A Glimpse of Learning

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While Ollie (I’m going to try out this nickname for this post….) slept, I snuck into Children’s House Montessori School to observe my kittens becoming smart little humans. Well, 2 of them at least. I love stopping by the school. Every time, I’m greeted by such a picturesque scene, I’m not exaggerating. I imagine this is what it’s like in France (because, seriously, aren’t things in France perfect? That’s my impression….). I walk in and the children are all very busy. Yeah, there are a couple who are kind of aimlessly wandering, but that lasts all of 5 seconds before Ms. Megan or Ms. Stephanie’s voice scoops them up and redirects them.

Before yesterday, I had no idea that Mister James may someday become a florist. Observe:

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I think flower arranging might be my favorite practical life lesson. I love it. I think it is awesome that there is an actual lesson on how to arrange flowers. But it’s more than just arranging flowers, that’s what’s so great! They are learning how to pour things very carefully. How to use tools. How to measure. How to take care of their space and make it beautiful. I love that.

Alice was also in practical life….very busy.

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Her concentration is hilarious.

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At one point, the vase that was in the middle of the practical life table was knocked over. No one freaked out. A little student who was watching Alice do her work helped to move a couple things while Alice moved her own things. Someone else wiped it up. I just watched…I wanted to just clean it all up quickly, especially as the little stream of water started to spread across the table. But Ms. Megan reminded them where to move their things and that there was a rag on Alice’s tray they could use. And just like that, very calmly and efficiently (but not as efficiently as I could have done it…but whatever) the 3 year olds cleaned up the vase with the flower and water. Did Ms. Megan move the flower and vase? No…it was put back where it originally was. There are vases of flowers all over the classroom. The space is beautiful, and the children help keep it that way.

And after Alice was done pouring “tea” she moved on.

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And she moved on again.

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Meanwhile, a lesson was being given.

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[this child is adorable, by the way]

Watching Ms. Megan give a child a lesson is amazing. She has a gift, and it’s one I’m only slightly jealous of. Only slightly because I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to be jealous of your friends. But I can’t help it, so some jealousy slips out. She’s patient and calm and I think my very favorite thing about her is that she doesn’t treat the children like they are babies. There is absolutely NO baby talk going on in the classroom, no hugs when someone comes crying to her over something silly, and she doesn’t immediately come to the rescue if there is a disagreement. She treats them like little humans who can understand her normal voice and instruction (because they can) who don’t need someone to rescue them from every tiny problem (because they don’t). I love that. So here she is, showing what 10-19 looks like.

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The student (who is 5 I think) sat very quietly and listened very carefully.

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Even while the classroom was very busy around him, he was concentrating on the lesson he was being given.

And after she had given the lesson, he tried it on his own.

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She didn’t watch over him and correct his mistakes along the way. She went on to give another lesson to another student. And he did it all on his own.

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It really is amazing to watch. i think a lot of parents take for granted the fact that their children at CHMS are learning things in such a unique and effective way, by someone who is so passionate about her job (which isn’t really her ‘job,’ it’s her life). These children are touching and moving materials so that they can see why and how a “10” goes from that to an “11.” He wasn’t just learning that 1 and 1 put together is 11. He held the 10 beads, added 1 more unit, touched them with his fingers, counted them, and discovered that it created 11. And then he placed the wooden ‘1’ card over the ‘0’ to show it. It took him a while, but he did it all on his own, all the way up to 19.

My 7 year old was learning this concept in 2nd grade earlier this year. Except she did it with a pencil and paper and many, many worksheets.

After he finished, he very carefully rolled up his mat.

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And off he went to find a different material to work with.

After he arranged some flowers, Jamie had a lesson on the 5 senses.

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He worked on it with this silly girl:

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{she is his bff at school}

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Alice did some sensory work. I don’t know if this is what it’s called, but she was touching stuff. Using her senses. Thus, I’m calling it sensory work.

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Don’t peek!!

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[cheater]

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Miss E was doing some math.

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And was so proud when she showed me her booklet.

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She totally should be. Math is hard.

Mr. E was busy building.

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Miss H was working with the cylinder block.

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There was lots of reading.

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And finally, my favorite (as seen on Friday Favorites), the trinomial cube.

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Okay, so let me just say that this is not easy. A couple little girls were doing this earlier and one asked me if what she had done was right. It looked right to me, so I said, “Yep, I think so.” I heard a little chuckle and one of the 6 year old students was standing right behind me and thought it was hilarious that I thought it was correct. So, she gave me a lesson. She taught me how to use the trinomial cube, how the colors have to touch, how you have to match it at each layer, and how you can test it out on the map before it goes on. What was my lesson? My lesson was, “When you are observing, don’t help students unless you know the material, because you’ll probably be wrong.”

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Sure enough, the 6 year old knew exactly what she was talking about because 5 minutes later, Alice received a lesson on the binomial cube from Ms. Megan. Exact same instructions.

If any of you in the LC Valley have little ones who are about to enter preschool or playschool, I’d encourage you to check into CHMS. And if you have kids who go there, but haven’t gotten a chance to observe and watch how they learn and see it in action, do it. It’s taught me so many things. I’ve tried, at home, to speak a little more like Ms. Megan. To not jump right in to clean up messes. To realize that messes happen, and as long as we aren’t being careless, it’s okay. Clean it up and move on. I’ve been inspired to do activities with the kids and buy them materials that they can do on their own, but that are a little challenging. To help them get started, but let them take it from there.

Clearly, I’m inspired.

For God’s sake, I registered for the Montessori Congress this summer. That’s being inspired.

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6 thoughts on “A Glimpse of Learning

  1. Rainy

    Thank you for this post! Our little Laken is enrolled for next fall. I am so excited for her and the experiences she will have at CHMS. All these little ones are so lucky to have this opportunity. I want to enroll and play with these materials:). Sometimes I feel a little anxiety about sending her out into the world, but your post solidifies our decision! Thanks Ruthie!

    Reply
  2. Chrissy Gilbert

    Ciao Ruthie, I’ve been stalking your blog for the past couple of weeks since I saw some of your beautiful pictures taken at school. My Ollie is attending a Waldorf school but I’ve been curious about some Montessori tools and having your pics to explain exactly what a trinomial cube does has been helpful…we spend a lot of time copying Maestra Mara and Maestra Chiara’s voices at our house too, these teachers who really believe in what they’re doing are pretty awe inspiring. Peace and sorry for the stalking but thanks for info. Chrissy

    Reply
  3. Soo Lee

    We are so glad to have CHMS in the Valley and feel blessed to have both our kiddos there. Thanks, Megan, for your amazing gift and thanks, Ruthie, for the great post. I enjoyed seeing my little guy do his work. 🙂 I need to get over there to observe more.

    Reply
  4. Danica Allen

    Ruthie. Thank. You. You just gave my poor little heart a great big boost. I am missing that beauty so very much. This is a wonderful post. Such a gift. Hugs to you and yours.
    Danica

    Reply
  5. Liz

    beautiful pictures. I just love them all and I love all your comments, because its all true! The school is a breath of fresh air and Megan is so good with the kids. and yes, I am a little jealous too! Also, that little girl with her arm around Jamie is just such a character…you sure captured her personality!

    Reply
  6. Lindsay

    When I was in school, learning about the different types of education, I was so drawn to Montessori. The calm nature. The natural light. The regard for beauty. Ironically I cannot see Molly in a classroom like this. It would be so interesting. Careless could be her middle name! I need to do some research Montessori teaching for older ages. I really only learned about preschoolers.

    Reply

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