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early childhood education

Unschooling: Soap Bubble Edition

My four-year-old found an old bubble wand and asked if we could make bubbles, so I googled this recipe and we set to work. She had a great time measuring, pouring and stirring, and she got to experience sugar disappearing in water to make a solution (yay, science and vocabulary!).

We were having so much fun blowing bubbles on our back patio that my seven-year-old decided to join the party. He wanted to see how far the bubbles could travel without popping, and noticed that there were several...

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If You Only Do ONE Montessori Activity...

Spreading-Cream-CheeseI challenge you to think of one activity that exposes your child to math, language and science, while helping her develop concentration, motor skills, and delayed gratification. It’s not found in workbooks, and you probably won’t see it taking place regularly in most schools (unless they’re Montessori schools).

If you want to know what it is, click here!

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Bathroom Botany

I was sitting outside, enjoying a bit of sunshine, when Zachary walked out ofthe bathroom and approached me with an inquisitive look. "Mom, can plants grow with pee?"

The question from my just-turned-four year old caught me off guard.

"Uh, I'm not sure."

He reasoned: "Well, pee comes from water, right? So maybe they can."

"Huh. Maybe they can." And then I realized the potential this question had.

"Hey, do you want to do an experiment? We can try to see if plants will grow if we water them with...

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Extensions

One of the activities I felt was lacking in my child's previous Montessori experience was the use of extensions. No, I'm not talking about artificial hair pieces! Extensions are activities that are introduced after the initial presentation with a material, in order to encourage the child to re-visit the material and solidify the skills and/or concepts it's designed to provide.

Yesterday, my son came out of his new school with a huge smile, holding this painting:

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This is a perfect example of an...

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Letting the Child Lead the Way

You might be familiar with the idea thatchildren learn best when they are following their interests. But you might not know that by "following the child", you're also helping them develop executive functions: skills like impulse control, delayed gratification, problem-solving, strategizing and concentrating, whicharemuch bigger determinants for success in life than IQ.

I recently attended a talk by Dr. Steven Hughes, where he focused on the development in childhood of executive functions.I...

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Pom-Poms vs. Broccoli

Practical Life activities shouldbe, above all else, practical: real activities that have a purpose and a goal. Practical Life IMG_0309should never, EVER be busy work. Busy work is insulting to the child's intelligence and developmental drives.

So, let's say you want to introduce transferring with tongs. Instead of the ubiquitous pom-poms you see all over Pinterest, how about using broccoli?

Here's what I did with Zach (who just turned 3), when he asked if he could help in the kitchen:

I had already...

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To Follow the Child

Now that Zachary is three years old,I'm constantly surprised by how differently Montessori happens at home and in school.

In a classroom, you plan your lessons in part around the child's interests and abilities, but also based on the sequence in your album. The children are (for the most part) happy and willing to receive the presentations. Not so at home when it's your own child. I've learned that nine times out of ten, we'll only do anything productive if Zachary initiates it. If I invite...

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Playing Catch Up

There's one thing that sets children ages 0-3 apart from children in all other Montessori age groups, and it's been throwing me for a loop recently:

THEIR NEEDS AND ABILITIES CHANGE SO DARN FAST!!! AAARRGGGHHH!!!

I spent almost two hours observing through a one-way window in my son's Toddler Community. What I saw was amazing. And disconcerting.

Because the environment I worked so hard to set up for my one-year old just a few months back? Yeah, completely useless now.

My baby, the one who was...

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Show & Tell

It might seem like Montessori parents like to show off what their children can do: "Look, my baby can drink from a glass! My toddler can slice a cucumber!" But honestly, our excitement has nothing to do with bragging. At least for me, sharing my son's accomplishments is about telling other people: "Look what YOUR child is capable of, and imagine the sense of competence YOUR child can develop!"

Parents who are new to Montessori often observe a classroom and think: "My child would never fit in....

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Learning

So often we focus our parenting energies on "teaching moments": spouting nouns ad nauseum, choosing the perfect picture book, or refereeing toddler interactions on the playground. We fail to notice, however, that babies and toddlers really learn the most when they are given the time, space, and framework to explore, experiment, and reach their own conclusions.

Zach is transitioning from babyhood to toddlerhood, a process that's as enthralling as it is exhausting. Meals are messy food-flinging...

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