Parent Education: Practical Life – Part 1

Today we are looking back at a series that we posted back in the summer, Practical Life. 

In a Montessori classroom, the Practical Life area is one of the first areas that a child explores. This section of the classroom provides the child with real-life materials that help to develop coordination, concentration, independence, and order.

Through the exercises of Practical Life, the child learns the skills that enable him to become an independent being. From birth, the child is striving for independence and concerned adults, parents, and teachers should help him on his path by showing him the skills he needs to achieve this end. Having been shown a skill, the child then needs freedom to practice and perfect.

In a Montessori classroom, preschool children learn basic motor skills in the Practical Life areas by teaching themselves and learning from other children rather than by specific adult instruction. As the child becomes absorbed in an interesting activity, he develops concentration. If the activity is appropriate and meets a need, it will be interesting for the child. The longer the child is absorbed by an activity the  better for the development of concentration.

Through activity, the child learns to control his movements. The idea that the path to intellectual development occurs through the hands is a major theme in the Montessori Method. The exercises of Practical Life provide opportunities for the development of both gross motor and fine motor movements. In addition, the child learns to keep the environment in a clean and ordered way, putting everything away in its right place. He is taught to approach each new task in an ordered way, to carry it out carefully, to complete the activity, and finally, how to clean up and put the materials away. Engaging in this complete process encourages logical thinking.

Another great post on Practical Life can be found here as well.

Feeding Your Preschooler: What’s a Normal Daily Menu?

“My child isn’t eating,” is a common statement from parents of three-year-olds. At the end of a school day, parents are often surprised that the lunch they so lovingly prepared is barely touched. When teachers are asked, they often say they encouraged the child to eat but the chip simply was not hungry. So, what’s a parent to do?

One thing to consider is the amount of water the child has consumed during the day. Water is readily available in the classroom and on the playground. Children are encouraged especially on hot days to drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration. This high water consumption keeps them hydrated but also decreases their appetite.

Another factor in food intake can be distraction. During the third year of life, preschoolers are very active and mobile. Often at lunchtime, they are socializing with their friends, looking around the room – seemingly focusing on everything except eating.

Their appetite also begins to fluctuate greatly. Sometimes they get stuck on one food. These “only eating chicken nuggets” moments usually don’t last long if you don’t accommodate them. We recommend that you continue to serve a wide variety of nutritious foods.

A healthy child is most important. Speak with your child’s teacher about what foods are successful with other children. Many children like items that are easy to manage: finger foods, enriched drinks, and yogurts, for example. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits, please contact your pediatrician.

Super Kids Nutrition, a nutrition education and healthy eating website for parents and kids, offers this Sample Daily Menu for the average Three-Year-Old child. This menu provides a good understanding of basic needs – often smaller in size than parents expect, though rich in nutrients – within the framework of your particular family’s preferences and appetites.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for, and hopefully that includes some extra down time at home. Here are some great Thanksgiving craft ideas from Living Montessori Now to do with your children over the holiday.

We hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by family, friends, and plenty of love.

The Montessori Method – Process Precedes Content


The Montessori Method is fundamentally about instilling a “process” for doing everything. Process precedes content. If a student is given the proper lesson up front on how a job can be done, they will be able to duplicate the steps and experience the satisfaction of using the materials effectively. As Montessori students receive lesson after lesson where the emphasis is on process, they begin to feel the underlying message of “when work is done in this order, in this manner, the greatest experience can be drawn from the materials and the lesson at hand.”

Concentration is a natural byproduct of using a learning format in an intentional and repetitive way. Not only is a technique learned and a greater sense of independence is felt by the student, but an overall sense of peace and wellbeing flows from a mind fully engrossed in their work at hand. It takes a steady awareness on the part of the teacher (and the parent at home) to keep the course and gently, but firmly, redirect the child back to the process and not be swayed by their natural enthusiasm to get to the end results without doing the vital steps in between.

DSC_5765Once the process is secured in the mind of the student, then the variations or extensions of the work can be introduced. At that point, the student has a “place” in their mind where to store the new information. Then when the need arises to recall the steps or retrieve a more abstract fact, the student has a well trodden pathway in their memory upon which to draw upon. Mastery of process then makes mental storage of facts easier and allows the student to participate more fully in the lessons they are learning. An engaged student is one who is building upon their abilities to function effectively in the classroom, to absorb more and more abstract information, and then to eventually be able to synthesize and analyze the data learned.

DSC_5769At every grade level, hands on use of materials is an intricate part of the Montessori learning experience. Each job has its specific form and process for use. Elementary students are far better equipped to handle higher math functions, when they have have used the golden bead and stamp game materials and have a three dimensional impression of what place value really looks like. Similarly, when Montessori language symbols have been used to define parts of speech, there is tactile memory of each part allowing students the extra benefit of visualizing the part of speech in a more concrete manner.

DSC_5790“Free choice is one of the highest of all the mental processes. The child who cannot yet obey an interior guide is not that free being who sets out to follow the long and narrow path toward perfection. He is still a slave to superficial sensations which leave him at the mercy of his environment.”Dr. Montessori observed that students who were clearly guided in the process of using materials began to internalize the proper steps and then in time were able to duplicate those steps independently. A template of learning was being created; and ”manhood is born within him when his soul becomes aware of itself, when he sets himself a task, finds his way and chooses.”*

DSC_5772*”The Absorbent Mind”, Dr. Maria Montessori

You Are Truly Brilliant

We are pulling from our archives today to talk about the theory multiple intelligences.

You may already be familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which made waves in the fields of education and developmental psychology after it was outlined in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence. If not, consider picking up a copy

Gardner, a renowned developmental psychologist and Harvard professor, maintained that intelligence wasn’t so black and white as traditional school assessments and public opinion would have us believe. A child who struggled through their mathematical exercises could be a brilliant poet; a child who struggled at all traditional subjects altogether may be a brilliant musician or athlete. No intelligence is innately superior to another, and every person likely has some form of all the intelligences, but may excel in one or two.

(Want to know what type of intelligence you have? Click here and here to take two unofficial tests.)

In 1999, Gardner added another intelligence (naturalistic) to his original seven, and has since proposed a ninth. The intelligences are musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. The ninth, which may or may not be an official addition at this juncture, is moral or existential intelligence. Check out this wonderful infographic by designer Diana Ziv below:

While the Montessori method is not based on Gardner’s theory (Dr. Montessori began developing her philosophy in 1897), it does complement it in that it encourages students to develop their talents, feed their curiosity and learn more about subjects that they are interested in. Gardner is also a fan of student-directed learning and alternative forms of assessment. To learn more about Gardner’s theories and how they relate to education, check out this 1997 interview with Edutopia and visit the official website for information on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI).

Recognizing Developmental Milestones

No one knows a child better than his parent. How your child behaves and the manner in which he communicates offers important information regarding your child’s development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screenings at ages 9, 18, 24 and/or 30 months. They recommend autism screenings at 18 and 24 months. If you have a concern it is your right to ask for a screening or further evaluation

To assist you in assessing your child’s development, please refer to the CDC’s guidelines on milestones at 2 years3 years4 years, and 5 years.

The Two Pillars of Effective Classroom Management

During a recent Friday at school, the students were at home and the teachers were in class. We were learning about “Bringing out the Best in Students and Teachers” from Grace Dearborn, a Mentor Teacher/Consultant. With over 15 years of teaching students ranging in age from kindergarten through high school aged children, Grace was a master storyteller, easily conveying tried and useful information to the FMS teaching staff.



Starting with some of the basics, like “The two pillars of effective classroom management are structure and safety.” The more clearly the structure of the classroom is laid out for the students the easier it is for them to follow the procedures in the classroom. For example, in the primary classrooms, we show students how to roll up a mat so that it is evenly rolled up and tightly done. In the course of the day, if a child haphazardly rolls up a mat and then puts it away, they have not internalized the structure of “how to roll up a mat.” Hopefully, a teacher will see this and gently ask the child to try again, thus giving them a pattern of rolling up a mat that is in compliance with the structure of the classroom.


In an elementary classroom, students might be shown how to do a word sort where they are handed a list of words and are asked to divide up the list according to the specific categories. If the student follows the procedure and separates the list according to the categories, then the child begins to learn the words effectively and this process reinforces their knowledge. On the other hand, if they don’t sort correctly, a teacher would see the opportunity to reteach the process and reinforce the structure of sorting according to an effective standard.



As each child is able to move and operate in the classroom, successfully navigating the rules and expectations within the room, the smoother the classroom runs. Children naturally test the boundaries laid out by teachers (and parents) and most of the time, they are just testing to see how trustworthy the teacher is. The first time they push a limit and a teacher is able to meet the child with “positive love and regard” while redirecting the student to making a better choice, the student’s sense of safety is reinforced. They begin to relax because they know that the teacher is directing the room from a position of strength and awareness.

Naturally teachers are motivated to convey content to their students; the “important information”, like facts and concepts. Yet, an equally important component of teaching is modeling appropriate behavior. In fact, as was reinforced in our training; children come into a classroom wanting to learn appropriate behavior. It is the teacher’s duty to clearly lay out the procedures for appropriate behavior, redirecting a child to better choices when they are testing the limits, and to implement clear consequences for the choices being offered. As children learn to conduct themselves within the framework of the classroom, they begin to develop the skills to effectively be in groups. Since most of our lives are spent working in groups, this is a fundamental skill that requires the attention it deserves.

101 Things Parents Can Do to Help Children

We’re pulling from our blog archives today to talk about 101 think parents can do to help children.

Parents often wonder what they can do to reinforce Montessori principles in their home and daily routines. This list, 101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children, was written by Early Childhood Montessori Guide Barbara Hacker, and is full of practical tips for all facets of life.

101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children

Spanish in the Classroom

The Spanish language can be heard in three FMS classrooms as naturally as we hear words and phrases being said in English. Two of our Primary classrooms and one of our Lower Elementary classrooms deliver their lessons in English and Spanish. P1040065In the Primary rooms, the lessons mirror the work shown to the children in English. If a child has done a math lesson using the small bead stair, they will also be given the same lesson using Spanish nomenclature.

“One” becomes “uno” and “two” becomes “dos.” In the process of using the Spanish language to respond to the teacher; the students are reinforcing their core lessons, while at the same time, they are utilizing their second language skills in a practical and useful way.

Lower Elementary students in E3 have the extra benefit of doing math, grammar and word studies in Spanish. They also read books in both English and Spanish, and are asked to apply their written skills in the Spanish language. By the time a student has gone through Primary and Lower Elementary Spanish immersion classes at FMS, they will have had 6 years of actively learning and using the Spanish language. Research confirms that immersion in a second language when a child is young, often makes it easier for the child to acquire the fundamentals of using the second language.P1040072

Author Ronald Kotulak observes, “During the first three years of life, the foundations for thinking, language, vision, attitudes, aptitudes, and other characteristics are laid down.” He states in Inside the Brain, “Consequently, it would be a waste not to use a child’s natural ability to learn during his or her most vital years, when learning a second language is as easy as learning the first.”

Picking up the Spanish language comes naturally in our primary aged classrooms and is further refined as our students move into their lower elementary classrooms. P1040070All students on campus are given the chance to learn Spanish even if they are not enrolled in our Spanish immersion classes.All other classes are visited on a weekly basis from our Spanish speaking teachers and are taught the fundamentals of the language. This time spent learning the Spanish language in a primary and elementary setting lays the groundwork for all of our students who elect to take Spanish in high school. FMS graduates report that having the chance to learn Spanish, while here on campus enhanced their ability to further their skills in high school.

Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 5

Today we conclude our series exploring how to interact with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a key to addressing negative behavior, Logical Consequences.


Logical Consequences

When there are behavioral problems, use logical consequences. Logical consequences should be respectful, relevant, and realistic.

  • Stop the behavior
  • Teach an alternative to the behavior
  • Have the child state the rule
  • As a parent, pull back the limits
  • When child shows a working understanding of the rule, extend limits

When handling misbehavior, it is important to use a normal tone of voice and speak directly to the child. Focus on the behavior and not the child’s character. Be firm; this is not a time to negotiate. When deciding on the consequence, make sure the punishment fits the crime. The time frame needs to make sense to the child. A punishment that is either too long or too short is ineffective.

An example: Johnny is playing in his brother Grant’s room. Johnny has been told that he cannot play in his brother’s room without permission. Grant is at his friend’s house playing and Johnny sees Grant’s new airplane. Johnny says to himself, “I just want to touch it. I won’t break it.” He wanders into Grant’s room and is flying the plane around the room when the dog rushes in and jumps on Johnny. Johnny drops the plane, and it breaks. Johnny starts yelling at the dog and runs downstairs and tells his mom, “Spot broke Grant’s plane!” But did Spot break Grant’s plane? Mom investigates and finds that Johnny was not following the rules their family has in place and did indeed break Grant’s plane. An accident, but an avoidable one if Johnny had been following the house rules. When Grant arrives home, Mom sits Grant across from Johnny. Johnny admits his fault to his brother and apologizes. His brother is very upset. Mom then explains that Johnny will now earn the money to purchase Grant a new plan by doing a set amount of chores for the next two weeks. Johnny also promises not to go into Grant’s room again. Two weeks later, Mom takes Johnny and Grant to the store to purchase a new plan. Johnny pays for it himself and then hands the plane to Grant. This is a teachable moment for both Johnny and Grant. Johnny and Grant have both learned about accountability, consequences, and forgiveness. 

Raising children is an awesome responsibility. No one will every say it is without challenges. But the rewards are amazing!

If you would like more help in parenting your child, we recommend the book Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children.

To let the child do as he likes when he has not yet developed any powers of control is to betray the idea of freedom. – Dr. Maria Montessori