What do the founders of Amazon, Wikipedia and Google have in common? They are not just creative and successful entrepreneurs of this generation, but they all had their start in the Montessori environment. They all received a Montessori education. Peter Sims, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal asks the question, “Is there something going on here? Is there something about the Montessori approach that nurtures creativity and inventiveness that we can all learn from?” Read more of what he discovered in his WSJ article.
An early Montessori approach is now frequently sought after by many young parents who desire the best possible foundation for their child’s early education. For example, the late Princess Diana chose Montessori education for her young boys, Princes William and Harry. Such was the case for the parents of Beyoncé Knowles, Taylor Swift, Anne Frank, George Clooney, David Blaine, Julia Childs, Stephen Curry, and YoYo Ma, to name a few. These movers-and-shakers of arts, culture, music and sports can trace their roots back to a Montessori upbringing.
At Little Lea, we are deeply committed to unlocking the limitless possibilities offered by the Montessori approach in nurturing the little ones entrusted to us. We strive to follow and fully engage the child in Montessori’s ways of which she observes “There is in the child a special kind of sensitivity which leads him to absorb everything about him, and it is this work of observing and absorbing that alone enables him to adapt himself to life. He does it in virtue of an unconscious power that exists in childhood…” Maria Montessori
There are three main reasons I love Montessori: it makes so much sense, it honors the child and it is really fun! There are designated areas of the Montessori environment that focus on a particular learning area like math, language, science, culture and so on. I would like to take a quick minute and talk about each of these areas in a series of discussions to help explain how Little Lea in specific and Montessori in general work.
Experiential Learning through “Play”
When a child enters the Montessori environment, he is drawn to so many things but usually finds his way first to the PRACTICAL LIFE AREA. This is the place where he gets to do things he sees adults doing all the time as well as a number of other things. He hones his fine motor skills and develops his ability to focus on and stay with one thing. The Practical Life Area fosters a sense of confidence and pride as children learn to pour their own drink, make their own toast, spread their own butter/jam, wash their own dishes, etc. Each lesson is put together to engage the child’s sense of beauty, curiosity and wonder. The lessons are just difficult enough to be within the child’s reach. The child’s first attempts are rarely perfect but as the child goes back and practices that lesson again and again he masters the skill and then will move on to another challenging lesson. The child is choosing the work therefore he is usually quite invested and greatly desires to succeed. The lessons are demonstrated with very few words but always involve a series of steps which the child must follow to achieve the desired results. It is a form of highly organized “play” but we dignify the efforts of the child by naming it his “work.”
Learning from Nuts and Bolts
For example, there is this great lesson about nuts and bolts. An interesting draw string bag with interior pockets holds 4 bolts in the center and 4 matching nuts hiding in the pockets. The child opens the bag, discovers the bolts, finds the nuts in the pockets and the proceeds to match and thread the nuts and bolts. Once the child has threaded the matching nuts to their bolts, he dissembles them, replacing all of the pieces where he found them, making the lesson beautiful for the next person. There are many skills involved in this simple lesson: sequencing, matching, threading – but to the child it is simply something they get to “do.”
“Hey, look at what this lady is letting me do!”
I remember a child visiting our Montessori environment as a guest for the day. He chose a lesson using a baster to transfer water from one bowl to another. As he joyfully entered into the lesson he yelled to his brother on the other side of the room, “Hey, look at what this lady is letting me do!” His statement embodies the beauty of the Montessori environment: a child excited to learn and perform a new skill, pursuing learning with enthusiasm and joy and sharing his excitement with others.
Formation of Character Through Mastery
Practical Life activities are incredibly important to the child’s learning and development. Here they gain confidence, refine their fine motor skills and concentration and get to explore so many simple wonderful things adults take for granted. Just a few more examples of the things the Practical Life Area includes: learning how to use: a scoop, tongs, chop sticks, manual coffee grinder, slotted spoon, potato peeler, cheese slicer and more; learning how to thread a needle, sew on a button, perform a running stitch, sew, finger knit, French knit, weave and more; polishing mirrors, wood, silver, brass and copper; sorting like items; finding like items in sensory bags or mystery digs; beginning art. This area is also where the child learns to sweep, mop, clean up spills, roll towels, wash dishes, fold an apron, squeeze a sponge and so on. The lessons are only limited by the adult’s imagination.
Discovering a Love for Learning
One last word about Practical Life. Over the last 8 years of observing 3–6-year-olds in a mixed age learning environment, I have noticed something interesting about Practical Life. Children of all ages will cycle back to Practical Life activities after they have been engaged in more difficult math, language, science or cultural works. It is quite fascinating to observe: a five-year-old finishes a set of math problems concretely adding 4-digit numbers. It is challenging but he does it. When he is finished, he will put that math work away and come back to a Practical Life lesson tonging ping pong balls into small muffin tins or weaving ribbons. I can watch him exhale as he relaxes into this Practical Life activity he has chosen. We know from science that his brain is processing all that he has done in his prior math lesson as he focuses and enters into a concrete Practical Life activity. It is truly amazing to watch children learn and the Practical Life Area is often the gateway to great learning!
At Little Lea we have intentionally created a Montessori learning environment within our home for the express purpose of allowing 3-6 year olds to encounter their amazing world while discovering their own unique and limitless potential.
“Our work is not to teach, but to help the absorbent mind in its work of development. How marvelous it would be if by our help, if by an intelligent treatment of the child, if by understanding the needs of his/her physical life and by feeding his/her intellect, we could prolong the period of functioning of the absorbent mind!” –Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Little Lea operates out of our home located in the heart of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, at 212 East Lexington Street. We are 2 blocks away from Main Street, the Public Library and the Post Office. We are a family-owned business offering nurture and learning for 3-6 year olds. Each child receives individualized attention. Our facility has a large fully fenced-in backyard for children to run and play. We operate from Monday to Friday, January to December, with the exception of various public holidays and scheduled vacation days. If you are looking for a small, safe, home environment for your child, we hope you will consider our Little Lea.
The name ‘Little Lea’ is taken from the childhood home of one our favorite authors, C.S. Lewis. While listening to his biography we were captured by the way he referred to his childhood home with great fondness. It was the epitome of all that was calm, mature and secure. There were times of solitude, places for adventure and unrestricted access to books! The author describes his childhood as a time of“humdrum happiness.” His early life in the house appeared to be insulated from anything that was detrimental and nurtured by all that was steady, constant, and beneficial: an ordered tranquility. It is our hope that we will capture the spirit of such a home for those who become part of our learning community, our Little Lea!
Hello! I am Gaye Haralu and am a resident of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. I have lived in Harrodsburg for the past 13 years working as a minister and Montessori teacher. I have been a working mother most of my adult life. Over twenty years ago when our oldest children were very little and we had moved to another state to begin new jobs, I did not know what we were going to do with our two little ones. Then we were introduced to a Childcare Provider who provided care for our children and a number of children out of her home. She became part of the family and has set the bar so high about nurturing children! Our children loved her and loved going to her home. They learned a great deal about kindness and respect for all people from her. They also were read to abundantly every day and played outside constantly – even when it was snowing – especially when it was snowing! We moved away from that area but will forever be indebted to her dedication and care for our children.
In addition to raising our own three daughters, I became a Montessori teacher and taught 3-6 year olds in the classroom for 8 years. I am wonderfully convinced that the early childhood years are so significant. What and who the children become in these early years greatly effects their future — as students but also as human beings.
We believe the home Montessori environment offers the best of both worlds. Because we are small and home based we have flexibility with respect to timing and schedules and the pace of our moments and days. We do not have to be rushed! While we follow a daily schedule, the schedule serves the needs of our learning community rather than mastering us.
We believe the childhood years are something to be cherished and unhurried. We also believe in the limitless potential of every child and that as we expose them to all kinds of subject matter and experiences they will be joyful and excited learners. The children have lessons in everything from lessons in practical life to language works to math exercises to training their senses to science experiments to cultural studies, geography and lots of books. There is so much to learn and so much fun to be had!
Additionally, outdoor time is spent in free play but also in gardening and valuing nature for all of its amazing beauty and discovery. Our large back yard provides green space for all kinds of leaning and play. We plant and cut the flowers that we arrange for our classroom. We grow many of the vegetables that we eat in the summer. We learn about composting, taking care of the natural world and create outdoor spaces that are rich for the imagination.
We love to learn and believe learning is for a lifetime!
We are a Type-2 licensed childcare facility in the Commonwealth of Ketucky and serve all kinds of children from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic means. Loving and nurturing children and opening up their curious minds for a lifetime of learning is our mission.