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The Power of Work February 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 8:03 pm
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Today was a difficult morning for one of our children.  The lead teacher in his classroom was absent, and so the morning just felt different, and what this child likes is the familiar and the routine.  Change is difficult.

Sometimes when a child is having a difficult morning, it can be helpful to find a legitimate reason for the child to engage in big work.  This can even be outside of the classroom. Removing the child from the classroom in a kind way can allow the other children in the classroom to settle, while big works can help the child to feel useful and helpful.  Gross motor activities can help a child use up excess energy.

Today the child and I got a lunchroom ready for lunch.  We took down all of the chairs and set them under the table, ready for the children.  Then we emptied the recycling bins, which also allowed us to go outside in the cool, damp air.  That felt so good.  Next, after all of our work, we had to give our hands a good scrub and wash.  Playing in the water helped the child to relax.  Other big work activities that can serve the same purpose include emptying the trash, washing windows or walls, raking leaves, shoveling snow, digging in the garden, watering plants, scrubbing tables.  Some children enjoy collecting the mail, or distributing mail to cubbies.

The same sort of activities can also help at home.  Other big work activities can be emptying the dirty laundry hampers, emptying or loading the dishwasher, stacking groceries, helping to make the beds, sweeping a floor.

This really makes sense to me.  As an adult, can you imagine how good it would feel if you were angry to clean a rug the old fashioned way ~ with a rug beater.  As an adult, activities like chopping or stacking wood, or raking leaves or kneading bread by hand can be rhythmic and soothing.  So can going for a run or a long walk!

It’s something to keep in mind when your child next seems out of sorts, agitated, unhappy or restless.  Put the big muscles to work to calm the mind and soul!

One school  I visited had a selection of weights in the classroom.  The children could carry these weights around the classroom, or exercise with the weights.  I bet they fulfilled some of the same need as big work ~ the need to work off excess energy and engage our big muscles.  I would love to have a set of weights like this for use by the children.  If anyone has used weights in the classroom, I would love to hear from you.



The Absorbent Mind December 3, 2014



If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

These are some of the qualities I hope surround our children at school ~ kindness, consideration, security and friendliness!

Babies are amazing!  They are born without culture or language, but with a built in sensitivity to faces, language and a mind that is able to absorb through sensory impressions.  Montessori called this ‘the absorbent mind.’   The absorbent mind allows the baby to adapt and fit in to whatever environment surrounds the baby.

Babies are born with the capacity to make all sounds of all languages, but through repetition and feedback, the sounds of the baby’s mother tongue are strengthened, and sounds that the baby does not hear, are repeated less and soon fall out of the infant’s regular babbling.  If the baby hears ‘ba, ba, ba’, or ‘ma, ma, ma’ or ‘da, da, da’, those are the sounds the baby repeats.  When these sounds get a response, then the baby repeats them again.  This is how the baby builds his or her ability to make the sounds of his or her mother tongue, and then is able to form words and simple sentences.

Similarly, through absorbing what goes on around him or her, the baby picks up appropriate body language and facial expressions for his or her culture.  Food preferences, musical tastes, favorite activities, use of eating utensils, such as forks or chopsticks, are all picked up from the baby’s environment.

The absorbent mind is such a wonderful tool for survival and adaptation, and allows babies to learn so much and at such a rapid pace.  Just think what a child learns in the first five years of life.  Yet, it also comes at a price.  Because babies learn, rather than rely on instinct, they are far more dependent on their parents for a longer period of time.  Their environments play such a big role in their development, too.  Babies and children learn what they live!

This poem says it so well!

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte






Developmental Milestones February 12, 2014

Filed under: Child Development — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:39 pm
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Where can I find information about a child’s normal development between the ages of birth to six?

DSCN2074Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones.  Children develop at different rates and reach these milestones at different ages.   While children develop according to their own inner timetables, opportunity to try out and practice new skills also play a part.  A baby confined to a car seat for long periods of the day will not have as much opportunity to stretch, wriggle, kick, reach, and eventually roll over, crawl and begin cruising around the furniture, as a baby who has time to play on her tummy or lay on her back on a blanket on the floor.  As they grow, children need opportunities to run, throw and catch a ball, climb, jump, use crayons and pencils and paint, look at books, listen to stories, listen and talk with others, take care of their personal needs, make choices, contribute to the family by helping . . .  Children develop according to their own inner timetables and the opportunities provided by their environments.

So how do you know what to expect from your child and when?

Here are some of my favorite, easy-to-use guides to developmental milestones in the areas of thinking, social skills, listening, talking and movement, small and large muscle development, vision and hearing skills.

Learn the Signs.  Act Early.  You can click on an age and read the milestones.  You can click on the next age your child will reach, and be prepared for the next stage!

The Baby Center also has lots of information and short videos about developmental milestones.  The videos show the importance of tummy time for babies, for example.  You can even use the site to keep a record of your child’s developmental milestones.

What if I have concerns about my child’s development?

If you have a concern, it’s best to bring your concern to your child’s health care provider a.s.a.p.   Perhaps there is nothing to worry about, and if so, you can be reassured.  If there is a concern about your child’s health or development, then the sooner the problem is identified, the sooner your child and family can receive support and services to help your child reach his or her full potential.

A personal story~ I was so glad that I discussed with our pediatrician my concern that our toddler was not babbling or starting to say words.   It would have been easy to just blame it on her older sister doing all of the talking for her!  However, it turned out our toddler had lots of fluid build up in her ears.  It was as if she was hearing under water!  Once we addressed the problem with her ears (fluid, constant ear infections, a burst ear drum), she blossomed into language.  Thank goodness we got help when we were first concerned.  Otherwise, our toddler might have missed out on some important years for language development.  (Our ‘toddler’ is now in her thirties, and a language maestro!)

Please ask if you have any concerns!  Babies, toddlers and young children can’t wait!

Boost Collaborative (509 332 4420) provides free and confidential screenings for children birth to three, and support services for families, for the whole of Whitman County, Washington State.


For children over the age of three, check with your local school district for screening services.


Independence – what does it look like in your child? September 22, 2013

This month the teachers and I have been focusing on  the development of independence in our children.  In the upcoming newsletter we will soon publish, we have included examples of what independence looks like in a two year old, all the way up to our big six year olds, and how the Montessori environment supports the development of independence.


When I saw this photograph, as part of a whole sequence of photographs taken by my daughter on a recent backpacking trip, I began to think about what independence looks like in adults.  I have three adult children, aged mid-twenties to early thirties, all Montessori school graduates.  They are all strong independent thinkers, enjoying a good debate, whether in a class or around the kitchen table.  Independence means you are not a follower.

My middle child is an avid explorer, enjoying backpacking in the wilderness, and traveling independently within the USA and abroad.  She is a confident traveler, whether by foot, bike, kayak, and just recently, by sailing.  Aware of her environment, respectful of the weather, animals, other people, she is confident of her skills.  That’s all part of independence – respect, awareness and confidence.

Of course, just like parents of younger children, independence in our children can cause us anxiety!  I worry about my child getting into difficulties on the Pacific Crest Trail, just as you worry when you see your child handling a knife, or scissors, or carrying a real glass.  We don’t want our children to get hurt.  But trust me, our children are capable of so much, and by giving them the gift of independence, we encourage them to live their lives to their full potential.


Repetition September 12, 2013

Filed under: Repetition — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:03 pm
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Parents ask the best questions!

“My daughter keeps bringing home the same work.  Is that okay?”

This parent has noticed a key concept of Montessori education – the desire in the child for repetition.

Do you remember your child learning how to walk?  No matter how many times he or she fell down, your child persevered until walking was mastered.   There was a lot of repetition!

That’s the same attitude that makes your child want to persevere and repeat cutting work, or counting to 100, or tracing his or her name.  Your child will repeat the work until it is mastered.  Once a child reaches mastery, the work no longer is interesting or appealing, and the child’s attention moves on to a new activity.

We still go through the same process when we are older.  Learning to drive a car takes a lot of repetition, for example.  If we try to learn a new skill, such as surfing, playing the guitar, playing tennis, we would find that one lesson and one practice session is just not enough for us to master the new skill.  And, with any new activity that is appealing to us, we would be excited to practice, to try and try again, and to work towards improving our skills.  For our children, there are so many activities that are new and exciting, and they will practice these activities over and over again.  Just watch them grow and improve!

Parents – please do post a question and I’ll do my best to answer.  I bet other parents are wondering about the same concepts as you.


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.


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!


Where we are from November 14, 2012

As the children sang, “We’ve got the whole world in our hands,” I was reminded that Maria Montessori aimed to let the children hold the whole world in the palm of their hands, through a rich, cultural experience.  I also remembered sitting at a lunch table as three children discussed how they said ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in their languages.  All of the children involved in the conversation spoke several languages.  That has been the case in every Montessori school I have taught in or visited.  Cultural diversity and richness is the norm.  Tonight, at our International Feast, sampling foods from around the world, seeing the word ‘welcome’ written in many languages, hearing people at the microphone welcome everyone in their languages, I was reminded once again of the richness of the Montessori experience for children.

This year we also wrote a poem online, as a community endeavor, suggesting images from our backgrounds.  I put some of the images together in a poem, and share it here.

One of my favorite moments of the International feast (bringing it home and making it personal!)  –  One of our children came to the microphone after the others had finished saying ‘welcome’ in their languages and said,

“And in Pullman, we say, “Hello.”

Please say, “Hello” to parents and children you meet in our hallways.  It’s a simple way to make our school a more welcoming and community minded school.

We are from . . .

silk dresses




T-shirts and blue jeans

from shipyards and rain

a one room house

a bed shared with a sister

a home filled with love and opinions

from bare feet playing outdoors

from bamboo and pomegranate

turnips, tatties and leeks

from saffron and rice

from a young maple

and the crab apple

whose long gone roots I remember as if they were my own

We are from . . .

sharing our day and dancing the hora

from sitting in the sun and playing in the sand

from coffee, fried chicken,

and home made pie

from reading the daily paper

from lullabies

We are from . . .

Why Aye, Man and Dinnit fight

and the love of a mother is as vast as the ocean

We are from . . . cue song

North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe

We are from here, there and everywhere

We are from.


Why is the Pink Tower pink? September 5, 2012

Why is the pink tower pink?  (And why are the long rods red?)

More good questions!  Perhaps Maria Montessori had some left over pink paint?  Perhaps she noticed that children were attracted to the color pink.  Today, in many schools, the tower is no longer even pink – it’s a natural wood color.  (I imagine that even when the tower is no longer pink, a teacher might still use the name ‘pink tower’ just out of habit!)

I believe the color was never the point of the pink tower.  What’s important is that each of the ten cubes of the tower is identical in shape, color and texture, and only different in size.  When a child is working with the cubes, there is no doubt that the child is exploring dimension/size.  The pink tower consists of ten cubes varying in three dimensions from 1cm cubed to 10 cm cubed.  The child can focus on grading the cubes according to size, and building the tower in order, starting with the largest cube, and proceeding cube by cube to the smallest cube.

Consider the alternatives offered to many children when they are working with building materials.  Each piece is often a different color and a different shape, and maybe involves numbers, patterns and/or texture.  Building becomes complicated and confusing.  With the pink tower, there is no confusion.  The child can understand the point of the exercise – finding out about size.  This allows the child to focus.

The pink tower is a wonderful tool for teaching vocabulary – small, smaller, smallest, big, bigger, biggest.  This is especially useful for English language learners.  When the teacher points to the smallest cube, and says, “Small”, there is no doubt that the teacher is talking about size.  That’s the only difference between the cubes.

When Montessori teachers talk, they might use expressions like ‘point of interest’ or ‘isolation of point of difficulty’ when discussing materials like the pink tower.  The ‘point of interest’ of the pink tower is size.  The pink tower isolates one feature – size – and makes everything else the same (pink, smooth, cube).  A young child only has to focus on the difficult task of arranging the cubes in order of size to be successful.

Most Montessori materials follow this same design – simple, focused, explicit – to allow for ease of learning.  Therefore the long rods focus on length (and yes, they are often red, but now, just as often, they are plain wood), the broad stair focuses on width, the sound cylinders focus on sound, the color tablets on color, the geometric solids on three dimensional shape, etc.  All of these materials mentioned are part of the sensorial area of the classroom, and aim to help children to make sense of the vast array of external stimuli the child receives all of the time from the world.  The sensorial materials help the child develop a sense of order and a vocabulary with which to describe the world.


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