Sunday, November 23, 2008

Practical Life in the Children's House

One of the distinguishing aspects of the Montessori method is the "Exercises of Practical Life." Often people wonder why we devote so much attention to such simple activities as pouring water, spooning beans, or grinding coffee. These activities definitely fall into the category of most beloved by the children. Once, on the second day of school, the teacher was greeting the children as they came in the morning. On seeing a little one making her way down the hall, the teacher remarked, "Good morning, are you ready to come in and work?" "I just came for the beans," was the little one's reply. Of course, the child was referring to the activity of pouring beans.

"A child's work," Dr. Montessori wrote, "is to create the man he will become. An adult works to perfect the environment but a child works to perfect himself." The work the child is doing can only be done by himself. By repetition of motions he is strengthening his muscles, perfecting his coordination and gaining confidence in a particular skill.

Meaningful work, such as any of our "food work," grinding coffee, cutting bread, cutting celery, or cutting apples, helps the child to develop Independence. The child chooses for himself, what work he will do and when he wants to do it. This freely chosen work is a result of internal motivation.

Wiping up water with a sponge helps the child to perfect her Coordination. The child has to swipe the sponge over the wet areas, decide when its time to squeeze the sponge, hold the sponge over the bucket and squeeze the sponge till it stops dripping, notice when the water is all wiped up, restore all the materials to their original place on the tray, and return the tray without dropping anything to its original position on the shelf.

Carefully pouring water into a narrow necked vase with a funnel lengthens her span of Concentration and develops coordination.

Choosing a task, such as washing windows, and completing it start to finish, concluding with returning the material back to its place on the shelf, neat and ready for the next person, develops a Sense of Order.

Sewing is one of the practical life activities which is most treasured by the children. It helps to develop the small muscles of the hand in preparation for writing, as well as developing all of the above mentioned qualities.

We are currently in need of one or two parents to come in and sit with the children for two to four mornings a month and help with their sewing. If this could be you, please talk to one of the teachers.

To get a link to my photos on Picasa Web Albums, where you can order prints, send me a comment, including your email address, and I will send you an invitation to view my album.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Day in the Life of Alpha Children's House

Here's a peek inside our classroom during the first two weeks of October. The photo above shows our closing "Circle Time" for Extended Day. We always love singing one last favorite song with Miss Annie.

The left photo shows the Practical Life work that we call "Ladling". I
t consists of transferring colored water from the left bowl to the right with a ladle. Such a simple activity, but look at the expression of enjoyment on her face. This and similar activities help the child develop concentration, coordination, independence, and the concept of a complete cycle of work. The complete cycle consists of choosing the work, setting it up, doing it, and putting it away so that it is neat and tidy, ready for the next person.

On the right is another
practical life work, "Sponging", which consists of sprinkling water on a tray and using a sponge to wipe it up.

Here are two boys enjoying snack and a conversation. Th
e "Snack Table" is an important place to practice social skills as well as get something good to eat.

Here are two girls e
njoying a sweet moment in the book corner.

"Sandpaper Letter" work makes the connection between how the letter looks and what sound it makes. Tracing the letters also prepares the hand for writing.

Another work that prepares for writing is here with the "Metal Insets". By carefully tracing th
e shape stencils and filling in with controlled lines, the fine muscles in the hand develop.

The photo above shows one of the early math works that comes after the numerals 1-10 are well known. He is ordering a series of "Bead Bars" called the "Colored Bead Stair". He will match each bar with the corresponding numeral tag and then color each bar in his booklet and write the numeral.

These older boys have very proudly completed one of the milestone works in the math curriculum, the "Thousand Chain". They have a chain consisting of 100 bead bars of 10 beads each. They have matched tags to each bead bar of 10 with a label of 10, 20, 30,.....110, 230,...etc. all the way up to 1000. As you can imagine, this was a very big work that took two afternoons to complete. Congratulations!

I realize that you will not see each and every
child in this collection of photos but I hope that as I get a chance to catch more at their work, you soon will.

If you do NOT want your child's face to appear on the my blog (which is public), just let me know and I will not include his or her
photo. I can also pay attention to how I take the picture so that recognizable faces do not show.
You can get an invitation to view my HIH album on by emailing me at and asking. I will send you a message that gives you access to my album and there you can order prints.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Getting Started in the New Year

Well, now that Hand in Hand, the school that I teach at, is on January break, I have some time to create posts for this blog.

My main goal is to share what's going on with the children both in our Montessori classroom and in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium at Messiah Episcopal Church.

Other goals:
  • To encourage parents and teachers for their ultimate task of raising their children. This includes giving ideas for specific activities and materials that you can do at home or in your school.
  • To educate the general public about Montessori Education and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
  • To create a forum for readers to respond with comments and questions.

One of my concerns in doing this blog is that I do not violate any privacy rights of the families whose children will be in the photographs. I hope to get permission from the parents for posting any recognizable photos of their children. For now, I'm just using photos where the children are not recognizable. That is somewhat limiting, but I'll see what I can do. If you are a parent and would allow me to post photos of your child, please respond by sending a comments. One advantage would be that you would be able to print photos of your child the I use in my blog. I will also have a link to my photos so that you can order prints or print yourself.