make it more difficult. You can have two objects for the child to choose from, moving up to three and on until the child can identify the object anywhere in the room. Then you can move on to asking the child what the object starts with. It took Pumpkin 1 a while to catch on. Everything started with “buh” to her and I worried that she would never get it. But then, suddenly, last week, she got it. And she started asking what everything started with. It’s so exciting when this happens and you can see their little minds working with this discovery.
The next stage of the game is to identify the sound at the end of words and then you move on to the sounds in the middle of words, starting off with words with 3 sounds, such as “hat” and gradually getting more difficult. The final stage is to see how many words the child can think of that begin with or contain a sound. Don’t worry about how “c” and “k” make the same sound or that “ch” is two letters. This is only about sounds, the focus is on the exploration of the spoken word. Dwyer stresses the importance of playing this game without any reference to symbols or letters, at all. She says in italics, “Please, please do not attempt to introduce the letters to the children at this stage.” and in all caps “DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO INTRODUCE THE LETTERS AT THIS STAGE” and again “IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT THE WHOLE ‘THE SOUND GAME’ IS EXPERIENCED WITHOUT REFERENCE TO ANY SYMBOLS, WHETHER THE SANDPAPER LETTERS, THE MOVABLE ALPHABET OR TO READING, AS THE AIM OF THIS GAME IS, AS STATED BEFORE, TO MAKE THE CHILDREN AWARE OF THE SOUNDS THEY USE IN SPEECH”.
Now, I must admit, I started off wrong. I was introducing letters. The fact is, it’s really hard not to because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. There is a lot of pressure to have your child “know their alphabet”. Little Johnny’s mom will say, “oh Johnny can recognize all his letters, can Suzy?” or someone will point to a letter and ask your child, “what letter is this?” and you feel like you’re failing because Suzy doesn’t know her letters yet. But if you’re following Montessori you’re teaching a different way and when the time comes, Suzy will fly through learning her letters, picking up two or three letters at a time and, if you’ve thoroughly done the Sound Game, should know all the letters in 2 to 3 weeks. Then Suzy will quickly move to writing with the moveable alphabet because she already knows all the sounds the letters make. So I’ve gone back, removed any letters and am focusing on just sounds with Pumpkin 1. I’m taking to heart Dwyer’s words, “Do not rush this work for it is the foundation for all that will follow and must be thoroughly covered.” It’s not about having your child learn things at a young age, or ahead of others, it’s about building a solid foundation so that your child understands and comprehends and builds connection with what comes next.
There are more sounds in English than just 26 letters of the alphabet. Here are the key sounds and symbols.
a as in am
b as in tub
c as in tic
d as in lid
e as in egg
f as in if
g as in mug
h as in hut
i as in if
j as in jam
k as in ink
l as in full
m as in am
n as in in
o as in on
p as in up
r as in run
s as in toss
t as in mat
u as in up
v as in move
w as in win
y as in yet
z as in quiz
qu as in quilt
ai as in aim
ee as in see
ie as in pie
oa as in oat
oo as in book
ue as in blue
ou as in out
oy as in toy
er as in her
ar as in car
or as in or
th as in moth
sh as in push
ch as in much
au as in Paul
The Sound Game is so easy to play, you don’t need anything special, though some people like to collect small objects for each sound to use as they create interest in the child. However, I find this game is played at the strangest times, like when Pumpkin 1 is sitting on the toilet, or when I’m making dinner. Sometimes we play it while waiting in the car or going for a walk. That’s what makes it great, you can play it anywhere at any time and it doesn’t cost you anything
Once the child has master at least 2/3 of the sound game, then the sandpaper letters are introduced, followed by the moveable alphabet so that the child can express herself freely and then by the child discovering that she can read. If a child fails to progress or is not interested in writing or reading, it is often because the proper foundation was not laid with the Sound Game.
I purchased The Keys of the World Montessori albums to help me better understand and implement the Montessori method with my children. They’re wonderful albums and I’m learning so much. I’d just like to share with you a quote from the Theory Album
The most distinct difference between Montessori and other methods is in the nature of the materials: Montessori materials are not didactic (teaching tools), but self-teaching tools. These materials are not for the teacher to teach, but for the children to discover and learn on his own. The children teach themselves – these materials are developmental materials.
This is really the key of Montessori – the child guides their own learning. It’s also the hardest part; to step back and allow the child to do and learn without interfering. It’s even more difficult in a home setting.
If you’re interesting in The Keys of the World albums you can purchase them here.
So, Pumpkin 1 is 2 and half now and I’ve been feeling that I need to get more serious about homeschooling for the fall. Therefore I’ve been reading and reading. There is still so much about Montessori I don’t know, especially when it comes to the pedagogy. I’ve ordered these two books to better understand the theory behind Montessori.
I’ve also decided that I needed a curriculum. Something to be a guide on what materials to present when, how to present them, extensions for them and the progression between them. I looked at several different Montessori curriculum. One was NAMC. It also offers an online training course and is accepted by most Montessori schools. However, the materials alone are way out of my price range. Next I looked at KHT. It’s a year long course and many people have given it good reviews. However, at this point in my life, I just don’t have the time to do a course. I’d hate to start and have to drop out. It is something I’m considering down the road. However, KHT is very affordable. The third option I looked at was Keys of the World (their page is currently under construction). It was the most affordable. Also Keys is AMI which is the traditional Montessori (as opposed to AMS which has been adapted to modern times). I decided to go with Keys and downloaded the Curriculum from here. I printed two books of the curriculum off but as my printer was acting up (when printing front to back, it just takes one skipped page to throw everything off) and I needed to get it bound at Staples anyway, I had the rest printed off there and everything spiral bound. Printing is 10 cents per page and binding was about $5 per book (with a plastic cover and back). So it’d cost around $60 to print and bind everything there. Probably the same as printing it off at home when you consider ink and paper.
So now I’m reading through the theory book of Keys of the World and it’s fascinating. The more I read the more I agree with Montessori and find it makes sense. I wish I had done Montessori from the start with Pumpkin 1 and 2. I think understanding Montessori theory is important in implementing it. Without the understanding you risk missing sensitive periods, the importance of self discovery, of choice, repetition, of each material, of not rushing children and it’s so easy to make small mistakes that actually make a big difference. So it’s lots and lots of reading ahead of me. I’m holding back on doing Montessori materials as much until I understand the theory better and get a plan in order for the fall. I’m so glad I’ve discovered the Montessori Method. I think it is the Key of the World.
Montessori is about instilling independence in children and structuring the world around them to make it possible. This often means child sized furniture, stools to reach the sink, low beds to get in and out of, etc. I recently put this little corner together for my daughter.
The mirror is from either the dollar store or Michael’s. I attached it to the wall with Command removable strips. The table is one of a set of 3 that we had around the house. The brush is from the dollar store. The tray was my grandmother’s. I have a few of them. And the box is mine. Right now it has her ankle bracelets in it.
Chapter 2 The Impact of Movement on Learning and Cognition (summary from Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Lillard)
One of the greatest mistakes of our day is to think of movement by itself, as something apart from the higher functions…Mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it. It is vital that educational theory and practice should become informed by this idea – Maria Montessori
Movement and learning are perpetually entwined in Montessori education. In traditional schooling, bodily movement is limited and consists largely of reading and writing numbers and letters that abstractly represent the concepts being learned. This lack of movement fits the model of the child being a vessel, to take in new information and commit it to memory. Montessori saw the stationary child as problematic, because she believed that movement and thought are closely tied. Movement is therefore integral to the educational program she developed. Recent psychological research and theorizing support Dr. Montessori`s idea.
Movement is deeply implicated in Montessori education. For instance, in learning to write, a child starts with manipulating knobbed cylinders, then traces shapes with his fingers, moving on to trace leaf shapes with a wooden stick. He traces sandpaper letters, feeling the shapes of the letters themselves, he then learns to use the metal insets and trace them with a pencil and arranges wooden alphabet letters. “In order to develop his mind a child must have objects in his environment which he can hear and see. Since he must develop himself through his movements, through the work of his hands, he has need of objects with which he can work that provide motivation for his activity“ Maria Montessori
There is abundant research showing that movement and cognition are closely intertwined (many of these studies are discussed in the book). People represent spaces and objects more accurately, make judgements faster and more accurately, remember information better, and show superior social cognition when their movements are aligned with what they are thinking about or learning.
I`ve been reading a great book. Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard. I`m going to do a series of posts on the chapters of this book as I finish them.
Chapter 1: An Answer to the Crisis in Education.
In this chapter she discusses the two fundamental cornerstone of American schooling today which were placed at the turn of the 20th century. The school as a factory and the child as a blank slate. Today we know that these ideas are incorrect but they continue to have a profound impact on how we run schools. Due to this flawed foundation, traditinal schools have not fared well. The solutions Americans have devised to fix the problems in our schools repeatedly fail because they do not change these fundamental models. The educational system should instead draw on scientific study of how children learn. Early in the 20th century, Dr. Maria Montessori envisioned a radically different approach to education, grounded in close and insightful observations of children. Modern research suggests that the Montessori system is much more suited to how children learn and develop.
Motessori, who held a degree in both engineering and medicine, was interested in helping mentally retarded children. She was given a group of children to work with and she developed her Sensorial Materials. The world marveled when a number of these children passed state educational exams designed for normal children. However, Dr Montessori marveled at the fact that normal children were not doing better on such tests, given their obvious advantages. This led her to turn her attention to studying how normal children develop in order to discover how humans could reach their potential more fully than they did in traditional schools. Montessori was given the charge of 50-60 children aged 3-6, a room and a teacher and she set about to begin her experiment. By testing new approaches and materials and noting children`s reactions, over the next 50 years she developed a radically different system of education. She left a legacy of a broad, field-tested curriculum covering all the major subject areas for children ages 3-12. This system was developed by trial and error over her lifetime, with children from all around the world.
A Portrait of a Montessori Classroom
A Montessori classroom is usually a large, open space with low shelves and child sized furniture. The classroom is arranged into areas with materials for working on a particular subject area. The classroom is kept neat and orderly, with every material having it`s place on a shelf. Respect for the needs of others is highly valued. Children are free to work where ever they choose, at a table, on a mat, in groups or alone. Lessons are usually given to individual children as they are ready for them. The materials are designed to attract the children`s interest and has a primary purpose and often a secondary. Children must use the materials correctly in order to learn the lesson it is designed to impart therefore children are expect to use the material how they were shown to. There are no tests, the teachers observe the children at work and repeat lessons if a child is not using a material correctly. New lessons are given when a child appears to have mastered a material and is ready for the next material in the sequence.
Eight Principles of Montessori Education
1) Movement and cognition are closely entwined, and movement can enhance thinking and learning.
2) Learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives.
3) People learn better when they are interested in what they are learning.
4) Tying extrinsic rewards to an activity negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn.
5) Collaborative arrangements can be very conducive to learning.
6) Learning situated in meaningful contexts is often deeper and richer than learning in abstract contexts.
7) Particular forms of adult interaction are associated with more optimal child outcomes.
8) Order in the environment is beneficial to children.
I find Reggio theories and Montessori often compliment each other. Here’s a great post on Invitations to Play, a Reggio concept.
“In Montessori’s view, the act of learning does not involve the acquisition of anything new. Simply being awake to the world, the absorbent mind is constantly acquiring the substance of whatever will be learned by the young child. The ‘learning’ itself is the act of joining or connecting these previous acquisitions in such a way that they are bound together by use or meaning, and so that they have a place in a larger system of uses or meanings. Whatever is thereby learned then becomes, like each earlier acquisition, a piece of knowledge that can be further bound to other pieces, in some later act of learning.” David Gettman “Basic Montessori”
The below pictures are from the web. If you click on them they’ll take you to the website they’re from. I’ll post pictures of my playroom soon. It seems to be ever evolving so I’m never satisfied with it.
The Reggio Emilia approach to education views the environment as the third teacher. Maria Montessori also emphasized the environment as an important part of learning.
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and
invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”
There are several principles I think are important to consider when planning your playroom.
Relaxing: I don’t like when a playroom or classroom is full of bright, contrasting colours, posters everywhere, colourful mats, etc. It’s just too over stimulating. A child can’t focus in such an environment. The playroom should be soothing, relaxing and appealing. I believe children have an innate sense of style so decorate in a way you’d decorate other rooms of your home. Paint the walls in a soft, pale colour. Pink has been shown to be soothing. A soft white, neutral beige or a pale blue are good choices. Decor should be simple too. You can use colour here, but don’t over due it. The decor should complement, not distract. Flooring, the same, not over colourful or stimulating. You want the materials to be the focus, not the decor. And don’t forget a comfy corner for reading or resting.
Accessible yet safe: The room should be designed for children. Low shelving and child sized furniture. The child should be able to reach and take out the majority of the toys, materials, and craft supplies themselves. You may need to have some things out of reach, but keep as much as you can available to your child. However, keep safety in mind. Tall shelves should be braced so they won’t tip, avoid sharp corners, plugs should have covers, and if you have young children, toys and materials that are accessible should be safe.
Simple: Limit the toys. Does your child really need 20 Barbies, 50 dinky cars, 100 stuffed animals? Probably not. Get rid of the excess and try to limit things to a few, quality toys. See toys as an investment in your child’s development. Focus on toys that teach and encourage learning. Also toys for imaginative play and open ended toys. Limit noisy, battery operated toys. You can also rotate toys. This keeps things interesting & leaves more room for organization.
Organized: And organized environment leads to an organized mind. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Organization allows your child to see what materials are available to them. Don’t cram the shelves, invest in organization aids such as shelves, baskets and containers. Teach your child to put away a toy in the right place before taking another out. Having a clean, organized environment encourages your child to respect their playroom and toys and to absorb these qualities themselves. It also helps reduce behavior problems due to over stimulation and frustration.
Natural light: Your playroom should be well lit with natural light. If your playroom is in the basement, for safety reasons there should be windows but you can use mirrors to increase the natural light. Don’t use florescent lights. Use indoor lighting that isn’t harsh on the eyes.