My Montessori Elevator Speech

9 Feb
M is for Montessori!

Mmm is for Montessori!

Photo Credit


I first heard  of “elevator speeches” when I was involved in Rotaract (imagine a younger version of Rotary). Basically, an elevator speech is a quick 30-second to one-minute speech (the length of an elevator ride) that you could spout off at anytime when someone asks about your organization (or whatever).

I’m not the most confident person. I’m a natural introvert who makes an effort to be more extroverted when the situation calls. When the pressure is on and I have a bunch of people’s attention, I tend to talk faster, slurring my words together in excitement and nervousness! (Funnily enough, this didn’t happen in the classroom.)



I need to have a Montessori elevator speech. Whenever someone asks what I do and I tell them that I’m a Montessori teacher, they usually follow-up with, “So, what is Montessori anyway?” I usually stammer out a pathetic reply about “child-sized furniture” and “learning by using their hands” and “three year age range that promotes mentorship and learning by observing the older students” and “Maria Montessori was the first female doctor in Italy!”

Montessori is brilliant. I want to do it justice. So I began thinking of elevator speeches and how I really need to have one prepared for just this situation.


duotang rainbow

Taken during a summer when I was prepping the students’ folders. I like this photo because it includes two things that I really like: rainbow colours and new school supplies!


Just as I was posting this, I decided to google “Montessori elevator speech.” I found The Barbara Gordon Montessori School‘s newsletter about the same subject. I also found the Montessori Madmen website. (One of the founders is Trevor Eissler, the parent advocate behind the Montessori Madness videos! It’s a great site, very clean and well-written and informative…why didn’t I know about it before?!)

It’s happenstance, people! Just as I was thinking of this very topic, they are running the Montessori Madmen’s Montessori Elevator Speech Contest. They’re asking Montessorians to post their elevator speech on YouTube. Watch the contest intro video here.

I’m going to really give this some thought and post my speech when I’m done.



This is the weather here today. (No, this is not my car or anywhere close to where I live.) I am grateful Biker was able to work from home (not to mention that he has a job and that we have a home with working heat!). We were supposed to have our Chinese New Year dinner with his side of the family tonight but of course it had to be cancelled due to the weather. My family’s dinner is tomorrow and we’re playing it by ear. It’s supposed to stop snowing by tomorrow so hopefully the roads will be better. “Sun Leen Fai Lok” to those who celebrate! It’s the Year of the Snake!

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Exactly what EVERYONE wants to read about!

28 Jan


And by “everyone” I mean “no one” except parents of toddlers (and maybe not even them!).

Freestyle has been out of diapers (during the daytime) since she was about 18 months. Yes, there have been accidents here and there, but on the whole she has been pretty successful in this area.* I also shared what worked for us here.

HOWEVER, one thing I didn’t really realize that she wasn’t truly using the toilet by herself. What I had been doing was going with her to the washroom and helping her up on her stool, pull down pants, and wipe. That is not really independence, is it?

I didn’t really notice this until…I was on my own for the first time with both girls (Biker had gone back to work after the three weeks) and I was breastfeeding Real Baby when suddenly I hear Freestyle saying, “Poo poo! Me poo poo!”




Tangent #1

They say that children may regress in certain areas of development when a new baby arrives, and I found this to be true with Freestyle. Right before Real Baby was born, Freestyle was sleeping very well on her own (finally!). However, once Real Baby arrived on the scene, sleep went out the window for every member of the family, including Freestyle! (She is slowly getting better now.).

With her toileting (not sure if that’s a word, but I’m going with it!), Freestyle started having more accidents about a month before Real Baby’s birth and a month afterwards. I am just going to chalk it up to knowing that something was about to change (before) and then adjusting to having a new person in the house (after). It’s three months later and Freestyle is back to normal now. She doesn’t wear diapers for her naps now and is dry afterwards about 90% of the time. Woo hoo! Now let’s just see about her nighttime diaper… 


Anyhow, after that eye-opening incident, I have come to realize why the lessons in Casa albums have SO MANY STEPS! Sweeping with a broom has about 20 steps or something! I get it now. There really are a lot of steps to do a simple task, we just don’t realize it because we’ve done it thousands of times and we don’t have to think about it.


Tangent #2

(Whenever you’re driving, do you ever suddenly look around and realize, “Oh, how did I get here?!” because all the minute tasks of driving a car has become so instinctual? If yes, that’s totally what I’m talking about. If not…excuse the living Chinese lady driver stereotype here!)

So, after some thought (and many just-didn’t-make-it-in-time accidents) and practice, here are the steps that are involved in going to the washroom all “by ma-sef” in our household, at least (at the moment, Freestyle is about 2.5 years old).


Going to the Washroom Independently


This is an older photo. We don’t use the kid’s toilet seat pictured above anymore. My fears that she will fall into the toilet have all but disappeared! Progress!


Prepared Environment: Stool(s) (not that kind!) for the toilet and sink, toilet lid is up and seat is down (there have been times when she just didn’t make it because there wasn’t enough time to lift the lid!), soap and towel at reach.


1. Turn the light on by climbing onto the stool to reach.

2. Get up onto the stool in front of the toilet.

3. Turn around and pull down pants, then underwear.

4. Sit onto the toilet and do your business.

5. Stand and wipe self, front to back (working on this!). I will usually help with this after she’s had a turn just to make sure it’s all clean!

6. Pull up underwear, then pants. (We’ll have to work on pants with buttons and zippers later.) Get off the stool (sometimes she reverses this step).

7. Flush (though we are trying the whole “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down” thing if it’s just us in the house).

8. Climb up the sink stool and roll up sleeves.

9. Wash hands: Rub soap on hands for at least 30 seconds (singing “Happy Birthday” or the alphabet is what I suggested to some kids in my class), making sure to scrub the front and back of hands and in between fingers and thumb. Fully rinse off all soap. Dry hands.

10. Turn light off.


Things we had to constantly practiced before she could do all those steps on her own:

  • Getting up and down a stool. 
  • Pulling pants and underwear down and putting them back on.
  • Lowering self onto the toilet seat. –> In public washrooms, I will usually hold onto her so she doesn’t have to hold onto the toilet seat or walls…shudder.
  • Tearing off only a couple squares of toilet paper. –> Took many tries and many unrolled toilet paper rolls!
  • Wiping(!) properly–> Still practicing this one! 
  • Turning on and off the tap (so only a small amount of water is running and it’s warm/cool…we have the kind of tap that rotates, so it was a bit tricky for Freestyle to learn to move it to the right temperature and water pressure!)
  • Using the soap pump and pumping out a small amount of soap.
  • Washing and drying hands thoroughly.


Any sage toileting advice for toddlers?


Learning to Glue (Mess-free!)

24 Jan

Freestyle has recently been very interested in learning to use scissors and glue after using them at the drop-in school program that we attend. Since they were set out and ready to go, I didn’t do a sit-down formal lesson on scissor use (definitely not necessary to do this for everything a toddler needs to learn, I feel!). I just showed her quickly how to hold them: thumb in the smaller handle hole and her pointer and middle in the wider one (though she is using three fingers right now…is that normal because their fingers are so small? I wonder if I should correct it or let it be for now).

I also made sure she knew how to carry them if she needed to: close the scissors and cover the outside of the blades with your hand, keeping your arm stiff while pointing the handles of the scissors towards the ground. She still needs reminders with this one! It is unsettling to see her walking towards me with them open in her hands!

For gluing, I liked how the Casa students in one of my old schools were taught to use white glue and taught Freestyle that method. I liked how they did it because it was neat and efficient– the child doesn’t end up using gobs of glue and turning their work into a wet and wrinkly mess. I remember when I was a kid, I didn’t like using white glue because it would make the paper wrinkly. When I was in elementary we used  glue sticks more often and I liked how much neater it was, but I do think that white glue is easier (thought messier) for younger kids to use.

So, without much further ado…


How to Neatly Use White Glue for Preschoolers 


I don’t have any post-its at home right now, so I just used yellow construction paper and tape for show.


Purpose: To learn to glue neatly and efficiently. A skill that will be used over and over for crafts and school projects! Fine motor skills and precision in movement will be used.



White glue

Glue mat (an old placemat works well)

Post-it notes

Flat, rounded toothpicks (I couldn’t find any so picked up these bamboo cocktail forks to use for now. They’re large and easy for Freestyle to hold.)


Cloth (to wipe up glue mat)


What to do:

1. Have all materials ready on a tray . Ask your child bring it to the table.

2. Either have pre-cut paper (or other easy to glue items) ready, or have your child cut up some paper to glue (if she already knows how to use scissors).

3. Set out the glue mat and place the page that she will be gluing things onto on the mat. Stick a post-it onto the top right-hand corner of the mat (or left-hand if she is left-handed!).

4. Show her how to squeeze a small amount of glue onto the post-it. (That’s the beauty of using the post-it…your child will have to learn to only use up the small amount that can fit onto it!)


5. Show your child how to use the toothpick to take a small amount of glue and dab it onto the corners of the piece of paper that she wants to glue onto the page.

6. Turn the paper around and press the corners onto the page!

7. Repeat!

8. Dispose of toothpick and post-it after the activity. Wipe and dry glue mat before putting it away.


Go further:

Here’s a great post about using glue with preschoolers on the Teach Preschool blog.


An Update

21 Jan

I’ve run out of the prewritten posts which I wrote (or at least started) before Real Baby arrived. So now I have to write as I go, I suppose! I’m going to aim for one post a week again, but I am trying to figure out a new work routine with the two lovely little ladies here (I started last month! Has it been crazy trying to work at home with a toddler and a 3-month old and no babysitter? I’d say YES.). I also have a couple projects on the go and started running again. All lots of fun but I do need to find a balance…wish me luck!

Well, at least I’ve gotten one of my 2013 Montessori goals accomplished: I’ve decided that instead of buying a Casa album, I am going to use Elizabeth Hainstock’s Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years as a base for what I will do with Freestyle later this year. I had flipped through it at the library when Free was a few months old, and recently a friend lent it to me, so I now I have a copy!



Photo Credit


I like that it seems very straight-forward and simple. It was written specifically for parents to use in the home, so that is perfect for us. She also includes templates and instructions to make some of the materials. I’ll still be constantly reading and looking into different lessons and educational experiences, of course, but this will give me somewhere to start. (My training is for Grades 1 – 6, though we did do a crash course in Casa.) All very exciting!


In other MM news, here are a few things that kept us busy over the past few weeks:


Okay, I know this looks a little pathetic, but it was a spur of the moment craft that didn’t quite work out. The eyeballs were too big and fell off, but Freestyle was okay with that and enjoyed asking, “Where eyeball go? Oh! Der eyeball! Hi, eyeball, where you go?”


…Voila! We made this during the week we took turns being sick. All we used was a large, sturdy cardboard box, paint, and a LOT of packing tape. Like an entire roll of packing tape. 


Happy New Year!

3 Jan

My Montessori-related Goals for 2013

  • Devote more time in researching, creating, and presenting Montessori lessons to Freestyle.
  • Research, create, and present Montessori Toddler lessons to Real Baby.
  • Continue reading up on Montessori, current educational best practices.
  • Make a list of materials that I will need for first year Casa work. Write a letter to send to my family and friends asking if they have any of these items to donate to the cause!
  • Look into a Casa albums to purchase.

I’m praying for…

3 Jan

…the Newtown community, especially the families who lost their children…

…the family and friends of the young woman in India (and all the other s*xual assault victims and those who are fighting for women’s rights and better education and support for all regarding this urgent and incredibly important issue)…

…the family of the young boy who was killed as a result of a hit-and-run on New Year’s day (we actually drove past the accident site not too long after it happened and were shocked when we found out what happened after turning on the radio)…

…the family and friends of the 2-year-old girl who was killed yesterday



Merry Christmas!

25 Dec



Happy Holidays to you and yours.




I love this time of year and I hope you’re enjoying this nice lull in everyday life, even if you do not celebrate.