Montessori21stCentury’s Weblog

Montessori Lessons, Ideas and More…

Summer Literature: An Adventure on Every Page

Whether you are preparing for a vacation, or looking for a free “armchair” trip, a visit to your local library or bookstore can get your adventure started.  Books can open a whole new window on our world, and one beauty of summer reading is that we often have a greater chance to choose our own literary path.  Young or old, no matter our interests or experiences, regardless of our background or current finances, and whether we seek an exciting journey or a peaceful escape, there are books to fill any reader’s desires.

To get you started, Rita Arpaia from has provided some fun activities to go along with Canadian author, Farley Mowat’s, animal story, Owls in the Family.  Find this helpful information under “Howls with Owls” at: 

Mowat also wrote a number of other well-loved books.  His love of nature and Canadian settings combine to make entertaining and unique stories. Adventurous young boys (and girls) might also enjoy Lost in the Barrens, a story of two teenaged boys in the northern wilderness.  Perhaps Mowat’s most famous novel now is Never Cry Wolf, due at least in part to the enjoyable movie of the same name released in 1983.  (Although the novel is probably best as an adult read, this interesting and scenic PG movie would be appropriate for most young-teens and some pre-teens.  It includes brief nudity –think innocent skinny-dipping– and mild language.)

Rita Arpaia also provides some detailed suggestions about how to choose books, focus on genres, set up your own curriculum or book club, and really place yourself into the setting/action of the stories in her article, “Taking Your Class on a Literature Journey”, also available at:  If you or your child is having trouble deciding on their next book, this might give you some ideas.  Then, if they enjoy the first selection, you may find that’s genre approach helps fuel a whole summer’s worth of great reading.

For information on a variety of authors and titles focusing on outdoor stories for kids of all ages, check out  Sara L. Ambarian’s “Classic Nature and Outdoor Fiction for Kids and Families” at:  You will find a booklist and links to free online resources, as well as discussions of each author and/or title’s most appropriate audience.  The list includes read-aloud books for very small children, read-alone books for early readers and elementary school kids, some “girly” books, some rugged adventure stories, and other books which could be enjoyed by kids or adults – or shared by a family as a summer read-aloud project.  The unifying feature of all the works is that they take you back to a time before our lives revolved so much around computers, TV, cell phones, etc., and they make you want to get out and enjoy the beauties and adventures nature holds.

Whatever you read this summer, we hope you will find something new and inspiring that you truly enjoy!

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Making Geography Come Alive in the Classroom

The Staten Island Montessori School course of study recently culminated in an international festival. To read this inspiring article, please
click here

For additional integrated unit study lesson planning ideas to use in your school or homeschool, please visit Montessori Unit Study Featuring Italy


Heidi Anne Spietz
American Montessori Consulting

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Make Dad Feel Special on His Special Day

Fathers’ Day is June 19 this year, and approaching quickly.  Many of us make a big production of Mothers’ Day, with candy, flowers, dinner “out”, etc.; but for our fathers, sometimes, we don’t make quite as much fuss.  Fathers are, indeed, usually harder to make or buy gifts for.  However, a good father is worth his weight in gold – especially in our current social climate – and he’s probably very appreciative of any effort you make in his honor.  So, if your family is blessed with a fine father (or several), be sure to take the opportunity to help the kids in your life show their love, respect and appreciation. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.

Jaye at Creative Care shares instructions for a neat, personalized picture frame.  This is an inexpensive craft project which allows lots of opportunity for a child to express their own creativity and symbolize their unique relationship with their father.

Another fun do-it-yourself gift from Rae at Creative Process is their leaf print t-shirt. Find instructions here:

Since most fathers I know are always up for a good meal, cooking or baking can be a good way to share your love on Fathers’ Day.  Maybe Dad would enjoy some fresh cinnamon rolls for his breakfast, using this recipe from Larry at Farm Country General Store. Home-baked goodies are always so inviting. 

If your father does not have a sweet tooth,  perhaps he would appreciate a nice Italian dinner.  Marjorie Kiel Persons of Classical Magic, Inc., shares a very simple but flavorful recipe for Linguini in Clam Sauce as part of her “Oh, How I Love Italy” lesson plan. 

For more ideas for cooking Italian food with kids, visit this cute website:  Their easy-to-navigate sidebar will connect you to lots of other great recipes to round out your Italian feast for Dad. He might enjoy appetizers like bruschetta or zucchini fritters.  A salad is always nice with pasta, whether you prefer the simple and patriotic Caprese or the elaborate antipasto (always a good choice for the “where’s the meat” dad, and usually popular with many children, as well!) Italian cooking also offers a wide variety of traditional desserts from cheesecakes and frozen puddings to cookies and pastries. (You just might want to watch out for the alcohol content in some of them.) Mangi e goda! (Eat and enjoy!)

If your dad is musically-inclined, you can find instruments, CDs, books, music boxes and many music-inspired gifts—for young and old– at The Music House.  Their “specials” page has many great deals for fathers (and graduates).

If your father is a man of action, perhaps he would enjoy an outing with you.  If you live by a beach or other open area, you might have good kite flying conditions.  Kite activities combine fresh air, exercise, and science in a way that brings out the kid in most people.  Find out more in “Up, Up and Away—The Art and Fun of Kite Flying” at:

Another fun outdoor activity to share with Dad is birdwatching.  It is an interesting and versatile hobby that coordinates well with other recreational pursuits, like hiking or camping; but you can also find birds in your own backyard or at a city park. Ornithologist Sanford Wilbur provides lots of tips to get you started at: If your father is new to birdwatching, you can find simple binoculars for a gift as cheap as $30-$50 at: (look for “birdwatching binoculars” link) or (search for “binoculars”.) You can also find a wide variety of field guides and other birdwatching books, both new and used, for a variety of prices, at:

However you honor and celebrate them, we hope that you and the fathers in your life have a wonderful Fathers’ Day!

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Experiencing Fine Art in Person with Your Children

Seeing fine art in person can be an interesting experience for both children and adults, whether you consider yourself traditionally “artistic” or not.  Paintings and sculpture can be admired from a strict aesthetic perspective, as a historical artifact, or as a window into a different culture.  You might be attracted to (or repelled by) a piece of artwork’s overall color, style and/or mood.  You might be interested to see the individual brushstrokes (or “dots” in pointillism ) or sculptural details up close. Perhaps you might just be amazed by the size and scope of a painting like Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy ( ).  If you have never been, or if it has been a while, why not plan a visit to a museum near you (or one at a vacation destination) this summer?

Here in southern California, we are fortunate to have a large number of very fine art collections within just a few hours’ drive; but chances are, great art is accessible not too far from where you are, as well. Some museum collections specialize in one genre and/or time period; others display a wide variety of types/eras of art. Many also host short-term travelling exhibits. Here are just a few examples:

The Huntington Library, San Marino, California:

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming:

The Paine Art Center and Gardens, Oshkosh, Wisconsin:

The Museum of Fine Arts—Houston, Houston, Texas:

The Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina:

The Davistown Museum/Maine Artists’ Guild, Liberty, Maine:

Find an art museum in your area through your yellow pages or at the ArtCyclopedia:

If you are planning far ahead, Smithsonian Magazine sponsors a yearly “Free Museum Day” event, nationwide.  This year it will be on September 24. For listings of other free days at museums all around the United States, visit these helpful websites: and This site includes Canada and some European countries as well:  Some museums always offer free admission; others have a day each week/month.  These days, when every penny counts for many of us, it might be worth planning ahead to visit on a free/discounted day.

You can get into the mood for your museum visit —or do some “armchair touring” on your computer– by checking out the art portion of Marjorie Kiel Persons’ “Oh, How I Love Italy” lesson plan ( and Birdcage Press’s artist biographies (

To do more research on other fine artists and their works from your computer, by visiting  You can search by artist, artwork title or museum collection.  Many of the museum links have excellent zoom-viewing features, so you can see more details than you might expect.

After you view and/or learn about the works of the masters, get your own creative juices flowing with a wide variety of trusted brand name art supplies at discount prices from All Art Supplies.

Then use the detailed suggestions in “Teacher as Curator” from Rae at Creative Process to set up your own art gallery or museum. She gives interesting ideas on theme, location, artwork resources, and even ideas for a party with a related theme!

You may bring out the undiscovered artist – or art critic – in yourself and/or your students.



Innovative Montessori Music for the Summer

The leisure of summer is a great opportunity to devote a little extra time to creative pursuits, like music. Need some ideas to get you started?  Here are some you might enjoy.

Your youngest students/children will enjoy the music and movement of Gari Stein’s “Sing With Me” She offers fun CDs, DVDs and curriculums for infants to 8-year-olds.

For musical fun with a generous helping of transportation and geography mixed in, check out Kimbo Educational’s activities for celebrating “America Through Song”.  Classic songs include “Blow Ye Winds”, “Erie Canal”, and “Wabash Cannonball”.

You can make your own musical instruments from simple, inexpensive materials to help your children or students explore and express themselves musically. Lisa from Kidsongs has provided instructions for how to make a coffee can drum, yogurt container shakers, and key chimes.  Dale Gausman from NCME tells how to make rhythm sticks, another great way to practice motor skills, listening, and keeping a beat.  Find both projects at:

Ready to move beyond rhythm?  Verna from The Music House offers instructions for playing the kazoo –silly musical fun for kids AND adults.

Looking for something a little more cultured? Marjorie Kiel Persons from Classical Magic, Inc., offers fun activities for Handel’s beautiful Water Music, Alla Hornpipe, as well as an extensive “Summer in Italy” lesson plan which includes some fabulous Italian classical music to get you in a summer mood.