Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Childhood, Pure & True..

"Watering a tree is like giving a drink of water to Jesus"
-My 5 year old

I tell my husband that I've never been so busy and even frustrated at times, and yet so happy and peaceful in my life. I've been reading the book, "The Child in the Church", by Maria Montessori, E.M. Standing and others, and it is truly helping to raise my understanding of what a treasure my children really are. The book talks about creating the prepared environment in regards to "teaching" the faith. Like academic Montessori, and life really, the child absorbs all that is in his or her surroundings. By creating the prepared environment, and making carefully thought out presentations to the children, you are assisting them in absorbing the faith and helping them to discover it themselves with such an ease. Officially, there is an organization called, The Catechises of the Good Shepherd, that provides trainings for this Montessori style method and pedagogy for the faith. Oh how I wish that there was training available in my "neck of the woods"! For now, I am doing my best to absorb and put into practice the "big picture" behind CGS.
Like regular Montessori, you can have all the nice materials, but if you don't understand the philosophy behind Montessori those materials are just things and not tools for the child to discover with and grow.

From what I understand, in CGS, the children's prepared environment is called an Atrium. In the early Church, the Atrium was the place for the early Christians to prepare themselves before entering as full members of the Church. This is where Maria got the term from. In Atrium's all across the world, there are carefully placed items ranging from child sized Mass kits for learning the objects used in the Mass, to wooden figurines depicting Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Super, and even items representing parables from the Bible. All of these items are child sized and the room is laid out with shelves, work rug space, low tables and chairs, a la' Montessori style. The trained catechists present lessons to the children and then place the items from the lesson back on the shelf where the children are invited to take the materials and repeat the lesson on their own. From what I gather, much care is taken to allow the children to contemplate these words and ideas they've just been presented with. In a rushing, fast paced world I find this very soothing and wonderful for the child. They are encouraged at a young age to contemplate and have a connection with God.

Jesus says, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."

These words bring an abundance of food for thought to me. Whether you've read what Maria Montessori has said about the child and the absorbent mind or not, most people have heard the term, "children are like sponges". This has launched me on a mission to provide the best environment possible for them to live, grow, love and learn. As some of you have read in an earlier post about toys, I've really been strict about what it is the children own as play things. For one, it cuts down on the chaos and provides a calmer environment, and for another, it allows them to use what they have to the fullest and allows them to explore the God given gift of creativity. Put a crayon in the hand of a child who is surrounded by loving guidance, encouraging words, simple play things, God's nature, and free from the commercialism of the world. What kind of picture do you think they will draw? What kind of words will come out of their mouths? What kind of attitude toward others will they have? I am beginning to observe my children, really truly observing and listening to what they have to say. I am just now discovering the treasure of what a pure, uncluttered childhood really is. I am even remembering what it was to be a child and have those intimate moments with God, and those moments of spontaneous creativity. What kind of world would it be if our parents had taken the care to foster our God given talents, and only surround us with good and inspirational things? What kind of world can we help to make if we foster our children's gifts and inspire them to be the best they can be? I see the fruits of my "labor of love". I see them being kind and having a spirit of sacrifice and help for others. I hear them saying beautiful and inspired words. Drawing pictures of God's love for us, and being grateful for the gift of life and nature. The more I observe them, the better I want to be. For them, for me, for the world. The more they bless me with their smiles, love, laughter and kindness, the more I want to rid my home of the physical clutter that will take my time away from them, and also make sure that I only provide them with objects, words, and attitudes that will nurture their little hearts, minds, and souls.

I haven't finished reading the "Child in the Church", but I am looking forward to finish reading it during this Lent. It will be my spiritual reading, as Maria Montessori stresses the "spiritual preparation" of the teacher. When I'm done, I hope to share more with you. I will leave you with a snippet from the book (there are much more detailed descriptions in the book), in which Maria Montessori is asked what her ideal school set up would be if money were no object:
"Dr. Montessori: I would have a little fountain in the garden with a pond containing fish. The children themselves would look after the fish, and I would have a little tablet near the pond - a replica of one of the ancient inscriptions from the catacombs showing the fish as the ancient symbol of Christianity.
Question: Where would you have your pond?
Dr. Montessori: In the cloister garden. You told me that expense was to be no object! So, adjoining the Atrium, I would have a special garden for the children. The ideal thing would be to have the school arranged like a monastery round a little cloister. The church could be on one side, the Atrium on another, and on the other two the ordinary schoolrooms. I would have statues at the end of the cloister walks to which the children could bring flowers. The children could play in the cloister garden, and I would like a tree in it with a little house up in the branches into which the children could climb, as they had in one school I visited in California. In this garden I would like the children to keep as many as possible of the Evangelical Animals and Plants.
Question: What do you mean by the "evangelical" animals and plants?
Dr. Montessori: I mean the various animals and plants that play a conspicuous part in Bible history and symbolism. For instance I would like the children to have a pet lamb to remind them of the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." They could have a dovecot and keep doves, because of the two turtle-doves our Lady offered up at the Temple, and the dove that was sent out of the Ark and also because the dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. They could keep bees, too, and have some candles made with the wax their own bees had made. These could be blessed and placed on their school altar. Nature study would form an essential element in the work of the Atrium. In my description of our work at Barcelona I have indicated the reason for this, viz., that from the observation of created things the child's mind should be raised to their Creator. As the psalmist says: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork."

-The Child in the Church by Maria Montessori and others, Edited by E.M. Standing- pp. 40-41.

The Child in the Church can be purchased at

Here are a couple of recent articles written about two separate CGS atrium's: Article 1, Article 2

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Major Points of the Montessori Method

Taken from The Student/Parent Handbook of:
The Montessori Elementary School

Major Points of the Montessori Method:

It is based on observations of the true nature of the child.

Its application is universal.

The results can be successfully achieved in any country, and with any racial, social, cultural, or economic group.

It reveals the small child as a lover of work, both of the intellect and mastery of the body (especially the hand). This work is spontaneously chosen and carried out with profound joy.

In his/her work, the child shows spontaneous discipline. This discipline originates within him/her and is not imposed from without. This discipline is real, as contrasted with structured discipline of rewards and punishments prevalent under other methods.

It provides suitable activities based on vital urges of the child at each stage of development. Each stage is successfully mastered before the next is attained.

It offers the child a maximum of spontaneity in choice of physical and mental activity. Nevertheless, the child reaches the same, or higher levels of scholastic attainment as under old systems.

Each child works at his/her own pace. The quick are not held back, nor are the slowed pressured. There is much opportunity for group work and the child spontaneously offers help with work they have mastered to those children who have not.

It enables the teacher to guide each child individually in each subject according to his/her own individual requirements.

It allows the child to grow in biological independence by respecting his/her needs and removing undue influence of the adult. It allows the child a large measure of liberty based on respect for the right of others. This liberty is not permissive license, but forms of the basis of self discipline.

It does away with competition as a major motivation for learning. The child competes with himself/herself. It presents endless opportunities for mutual work and help, which are joyfully given and received.

The child works from his/her own free choice. This choice is preceded by knowledge and is thus a real choice.

The Montessori method develops the whole personality of the child, not merely his/her intellectual faculties, but also his/her power, deliberation, initiative and independent choice, with their emotional complements. By living as a member of a real social community, the child is trained in those fundamental social qualities that form the basis of good citizenship.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure!

Our children enjoyed Holy Heroes Advent Adventure so much, we just had to sign up for their Lenten Adventure. They love watching the videos of the children sharing special facts and ideas about the liturgical season, and love to work on the print out crossword puzzles, quizzes, and coloring sheets too! They are even taking submissions for videos of your family sharing their special Lenten traditions and feast day celebrations as well! If you would like to sign up to "join the adventure", just follow this link: Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

St. Valentines Day!

We had a great St. Valentines day! I would have liked to have posted these on the 14th, but as they say... "life happens!". Anyhow, this post is dedicated to the wonderful ladies at the 4 REAL forum. Thank you all for your help and inspiration. God Bless you!

On the eve of St. Valentines feast day, I showed the children Elizabeth and Charollote's blog post on making Valentine dots. They thought the idea was really neat and asked me if they could make some. They were surprised when I told them I had gone to the store and that we had the ingredients here and ready to go! The kids helped to set it all up, and had a blast because they could easily do it themselves. They were really excited to surprise Papi with their little creations the next morning. The Valentine dots make a great little "I can do it myself!" Montessori snack. After we cleaned up, I read the story of St. Valentine before bed.
On St. Valentines day the family enjoyed having little strawberry hearts decorating their breakfast oatmeal, and heart butter pats for their cinnamin raisin toast.

After lunch, the children opened up a special St. Valentines day gift from Mami & Papi: Glory Stories! They were so excited to hear them, and couldn't decide which one to listen to first. We had brownies and juice while we listened to the story of Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio and then made Valentine cards for Jesus. My favorite one: "Dear God, You sended Your Son. Thank You!"

Afterwards we got a lovely little surprise from our friends who decided to stop by and bring us some pretty little homemade Valentines, chocolate covered strawberries, Hershey's Kisses, M&M's and the children also got 4 little white pots with a heart on them and some soil and seeds for planting some fruit, flowers, and vegetables for our upcoming garden! After some snacking and visiting, the children put on a short little play on the story of St. Valentine for our friends.
The jailers "blind" son going to get cured with the help of St. Valentine!

Montessori for Everyone: Free Stuff!

Have you checked out Lori's new site design over at Montessori for Everyone? It's great, and she's back to blogging too! She's got some wonderful curriculum support materials to offer, and she's been kind enough to offer a section full of free downloadable material! You can check out the free downloads HERE. Have fun!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tommorow's Child Magazine

A dear friend and mentor let me borrow a copy of, "Tomorrow's Child Magazine", by the Montessori Foundation. I loved the special first issue that had a Montessori 101 for parents to understand some of the basics and to clear up some misconceptions about the Montessori method of education. I especially LOVED all of the lovely pictures of the classrooms! Talk about eye candy! If you are interested in purchasing a subscription ( I did!), you can go to for more information!

It's been a while!

Life for a family of 7 can be quite busy! I wish I was able to post more, but alas, a Mami's priority is living life and not writing about it! As things settle down from quite a busy year, I will be posting more often!