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Our thoughts on Montessori and education

Regional Workshop Series Comes to Tulsa October 27

CGMS is proud to announce a regional workshop series that begins this fall.  Participation is open to current CGMS Adult Learners as well as Montessori teachers and community members not currently in training.  Please see below information on upcoming workshops in your area, and registration information.


Observation: The Keystone Skill for Montessori Educators

Saturday, October 27, 2018

9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Undercroft Montessori School

site of 2019 CGMS residential session for our MACTE accredited, Blended Teacher Certification Courses; the next online cohorts begin October 22, 2018.

3745 S. Hudson Avenue, Tulsa, OK  74135
with open house and reception Friday, October 26

Observation: The Keystone Skill for Montessori Educators

presented by

Tammy Oesting

$45 individuals, $35 for two or more from same school

Register today!

What is the number one strategy, or keystone skill, that you could improve to enhance your Montessori practice?  It’s the same tool Dr. Montessori used to develop her scientific pedagogy: observation. Join seasoned Montessori guide and teacher educator Tammy Oesting in harnessing your “scientist in the field” skill set to deepen your understanding of the child and bolster your classroom performance.

Renew your resolve to meet your students needs optimally by learning about the science behind why observation works.  Acquire new and strengthen known observation techniques that empower you to adapt your environment to improve student engagement and to better understand when to intervene with a student.  Find out how simple mindfulness training increases your ability to see the child and respond accordingly.

About the Presenter:  Tammy Oesting exemplifies lifelong learning.  As a Montessori teacher and trainer, her focus on answering “Why does this work?” has led her to adapt instructional strategies from current research into her Montessori practices.  This focus lead to the creation and global delivery of a training program for support staff in Montessori and a constant curiosity about how to optimize classroom performance with fidelity to Montessori pedagogy.

Although originally from the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, and Alaska), her deep curiosity about just about everything has inspired her inner explorations and lifestyle as a nomadic world traveler.  American Montessori Society 3-6 and E1-2 certified, she loved her 17 years in the classroom; however, it was her years working with adults that lead her to serve the global Montessori community with professional development opportunities by founding ClassrooMechanics.  Her passions include issues of social justice, educating support staff, art education, neuroscience as applied to educational practices, and exploring the magnificence of the world.

Space is limited!

Please click to access  workshop registration.

and join us for

a CGMS Meet & Greet, light reception and tour of Undercroft Montessori


CGMS Director of Early Childhood Lori Karmazin

Friday, October 26

7:00 to 8:30 pm

Please pre-register at Workshops@GuidedStudies.com

Stay tuned:

Next online cohorts for MACTE accredited, Blended Teacher Certification courses begin October 22, 2018

Next online Professional Development courses begin October 15 & 29, 2018.   

More regional workshops coming soon.

Help! How can I encourage parents of toddlers with the morning transition?

Dear Ask a Montessorian, I teach in an Infant/Toddler classroom and I am struggling with how to help parents and their children with the morning transition.  Some parents want to come in and spend time with their children, others want to bolt out the door, while others want to talk to the teachers about the morning routine that day.  What would you suggest as a better transition routine, and how we might communicate that with the parents?

Lamar D, Columbus, Ohio

Lamar, it is so important to contemplate how children and families arrive each school day, so all involved can know what to expect, and get their needs met in that moment. There are several concepts you can think through to get things running efficiently in the morning.

In Italy, this first encounter at school in the morning is referred to as “l’inserimento-”   “the entering into,” or “the welcoming.” Remember that at the Infant/Toddler level, the most important thing is to build high-quality relationships with children and families, so how we welcome them into the community and make them feel a part of it matters. Constructing positive relationships with families creates trust that the child can see and rely on every day while they are in school.

So, how do we accomplish this? Three things – Routine, Communication, and Flexibility – are key to comfortable families and well-functioning classrooms. Our primary goals are to give adults the information they need and want, and for children to be ready and excited to step away from their parent and into the classroom. Take time to consider what else parents need in the morning- do they need to leave quickly? Would it benefit the children if they did? Do they have something pertinent to tell you? What do you need in the morning as the teacher? Of course, children have basic developmental needs that must be at the forefront of our planning.

Consider the ages of your students. For infants, they need a gentle entrance, and it is probably best for their grown-up to come into the classroom and be able to speak to the teacher. For toddlers who are much more ready to move from oneness with a parent to separateness as an individual, it may be best for parents to remain outside the classroom or right at the entrance, and keep adult conversations and goodbyes brief. There should always be a clear goodbye!       

Keeping all this in mind, come up with a standard routine for all families to practice in the morning. One example is for a family of a toddler to arrive, enter the building together, and the child to place their things in their cubby. A teacher can be standing at the entrance of the classroom so parent and child can say hellos. The child then gets a kiss or a high-five from their parent and enters the classroom on their own. Any vital information the parent needs to share can be in a written note handed to the teacher during arrival.

Something that is successful in many schools is for each child to have a morning ritual they complete with their parent. (This ritual would have something to do with the arrival procedures, not be a classroom activity/lesson.) A parent could do the first diaper change before heading off to work, or they could sit together with their child and assist with putting on indoor slippers. A few minutes to connect with their parent without rushing can work wonders for a child being ready to start their day at school. You can set up a beautiful classroom entryway with enough space for this sort of thing to happen.

Whatever routine you decide, communicate the plan to all families.  Just like young children, most adults like to have solid routines- they make things feel efficient and safe. If you are establishing a new method for the classroom arrival, write a clear letter to all the families in your community spelling out the steps of the morning routine, and explaining the benefits of it. Also, put a clear description of the routine in the parent handbook or school policy document.

Some extra points about communication- if you are going to make it part of your routine that teachers are not generally available for conversation during drop off, give your families another way to access information. Having a whiteboard or chalkboard outside the classroom door, for example, is an excellent way to let families know what is on the agenda for the day.  If anything unique or exciting happens during the day, this information can be written on the whiteboard for parents to see when they pick up their child. Having a regular way to be in touch with the families in your class is essential. Send a class email regularly, and make sure parents know how to contact you (text, email, phone messages), and always have a timely response. If parents trust you will be communicative and responsive, they will have less need overall to speak with teachers during morning arrival.

Being flexible about families’ needs is part of being a welcoming, nurturing environment. All families won’t need the same things, and their needs can change from day to day. Once a routine is established, and families make the general morning plan a habit, it is far less disruptive when a day comes where a family has to deviate a bit from it, to accommodate an extraordinary circumstance. This could be anything from one parent being ill, to a child not getting sleep the night before, or any number of things that happen in our complex lives. Remember to give compassion to your students and their families, while keeping the well-being of the group in mind. Think through what is needed regarding routine, communication, and flexibility, and come up with an organized written plan of action to make mornings run more smoothly for everyone.

Laura LeClair

Laura is an instructor, educational consultant, and postpartum doula. She spent over two decades in Montessori classrooms, guiding children from Birth through Kindergarten. She has a passion for tending to classrooms and the adults who bring them to life, with a special interest in creating successful, inclusive environments for children of all abilities.

Laura has a B.A. in English from Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT. She holds American Montessori Society credentials in Infant and Toddler (CME|NY) and Early Childhood (MTTP). She received her M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies of Preschool Education & Development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also studies the science of compassion and contemplative practice. Laura sees this work as key in the spiritual preparation of the adult, as educators and families develop their capacity for personal transformation and well-being.

Laura is a presenter and field consultant for the CME|NY Infant and Toddler Course and an Instructional Guide at The Center for Guided Montessori Studies.  Learn more about Laura LeClair.  




Help! Sometimes I prefer not to discuss holidays in the classroom because I don’t want to exclude any students. What do you suggest?

Dear Ask a Montessorian, many parents that I have had over the years have varying expectations on holiday celebrations at school.  Sometimes I would prefer to not discuss any at school because I don’t want to exclude anyone in particular. What would you advise?

–Don’t Want to Exclude, Newark, New Jersey

Dear Don’t Want to Exclude,

Good for you for questioning your approach to holidays and your drive to include all your community members.  Your question is one that many Montessori guides and communities are faced with, so you’re in good company!

Holiday traditions are an expression of our self and group identities and as such, convey what we value.  Our students come to us with a family culture and holidays that may or not may not be recognized by the dominant culture and yet learning about other cultures and cultivating a shared understanding of what is important to other people is part of the recipe that creates a community.  In fact, Dr. Montessori said in her book The Mass Explained to Children, “Real religion is not just certain information that can be taught to a certain class at a certain time, it is something mysterious and inexpressible, it can only be communicated directly in moments of inspiration, but it is expressed in an indirect way through traditional ceremonies.”

To honor that which is important to another human cultivates empathy, nurtures an accepting global awareness, and builds a critical consciousness necessary in a fair and just world. Sounds in alignment with Montessori, eh?

The first step to build an equitable holiday approach that values inclusion is to go to the families of your students.  I’d suggest a combination of asking specific questions through a Family Traditions survey, understanding the demographics of your community, and doing your own homework about specific holidays.

Creating an equitable plan includes calendaring and learning about the holidays being celebrated in your student’s homes, and including the study of holidays from cultures beyond your community.  Figuring out an equitable approach means committing to fair representation of holidays and as such, leads to another principle that promotes best practices: educate rather than celebrate.

This principle will allow all members of your community to learn about what each other values without disrupting the continuity of class-time. This principle opens the door for you to guide your students in learning about how people express their beliefs, milestones in life, and the diverse ways they celebrate what is important to them.  It doesn’t mean you should eradicate all moments you express joy or celebrate your community, it means you are valuing all celebrations by learning more about them, and you are thoughtful about what you actually celebrate as a community.

One simple way to organize learning about holidays is to group your learning by type.  Most holidays around the world have commonalities such as the harvest festivals of Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada, Vendimia in Argentina, Sukkot in Israel and around the world, Olivagando in Italy, Chanthaburi Festival in Thailand, and Lammas Festival recognized by Britons.  Other common themes you can utilize to plan your recognition of holidays include Festivals of Light, Spring Renewal, New Years, and milestone celebrations such as birth, naming traditions, losing teeth traditions, coming of age, marriage, and death. Learning about these family and world traditions can be as simple as a family member telling a story and sharing a meaningful object from a celebration, to your entire community coming together to share foods celebrating the season.

Finally, your question denotes a need to communicate your mission as it relates to holidays and I’d encourage you to create a simple statement that clarifies your approach to holidays and includes a statement of inclusivity.  An example might look like this, “Peaceful Child Montessori recognizes the holidays celebrated by our community members and beyond, no less than a day and no more than a week.” The point is to be clear about your approach and infuse your language to families with what you value.

-Tammy Oesting has spent the last 25 years delivering professional development workshops, consulting schools, and educating new Montessori teachers.  Her passions include issues of social justice, training support staff, art education, neuroscience as applied to educational practices, and exploring the magnificence of the world.  She is location independent and serves Montessori globally through her company ClassrooMechanics which offers an online workshop, “Building an Equitable Holiday Approach”. AMS certified 3-6, 6-12.  Find out more about Tammy.


Help! A student’s challenging behavior seems unnoticed by her parents.  What should I do?

Dear Ask a Montessorian, I have a student who is showing some difficulty in the classroom.  She seems to have trouble choosing work, I observe her often bothering other students, and doesn’t fall into concentration easily.  Her parents often say that she loves school and concentrates well at home, and seem unwilling to discuss the behaviors I’m observing.  What should be my next steps?

Anne L.

Dear Anne, no parent wants to hear that their child’s teacher has concerns about their behavior in school. We all want the ‘perfect’ child, right? It’s understandable that a parent would be at first hesitant to hear and discuss a problem.

Think of this in two parts.  First, complete an intentional observation to find out everything you can about the challenging behavior. When does it happen? Where does it happen? How often is it happening? Does it include a particular peer or adult, or is it more generalized? Is there a special situation, like a transition? What triggers do you see? What reaction is it getting from you or other children? Most importantly, what is this behavior communicating? What function is it serving? Could the behaviors be for attention, getting something, or avoidance of something else? Reflect on your reactions as well. How are you feeling? It’s not uncommon that a challenge brings up feelings of frustration, insecurity, and confusion in the adults.

Collect your data over several days and weeks. Review what you have found out as objectively as possible and prepare your notes about frequency (the when and the how) and your interpretations of what might be going on with this student.

Now to part two. Evaluate what kind of relationship you currently have with the parents. Is there already trust and collaboration between you? Have you had positive interactions before bringing up your concerns? Have they ever observed in your classroom?  

One productive approach with parents is to ask their help in understanding their child. A humble attitude that acknowledges that they know their child in ways you don’t can be a good way to cultivate a collaborative partner relationship. You each share a common goal–you both want what is best for their daughter. Share the ways you enjoy her, share your caring and enjoyment having her in class. Then ask for their help with something like “when I see her ______ in the classroom, it is really confusing me. Do you ever see this at home? What do you think might be going on? Does she ever talk with you about being unhappy at school?” Remind them again how much you want what is best for her and that you need their help. The solution begins with forming a partnership with the parents, and building their trust and confidence while letting them know you aren’t rejecting their child and that together, you each want what is best for her.

It so often takes multiple conversations, so start early.  Ask them to observe. Ask them to continue the conversation through email, or a weekly phone call. If they make suggestions, let them know you’ll try theirs and some of your own. Get them to meet again after a few weeks to share what you have both learned.

Advocating for each of our students is all about a partnership, trust and mutual respect. Give some of these suggestions a try and let us know how it works!


Christine Lowry, M.Ed.

Christine has a Master’s Degree in Special Education, has founded Montessori schools and has been featured in Montessori Leadership magazine, The Montessori Leadership Institute webcast, and has provided training and consultation to schools across the United States.  Learn more about Christine.

A first year Early Childhood student wants to learn to read. What do you suggest?

Dear Ask a Montessorian, I have a first year Early Childhood student who says he wants to learn to read.  He’s attracted to the works his older friends are doing in the Language area, but I want to introduce him to the Practical Life and Sensorial materials first.  What would you suggest?”

Melissa K.

Dear MelissaI wonder many things about this new first year student. How old is he? Is his interest genuine? Does it come from his hearing his parents say that he will learn to read at school? Does he just want to hang around the big kids? Does he have older siblings who read and he wants to be like them? Or is he truly interested in the reading process as a few children as young as three year old truly are.

I think the answer to this dilemma is trial and error, observation and balance. We do want to ground our first year children in the basics of Practical Life and Sensorial, helping them to develop those all critical skills of coordination, concentration, order and independence but we also want them to do the things that are calling to them.  So I think with a child like this the key is to really observe and do both! Offer the most beautiful, well timed Practical Life and Sensorial lessons you can and watch how the child responds. See if he goes back to them in subsequent days and repeats them. Do the same with the Sensorial lessons.

And at the same time, offer Language activities to this child as well. From there he will probably begin to recognize the name of a few classmates as well. When you show this child the basic pre-reading activities such basic object-to-object matching or picture-to-picture matching, offer to write labels for those items as a way to satisfy his interest for words. If, after he matches, and you offer to write the labels, he declines, then you might see through his comments that his desire to learn to read is not as intrinsic as the words imply. Highlight with delight everything that includes words and watch for his level of interest. When he finds his own name in the snack basket, or the folder basket, comment, “You just read your name!” In this way, he will begin to see that he is indeed reading even if it is just his name. Again, observation is your friend.

Sandpaper letters are also appropriate for a child who is telling you he is interested in reading. Offer a lesson and see how it goes. Some three year olds love these lessons and learn their sounds effortlessly. Others find this first lesson tiresome, so for them, this work is better left for some time in the future. If you offer a lesson and it goes well and the child comes to you and asks for another lesson, you know this interest is genuine and you should proceed.

Observe as he watches the older children do their Language Arts work and see how long his observations last. Does he watch with true interest or does he want to distract them to interact with him? If the latter is the case, then you can find things they can do together that are mutually beneficial such as having snack or laying out a set of nomenclature cards.

I wish I could meet this little guy and see what he is all about. But time and reflection will let him unfold himself to you and let you see whether he is truly interested in learning the mechanics of reading at such a young age or if he is just mimicking the words he has heard others say. Have fun figuring him out!

Learn more about Cathie Perolman, and use the code ‘CGMS’ at her website for a 15% discount.