Archive for the Montessori Theory and Philosophy Category

It’s a Practical Life!

Hello Friends!

In her book, The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote, “To have a vision of the cosmic plan, in which every form of life depends on directed movements which have effects beyond their conscious aim, is to understand the child’s work and be able to guide it better.” Today we’re going to talk about one of our pouring lessons from the Practical Life Avenue so that you may better understand the work of our students.

Fundamental work takes place in the Avenue of Practical Life in a Montessori classroom. It is comprised of lessons that enable children to practice and master basic life skills (pouring, squeezing, twisting, etc.) that contribute to a successful, independent future. Each Practical Life lesson falls under one of the four main areas:

1) Control of Movement

2) Care of Person

3) Care of Environment

4) Grace and Courtesy

When children choose to work with a pouring lesson, they are specifically honing in on their control of movement. Pictured below is a pouring lesson that is currently living on one of our Practical Life shelves.


This lesson tasks children with equally distributing the dry materials in the pitcher to the two smaller cups. While working with this lesson, our students develop a sense of order, fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, independence, and concentration.

A lot goes into designing a lesson like this one. The whole lesson (tray and all) must be functional, aesthetically pleasing, proportional to the children, complete, color coordinated, safe, clean, cost efficient/easily replaced, developmentally appropriate for all of the children, organized, applied to real life, culturally relevant, appeal to the interests of the children, follow a step-by-step sequence, and include a control of error so that the children may feel more independent and self sufficient. During the creation of the lesson pictured above, everything from the position of the pitcher to the color of the tray was considered. You will notice that the pitcher handle is facing outward. This is because we have students who are dominantly right-handed and left-handed. This lesson wouldn’t cater to all of our students needs if it was one way or the other. You may also notice that the tray is red. This is because this lesson was made available to our students around Valentine’s Day and it coordinates with the other lessons on this Practical Life shelf. The red tray also matches the red flowers on the small cups.

The Practical Life Avenue is such a fundamental part of our classroom. By practicing carefully prepared lessons that focus on specific skills like pouring, our students are able to make physical, social/emotional, and cognitive gains through their new-found skills and independence.

May the long time sun shine upon you,

IMG_3603Ashley, Bethany, and Emily



January Recap

We have had a wonderful start to the new year here at Maine Mountain Children’s House! Because January brought both snowy days and warm, sunny days, our playground has transformed many times. No matter the weather, we always find ways to enjoy the natural world.


S, Q, F, and B soaking up some Vitamin D on our mountain of snow. This has been a place for the children to explore tunnels, dig holes, perfect the art of penguin sliding, practice their balance as they maneuver across the slippery surface, and much more!


After battling weeks of feeling under the weather in December, we were finally able to host our annual “Stone Soup Night.” This night is based on the book, “Stone Soup” by Jon J. Muth. It’s a story about three monks who visit a quiet, poor village in the mountains. The monks are hungry, but the villagers are suspicious of the strange travelers. Slowly, the monks are able to entice the villagers out to the city center to learn how to make soup from nothing but stones and water. As the villagers begin to trust the monks, they share small items from their own homes. Through this kindness and sharing, the village is able to create a delicious soup big enough for everyone to enjoy.


Everyone who joined us came together for delicious bread, even better soup, and great conversation.


Throughout the month, our students have been practicing all sorts of skills while learning about snow and ice and the Arctic regions of the planet.  

Marble Tonging


This winter-themed lesson aids the children in developing their fine motor skills. The purpose of the lesson is to grasp the tongs and carefully transfer each marble from the bowl to the empty spaces on the small white tray. It lives on our practical life shelf with other lessons that prepare children for everyday tasks.

Snowflake Matching


This lesson can be found on our science shelf. First, the children lay out the large snowflake cards at the top of their work mats. Next, they use the magnifying glass to examine the details of the the small snowflake cards in order to match them to the large ones.

Arctic and Antarctic Animals


This lesson also lives on our science shelf. Our students use the four animals in the dish to explore what it’s like to live in the arctic zones.


Here Q and M are applying what they have learned about penguins. Male penguins carry their eggs in their pouches. They came up with the idea of placing eggs (snowballs) in their pouches (boot straps). They carefully waddled around Antarctica (our playground) and waited for them to “hatch.”

Animals in Winter


In this photo, Emily is working with L, M, and Q to identify the birds that have been visiting our new feeder.


Towards the end of the January we hosted our first ever “Bring a Parent Night.” The children showed their parents around the classroom and showcased some of their favorite lessons. We are looking forward to our next one in the spring.




Stay tuned for what we’re up to in February


May the long time sun shine upon you,


Ashley, Bethany, and Emily


The Samantha Wright Community Garden Project

Sam’s Garden 

Kim, accompanied by the Ukulele, lead us in a song for our friend Sam after building and planting the garden.

Sam Wright, the founder of Maine Mountain Children’s House, came from farming roots.  When she started the school in 2006, it was in her nature to teach children where food comes from and how to grow it.  Sam encouraged her students to get their hands dirty, plant seeds and bulbs, search for worms and watch things grow.   It had always been her intention to start a community garden where people could come together to grow vegetables, converse and share with one another.


Sam and her students, breaking ground at 87 maple street in 2012

 Bringing the dream to FRUITION

In the spring of 2014, Maine Mountain Children’s House, along with our gardening guru’s Kim Roberts and Kerry Oulette, created a community garden in Samantha Wright’s name.   We gathered together in June of 2014 at our former location to build the gardens from the ground up.  Volunteers, current students, MMCH alumni, friends and family sifted compost, hammered together frames, shoveled soil, painted signs, and planted seeds and seedlings.  By lunch time we had a garden!  Over sandwiches and lemonade, we sang a song in tribute to our friend, admired our work and pledged to work together to keep this small garden and great spirit of Samantha Wright alive.

hammering nails, 2014

Quinn getting some practice with hammering nails before we build our raised beds

 And boy, did we!

The first year we were bountiful in produce!  With the help of the students, their families and summer and early fall volunteers, we harvested beans, carrots, kale, tomatoes, basil, chives, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, eggplant, sunflowers, nasturtiums,  squash and pumpkins.  The children loved racing through the pathways, popping tomatoes in their mouths as they whizzed by the raised beds in the fall.

harvest, 2014

A variety of fresh fruits and veggies harvested during an “open garden” evening.

Summer of 2015

In 2015, as MMCH was in the midst of  moving to our new home, Kim joined together with local establishments to plant satellite gardens and perpetuate the goal of having community gardens.  MMCH hosted three raised beds: one at The Orange Cat Cafe brimming with squash and marigolds, one at Rolling Fatties full of red, gold and purple potatoes, and another garden at Webster Library with various strains of kale and sunflowers.  Once we had passed papers, we dug ground at our new home and created one final bed with more sunflowers, squash, broccoli and tomatoes.


Brynn at the Orange Cat Cafe location.

 And here we are today…

Sam’s garden continues to play a role in our day to day lives here at MMCH. Kale and sunflowers from our garden were used in our Harvest Festival celebration in late September. We said goodbye to fall by putting garlic and daffodil bulbs (donated by our dear friend Kate Dewar) to bed before the frost froze the ground.  In November, we scrubbed potatoes from our raised bed with Kim and enjoyed mashed potatoes for afternoon snack.  As a final gesture to our harvest this fall, we added our potatoes to our Stone Soup meal on January 7th, that we enjoyed with our parents.


Gathered together family-style for a meal of Stone Soup prepared by the children.

 A Look to the Future

Last week we kicked off our Sam’s Garden Organic Seed Sale through FedCo (click here for order form).  Just print off your order form, fill it out and send a check for your total to MMCH.  Seeds arrive as early as the first week in March.

Once our seeds arrive, we’ll start seedlings and begin the early stages of our garden. In May we will once again host an open house for the Samantha Wright Community Garden Day.  We welcome all past and present families as well as community members to help us prepare our gardens, enjoy the merriment of nature and each other’s company.  Stay tuned for event postings on our MMCH website  and our facebook page.

Fostering independence at home

Maine Mountain Children’s House, and other Montessori schools, foster independence by creating learning environments that allow children to make their own choices.  They choose what to work/play with and who they work/play with.  They decide when they’re finished.  They choose when to have snack and who to sit with.  They choose what books they want to read and what they want to play when they’re on the playground.  By doing this, children feel like they are in control of their own lives.  They also take responsibility for  themselves; cleaning up after they eat or finish with a work, changing their clothes if they’re dirty or wet, and dressing themselves to go outside are only a few examples.

Independence is also achieved by creating an environment that allows them to succeed.  Our school is designed to work for them.  They have stools so they can reach the sink, low towels to dry their hands and clean up spills, low shelves to put their things away on, dishes and cups that they can reach when they’re hungry or thirsty.  Not only can they make their own choices, but when they do, it’s set up in such a way that they can succeed at their task.  By preparing the environment, a child can think, “Not only am I going to make my own choice, but I can do it all by myself.”  The benefits of creating these opportunities allow a child to gain wonderful life skills – confidence, independence and decision making is just the tip of the iceberg.

How can you create this type of environment at home?  First and foremost it takes lots of patience (remember they may be learning something new)!  In time they will be so independent they won’t need assistance from parents except to drive them and put a roof overhead!  It also may take some re-arranging of your home so the things they need are accessible to them when they want them.  Listed here are a few suggestions.  Please experiment and find the ones that work best for your family.

Kitchen area: washing dishes, assist with cooking (stirring, measuring, putting things in or on a pan), setting/clearing tables, chopping veggies/fruit (look for whole hand choppers), sweeping floors, cleaning cabinets and washing tables.  Be sure to have the right tools to allow them to succeed in these tasks, such as stools, small brooms/dust pans, hand choppers, etc.

Bedrooms: choosing and putting away clothes, putting dirty clothes in a hamper, making their bed and cleaning up their toys.    Low shelves and hangers allow them to reach their things!  Totes for toys and a hamper for clothes can also be useful.

Other areas of house: hanging up coats, putting shoes/boots away, and washing their own hands are additional things they can do at home.  Low hooks and boot trays can assist them in these tasks.

It’s truly amazing when allowed what 2-4 year-olds can do on their own when given the opportunity!  Don’t give them daunting tasks at the beginning, start small.  This way your child is sure to succeed and will be begging for more!  As always, feel free to leave a comment!  It’s great to hear your ideas or what works at home for you!!