Wednesday, July 31, 2013

All about Montessori: Part 2

Part 1 in this series.
Part 3 in this series (with recommended reading).  
For those who missed Part 1, this is a set of notes I took at a Montessori workshop in March.

My disclaimer: nothing expressed here is my own opinion. I didn't write this material, just copied it down, and I don't necessarily agree with all of it. Discussion is welcome, either over email or in the comments.

Here is the audio version for downloading: Talk 2: Prepared Environment

Talk 2: Absorbent Mind (age 0–6) and Prepared Environment

·      Absorbent Mind

-Language: the young child is capable of absorbing multiple languages between ages 0–6, with 2 being the peak age for language acquisition

-Movement: ages 0 to 5 ½

-Sensory perception: 2 ½ to 4

-Order: Crucial from 0 to 4 ½ or 5, with peak at age 2. Little ones need order. Observe their external behavior.
*It is distressing for a child to come home and find things moved around. It’s a mistake to send them away to Grandma’s during a move. The child must witness and be part of any move or change in their environment.

-Social graces: 4 ½ to 5
            *Age of “experimental language”: made-up stories
*Remember they are not lying: just ask them questions and listen
*This is also the age for fascination with potty language. This will pass. When bad language is used, take them to the bathroom and say, “You can say that word as much as you want in here, and you can come out and join the rest of us when you’re done, but the rest of us don’t want to hear that word.”
*Remain emotionally neutral during this phase.

Further reading: Last Child in the Woods and research on Nature-Deficit Disorder

·      Psychic Principles

-First principle: Work. Child is eager for this.

-Second principle: child’s capacity for concentration and attention.
*At moment of birth, child will focus on mother’s face for up to 50 minutes. Don’t cut the cord right away, and keep other people away.

-Key to successful parenting: Observe before intervening.

-Concentration leads to contemplation: Pope Benedict XVI spoke of “an orientation to attentiveness.” This concentration is beneficial for child’s spiritual life.

-Nursing is the template for all future intimate relationships.
            *Be attentive to the child as you nurse. It sends them an important message.

-Third principle: Independence—in order to be interdependent, to give fully of self.
            *When little child wants to help, encourage and allow that.
            *Have an “attitude of cooperation rather than control.”
*If child is not allowed to help at a young age, child will not want to help when they get older. Child could say at age 7, “For 6 years I’ve wanted to help, and you told me to go play. Now you want my help, but I’ve been taught that my job is just to play”—new plane of development.
*Follow the child as a toddler, and train them by age 3 to enter into your work and understand the rules of the house. They just want to be beside you.

-Until age 5, they can’t sit through Mass.

-Fourth principle: Development of the will.

-It is ideal to naturally space children at 3 years apart.

-Children need their own space, even just a corner; otherwise they become possessive (a down side of having kids close in age).

-Until age 7/8, kids do not understand misbehaving; they do not separate their actions from themselves.
*If you’re going to spank, don’t start until age 8, when they actually understand behaving badly and getting punished.

-Dominican tradition: “We are moral beings, not moral doings. Morality is a response to love.”
            *James Dobson says, “Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.”
            *Reflect back to the child their own goodness and worth.
*The parent can make a million mistakes, as long as the child knows they are loved.

-“To Train up a Child is a terrible book. Burn it. It’s not ‘Christian’ or Catholic—it’s Calvinist.”

-Montessori encouraged parents to reframe their thinking. The question is not, “How do I get my child to do ___?” but “What does my child need to become who God meant them to be?”

Further reading: Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

-At the heart of the “prepared environment” in a Montessori home is the adult, and the adult must spiritually prepare to welcome this new life.
*The two greatest obstacles are pride and anger; we must work daily to uproot them and replace them with humility and charity. The child requires you to slow down. When baby is born, plans go out the window.

-Montessori said, “Wonder is essential to the development of the spiritual life. What kills the sense of wonder is hurry, overstimulation, and introducing fantasy before age 7.”
            *Fantasy before age 7 gives distaste for reality.

-The screen is detrimental to forming the child’s brain. American Pediatric Association recommended No TV before age 6, but there was so much public outcry that they changed their official statement. TV and screen time hurts the developmental brain.
*Interestingly, especially in Silicon Valley, parents who work in tech don’t let their kids have screen time at a young age.

Further reading: Failure to Connect by Jane M. Healy

-Withholding fantasy until age 7 can be a problem around Christmas when it comes to Santa. Describe Santa as the “spirit of Christmas” and emphasize St. Nicholas.
            *Kids shouldn’t be “myth-buster” to their friends, but it’s best to be honest.

-Children have superior powers of concentration and ability if they are not introduced to fantasy.

-“For Catholic parents, the question is not what to teach. The ‘what’ is the Deposit of the Faith. The question is when and how.”

-Even for travel (planes, car trips) focus on reality.

-Travel with kids: maps, music, narrate what’s going on, books (sea creatures, trees, nature).
            *Kids under 6 should read about nature.

-The name “Montessori” was never trademarked so you have to be careful. AMI, Association Montessori Internationale, is most legit Montessori organization. Also AMI-USA and NAMTA. Stick to these.

-Don’t anthropomorphize stuffed animals.


  1. Hah! I had to laugh at the stuffed animal point. I totally get it - it's all about the REAL. And animals don't talk. Especially stuffed ones! :)

  2. CONGRATULATIONS YOU TWO!!!! The Bar Exam is O.V.E.R. !!! I hope you had a big celebration!