Meet Heather Will

It is with great pleasure that we introduce Mrs. Heather Will.

Mrs. Will will be joining Baan Dek this Fall as a primary directress in "Classroom One", and we couldn't be more excited. We are honored to have her join us, as she brings a wealth of experience, expertise and enthusiasm to Baan Dek. Mrs. Will will be working alongside Mrs. Maltai.

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Originally from Wakonda South Dakota, Mrs. Will earned her AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in 1997. Mrs. Will helped pioneer the Montessori program at White Bear Montessori School, in Minnesota, where she served as a Directess before accepting the Head of School position.

In her spare time Heather enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 children, Benjamin and Syliva Mae. You can email Mrs. Will at heather@baandek.org. We can't wait for the school year to start.

Letter Work & Number Work

We're very pleased to be able to introduce Letter Work & Number Work. Published by our friends at Abrams Appleseed, these titles, authored by Bobby and June George, are now available.

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We thought we would take this opportunity to walk you through the inception of the project, and explain a little bit more about what makes these titles so unique.

History

When we opened Baan Dek, over five years ago now, we were looking for ways to increase awareness about the Montessori approach to education. Being relatively new to the field, we wanted to share with the world some of the insights that we had gained, in an effort to make Montessori more accessible to a much wider audience.

Many of the encounters that we had with Montessori were so strong and positive, and so counter to our traditional backgrounds, that we wanted to convey what we had learned. If there is one sentence that could describe Montessori, it is that the only way to achieve the abstract, is through the concrete.

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Letter Work

For those new to Montessori, one of the best introductions to the Montessori approach to education is through language. In Montessori, we focus on the sounds of the letters, as opposed to their names. This is because, as Montessori believed, children learn through their senses. As such, the first thing they hear are sounds.

With Letter Work, then, we first introduce the children to the letters to trace. For example, "g", as pictured above. We also added the statement, "This is "guh", to emphasize for parents, that we concentrate on sounds. The traceable letters include sandpaper, which help children develop a tactile appreciation.

In addition, and thanks to the lovely work by Alyssa Nassner, we've included illustrations that will help to emphasize and highlight the sounds of the letters in practice. For instance, the first sound in the word, "goat", is the same as the sound of the letter, "g".

Of course, phonetically speaking, it can be difficult to represent sounds with words, so we put together a little video that explains, in greater detail, the precise emphasis for each letter. Ms. Wood will take us through an auditorial journey to help us pronounce the letter sounds and offer a few examples of each letter.

If you have already started working with your children with letter names, that's okay. When we start up with sounds, we just say, "These are the names of the letters. Now let's learn their sounds." We're always around to answer any questions that you might have and provide as much assistance as is needed.

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Number Work

With Montessori, everyone has a "Montessori Moment", so to speak. Which is to say, something just clicks and makes sense and you think to yourself, "Why hasn't it always been taught this way." For Mrs. George, since English is not her first language, the Montessori approach to sounds just made sense. Well, for Mr. George, it was numbers.

Let us explain. The traditional approach to numbers is to teach them through an abstract understanding. For example, the number two will be written on a chalkboard and the teacher will state, "This is two." In Montessori, we start with the concrete, so we will introduce two objects, before we introduce the symbol, "2".

It's a slight reversal, but it has a profound impact on the way children learn. Let's watch, as this young student explores the book for the very first time. Notice how he counts the objects, turning the page to see what symbol represents that understanding. The numbers are also tactile, with sandpaper, and offer children the opportunity to trace them, which is preparation and practice for writing.

You'll also notice that the book has beautiful tabs, so when you turn the page a quantity is revealed. What we've done, is include the Montessori number rods activity into the book, to help reinforce the quantity of the numbers. Counting the rods makes for a fun, engaging and interactive exercise.

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Thank you

A special thank you to the amazing team at Abrams Appleseed. Without them, we could not have written these books. In particular, we want to thank Cecily Kaiser, the editor of Abrams Appleseed, and Meagan Bennett, the designer. Individually, they make our hearts pitter patter with excitement. Collectively, they are insuperable. Every time we work with them, we feel like our hearts will explode with joy. They are a constant source of inspiration and collaboration.

Featured in the WSJ

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On Saturday, July 28th, our books, Letter Work & Number Work, were featured in the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal. We thought we would share the complete review with you:

"Another pair of sturdy board books, also from Abrams Appleseed, encourage very young children to begin learning their numbers and letters in a tactile and pleasantly reinforceable way. "Montessori Letter Work" and "Montessori Number Work" (24 pages, $9.95 each) are longer than they are wide, which makes them easy to hold yet relatively large when they are opened."

"Devised by Bobby and June George, who run a Montessori school in South Dakota, each book presents its material according to the idea that children learn better when they begin with the concrete and move to the abstract. For numbers, this might mean seeing what a quartet of cats looks like before trying to master the symbol "4." With each number from 1 through 10 presented here, children first see a grouping of objects and then, having turned the page, are asked to trace the corresponding number, which has been printed with a roughened surface. The letters book is especially good, presenting the alphabet not in conventional order but ordered by the motions a child will make to write the letter, along with its sound. It begins with circular shapes: "This is 'guh,' as in goat." Next comes "qwuh," as in quail, followed by "aeh" as in ant. The combination of phonetics and simple retro illustration makes for an excellent entree into pre-literacy."

For those interested, we also wrote up a brief explanation of the inception of the books, and a little video tutorial on how to pronounce the sounds of the letters. Take a look.

Meet Jamie

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We're very pleased to announce that Jamie Weimann will be joining Baan Dek! Jamie graduated from Northwestern College, where she holds a Bachelor's in Education.

You can send her a note: jamie@baandek.org, and help us welcome her to the community!

For Jamie, Montessori just resonated with her approach to life + education, as Montessori focuses on the individual needs of the children. Jamie will be joining Ms. Wood's classroom, and we can't wait to have you meet her. More on that soon.