Tag Archives: environment

Tips for the Montessori Home

Many times parents feeling pressured to set up their home environment often ask, “Where do I purchase Montessori materials for our house?”  I reassure them- it is not necessary to have your home environment mimic the classroom.  As a Montessori certified primary teacher, I promise my children’s rooms are not fully equipped Montessori mini classrooms.

The basic concepts of a Montessori classroom, however, can easily be duplicated at home.  Simply put- there is a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  The external order will cultivate your child’s inner order.  Build in opportunities for your child to participate in the care of his home environment and in self care.  Basic discipline expectations center around respect of self, others and materials.

Tool Box
Tool Box

Montessori materials extend beyond the cognitive works designed by Maria Montessori and, in fact, a child’s success working with the specially designed Montessori curriculum greatly depends on how deeply his care, order, independence and coordination have been cultivated in Practical Life and Sensorial.  These curriculum areas can easily be adapted at home.

The prepared home environment which cultivates an understanding of earth science, of practical living skills, and of self care and regulation will best prepare your child for school readiness.  Some ideas that you’ll find in our Primary Classroom that can easily be adapted in the Home Environment inlcude-


1. A child friendly TOOL BOX equipped with hammer, small nails/tacks, duct tape, screws,  and safety gear (adult and child size).


2. Child friendly kitchen spaces allow your child to participate in meal preparation independently.  Vegetables are a great first start and the space should include peelers, bowls, mixer, cutting board, child cutting tool, scrubber, pitcher, and toaster oven.  Don’t forget the environment with clean up materials as well.


3. A small box garden with soil, seeds, watering can, and spade.  The garden directly ties into the Home Kitchen environment and can extend as far as the parent is willing to include worms, composting, and winter indoor sprouts.


4.  A first aid kit for your child complete with mirror, tissues, thermometer, wipes, and band aides.


5.  A quiet place for reflection.  This can be a pillow tucked away in a corner, netting hanging from the ceiling, or a small tent.  Your imagination will guide you- home water gardens, a small fish tank, crystals, window mosaics…

The internet will provide you loads of inspiration.  Our favorite sources outside the Montessori world include:


Garden Seeds – and they often offer free seeds to schools

Montessori Spirit – purchase the catalogue- it’s worth it and a perfect source for those quiet spaces

And our “go to” places include Amazon (search “waldorf” for toys) and Etsy for unique objects.  Or follow us on Pinterest for what is inspiring us as we continued to build upon our school environment.

Montessori Inspiration on Pinterest

The Making of INNOVATION

The making of the 90 second short clip on INNOVATION featuring Megan Nordoff as a Top 10 Finalist has everyone around here with a new respect for those in the film industry.  The experience of helping Ms. Megan articulate her message of innovation has proven insightful- there is so much more to the person then meets the eye.

Reading is personal. With support, especially with a trusted guide, the ability to read and write unfolds.

As we walked the facilities together after learning about Megan reaching the Top 10, we reflected on her many contributions to our school community, the children in her care, and our extended community members.   Passing by the tangible evidence of innovation in the classroom, I would ask Megan- HOW DID THIS BECOME PART OF THE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT?

Here’s a little bit on what she shared with me along our walk.

Plays orchestrated by the Kindergarteners speak volumes in reinforcing cultural values.
Walking the Circumference
Each winter we cut tipi poles, raise and experience the Plains Tipi absorbing it with all of our senses.
We eat bananas every day and have tied it into the curriclum.
Morning snack and ratios

And there’s still more to discover happening under Megan’s guidance each day…

A yurt provides a quiet place for individual reflection
A yurt provides a quiet place for individual reflection
Circuits light up bulbs and imagination
Seed to Table
Ks harvest and bring to market
Reggio Rug
All contribute to our new rug
Ecology Center
Ecology and Language Arts
Organic gardening and CSA
Mentors guide student and teacher
Marsh Ecology
Cleaning up our natural resources
Upcycle golf ball math extension
Upcycle golf ball math extension

Midway through our walk and a little overwhelmed I paused, “Megan,” I asked again, “Where do you begin? How did this all become part of the classroom experience?”

Upon a moment’s reflection, she replied, “I’m not the innovator.  The child is.  I’ve never really considered myself an innovator just another tool facilitating the innovation waiting to be birthed inside each individual student.  I am only able to do so in preparing myself and in understanding the many relationships we share with our world and with others and in following the child to prepare his environment for his own discovery.”

What's next...
What’s next…

Find out what Megan has planned for her next innovation connecting and building relationships between farms and other schools within our community.  Vote today and every day to push Ms. Megan’s innovative ideas forward.  Here’s the link:http://kto6gato.maker.good.is/projects/7752

Relationship Matters: Introducing Siblings

Good morning,

I’m excited to tell you that we are expecting a baby in August!  We haven’t told Joseph the news yet, and if you have any suggested reading material on how best to handle this transition for a sibling, please feel free to suggest.  Also, I anticipate returning to work after maternity leave in mid-late November.  We would be most appreciative if you would place us on the list for a spot in the infant room.

Thank you!
Beth and Christain

RIE Baby

What great news!  Hope you have a refreshing pool to swim in this summer.

This is a transition for the whole family that will continue well
beyond August and it’s so smart of you to think ahead about it.
Joseph is at a great age for understanding needs of others as your
body, energy and availability changes and affects what you can or
cannot do.   We typically recommend waiting as long as you can to
start talking about it and that will depend a bit on you.  When you
have to make changes in your day that he might notice then it would be
a good time to let him know that you have a baby growing inside of
you.  He is closest to you and can empathize with you needing to do
things to take care of your body (rest, eat a healthy snack, drink
lots of water, exercise, etc.)

There are great books with photos to have available (we keep one in a
basket next to Ms. Amy, there’s another one in the Parent Resource
library) and you can even create a timeline with ultrasound photos.
If he is interested you can take this further and talk about what
parts of the body are forming but be sensitive to how much you talk
about it.  Afterall, this is an unknown for him and it can cause
anxiety.  I remember one little boy said he would name his baby
penguin when she was born because he didn’t want a sister but he did
want a penguin.

In addition, it helps to think about what environmental changes you
will be making and if any of them affect his own space (for example,
will he have to give up a play space/sleeping space etc.) make them
now for reasons that are unrelated to the baby rather than last minute
to avoid him being resentful and putting him out.  Also, think ahead
about consistency when the baby arrives to ideally keep his life very
consistent through that time.

Regardless of how sensitive you are and how much you prepare, he has
been an only child all of his life and he will be de-throned shortly
(and you will be adjusting to splitting your time between two
children).  You will all feel all kinds of emotions about that and
should be allowed to within the expectations of respect.  Take it slow
and resource those who are close to your family (us included).  We
will maintain his school experience as his own and follow his lead on
talking about it (or not;) while he makes his own adjustment.

Hope this is helpful and hope you are feeling well right now!



The Large Bead Stair

The construction of the large bead stair began as a problem to be solved in our outdoor classroom.  Each morning the children help open and set up the cognitive materials on the porch.  The Montessori bead stair is a quintessential math material which helps with one to one correspondence, links quantity to symbol and is used in higher end math materials, such as the teen boards, short and long chains, and operations.  Day after day pieces of the bead stair would get accidently dropped through the floor slats of the porch.  As a result, much of our time in the morning was spent replacing the missing beads.
Hanging Bead Stair
Hanging Bead Stair
One day a child remarked, “Oh!  I wish these beads were not so small!”  We started brainstorming a weather-proof, porch-proof bead stair.  It would need to be inexpensive and involve the children as much as possible in its construction.  We also wanted it to highlight the small Montessori bead stair located inside in the classroom rather than take its place.
Large Bead Stair
Large Bead Stair
It has been a beautiful point of interest for both the Toddler and Primary children as they walk by the material on the way to the playground and a valued addition to our math curriculum for the outside classroom.
 How to Make the Large Bead Stair:
55 golf balls
2 tomato cages
white primer spraypaint
9 permanent markers or paint pens (red, green, pikn, yellow, light blue, purple, brown, dark blue, and gold)
electric drill
wire cutters
needlenose pliers
Large Bead Stair
Large Bead Stair


1. Wash and prime golf balls
2. Drill a hole through each one
3. Cut cages into 10 strips (3 inch, 5 inch, 7 inch……..up to 21 inch)
4. Bend a loop at each end and thread golf balls onto wires.
5. Add color to golf balls to match the small bead stair.
Once the tools came out the boys were all ready and willing to help!…drill the holes, cut the wire, and string the balls on in 1-10 sequence. When we were ready to add color, the girls arrived and organized themselves to apply color to the balls to match the small bead stair.   Kindergarteners checked in periodically to supervise and make suggestions (they have been working with the bead stair for years and are well-versed in managing others and chiming in with their expertise at this point in the year)…..
Community Building
Community Building

…and voila!  We finished and presented the large bead stair as complete and available to use!  It has shown to be quite inviting and enticing due to its appearance and location.  It has even called to young children who do not have a developed pincer grip yet but who are able to exercise a 4-finger grasp and strengthen their one to one correspondence.

As a larger indirect benefit, we have watched the primary children pass by and comment (as they always do after community projects) that they helped make that!

This Ain’t No Daycare Baby

I was a daycare baby.

In the ’70s, still relatively few families involved both parents working and if they did, extended family often took care of the little ones.  My parents, however, were members of a growing group of transplants without extended family who relied on two incomes to make finances work.  At the time, daycare options were limited. High quality care was virtually non-existent.

It wasn’t until I was 8 years old that my mom finally had enough.  A family therapist by profession, she couldn’t believe the challenges working families faced in finding a center with regard for CARING for young children.  Although her own children had aged out of a pre-school need, my mom’s mental health background fairly screamed, “If you want to make a difference, start with children.”

Infant environment 1980s
Infant environment 90s

In 1977 (77 being my parents’ lucky number) they dove in the deep end and to this day, both remain active in advocating for quality preschool education and support of early childhood professionals.

During the late 90s, in search of more meaningful work, I left the international commodity export trading industry to check out the daycare my family still owned in Charleston, SC.  Over the past 15 years, I’ve come to recognize that while the center does provide childcare services, the word “daycare” doesn’t come close to describing the work going on here. I’m saddened by the idea, however, that even after all these decades many of our children still only have daycare options available to support working parents. The long term ramifications affect the very fabric of our society.

Toddler Environment 80s
Toddler Environment 90s

What do I mean by  DAYCARE?

The best way for me to describe the difference between “daycare” and “early childhood experience” is to turn back to my first professional experiences as a food commodity trader where I sold frozen chicken- both as a commodity and the further processed value added versions- by the container.

When you evaluate childcare options as a commodity, the assumption is that all centers are equal.   As such, the only concerns would be- what is your tuition?  and-  how much can I get for that price, or what are your hours of operation?

While tuition and hours of operation certainly play into a family’s ability to afford or work the care into their professional lives, our experience has been that extended hours and lower tuition correlates to the quality of care your child will receive while away from her home.

Pre-K Old School
Pre-K Old School

Extended hours often mean children shuffle from room to room as teachers stagger in for their eight hour day.  Young children may find themselves in unfamiliar environments, with unfamiliar adults, amongst unfamiliar children of a broad age range.  Lower tuition typically relates to lower wages and professional development and benefits for the early childhood caregiver.  Both- extended hours and lower tuition- end up equating to teacher burnout and higher turnover.

An additional $1.00/day even for small schools with enrollment under 80 families can afford your preschool flexibility to lower ratios, add curriculum enhancements,  or increase teacher benefits adding to the well-being of its community.

Pre-K 2013
Pre-K 2013

Research continues to pour forth validating the critical importance of the formative years and the return on investment society reaps in providing a stable infrastructure for a quality early childhood experience.  Paradigms are shifting- our children are our greatest resource, the most valued of products we can produce.  Yet still, for the most part, the burden of treating them as such rests on the professionals and parents willing and able to deliver.

Parents on the hunt for childcare balancing the fiscal, practical and ideal can arm themselves with additional evaluative measures outside price and hours in making their assessments.  Consider-

1. Size matters:  schools with larger enrollment have a more difficult time offering cohesion in quality.  It is difficult getting to know families, children and faculty members as resources are pulled managing the administrative needs of large groups.

2. Administration guides school leadership:  what are their qualifications and how long have they served the program?  Often school administrators have little classroom experience which can inhibit their ability to resource teachers and parents.

Toddler Extension 2013
Toddler Extension 2013

3.  Facility investment:  do you see evidence of continued facility improvements?  Facility upgrades and curriculum additions demonstrate a continued investment on the part of the school leadership.

4.  Continued adult education:  in addition to teacher credentials, what was the last training offered and why?  Are parents encouraged to attend?  Most states require a minimal number of continued adult education hours for early childhood professionals.  Evidence that teachers are encouraged to extend training above these minimal requirements is a great indicator of how they are valued.

5.  Teacher retention:  many believe that it takes at least five years to become a good early childhood professional.  Find out the tenure of your preschool’s teaching team.  Turnover directly affects the quality of any program negatively.

Infant Environment 2013
Infant Environment 2013

On our part, you’ll find our tuition and fee schedule non-published.  It is shared in person upon touring the facilities in an effort to help provide parents much of the information they will need in making their assessment on who will care and provide for their child when they are away.

A special thanks to David Vigliotti for capturing our moments together at Little Learners Lodge and Montessori of Mount Pleasant.  Even before joining the teaching team in 2001, it is obvious through his photos that David has always shared an appreciation for the beauty presented in childhood and the dedication of parents and educators providing for young children.