Young Community: Tips for Parents

We sat down with Mrs. Bauer, the leader of the Young Children's Community at Baan Dek, and put together a few basic tips, which we hope are helpful, on how best to inspire language and math development, at this formative age: 

  • To cultivate a language environment for the child, you can model using correct language and voice, speaking slowly and clearly, allowing them an opportunity to speak. For example. "I am hungry, are you hungry?"
  • Encourage the use of words rather than using sounds to communicate desires. Even though you might know perfectly well what your child wants or needs, support their use of words and sentences. For example, "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Do you need something?"
  • Observe and take note of the world around you with your child in order to teach new vocabulary, for example, "Wow, I see a robin! Have you ever seen a robin?"
  • Sing, read books, and foster opportunities for conversation with your child. "Would you like to read this book, or sing a song?"
  • Don't be afraid to use math words even with very young children. For example, "There are two of us, let's share our cookie. Let's divide it in two."

These are just a few examples of ways to encourage the growth of your child's language and math development. We'd love to hear your own examples! Feel free to write us. Let's have a conversation.

Fruits of Study

In a wonderfully titled book, What you Should Know About Your Child, Maria Montessori makes a powerful statement in an article entitled, 'The First Three Years of Life': “If we consider the transformations, adaptations, achievements and conquest of the environment during the first period of life from zero to three years, it is functionally a longer period than all the following periods put together from three years until death. For this reason, these three years may be considered to be as long as a whole life.”

The ambition of the book, comprised of a series of helpful essays, is as practical as it is theoretical, with some real, concrete lessons, and some rather expository, prolific lines of thought, i.e.: developmentally, you learn more as a child, than you will in the rest of your life. We highly recommend the rather swift read, as both aspects of the account serve to remind us of the importance of early childhood education, which, as adults, we often overlook or even take for granted.

We thought it might be helpful if we share a little photo essay of one of our students, to highlight some of the many, as Montessori describes them, transformations, adaptations and changes that happen to the child, especially within the context of their new environment. These are events that we often don't recognize on a daily basis, despite our best observations, because we need the affordance of time, and a certain distance, to be able to fully assess and evaluate their impact. It's hard to measure anything, until we take a step back. In this first photo, you'll notice one of our new two year old students, wide-eyed, and uncertain of her place, enjoying a hot Summer Day. 

Instantly, you will notice that she is completely absorbed by an activity, absolutely immersed in her new environment, which she has just started to, rather tentatively, but ever more increasingly, explore. Montessori, who names these achievements, "personal conquests" or "the fruit of personal study", otherwise described as the ability to perceive, understand and relate to the world, has a wonderful way of making this new experience resonate, deep in our bones. Montessori writes: "Think of yourself being transported to a new and completely different country from your own. Suppose for example you were left all of a sudden on the Moon. The change would not be as great for you as the change which affects the child when it is born into this world." That's a pretty powerful thought. As soon as you start to identify with how she is trying to relate you to the experience, as soon as you start to feel the gravity of the situation, you suddenly discover that the moon isn't sufficiently radical enough, and that, as adults, we need to adopt another perspective of childhood. 

One of the things that makes Montessori so different from traditional approaches to education, which is an oft-repeated statement, is that the method is not teacher-centered, but rather, child-centered. This is one of the key insights of Montessori, and bares the repetition, as it should serve as a constant reminder to us, as an adult-oriented society. Montessori offers, "The child has a method of approach which the adult cannot imitate. If the adult is going to help the child, the adult has to learn from the child."

In the photo above, you will clearly see that the child is the focus of the presentation, which is entirely individualized, based on the interests, abilities, and expressions of the student; and, the teacher, on the other hand, who has made careful observations of the child, knows, with a remarkable degree of accuracy, the exact level of attention, capability and wherewithal of the student, from her attempts to 'learn from the child." It is important to note that this entire interaction is precipitated by the interests of the child, as opposed to the wishes of the teacher. Which is to say, there is not one set curriculum for everyone. 

With Montessori, the ambition of education is one of self-instruction. If children are empowered, with just the right amount of confidence, they will be able to embrace their interests and ultimately pursue their passions. In short, they will have the fortitude to achieve anything. While this may sound a bit esoteric, or pie-in-the-sky, as the critics might level, nothing could be more fundamental to development.

The Montessori method, to be sure, is deeply rooted in an appreciation of childhood, from the perspective of the child. It is rooted in the idea that children are natural learners, and we don't, as adults, need to force them to learn. "No matter where the child is born he achieves the same miracle. If he is born in a small fishing village the child takes in all the things that are there with the same facility as that with which another child born in New York takes in the big buildings, the motor cars, the airplanes and the noise. It is a personal achievement."

While these photos only span a one year time frame, so much has transpired: independence, refined fine motor skills and bodily control, and the acquisition of the foundations of both literacy and numeracy. Needless to say, she remains wide-eyed, eager to engage with the world. She has also, less we forget, started to gain a certain layer of confidence, which is evidenced from the photos. "It is clear that there are so many things, which according to the laws of development, the child can do with ease in this period and which she cannot do so well later on."

Language and Literacy in Montessori

In the first of a new video series, we sit down with Ms. Charlotte Wood, a primary Montessori guide, to discuss language and literacy in the Montessori classroom. Ms. Wood walks us through some helpful examples of ways language develops in the classroom, explaining, more thoroughly, how it is implemented as a natural process of the environment, and the ways in which it comes to flourish in terms of that dynamic. She also offers very practical, helpful tips on how best to encourage the development of literacy at home. We hope you enjoy!

One of our main focuses at Baan Dek is parent education. We absolutely relish the opportunity to sit down with parents, members of the community, and those interested in education, to discuss our passions. Namely, helping children develop the independence, confidence and fortitude to explore their interests.

For us, the primary constituents of any truly successful education often involve three main components: parents, children, and teachers. The more symbiosis, and the more porous these relationships can be, often the more productive the conversations. In an effort to open up our internal workshops, we recorded a few short sessions to share with everyone who was unable to attend. 

While we plan to continue our in-house workshops, we also hope to open them up to a broader community, by adding more video and audio content in the future. We would love to have your input on the topics. Are there certain themes that you would like us to discuss? We'd love to hear from you. Please don't hesitate to send us a note, or leave a comment below. Happy watching!

Profile Ingrid Geiger

We’d love to introduce you to Ms. Ingrid Geiger. Ingrid took a leap of faith in joining us here at Baan Dek, and we couldn’t be happier that she did! Since relocating her family from Germany to South Dakota last February, Ms. Geiger continues to inspire us with her vision, motivation, and peaceful spirit. We’ve greatly enjoyed getting to know Ingrid, and we know you will too. Here we go...

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

A: My name is Ingrid. I love being a Montessori Teacher, because it is a great way to meet people all over the globe with the same idea of education. Originally I’m from Germany, but I love traveling to other countries to get to know more about people, their culture and their way of life.

I’m happy to be at Baan Dek, because it is a great school with great people!

As far as interests go, I’m a big fan of outdoor activities, such as long walks and hikes. Lately, I love to go the Palisades near Sioux Falls. I love the way the river winds through the park, and the small paths to walk around to discover different plants and things. Jamie, my daughter, usually joins me. She really enjoys it as well!

Q: Since moving to South Dakota, we know you’ve pursued your interests through taking some different courses. Can you tell us more?

A: I found some really great classes online, such as a gardening class and a raw food cooking class. Which are both my hobbies! It was a nice surprise to find these things here. I’ve been checking all over the U.S. to find a raw food cooking class, and just found this teacher here in South Dakota, what a great coincidence! I signed up right away, it was such a good opportunity. I’ve also met some really great people through a sewing class I took with my daughter.

Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?

A: If anything was possible, I would sit in my car, and just head off for a tour and see where the road would lead me. I wouldn’t have any particular place to go. But I would probably travel all through the states, to see the beautiful nature and National Parks, and the panoramas that America is so famous for. I would stop and stay in a certain place if the mood hit me, then keep going...

Q: How were you first introduced to Montessori?

A: One of the first ways was that I was searching for a way to educate my children differently, with languages as a priority. That’s how I found out that within the Montessori system there is an opportunity to introduce more than one language at a time to children. First, I heard about it through a friend and then did some research online. I have two children, and wanted to expose them to many languages at once!

Before going to receive my Montessori training, I had a little English school for children. While I was happy with that, the international component of Montessori really engaged and intrigued me. I got my certification at an AMI school in Munich while working at a school at the same time.

During my studies, I got to know a woman whose daughter had a school in Mexico, and they offered me a job! That was my first position as a lead guide. Right after finishing training, I took my two kids and went to Mexico, and we were there for 5 years.

Q: So inspiring! Did you have a “Montessori Moment”?

A: I basically had it when I did my studies, and I went to observe in a school. I sat there doing my observation and watching the children. After observing their process of work and their independence, all I could think was, whoa. That’s what we’re working for.

Q: What advice would you have for someone thinking about receiving their Montessori certification?

A: I would tell them go and observe a Montessori classroom. Sit and feel and experience how it feels to be there. And after that you will know.

Q: What was it about Montessori that resonated with you?

A: What resonated with me was that you could go anywhere in the world and find the same things at an AMI school. You find the same materials in all the classrooms and you know the children get the same education. If you move to another place, you know your children will fit right in the classroom. Even if they don’t speak the same language, they will be able to manipulate the materials.

Q: How has your experience in Mexico and Germany informed the way you think of Montessori as an international approach to learning?

A: I feel more strongly about Montessori every time I go to another country, I feel affirmed that this is what I want to do, that this is what we are working for all over the globe.

Q: Can you talk about what it was like raising a child, while working as a Montessori teacher?

A: I always felt it was a gift, that I got to experience Jamie at school and at home, and see the fruits of her work in both places. I felt that continuing the work that we did at school and at home made life so much easier. Both of my kids are self-confident and independent.

I would recommend any parent to look into Montessori education deeper, to have a deeper knowledge of the method and how to support it at home. It’s learning for life, it doesn't stop at home. It’s the seed, and they will carry it out of school and it will grow.

Q: What are some of the life lessons that you can share with other parents?

A: Grow with your children. Don't ever think that you’re done, or that your child is done. Keep growing with them!

Q: At the end of the day, when your work is done, what do you hope most for your students? Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, but for their life.

A: I hope for them to go out in the world and live their dreams. I want them to be able to do what they want to do, and what they were meant to do. I really hope that they can walk through life and do what is their intent, and that they have all the support in the world to go for it! Not only support from their parents, but all the people that surround them. In the end, we have to understand that it’s not only the families or the cities where they live that shape a child, it’s the whole planet earth.

Q: Wow, think big! Now for a few rapid fire questions. What is your favorite color?

A: Blue

Q: What is your favorite Starbucks drink?

A:  Soy Chai tea latte

Q: What was your favorite childhood book or movie?

A: Jungle Book

Q: What is your favorite type of restaurant to frequent?

A: Noodles and Co. for the gluten free noodles!

Q: You have 15 minutes of free time, what do you do with it?

A: I go for a walk.

Q: How do you while away a long, cold winter night?

A: Spending time with my daughter!

Q: What’s your dream vacation / destination?

A: All of the National parks in the US

Thank you!