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DIY Montessori Question2b

We invited our Age of Montessori Facebook community to ask any question at all.  Here are our answers.  Didn’t get to ask your questions? Feel free to post a question below.  We would love to hear from you.  

Q: What is the Montessori recommended method for potty training?
A: In Montessori, we prefer to use the term “toilet learning” rather than “toilet training.  The key with helping children use the toilet independently is to make it a gradual, natural process and to not force it or get into a power struggle in any way. It is best to start early (by age two) and not to use rewards or punishments. Simply invite the child to sit on the “potty chair” or small seat on a big toilet whenever the mom or adult uses the bathroom.

Starting even with younger infants, talking about what you are going to do, whether it is putting a coat on before going outside, getting ready to pick the child up to go out or changing a diaper, is great for communication and vocabulary long before you are ready for the child to use the toilet. Consistently refer to the process every time you change a diaper, “Your diaper is wet (or soiled). You went pee (or poop) without any emotion or negative energy. Let’s sit on the potty to see if you need to pee, etc.”

Here is an article that focuses on how to make sure you don’t get in a power struggle over toileting. The author emphasizes, “Giving your child control over the issue is the secret… The more parental interference, the more complications.”

Q: What can you do to easily have non-Montessori children make a smooth transition into a Montessori environment? I’m a Montessori teacher and need advice. There are 8 yr olds coming to our school who don’t have any Montessori experience. Thank you!

Part of what makes for a smooth transition falls within the preparation. Maria Montessori spoke extensively about the Prepared Environment, and as a teacher, I believe that includes creating an atmosphere of emotional safety and trust for the students and their families. If possible, I would include the new eight year-olds into some small, social activities at the school as soon as possible to get to know the teacher and perhaps even some of their classmates better. On the first day of attendance, set up an older child to be a guide/mentor to the younger child. Have the mentor greet the new child and involve the new child in a Practical Life activity (ie. preparing a snack), to help them to feel welcome/included in the classroom community. Food is the universal way to build culture.

Some schools arrange for home visits during which the teachers can meet with the child and their family on the child’s home turf. This can be very educational for the teacher in terms of forming an authentic connection with the student before their first day of school. When meeting with the parents, gather information that will help you to be sure you understand the family’s expectations and understand any unique needs this child may have. Some good questions are, “How did he do in his last school/classroom? What is causing you to want to transition to Montessori? Is he struggling academically or with behavior? If there are challenges discussed, make sure you a chance to set up a plan with the teachers to meet any of those specific concerns. As you talk about parental expectations, make sure to education them on Montessori learning.
Children learn to make educated choices in a Montessori classroom and for children who are accustomed to following directions of a teacher for every task, may take a while to really understand how to make choices. Parents can make this easier by setting up choices at home in whatever situations allow for it. This act of making educated choices is a major factor in contributing to the development of the executive functions of the brain.
You Might suggest parents watch some of our AOM webinar replays for better understanding of Montessori learning. We also recommend you watch our AOM webinar on Transitions.

Q: What ages did Maria Montessori develop her program for? My daughter is going into 5th grade and it seems harder for her to stay motivated and on task with the Montessori method than in years past. She has been in Montessori school since she was 3.

A: Montessori developed her learning for children of all ages. Her understanding of the stages of development go from prenatal development through age 24. Our first recommendation is to ask the teacher if she/he has any thoughts on what might be shifting for the child. Together, get curious about when this change started for your daughter and look for any potential correlations (ie. Did she begin puberty? Did a new student start in the class? Is she having new social issues with her peers?) In addition, we recommend that you talk with the teachers to make sure she is doing enough hands-on learning and whether she is getting to do extensive projects in areas within which she is interested.

Is she having adequate opportunities for movement and self-direction? Is she getting behind in any specific area? She might be needing more sleep, more movement, or more support on navigating middle school peer issues. Ask your child about how she feels about school, her teachers and friends. What is she liking the most/least in her school? Montessori learning is designed to meet the needs of the child and you and your child’s teachers are the best team to try and identify and work on any problems that arise.

Q: Would it be beneficial to modernize some of the materials for this time period? Keeping the same method and principal behind the way of learning but making the materials more modern.

A: Yes, and No. Many schools and teacher training program are modernizing the materials used for curriculum development. Age of Montessori is already doing that with our language curriculum. In the Royal Road to Reading, we have modernized Montessori’s ideas from what they taught in Italy at the turn of the century. We are also working on potentially having apps that will supplement the physical materials for our Royal Road to Reading.

On the other hand, we value the time-tested lessons from Maria Montessori. She introduced many materials to children that we don’t use today because she filtered out those not compelling to children. 100 years later the lessons she decided were most effective are still compelling to children today. Human nature likes to explore!

Montessorians are following the research on the impact of media screen time on brain functioning in kids of all ages. We agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics that children ages two and under should be exposed to no screen time. Preschool children should have very limited screen time and elementary aged children, while learning keyboard skills and some basic research skills online, are primarily encouraged to utilize books and hands-on materials for their learning.
Many schools that survey their families find that children are already getting more than the recommended amount of screen time at home not only through watching favorite TV programs, but also through video games, computers, and hand held devices. These schools tend to see it as their mission to offer a balance through providing real life experiences with hands on learning.

Children need concrete, before abstract. Also, our classrooms want to prioritize social-emotional development which happens when children work/interact together. Language, collaboration, and working in small groups are important. Technology isn’t as supportive of meeting those goals.

Q: Should the 3 hr work cycle include lunch and group time?

A: The 3 hour cycle for the early childhood classroom generally does not include lunch but may include classroom group time. We want extended periods of time for children to be independent and working in small groups, uninterrupted the bulk of their morning time. This is most conducive to concentration and developing sustained interest in learning. Montessori wrote about a two- to three-hour work period during which children are allowed to freely explore the classroom and make independent choices. When children are not herded about or hovered over by well-meaning adults, they are free to develop a sense of initiative, organizational skills and independent learning.
For this reason, the work period is largely based on free choices, while teachers regularly introduce new lessons and activities for individual children as they show signs of needing the nest step forward. Ideally children may choose snack when they are hungry, and they may even help set up the lunch area by setting the table at the end of the work period. The work period may end with circle time for stories, songs and introduction of cultural materials as well as or some other dismissal exercise, and transition to lunch or outside time.

At the elementary level there is more academic direction as to skills but there are still plenty of choices of different hands-on materials used to accomplish specific skills.

Q: What academic “expectations” should we have of primary children transitioning to lower elementary.

A: We are assuming you are wanting to know if children have reached certain bench marks. If this is correct, some of the goals for primary classrooms are: reading, working with some of the 4 operations, social skills that lead to comfort in group settings, functional independence with taking care of clothing, lunch, transitions, and the ability to work in groups or independently.

These are general guidelines, but each school has its own set of expectations, so be sure to explore them with the school you may be considering for your children.

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  1. Hello,
    Sleep Question
    My girl is 9 mo, from the age of 5 month, she was a great sleepe, all I had to do was to put her to her floor bed and she would fall asleep on her own, recently she started to be very fuzzy and cranky and simply not able to fall asleep on her own. It takes about 30 min of singing, rocking etc. I’m not forcing her to have a nap, but I see that she gets overtired and just not able to fall asleep. Please help. I know that the method suggests that a baby lays down to have a nap whenever she feels like, but. In my practice this never happens, I always have to encourage her, and lately almost force her to prevent over tiring. Please help. Thank you in advance!

    1. Thank You Flora for the respond! I just saw that my reply didnt go through at the time. It got better over time, now she is a year old girl and slowly we are getting there 🙂 Now most of the time she can now soothe herself to sleep. Thank you so much for your guidance! She just needed some extra time.

  2. Any help would be appreciated. My six-year-old daughter has been thriving in her Montessori school for the past 3 years, but my husband and I won’t be able to afford tuition for the next school year. We have decided to Homeschool, and I am overwhelmed- and frankly, confused- by the amount of information on the web. What I am hoping to find is a structured curriculum bundle for ages 6-9 with step-by-step instructions and all of the lesson materials included. I am going to to take a Montessori Certification class to help me instruct her properly. If you know of any such curriculum, I would very much appreciate it.

  3. Hello! I am looking for some advise as a parent, my son that is 5 years old, just started a Montessori school 2 weeks ago. It happens that his teacher called me to say that she believes he is not in the right environment and recommends he goes to public or charter school. I feel heart broken because I really want him to be in this program. my son seems to be happy, he does not complain about anything, I notice he has grown and changed but it breaks my heat to hear that and to have to take him to a public school ?. Please help me

    1. Hello Gladys,
      This sounds really hard, my heart goes out to you. It can be challenging for a five year old to enter a Montessori classroom for the first time, especially if that classroom has a high number of 2 1/2 to 3 year-olds who require a lot of support and guidance from the teachers in the beginning of the school year. Multi-age groupings work best when the child can be there for the three-year cycle. Coming in at the last year has its drawbacks because the new child does not have the foundation from the first two years–especially in relationships, both with the other children as well as the teachers. For this reason, some schools do not allow children over age four to enroll.

      My suggestion is to set up a meeting with the school administrator and the teacher and bring some prepared questions in order to learn more about why the teacher feels this way. Hopefully what comes from that conversation will better inform you about what your next choices are for your child’s best fit. If your son is having significant challenges, you will need to know how those challenges are presenting in the school environment in order to best support his needs. I would also ask if the school has a list of possible community resources for special needs such as evaluations at the local public school district and additional supports, if appropriate.

      I wish you the best of luck in this transition, and hang in there–the right classroom home for your son is there, sometimes it takes a little while to find the best fit.

      Warmest regards,
      Victoria Brailsford
      Assistant Director of Training

  4. Hi Thank you for your response. The issues the teacher says she he is having is that he does not use the materials properly, he starts playing with them and he does not stay on task to long, that once she steps away from him he drifts of and starts playing with the material. I would think he is learning the program and that he will eventually get it or do you think he is never going to get it? He is very eager to learn letter and to read! I have seen him grow so much at home, he is gentle with things now, and controls himself better.

    1. Hello Gladys,
      We encourage you to offer (to the school) to pursue an evaluation to learn more about possible distraction issues with an occupational therapist, bring the findings back to the school, and ask if they would be willing to reconsider if the evaluation results support him continuing in a classroom environment with a few modifications. If the school and teacher are not willing, perhaps your son would be better served by moving on to a different environment.

      All our best to you,
      Victoria Brailsford
      Assistant Director of Training

  5. I need sort of specific instructions with room for creativity. Will I thrive in a montessori environment?

  6. Hi! my son is 5 years old and in public kindergarten. He has troubles with hearing and recording sounds in words. I was wondering if you had any advice on how I can help him, and if any Montessori methods can help him with this! Thankyou!

  7. I have a great concern about a practice our Principal has adopted without asking teachers in advance, just assigning them to do this activity. The activity is to go into a “fish bowl” where there are 10 adults in very close proximity to watch a teacher give a primary child or children a live lesson. I am one of only 2 trained AMI Montessori teachers, the rest are not trained or have had the on-line training. When I was told I would be next, I refused and said I did not want to do this to any of my children in the classroom. The Principal (untrained) viewed this as personal, me not wanting to follow rules, so to speak. I am beginning to back myself up with theory of why we would not do this. Could you please offer some feedback as to theory or the direction I should take? I would be grateful. I did offer to give a lesson on any piece of material to the group and I was turned down because they want to see the reactions from the child. To me a lesson or even a small group lesson is a very private matter. It should not be staged. Can you help me?
    Robin Carlisi

    1. I totally agree with you. It is kind of using the children as guinea pigs. It is likely to make them feel quite intimidated and is not a natural part of anyone’s day. Having a group of adults around a child will totally skew the results. Just like in quantum mechanics, the observer changes the outcome of where particles might be. The other thing is that we give children lessons to show them how to use a piece of material, when they are ready to use it. The choices a child makes have to do with his internal development and sensitive periods, not the demand from the teacher to perform after a lesson has been given.

      Far better for you to give the lesson yourself and invite one teacher at a time to sit in a chair in our usual manner and observe. It may take a few days to cycle people through, but they will see a real experience of a Montessori classroom, not a manufactured “performance.” Another option is to have video taken of a typical morning of children working in your classroom. There could be a discussion about what the teachers see and you explaining what you see. (As you well know, what you as a trained Montessorian and what the untrained adults see could be quite different.)
      Mary Ellen Maunz, M.Ed.

    1. Hi Amy,

      Simply say that whatever you are asking needs to be done. We all have things we have to do. Try to keep it simple with no energy exchanged.

      Interesting that you asked this question, because Erin, one of our faculty members has just written a blog on Why? that will be published in a week or so.

      Warm regards,

  8. I am a new teacher and have some classroom queries. I hope you will be able to help me

    1. I have a new 4.5-year-old child starting next week. He has never been in a Montessori environment but has been in a traditional daycare. What lesson plan can I make for his first week of school?

    2. I was giving lesson to a child on sandpaper letters. I introduced her a sound and she said that now how my mom says the sound. What should I do? Should I stop the lesson and wait for the next time? what should be my response.Also, I am planning on talking to her mom. What should I say to the parent?

    3. I have a child in my class who is only interested in reading all time and not any other work in the environment. Her parents keep on asking me whether Montessori is right for her. They want her to do other academic activities as she is 5 and is starting kindergarten. What should be my response?

    I hope you can help me with these questions

    1. Hi Anne,

      Thanks for sharing your Montessori questions. Here are answers from Mary Ellen Maunz, M.Ed., Founder and Program Director for Age of Montessori.

      1. Focus on having some lessons that are similar to what he has had at home or in preschool. (We call them “Orientation” materials.) Show that in our school we take the work to a table or a rug on the floor and after we are done, we put it back for the next child. Show carrying a chair, rolling a rug, closing a door etc. Also then introduce cylinder block, pink tower, rough and smooth board, maybe some matching pictures etc. All simple lessons that will help him get oriented to how we work in the classroom. If you have an assistant that can take him for walks and read to him, don’t expect a long work period at first…

      2. Simply tell her that letters have two words we use to call the letters: one is their name and one is their sound. Mommy is giving you the names and I am giving you the sounds.

      3. Try to find some content books and offer nomenclature cards in biology and geometry so she will be reading for other areas as well. Reassure the parents that being able to read at this age is a great advantage and that we try to honor and respect the child’s interests as long as she is making progress. I’d invite the child to join me first thing every morning to a math or geometry lesson so that she can read after we work together.

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