My son has been attending a progressive, play-based pre-school for the past 2-1/2 years but now that I am thinking of where to send him for primary school, and because a Montessori grade school is on my list of possibilities, I decided to check out a Montessori pre-school near my place of work for a possible transitional year on the way to a Montessori grade school. This is the second Montessori pre-school I've visited, and I learned a lot about Montessori, comparing this one with the previous one I visited.

1. In the "strictest" Montessori pre-schools, the emphasis is on individually-directed learning. Some Montessori pre-schools, however, add more social interaction.

The Montessori pre-school I visited three years ago (I'll call it Montessori A) had no opportunities for social action during the actual 3-hour session. Teachers were very strict about making sure students didn't talk to each other.

At the Montessori school I visited this week (I'll call it Montessori B), the teachers had decided to add "circle time" (a feature of progressive/play-based preschools). The latest research shows that developing social skills is vital for the toddler years, so they felt it was important to include that in their 3-hour session. Also, unlike a "strict" Montessori A where each pupil had an individual desk, Montessori B allowed pupils to sit in pairs, even as they were doing individual work.

2. Montessori has a canonical set of manipulatives. Some schools add additional manipulatives and activities.

Montessori A had all the traditional Montessori manipulatives, and followed the strict use of these materials.

What I found interesting about Montessori B was that the teachers often developed new materials based on their pupils' needs. The new materials they developed often were based on Montessori principles (3-D, appeals to all senses, etc.), but they also developed materials based on children's interests; e.g., materials that had a drawing component, for the little artist, etc.

3. In Montessori schools, teachers' attentiveness really matters.

Montessori advocates like to call their system "child-led," but it many ways it really is "materials-led" education. A large variety of learning materials (what they call "manipulatives") are lain out in the classroom, and pupils learn basic concepts by using those materials repetitively.

The teacher's role, then, is to: (a) show the pupil how to use the materials, (b) match the pupil's skill level with the appropriate materials, (c) be alert enough to introduce the next materials when the child is ready, and (d) enforce order in the classroom.

I've observed, however, that the danger with a materials-led system such is Montessori is that the teacher might not be attentive enough to do (b) and (c). I've heard horror stories from other parents who observed Montessori classes, of children just wandering around the classroom aimlessly for 30 minutes, not doing anything, or of pupils, their eyes glazed over with boredom as they did the same thing over and over again.

A question I didn't ask at Montessori A which I did ask at Montessori B, had to do with teachers' attentiveness. How would the teacher make sure that she would be able to monitor each child's progress everyday? In the course of questioning, I also learned that teacher-student ratios in Montessori pre-schools vary widely. Both Montessori A and Montessori B had small teacher-student ratios (about 1 to 7 at most), but there are some where the ratio is 1 to 15 or even 1 to 20.

4. Montessori pre-school is really about "drills," but drilling in an interesting, 3-dimensional way.

Many people associate "traditional" schooling with drilling and repetition: accomplishing worksheet after worksheet. Actually, Montessori does this too: pupils are supposed to repeat activites several times. The difference is that most activities are not carefully constructed paper-and-pencil activities, but rather, carefully constructed manipulatives that have been designed to help the child learn new concepts and build on old ones.

Drilling itself is not a bad thing. I personally think that drilling is important: it instills discipline and the value of practice. Then again, I'm also one of those people who believes that paper and pencils are also not a bad thing! I enjoyed paper-and-pencil worksheets when I was a child (and my son does too; he always asks for activity books), but I can see why 3-D activities (which is what is done at Montessori schools) can be fun too.

Conclusion. The strength of Montessori pre-schools, I think, are the materials that they use to help pupils learn, and the progressive system of moving onto more complex materials after having mastered the easier ones. Some play-based pre-schools use some of these materials too (my son's pre-school has sandpaper letters), and with a bit of research, parents can also develop similar materials and use them at home.

Photo by Krishnan Gopakumar.
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We're doing something new today; we're hosting a customer's baptism registry!


If you're a guest of Camille, and you purchase one (or more) of the items below for her, please indicate so in the shopping cart, so that we can cross it off the list.

Super Nappy One-Size Diapers - Dog Print
Super Nappy One-Size Diapers - Giraffe
bumGenius 4.0 - Sweet
bumGenius 4.0 - Noodle
bumGenius 4.0 - Bubble
bumGenius 4.0 - Twilight
Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted Diaper (Size 2)
Kissa's Organic Cotton/Hemp Fitted Diaper
Marvel Fitted Diaper - Jungle Safari
Marvel Fitted Diaper - World
Thirsties Duo Wrap - White (Size 2)
Thirsties Duo Wrap - Meadow (Size 2)
Thirsties Duo Wrap - Honeydew (Size 2)
Thirsties Duo Wrap - Mud (Size 2)
Thirsties Duo Wrap - Blackbird (Size 2)
Thirsties Duo Wrap - Hoot (Size 2)
Thirsties Hemp Inserts 2-pack
Thirsties Stay Dry Duo Insert
Charlie Banana Hypoallergenic Disposable Inserts 32-pack

Happy Christening to Camille Averylle's son!

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My son doesn't go to a Montessori preschool, but there are several things I like about the Montessori method, including the use of manipulatives to help pupils learn.

In Montessori schools, children use sandpaper letters to help them learn to write letters. These are wooden boards with letters on them; the letters are textured, like sandpaper. Instead of using worksheets to teach preschoolers how to form letters, a Montessori classroom has the students trace the letters with their finger. In this way, the experience of learning letters is not only visual, but also tactile.

In my son's preschool, they're learning to write letters this year. I decide to help him out a little by giving him some tactile letters, just like they have in Montessori.

I looked online for sources of Montessori/tactile letters, but they're so expensive! So instead I decided to make some letters myself.

I decided to use felt paper instead of sandpaper, because I was worried that if I used sandpaper, my son might end up scratching our furniture with it.

It's my understanding that in strict Montessori schools, students learn cursive before print, and small letters before capital letters. At my son's school, though, they're learning both capital and small letters this year, and in print, so my first task was to find a print font that reflected the lettering style they were learning at school. That was difficult. Many fonts didn't have the right "a" or a "q" without a tail. Finally I decided on the VAGRundschriftD font, which I downloaded from here. The capital letters were okay, and I figured I could just make the necessary adjustments to the small letters.

I printed out the entire alphabet in that font on board paper. I don't know whether Montessori specifies a letter height, but I just used size 400, because that's what fit my 8" x 11" board paper crosswise. I cut out the letters, and used the cut-outs as my stencil to draw the letters on felt paper.

I suppose I could have just printed out reverse images of the letters straight onto the felt paper, but making stencils allowed me to fit more letters onto each sheet of felt paper. Felt paper is around P6 to P7 for an 8" x 11" sheet, so I didn't want to waste any!

I then glued the letters onto bond paper that I'd cut to 12 cm x 12 cm dimensions, and ... ta-dah! I had my tactile letters.

Montessori schools use different colors for vowels and consonants: blue for vowels, red for consonants. The stationery store didn't have any red felt paper, so in the meantime, I decided to just use blue for everything. After all, since I still have the stencils, I can always make new ones later on.

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I helped organize a friend's baby shower this weekend. Baby showers aren't complete, of course, without games!

This is the second baby shower for which I've helped think of games, and I've decided to share some of the games we played, for the benefit of both of you who are looking for ideas.

You'll notice that television game shows, in particular, are terrific inspiration for party games, and if the ideas here don't suit you, you might want to spend some time watching TV game shows for ideas!

1. Higher or Lower? The Price is Right is one of the longest-running game shows. I grew up watching the Bob Barker version, and I enjoy the Drew Carey version too. The simplest Price-is-Right inspiration comes from their "Higher or Lower?" quiz. The Price Is Right often uses a version of the "Higher or Lower?" quiz, as part of a longer game, so most participants will probably be familiar with this.

For the baby shower version, buy ten affordable baby items that you think the expectant parents are going to need. Your list might include, for example, a bag of cotton balls, baby wipes, a teether, a baby thermometer, diaper clips, a side-tie shirt, a pair of mittens, a bib, a bottle of baby wash, or a receiving blanket. When you shop for these items, keep track of the price of each item: don't lose the receipt!

When you get home, make a flash card for each baby item, and on each flash card, write down the wrong price of the item. Make the price about ten to twenty pesos cheaper or more expensive than the actual price.

Now, during the baby shower, divide the guests (including the expectant parents) into teams, and present each baby item, one at a time. Include a short description about the item, explaining, for example, how the expectant parents will be using it once the baby arrives. Then, show the flash card with the price. Have the first team guess whether the actual price is higher or lower than what you wrote on the flash card. A correct guess merits the team one point. For the second item, have the second team guess the answer. Alternate between teams until you're out of baby items, and the team with the most points wins.

Of course, the expectant parents get to keep all the items.

2. Baby or Mommy? We played the Higher or Lower game at a previous friend's baby shower, so I didn't want to use it again for this weekend's party. Instead, I made a slightly different version of the game, buying six affordable items for the mom, and six affordable items for the baby. I matched the items so that they were related to each other: a bath product for mommy and a bath product for baby, or a scarf for mommy and a bonnet and mittens for baby.

This time, to make it more fun, I made up a story and showed each set of items as part of the story. (This was inspired, of course, by The Price is Right's "showcase showdown.") After each pair of items was shown, I flashed the correct price of one of the items, and the expectant parents had to guess whether it was the price of mommy's or baby's item.

3. Name That Tune! This can be a team game. Beforehand, look for ten songs in your music collection that have the word "baby," "babe," or "child" in it. Load them into your music player, and bring a set of speakers to the baby shower.

At the party, divide the guests into two teams, and play each song. If a team knows the song they have to raise their hand (or signal in some other way). The team that raises their hand gets to guess first. A correct guess merits one point. If they can name the artist, they get a second point. (If they can't name the artist, the other team can steal a point with a correct guess.)

The team with the most points wins.

4. Baby Pictionary. At my baby shower, my friends prepared a Baby Pictionary game, which was loads of fun. A friend compiled a list of baby- or pregnancy-related words beforehand. At the party, we were divided into teams. Teams took turns. If it was their team, the teammate assigned to draw looked at the word, and had 60 seconds to draw the item, while the rest of his/her teammates had to guess the word. If the teammates got the word right, the team scored a point. If they got it wrong, the other team had the chance to steal the point by guessing the word correctly in one try.

A "Charades" version of this game can be played as well.

5. Measure the Bump. How big is mommy's baby bump? A simple game is to pass around a ball of yarn and a pair of scissors to each guest. Each guest cuts a length of yarn that she think will go around mommy's back and meet exactly at her belly button. The person who guesses correctly wins a prize.

Have fun at your baby showers!

Photo from doriana_s

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Here are some links that we've shared on our Facebook page these past several weeks.

Why do some people learn faster? - "‎"The problem with praising kids for their innate intelligence — the “smart” compliment — is that it misrepresents the psychological reality of education. It encourages kids to avoid the most useful kind of learning activities, which is when we learn from our mistakes."

Child psychologist stresses the importance of play

Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language

Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest

The Guardian's Recommended reads: ages 0–4

What children’s drawings would look like if it were painted realistically

The Right To Breastfeed: An Open Letter to the SM Supermalls Management

Duplo playground. A great online game for pre-schoolers. Features are added every few months.


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Here are links to some parenting-related articles we've recently shared on our Facebook page:

What if the secret to success is failure? - how experiencing failure can help children

How To Help Your Child's Brain Grow Up Strong

DepEd draws up tougher policies vs bullying, violence in schools

Four surefire ways to send messages to your children

Dear moms and dads, it's been a difficult day - letter from the mom of a bullied kid

Ten things you don't know about teens and social networking - "You wouldn’t let your toddler cross the street without holding your hand, so don’t hand them your iPhone to play with for the first time without starting a simple discussion about the appropriate use of technology."

Are you buying toys that stunt your child's brain?

How to get preschoolers excited about helping around the house

Playing on a tablet as therapy

Four ways iPads are changing the lives of people with disabilities

How to talk to little girls - "This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat."

Six tips for teaching a child to deal with anger

Motherly love - some controversial and thought-provoking studies

How are your generation iY children?

You don't do much all day, do you? - a stay-at-home mom speaks out

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