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Spokane Valley Montessori School November 5, 2017

23167903_10210495617410259_5693371300634601430_n23316555_10210495617490261_756158605853610551_nAs a Montessori Teacher, it is a great joy to be invited into another Montessori environment.  Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to spend a day at Spokane Valley Montessori School.  I was presenting a training for Montessori Assistant Teachers, sponsored by the International Association for Montessori Education, a new Teacher Education Program forming in Spokane, Washington.  Gwen, the owner of Spokane Valley Montessori School, graciously allowed us the use of her fabulous school for the day!  Wow!  What a perfect setting for assistant teachers to practice and see the importance of the prepared environment.  The school is gorgeous, spotlessly clean, filled with beauty and light, and everything is in its place and ready for use by the children.  Gwen has been involved in Montessori education for forty years, and Montessori education is her passion!

The building was purpose built for a Montessori School, so sinks, toilets, etc., are all just the right size for the children.  The rooms are filled with natural light from the big picture windows.  On the day I visited, snow was falling.  I could just imagine the excitement of the children gathered at the windows watching the first snow of this winter.  Magical!  I could imagine the children watching the birds flock to the feeder.  How lovely for children to be so connected to the outdoors, even when inside.  I also loved the direct access to the outdoors from the classroom.

I really loved the seasonal work offered to the children.  You could see the colors and shapes of the season all through the environment – napkins for folding in greens, oranges, reds and browns, napkin rings shaped like leaves, pumpkin work, corn work, fall colors on offer at the easel, seasonal books . . .


The rooms were really spacious, with lots of floor space for big works.  All of the classrooms had lots of practical life tools ready for the children to use, and lots of lovely cozy spaces, too!



I enjoyed the day so much!  We had teachers from five different schools – Spokane Valley Montessori, Spokane Falls Montessori, Spokane Montessori North, Children’s Montessori, Inc., and the Montessori School of Pullman.


We learned a lot from each other, and shared a delicious soup we cooked together, in a retelling of the story, ‘Stone Soup.’  Thanks once again, International Association for Montessori Education, and Spokane Valley Montessori School, for inviting me.  I send a special big thanks to Gwen, the owner, for sharing her beautiful school with the larger Montessori community.  Your school is an absolute gem!


Keeping it real! June 29, 2016


This summer I signed up to work for a month in our summer program, three weeks as a lead teacher and one week as an assistant.  I love this time.  I especially enjoy the 7:30 – 8:30 time, when I am greeting the children and involving them in setting up the class for the day ~ watering plants, emptying the dishwasher, prepping snack . . .

As an administrator, this time working in the classroom is a good reminder of the amount of energy it takes to run a class of twenty very inquisitive and energetic children.  I need a snack mid –morning for a burst of energy, and am so thankful that we serve such delicious and nutritious snacks.  Today I ate home-baked corn bread, and a fruit, granola and yoghurt parfait.

Our summer school requires a lot of our teachers ~ we have once or twice weekly field trips, lots of food prep, wet play days (supervising twenty children changing in and out of swim gear!) and many special events.

This time in the classroom is a great reminder for me of how amazing our teachers are!  Teachers, I salute you!  This time in the classroom keeps it real for me!


Mom’s Day, 2016 ~ An invitation to work May 6, 2016

Oh my goodness, today was a busy day at school, with our school  hosting three Moms’ Day teas!  I wear a fitbit, and today I tracked 19000 steps, almost eight miles and thirty flights of stairs! I took an hour nap when I got home today.  I know that I wasn’t the only one who was this busy.  Thanks, teachers.

The children were also very busy.  An event like this is an invitation to work ~ invitations and name cards to write, decorations to make, gifts to make and wrap, songs to learn, poems to write, flowers to arrange, furniture to move and rearrange, muffins to bake, strawberries to slice, tables to set, tea to pour and then a lot of clean up chores and dishes to wash.  I think of special events like our Moms’ Day teas as invitations to work ~ a joy filled opportunity to work hard for a specific purpose.

So far, it has all been very worthwhile ~ 100% turnout by Moms, lots of hugs, laughter, joy, love, excitement and special memories and traditions being made.

This is also building our school’s sense of community and traditions.


What Moms Can Do May 8, 2015


We recently celebrated Mom’s Day at school, and what an invitation to work this was for the children! Gifts to make and wrap, cards to draw and color, name tags to write, songs to learn, decorations to make for the windows and walls of the room, centerpieces of flowers to arrange, shortbread to bake, cream to whip and strawberries to slice, tables and chairs to carry and move, tables to set, and finally, lots of clean up. Our elementary aged students provided a lot of community service to the school by working as servers at the teas for the younger students and their Moms.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! One Mom told me that her child counted down the days until the tea. “Mom, only two days to go.” “Mom, only one more day!” He told his Mom that he wanted to dress up, including wearing his church shoes and tie, and asked Mom to dress up, too.  The children were all buzzing with excitement – and the Moms were, too!

The children were provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their grace and courtesy – remembering to say please and thank you, to pass the small bowls and plates of cookies, whipped cream and strawberries around the table, to use the tongs and small spoons for serving, to drink from china or glass tea cups. to take turns conversing . . .

One of our school’s values is ‘community.’ This was a true community effort, with all of the children, teachers and classes pitching in to help. And when I saw Moms and children lingering in the afternoon sun, sitting on benches outside of the school and conversing, I realized that the tea helps build community by providing parents an opportunity to meet and converse. The tea also builds our communal memory of shared events.

The children in the classes for 3 – 6 year olds even wrote two community poems. Each child contributed a line to the poem, based on ‘What Moms can do.” I love the way the children have captured the very essence of what it means to be a Mom ~ all of the love, caring, fun, learning, strength, responsibility, and yes, even vulnerability. For sure the poems show that the children are watching and appreciating what we do!


What Moms can do

By Aspen Class – spring 2015

Grocery shop

Feed me

Give me food

Pack lunches

Bake fish

Cook us breakfast

Make me pancakes

Bake yummy stuff

Clean the dishes

Take me to school

Take me to the park

The pirate park

The playground

Take me bowling with my family

Take me to Zeppoz for the very first time

Color with me


Tape my pictures up on the wall

Buy me new toys

Play with me

Build an igloo

Plant flowers

Snuggle me up in my bed

Snuggle with me


Tuck me in

Give me goodnight kisses

Take care of me when I am sick

Wake me up

Give me hugs

We thank you for all of the wonderful things you do!

Mom, I love you!

“What Moms Can Do”

Willow Classroom

Spring 2015

Sew and needle.

Knit me a scarf

Wash dishes

Clean the walls

Cook dinner

Make something that I want

Teach me how to write

Write things for me

Help me do arts and crafts

Play piano with me

Put on a show and put on music

Turn on “Rooftops step in time”

Play a game with me

Let me play with my toys

Wash the car on hot days

Pick up a couch with my dad

Ride her bike with a helmet

Put the recycling out

Use a pitchfork

Juggle anything

Some things are too heavy for her

My mom can get sick

My mom can come back to me

and she can kiss me

My mom can

My mom loves me

And I love my Mom!


Is St Nicholas real? What about Santa? December 6, 2014


Is. St. Nicholas real?

Is Santa Claus real?

Who brings the presents and fills the stockings?

Is Jesus real?

Children ask questions that are difficult to answer. I tend to start story telling, celebrations and debates with phrases such as:

  • This is what some people believe.
  • This is a story from long ago.
  • This is how some families celebrate.


As an example, today we celebrated the festival of Saint Nicholas. We looked at the world map and found Europe, and then looked at the map of Europe and found the Netherlands. We heard some facts about the real Saint Nicholas who lived a long long time ago. We learned that he was kind and generous, especially to the poor and hungry. We learned that he became a bishop, an important person in his church. We looked at a picture of how Bishop Nicholas might have looked and dressed long ago. We learned how people in the Netherlands remember Saint Nicholas on his feast day. The children leave out a boot, or shoe, or maybe even a clog (We have a pair of clogs that the children can try on!) on the Eve of his day, and then in the morning, on December 6th, the children look to see if Saint Nicholas has left them a treat – perhaps a small toy or something sweet to eat. We then left a boot outside the classroom door and waited for St. Nick to arrive and bring us a treat. Sure enough, he left each child a sweet treat – a cookie and a tiny candy cane. One of our children, from another European country, told us that St. Nicholas travels by boat – yet another tradition.


“But is he real?”

“Saint Nicholas was a real man. He was kind and generous, and liked to give people surprise gifts.”

“Is he still alive?”

“He lived a long, long time ago. We just remember him on his special day.”

“Does he still bring gifts?”


“Some families like to think that he does. Other families like to remember St. Nicholas by doing what he did – giving surprise gifts.”

And I am sure we will have similar discussions when we celebrate St. Lucia, and then on a later date take a ride on the Polar Express to the North Pole. The St. Lucia celebration follows a similar pattern to that of St. Nick. We’ll locate Sweden on the map, we’ll talk about what we know of the real St. Lucia who lived long ago, we’ll learn about how her feast day is celebrated in Sweden. We’ll dress up, share a special treat, enjoy candle light . . . and talk about celebrations in general.

When we act out ‘The Polar Express,’ we begin right at the start by saying that we are acting out a story. We talk about ‘acting’ and ‘pretend’, and how we will pretend that we are riding on a train, so we can imagine what that would be like. We will pretend that we are at the North Pole. Some children will get the chance to pretend to be elves, or Santa, and we will all get the chance to be part of the story and have a good time together. We’ll talk about traditions and celebrations some more.

And inevitably someone will ask, “Is Santa real?”

And again we will talk about family traditions and beliefs.

“In my family, the gifts under the Christmas tree are from our family, and Santa fills our stockings.”

“In our family, we give each other gifts at Christmas. We don’t believe in Santa.”

“In our family, we don’t get or give gifts. Christmas is about Jesus.”

“In our family, Santa brings the gifts under the tree and fills our stockings.”

“In our family, we get to open a gift on Christmas Eve.”

“You are all so right. Families celebrate in so many ways and have so many traditions. That’s what makes our family special. We share some special beliefs. Other families have their own special beliefs. What is important is that we know that most families like to celebrate and share special traditions, and that these celebrations are very special. It’s okay if other families believe something different. We can just say what our families believe without saying that what someone else’s family believes is wrong. I might say something like, “Oh, your family believes that the gifts under the tree are from Santa? Our family puts gifts from family members under the tree.”

So, hopefully you can use a similar technique when your child comes home in tears and says, “James said Santa is not real,” or something else that casts doubt on your family traditions or beliefs.

“James has family traditions that are different from ours. That’s okay. Every family is different. In our family tradition …..”

This is obviously much more of an issue as children grow into the kindergarten and elementary years. They tend to be more verbal, and very interested in debating and questioning. And they can be so passionate about their beliefs. These debates open up an opportunity for me, that I will take on Monday, to talk to our K/1 students about respecting other people’s beliefs and traditions. As a parent, you can also use these moments to talk about your family traditions and that it is okay for others to have different traditions and beliefs.


And now a confession ~ I wrote letters from Santa to my children until they were well into their twenties. One Christmas Eve I was just so tired, I didn’t write the letter. Everyone was so sad, but understood. It had been a lovely tradition, and one I hope will be brought back to life if and when we have grandchildren!


Traditions, celebrations, beliefs . . . they are all part of what makes us human!


St. Lucia


The Children’s House, Lewiston, Idaho January 21, 2014

Filed under: Community Building,Montessori education,Preparing the environment — bevfollowsthechild @ 11:26 pm

Megan'sclassToday I visited the Montessori Children’s House in Lewiston.  This school opened in 2011 (I think), just over two years ago, by Ms. Megan Chavez, a former teacher at our school, the Montessori School of Pullman.  I could not be more proud of Megan.  I feel almost like her Mom – that’s how proud I am!  Already she has outgrown her first building, expanded to add a half day primary option and an elementary program, and has plans for future expansion to include upper elementary.  WOW!

Sometimes people ask about competition.  Were we worried when a Montessori school opened in Moscow or when Megan opened her new school in Lewiston?  The honest answer is that we welcome the fact that Montessori education and options are growing in our community.  Montessori education is just too good to be kept a secret or a privilege for a lucky minority.  We want to see and work towards more opportunities for more children!  We look forward to collaborating, hosting conferences, and special events for parents.

So, what are three things I really loved about the Children’s House in Lewiston?

I loved the location!  The school has easy access to a park for nature studies, PE, and play.  There is a bandshell for impromptu and scheduled performances.  From the playground, you can see the river, train tracks, eagles and osprey flying overhead, tall evergreens . . .  The school is close to the college and the hospital, making it convenient for many parents.  The new public library is, at most, five minutes walk away from the school.

I loved the building.  The school is in an historic building ~ the former library, I think.  It is quirky, large, and has a lot of character.  There are beautiful windows in all of the classrooms.  The central area is a great gathering and multi-purpose space.  I can see how much effort the teachers have put into making the school a beautiful and attractive space for children – nice colors on the wall, photos of families in the entrance hall, fresh flowers, fossils on the window ledges of the elementary classroom, framed art prints, a bead cabinet made by a teacher (Again, WOW!)

I loved the welcome we received, from a cup of coffee on arrival to a few of the elementary girls singing me their favorite songs from the movie ‘Frozen.’  This means a lot to me.  When visitors feel welcome, I know that the school is a warm, caring place, just like a home.


So, what exactly is Montessori Education – three answers short enough to give in an elevator! August 20, 2013

number rolls 1

What exactly is an elevator speech?  It really just means a very short, prepared speech you can use when someone asks you a question such as, “What exactly is Montessori education?”  When someone asks you this question in an elevator, you usually only have about a minute to answer before one of you reaches your floor.  If you don’t have something prepared, a golden opportunity can be lost as you mumble either jargon (sensitive periods, normalization, prepared environment) or an answer involving catch phrases such as ‘whole child’ or ‘hands on.’  Or even worse, “It’s too difficult to explain.”

So, here’s my first attempt at an elevator speech, using an analogy, describing Montessori education in terms of something else.

Person in the elevator notices my name tag for the Montessori conference . . . or someone asks where I work . . . or someone asks where my children went to school . . . or . . . leading to

“So, what exactly is Montessori education?”

“You know how if you only offer your child nutritious food, and no junk food or empty calories, whatever your child chooses to eat will be good for him, and help him grow strong and healthy?  Well, Montessori education is like that, only for the whole child.  Montessori education offers your child so many choices of activities, but whatever he chooses, you can be sure that it will help him develop and reach his full potential, because there are no activities that are just filling in time, no junk activities . . . You might enjoy seeing for yourself a whole class of children, working on their own or with a friend or in a small group, all focused on activities they have chosen for themselves, based on their own interests.  Montessori classrooms are filled with happy, interested, engaged children.  If you call your local Montessori school, I’m sure you could arrange a visit.  Oh, this is my floor.  Bye.”

number roll 2Elevator speech, take two – telling a story.

“So, what exactly is Montessori education?”

“Oh, I love Montessori education so much, I don’t know where to start.  I know, I’ll tell you a story about a real girl in one of our Montessori classes.  She loved counting and numbers, and one day I watched her start writing a number roll.  She took out one bead and wrote the number one on her roll of paper, followed by two beads and the number two, and so on until a few days later she had written to over a hundred, and then she told me that she could write numbers all by herself, without the beads.  She’d figured out how our decimal system works.  Well, she continued writing her number roll off and on all year, writing into the thousands.  Her number roll grew enormous!  It stretched further than the length of a long hallway or across the playground.  This little girl told me, “I could write numbers for ever, couldn’t I?  Numbers never end!”

This pre-kindergarten child, using the Montessori math materials had just built for herself a deep understanding of the concept of infinity, and she was so excited about her discovery.  I think that’s really cool . . . Oh, I could tell you so many stories like that, but I think it would be even better to see for yourself.  Here’s my card . . . contact me, and come visit, please.  Oh, gotta go . . . this is my floor.”

number roll 3Elevator speech, take three – talking about the differences

“So, what makes Montessori so special?” or “Why did you choose a Montessori school for your children?”

“Well, I wanted my children to be able to be who they were meant to be.  At Montessori, they get to make choices for themselves and develop at their own pace.  They are unique individuals at Montessori . . not just part of a herd, being moved en masse from one activity to the next, whether they are ready to move on or not.  They go to the bathroom and eat snack on their own schedule.  The children and teachers enjoy being together in the classroom and talk to one another like real people!  I’d love it if you took a look at our Montessori School and let me know what you think.”

Maybe you won’t be asked the question in an elevator, but another parent might ask you a similar question in the grocery store, or at the swimming pool or at the park.  Please take a moment to think how you might answer.  Only 3% of children attend a Montessori school, and I hope you agree that Montessori Education is too worthwhile for children to be kept a secret!  I encourage you to think of a story you might tell, or perhaps talk about what you noticed on a visit, or what your child has been learning about, and please end with an invitation to take a tour.  I love showing off our wonderful school.


Visiting Childlife Montessori School in Bellingham, WA April 7, 2013


I love to visit other Montessori Schools.  Other schools provide the joy of seeing the familiar . . . “Oh look, there’s the pink tower” . . . with novel ideas that can inspire you to introduce new lessons and activities in your own school.  Recently I visited Childlife Montessori School in Bellingham, and was welcomed with a big hug and beaming smile from Kathie Wilson, the founder and owner of the school.  It was spring break, so I could not watch the classroom in action, but instead enjoyed an hour long, one-on-one visit with Kathie.

Some big ideas quickly emerged from our conversation and my observation of the environment.  Number one was the strong feelings of love, joy and family.  Kathie and her husband run the school together, with the assistance of their daughter, who has grown up in the school and will soon be a lead teacher.  Throughout the years, the husband and wife team have shared duties, allowing them both time to be lead teacher and to assist one another, to parent their children, while also leaving time for their other passions and interests.  They live next door – what a wonderful commute!  Steve Wilson has also built the shelves and much of the furniture for the school.  The school is part of who they are as a family and reflects their lifestyle.

warm spaceNumber two big idea was the passion for practical life.  Not only were there many shelves devoted to practical life activities, but the school also had a woodworking shed, with child sized woodworking bench and tools, a large garden for growing vegetables to be donated to the local food bank and also animals, chickens and rabbits, that needed care.  That’s a lot of invitations to work.

Number three big idea was the sharing of passions, interests and talents.  Kathie has visited Kenya, and the children were involved in a study of life in Kenya.  Steve is a skilled carpenter, and shares his love of woodworking with the third year students.  Daughter Hannah is skilled in sign language, and teaches sign language to the children.  Sign language is included on the peace pole at the entrance area to the school, showing its importance as a way to communicate.

Number four big idea is the love of the outdoors.  The school is situated on an acre of wooded property.  The classroom is surrounded by windows, so even inside, one feels in touch with the natural environment just outside.  The use of natural materials inside, especially wood, reminds us of the trees outside.

sinksNow on to the small details I loved.  The side by side sinks near the snack area are so wonderful and useful.  Children in a Montessori classroom wash their hands frequently and there is a constant need for water for many of the activities – food preparation, washing, painting, land and water forms, taking care of plants . . .  I imagine friends enjoy washing hands side by side before eating snack together at the snack table built for two!

I loved a long, low window that overlooked the woods.  Kathie told me that in the winter this area is set up as a bird watching station, with bird feeders just outside the window, a table and chair for one child, small binoculars and bird identification charts.  How wonderful!

Who could drive by the school and not notice the eye-catching rainbow boat?  This boat was donated to the school, and fixed up by one of the parents over one summer.  I’m sure it now provides inspiration for so many games on the playground.  The boat also reflects the importance of the Puget Sound to Bellingham.  In Bellingham, you are never far away from water and boats.rainbow

Now I am inspired to look at our own school, the Montessori School of Pullman, and wonder what are our big picture ideas and small details that make us who we are!


Looking forward to the kindergarten year March 9, 2013


The Three Year Cycle

Now is the time that parents make plans for their children who are five, and about to enter the kindergarten year.  I always hope that our parents will consider including the Montessori School of Pullman into their plans for their children’s future.

The three year cycle is so important to a Montessori program.  Children aged 3 – 6 work together in an environment prepared especially for them by their teachers, according to the Montessori philosophy.  Each year, about a third of the students graduate out of the program, and we accept new students to join in the community, beginning in August, or even earlier, in summer school.

What is so special about this third year?  Well, your child’s teacher knows your child and family so well.  The teacher has watched your child grow and develop, knows your child’s interests, strengths and challenges.  The teacher is well prepared to guide your child to make great academic and social strides during this year.  During this third year, with help and encouragement from the teacher, the third year students take their rightful place as classroom leaders.

Whenever I am observing the children working together, some of my favorite moments are seeing one of our oldest students interacting with one of our younger students.  It may be showing a lesson, helping a younger child complete a work, reading to a younger child, helping a younger child get ready for outside play, or something as simple as giving a gentle reminder to use a Kleenex or a napkin.

Our third year students develop excellent self esteem, leadership skills and empathy from this third year.  That’s a positive outcome of the three year cycle.  If all of the children are the same age, it is difficult for every child to be a leader.  With different ages, all of our older children have at least one child who looks up to them.  I remember hearing one of our three year olds tell a kindergartener, “When I get big, I want to be just like you.”  The child receiving this compliment visibly grew and shone before my eyes!

At the Montessori School of Pullman we are lucky to have so many options for the five year olds.  Some five year olds come to Montessori alone, either for a half or full day, and then will go directly into first grade.  Other five year olds are dual enrolled in our school and the Pullman School District.  They come to us either in the morning or afternoon, and spend the other part of their day in the Public School Kindergartens.  A school bus transports  the children between the two schools.  Several parents have commented that they really like the dual enrollment.  Their children have the support of the familiar as they transition into the public school system.  Of course, several parents each year also express their hope for a Montessori elementary in the future.

Parent-teacher conferences are coming soon at our school, and I suspect, in many preschools around the country.  Your child’s teacher can be an excellent resource for talking through this important decision.  The teacher can help you answer questions such as: Is my child ready for kindergarten?  How can I help my child make the transition?  What are the options available in my child’s community?

DSCN2681I remember seeing the exact moment a set of parents made the decision to enroll their daughter into our school.  A younger child was watching an older child build a challenging design.  The older child whispered something to the younger child, and the younger child literally jumped for joy.  The older child had invited the younger child to join in the work.  The parents turned to me and said, “I want my child to be like that young child, so excited, and I also want my child to be that big kid, so kind and accepting of a younger child.  He really made that young kid’s day!”

With the three year cycle, your child can experience it all, from looking up to the big kids . . . to being one of the big kids!

In this photo, one of our older students leads circle time songs and activities.

Above photo – Academic success with the moveable alphabet for reading and writing.


Montessori beginnings February 2, 2013

Please keep your fingers crossed for a great start to our new program!

Last Wednesday, our new families visited the classroom.  We were so impressed by how many extended families showed up – the child, plus siblings and parents, and sometimes grandparents.  We will celebrate families in our new classroom by including family photographs from each child.  These photographs will be excellent conversation starters with our new students, and a comfort to the children.  A little bit of each child’s home culture will be included in their classroom.

Last Thursday and Friday, the children visited the classroom again, but this time in small groups.  We hung up our belongings, changed from outdoor to indoor shoes, listened to a story, sang songs, practiced rolling and unrolling rugs, chose work, returned work to the right place on the shelf, washed hands, served snack and poured water, visited the gym for gross motor play (running, playing chase, playing with balls, climbing and rolling), tried out the new bathroom (the smallest and cutest toilet ever!) and by 11:00, we were all tired.  So many new experiences!

Monday and Tuesday will both be big days.  Children will attend school without their parents.  We hope the previous preparation days (family visits and small group sessions) will help make for a smooth transition, but we are still expecting a few tears – from children and parents!


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