Montessori World

An educational blog for children and adults

A Brief Revisit On Aisha’s Book: WHY MONTESSORI?

Let’s take a look at this small gem of publication again.

Regarding the point on the Montessori principles which are based on the child’s natural development, Aisha writes about several important guiding principles for the benefit of teachers and parents:

1)The progression/gradation of simple to complex in the preparation of learning activities

2)Fostering independent learning

3)Clarity and flexibility in the lesson plans

4)Real experience before abstract learning

5)Nature’s way in child development and alert to the sensitive period of the child

Regarding the difference between conventional/traditional and Montessori preschool, Aisha elaborates these points as a matter of fact:

1)Conventional preschools look and work like primary schools in fulfilling parents’ demands on preparing children for academic/formal learning in primary schools. This type of premature introduction may hamper future learning.

2)Boredom routine – sit, listen, answer, do-as-I-told, do homework—>is BORING!

3)Lack of activity may cause children to lose interest in others and become socially withdrawn. I have to say some children may become selfish or reluctant to help their friends and share their knowledge, in accordance with the teacher’s instruction as to not help each other especially when there is a test at the end of a semester. I, myself have participated in this ‘cruel and unfair preparation for standard one’ regime and still don’t agree with standardised tests in kindergartens. (Please leave in the comment box if you know that this ‘ritual’ is still practiced, especially at 6 years old.)

4)Due to lack of creative activities, the child may channel creative energy to antisocial/destructive behaviour resulting in scolding and punishment from teachers. This may cause the child to be less confident, less expressive, dislikes school and learning, or worse still, have social problems in the future such as in bullying which is still prominent until today.

5)Individual personalities and potentials are ignored in conventional preschools due to the scholastic environment and premature introduction to writing and holding pencils. Do we still hold their hands and help them to trace the letters even when they show clear signs of reluctance, weak muscles and poor coordination?

6)Spoonfeeding children at very young age inhibit their innate ability and desire to explore and discover. Lack of stimulation and the space/time to experiment diminish their interest in learning and many students only want answers in their homework and nothing else when they are at primary school.

7)Many preschools may have good educational philosophies as resembled in their missions and visions but not in their practice, especially when threatened by parental and business-profit pressures. Although there are more holistic centres flourishing nowadays, the numbers are still minute compared to the amount of children and I’ve witnessed many centres still bow to the demand of parents in contrast to educating them about child development.

Find out more about Montessori in Aisha’s book: WHY MONTESSORI? which I believe is still on the bookshelves of major bookstores. If not, leave a comment so that I can help you with this.

July 19, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stories and Pantomime.

A good friend of mine asked me, not too long ago, whether there are any other Youtube Videos which have stories for her 4-year-old son to watch. I told her there are many, as in the usual case, but I couldn’t really tell the names. There are the well-know and common ones like Sesame Street, Bob The Builder, Peppa Pigs and many more, but her son has watched almost all the famous ones on the Youtube. Mind you his time on electronic media is limited by my friend of course. Most of the series are not of his interests and some are deemed inapt by the mum. Well, it’s true, isn’t it.

Today I happened to come across two types of edutainment for children from the age group of early years to adolescents.

Firstly, early childhood series: SMILE & LEARN ENGLISH. This channel focuses on reading as a skill to develop a child’s reading proficiency using moral stories which are universal and well-known to many. Rather than preaching about moral values using a book and worksheet, this is a good way to use electronic media even during Circle Time (variant of what to do or what to talk about can be a head spin for many teachers, isn’t it).

One of the stories, The Story of Seeds, convey the values of diligence and friendship. As usual, there will be three animals who are the three main characters of this short and simple story. The great thing is that for children who are reading, every picture is accompanied by sentences which are displayed in a karaoke-like manner, so that children can read along, although I think that the words appear rather fast, considering early readers in mind. But I guess that is the power of the pause button, children can pause if they need a moment to segment the word in the sentences.

Another way of presenting stories in a more old-fashioned way is PANTOMIME. This is an entertaining theatrical production to convey messages to the audience without using any words, but only music and body expressions from the actors, with the narrator usually opening and closing the performance. I stumbled across a pantomime performed by adults to present a simple message about The Mind and Us, which is an ancient teaching from the Bhagavad Gita. In about 8 mins, the whole production with very few props and the actors cladded in black clothes with white printed words, the message about making the right choice in life was broadcasted to the general audience. It was so simple requiring very minimal preparation and no speech at all. It is pure drama – human expression, minimal makeup and costumes, and a few basic props. I find it so inspiring and elementary and secondary students who like acting can definitely put this up as a stage performance in a jiffy, as soon as they have the story line and appropriate script for performance guideline.

A lover of stories and theatre myself, I hope the resources mentioned in this article, will inspire you as you design an educational experience with your children at home or school.

Ideas on Pantomimes for Drama Class | Drama class, Drama education,  Teaching drama
Bed Time Stories with Your Favorite Animals - Educational Stories for  Children - YouTube

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Krsna, the simple cowherd boy.

🎼I am the music man (You are the music man). I come from far away (You come from far away). What can I play (What can you play)? I can play the flute(You can play the flute) .

🎼Twee twee twee twee twee twee twee, twee twee twee, twee twee twee. Twee twee twee twee twee twee twee, twee twee twee twee twee.

Krsna is a simple cowherd boy who originally appears as a king’s son. He spends his childhood times in a village filled with prosperity, love and devotion. Hardly anybody suffers there. Even the cows, peacocks and birds belt out melodious rhythms that satisfy every living tree and flower in the groves. The earth and the dust rolls with laughter whenever Krsna ambles with his gopas, gopis and cows. Every food item is prepared with love from firewood, cow’s milk, water and sweat.

Where Krsna resides the place resembles Garden of Eden. Simple living and high thinking along with scientific method of education, is a way of life long learning promoted by Srila Prabhupada and Maria Montessori in the 20th century.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mother’s Day 2021

I’m very excited to present a simple Mandarin lesson and a gift for Mother’s Day which I made with my students (ages 8 to 11). The youngest student who is turning 4 prepared veggie salad for her mum. All classes were conducted online.

May 9, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Free Meditation Class

Sorry that things have been quiet lately. I have been busy with mostly devotional service.

Finding time to meditate is a challenge for everyone although the internet has so much of knowledge and classes to offer.

This is a link to a short free meditation challenge for adults and children. You will love it and I hope you persevere for three days and beyond!

(taken from Internet)

May 9, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PRACTICAL LIFE: Food Preparation and Cooking

This is an appropriate activity for children aged 2 to 12 years old. I learned to break the corn kernels from a Shanghainese Chinese Vaishnava to prepare pizza toppings two years ago. This exercise even strengthen my hand muscles and hand grip. In the above video, Zhiqi made it look so simple. I’m very certain she has kungfu -shaolin like grip by now. Haha!

Also take note on how Zhiqi disposed the corn plants and husks, and the best part is gym facilities are not required in the rural areas because of a giant millstone.

Watch and practise with your mates and kids in school!

March 28, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seesaw For Kindergarten Online Learning

SEESAW is a good tool to use to organise teaching materials as children can draw on the screen and send it back to teachers. This is especially fun to for young learners.

For Mandarin learners, go to my link https://app.seesaw.me/a/9a1e0b8b-044b-4d1b-a10d-cdd45ede2ae7, there are instructions for you to follow. Most importantly, please be patient if this is something new to you.

February 10, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Special Needs and Online Learning

What educational experiences do kids need to thrive in the world given the current situation in which remote teaching and learning is taking place? This is the underlying question addressed by many school owners, principals, teachers, parents and students. If kids are going to thrive, they will need enhanced outdoor learning program, even during this most crucial moment, that employ all the various areas of intelligences, including those children with special needs.

The big question is HOW!?

Often practitioners working with children with special needs address their concerns about the challenges inside the classroom, hence proper accommodations are necessary so that the students can thrive in outdoor learning environments, which is the case most of the time. However, with the recent global pandemic situation and changing regulations, teaching and learning has been brought back into the indoor, remote and online environment, where the screen in a box seems to be the learning environment for children with special needs. What type of proper accommodations can facilitate these children to thrive in their learning process?

Children with special needs can find it difficult to follow instructions, seems to forget directions immediately and always in trouble, which causes reprimand, punishment, consequences, time-outs or let lose outside the classroom for a bit. They could have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), family problems or CAP (Central Auditory Processing Disorder, a type of Learning Disability even among children with high IQ and superficial ability).

There is mounting evidence that outdoor education provides enhanced learning experiences for all students, especially and exclusively for those with special learning needs. The alternative outdoor approach becomes a necessity to this group of children who, most of the time, is sidelined or missed this significant portion of experience in their learning environment. During this time, there is an urgent need that teachers and parents become better informed and equipped about how to create greater accessibility and involvement to help these unique learners, including those with lower intellectual capacity (Down Syndrome) to children who are unable to focus, seem disinterested, overactive or uncooperative but extremely intelligent.

As with a typical indoor classroom, outdoor education programmes are best put into practice with a clear structure, and in the current remote learning situation, sharing your teaching/activity plan ahead with the parents is necessary to facilitate student understanding and participating in the activities.

A few guidelines outlined by Carol McMullen, a special needs specialist, can be used to accommodate children with special needs, even in a remote learning situation (in some cases, this guideline is also useful when planning activities for very young children under 5):

a) Instructions need to be repeated or presented in a couple of different ways, and chunked into smaller steps. A checklist or visual guide to the parents and/or the children will further assist focus and motivation.

b) Use visual aids with bright colours, and hands on practice examples.

c) Simplify your learning or activity goals.

d) Help children to use all their senses, especially touch.

e) Pair the child with a partner who is strong in organization and performance skills.

f) Close proximity to an adult who acts as an instructor, education assistant, a much older student, a parent, or an active senior volunteer with good skills to guide and engage the child.

g) Assign tasks to help children with special needs to maintain focus, motivation and status within a small group. They will certainly feel ‘important’ and valued like the rest of the children.

In an online class, breakout the usual classroom sessions with 2 or 3 children, as well as supervision from a parent or an adult. Extended mini-meeting may be necessary rather than having an overall gathering to discuss an outdoor activity.

From the viewpoint of the teacher/instructor, this task could take up a lot of their time, in which parents should also be notified about the time allocation and management on the teacher’s part. A meeting could be held to discuss of a certain consensus that would benefit and agreeable to parents and teachers.

Teachers could attempt to plan a lesson or activity by bringing in outdoor lessons into the online classroom. On other days, after assigning a set of clear instructions with clear learning goals, for children to do with their parents or caregivers, and then return to the online classrooms for some discussion and sharing moments.

Even in this time of lockdown, teachers can continue to form special connection with the children of special needs and their families in a more restricted setting and a less physical proximity manner. This new type of learning and staying connected though space and time can be an inspiration on many levels for the children’s future.

Compiling photos and videos is a great way to share your stories with each other in a classroom. Parents and other volunteers can come forward to share their stories in an online classroom session.

*I would love to hear comments, feedbacks or questions from readers on the change in teaching styles and approaches for children with special needs.

February 10, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CONVERSATIONS WITH MONTESSORIANS: Lyndiem

My ex-colleague, Lyndiem (not her real name), is an extremely low-profiled but highly experienced and qualified Montessori teacher in Shanghai, China. Hailing from the Philippines, she has travelled extensively to many countries in Europe and North Africa. She inspired me so much so that I felt the urge to apply to AMI Navadisha Montessori Teaching Institute in Chennai, India. (Sadly, I didn’t pursue the AMI Elementary course upon getting admitted due to inadequate fund.)

Lyndiem did not have a teaching background. In Singapore, she worked as Customer Service executive in a telco company. As she couldn’t see herself having a long term prospect in that company, she decided to take a course that led to an early childhood qualification. After much extensive research in the best method of education, she found the answer in the Montessori Method, a scientifically proven method that supports the development of children aged 0-6 through promoting independence, peace and order.

Lyndie heard about the Montessori education when she was in the Phillipines. “Montessori are commonly known as expensive schools which only the elite ones go.” As she was doing her research, Lyndiem understood more about the pedagogy, convincing herself to spend two years pursuing the course in one of the leading AMI training centres in Chennai, India, also known as Navadisha Montessori Institute.

“Is there a favourite trainer whom you like?” I was not surprise when Lyndie blatantly said “Usually we hate our trainers. We never like them. AMI training is always well known as ‘super vigourous and rigid’.” However, the trainer whom she hates the most was her favourite trainer who owns the learning institute and she wishes to be trained under her as a future trainer for teachers.

During her training, Lyndiem had to draw the teaching presentations step-by-step, in addition to many other assignments like essays and drawings showing the flow of the presentations. For example, when doing water pouring exercise, what happens to the water. Photo presentation is not accepted, only drawing. Lyndiem was not good in drawing so this was the part she hated the most.  Another example of presentation is building the Pink Tower in motion. Lyndiem refers to the drawings in her albums a lot. “We can’t always rely on the writeups, but drawings.” This method of learning helps in her review of the area of Mathematic (Decimal System and Stamp Game) and Language. 

What is the most important quality did your trainer have which has inspired you the most? “Rukmini. She is very knowledgeable in everything related to the theoretical part of Montessori philosophy. She also edited two Maria Montessori books.”

Lyndie started her course in year 2010 which took about 9 months to complete, during the training she also completed practicum which covers classroom observation, school practice and completion of albums, which encompasses about 420 hours. Besides wishing there were more time in submission of assignments and albums, she has no regrets at all.

After completing her diploma, she started to look for schools on AMI website, and hence began her teaching career in: Bulgaria, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Morocco and China.

What is your most memorable  teaching moment? “Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s culture is so beautiful. They have their own alphabet, healthy food and own language (Cyrillic).” She was there for two years, Czech Republic one year, and Morocco for two years. Although her first teaching experience in Bulgaria was a struggle, parents were welcoming, don’ t judge or complain, they shower you with love, and friends with parents. Czech’s parents are colder, “I am not going to rent out to you because you are a foreigner”. Moroccon parents are warmer. China was a culture shock for her.

Lyndie admires her first employer, a Bulgarian headmistress who owns a school where Lyndie taught. The principal started a new school with no assistant, only one classroom, 3-6, and another classroom, 0-3. “There were 20 children in the class, both teachers are AMI trained and we have 10 children each. Most of the time I am in the classroom, and she manages the school. During the whole 3 hour interrupted working cycle, she is there. She is always there. I am lucky to choose the school. She strictly follows the AMI Montessori philosophy. The materials are beautiful. She was mentoring me. I am very thankful to her for giving me the opportunity for my first teaching experience. We are still friends. She is doing her AMI trainer course in Switzerland now. She wants me to manage the school. And her mother loves me so much.”

What is the one Montessori principle that you hang on to as your core value? “Don’t help the child. Help him to do it by himself because independence is aid for life. If you keep helping the child you are obstructing his development. But parents do not understand that until they study Montessori.”

Has Montessori training or values change your personal life? “Absolutely. Right after I became a Montessori teacher, I became watchful of how I would conduct myself in front of the children. They have this absorbent mind and sensitive period. I would be more conscious. Lyndie you cannot sit like that. You cannot put so much food in your mouth. That is the spiritual transformation and preparation that you will need to do. Maria Montessori said that: spiritual preparation.”

Is there one rule that you have ever broken? “Like when children are testing you, your patience, I have to raise my voice.”

In order to educate parents, what is the one thing you wish to tell them? “Independence and order. The routine is very important.”

Do you have a plan to open a school one day? “Oh yes.”

What is the first thing you would do? “Physically and mentally. I want to give back to the children in my hometown who couldn’t afford Montessori. That’s my dream.”

How do you see your future school different than the others? “It would be very very clean, full of gardens where children grow their own vegetables, full of authentic Montessori materials.”

Please elaborate more on authenticity. “During my training and after that I joined one school, all are authentic from Nienhuis. I have actually. When I was preparing my visa to go to Bulgaria, I have to go to Indonesia to apply for visa. I stayed in Indonesia for a month. There I met a principal of an international school with a classroom of one hour Montessori. They asked me to help out . I tried to do some presentations with the children. When I took the brown stairs, there were ten prisms. When I took it, it is the thickest and the lightest.”

So, the authenticity of the materials is something that you talk about a lot. We know Nienhuis manufacturer has the standards which they always maintain in the beginning, and you talked about the materials must be created for their brain development and sensorial experiences. What are the other authentication guidelines you would look at when you open your own school? “We were advised, at the last stage of our training, that the shape of the classroom has to be pentagon 5 sides for the five areas. If I can have a big property/land, I will do that. I am eyeing for one. We have a property, a big piece of land from my mother. I only want a small school and I will ask my sister to be the principal. I will be in the classroom and I don’t want to come out of the classroom. I hope to fulfil the dream.”

Are you planning to further your studies? “Yes, to become an AMI trainer. And do a master’s degree in psychology. One at a time. I want to do 0-3 course. I will check online about the Child Psychology course. My friend in Singapore is also looking for an AMI teachers,  just like me.  She has 3-6 and 6-12 classes.”

Tell me one thing that you have learned from all your experiences, working in Europe, Africa and China. Tell me one thing that has enriched you the most as a Montessorian. “I think working with non-English speaking children and you will trying to see them learning a new language without being pushed by the parents. I saw them evolved naturally, who speak 5 languages,. You will be very proud to see them reading English texts and sentences, recognise the Latin letters, especially when I was in Bulgaria. That was one thing that I am really proud of myself. When I decided to work, I didn’t choose to go to an English speaking country like America, because I think it is boring, so easy to teach the children.”

Tell me the importance of the uninterrupted 3 hour work cycle. “This is where they develop concentration. Circle Time is not included. Mixed age group too. And trained teachers and prepared environment.”

How important is the child to stay in the school for 3 years? “This is how you are going to see the child develops. The moment she enters the child sees Practical Life. Which helps her to understand the Sensorial area and the basic of Mathematic, and Language is in the Practical Life area and Sensorial. So it goes hand in hand. Order. Concentration. Independence.”

How important do you think it is to work as a team? How do you find a way to work as a team? “When I was in Lithuania, I had a great assistant. She has , the only assistant you could wish for, she has the initiative to make materials, she would search for songs, learn guitar, very pretty physically, and she has an eye for things. When I left the school, she left too. And then, I move to Morocco.”

How was it like in Morocco? “I role-model in the classroom, I don’t boss around in the classroom. Though I am tired, I will show you I am not lazy. My boss would come and say, ‘Look at Lyndie, she is sitting down and you are the one walking around. She is your assistant, you shouldn’t let them do that to you.’ I was like a ping pong ball. I talk to my assistant. She eventually realised that she has to change.”

“We sit with the management and discuss our roles. I will tell my assistant to prepare the materials in the morning because I will be in the office. My classroom is already prepared before I go home, the only duty for my assistant is to put back the materials for practical life. Cleaning and sanitising I will do it, alone. I have to clean the placemats, folding the aprons, I am very meticulous.”

I am happy to be your colleague for a year, Lyndie, and I have witness your commitment towards Montessori Philosophy and Practice throughout the year. Before we end this interview, tell me how would you describe your teaching spirit as a Montessorian. “I am not here to please the parents. I am here to teach the children. If they see any good results, academic wise at home, it is because I did it in the classroom. I don’t need to show it off. Children need to adjust to the new materials and the new routine. You will need time to let them blossom. They need time to learn and practice folding aprons, wash and dry the dishes. This take a long time for them to memorise. This is indirect preparations for the brain development. Two weeks is not enough to see any improvement. Give them a term of 3-4 months, and you can see them blossom. Children are different everywhere but they have the same needs.”

Thank you Lyndie and I hope someday we get to meet again.

(I am so pleased to reconnect with Lyndiem on Wechat through an ex-colleague just before Christmas.)

This is the best picture I have from a dedicated Montessorian.

December 28, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Montessori in the Workplace.

I’m always hyped up by this thing called Montessori and this time it’s from a TED Talk.

According to the speaker, who is a Montessori parent and former HR personnel, three Montessori elements is able to produce changes in any workplace for the benefit of the organisation and employee: Freedom, Curiosity and Play.

I think so too (although some play advocators or Montessorians themselves might argue that play in a Montessori environment, by definition is not considered play due to the factors of structure and rule).

So, have a watch and rethink how companies like Google and Apple are able to recreate the organisations’ vision and mission for the 21st century generation.

December 6, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment