The Building Blocks of Life

Over the summer, we sat down to put together our thoughts on what education means to us: the values, principles and dreams that we hope to embody and impart. We started to call them the "building blocks of life."

Essentially, we wanted to share some of the many lessons that we have learned along the way and relay these capstones to a much wider audience. These are principles to which we aspire, foundations that we desire to lay, and inspiration that we always try to carry in our back pockets.

As with everything, we believe in the best. The best teachers. The best education. The best materials. That's why we teamed up with Dave and Cassie Medema of Funky Fresh Supply Co. They are the best at what they do.

Not only do they share the same vision for education, they also have a unique ability to capture tough concepts with their original and insightful designs. Together, we created a series of our favorite "building blocks" and put them in poster format. We hope you enjoy!

Order now! www.gofunkyfresh.com/baandek

Montessori Blueprints

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Bringing together the worlds of Montessori & Architecture, Bobby George and Hugh Weber teamed up to create a series of high quality and aesthetically beautiful Montessori blueprints.

As many of you know, they successfully funded their Kickstarter campaign, on June 16, 2012. Now that the posters & lithographs have been printed, they've set up a site where you can place an order: www.montessoriblueprints.com 

Enter code: Montessori at checkout and receive an extra 25% off, only until January 1, 2013. Available for order are the Pink Tower, the Binomial Cube, and the Cylinder Blocks. 

The Art of Writing

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We're starting a new project to help inspire children to continue to learn the art of writing (cursive) and we need your help. We want to send you a postcard and we'd love it if you would write us back.

As many of you know, as a society, we're increasingly starting to write, less and less. With the advent of computers and mobile devices, our physical need to actually put pen to paper is dramatically decreasing. Of course, there may be as many advantages to this as there are disadvantages, but that's a conversation for another time.

Perhaps one of the most glaring disadvantages, at least that we're experiencing, is that, because children aren't witnessing adults and older children write, they're growing up with less and less interest in learning how. In many respects, especially in our culture, we only "need" to write checks. Even that, though, is becoming outdated. When was the last time you wrote a letter? Or a postcard? Believe it or not, it's become an observable international phenomenon: children just aren't learning to write, like they once did.

With your help, we thought we would up the game. Do you have a grandchild that attends Baan Dek? We would enjoy nothing more than sending you a postcard. Are you a teacher at another school who would like to start a correspondence? We would love to hear from you. Are you a friend from another country? Let us know (send us your name and address, and we'll send you a note.

Would you like to start the correspondence? Feel free to send us a postcard at: 1836 W. Grand Arbor Circle, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 57108, USA.

Happy Birthday Montessori

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Throughout the world, students, teachers & parents are preparing to celebrate Maria Montessori's 142nd birthday. We need your help to wish her Happy Birthday!

www.happybirthdaymontessori.com

With over 20,000 Montessori schools globally, we're hoping to exceed 1,420 mentions of Montessori on August 31st, her birthday. Join in the festivities by sharing this website on Facebook, Twitter or via email!

We've teamed up with Abrams Appleseed and Montessorium, to help us celebrate. Woot! Woot! Yes, that's the sound of a flugelhorn.

Of course, what would a birthday be without presents?! Thanks to Abrams Appleseed and Montessorium, there are gifts! Go ahead, wish Montessori a Happy Birthday!

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.