Affordable Alternative to the Constructive Triangles

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These shapes from Learning Resources are a great alternative to the rather costly Montessori Constructive Triangles.  They don’t have all the same shapes but they have other ones (circles and 1/2 and 1/4 circles) and enough shapes that I think the few missing ones aren’t a big deal.  You could make them yourself with laminated paper or cut them from heavy plastic of some sort. The quality is great (nice and thick) and they don’t have sharp edges

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These have the added bonus of being able to use them with a light table and they can be used as a sort of tanagram to make pictures with.  Tanagrams have been shown to improve a chid’s math thinking.

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The set can be purchased at amazon.ca 

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Educating Children in India

I’m really excited to announce that starting this month, for every item sold in my Etsy store, I’ll be donating $1 to Aseema, an NGO (Non-Gov’t Organization) in India which provides Montessori education to slum and tribal children.  You can read about their work on their webpage:
http://www.aseema.org/index

So, why India?  They say once India get in you, it never leaves.  I spent 4 years of my life living in India and today I’m going to share some of my experiences with you.

My first trip to India I was 18.  I went to an Indian church in Mumbai (Bombay) which had a 9 month discipleship course.  I had never been out of Canada before nor on a plane.  It was a very stretching and challenging yet wonderful experience.  You can smell the city before the plane even lands.

City street

City street

I still remember the first street child I saw when leaving the airport.  I remember the noise of the horns honking and the damp hot air and the smell.  It was very exciting and scary.

Through the course I got to visit and volunteer at many different programs to help people; orphanages, women’s homes, homes for the blind, leprosy treatment centres, hospitals, old age homes, youth hostels, homes for women and children with AIDS.

Orphanage for girls

Team at a rehabilitation home for women and children with AIDS.

Team at a rehabilitation home for women and children with AIDS.

I had to get used to the thick accents (I just nodded a lot having no idea what the person said even though it was English) squat toilets, eating with my hands, fighting my way onto crowded trains, taking buses, arguing with taxi drivers, haggling prices, the extreme heat with no air conditioning, a completely different culture.

Squat Toilet

Squat Toilet

Mumbai train station

Mumbai train station

There is one experience that stands out the most out of them all.

I have always loved children and since I was young wanted to work with street children.  The church had an outreach program but, being a white foreigner, it was best I didn’t go because it could draw unwanted attention and cause problems.  However, once a year the church took the children they worked with on a picnic in the hills and I got to go.  We went by bus to a place outside the city where they had rented an old building.  The children were given baths, clean clothes, a meal and there were games and activities.  I helped with bathing the little ones, some only maybe 3 years old.  I helped comb the girl’s hair and put ribbons in.  Such sweet little children who had experienced too much hardship in life.  On the way home on the bus the two little boys sitting beside me fell asleep on my arm and lap.  The one boy’s hair was full of nits but I didn’t care.  My heart just went out to them.  It was one of those moments in life that last an eternity.  That make everything else in life so insignificant.

Street children.

Street children. (notice the sign behind them)

After this I came home for a year and worked.  Reverse culture shock was really difficult and I missed India intensely.  In 2002 I went back to India.  This time to Mussoorie, a beautiful hill station, where I attended the Landour Language School to learn Hindi.

Mussoorie

Mussoorie

I stayed in an old British house called Rokeby (which has since been fixed up to be a rather luxurious hotel, but back then it was very simple).  I knew no one when I went there but I met people from all around the world.  I shared a room with a lovely lady from Singapore who had had Polio as a baby and was crippled but that didn’t stop her from travelling the word and helping others.

Rokeby Guesthouse

Rokeby Guesthouse

The language school was amazing and I learned a ton.  Mussoorie was a beautiful town with big old British buildings and narrow streets which would cause cars to wind up head to head and then have to negotiate everyone backing up until someone could squeeze through.

Narrow streets

Narrow streets

And the mountains, they were breathtaking.  They say on a clear day you can see the Himalayas.

Breathtaking mountains

Breathtaking mountains

And the monkeys.  Lengur monkeys, whose faces look so human it’s disconcerting.

Lengur monkey

At night you could look down on the twinkling lights of Dehra Dun at the foot of the mountains, like colourful gems spilled on a midnight carpet.

Dehra Dun

Dehra Dun

In my spare time I would go visit a children’s home.  The couple who ran it had been taking in children for years.  They were now grandparents to their own children, so the children in their home were all in their early teens, the youngest was about 10.  Some had tragic stories.  One brother and sister, their mother set their father on fire in front of them.  Other siblings were going to be thrown into the river after their parents had died.  So much suffering of children.  Life is cheap in India.

Children's home children.

Children’s home children.

I came home again and again worked to make money and find a way to go back and stay for longer.  The government would only give 6 month tourist visas.  I eventually decided to attend an Indian University.  Pune, in the the Indian state of Maharashtra, is known as “the Oxford of the East”.  I decided I wanted to study sociology and so I filled in all the paperwork to attend Fergusson Collage under the umbrella of the University of Pune.

Pune University

Again, I knew no one there though I was given two contacts.  There is a lot of fear but so much adventure in going somewhere where you’ve never been and knowing no one and not speaking the language.

Pune

Pune

After I arrived and was staying at the YWCA I got in contact with a wonderful lady, Sandra, who was the cousin of friends of my grandmother.  She told me to come stay with her until I found a place to live.  She cooked the most wonderful meals.  I eventually stayed in the empty flat (apartment) that belonged to her brother who lived in the Middle East.  It was a perfect place to stay though it had been empty for years so there were huge cockroaches coming out of the drain *shudder* (though that was nothing to the rats I had to deal with when I lived in Mumbai).  The apartment complex was mostly families who had lived there for years and all had children around the same age in college like me.  They became my best friends.

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Society (Apt Complex) friends: Soliya, Vivek, Neeraja, Rohit, Clinton, Aatish, Rima, Mandar and Muriel.

The first person I met at the Collage was a girl from Butan, Kinlay.  We both became close friends with another girl who was from Tanzania, Mwatima.

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Mwatima and Kinley

There were many students from Iran and Korea as well.  But I was the only white person in the whole college.  Pretty much everyone know who I was or of me.

I loved my studies there.  I loved the old stone buildings and the history of the college.  I loved learning and living.

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The Gymkhana building of Fergusson College (the inside of this building was used in the movie Gandhi)

College in India was nothing like what it is in the West.  There were no power point presentations.  No white boards.  No laptops.   Not even an overhead projector.  Just a black board and wooden desks.  The teachers would dictate notes that we’d dutifully transcribe into notebooks to study later.  Sometimes stray dogs would wander into the lecture hall to take refuge from the heat in the cool stone building.

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One of the nicer lecture halls/classrooms

Our marks were completely based on exams.  20% for the midterm exam and 80% for the final exam.  We’d study for months for the final exam.  Exams would be in a room, often two to a desk (writing different exams so you couldn’t copy).  I remember times the power would go off for “load shedding” and many of the windows would be blocked in the room for various reasons.  It’d be dim, with no fans, the sweat would be dripping onto your paper.

I enjoyed my classes.  Maharashtrian history was hard.  The teacher would dictate these names like “Shivaji, Afzal Khan, Aurangzeb, Sambhaji so fast and I’d be like, “wha…..?” while the other Maharashtrian students had studied it all since childhood.  I eventually picked up a 5th grade primer to help me figure things out lol.

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Statue of Maharashtrian hero Maharaja Shivaji.

I did learn it and found it fascinating (I’m a history buff) and was very excited when I got to visit a fort, Pratapgad, that we had learned about in our class.

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Pratapgad Fort.

I had a wonderful sociology teacher for the 3rd year of college.  She wasn’t just there to dictate notes but to actually discuss and teach and explore.  I had completely absorbed Indian culture as much as I could that one day the teacher looked around the small class and said, “oh, we don’t have any foreign students today to ask about this”  I was like, “ummm Madam?”  her reply was, “oh you’re not a foreigner, you’re Indian” lol.  I felt  proud that moment that I had been so accepted that I wasn’t seen as different by those who knew me (of course to everyone who didn’t know me I was a like a celebrity to stare at and try to talk to or sell things to or for men to accost with “I want to have friendship with you”)

Across the road from the college was a restaurant, Savera, where many an hour were spent socializing, studying, and eating.  I still often crave their Upma with coconut chutney.

Once a week I went to volunteer with an organization called Akanksha which taught English to slum children.  That was a fun, though tiring experience.  The little boys were like wild monkeys.  Because the organization was against corporal punishment which is still used in the schools today (misbehaving children get slapped on the hands with a ruler) it was hard to keep the children in control.

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Akanksha children

Eventually we got a wonderful teacher who could just give a look that got the children quiet, however she taught them to pronounce “yellow” as “ellow” and “yes” as “es” and the letter “I” said, “ee ee Eendia” lol.  I was always amazed that the children, especially the boys, could be so dirty but their mothers always looked so beautiful and clean and gave off this air of grace.  They had a dignity in spite of everything.  A dignity I don’t often see here in Canada .  There was one child, a little girl, who picked up English really fast.  She was a very bright child but her parents played huge part.  They really supported the program and her learning.  In a country where boys are highly valued and girls just mean crushing dowry, you could tell her parents, namely her father, was different; that he wanted more for his daughters (she had an older sister) and valued education and knew how learning English would give them a huge advantage.

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The bright little girl, Rangoli, is on the left.

After 3 years at college (a B.A. in India is a 3 year program) I came home again.  It was so hard to leave my friends.  I did bring someone with me, my dog Timmy.  I got him from an animal shelter.  He was this little puppy, all bones and covered in sores.  They told me if I didn’t take him right away he’d die because the puppies always die.

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Skinny little Timmy just after I got him.

I’ve been back from India for 7 years now.  I don’t know when I’ll ever get to go back.  I’ve married and had children.  One day though, one day I’ll go back.  But until then, I can give to those who are doing what I’d love to do, who are making a difference in the lives of children through education.

Did you know that Maria Montessori herself lived in India and opened schools there?

Though Maria Montessori was an Italian, India was one of the first few countries to see the propagation of her method of education. The work began with her arrival here in 1939, and continued through her representatives, Joosten and Swamy, before spreading further. In 1939, the Theosophical Society of India extended an invitation to the 69-year-old Montessori. She accepted the invitation and reached India the same year. She made Adayar, Chennai her home and lived there along with her son, Mario. The famous Montessorians, Gool Minwala, Tehmina Wadia and Khurshed Taraporewala were the students in the first training at Adyar. In 1940, when India entered the World War II, Montessori and her son were interned as enemy aliens in India, but Maria was allowed to conduct training courses. Sixteen courses were conducted during this time, creating a very strong base for the method here. She also had her own school in Kodaikanal for this duration. In 1947, she went back to Europe for a brief period. Montessori returned to India for a second time the same year to conduct a few more courses in places like Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Karachi. The Montessoris then returned to Europe, leaving A.M. Joosten as their representative in India.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_in_India

If only I had known about the Montessori method back then, there’s a teacher’s training school in Pune itself, where I was living.

Finally, here are some extra pictures of my travels.

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A backwaters canoe ride in Kerala

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Chinese fishing nets at sunset in Kerala

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Krishna river Maharashtra.

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The Western Ghats Maharashtra

New School/Playroom

Our New School and Play Room

A while back I was just running out of space in our small playroom.  I said to my husband, “you know, it’s me and the kids that live in the house the majority of the time, you’re only home and up for a few hours.  It’d make more sense for daycare and home schooling to have the biggest room for us and the small back room for the living room”.  My husband agreed as long as there were no toys in the living room.  So we set about switching the rooms.  It was a large task as we decided to repaint the living room now to be playroom as it needed it.  So, lots more shelves, lots more space and also lots warmer (the back room was cold), also brighter and more centralized.  It’s perfect….well….almost….I’m always improving it some how.  And here are the pictures.  I’ll start on one side and go around the room to the right.

Montessori shelves

Montessori shelves

Montessori shelf

Montessori shelf

Montessori Shelves

Montessori Shelves

Music center

Music center

Toy shelves

Dresser holds art supplies with some world puzzle map and metal insets on top

Dresser holds art supplies with some world puzzle map and metal insets on top

Work table with Dinning room table and Pumpkins

Play kitchen

Play kitchen

Montessori shelf

Montessori shelf

Sound Boxes

In Montessori it’s important to teach the concept of sounds before teaching letters.  This is done with the I Spy game.  Pumpkin 1 loves letters and loves learning the names for everything.  Therefore she can already name most of her letters by their phonetic sound.  She loves playing with her foam letters in the bath.  Most of this she’s picked up just by playing and reading books and seeing letters around her on signs, clothing, toys, etc…, not by any formal teaching on my part.

Using objects is a great way to engage a child and helps to solidify concepts in the brain.

But in our new conception the view is taken that movement has great importance in mental development itself provided that the action which occurs is connected with the mental activity going on.  -Maria Montessori

It’s great to put together “sound boxes” made up of objects that begin with each sound in the English language, keeping in mind that there are more sounds than there are letters (for instance “sh” and “ch”).  The objects should correctly represent the sound.  For instance you wouldn’t use a sheep to represent the letter “s”.  You can usually find many little toys around the house or even purchase some “trinket” bags off of etsy.

Since Pumpkin 1 is young for letters and sounds, she doesn’t really understand the concept of “I Spy” yet, so instead I have her do sorting.  I pull out two draws and we go through each object and sort them.  I try to pick two letters that sound quite different.  “Puh” and “Buh” wouldn’t be a good idea for her to sort at this point of time.  It is still a little tricky for her but she loves it and asks to do it all the time.

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I store our objects in a tool cabinet.

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Here is an example of what is in our “c” drawer.

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Another option is to print off pictures instead of using objects.  This is an inexpensive alternative and great if you find the objects are a distraction for your child.

This book set is also a great way to do the I Spy game

What Did We Do All Day reviews these books and mentions how sometimes objects can be too distracting as the child wants to play with them.

http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.ca/2009/01/great-new-find.html

Here are some other blogs on Sound Boxes

http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.ca/p/sound-bins.html

http://makingmontessoriours.blogspot.ca/2011/08/letter-sound-bags.html

http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.ca/2011/06/sandpaper-sounds-and-sorts.html

http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.ca/2009/01/great-new-find.html

Glass cups? For a baby? You have got to be kidding me!

Maria Montessori taught about the importance of teaching children to do things for themselves.  She also stressed creating a beautiful environment full of beautiful things, often breakable.  She found that if a child was given something fragile, they were more careful with it than something that they could throw around and wouldn’t break.  Yes, glass cups and china plates will get broken by your child but your child will learn a lesson beyond the value of the dishes, he will learn that if he isn’t careful, it gets broken and is gone for good.  A child quickly learns to slow down and do things gently.

I must admit, I was against this at first.  I remember Pumpkin 1 throwing plates and cups on the floor, recently even flinging one on my lap.  I don’t really want to have to clean up glass as well as food and I worry that soon I’ll have a mobile baby that could find a sharp piece that I missed.  At the same time though, what Maria says makes sense.  We give our children all these cheap plastic dishes that look like their toys.  We don’t trust them and so they don’t learn to be careful.  In fact, I only started giving Pumpkin 1 an actual cup rather than a sippy cup this past week.  And she did spill it, in fact she dumped a cup of milk on her head trying to put it on the counter.  But she quickly learned how to use it properly.  She probably could have been using a cup for a long time if I had just let her.  I’m also introducing solids to Pumpkin 2 who is 7 months and I’ve decided to be more “Montessori” about it, so he’s getting a glass cup.

I started off with a trip to the Dollar Store.  For Pumpkin 2 I got some shot glasses which are the perfect size for little hands.  For Pumpkin 1 I got some glass cups, her own small mug, some ceramic bowls (two are Ramkin cups) and a little pitcher (a mini measuring cup).

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Shot glasses – perfect size for babies

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Glass cup and mug for Pumpkin 1

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Ramkin bowls are a great toddler size and so pretty.

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A larger ceramic bowl for cereal.

After I got home I let her experiment with the pitcher and a glass cup.  She loved pouring the water between the two.  It did make a big mess but water is easy to clean up.  I think pouring seems to be a sweet spot in learning for her.  I’m going to try to give her more opportunities to pour.

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She likes pouring herself water and milk to drink in the glass cup.  She liked the little bowls but had a melt down because I used the green one for Pumpkin 2’s food and she decided she wanted it.

For Pumpkin 2, with introducing solids I’m doing a mixture of Baby-led weaning and the Montessori approach.  I don’t have a weaning table so he sits in his high chair.  He hasn’t been too sure what to do with food yet but he’s starting to figure it out.  I’ll put a little food on a spoon and put it close to his mouth and let him take over.  It’s messy but he’s learning to feed himself.  Baby-led weaning is giving the solid food, not purees and letting them feed themselves.  He hasn’t really figured that out yet, we’ll keep trying.  Both my children’s first food was avocado.

And so, we’re on a new and exciting (yet messy) path.

Here is a video of a 9 month old eating and drinking – such independence!

What Materials Should I Get for my Preschooler?

This is the difficult question for all parents starting out in Montessori.  There are so many materials and they can be quite expensive.  Do I need them all?  Can I substitute something else?  What can I make myself?  Why do I need that material?  It can be so hard to decide.  First off I recommend reading David Gettman’s “Basic Montessori”.  When you have an understanding of what the purpose of each material is, you’ll be better able to decide what you need now and what can wait and what you can skip.

There are lots of DIY ideas online for Montessori materials.  For me, however, I just don’t have the time to make things.  I don’t have time to go shopping to find the materials to make them, and then I don’t have time to put them together, and maybe it’s just because I’m in Canada, but often it costs the same, if not more, to make it myself.  And then what usually happens is I’m not happy with the result and I wind up purchasing what I tried to make and I’m out the money I spent trying to do it myself.  So I tend to purchase.  If you have the time and skill to make things yourself, go ahead, just don’t under-estimate the amount of time it’ll take and the expense.

So, what should you buy for your little preschooler?  Well here’s Pumpkins and Me’s must have Montessori list: (Links to my favourite Canadian site to purchase from IFIT in the headings)

Knobbed Cylinder Blocks: If you have a 2-3 year old, these are a big hit.  Heck, even I love doing them.  They not only stimulate spacial recognition, the knobs help children learn proper pencil grip.  I don’t recommend the Mini Cylinder blocks because they’re too easy. Your child will figure them out quickly.  If you can’t afford the whole set, Montessori Outlet sells them individually.  Blocks 1 & 3 change by height and width, blocks 2 & 4 change by just one aspect, either height or width.  Blocks 2 & 4 are more challenging than 1 & 3.  If you can, especially if you have a little one, get the whole set.

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Pink Tower:  This is another must have in my book.  Now you might be wondering why you can’t just use plastic nesting and stacking blocks or the like.  With the Pink Tower a child can feel the difference in weight between the blocks.  Also they’re all one colour so there is nothing to distract from the sensory learning experience of size.  Also the sensory materials tend to be in groups of 10 to start awareness of number grouping.

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Knobless Cylinders There are so many things that can be done with the Knobless Cylinders.  Each box contains 10 cylinders of varying heights and widths.  They can be combined into so many patterns and there are many extensions that can be printed off to use with them.  However they aren’t introduced until Period 5 in Gettman, but I use them with my 2 year old, they’re a little advanced for her but a 3 year old would have no problem with them.

Geometric Solids:  These are a wonderful sensory experience for children.  My 2 year old likes to match them with the bases.  She’s learned the names of most of them already too.  There are other sets out there that are cheaper.  Here’s some from Scholar’s Choice.  However, like the Pink Tower, I think it’s best if they’re all one colour.  Also, keep in mind that the Nomenclature cards usually depict the blue Montessori shapes.

Geometric Cabinet: This is an expensive purchase but I feel it’s an important one.  You could try making your own out of foam board but I think it’d be a tricky task.  This material has so many uses.  A puzzle, learning shapes, the knobs are good preparation for pencil holding and as the child learns to trace around the shapes and the frames with their finger they’re preparing for tracing the metal insets.  Also, if you can’t afford the metal insets, you can have your child trace the insets in the Geometric Cabinet if you’re ok with them getting marked up a bit.  The Geometric Demonstration Tray is sold separately, so you might want to get it as well, though it isn’t really necessary.  For $5 you might want to consider getting the Control Chart as some of those names of triangles are tricky.

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Binomial Cube: This isn’t something that you can easily make yourself and you’re not really going to find anywhere else.  It’s important for developing the child’s visual perception of three dimensional patterns.

Red Rods: These wouldn’t be too hard to make yourself.  I was going to get my husband to make them but I was sent them by mistake and decided to pay to keep them.  They are quite big but I think that makes the sensory experience that much more interesting.  I was tempted to purchase just the Number Rods but the lines would distract from the sense of length.  Numbers aren’t introduced until Period 3 in Gettman so I’d recommend getting the Red Rods.  There is also small Number Rods available, so you could save money by getting them instead of the large ones.  If you’re lacking in space I’d recommend getting the Rod Stand as well.

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Sandpaper Numbers: These aren’t introduced until Period 4 in Gettman so they’re something you can wait on.  They wouldn’t be too difficult to make yourself.  I don’t recommend the Sandpaper materials from Montessori Outlet.  They put some type of glue on the wood and cover it with coarse sand.  It’s sheds like crazy, making a mess, and feels terrible, it’s just too coarse.  The sandpaper materials for IFIT and Affordable Montessori are much nicer.

Sandpaper Letters: These are an important material for learning.  Combining touch with learning cements it in the brain.  You want to teach the lower case letters first so don’t purchase the Upper Case letters until later.  Also, you’ll need to decide if you want to teach cursive or print.  Cursive is usually taught in traditional Montessori but nowadays many schools and parents teach print.  I have heard it’s a read chore to make these yourself but you could try.  Affordable Montessori has a mini set in print of both lower and upper case.  Here’s a different option from IFIT that has number and letters but it looks like they are groved into wood rather than sandpaper letters, but they would serve the same purpose.  There is also a set on Amazon.ca

Sandpaper & Colour Globes:  These is also difficult to make yourself, but there are several DIY tutorials on the net.  This is introduced in Period 1 in Gettman.  The one on IFIT is said to be not good quality.  I have the Sandpaper globe from Affordable Montessori and it looks very similar and the quality seems fine to me.  The children really like to feel the globe.  In Montessori the continents each have a colour that is used on the puzzles and the globe so that is why you might want to consider having the Montessori globe rather than a regular one.  If money is tight, just get the Sandpaper Globe.

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Moveable Alphabet:  This isn’t introduced until Period 4, after the I Spy game and the Sandpaper letters are completed.  Why the Moveable alphabet rather than just magnetic letters?  Because the Movable Alphabet comes with multiples of each letter so the child can write words.  Writing comes before reading in Montessori.  Also there is the option of cursive letters.  This is something that you can wait to get.  Montessori Outlet offers the letters separate from the box so you can save money, but I recommend getting a box as it allows you to store the letters sorted so your child isn’t frustrated trying to find the letter he wants.  However, you might be able to find other storage options.  I haven’t reached this stage yet but I think you’d only need the lower case.  By the time your child is using upper case they will most likely be writing on their own.  Another option is to print out multiples of each letter and laminate them or purchase this.

What about all the other materials?

Brown Stair:  This is expensive and not necessary, though there are a lot of extensions you can do combining the Brown Stair and Pink Tower.  If you can afford it, it’s nice to have.  If you can’t, then you’ll be fine without it.

Spindle Box: This is one thing I made my own version of.  Read about it here.  There are also lots of other DIY ideas on line.  Another option that I actually like better and is great for younger ones is this from Scholar’s Choice.

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Colour Boxes: There are tons of colour activities you can do with objects around the house or make from paint chips that this is defiantly one area you can skip purchasing.  If you did want to purchase, IFIT has a Box 4 that can be used for grading shades and matching colours.

Metal Insets: Definitely not necessary but they’re really nice.  You could instead have your child trace the shapes in the Geometric Cabinet or get some stencils to trace.  If you can afford it, I’d get them.  Montessori Outlet sells them without the stands so you can get them for a little less.

Touch Tablets, Thermic Tablets, Baric Tablets, Sound boxes:  First off, my feeling is that these are great in a classroom, but not necessary at home.  There are so many daily experiences you can give your child without these.  Feeling ice cubes, feeling how heavy things are, talking about soft, smooth, rough toys, different sounds, etc… Also it’s not too hard to make your own touch Tablets and Sound boxes.

Bells: Music as been shown to expand brain development.  If you can have your child be part of music classes that’d be great.  My daughter is going to start piano lessons around 4 or 5.  Montessori bells are really expensive but I’m planning to do what the mother at What Did We Do All Day blog did.  I purchased my bells from Scholar’s Choice.  If you can’t afford it, do make sure music is a part of your day.

Dressing Frames:  I have these but I don’t find them practical because the way you do up snaps and buttons and zippers on a frame is different than when you do it on yourself.  If you know someone who can sew, these are a much better option.  Or just teach them with their clothes.

Construtive Triangles: The blue ones are not too expensive if you want to purchase them.  My plan is to make them out of foam.

Mystery Bag:  At $12 it’s quite affordable, but at the same time you could make your own with objects around the house.

Map Puzzles: These are quite large.  You can easily make a world map out of felt.  Here’s an awesome one I’d love to make if I had the time from Imagine Our Life.  The advantage to the wood puzzle is that the child can trace the pieces to make their own maps.  If you can afford it, get the World Puzzle.

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Zoology and Botany Puzzles: These are quite affordable, so if you’re looking for some more complicated puzzles for your child, you might want to get a few.  Otherwise they’re used for teaching parts of the animal and plants in Period 3.  I think a child can learn just as well with Nomenclature cards and growing beans in a glass jar.

Botany Cabinet:  Not necessary.  You could easily use cards to teach classification by leaf and have a child trace the geometric cabinet frames with a cuticle stick.

Land and Water Form Trays and Sandpaper Cards:  The trays can be made with Plasticine in plastic trays.  If you can afford it and want something more lasting then I’d purchase them.  The kids really love them.  The sandpaper cards are easy to make yourself.

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Trays, Jugs, and Practical Skills:  These are best bought at places like the Dollar Store, Target or even at Thrift Stores.

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Philosophy Part 2

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.

What is Learning?

“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 Playroom

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.

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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.

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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.

Great sites for inspiration

http://theimaginationtree.com/

http://www.playathomemomllc.com/

These two sites have tons of great activities you can do with children from babies to preschool.  They’re  more in the Reggio Emilia school of thought on education but they compliment the Montessori activities.

When I decided I wanted to do Montessori with my children, I was overwhelmed.  There are so many materials (expensive ones too) and ideas that I didn’t know where to begin.  What activities do I focus on with my daughter?  What materials should I purchase?  What ones can I make?  I didn’t know where to start.  But I found this “curriculum” (if that’s the right word for it) http://www.montessoriathomebook.com/Home.html/  I ordered the e-book (at only $10)  and it’s AMAZING!  It has everything I was looking for.  The philosophy of Maria Montessori, what I should buy, what activities to do at what age, other materials that are great, books, even aps to download for children.  And tons and tons and tons of DIY activities.  There are also links to blogs and stores.  I highly recommend it for anyone who is thinking of doing Montessori at home.

This morning we played with the Magnetic Mighty Mind.  It’s great for working on shapes and matching.  I like the magnetic set because the pieces stay in place for little hands.  I gave her a cookie sheet to play on.  The set comes in a tin and you can put the cards in the lid and work on it as well.  I was surprised because last time she played with it she didn’t get the matching concept, but today she was doing it.

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