Purpose of This Blog

Devoted to guiding educators towards a centered and intentional Montessori practice.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Deepening Our Connections



As we gaze into the candles and fires that form the centerpieces of many of our winter traditions, we can explore the relationships humans have to the physical world. 

- Could it be that it is not only cultural nostalgia that draws us to these iconic practices?   

- Could it be a tickling of our ancestral past - memories of family celebrations, taken deeper, blending into feelings of protection from the unknown wild? 

- Is it a distant perception of our ancestors sitting around a fire for warmth and security? 

What lies deeper still? 

- Could it be that at some profound level we have an awareness of our intimate relationship with the universe? 

- Can we can draw connections between our celebrations of light and the fact that we all come from light – light of the great improbable flaring forth, that tremendous burst of energy that erupted from nothing into all that we now know, and more? 

How incredible to help children make the leap between the bundles of energy dancing in our eyes at the holidays, and the photons present at the very beginning of everything. We are all children of this light.


(This piece was originally posted here on December 9, 2011).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mindfully Celebrating the Holidays


In Montessori classrooms we go to great lengths to make connections between cultures and countries across the globe and throughout time. Rather than isolating people through their differences, we celebrate the commonalities we all share.

One way that this is accomplished is by using the Fundamental Needs of People to compare how such diverse cultures meet their basic needs: nutrition, shelter, clothing, belonging, defense, transportation, communication, self-expression, the healing arts, and spirituality.

On this last need, our class discussions become especially rich. We ask questions that provide opportunities for deep reflection: Why is it that so many cultures from so vastly different regions of our planet have celebrations this time of year that involve light? Our conversations reflect an understanding of the need for sunlight for warmth, as well as energy for growing crops for sustaining a community. We discuss the literary image of light as being one of hope and possibility, and of darkness one of wasting and despair. 

What children take away from these conversations is that humans develop practices that are grounded in their most basic needs. If we look first to these needs as we approach understanding our various ceremonies, we may find that we’re not that different after all.

(A similar piece to this one was originally posted on December 9, 2011).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Winter Solstice


In a Montessori classroom, the opportunities for curricular cross-pollination are many: a teacher’s presentation may lead to deeper questions that enrich and extend; a student-led study may pull from all areas of the curriculum before it feels complete. Each content area is able to influence the others, depending upon the medium required of the educational journey. Working together, the teacher and child use the resources before them to create meaning from their academic investigations.

There is, of course, another plane to this interweaving of curricula - one that lies in the space between the pages of our albums. At times, the studies we embark upon create far more questions than provide answers. While we may be able to label, define, describe, and share some parts of the universe and its rhythms there is still great mystery that leaves us all in awe.

In The Winter Solstice, written by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis, the search to make sense of one such mystery is beautifully illuminated.
Chronicling ancient people from Europe and North and South America, Jackson and Davey create a feeling for how some of our forebears approached the coming darkness and prepared for it’s hopeful return.

This time of year, as the days get shorter and the air temperatures fall, we all can feel something of a kinship for our ancestors. Can you imagine how the ancients must have approached the changing of the seasons? What practices and beliefs were created to explain the change, and provide for a return to what was hoped for?

Jackson’s writing reads like a whispered story over a fire, while Ellis’ painting places us beside people from many cultures as they share with us their way of knowing. Older students can both grasp the scientific basis for the changing of the seasons, and can marvel at how the ancients grappled with what must have been a very tenuous and scary time each year.

Share this set of vignettes with your students and staff. Allow them to explore that sense of wonder that comes from trying to understand people from the past. Like we do when discussing the Fundamental Needs, each new perspective on the human condition brings the possibility of new depths to our learning.

Enjoy the reading, and Happy Solstice!

The Winter Solstice
Story by Ellen Jackson, illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis
ISBN: 1-56294-722-2


Discover other Winter Solstice related activities bellow:

(This review was originally posted on December 3, 2012).