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Montessori ☮️PEACE Shelfie (Grace &Courtesy, Gratitude, Pillars of a Peaceful Character)

Montessori education has been referred to as "peace education" and even Gandhi praised Montessori's approach to world peace. "If we are to teach real peace in this world... we shall have to begin with the children."—Mahatma Gandhi. So, how is PEACE cultivated in a Montessori environment? Maria Montessori believed in freedom of movement, the power of observation, and the need to "follow the child." So, since children in a Montessori classroom are free to choose an activity and work at their pace, as well as are free to move around the classroom, the teacher's main goal is to make sure that children are engaged in their prepared environment and offered an opportunity for immense concentration. "Work cycles" are valued and protected, allowing children to experience the sense of security, satisfaction, and joy from their uninterrupted work.

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Also, through Grace and Courtesy lessons, children are given tools for peacefully resolving conflicts and thus cultivating a peaceful, productive and harmonious environment for learning. Children are proactively shown by example how to respect a classmate's work, how to carefully walk around a work rug, or how to interrupt politely.

Moreover, by teaching children gratitude as a part of peace education, we can ensure that they have all the tools they would need to meet every situation with a mindset of abundance, appreciation, and joy. Gratitude is a powerful mindset of "having enough" which brings the fullness of life, and we as parents and teachers can play a vital role in helping our children learn a lifelong appreciation for what we already have, rather than what we do notMontessori pedagogy defines gratitude as an active appreciation for the everyday elements that nourish the whole child — including their growing bodies, minds, and spirits. Despite the obvious benefits that gratitude offers developing minds, neuroscience proves just how effective daily gratitude can be: improved physical and psychological well-being, higher self-esteem, and even longer lifespans. Exercises in Grace and Courtesy reflect Montessori's method of “peace education” when children are shown ways to roleplay situations to use “please” and “thank you” or to offer help to a friend in need, as well as using manners at the right time and place. With regular gentile reinforcement, simple scenarios would prompt children to exercise grace, courtesy, and gratitude when the situation requires. So, to help children slow down and plant a seed of gratitude, we can create a PEACE shelf or a corner which would provide a child with a space for regular self-reflection.

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Our ☮️PEACE shelf is an inviting place where Julia and Adrian can go to throughout the day to check-in with themselves and observe their ever-changing emotions. With a zen garden to touch and feel, a mindful puzzle to assemble, a smelling box to sensorially stimulate the olfactory sense of smell, children know that they have a place where they can quiet their mind and focus on the present moment.

What is on our ☮️Peace Shelf:

  • Pewter Labyrinth (buy here) with a stylus for 'walking' it. Tracing the labyrinth path is an ancient meditation form often described as a path to wisdom and peace and commonly used as a tool for personal reflection, psychological and spiritual transformation, and comfort. A child would run a fingertip or a stylus along the grooved path. And because labyrinths are right-brain activity enhancers, tracing a labyrinth path is calming for both: adults and children. 
  • Tibetian Singing Bowl (made in Nepal) with leather wrapped wooden stricker (buy here) is one of my children's favorite meditational tools. Once they had learned how to make the bowl "sing" the healing sound is nothing I have heard before.
  • Four Pebbles to accompany a book A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles (buy here - read about it here);
  • Wooden hand-made Dove puzzle (buy here) which symbolizes peace and harmony.
  • Wooden Mandala puzzle (buy here) is hand-painted in ecological colors, presenting an intricate combination of beauty and aesthetics for children to work on peacefully. (Each puzzle is unique and made to order.) 
  • Tibetan Buddhist Wooden Prayer 8 mm Beads Wrist Mala Bracelet (buy here or similar here) is handmade in Nepal and is of exceptional quality.
  • Scented Calming Box (see below);
  • Thai Blessing Zen Buddha statue (buy here or similar here) is a perfect addition to our peace corner as it diversifies our peace education, opening doors to discussing an inspiring story of a prince who renounced the glory and riches in a pursuit of enlightenment. 
  • Zen🕉 Garden Meditation Sandbox (below/buy here) is a type of Mindfulness Meditation: a miniature version of the traditional Japanese meditative garden, where assorted objects provide visual interest and a counterpoint to the garden's serene patterns. (More about Zen Garden here.)

This Zen Garden is also an easy DIY, and all you need to participate in the art of Zen gardening:

  • purified sand (you can also use salt, sugar, polenta or any other tiny grain),
  • small objects: e.g. marbles, polished rocks (we also added a starfish, shark tooth etc.),
  • a small rake,
  • and a tray to contain everything.

 

Dealing with Conflict

Children are born mindful, and with wisdom we can keep this skill alive: 'Montessori is wonderful in this way'. - The Dalai Lama.

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In Montessori ☮️PEACE education, when two children are experiencing conflict, it can be difficult for each child to truly listen to what the other child is saying. To assist with this, one child can hold a symbol of ☮️PEACE, which generally, in a Montessori classroom, is a🌹 rose (we are using a handmade ❤️heart; a 🕊dove can also be used). A child holding it would state why s/he is upset and then pass the ☮️symbol to the other child who then has a chance to respond, passing back and forth until each child had expressed their feelings and felt adequately acknowledged. Finally, reconciliation would end with a handshake signaling ☮️ PEACE. So, when Julia and Adrian would have a disagreement, I would gently remind them to go to their ☮️PEACE corner and retrieve the ❤️ and speak their hearts💖. They would then sit across from each other on the rug and express their frustrations. Let me tell you, it always works and the PEACE is signaled with a hug. (You may download Peace Table Cards with instructions on how to deal with conflict for free here - I had purchased them from here.) 

 

Building A Peaceful Character

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A Peaceful character of the child develops since birth when s/he observes unconditional love, tender care, patience and absence of violence. And "violence" needs not be physical, which is very obvious; at times, phycological violence (taking on a verbal form) can be even more detrimental than physical since it is inconspicuous. Leading by example, by being kind, tolerant and loving, we can show our child that this world can be trusted, that the child can feel safe and secure in it, both outside and inside. And, as the child gets older, you can discuss the pillars, on which a strong loving and peaceful character can be built. 


DSC_0013We are using finger puppets to represent each foundational pillar. 
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The six pillars of a Peaceful Character are (download the pdf here or click the link here):

  • Respect
  • Caring
  • Fairness
  • Responsibility
  • Trustworthiness
  • Citizenship.

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We can help build a peaceful world by building our own character with values and qualities that would shape our finest thoughts, actions/reactions, and feelings.

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One of our PEACE materials is a scented calming box. You can add anything that might calm your child like a cinnamon stick or pieces of lavender, or scented dried fruits. For some reasons, this is the first material both of my children open when they retrieve our PEACE box from the shelf.

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  “Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child.”  - Maria Montessori.


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Our ☮️Peace Inspired📚Books:

  1. Silence Book (buy here) gently encourages children to stop, listen, and reflect on their experiences and the world around them.
  2. If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's People (buy here) explores the lives of the hundred villagers. Children will discover that life in other nations is often very different from their own. If the World Were a Village is part of CitizenKid: a collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.
  3. The Listening Walk book (buy here) is one of the children's favorite! Discover your world filled with wonderful and surprising sounds which otherwise get drowned-out in our noisy environment.
  4. A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles book (buy here) shows a child a concrete way to be mindful by connecting to a pebble representing an image of nature.
  5. Meditation Is an Open Sky book (buy here) offers a terrific introduction to simple child-friendly mindfulness/meditation exercises.
  6. What is God? book (buy here) is an eloquent introduction to the ideas behind God and various religion, which brings forward complex ideas in a way children will understand. It is written with a simple clarity and beautifully illustrated with just the right blend of seriousness and humor.
  7. Maria Montessori: A Biography For And By Children book (buy here) is written in a simple child-accessible way and is full of children's drawings depicting the life of Maria Montessori.
  8. Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being book (buy here) offers children gentle series of physical movements based on Yoga and Tai Chi movements, as an approach to Buddhist teachings. Mindful Movements book is a great meditational "yoga" manual: simple enough for a child to follow and substantial enough to provide a simple base for meditational movements.

DSC_0014 For more book ideas, see here "☮️PEACE Education•Have you Filled a Bucket Today? 📚Book."  

IMG_9207Read here 🎥 "Emotions (Body) •Feelings (Mind) ✂️DIY 😃😮😡😢☹️😆Puppets ♻️🚽Craft."

For more about our ☮️PEACE Education, read here "🕉Mindfulness with Children." 

For more on Gratitude and Thanksgiving, read here "🙏Thankful 🌳Tree🍂 • 🦃Thanksgiving Inspired ✂️Craft."

For more on Thanksgiving-Inspired activities, see here "🦃Thanksgiving Inspired Homeschooling 101 Unit Study." 


Valentine's 💗 Inspired Learning Space, What is on our shelves, Activities roundup

Happy Valentine's💝 Day. I hope you had a lovely celebration. Today, I will show you a sneak peek into our Learning Space (our classroom), as well as a summary of our Valentine's inspired activities. 

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When we moved into our new house (in September of 2016), and I walked into this room and saw these tall double windows and a cathedral ceiling, I knew it will be our learning space. Montessori classrooms are known for their light, airy and child-tailored environment, and I hoped to resemble it in our home-setting. (Adrian is sitting at a Safari table, on this chair. View Table/Chair Height Guide in this post.)
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We read this Valentine's book, which is perfect for a three-year old. The story of Saint Valentine is very sad, and this "Rookie" series book  has just enough information with big colorful illustrations on each page-spread.

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On this shelf we have:

  • Pipe-cleaner beading activity (read a post here, also see below),
  • Odd and Even activity (read a post here );
  • Polar bear unit study (in preparation for International Polar Bear day on February 27);
  • Penguin tray (read our Polar Regions Unit Study here).

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Below is a summary of our Valentine's inspired activities with links to their respective posts. I also organized the activities by areas of Montessori curriculum.  

PRACTICAL LIFE

Hearts from BeadsThreading (red and white) beads on pipe cleaners, making hearts. (Read a post here.) 


MATH

DSC_0024Read a post here about Valentine's inspired - Hearts 💯 Hundred Board.

 

DSC_0097 Read here a post on Odd and Even, and also see two videos where Adrian explains the concept he learned.

 

DSC_0046 Read here Valentine's inspired - Number Bingo for Early Math (Numbers 1-50)


SENSORIAL

DSC_0008Read a post about our Valentine's inspired Love ❤️️ Sensory Bin here.


ART/CRAFT

DSC_0041See a video of Adrian making a Threaded Heart Craft here. 

DSC_0007Read here Valentine's 💝 inspired - Blue Truck 🚙 Foot -Print Art Project (Sending Loads of Love 💗❤️️💕)

DSC_0003-2Julia and Adrian's feet Art Projects, along with 36 Classroom Valentine's Day Gifts (see below).

DSC_0066Read here a post about Classroom Valentine's Day Gift Ideas.

 I hope you liked our Valentine's inspired unit. I would love to hear which activity was your favorite!

p.s. Below are more posts about our Learning space:

  • Read here Evolution of our Learning Space post;
  • Read here Children's Space - Kitchen nook post (this post has Table/Chair Height Guide);
  • Read here a post about Adrian's Infant Space;
  • Read here about Our Christmas inspired learning space.

Our 🎄Christmas Inspired Learning Space

A sneak peek into our Christmas-inspired learning space.

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20161209-DSC_0618Everything is ready for a Christmas Tree decoration! (Read how Adrian did it here.)

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 What is 🔍 on our 🎄Christmas-inspired shelves:

  • Christmas Inspired Candy Canes Pipe Cleaner Craft (read here),
  • Mystery Bag (read here),
  • Smelling activity,
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Activity (read here),
  • Christmas Tee sewing buttons activity,
  • The Mitten Book Activity (read here).

20161211-DSC_0726 Xmas Tree is done copyRead here about Little Blue Truck's Christmas book.
20161209-DSC_0637When I saw all the windows and the light, I knew it will be our learning space:)

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20161209-DSC_0671When Adrian saw this bunny at the store, he knew it was his bunny right away.
20161209-DSC_0637Adrian loves using these balancing scales (see the nature-inspired Weighing Activity here).

20161211-DSC_0726 Xmas Tree is done copy-2The Christmas Tree is decorated! (See how Adrian did it here.)

20161211-DSC_0726 Xmas Tree is done copy

Hope you are having a wonderful Holiday Season! 


🦃Thanksgiving Inspired Homeschooling Activities for Children (2016)

Thanksgiving is such a special time to stop, reflect and express our gratitude for all the wonderful things our lives are full of. So often we focus on what is not working or on things that are missing or on something that we think we need. It takes some effort to focus on what we can be thankful for, but when we do, we realize how many things we are so fortunately blessed with. And being in the now and appreciating our blessings, is a gift in itself.

DSC_0467-001Adrian (with Julia's help) used Waldorf Alphabet Cards to spell out BE THANKFUL.
DSC_0467-001Children made a "Thankful Tree" by tying hearts with written confirmation of what they are grateful for. 
DSC_0467-001Our Thanksgiving-Inspired shelf in our Learning Space
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What is on our Thanksgiving-Inspired shelf:

  • 🍂Fall and 🦃Thanksgiving Inspired 🐇🐿 Forest Animals 🙌 Sensory Bin (read a post here);
  • Thanksgiving (Rookie Read-About Holidays) book (buy here);
  • Children love using a ⚖️ balanced scales to weigh little treasures they find during nature walks (read here a post "🍂🌰🌼Fall Inspired Weighing Activity with ⚖️ Balance."

DSC_0485 All the Thanksgiving count-down rings are removed: Happy Thanksgiving!

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Our Thanksgiving-Inspired Forest Animals Sensory Tray.
DSC_0488-001Our Thankful Tree.

DSC_0488-001Julia wrote most of the wishes: she is thankful for having a Family, Adrian, our Earth with air, trees and food, Friends and more.

 

Below are some of the 🦃 Thanksgiving -Inspired activities we have done:

 DSC_0297-001 Clay 🦃 Turkey  Thanksgiving Craft.

DSC_0257-001Thanksgiving-Inspired Forest Animals Sensory Tray.

DSC_0424.JPGThanksgiving-Inspired pretend/role play with a Green Doll House.

Happy 🦃 Thanksgiving! Let it be bountiful and joyful! Thank you all so much for following our Montessori Life Journey!

For more on Autumn-themed activities, read here a roundup of all our activities we have done during the month of 🍂September and 🎃October: over 20 of them! arranged by the area of study in a post "🍂Fall & 🎃Halloween Inspired Homeschooling 101 Unit Study."


🍁Fall 👻Halloween Inspired Tongs Transferring (Montessori 🙌🏻 Practical Life)

Adrian has been using all different types of tongs (buy here) since about two years of age, and at a three-year mark, he has mastered them all except for chop-sticks. So, to keep the interest alive, I change the setup frequently and offer a "new" and aesthetically enticing presentation. For this Fall-Halloween inspired transferring, I am using Autumn Leaves and Halloween Boo ice trays and various tongs. Transferring with tongs is a great fine and gross motor exercise since some smaller tongs require precision while the larger ones will definitely engage larger muscles in the hand and fingers.

Black Halloween Styrofoam Ball Transfering:

DSC_0110.JPGThese Halloween styrofoam covered balls are light and perfect for transferring with large tongs
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Orange Glitter Styrofoam Ball Transferring: 

DSC_0120With the same ice-tray, I offered smaller glittering orange styrofoam balls and new tongs.

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Acorn Transfering:

DSC_0131Autumn leaves tray, acorns as transferring objects, and small one-piece bamboo tongs
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 Maple Leaf Transfering: 

DSC_0140Lastly, I offered wooden maple leaves as transferring objects and a larger solid oak tongs

DSC_0139Adrian is holding tongs the same way he would correctly hold a pen or a pencil.

The “pincer grip” is a common term among elementary school educators, therapists, and doctors, which means the grasp used by the index finger and thumb to pinch or pick something up like the first finger food, or a blueberry, or a shoelace, and eventually a pencil. On the other hand, the correct "pencil grip" involves holding the pencil between the thumb and pointer finger, and resting the pencil on the middle finger for added stability. Squeezing tongs to maintain the pressure indeed puts those little muscles to work, helping develop a precise pencil grip.

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Practical life activities fall into six main categories. One of them is teaching a child fundamental skills such as transferring by pouring, spooning, and then tonging in a sequential order where each lesson builds upon the last one. The "sensitive period" for transferring starts at about two years of age and slowly begins to fade as the child masters the skill. Since every child develops at his/her own pace, some might start losing interest as they approach three-year mark, and others later. Coincidentally, at three-years-old, a child enters a new sub-stage of the First Plane of Development: what Dr. Maria Montessori called a "conscious absorbent mind."  

“It is as if the child, having absorbed the world by an unconscious kind of intelligence, now ‘lays his hands’ to it.”   Now it is the hand as a ‘prehensile organ of the mind,’ not just the senses, which move the child through a period of constructive ‘perfectionment’ – refining the acquisitions already made. Dr. Maria Montessori.

So, my advice is to start early: at around two years of age and keep changing the presentation to keep the interest alive. 

What transferring activities do you offer your child? Have you experienced a diminished interest with a certain age?  

For more on Autumn-themed activities, read here a roundup of all our activities we have done during the month of 🍂September and 🎃October: over 20 of them! arranged by the area of study in a post "🍂Fall & 🎃Halloween Inspired Homeschooling 101 Unit Study."