Posts tagged Montessori Philosophy

Help Your Child Learn Better (#2) – A Lifetime of Inspiration


In my last blog post we talked about how to help your child learn better by keeping learning styles in mind. In this blog post we’ll talk about an even more important step – how to inspire your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to.

Here’s what I mean.

A little while ago, my daughter, age 9, was complaining about learning division at school. She’d been shown a new way to do long division, and as she continued in her complaint, she said, “But I didn’t get it, because he didn’t make us do it ourselves!” Then she asked me to help her with it, and told me how to help her. She had identified that she would have learned the division better if she’d been walked through actively doing it herself, but more importantly, she took charge of the situation, and showed me how to teach her.

A few days later, she was trying to show me how to crochet something, and I grinned at her and said, “I don’t get it – you need to make me do it myself!” She laughed, provided me with my own crochet hook, and walked me through it, while I did it myself. (I crocheted a beautiful flower, by the way, all by myself, under her tutelage!) See the picture – Flower I crocheted!but please note that it looks better in real life.

So, backing up a bit – my daughter decided, from her exposure at school, that long division was worth learning, she knew how she would learn it best, she assigned me the task of teaching her, then told me how. How would this have been different if I had heard her complaint, then decided that she should learn long division, on my terms, in my way?

To do this key step of inspiring your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to, it’s important to earn your child’s trust, so that he or she feels safe learning from you along the way. Here’s how I’ve earned my daughter’s trust over the years – and why she has often said to me (though she loves her teachers!), “Mommy, I wish YOU were my teacher.”

1) I notice what fascinates her, and offer her more of that. When I respect her interest, I encourage her to trust and follow her own inner direction, not to stifle all of her questions and curiousities.

2) I ask, before showing or telling her something. I ask, “Would you like a lesson on this?” or “I have some interesting information about that. Would you like me to tell you?” If she says “no” (maybe 25% of the time) I SHUT UP! If it’s really important, I will likely ask again later, or sometimes, I’ll say, “This is really important. Can I please share it with you?” Because she trusts me, usually she says yes. And, when she wants to learn something new, she often comes to me and says, “Mom, can you help me with this?”

3) I do not pretend to know everything. When she asks about something I don’t know, I connect her with other resources, and, for as long as she’s been old enough, I’ve shown her how to find those resources herself.

4) I respect her different way of learning, and don’t expect her to move to the next step or into a different style until she asks or accepts my offer. When she has many experiences learning at her pace, in her style, she comes to know how she learns, and learns how to set up situations that work for her. I love to learn by jumping in right away. She likes to learn by watching for a long time first, then tentatively stepping in. I give her the space to do it her way.

5) Over and over again, I let go of my agenda for her learning, and instead, I do my best to discover and support her agenda.

I hope this blog post helps you to observe and support your child to discover their own passions and pursue them with gusto! Check out my other blog post on this topic HERE.

If you’re also looking for the schooling environment that will best meet your child’s learning needs, I’d also love to invite you to my next Alternative and Traditional Schooling Options in Calgary class, or to purchase the audio and workbook version of the class.

I’d love to see you there!





Help Your Child Learn Better (Part 1)


It’s fairly common knowledge these days that people have different learning styles, but the conversation about different teaching styles isn’t as common. I’m going to share about why teaching style matters – whether in a school or a home setting – and how you can adjust your “teaching” interactions with your child to be more effective and connecting. 

Here’s the bottom line: How we teach may matter more than what we teach. 

And here’s why – when we teach effectively, we engage the person who is learning in such a way that they can learn effectively. Since everyone learns differently, this isn’t always easy.

There are lots of ways to categorize broad learning styles. Some of the more commonly described learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, but it goes much further. People are more likely to learn concretely, or abstractly. They are more likely to learn socially, or in a solitary way. Some people learn by flatlining for a long time, then leaping into a high-level skill, while others learn by taking many small steps towards the new skill. An individual’s learning style is much like a personality style – it is complex, and can be defined, understood, or categorized in many different ways. Much more important than the categorization is the recognition of the individual who is learning, and the support of that person’s preferred process.

So, how do you support your child’s learning style?

First, observe, observe, observe. Your child has been learning since birth. How did he or she learn to walk? To talk? Did she start speaking by naming everything within sight, or was she silent until she spoke in complete sentences? Did he hold your hand, balancing carefully with each step, or did he propel himself up and off and into everything within reach?

Next, offer different options and see how your child responds. Think about how you learn best, how your spouse learns best, and what you’ve observed about your child’s process, and start with these. If your spouse listens to books on tape and then effortlessly spouts off information that has seemed to magically seep into her brain, try playing auditory games rather than using flash cards with your child who is learning math facts.  If your child learned to talk all at once, after listening for a year, consider that he or she may learn to read this way, too, and read aloud while giving your child the opportunity to see the words. If you learn best in a conversation, asking questions, in order to really understand something difficult, then take your child to Heritage Park and give her the opportunity to grill the young man in suspenders who knows more about Canadian history than anyone you’ve ever met.

Now, here’s the most important step, one that I’ll go into more detail about in my next blog post – inspire your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to. This is key! More important than teaching your child something of your choosing, in a way that is roughly suited to their learning style, is giving them the tools to manage their own learning.

If you successfully manage the first two steps, you will help your child feel comfortable in his or her own learning style. When you get this third step figured out, you set your child up for a lifetime of adventure and inspiration. Keep your eye open for my next blog post!

In the meanwhile, to learn more about the schooling options in Calgary, and the teaching styles of different schools, including Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, public, private, charter, and more, check out my class: Traditional & Alternative Schooling Options in Calgary.

And please share below what you’ve learned about your child’s learning style! It may help someone else who’s trying to understand their own child better.

How to Help Your Child Obey With Joy

Dad with Boys

Obedience with Joy!

This phrase is not to suggest that obedience is the greatest good with our children, but we all know that a lot of cooperation is involved in our daily lives in today’s world.

The basic concept is this: ideal discipline comes BEFORE an issue arises. When children’s developmental and daily needs are met, they are much less likely to “misbehave”, because they are too busy with the work of growing themselves, and too fascinated by that work.

Every child has a powerful drive to learn, explore, and grow, to engage with the society they are a part of. A child whose developmental needs are met accepts guidance more easily because that guidance helps them learn – learn how things work, but more importantly, learn how to be in the world.

Montessori talks about “obedience with joy” – one of my favourite Montessori phrases. The child whose deepest needs are met obeys an adult who helps meet those needs, joyfully, most of the time.

So, here’s what to do:

To halve your frustration, and double your patience, remember that learning is messy! One of the main roles of the adult is to offer many, many Gentle Reminders as children follow their developmental processes. 

To meet your child’s developmental needs, fill your home with meaningful activitiesallow your child to choose his activity, and don’t interrupt your child’s work. Concentration brings peace.

To enjoy your children more, reframe discipline issues in a “how to” way, and then give lessons: “Oops, did you forget how to ask nicely? Let me remind you,” or “Oh! You don’t know that glass figurines can break and need gentle handling yet, do you? Let me show you,” or “You are experimenting with doing something you KNOW I don’t like.  Let me give you some information about what you are doing and how I am feeling.”

These three ideas sound simplistic – but they are ongoing, and involve really knowing yourself and your child.

Refer back to your copy of “The 7 Keys to Mastering Discipline Without Guilt” for much more detail and lots of examples on these three points. (Don’t have one yet? Go to to get your gift copy!)

Obedience with joy just not happening at your house? Call me! I’d love to work with you…403-607-1463.


What Most Parents Don’t Know That Can Change Everything


This is the key that can change everything: “Create the environment that inspires the child to concentrate.” This means creating the physical, mental, emotional, and social environments which, more than anything, DO NOT IMPEDE the child’s natural tendencies to learn and explore.  (This is Montessori’s most all-encompassing principle.)

For a small child, this first means “baby-proofing”, so that the child can move freely and safely about in the home as much as possible. It means creating the baby’s environment so that when she first pulls herself towards one of the few fascinating household objects you have carefully placed in her environment, she hears, “Yes, that’s for you to explore!” rather than “Don’t touch that!”

The 0-6 year-old, in the sensitive period for order, is reassured by a regular schedule, and an ordered environment. Forming his view of the world, he is thrilled by the knowledge that the bucket belongs HERE, hats are for wearing outside, and we eat breakfast after getting dressed.

For both young children and adolescents, creating the environment means providing a clean, uncluttered place to work, as much as possible, and providing real and meaningful materials that fascinate the child and inspire challenging yet achievable work.

As elementary-aged children develop interests in science or history, it means providing opportunities to acquire books, meet experts, explore rivers, see plays, or listen to music that is related to the interest.

It means thinking of yourself more as a support person than a director of your child, from the earliest days. Your child will always, from birth, let you know what he or she needs to learn if you observe first, rather than instruct. Your role is to create the environment that supports your child’s natural development.

In creating an environment that supports fascination and concentration, you allow the child the maximum opportunity to be calm, confident, cooperative, and joyful – all of which combine to inspire a child that enjoys the process of becoming self-disciplined.

Good frustration comes as you overcome challenges as you learn something new. Bad frustration happens when learning is impeded.

Children raised this way “obey with joy” (most of the time), because a child who is allowed to do her work, and to follow her internal drive to learn, may have lots of “good” frustration, which comes from learning something new and difficult.

But, the child has very little “bad” frustration, which impedes learning. A great majority of “bad” frustration is brought on by well-meaning “helpful” adults, who tie shoes, clean up messes, wipe noses, tell the 6-12 year-old what to do with the dollar they find on the street, or otherwise interrupt the child’s efforts to act in the world.

If we listen closely, we can recognize the child’s actions as saying, “Help me to do it by myself.” (~Maria Montessori)

So, that’s it – so simple!  Most parents don’t realize the importance of intentionally structuring the child’s environment to inspire concentration. When you do, it can change everything.

If you want help creating the environment that will inspire your child to concentrate, become more peaceful, and build self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth, call me to see if coaching might be a fit for you.  I’d love to support you in supporting your child…403-607-1463.


Sometimes You’re in Your Child’s Way


The fastest way to get out of your child’s way and increase your child’s ability to learn new things is to pay close attention to another Montessori principle: “Never substitute your own activity for the child’s.”

Montessori described “sensitive periods” for the acquisition of new skills or understanding. These specific time periods are the ideal time for a child to learn a skill – the child is fascinated by the skill, and learns it most quickly and easily.

To understand the power of sensitive periods, think about how easily most small children learn language, and compare their skills to the language skills of many adults who have spoken a second language for many, many years, but still have not perfected grammar or pronunciation.

Some examples of general sensitive periods are: the 0-6 year-old is in sensitive periods for order, movement and language, and the 6-12 year-old moves through sensitive periods for imagination, working with other people, and morality.

As the child passes through each sensitive period, the adult must observe, give basic lessons in advance when possible, and then – and this is the most important part – stay out of the way and allow the child to explore, make mistakes, and deeply concentrate on each new skill.

Each time we substitute our activity for the child’s, we are intervening into the work of the child. Each time we take the child’s shoelaces into our own hands as she attempts to tie them herself, we take away the child’s opportunity to explore and pursue that skill in that specific moment. If we keep in mind that the sensitive period for a skill exists for only a limited time, we will naturally tend to avoid the interruption as much as possible.

Each time we punish a child for lying, rather than asking “How did it feel in your heart when you told your friend that?” we take away the child’s opportunity to explore their internal moral barometer by distracting with frustration and anger towards us.

So – to help your child learn more, get out of the way!  Give your child time and space to explore, make mistakes, make a mess, figure it out, and concentrate on whatever he or she is trying to do. Do your best NOT to interrupt, and NOT to do it for them.

Please share your thoughts below!  I love to hear your feedback:).

Montessori Tip #3: Trust the Child!


When I first read about the Montessori method, I was a young teenager, still in high school, and still very close to my own experience of grade school. Through my reading, I at once became very disillusioned with the schooling that I was experiencing, and very motivated.

Montessori’s work had described for me WHY I wasn’t motivated by my school experience, and had also brought my own inner desire to learn to my consciousness. I was indignant, angry even, at the schooling I had experienced so far. I felt as if I had lost a part of myself. It was as if I was being coerced to do something that I might have done on my own. I remember feeling strongly that I COULD be trusted with my own learning, but that I was not trusted by the schooling system I was engaged in. I became very driven to pursue my own interests, follow my heart, and intentionally explore life in a way that felt new to me. It was, simply, a reconnection with my heart, a reminder of something it seemed I’d been encouraged to forget.
Our cultural bias is towards the idea that children (people?) will only learn if they are made to do so. But, our babies learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, feed themselves, talk, and run, with very little adult intervention. At some point, we make the assumption that THIS new skill, THIS kind of learning, is different, and that the child won’t do it without coercion, rewards, punishments, direct instruction, and assigned work. As a result, we get adults who don’t know how to follow their interests, who are disillusioned, focused on money, security, or promotion, in careers they don’t even like. A Gallup survey from 2011 showed that 71% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work.

Our misunderstanding of the child’s natural motivation skews our perspective, and our mistrust in the child’s inner desire to learn, grow, explore, and expand, clouds our adult vision. This is especially the case if we, ourselves, have become disillusioned by our own work, or by our culture, or by human nature.

What if, instead, with our attitude and with a sparkle in our eye, we set the child free to explore, to follow his or her heart? What if we told the stories of human discovery, built on the child’s interests, and searched for ways to support the child’s natural pursuit of knowledge, skill, and understanding? What if we truly, deeply, thoughtfully, answered our children’s questions, and shared our own questions, with them?  

What if we, with our stories, by sharing our own curiousities, and with great gentleness and respect for the child’s own direction, brought each child to the edge of human knowledge – that place where human beings still have questions, still propose theories, still debate, research, explore, and wonder?

What if we got out of the child’s way and LET them learn, rather than trying to MAKE them learn?  

What if we believed in the human desire to contribute, to build, to solve problems, and to make oneself useful to others? What if we confidently believed that if we shared our human story and what is yet to be done, if we coloured the story with hopefulness, and if we empowered our children to question and to act, that each child would rise up to the potential of our species?   
What if we trusted the child?
Your child may be attending a Montessori school, homeschooling, or attending some other kind of school. We know that PARENTS’ attitudes toward learning and education have the most powerful effect on a child’s experience of school and learning. Regardless of the schooling that you have chosen for your child YOUR perspective, matters – profoundly – to your child. Your ability to create a framework IN WHICH the child’s “formal” (or not-so-formal:) ) education occurs is absolutely key.
In today’s world, children are prone to disillusionment, distraction, and lack of motivation. What you do, HOW you share your perspective with them, is powerful stuff. I hope this newsletter has given you some key areas to consider, and some key messages for you to share!
Montessori’s work with newborns through teenagers will show you HOW to demonstrate your trust in your child’s innate desire to learn, and how to support your child’s (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual) needs as they change. My upcoming course, The Happiness of the Child: Montessori Information Series will walk you through some specific aspects of Montessori’s philosophy and methodology that will encourage, empower, and inspire you.  You can register or find out more here.

Montessori Tip #2: How 5 Year-Olds and 7 Year-Olds Are Different

The other day I was chatting with some friends, a group of parents of 7-year-olds.  When I told them that I was going to write a blog post called “What’s the difference between a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old?” one dad said, “Tell them: everything. Everything!  EVERYTHING!!!”
If you have a 7-year-old, you’ve seen a lot of amazing changes over the last two years, and you may be curious about why certain things are happening.  If you have a 5-year-old, you may be wondering what might happen next.  I’m going to tell you a little about the developmental processes at these ages, and give you a little bit of Montessori perspective on the transition that is occurring.
5-year-olds are at the end of a major developmental stage, and 7-year-olds are moving into the beginning of a new one.  It’s pretty exciting to watch, and both 5 and 7-year-olds (and the cheeky 6-year-old in between) can be tough on their parents as they navigate new waters.
5-year-olds begin to be very interested in working WITH others, doing hard things together.  5-year-olds have a developmental need for LOTS of playdates.  This need ramps up for the 6-12 year-old, as the imagination expands and the child’s fascination with social interaction push the child to focus on imaginative play.
While the younger child begins to have empathy, can know that you’re sad and kiss you better, your 5-year-old can project how HE would feel if that happened to him, and sometimes respond accordingly in the moment.  A key question at 5, especially, is, “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
Taking empathy so much further, your 7-year-old can see you feeling sick, and, all on her own, without being asked, spend the evening getting herself supper so you can lie down, bring you a drink, offer to put the music on, say she loves you, and read you a bedtime story.  (True story!  This was me last week, heart-melted!)
The difference is that the 7-year-old can THINK it all through, FIGURE it all out, and CHOOSE to act, and sustain action, in accordance with values.  The 7-year-old is CONSCIOUS.  Feel the magic of that!!
Your 5-year-old, for the first time ever, begins to realize that others have opinions of him or her.  You may see the beginnings of shame in your 5-year-old that weren’t there before.  This socially-interested 5-year-old will bloom into the socially-obsessed 7-year-old.  (And I say that very lovingly.)
Dr. Maria Montessori described children as going through “sensitive periods”.  During a sensitive period, a child is internally driven to learn or explore whatever is the next step of their natural development.  During the sensitive period for walking, your child will want to walk, all day, and sometimes all night.  He will exhaust himself walking, even to the point of crying in exhaustion, but cannot stop, because the internal drive to walk is so powerful.  Your 6-12 year-old is experiencing sensitive periods for social understanding, imagination, and morality.
Your 6-12 year-old (you’ll see the first glimpses in your 5-year-old, and start to feel it full-on in your 7-year-old) will be DRIVEN to understand who he or she is SOCIALLY.  He or she will play, breathe and question in the social arena.  This child will ask about government and rules (how PEOPLE organize themselves), psychology (why PEOPLE do what they do and act how they act), and morality (why PEOPLE do bad things and how they make choices).
This is why you see your 6 and 7-year-olds trying on different ways of talking and acting.  For the first time ever, they don’t just say or do whatever comes to mind, in the way it comes.  Instead, they can CHOOSE how they’re going to act.  They can recognize that their behaviour has an effect on others, and they can adjust accordingly. They try on what they see and hear around them.  Your 7-year-old girl will flip her hair, put her hand on her hip, and say “Like, ummm, Mommy?  You have GOT to be kidding me!” with great flair.
And, yes, they may sometimes be cheeky.  Or even downright rude, as they try on different ways of interacting.  They are watching you closely to see how you will react to each nuance of language and action. (Except when they are so busy reveling in the sound of their own voice, and all the various nuances they can explore!)  They are looking for feedback about what’s right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and not, in the social world.
Your 5-year-old may be explosive, emotional, and overwhelmed.  They may experiment with threatening, hitting, and/or saying “very mean” things to you.  Your 5-year-old is in a very unstable time of change.  A BIG change is coming, but he or she cannot understand it yet.  It’s as if he or she is looking through a very foggy window.  “There’s something I’m supposed to understand about people, but I don’t see it yet.  For some reason I care about what that person thinks, but I don’t feel any control over their opinion or behaviour.”
The 7-year-old gets that others have opinions, and has the feeling that those opinions might change if he or she just does or says the right thing or is the right kind of person – and the 7-year-old feels that THAT is entirely in their control.  There’s a beautiful power there – “I can be who I choose!” AND a terrible vulnerability as they learn, “I cannot make everyone love me.”  Friendships can be powerful and painful, often infatuation-like at this age.
It may feel as if your 7-year-old is playing with your reactions sometimes – and, they are!  They are methodically testing out behaviours and ideas on you.  They are finding your triggers and figuring out how they work.  

7-year-olds are scary to us parents, because they will judge us.  Today, you may be pronounced the best mommy in the world, or the worst one, and you can be pretty sure that your 7-year-old has actually measured you up against other mommies before making the proclamation.  

Your 5-year-old and your 7-year-old BOTH will need you to help them understand social dynamics, personalities, and moral questions. Rather than telling your child what to do, socially and morally, help him or her understand the dynamics that are at play, and increasingly invite them to make decisions about HOW they want to be, socially and morally.

We’ll be talking a lot about Montessori’s insights into the developmental processes of your growing child (age 0 through 15) and how to meet your child’s (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual) needs as they change, in my upcoming course, The Happiness of the Child: Montessori Information Series.  You can register or find out more here.  

This is the only course I hold in my home, as it focuses partially on the home environment. I look forward to sharing my home with you for this very special course!

Call me to register by phone, or click here to register for The Happiness of the Child online!
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