1/17/17

How does a perfect stacking tower look according to Montessori principles?

There are lots and tons of different stacking toys out there. Many of them are called Montessori ones. Together with you today we will try to find a stacking tower that will correspond to Montessori principle. Also, I will write a bit about the sequence of presenting stacking towers to children.


In fact, there are no stacking towers created by Maria Montessori herself exactly. She was mainly creating materials for children from 3 years. So no stacking tower can be called Montessori one. But we can look at them from a position of Montessorian. We can think about how many of them have qualities of Montessori materials.  

So let's think first about the aim of a stacking tower:
- development of manipulative skills and hand-eye coordination
- development of grasp
- learning to stack and thread
- development of size discrimination
- assist in colors learning
- assist in the development of pre-writing skills

What material should it be made of?
There are no standards but I would prefer wood. I think it is nice to touch and also it creates interesting natural sound when you stack it. But if you will find a plastic one that will be appropriate with colors that are not too bright - that would suit also.

What qualities of Montessori materials should it have?
- it should have one main and direct aim. I think the main aim is to teach a child to stack on the first stage and to teach him to form a tower from big to small on the second stage.
- it should have the isolation of difficulty. It is a bit similar to the previous point. We distinguish one aspect of teaching from all the possible variations we can do with it. For example, if we want to teach a child to stack exactly we don't point to the color of the elements at the same time, we don't count them and we don't show different variations of putting it together. 
- it should have isolation of qualities. The child should concentrate on only one quality of the material, the one that changes. So if we want our child to learn how to form a tower from big to small we need to choose the toy that has all the elements of the same materials, texture, and color. The size only should be different

Now let's have a look at the sequence of presenting different stacking towers to the child according to his needs. I wrote "stacking tower" in google today and there are so many of them. I have chosen for you exactly those that correspond to our requirements. There can be many variations to the order of presenting these materials but I found this for myself.

Let's call these variants our child's first stacking toys:

Stacking Rings
1. The child starts using this toy at about 8-12 months. The holes in rings are pretty big so this fits perfectly to child's abilities at this stage. Here he learns to stack, develops his fine motor and hand-eye coordination. I like that this set has a big base so the dowel itself is very stable. All the elements are of the same uncolored wood. The rings are of the same size.

Wooden Ring Stacking Toy
2. This toy is similar to previous one but it has the ball mounted on top of the wooden peg. This ball can help the child in the process of putting the rings on the dowel.

Rings on a Vertical Dowel
3. This one looks more like a traditional tower we used to see. The child starts to use such stackers at 10-18 months. Here the size of the hole is smaller so the difficulty increases. This work needs more accuracy and precision of movements, coordination, and dexterity. It helps the child to develop his grasp and hand-eye coordination. Again the base is big so the tower can not fall while forming. Here we can see that nothing will distract the child from the main aim not the size of the rings nor their color.

Blocks on a Vertical Dowel
4. This is the next stage of stacking. Now we use blocks. It develops another type of the grasp. This stacking tower isolates the particular skill of placing the block on the dowel by keeping the shapes, sizes and colors constant. Such materials also develop concentration, attention and fine motor.

Discs on a Horizontal Dowel
5. Now when the child has learned to put discs on vertical dowel the difficulty increases. This horizontal dowel helps develop a slightly different grasp than a traditional stacking toy. It enhances child's fine motor skills.

Discs on metal dowels
6. The difficulty increases again. Now a child needs to thread discs on a metal horizontal wire. It is thinner than a wooden one the work is more challenging. We start with straight wire and then move to the bent one. These materials provide development of different hand and wrist motions.

Primary Color Ring Sorter
7. The child has mastered all the different types of threading with various stacking toys. Now he is ready to progress to stacking by color. Here he needs to place a correct ring onto a matching dowel. The child starts to work with this material at 18-24 months. It helps the child to learn 3 primary colors. As you can see all other qualities of the material are the same, such as shape, size, material and texture. So the child's attention is concentrated only on the difference in colors. I think this is a kind of a variation for stacking work.

Pyramid Wooden Stacking Tower
8. Oh, that was hard to find exactly this one! All the thing proposed are of different colors. I am happy I have finally found something I had in my mind. It would be perfect for me if there would be 3 rings. So here our aim is to teach a child to stack from big to small. Here we start teaching about big and small, bigger and smaller. In this work, child starts to develop the understanding of harmony that he will later continue to discover with pink tower and brown stairs. You see that here the child concentrates on one quality of the material that changes, that is the size. All other characteristics are the same. It should not be specifically uncolored wood but all the elements should be of the one color. I just didn't manage to find another example for you because it is quite a job to find a small monocolored stacker. 

9. Later you can suggest a child similar towers but with a bigger number of rings. Like this one:

Wood stacking toy
I was taught that in the 0-3 classroom we use things with 5 elements and in 3-6 with 10 elements. Number ten correlate in the 3-6 classroom with many other Montessori materials. I think is rule works for stacking toys also we start from 1-3 and go to 5-10 rings. 

These are all the stacking towers that I consider correspond to Montessori principles and Montessori materials qualities. To my mind, it is impossible to name just one perfect stacking toy because as you see they teach different skills and have different aims. But this is my list of the things that fulfill the aim of the material in the best way. 

In Montessori gift guides recommendations we can often find colorful wooden stackers. I know they are very beautiful. But we should not call them Montessori. Not all the wooden toys are Montessori ones.  I am not against colorful toys, for example, I can imagine the variety of uses for a colorful rainbow. But with the stacking colorful tower, what is the purpose of it? What is the aim? I think sometimes we buy children colorful toys because these toys appeal to us and we think that child will be bored with plain color. But they will not. We need to think whose needs are met with this specific toy?

Can we use other towers? Sure we can. We just don't need to call them Montessori.

A lot of things I showed you here can be DIYed in some original and interesting way but with saving of their important qualities. 

In this post, I wanted to share with you how Montessori principles are used for choosing materials. I hope this will help you in some way in your teaching and parenting.

12/18/16

Join me at Montessori Homeschool Summit

I knew about the coming of this event for some time already but I couldn't share the info. It was so difficult because I am so excited about it! Finally, I can share with you all the details! Hooray!



Montessori Homeschool Summit is an online conference for parents, homeschoolers, and teachers where experienced Montessorians share their knowledge with you. There are 4 days of workshops, discussions, learning and sharing of knowledge on January 9-12, 2017. It is organized by wonderful Seemi from Trillium Montessori.

I have so many people around me, such as you my friends, parents, teachers, and homeschoolers, who want to know more about Montessori method so badly but have no proper opportunities. You desire to improve and develop. You want to give your child the best but lack knowledge.  You want to attend some courses or training but either there are no such where you live or they are pretty pricey, or you simply have no one to leave your child with while you will spend time there. You just wish to learn something knew. 

This all is about me also. I also always want to know more and to dig dipper. But often Montessori lacks in my city community. They don't propose a lot of workshops and seminars here. I found the best way for myself - attending virtual webinars and conferences. This is very suitable for homeschoolers and parents because you can stay at home with your child, you can watch it at the best time for you and also usually you can rewatch it. And this event is exactly what we need! 

In summer I attended Montessori Summit and it was huge. It was full of workshops and sharing. I have learned so many new things about Montessori! Some were real practical tips that you can use at home or in the classroom right away! And I know many families that used all these advice successfully and implemented them in their homeschooling process. We are still discussing these new ideas that we have learned with them. 

Homeschool summit is specifically for people who want to use more Montessori at home. I already received several messages with excitement about this event. This meeting is for those who homeschool for some time already and also for those who don't know where to start. It is for you if you don't even plan to fully homeschool but just want to implement Montessori ideas at home. I also recommend it for teachers because some seminars cover not only using Montessori at home but general Montessori aspects. I know that there will present those who Montessori homeschool for some time already and I think for teachers it can be very interesting to look at some things from their perspective. I am sure these knowledges will be helpful in your future work with parents.

There are 3 ways you can go. You can choose workshops for primary level, for an elementary level or for specials. You will be able to attend 3 workshops with every path. Plus you will also receive the ability to watch 4 additional seminars that cover general aspects of Montessori. Isn't it cool?! Of course, you can have a full pass and watch them all. You need to carefully look at the conference scheduling and choose what is interesting for you. I will not lie for me all the workshops are super interesting. I am so glad that they cover so many different areas! I should say that I know some of the presenters and they are really the people I trust. I know that they are so experience and I constantly learn from them.

There will be a lot about general principles of Montessori education and how they are used at home. Precious are practical knowledges that you will receive as how to use specific materials at home or how to compose unit studies that will be interesting for your child. There will be about math and about cosmic education. Some presenters will tell about raising your child in a multi-lingual environment and about applying Montessori for special needs. I am sure that so many questions will be answered there. Oh, speaking about questions, last time there were a number of FB lives with presenters where they were answering your questions and I am sure this time it will be also.

You can read more and join us HERE

But this is not even all that you can expect. So what are some perks of attending the Summit?

* you watch seminars with experienced presenters that work with Montessori method for many years already
* you  receive precious knowldeges about Montessori education in general and for a home in particular
* you meet new people, communicate and find new friends
* you are able to watch it whenever you like (yei! timezones doesn't matter). You can rewatch it for as many times as you want
* you visit Virtual Exhibit Hall where you will find many Montessori goodies from little and passionate Montessori creators. They suggest lots of discounts and surprises for summit visitors! I know what I am talking about, there will be really a lot of them!
* you receive a pack of freebies from exhibitors that costs more than $200! Yay! Such as
  • 40+ pages of pink series reading card materials
  • 70+ pages about ecology and healthy living materials
  • Nomenclature bundles for the Wasp, the Butterfly, and the Eagle
  • Counting cards to go with the Montessori Bead Stair
  • ... and many more
* you get free access to bonus workshops
  • Montessori 101
  • Sibling Rivalry to Sibling Revelry
* you will receive $75 credit at Trillium Montessori Store. You can choose any printables from the store on this amount of dollars.
* you are able to join lots of giveaways where you have a chance to win digital products, online consulting, finished cards and other cool and geek Montessori things
*So in general you receive several times more than you pay! WOW!

So look at the schedule of the event (you can read about every session in details and event watch some previews!)

Monday, January 9
- "The Inner Preparation of the Adult" with Souzzann Zink
- "Montessori Reading Material in the Homeschool Environment" with Cherine Muirhead
- "Practical Life: "It's Elementary My Dear!" with Tammy Oesting
- "The ABSc of Montessori and Special needs" with Renae Eddy

Tuesday, January 10
- "Ten Common Pitfalls of Montessori Homeschooling" with Bess Wuertz
- "Add Interest to Your Homeschool for Multiple Adges: How to Use Montessori Inspired Unit Studies" with Deb Chitwood
- "Homeschooling and Montessori's Cosmic Education" with Anne-Laure Schneider
- "Raising Children in a Multi-Lingual Home" with Yuliya Fruman

Wednesday, January 11
- "Freedom Within Limits in a Montessori Home Environment" with Anastasia Rehbein
- "The Magic of Montessori Math: How to Use the Golden Beads" with Lara Jacobs
- "How to Start and Run an Elementary Aged Homeschool Group" with Leanna Ampola
- "Leaning in to Homeschooling a Differently Wired Child: Tips and Inspiration for Making it Work" with Debbie Reber

Thursday, January 12
- "Special Tips for Your Homeschool Journey" with Patrick Farenga
- "The Geometric Cabinet: Lessons and Extensions" with Maria Burke

You can SIGN UP HERE

So now you see what I was talking about! So many different topics covered!

You can sometimes think that Montessori is not for you because it is difficult or materials are too expensive but when you will learn more you will understand that it is not like this. Montessori method can and should be successfully used at home. And this summit will definitely help you in so many different ways. Even if you don't plan to homeschool full-time I think some presentations will be useful and interesting for you. 


Do you sometimes feel like the only person using Montessori in your area? You relatives don't understand it and other parents give you strange looks. This is a wonderful time to find people that will support you. It is all about community! It is much like a real-life conference where you meet new people, drink tea with them, exchange contacts with them and you become friends! This is all true about this event. Last time we had so many discussions and giggles. I am sure you will find there people that will support you in your Montessori journey because they also search you!

The last thing I want to say that the energy and inspiration charge you will receive after attending is priceless! So will you go with me to the Montessori Comi-con, as I call it ;)?

12/17/16

Virtual tour into Montessori environment at Delta Montessori

Recently I have stumbled upon a Montessori environment that caught my attention. It is from Delta Montessori in Argentina, Tigre, Buenos Aires. I contacted them to say that they are making a really good thing and these people were very kind. So I decided to share my impressions about this space and I am sure we can learn a lot from them. 


I know that this project was planned for 3 years and lovely owners have put a lot of work and passion into it. They are trying really hard to become a complete school. They have a development plan to open all the school levels. Now they offer "Parent Infant Community Program". In 2017 they want to open nido room, in 2019 - primary (1st part), 2022 - primary (2nd part), 2024 - erdkinder. I think it is a really big and exciting project! 

Their parent/infant program is focused on the psychological and physical development of infants from birth through two years and of course on the support of parents. Adults and children meet twice a week with the Montessori guide in an environment prepared and adapted to meet the developmental needs of their children, strengthening the bond between the child and the parents. As this happens parents are discovering everything their children are capable of doing. Also, the discussion group and materials are offered monthly to help keep the Montessori philosophy at home.

They also have workshops where adults learn how to observe these different stages of development and provide the child with experiences in the progress of movement, self-direction, and independence.They cover different topics such as sharing toys, bites, new child, sibling rivalry, sphincter control, feeding and all other that may interest parents.

As studied by Prof. Montessori, during the first year of life our babies experience the most intense physical and psychological growth of their lives, where they begin to acquire different types of motor skills, as well as the acquisition of language. So we need to provide a proper environment that meets their needs. So let's have a look at this space closer.



The room is full of space and light. It gives an opportunity to move freely. Take a look at the number of shelves. There are not too many of them. The arrangement of furniture is very age appropriate because it gives a child a movement support in every place of the room. Pay attention to the toy on the little bridge on the front. We usually place different interesting items in the top middle of such bridges or platforms to inspire children to get them and to climb and move.



Of course there is a place with a movement mat and mobiles or grasping toys. There children can lay and observe. Different mobiles encourage childrens observation, focus, and attention. They also offer an interesting optical experience as well as provide kinetic information. They develop child's aesthetic sense. Such items as takane ball train child's ability to grasp. 


Look at the apparatus that they use for mobiles hanging. I like so much that it can be folded to the wall. I often get asked how to hang a mobile so this idea is really great. There is a bag with different soft balls in the room. You can use different kind of balls stitched, knitted or braided. Children will touch them, grasp them and follow them as they roll. I like that this pull up bar near the mirror is placed really low so it will meet first child's attempts to pull up. 



The shelves are not cluttered with toys. The pictures on the walls are on the child's level. I specifically like that they feature just one object so the child can concentrate on it. If there will be lots of things on the picture child would not be able to observe every item properly. Flowers also add a feel of beauty and nature to the room. There is a little table with little chairs. Remember that the chair is age appropriate if the child feet stand on the floor. I like to look at this space because it is very well-thought and even sitting pillows are of 3 primary colors!




Look at these bags. They have different materials inside, like sand, rice, twinkle bells. They are also made of different kind of clothes, like wool, burlap, cotton and so on. Children touch them and fulfill their sensorial needs. I think this is a nice idea that can be applied at home also.


Infant environments usually have a chair for baby nourishing. Look at the choice of toys there are musical instruments, ball cylinder, bell cylinder, different balls, rolling toys and grasping toys.

Someone commented that this environment lacks in colors but to my mind it has just enough. The colors in the environment are not too bright and distracting and also we need to remember that at this age we firstly introduce only primary colors to infants. I see parents often buy very colorful toys because they think that plain wooden items would be boring for children. But they will not because parents often look at the toys from their own perspective but not from the child's perspective. Firstly we should think how to meet the needs of the child.

I think Montessori guides of Delta Montessori make an awesome work to help the infants develop naturally. I hope they school will only grow and develop.

I hope this space was interesting for you and it inspired you.