Relationship Matters : Secure Base

Recently, during a Parent and Infant Class at Little Learner’s Lodge, I was reminded of the beauty of deep, intimate relationships.

Luke and his mom arrived a few minutes early and were waiting for others to join.  Content, Luke began exploring four metal cups- engrossed by their musical metallic ringing.

I, too, became engrossed by Luke’s activity with the cups- the stacking, the clanging, and their rolling about during his manipulation.  Luke seemed unaware of my presence or that of the other adults in the environment.

Yet, when the entrance door opened, he swiftly swiveled his body around and gazed up at the parent entering with her newborn.  Relatively new to our school community, the adult was an unfamiliar face to Luke.

If I hadn’t been watching him so intently, I may have missed Luke’s lower lip disappearing a bit as he glanced up at me and then over to his mother for reassurance.

Here is how he got it:

Volumes have been written on healthy attachments and the importance of providing a secure base even before John Bowlby completed his development of the modern attachment theory.   Admittedly, our adult resources in the form of research, manuals, and guides can sound a bit clinical and aloof when describing concepts such as  prospective and observational methods, adult relationships during play to support exploration and competence, and the effects of early experiences in relationship to the child’s developing character.

There’s nothing clinical, however, about the intensity of this obviously mutual regard and respect among parent, child, and educarer sharing a deep and intimate relationship.

What did Luke do next?  It was textbook- he refueled, and renewed his exploration of the environment-  moving physically away from his secure bases while checking in from across the room from time to time by eye contact or with a smile.

Relationship Matters: Saying Goodbye

On Isle of Palms, a bare grassy island among a sea of asphalt stands same as it ever was some thirty-five or so years ago when it was first brought to my attention.

Too small to house even a miniscule beach cottage and separated by the Intercoastal Waterway with barely enough room to squeeze in Palm Boulevard, it has been preserved- a tangible link to an acute childhood memory.

As often as I am able to visit this island today, only once did I do so as a little girl growing up on IOP.  I was six and my best friend in the entire world, Kathleen Emerson, was moving away.

We had just spent our last day together.

Being the gregarious, flexible child that she was, Kathleen joyfully thanked me for her departing gift- a tomahawk- and with a wave, climbed into the station wagon with her mom and drove out of my life.

Crushed, I clutched the journal she left me to my heart.

Finally, my dad coaxed me into our black Buick Bonneville with the automatic windows.  It was just the two of us, so I was able to ride shotgun.  Only now, as a parent, can I imagine how he might have felt looking over at me silent with tears running down my cheeks.  Actually, I really can’t imagine what a two tour Vietnam vet might have thought about his little girl thinking the world had ended with the move a childhood friend.  But here is what he did-

He pulled over to our island and we just sat in the car.

I’m not sure how much time passed by- it seemed like an hour- but I was six, so it was probably more like ten minutes.  But I do remember when our eyes met.  He said, “Look at that.”

When I glanced through the windshield, the sun was setting.  Silently we watched it go down together.  To this day, I have only witnessed one other sunset to rival the one we watched together that day.

My dad told me that in my life I would love and sometimes I would have to say goodbye.  Saying goodbye hurt and it hurt deeply- it should- because we love so deeply.

And each day the sun would rise.  At the end of the day, it would set.  As the days pass, my hurt would give way to the joys of remembering my childhood friend.

As with New Years past- the close of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 marks a time of change, growth and transition.  We wish our friends embarking on new journeys in new directions safe travels.  Know that you will always remain a part of our memory and that your relationship to our community matters. I’d rather not say goodbye, only trust that you will remember us as fondly as we do you.

The Empathetic Roots of Flower Arranging

Montessori Practical Life 101 invariably includes the outline for FLOWER ARRANGING.  This pivotal work links all cornerstones of the Montessori environment from toddlerhood through elementary- first as a sensorial experience and, later as an in-depth research into the functions and parts of flowers themselves.

The appeal of the arranging and the giving of flowers is universal- for centuries flowers have marked important milestones in our daily lives;  expressed feelings of love, gratitude or sadness; or been admired as an appreciation for natural beauty.

In the classroom, a vaseful of fragrant flowers provided an open invitation from which Dr. Maria Montessori took full advantage:

The process of flower arranging is predictably sequenced with precision and care- as are all of the practical life activities- to best support the development of coordination, concentration, order and independence. The child puts on an apron, selects a vase, fills it with water and chooses the perfect flower to cut and place inside the vase.  He then carries the vase and a small doily to a table in the room and lays down the vase carefully on the top corner of the table.  There is often another child at work sitting there at the table who looks up.  The two make eye contact and exchange a moment of silence.

Montessori Guides revel in the work’s ability to assist the child in control of movement, eye-hand coordination, and strengthening hand muscles.  The lesson also opens the door for extensions: labeling parts, estimating days of survival, dissecting ovaries, or integrating composting.

Flowers are a fragrant, colorful, and fragile enticement to insects and birds.  After all, this is how the process of pollination continues.  It’s easy to see how flowers lure children of all temperaments to come near and investigate their beauty by looking, touching and smelling.

But the flower arranging work has a more important indirect aim than simply admiring nature’s work of art.  It is an opportunity for little hands to contribute to the beautification of the environment.  It is a tender moment when a young heart lays down a symbol of friendship, love and peace on a table for someone else to enjoy. It is a brief yet integral step outside of oneself and one’s own needs.

Flower Arranging provides the mechanism from which the children in the classroom express their empathy and love for their community and its members.

I smelt the violets in her hand and asked, half in words,half in signs, a question which meant “Is love the sweetness of flowers?

–   Helen Keller

A Look at Homework the Montessori Way

Montessori of Mount Pleasant

Many authentic Montessori schools do not assign homework until upper elementary or middle school- and even then it is more individualized rather than rote style.  This is for several reasons including:

  • The school day is structured with longer work periods to allow for more in-depth concentration and completion of the work cycle rather than moving from subject to subject on a group schedule.
  • Time with family and friends is greatly valued to help cultivate a balanced individual.
  • Montessori follows the child’s timeline of readiness and interests to capitalize on sensitive periods of learning, natural enthusiasm and concentration.

Parts of a Pumpkin

“An interesting piece of work that has been freely chosen, has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue and adds to children’s energies and mental capacities, and leads them to self-mastery.”

-Maria Montessori

But don’t think you’re off the hook yet.

Most Montessori and RIE programs assume that parents ARE working with their children at home.  In fact, we rely on it.  Integrating home and school on a consistent basis ensures that your child reaches his full potential.

A parent’s HOMEWORK assignment is to prepare the home environment keeping in mind your child’s developing needs.   Once prepared, you can trust your child to navigate through seeking those areas which speak to her inner need.

For it to work, you will need to turn off the television AND the computer.

Here are some starting points:


  • Free movement on the floor
  • Access to the outside
  • Free choice of play objects
  • Fully present during physical care
  • Communication of physical care routine, giving time for processing and response
  • Opportunities for self-soothing
  • Opportunities for struggle and problem-solving
  • Minimal clothing for maximum safety and exploration


  • Choose clothes from drawer
  • Sort laundry
  • Fold and put clothes away in drawers
  • Get newspaper
  • Pour drink from small pitcher
  • Scrub veggies
  • Stir ingredients
  • Set table
  • Clean up toys
  • Feed the cat
  • Water plants

3-4 year old

  • Clean windows with small spray bottle
  • Dust
  • Prepare the bath
  • Fill a bird feeder
  • Put dirty clothes in washer
  • Peel & slice cucumbers
  • Make coffee/toast/salad
  • Bake bread
  • Sweep & mop
  • Dress self including buttons, snaps, zippers, buckles
  • Pack school bag and carry personal items
  • Plant seeds
  • Wash car
  • Clean up toys

Care of Plants5-6 year old

  • Tie shoes
  • Read face clock
  • Make breakfast for self and others
  • Write notes (thank you, to grandma, grocery list, to do, requests, etc.)
  • Fill soap pumps
  • Shred junk mail
  • Read to younger siblings
  • Change lightbulbs

Young children are capable of doing so much and naturally have the urge to interact with and imitate the world around them.  It is our job to prepare an environment that calls to them and meets their developmental needs.

What kinds of activities do you and your child share at home to foster a LIFE LONG LOVE OF LEARNING?  Hey- that’s not a bad homework assignment after all.

“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certificate from the secondary schools to the University, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolutions of the individual.”

Dr. Maria Montessori

where parent and teacher CONNECT