Monday, May 30, 2011

I Kinda Had a Feeling...

Who Taught Wyatt How to Write?
by Pilar Bewley
Montessori Blog

Peter and Margaret had heard that children in Montessori schools were precocious learners. Their neighbor’s five-year old daughter, Jenny, began to read and write while she attended the local Montessori school. They didn’t know much about the method, but when the time came to enroll their three-year-old son Wyatt in a pre-school, they decided to give Montessori a chance.

To their dismay, Wyatt didn’t seem to do anything academic during his first year of Montessori, but he sure was active! He washed tables, sewed on cardboard, polished silver, traced and made drawings of geometric shapes, looked at picture cards, built a pink tower, stroked boards with sandpaper, and lifted little cylinders by their tiny knobs.

During Parent’s Night, Peter and Margaret visited Wyatt’s classroom and found his ability to trace the sandpaper letters quite adorable. He also showed them how he formed words like cat and flag with large plastic letters on a rug. All this was charming, but they wondered how he would go from these activities to writing phrases, like their young neighbor Jenny was doing, without first practicing with pencil and paper. After all, not once during that first year had Wyatt’s teacher exposed him to a workbook, a #2 pencil, or lined paper!

The boy’s parents were nervous; many of the non-Montessori parents in their playgroup spent several hours each week engaged in workbook activities with their young children, showing them how to connect dots and color large letters. Peter and Margaret wondered if they should do the same.

Wyatt’s teacher, however, asked them to refrain from offering academic work at home, assuring them that the boy was engaged in several purposeful activities in the classroom that would eventually lead him to write and then read. She encouraged them to involve Wyatt in hands-on activities at home; share fun experiences in nature; and help him build his vocabulary through conversations, poems, and stories about the real world.

One day, when Wyatt was about four-and-a-half years old, the family was having dinner at a restaurant. With a pencil he was using for coloring, Wyatt carefully wrote his name in cursive on the paper placemat. Oblivious to his parents’ surprised expressions, he went on to write in cursive the things he saw around him: fork, dish, napkin, and plant. From then on, he wanted to write words all day long!

His parents were thrilled, but full of questions for his teacher. How was it possible for Wyatt to develop this difficult skill if he never used workbooks or connected dots to learn the shapes of letters? How was he able to hold the pencil so confidently and with so much control, when youngsters normally press the pencil so hard onto the paper that they tear it? And above all, how could he enjoy the activity so much when most children have to be forced to practice their writing skills?

The answers to all their questions can be found in the seemingly unrelated work Wyatt did during his first year in the classroom. His arm and wrist gained strength as he scrubbed tables and squeezed sponges. He gained mastery over his fingers as he carefully pushed a needle through a piece of cardboard. He learned how to control a writing instrument by applying polish with a cotton-tipped stick. By holding little knobs with three fingers he learned how to grip a pencil. He gained fluidity of wrist movement by tracing shapes. Lightness of touch was obtained by stroking different grades of sandpaper, and he expanded his vocabulary by learning the names associated with beautiful pictures of trees, birds, fruits, and insects.

When Wyatt understood the concept of writing – that letters representing sounds are put together to form words – his hand was ready and willing to help him express his thoughts on paper!

This entire process – what we call indirect preparation for writing – was thoroughly enjoyable for Wyatt because all of the activities he was engaged in fed his psychological needs. In other words, the work he did in the Montessori classroom responded to the internal drives all young children have to learn through movement, to explore their language, and to experience the world through their senses. When a child’s education is designed with these sensitivities in mind, learning is easy and pleasurable.

By satisfying his present needs, Wyatt’s teacher guided him towards the fulfillment of a seemingly unrelated future goal (writing). This indirect approach to education is a thread that is woven throughout the Montessori curriculum, from the early years of Children’s House (pre-school) through the advanced work of Upper Elementary and beyond. The feeling of satisfaction and self-fulfillment it gives the children is priceless.

Wyatt can confirm this. I recently asked him: “Wyatt, who taught you how to write?” He happily replied: “Nobody taught me. I taught myself!” And the truth is, he did.

Pilar Bewley is an AMI trained Primary teacher. She is currently enrolled in AMI Elementary training in Bergamo, Italy.

"Discipline must come through liberty. . . . We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined. We call the individual disciplined when he is master of himself....”

Maria Montessori

New Materials at Young Minds at Play!

You've heard me rave about Jeff's wonderful handmade
Montessori he's printed a new catalogue
and even received awards for his work! Congrats!!
Check out his products at:

Friday, May 27, 2011

We're Home

After two weeks on an Island in the Great Northwest we are home...
I already miss the forest and the water. We have lovely mountains
here in honor of all the nature I've enjoyed seeing I
will do a Forest Biomes materials post.

Here are some great resources:
Enchanted Learning has wonderful print materials for forest Biomes
(for other biomes see the bar at the top of the page)

Waseca has wood biome maps you  can find here:
World Biomes website  has good resources here:
For plastic animal replicas for North American Forests

try here:
or here:
Here is a lovely set of cards and a book around the Redwood Forest Theme:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Living Life Cycles

Life Cycle Update: Check out these new life cycle materials at Montessori N Such

and at Waseca

Here are a few more life cycle things from

My parent's recent health challenges have got me
thinking about the seasons and cycles of life.
It is important to bring children into the understanding
of life, maturing, aging and death. Here are some
great life cycle resources from Montessori suppliers:
Human Life Cycle Puzzle

Bean Life Cycle Puzzles

Life Cycle strip Puzzles
(Melissa and Doug)

Plastic Ladybug Life Cycle Models

Butterfly Life Cycle Cards from Montessori Print Shop

Frog Puzzle

Apple Life Cycle Chart and Cards

Butterfly Life Cycle Puzzle

Life Cycle of the Pumpkins Cards
Human Embryo

Chicken Embryo Chart

Frog Life Cycle Stamping Set

Life Cycle Booklets from Enchanted Learning

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children's Book Illustrations


I love collecting vintage children's book illustrations to 
print in my own books that I bind. I am taking my third 
bookbinding class and enjoying myself. 
Here are some great examples of illustrations I've collected...