Montessori Fantasy & Reality III

The second type of play behavior is based on Montessori’s research and materials. It is called the organized game.
Here is what Dr. Mario M Montessori has to say about this type of play.

2. The Organized Game. When the child’s fantasy is interrupted by external resistance or reality refuses to be adapted, his attention is recalled, the situation becomes fundamentally changed, and the child’s attitude toward the exterior world changes accordingly.

Dr. Mario Montessori goes on to explain that while a child is in fantasy play he or she can be distracted by reality. Such as a child playing cowboy outdoors can be distracted by birds singing or a fire engine going by.

Thus, if the child encounters a specific interference or obstruction which requires intelligent attention, if he discovers something new and intersting, either in the external world or in himself, he forgets his world of fantasy and directs his curiosity toward the real situation.
When the child is attracted by specific, concrete qualities of some material with which he wishes to “play,” either on the basis of its specific use or because it is part of a collective activity in which he wants to participate, he must sumit to the disciplinary “rules of the game,” and as a result he is working unconsciously at the inner construction of his personality. In this sense we are discussing “autorealization” rather than “autoexpression.” The child must develop within himself the kind of behavior he will need in order to move independently and logically in his world; this, of course will develop in realtion to his innate nature, his intellectual and physical capacity, and according to his own rhythm.

So the child starts to move from the internal to external in his expressions to a more concrete understanding of his world. The impressions of his life are beginning to be categorized into intellectual building blocks. This occurs within the realm of reality.
Montessori used her materials in a mathematical way to help a child put together all his or her sensorial impressions within a concrete realtiy.

The initiative to adhere to real things now comes from the child himself as he explores and experiments with reality. Real things in the environment have their own meanings, their own characteristics, value, and possiblilties of application. The world shows a definite sturcture in which there are different principles of order and well as different, distrint forms with their specific laws and mutual relationships.

A child starts to define his world. The stick that was a horse is now a piece of wood, and wood comes from trees, birds live in trees, and so on. The world has it own rules-day and night, less and more, big and little. heavy and light, sweet and sour, and so on. Math and science come to the forefront.

Differnt situations in life require different forms of behavior and social relations. In order to belong to a grouop, one must accept the rules and the customs which govern that group. When the child voluntarily directs his attention to his environment, he no longer tries to externalize his own feelingss or imagination but instead tries to learn and know about things as they really are. He now has the impulse and need to beome one with his world.

To no longer think the world revolves around you, and wanting to be a part of the world brings to mind how many people believe during the process of normalization children become obedient. It’s an obedience that is internal, and not egocentric.
Caring and love are a part of this obedience. With this intellectual change there is a social change. Some would even say
that a child is begining to understand morals, what is good and bad, and right and wrong.

Montessori calls this aspect of the child’s behavior “work,” and we will designagte this with term organized play. The direction of events in organized play is now reversed: it is addressed inwardly by the child. While in the free grame the chld’s creativity is manifested in conscious representation which can be verbalized or expressed by actions or with concrete and visible results, the creativity in organized play is unconscious, proceeding in an abstract and invisible manner.

Montessori first developed concrete materials for preschool children to use with rules and methods. During this time a child becomes normalized and develops an internal knowledge of rules of behavior, laws of nature, math, and so on. She felt that this transition from fantasy to concrete learning was essential for later abstract learning.

Under these circumstances, in organized play the adult can help. Along with guidance, understanding, and love, during this period of his development the child needs to be given those “organized toys” which we call materials.
The Montessori material is designed to provide the child with a key for his future discoveries of his world. This, however, is possible only when the material is presented correctly and when the child has reached the right stage of development to recieve it.

Maria Montessori was concerned about concrete learning for a preschool child. For example, if a child doesn’t understand the concepts of large and small, larger or smaller, it is difficult for them to understand math. Fantasy play does not involve this type of concrete thinking. Concrete learning is based on reality, whereas fantasy play belongs to the universe of the child.
Because Maira Montessori first worked in mental institutions, she may have been concerned about children not wanting to leave the world of fantasy and shunning the world of reality. It seems like her grandson, Dr. Mario M. Montessori, understood that fantasy play is a part of a child’s development that eventually passes into reality.

Montessori Fantasy & Reality II

Dr. Mario M Montessori gives more insight to play and work in Fantasy and Reality in Children’s Games.
He explains that a child’s spontaneous expressions and behavior in his environment can be divided into two main areas.

1. Autoexpression. Here events develop themselves, from the inner to the external. The child uses play materials as tools to express the results of his inner experiences, the products of his imagination or fantasy. In other words, the child’s inner feelings are exteriorized through use of play materials and games which give meaning to these feelings. This what we generallly call the free game.
The less the materials are complicated, organized, or linked to specific differentiations, the more appropriate they are for the goal. Therefore, clay, sand, water, little pebbles, colors, paper (preferably in large sheets) paints, and so on provide excellent opportunities for playing free games, when fantasy is uppermost in the child’s play.

Fantasy play is a normal part of childhood.

For example, a child with a stick beetween his legs indulges in the fantasy that he is a strong cowboy ….If, instead of the wooden stick he were to have a wooden or real horse, the dream would not become more realistic to him.
The real horse might be more exciting to him, and the child might try to have contact with him, to feed him, to caress him, or to ride him; however, he would be no longer a cowboy, but rather a child in the presence of a big animal, absolutely conscious of their respective proportions and also conscious of his weakness in comparison to the animal.

When real elements are introduced into a child’s fantasy play, the child is really pushed out of fantasy into reality. The wooden stick is anything the child wants it to be. In this case the stick (horse) is the transition between fantasy and realtiy. It keeps the world of reality and fantasy together in the child’s mind.

Whenever a child, alone or in company of other children, is engaged in a game of fantasy, the adult can offer little help. Only the child who plays in this world of fantasy knows exactly how it must be organized and the specific meaning he wants to give each item he uses. The play materials can give his fantasy an aspect of reality without disturbing the imagination with specific qualities: therefore this type of play material must not be distinctive in itself, must not represent reality.
In all the games involving fantasy several aspects of child development can be studied, especially with regard to the emotional components. The child creates such games as a result of his personal experiences, and he proceeds consciously toward their elaboration. However, this type of activity does not provide the child with a precise view of the world in its objective qualities, such as the characteristics of things in the environment and their interrelationsips, or the rules of his enviroment. Through fantasy the child himself gives shapes to everything and fits reality into his make-believe world.

This last passage reminds me when Christopher Robin was leaving the 100 acre wood, Poo Bear, and friends of his fantasy world because he growing up and entering the world of reality. I always thought it was sad he had to leave when he grew up.

Next time, The Organized Game.

Montessori Fantasy & Reality

I’ve been reading an article by Dr. Mario M. Montessori, Fantasy and Reality in Children’s Games.
Here are some excerpts I’d like to share.

In the past school critics believed that the children were allowed to do whatever they pleased and that as a result they played freely all day. Today’s critics believe the contrary: that in a school applying her system, the children are compelled to do only what Maria Montessori allowed, thereby having no free play.

Dr. Mario Montessori goes on to explain that when Montessori started her approach, schools for small children were rare.
Children were either segregrated from adults in a nursery with toys and a nanny to watch over the children, or in poorer families children were left to fend on their own.

The toys one could buy were generally beautiful and ingenious but not sufficiently adapted to the child’s developmental needs. Toy manufacturers were inspired mainly by the “child that is in the man” (das Kind in Manne). In other words, the creation of toys was determined by the adult’s reaction to them rather than by their suitablity for the child in his play activity. The adult considered child’s play to be an aspect of infantile expression reather than the very important fundamental expresssion of man’s behavior during the first stage of his development.

Montessori studied children in their own world. She would observe a child’s expressions and reactions to toys in the environment.

For this reason she began by offering the children all the toys available, all the ones she believed would please them. She also gave them some new materials, however, such as those which are used today in Montessori schools. It soon became apparent that the children preferred the new materials to the ordinary toys. The new “toys’ attracted the children’s curiosity and interest to such an extent that Montessori soon denounced the usual or typical toys as being designed for inferior beings rather than meeting the capabilities of normal children.

She noticed that children learned in their own way by experimenting with her materials. They learned to control their movements (coordination of motor skills), and this process brought forth a sense of order in their world. If you provide the materials and prepared environment for a child’s developmental needs, the child becomes a person with new qualities. This is the path to normalization.

For example, one sees the very young child joyfully exerting maximum effort, working repeatedly on an exercise, not in order to reach a predetermined goal but simply for the pleasure of activity. The child at “work” is a child of order, and one can see his intense concentration whenever a specific task engages him. These are all manifestations to which the Montessori method owes it origins.

More next time!

Montessori Preschool & Homework

I sometimes get interesting mail from my web site. This last one makes me wonder if Montessori is being used as a “hotbed” to produce children of superior academic skills? I was told a Montessori preschool required children to do “homework.” Yikes! Pusihng a pencil over a paper each night for 3 and 4 year olds is definitely taboo. Work should not be done unless it is within a meaningful context of a prepared environment and lesson. Also, a preschooler should not be forced to do an activity when he or she is not ready.

The number one rule we give preschool parents is -“You cannot work on academics with your child at home. You can only do fun, bonding, family activities!”
Of course, parents should read to their kids, cook and play games with them, but when school is out, it is play time.
Parents can do fun counting games, measuring ingrediants for cooking, art, and anything that interests their child.
I know parents don’t want to work on their job at home either. It is just a horrible stressful situation for a young child.

Even homeschooled kids don’t work all day. Our work period was only 3 hours a day, and if my children wanted to continue, I let them. The children were in charge of continuing, not me.

Number One Fear

I was reading in our local newspaper American students’ number 1 fear:arithmetic has been a common problem for many years. It just shocks me that basic math skills cannot be taught to children in our schools. Even babies at the age of 2 understand many concepts of math. They know who has more or less, what is big or small, tall or short, and little or big.
Concrete math concepts can be taught at a very young age. Montessori introduced math concepts to preschool children that are not taught until grade school or middle school. Her students used materials that were hands on, concrete, manipulatives.
One of the most important pieces of math equipment is the golden bead material, or base 10 manipulatives.
Here is an expample of base 10 materials that you can use instead of the golden bead material. It is much cheaper that the bead material and if you don’t want to make the material, buying base 10 blocks are an easy way to introduce your child to the concepts of concrete math, and eventually symbolic math concepts. Just follow the instructions from Montessori World’s Chapter Two, The Decimal System. Instead of golden beads, use base 10 manipulatives. You can buy these at school supply stores too.
If you want to make a set, use thick craft foam. Here is a free base 10 block print out-and another base 10 units, long rods and base.
You can also make these from thick construction paper.

If you do these activities with your children in a fun way, they will love math.
Both my children still love math.
In a world where everything seems to measured, math equals the playing field for all children.

These lessons are homeschool friendly too!

Miss Child & the Pink Tower

I think I was in one of the last classes Miss Child taught at the St. Nicholas Training Centre for the Montesstori Method of Education in London, England. The Centre was located on Princess Gate, next to the Iranian Embassy. I used to wake up to horses hoofs hitting the cobble stone strees coming out of the stables in the Hyde Park area. The Centre, a beautiful building, was slowly being restored in keeping with its era features and architecture. Most of all, I loved the quiet solitude of the beautiful English garden in the courtyard that was lovingly cared for by Miss Homfray.

One day Miss Child was discussing about the smalllest cube of the pink tower, how children loved to put it in their pockets and take it home with them. She said Miss Homfray had a little boy who always would put the smallest pink cube in his pocket and take it home. Finally, she became so weary of this daily event that she made the little boy pull out his pockets to show her that they were empty.
She chuckled and said Maria Montessori would not have approved of this little ritual, but it didn’t seem to upset the boy. In fact, he would show Miss Homfray his empty pockets before he left every day without being asked!

I guess why I still remember this story is that we don’t always do things the “perfect Montessori way.” I still know that after all these years I’m still a work in progress.

Montessori and Homeschooling

My only regret in homeschooling my children is that I didn’t do it sooner! My Montessori training taught me that homeschooling in a Montessori type environement was not possible. I know now that I was wrong to believe that. Home school may be different from the Montessori school environment, but I think it works very well! My oldest daughter really taught me that letting children learn outside the public school system helps them to succeed and become happy people!
I needed to listen to my heart and not my programed head! I suffered from worry and fear, about not doing the right thing. Finally, I figured out doing the right thing was letting my children go to become themselves.

Here is a good quote from a homeschooling blog (which is very Montessori) that is similar to my experience-

“Homeschooling was most difficult when I was trying to reproduce school at home. When I was bent on shaping and forming my children through critiquing and amending their behavior and knowledge, we were not happy. When I decided that my role was to assist them to grow into whoever they wanted to be, interpret the world for them, expose them to as much as possible and be their partner in life — that’s when homeschooling got fun and interesting!”

Toddler Montessori

These items and photos are wonderful! The hand work for the Montessori table setting is awesome! I have made place mats with outlines for silverware, glass, and plate. It’s a great way to show how to set a table. The sewn place mat from this blog is so much better than anything I have ever made.
What a beautiful practical life activity! This would be great for home or school.

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Homemade Baby Toys

Yesterday, when I was shopping at the market I observed a year old baby happily shaking a plastic vitamin bottle. He was involved with this activity for at least 15 minutes. It reminded me of the Montessori sound boxes that children match by hearing. Babies and preschoolers seem to have a natural desire to shake noise makers and rattles.
This has some great homemade Montessori type toys and rattles to make for your baby.