Thursday, June 25, 2015

Montessori Theory Part I - Normalization


The Normal Child
Within each human is an innate push to move forward, to learn more, to learn how, to create oneself.  On this path to self-creation each person meets with opposition and obstruction.  Continued obstruction causes deviations in a man’s behaviors.  An infant may feel the pull to learn to turn over onto his stomach and will work and try until he has been successful.  Having done that he will work to perfect his new skill until he can turn over with ease.  What if instead of success on the other end of his strivings there was something that impeded his ability to turn over?   He would become agitated and upset.  He may be very likely to cry and make a fuss because he needs to do this work, he is driven to learn this skill and then another.  What would happen to the child if he was stopped at every struggle to turn over?  His behavior would become changed or deviated until his impediment was removed.  Just as damaging to the child would be the parent turning him over every time he began his struggle for greater independence.  As we see, the infant becomes disturbed if his pursuit of learning is obstructed, the young child’s behaviors become deviated when he cannot follow that inner guide in accomplishing the task of creating the adult he will become. 
When a child meets with an obstacle to his learning we then see unwanted, or “naughty” behaviors exposed.  Many of the behaviors that are commonly attributed to childhood such as rowdiness, bossiness, naughtiness, defiance, carelessness, timidity, laziness, and stubbornness are actually an outward manifestation of unmet developmental needs in children.  These behaviors, contrary to belief, are actually not attributes displayed by a child who is allowed to follow his voice unimpeded.  The world is still largely unacquainted with the true normal behavior of children because the world, at large, does not understand the innate needs that children have and, even more importantly, how to meet them.  At every turn the child is hampered in his journey to independence and growth by well meaning adults.  The child must grow, and he must do this himself.  No one can do it for him no matter how we might wish to.  
In fact, ‘every useless aid arrests development.”  What the child needs is to work.  Work is 
for him a necessary form of life, a vital instinct without which his personality cannot 
organize itself.  So essential is it for the child to have the opportunity and means for this 
creative “work” that if it is denied him his deviated energies will result in all sorts of 
The publishers of educational and parenting materials have no shortage of, and make a great deal of money on books in the subject of the management of children, the correction and alteration of undesirable behaviors, and using the “good” child as a model of behavior in the classroom.  In her work with the slum children of Rome, however, Maria Montessori discovered something new; something that is still new.  She began without any preconceived idea about what education ought to be.  She approached her charges with an eye toward scientific exploration and observation.  She was most astounded by what the children divulged.
It was thus, through experience, that Montessori discovered - one might say 
stumbled upon- the characteristics of the normal child.  She was not looking for them; she 
was not expecting them; she was not even thinking about them.  It was a genuine and 
unforeseen revelation. . . These normalized children - “the new children” as they were often 
called - have appeared again and again in almost every country in the world for a whole 
generation.  Race, color, climate, religion, civilization, all these made no difference.  
Everywhere, as soon as hindrances to development were removed, the same characteristics 
appeared as if by magic. 2

What then are the characteristics of the normalized child?
  • Love of order
  • Love of work
  • Profound spontaneous concentration
  • Attachment to reality
  • Love of silence and of working alone
  • Power to act from real choice and not from curiosity
  • Obedience
  • Independence and initiative
  • Spontaneous self-discipline
  • Joy 3
In Maria Montessori’s words, “The children of our schools revealed that the real aim of all children was constancy at work, and this had never been seen before.  Neither had spontaneity in the choice of work, without the guide of a teacher, ever been seen before.  The following of some inner guide, occupied themselves in work (different for each) that gave them calm serenity and joy, and then something else appeared that had never yet appeared in a group of children: a spontaneous discipline.  This struck people even more than the explosion into writing.  This discipline in freedom seemed to solve a problem which had been insolvable.  The solution was: to obtain discipline, give freedom.  These children going about seeking for work in freedom, each concentrated in a different type of work, yet as a whole group presented the appearance of perfect discipline.”4  
This idea that to obtain discipline, give freedom is even more counter intuitive in our society today than in her time. Within the traditional education system it is common practice to believe that a disruptive child needs an intervention.  If a little intervention is good, then a lot must be better.  When a class is struggling they must need more assessment from which to draw data.  If a little data is good, a lot must be better.  People in our society sometimes make horrible choices, therefore they must need policing.  If a little policing is good, then a lot must be better.  When a group of people becomes unruly they must be forced into obedience.  If a little force is good, then a lot must be better.   One might even consider that, from this perspective, we first make thieves and then punish them.  From this camp of thought, how could greater discipline possibly be achieved through greater freedom?  Contrary to this deeply rooted misconception, year after year in Montessori classrooms all over the world this guided freedom unveils the true nature of children and their capacity for internal discipline.

Laws or Principles of Childhood
Before the age of three a child is in a state of unconscious preparation for later years.  He begins, as it were, a blank slate onto which all stimuli and experience is written.  His mind is absorbent and he constructs himself bit by bit, little by little.  By the time the child has reached three years of age the unconscious work is fixed and the child steps into a new frontier; the development of his mental functions.  He is ready to take what is unconscious and make it conscious.   Once a child emerges into this conscious arena he is ready to follow her innate pattern for development.  If two conditions exist, an environment that appropriately supports his and the freedom within that environment to follow the inwardly motivational pull of development, we will be witness to the laws and principles of childhood.  It is as if he is the theatre and will show to us:
  • The Law of Work
  • The Law of Independence
  • The Power of Attention
  • The Principle of Will

The Law of Work
In the fall the leaves pile up under the towering maple tree in our front yard.  I will want to find the easiest and most economical way possible to do the job of raking up and removing the leaves.  I may spend extra money on a fancy rake or even perhaps a leaf vacuum that will help this tedious chore be finished more quickly.  I look to the time when my chore is completed and what that will look and feel like.  For me this is a job to get done with, and I am so grateful when the last leaf has fallen and my raking is finished for the year.  Conversely, how often do we see the children of a house rake up the leaves into a pile just to scatter them out again and begin the process all over.  The adult and the child have vastly different aims in work.  For the child the interest is not getting to the end of the process; the process IS the aim.  Work, and it’s timing, are a different thing to children.  Repetition of work is a seminal observation of the normalized child.  Because her work is to develop her skill, and to understand what is before her she takes it up again and again.
“ …as we have seen, the child does not stop when the external end has been reached; he very often goes back to the beginning and repeats it, many times.  But he does stop in the end - and that quite suddenly.  Why does he stop just at that moment?  It is because, unconsciously, he feels within himself that he has obtained what he needs from that particular activity - for the time being at any rate.  While he has been repeating the exercises, there has been going on inside him a process of psychic maturation, which has now come full circle.”5
Because our aims in work are so opposed to the child’s, we miss the needs of the child and consistently project our own views of the value of work onto the child.  This presents no small opposition to his growth.  The adult may see the repetition of work as unnecessary, because it might be for us, or become agitated with the amount of time it takes her to be ready to move from one activity to another.  
If adults persist in interrupting the child during this cycle of repetition, his self-confidence and ability to persevere in a task are severely jeopardized.  Constant interruption during this time is so upsetting to the child that Montessori felt it caused him to live in a state “similar to a permanent nightmare.”6
The world is tailored to the adult for his convenience.  Everywhere in the child’s life the adult plans usefulness for himself.  This convenience is planned into even the cups and dishes that will not shatter to save money, time and necessary supervision without considering the impact on the child because she is unaware of what he may actually need. 
Because of the social nature of his life, which is neither adaptive nor productive to adult society, the contemporary child is largely removed from it.  He is exiled in a school where too often his capacity for constructive growth and self-realization is repressed.  This problem in contemporary civilization increases as the adult’s role becomes even more complex.  In primitive societies, where work was simple and could be carried out at a relaxed pace, the adult could coexist with children in his working environment with less friction. The complexity of modern life is making it increasingly difficult for the adult to suspend his won activities “to follow the child”. 
There are great factories built for adults to do their work.  Even the home seamstress or weekend carpenter understands the need for a place to complete their projects, and of the importance of access to all the necessary items for their occupation.  It is so frustrating for the adult to try completing something without the right tools for the job that they plan and save to create the “perfect” workspace for themselves.   The child as well needs his own places in which to do his incredible work, but he is not just building a car or a quilt, the child is building himself.  
        In order that the child may be able to carry out his great work properly, he needs something more vital and dynamic than a workshop.  We must accustom our minds to the notion of an environment which will be more akin to that living environment which surrounds the embryo in the maternal womb. 7
Therefore children needs a “living environment” that is prepared to answer the cry of their heart.  When adults understand and prepare themselves and an environment that is conducive to the very sensitive periods of learning in children, they respond by revealing themselves.
Maria herself had this to say about the role of the prepared environment in this way:
“All children, if placed in a new environment allowing ordered activity, show this new appearance, so there is one psychic type common to all humanity, which hitherto had remained hidden under the cloak of other apparent characteristics.  This change that came over our children and made them appear as of one uniform type, did not come gradually, but suddenly.  It always came when the child was concentrated in one activity; so that if there was a lazy child, we did not urge him to work.  We merely facilitated contact with the means of development in the prepared environment.  As soon as he found work all his trouble disappeared at once.8
It is imperative to understand the importance of the correctly prepared environment and sufficiently trained and practiced adults in achieving normalization.  Children need the right conditions in order to do their work, to follow this law.  If their conditions are not right we see all kinds of problematic behaviors surface…
          but once the conditions for building the psyche are there, the normal type appears.  We therefore called the type that developed in our schools “normalized” children and the others deviated children.9
During the 2013-2014 school year there was a girl in class 11 named “Lila”.  She was nearing five years old at the beginning of the year and had begun attending a Montessori school just a couple of months before I transitioned into directing that class.  She exhibited several deviated behaviors when we began classes together.  She consistently sought for inappropriate attention.  She would speak out of turn and over other children, interrupt children who were talking to me and demand that it was her turn, and deliberately make a lot of commotion at the line and outside in an attempt for one of the adults to pay attention to her.  When she didn’t succeed in getting the thing she was after, she would cry very loudly and flop on the floor.  Rather than turning our attention to her problematic behavior, my co-teacher and I strategized that we would ignore anything that didn’t disturb other’s work, hurt herself, the items in the classroom, or others.  We also strategized what works might interest her and made plans to present them.  She was interested in the practical life exercises in the classroom, and even more interested in works using water.  I gave her a few preliminary exercises to make sure she could be successful with more advanced ones, and then I presented her with the lesson of scrubbing shelves.  Being allowed to have a tub of water at her disposal was an experience that made her giddy.  She loved the soap, the bubbles, the dirty water, the drying of the shelves and seeing them gleam when they were dry.  She was completely engaged at this occupation the remainder of the work cycle on day one and returned to this same work for the three days following.  She never once brought us over to look at her work; she almost didn't even notice that anyone else was there except when they got in her way.  Each day when she would clean up she had the most satisfied and calm demeanor about her.  From this moment on she was a changed person.  It was as if something inside of herself opened up and light poured in.  She came to class eagerly looking every day for work that called to her and would get busy alone and eventually with friends.   She remembered practically everything we ever said or sang, and drank in the entire experience.  She loved demonstrating the grace and courtesy lessons, and took delight in her abilities to wait in absolute silence at the circle, especially in being called to leave the circle very last because she was so adept at waiting.  It was no longer about what someone else saw her doing, but what she knew she could do herself.  She was no longer possessive about our attentions and looked for opportunities to be the teacher and helper to the younger children.  There was a little three year old with some sensory issues that she took under her wing.  Line time was particularly difficult for this child.  Lillian once saw me rub her back in a circular motion and took it upon herself to sit by this girl the remainder of the year and rub her back at the line so she could be successful.  This tale of change is just one of many that has been repeated again and again in the classrooms I have directed, not to mention my own home.

The Law of Independence
Help me do it by myself is the watch cry of the child.  He longs to be in the world and to work in it as the adults in his life.  He is driven to do things on his own, and in his own time.  It is the necessary application of our stewardship to apply the law of work in such a way that the child feels that he has been his own teacher, in truth that he becomes his own teacher.  To set up his environment with success in mind, to prepare work that will isolate the difficulties he meets in his life in such a way that he can be successful in mastering it.  To step away from the child and allow him his own work and development within bounds that help him progress from one step to the next.  It is our aim for the parent to ask the child if we have taught him a new skill and for the child to answer that he did it himself.  We are aware that “Except when he has regressive tendencies, the child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence.  Development takes the form of a drive toward an ever greater independence. 10

The Power of Attention
At a certain stage of his development, the child begins to direct her attention to particular objects in his environment with an intensity and interest not seen before. 11  It becomes the responsibility of the adults to make the environment attractive and irresistible to the child in order that she may pick up whatever may direct her attention and use it.  The child becomes concentrated in her work and will not leave it even when disturbed.
When a normal child is concentrated on his work, he refuses to be interrupted by those who try to help him.  He wants to be left alone with his problem.  The result is a spontaneous activity that is of far greater value that simply noticing differences in things, which is, of course, of great value in itself.  The material thus proves to be a key which puts a child in communication with himself and opens up his soul so that he can act and express himself.12
“Sara” was a first year student in class 11.  At the beginning of the year she was fearful and intensely quiet, but soon lost these attributes and worked well among her peers.  Every day she would begin with the broad stairs and pink tower as long as no one else got there first.  She was careful and attentive.  On a day in February I made the particular observation that Sara was performing this work with such concentration.  She looked around the room intently for the right place to put her rug, and began taking each cube and prism to her rug.  The classroom had a cement floor with seams.  She had set her rug so that she could take a trip to and from her rug on the seams in retrieving her work, and placed each foot carefully in front of the other.  She walked so slowly and patiently.  She would stop and wait if anyone went in her path.  We noticed this quickly and worked to shift a rug that was in her path as soon as that child was finished, and helped other children set up in another spot of the room so she could keep up her work uninterrupted. Once she had gotten them to the rug she made the tower and the stair only once, and proceeded in the same fashion to return them to the shelf.  Her work that day was the trip back and forth to the rug.  She began this work at approximately 9:15 and did not end until roughly 11:20.
The power of attention is that once a child has developed this skill and is attuned to the things that draw his attentions, he can then move from being acted upon to acting.  “He has more experience and builds up an internal knowledge of the known, which now excites expectation and interest in the novel unknown.” 13  His appetite has been wetted for experiences and the knowledge that work and learning imparts to him in his quest to create himself.

The Principle of Will
Once a child has established this ability for prolonged attention and concentration he reveals within himself a principle of will.  This will continues to develop through further as he works harmoniously in an environment that supports him.  An inner formation of the will is gradually developed through this adaptation to the limits of a chosen task. 14  He must make decisions and act, and these in turn develop will.  Because traditional schooling severely limits the choices, decisions, and actions of a child, Montessori felt it “not only denies the child every opportunity for using his will but directly obstructs and inhibits expression.”15  The observations garnered in her work with the children of the Casa de Bambini have been vetted by generations of Montessori children.  She has detailed three stages of the development of will.  The first stage begins with the repetition of activities.  When a work draws deep concentration and attention he will repeat such work again and again and demonstrates obvious satisfaction in said repetition.  This “achievement, however trivial to the adult, gives a sense of power and independence to the child.”16  The child has achieved an independence in this work.  We could say the first step of the will is independence through repetition.  Whereupon succeeding in this, the child progresses to the second stage of the development of his will.  This second stage is marked with an independent and spontaneous choice of self-discipline.  The child makes conspicuous choices to exert his efforts in the discipline of his own body in its relationship to his environment.  He develops self-knowledge and self-possession.  At the onset of this stage of development we may see a child exerting great effort to walk around a rug and not on it, to use “quiet” water, to shut the door with no sounds at all, to walk without so much as a shuffling sound during the quiet game, to walk the line with ever increasing precision, or to sit in an absolute stillness during the Silence.
“Anton” is five years old and has been in class 10 for most of the 2014-15 school year.  During the first weeks of the summer schedule we have had daily silence.  During worktime he has shown an increased concentration and self-awareness which has transferred into our line-time.  For him the silence has nothing to do with me.  His focus is increasingly inward and he has on several occasions become unaware that others are leaving the circle to go outside.  His travail is for himself alone and it is an inward work.  I spoke to his father about Antons’s development in concentration and stillness.  He asked if there was some kind of prize for the child who sits in silence the longest.  He had a difficult time understanding that his son would do this by choice since there was nothing for him to gain for this work except inside himself.  He wondered aloud why he was behaving so unlike himself.
Out of self-knowledge and self-possession springs the third stage of the developed will, the power to obey.  Obedience is not the same as the “discipline” so often described in parenting and educator help-books.  Obedience is the conscious choice controlled by a child herself to work in cooperation with her environment and world.
Will and obedience then go hand in hand, inasmuch as the will is a prior foundation in the order of development and obedience is a later stage resting on this foundation…Indeed if the human should did not possess this quality, if men had never acquired, by some form of evolutionary process, this capacity for obedience, social life would be impossible. 17
This is the pinnacle of normalization that we as Montessori educators look to.  This is the bar that is set for us and by which we measure the effectiveness of our classroom environments.  Are we participating in the development of a whole child?  A child who is in possession of all his faculties, who is awake in looking to learn, who displays self-awareness and knowledge, and who has developed his will of obedience.

In Summary
The revelation of “new child” is the work of the guide.  This is not a work we can take off the shelf and manipulate.  Our work is the constant observation, experimentation and careful managing of the prepared environment.  We must become attuned and experienced in the cues the children give about current needs so that we may alter that environment to meet them.  We must remove her pride from ourselves since humility is necessary to keep our eyes open to the workings of the classroom.  We must remove what distracts, discard what does not entice (even though we may have spent time creating it) and become the practiced observer of the children’s space.  We must teach ourselves; must choose to change ourselves and value the ways and workings of the child.  In the end we do not need greater interventions, but greater independence, greater understanding and greater preparation.
Each time a child walks the path to becoming new I am rewarded for every effort.  Each time the child discovers themselves through concentrated work, and I become invisible, that is when I get a feeling under my skin that cannot be described.  When the child awakens his new self and exalts in independence my heart flutters.  This is the work I love.


1 Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work  E. M. Standing (1998) New York: Plume p.148
2 Ibid p.174
3 Ibid pp.175 - 178
4 The Absorbent Mind  Maria Montessori (1949), Adyar, Madras, India: The Theosophical Publishing House p.289
5 Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work  p.150
6 Montessori: A Modern Approach  Paula Polk Lilllard (1972) p.41
7 Montessori: A Modern Approach  p.38
8 Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work  p.155
9 The Absorbent Mind p.290
10 Ibid p.296
11 The Secret of Childhood Maria Montessori (1966) New York, Ballentine p.82
12 The Discovery of the Child Maria Montessori (1967) New York, Ballentine pp.178-179
13 Montessori: A Modern Approach p.40
14 Ibid p.40
15 Ibid p.40
15 Ibid p.41
15 Ibid p.42

Monday, April 13, 2015

Oceania Mat for the Early Childhood Classroom

I am in love with this work.  Not only because it took a while to produce, but because I got to make it with my sweet son, Andon, who is battling Leukemia right now.  I want to express my thanks and love for all your support and kindnesses during our fight.  We are not done yet by any means.  He still has another 2 years and 10 months, at least, to go.

The Oceania mat laid out.  I forgot to take a picture of the mat in the bag.

The work on the tray.  The mat itself is kept in a bag that can hang on a wall or sit
behind the tray on the shelf.

I've been taking a sabbatical from school while Andon undergoes chemotherapy, but that doesn't mean I haven't been keeping very busy.  I have so many things I could post about, and I really want to post everything, but I don't have that kind of time right now.

Since Andon has come home he has been VERY interested in islands, and we have studied all kinds of them when he has felt well enough.  In fact his Make-A-Wish wish is to go to Aulani resort in Hawaii with his family.  He wants to see the island up close, swim with the dolphins, and learn to surf.  He has also had a real interest in Australia, so I thought it would be perfect to study Oceania.  I figured I do several things all at the same time, and get some work in for school as well.  We ordered the Elementary Biome work from Waseca Biomes, which will arrive on Wednesday (we are so EXCITED!!!).  While I've been waiting for that to arrive I set to work making something I have been meaning to make for over a year now.  The Early Childhood mat of Oceania.  Since Andon hasn't been exposed to this type of work he helped me to create it while also learning.  We spent some time learning about the animals, plants, biomes, industry etc. of Oceania and then we worked to create this mat.  He has learned a lot of things through this process, and has really enjoyed it.

The first order of business was to find a site where I could print a large-scale copy of Oceania.  I found that here.  I used the 4X4 setting, which used 16 sheets of paper.  I tried the 5X5 setting first, but thought it was too large.  I wanted to be certain that littler arms could reach the center of the mat without walking on it.

NOTE:  I think it is important that children be exposed to the Biomes before they start this work.  Waseca has a great curriculum that you can download for free.  It is, however, one of those life changing and mind expanding sites.  I LOVE their biome work, but am not such a fan of their rainbow boxes for language.  I DO, however, love their biome readers.

I traced Australia onto brown Duck Canvas twice.  This was to give stability and a control
of error you will see later.  I used some of the left over brown canvas to make a bag to hold the mat.

I turned the paper pattern backwards so that when I cut out the  fabric I could turn it the
right way and not have the tracing show.

In this mat I am teaching the child the biomes found in Australia mostly.  The other islands
won't have their biomes expressly taught since they are significantly smaller.  Sorry to all my kiwi
friends :).  I do talk about them in the presentation a little.  You can see the biome map I am
referencing above.  You can find it below.

I sketched out the biomes onto the paper pattern.
Then I cut them out.

I traced those lines onto the front of one of the canvas cut-outs of Australia. Once that
was finished I used a triple stitch and a light blue thread to sew the lines onto the top piece
of the cut-out.

The next step was to pin the two pieces of fabric together and sew them.

I used clear thread and a zig-zag stitch.

I cut a piece of blue Duck Canvas to 20X40 and placed Australia where I wanted it on the fabric.
I was certain to leave plenty of room for New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and some of the  smaller
islands of Oceania.  I traced the outline of Australia onto the front of the blue fabric.  I then used brown
thread to sew the outline onto the blue fabric.

I then cut the biomes out of their respective colors.  Again I used duck canvas and cut two
of each piece.  I traced the major rivers and Lake Eyre onto the top side of the biome fabric and
 sewed them in a darker blue thread with a triple stitch.  Once that was done I again sewed the pieces
together with clear thread and a zig-zag stitch.
I cut out a small Australia and sewed it onto this light blue fabric with
clear thread and a zig-zag stitch.  I then turned it into a drawstring bag.
  It holds items that go onto the mat.  Here you can see the stitch work on the biome fabric.

Next I made pieces for Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.  I used some tan
vinyl to do the other side in order to be neutral.  I cut two pieces of blue for each, sewed
the islands onto the top side with clear zig-zag.  The white paint dots
you see are for the placement of objects.

Using the sewn island pieces, I traced onto the blue mat and then sewed the
 outlines for them in blue thread with a triple stitch.  Some of these photos
were taken at night so they didn't turn out so well.

Once New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were made, I used the large scale
print-out as reference to trace more smaller islands onto the mat.
I used brown fabric paint to paint them onto the mat itself.  Tasmania was cut
out of the Duck and sewn directly to the mat.  Then I used double fold bias
tape in a dark brown to finish the mat.
The contrast of color is nice.

This shows the basic set up of the mat with just the brown fabrics.

Finally, all the fun stuff is added.  I am a big fan of using already made resources if I can.
The Down Under Toob had a lot of these things.  I also used the cycad palm
 from the Trees Toob, the coral, seahorse, diver, chest of gold and clown fish from the
Coral Reef Toob.  I used the apples and bananas from the Fruit Toob.  I used Super Sculpey
to create the Mountain ranges, Ayers Rock, the base of the Aboriginal man
(because he doesn't stand on his own), and the volcano.  I used a wooden disc and
painted it with dot painting.  I cut very thin blue rick-rack for the rivers,
and blue felt for Lake Eyre.  Each item is placed during a "story"
 told to the children.  I am working to find a tiny boomerang, cassowary,
echidna, kiwi bird, "diamond", "opal", sheep, Maori carving and Sydney Opera House.
The story goes something like this:

"This is Oceania.  Well, not all of it, but a lot of it.  There are many small islands not on this mat, but this mat has Australia (place it), Papua New Guinea (place it), and New Zealand (place it). Here is also Tasmania (point to it).  Up here at the top are several smaller islands (name some of them if you can).

"In Australia we can find several biomes (pull out the biomes control card).  The orange is desert (place the desert), the yellow is grasslands (place the grasslands including the small yellow piece), the light green are the temperate forests (place the temperate forests), and the dark green is the tropical forest (place the tropical forest)  We can find some rivers in Australia.  Down here we have the Darling River, the Lachlan River, and the Murray River (place the three rivers together)  Over on this side is the Murchison River (place it).  There are other rivers in Australia, but these are some of the largest.  Sometimes the rivers in Australia DRY UP!  Sort of in the middle of Australia we have some lakes.  I am just putting on Lake Eyre because it is the largest lake (place it).  On the eastern edge of Australia there is a range of mountains.  These mountains are called the Darling Range (place the three mountain ridges).  This curved set on the bottom is also know as the Australian Alps (point to the bottom ridge).  In the center of the desert is a very large rock formation called Ayers Rock. The Aboriginal people; the people who have lived here a very long time, call it Uluru (place it and the Aboriginal man) and it is very special to them.  In the desert there are gold mines (place it), and diamond mines (place it), and opal mines (place it).  Bananas and pineapples are grown in Australia because it is hot (place them).  The Aboriginal people create wonderful works of art called dot painting (place it).  We will be creating some of these ourselves.  Off the west coast of Australia people dive for pearls (place the diver)."

"Emus live almost ALL over Australia (place it), so do cockatoos (place it).  Frilled lizards and kangaroos live mostly in the hot deserts and in the grasslands (place it).  Dingos can be found a lot of different places in Australia, but they are finding less and less of them all the time (place it).  The taipan lives right along the upper coastal areas of Australia (place it).  The platypus lives on the western edge of Australia (place it).  Koalas have to live where they find eucalyptus trees, so they live on this western side of Australia (place it).  Wombats only live down here as you get to the southern tip of Australia.  They also live in Tasmania (place it).  Another animal that lives in Tasmania is called the Tasmanian Devil.  It is known for being very aggressive (place it).  Off the east coast of Australia we can find the Great Barrier Reef.  It is home to many kinds of Corals (place it), fish (place clown fish) and seahorses (place it).  There are many, many other kinds of animals that live in the coral reef, but we will learn about them when we study the coral reef.  In New Zealand they have many volcanoes (place it).  They grow apples and they herd many sheep (place them).  In Papua New Guinea and on the top of Australia we can find the Saltwater Crocodile (place it).  We can also find a kind of palm tree called a Cycad (place it).  Scientist believe that this type of palm tree has been around a very, very long time."

When you are finished with the presentation, carefully return all the items to the bag.  return the pieces to the tray.  Roll up the mat and put it in the mat bag.  Ask the child(ren, because by about 1 minute in you will have most of the class wanting to watch your presentation) if they would like a turn with this work.  When they say yes, you get to tell them that you will show them where to find it on the shelf so they will know where to put it back.  You then put the entire work away before allowing the child to use this work.  In this way you are consistently showing the child the importance of putting their work away in pristine condition for the next child to use.

The best thing about this work is that it has endless extensions.  Reading, writing, grammar, math!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Updates on Andon - And a Go Fund Me Account

Those who have been following this blog know that our youngest son, Andon, was recently diagnosed with and started treatment for leukemia.  Once we left the hospital, we went out and got family pictures done before things really started to change.  He has been losing his hair in clumps and decided on Monday to shave it off.  It was a very emotional experience for me.  Somehow him losing his hair has made it very real for me.  His brothers and father chose to show support for him and shaved their hair off that night as well.  Our oldest boy had about 6-8 inches of great hair that was hard for him to part with.  In the end he did it because he knew that Andon didn't want to loose his hair and he had no choice. This experience will forever change us as a family and as people.

Since last month, I have not been back to work full-time and have, in fact, only gone into work once a week since his chemotherapy started.  I have a great fill in for me at work which has made it much easier.  Dancing Moose has been an amazing support through this new challenge, as well as the parents of the children in my class this year.  I wish our family could afford for me to stay home with Andon full time until this school year is over, but at the beginning of December I will be going into work for the morning work cycle everyday except his chemo day.  This is of course subject to change according to how well he is and how he handles the chemo.  Our oldest daughter, who is 18 and graduated, has been amazing and is currently looking for a new job that will allow her to be there in the morning and work in the afternoon.

We have seen many blessings and an outpouring of love.  It has been good for me to see how many people in this world are so kind.  Our family has truly appreciated all the emails of support and concern for our sweet son.  Several visitors to this blog have emailed and asked if there is a fund set up for Andon that they can donate to.  There is now.  A parent of another childhood cancer patient told us about Go Fund Me.  Here is the Link

It is our hope that through the Go Fund Me account we can keep our family afloat while paying hospital and doctor bills, working part time, and having all the unanticipated expenses of a child with cancer.  We are trying to raise $20,000.00 so getting the word out is important.  Whatever readers of this blog can do to help that happen is very appreciated.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Three-part Card Trays From Montessori Research and Development

I have made it no secret that I like many of the materials that are available through Montessori Research and Development.  This has always been purely because of many years of loving their work.  This is the first time I have ever gotten anything in exchange for a blog post, and I am so happy to do it.

If you have read some of my previous posts about Nomenclature or Three-part cards you will know that my classroom has had a big uptick in those cards being pulled off the shelves and used this year.  In fact it is almost certain that at any given time during the day there is at least one set of cards in use.  Since this is the case, I have felt it is in the best interest of the class to have more cards available in the areas at the same time.  I have owned and loved a few of the Three-part Card Trays from Montessori Research and Development for a some years, but really needed more.  I corresponded with Erik Nuno, who is the company director about hoping to get a few more for my classroom.  He shipped them right off and my class has been so happy to have them on the shelf ever since.  I currently have 9 on the shelves of my class.  3 in science, 2 in language, 1 in math, 2 in geography and 1 in sensorial.  Now that they have been set up for a couple of weeks I find that we actually could use a total of 5 in science (depending on what we are studying), 4 in math for currency, fractions, time, and golden beads (my colored bead stair cards are a different type).  I could also use a total of 5 in language for pink cvc cards, blue blends, parts of speech, the farm and metal inset cards, and 4 in geography regularly.  I would prefer to have 4 available for sensorial for sensorial apparatus cards, geometric cabinet cards, geometric solids cards, and color nomenclature cards.  I would lastly put one in art, not all the time but according to the lessons.  So that is a grand total of 23 that I would have in my classroom.  I am far from it, but will continue to order from Montessori Research until I have the number I want.

The Three-Part Card Tray from Montessori Research and Development is a economical and lovely tray for the classroom, running only $9.00 each.  The compartments are spacious enough to hold even larger cards, and certainly the cards that I create.  The depth of the compartments is a feature I like as well.  These are both something you want to watch for when ordering trays.  They are easily cleaned by even smaller children, with the control of error being a gleaming white surface.

The other tray that I looked at in the same price range had the control on the right.  That went against my core feelings when it comes to Montessori works.  I have always been taught, and ascribe to the standard that all work should move left to right.  Since we place the control first it should be on the left hand side.

I am so happy to recommend the 3-part Card Tray from Montessori Research and Development.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Parts of the Eye Nomenclature Cards and Blackline Master Free Downloads - Plus a Musings About the Sense of Sight

I created this set over the summer for our class to use while we learned about the sense of sight.  This year I have changed from doing all the senses at once to focusing on on sense in a month.  All of the senses were introduced during the 3rd week of school, but taking each sense and focusing more in depth has been rather enjoyable for the children this year.  The sense of sight was the first sense of focus.

To begin the sense of sight we took a little walk out to our community garden with a bit of prompting to pay close attention to interesting things that we could see there.  Once back inside we had a discussion about all the things they could see.  This took some time since all the children wanted to talk about more than one thing that was interesting to them that they could see.  The next question was, of course, "What part of our body do we use to see?".  At a later circle I introduced the Model of the Eye.  I have long been of the opinion that the Early Childhood through the Upper Elementary Child can benefit greatly from good quality medical models just as much as the college student.  While I would love to have inexhaustible pockets, I do not, so I purchase the best quality I can for my budget.

This model is from EISCO and was purchased from Amazon using our Prime Membership.  It ran just about $25.00.

After the children were introduced to and had some experience with the model, I introduced them to some sheep eyes and did a dissection.  Now-- I must say that there was NOT one child who was grossed out by this science work.  Quite the contrary.  Utter fascination and riveted attention is more like it.  I used these Large Line Time Cards to point out different the same parts we were seeing in the sheep's eyes.

Parts of the Eye Large Line Time Cards
click on picture to link to file

On a different day I introduced the Parts of the Eye Nomenclature Cards and the accompanying booklets.  Especially the 4's & 5's loved this work.  There were some children who loved them so well, they took them off the shelf EVERY day for two weeks.
Parts of the Eye Nomenclature Cards
click on image to link to file

Parts of the Eye Blackline Master
click on image to link to file

Monday, October 27, 2014

Life Can Change in a Moment

On Thursday, October 16th, at about 6:00 pm, we took our 11 year old into the Instacare.  He had been pale and fatigued.  They took blood work and sent us in a big hurry up to Primary Children's Hospital; which is, so thankfully, just a 20 minute drive for us.  There they did more blood work and had the Oncologist on call come in.  She looked at his blood right there and gave us the diagnosis we were devastated was coming.  Our baby had Leukemia.  Life can change in a moment.

We left our other 4 children in the charge of my parents and aunts, and both my husband and I spent the next 5 days with him in the care of the wonderful doctors and nursing staff at Primary's.  He had Surgery on Friday to instal a port, do a bone marrow aspirate, and do a spinal tap to check for lymphoblasts in his spinal fluid and give him a dose of chemo in his spine.  We got to come home on Wednesday, and life with leukemia has started to settle in a bit.  We have weekly visits to the Cancer and Bone Marrow Clinic for chemo treatments, at least until the 2nd week in November.  We do not know what his road map will be after that yet.  It is an emotional and sometimes very difficult beginning.  He is very tired and his knees and stomach are starting to hurt from the medicines.  He is a champ!  He told me that having courage means that he is sometimes pretty scared of what he needs to do, but that he does it anyway.  Andon is certainly right.  His prognosis is good, we are so grateful for that.  We wait to hear back about the bone marrow aspirate and the chromosomal markers that will help to determine more of what his future course of treatment will be.

We have seen an outpouring of love and concern from everywhere.  On Saturday they told us that he had broken the record for the number of visitors in one day, 25!  His favorite things on earth are probably hugs.  While he was going into surgery, my sister called from California.  At the end of the conversation she told me to give a hug for him.  I said that it would be great if she and her husband were to take a picture hugging each other and email it to me so I could show it to them.  They posted it on Facebook and pretty soon a hashtag -which I don't really get- was set up for him on instagram.  That had so many visits that My sister suggested setting up a community page for him on Facebook.  It is called Hugs for Andon.  He has been getting picture hugs from all over the world and they make a yucky day better for sure.  This has become a real big deal for his oldest sister who has become an administrator on the page.  She had told me about 2 months ago that she felt her future lay in charity and service work.  She said she never feels as complete as when she is doing things that are really meaningful for others.  She has stepped up in an incredible way around the house and with the other members of the family.  Our other children are all reacting in a different way to their lives changing so quickly.

We have had meals brought in, laundry done by members of our ward and family, cleaning helpers (since the house has to be made and kept super clean), gifts, prayers of many faiths, fasting, and letters of encouragement.  It has lifted us and helped to carry us through the beginning of difficult times.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Parts of the Skeleton and Parts of the Pumpkin Nomenclature Cards with Blackline Masters

Here are two offerings that I have finished in these last couple of weeks.  These are topics we are studying right now during October and I found I didn't have either of them created yet.

An important note is that the skeleton cards are patterned after a 3-4 year old's skeleton.  I adapted them from this printable work.

I didn't like any of the Parts of the Pumpkin cards that are out there.  You might notice the same type of cutaway as the layers of the earth.

Parts of the Skeleton Nomenclature Cards
click on image to go to file

These are the blackline Masters for both sets.  I have been learning a new way to make and use Parts of Books that I really like.  The first page in the blackline masters are just the image with no words or even a line.  The following pages are to help me in making the Parts of Control Books.  First I color in the isolated image in red and then I trace over the light gray letters with a fine sharpie pen.   I cut them apart, laminate them and plasticoil bind them.  I make sure that the plasticoil gives plenty of room for turning the page with ease.

One thing I learned years back is that whatever way you write your letters the children will copy.  Another thing I learned during one of my Practicum weekends was that a segment of the population cannot make sense of dotted or dashed letters.  Each dot looks separate and does not really create a whole letter.  This was troubling news to me and I started wondering about my oldest child with dyslexia.  Did that make things harder for her?

When the child creates the parts of books they can do one of 3 things in order to write the words.  They can copy the words because they are advanced enough to do that.  They can lay their colored parts of paper over the top of the page they are trying to create and trace over the letters, or I can write the words in a yellow highlighter for them to trace.  All three methods are regularly being employed in my classroom with great success.

Parts of the Skeleton Booklets Blackline Master
click on image to go to file

Parts of the Pumpkin Booklets Blackline Master
click on image to go to file

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nomenclature Cards and Parts Booklets - What a Little Child Taught Me

I have formed a new friendship with the Nomenclature and 3-Part Cards and their subsequent Parts of Booklets this year.  Last year a few of the children really loved doing the cards and the booklets, while most of others have shown no real interest in them.  This year I have been hoping to interest more children in these lovely little cards and booklets that I have spent so much time creating (literally), laminating, cutting, coloring, binding etc.  They are great works that help integrate learning across the areas of the classroom.  They can be a pre-reading, reading, writing, coloring, story-telling, show-off to parents, memory building, science, geography, math, sensorial work.  You might be getting the picture.

WELL... this year our class has had the most wonderful thing happen, AND it was child directed.  About the third week into school I had a 4 1/2 year old, who is driven by a lovely inner voice, do the Parts of the Plant and Parts of the Fruit Nomenclature Cards at the same time.  He then made the Parts of Booklets as well.  Another child saw his work and wanted to do it too.  Both were very accomplished at their work.  At the end of the day they asked if they could read their books to the class in AUTHOR'S CHAIR (they knew this from last year and Writer's Workshop).  Of course I let them, and everyone clapped for their wonderful and challenging work.  I could have chosen to save the Author's chair for books that the children had independently created, but I am so glad I didn't.  We will make an extra special note when a child makes a book All-By-Themselves for Author's Chair.

The magic happened the next day.  Multiple children asked me if they could create their own books in order to read them to the class.  One child said... "So when I finish the Nomenclature Cards I can make a booklet right?"  I said that once she had mastered the nomenclature cards she could create the booklet.  The children spread the word and the Nomenclature Cards have NOT sat on the shelf gathering dust (that a child would clean off) this year.  The valuable lesson the children taught me is this: There is such beauty in sharing your work with your friends, and such a good feeling.  As an adult I recognize this in myself.  It is one reason I have this blog.  I love to share what I have created with people who appreciate and can really use them.  Why would it be any different for children?

I just have to say... Follow the Child, they are our best teacher.

Solar System Nomenclature Cards
This is the same child doing the Nomenclature Cards and the Parts of Book in the next Picture.

Solar System Parts of Cards
This Parts of Booklet is pre-stapled because last year I noticed how frustrated the children were 
about this booklet.  They kept getting confused which planet was which.  I have some unstapled 
sets for the older kids.
Parts of the Body Nomenclature Cards
This child ended up getting one more rug out to hold all the name cards you can see at the top 
of the picture for this work.  There really are a lot of cards to this work.  Almost enough to break it 
into two sets, but they really like it together so I have kept them that way.  The Tray is from 
Montessori Research and Development.

Parts of the Plant Booklet
This child did not want to write the words to her booklet this day.  I let her know that as 
soon as she "publishes" a book - meaning that it is colored, with all the names written and 
stapled - she can read it to the group.