Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy Book Review

Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy Book Review

Recently I purchased a new book by Deb Chitwood, Montessori at Home or School:  How to Teach Grace and Courtesy. This book is Montessori based, and describes how the lessons may be used at home or in non-Montessori settings.  I am so impressed with the Montessori methods and have been reading and learning about the strategies. This book can be applied anywhere, even at home.  I was delighted to find the elementary school sections were written to be read by children, and give precise information and steps to help them feel comfortable in social situations.


The holidays are coming up, and the parts of the book about greeting visitors, meeting new people, and table manners would be applicable right now. This book even reviews FORMAL table manners if your family is going to attend a more formal dinner.  Which spoon and which fork should be used?  This book has it covered. I also think adults could use this book as a quick check, too!

I worked with elementary children most of my teaching career, and I think these sections of the book could be reviewed quickly before events such as birthday parties and having speakers in the classroom.  What to do, appropriate questions to ask, and how to thank people are included. This book should be kept as a reference after a comprehensive read.

The book is researched based and detailed.  Every social possibility is covered for home and in public.  Bathroom manners in private and at home are important and need to be discussed in families; this book covers what to say during those discussions.

I like the suggestions about going above and beyond in different areas to let the children know that just the basic manners can be extended.  While not required, “extra manners” will impress other people.  For instance, if a child is an overnight guest, helping with dishes or setting the table will help the child to be welcome and perhaps invited again.

Deb suggests several ways children can learn this material, including role-play.  She says this is good for any age, and the more practice the more comfortable the children will be when the actual situations arise.  The specific suggestions for preschool ages as well as elementary levels are different, and I think readers will find these VERY helpful for getting the information across. Parents may not have time to teach all these skills to their children, so these manners should be reviewed at school.

My favorite quote in the book:
“Dr. Montessori realized a young child has a deep sense of personal dignity. We can crush that sense by reprimanding . . . without teaching a child first. The sense can be protected and enhanced through exercises of grace and courtesy.”

Ages 2 1/2 through 6 are the perfect time to emphasize the teaching of grace and courtesy. One quote that stuck with me is that, “During those years the child has a special receptivity to the learning of manners.”  The child will enjoy learning about manners, as well. We do not need to feel children are too young to learn or that the information is beyond the scope of their understanding.

Deb Chitwood also writes a blog and has links that are referred to in the book. For example, this link is to a post reviewing gift giving and receiving manners post.  ‘Tis the season and this book would make a lovely gift. The links in the book are like books within the book, so it is the gift that keeps on giving.

This is the link to Deb’s web page about this book for more information and where it can be purchased.  I highly recommend it!

Carolyn Wilhelm

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Dry Ice Experiment

Dry Ice Experiment

Dry ice experiment?  Yes, this the the season where you may receive food packages in the mail packed with dry ice, like we did.  Our Thanksgiving cheesecake was packed in dry ice (and good thing we realized that quickly after opening the bag).  So, I immediately went to the Steve Spangler dry ice experiment page to see what experiment we might do, and found this one.  This is the one using warm water and a very few drops of soap.  The experiment is safe as long as the ice is not touched, and there are safety rules on the page.  Use tongs, use gloves (as demonstrated in the video) and be careful.  See more information at this link.

Thanks for reading,

Carolyn Wilhelm


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World Prematurity Day Rainbow Crafts Blog Hop

World Prematurity Day 11-17-2014


Craft Ideas for Kids - Rainbow Blog Hop

This post is part of an amazing Rainbow Blog Hop dedicated to supporting World Prematurity Day and UK based charity Bliss – who provide the best possible care and support for all premature and sick babies and their families. Participating blogs include the host blog at Craft Ideas for kids, and the following:

Crystals Tiny TreasuresWorld Prematurity Day, and Craft Ideas for KidsRainbow Colour Mixing, and Adventures of AdamRainbow Shaving Foam Bath Painting, and P is for PreschoolerFine Motor Rainbow, and True AimRainbow Activities for Kids.

World Prematurity Day:  An Interview About HELLP Syndrome


Do you know about HELLP Syndrome? No, that is not a misspelling. HELLP is thought to be a variant of pre-eclampsia, although it may be entirely different. As teachers, we get students with a varied set of background experiences and health conditions.  We need to be aware of the issues some families have and may have experienced. This is an interview with a young mother who had HELLP Syndrome and pre-eclampsia.

Question: I understand your child was born prematurely when you had HELLP Syndrome. What is your experience with HELLP Syndrome?

Answer: It started out in the middle of the night, upon the start of my third trimester; that night I felt a mild back pain that was uncomfortable enough to prevent me from falling asleep.

Then, about half an hour later, out of nowhere, I felt another pain, much more intense right below my rib cage and that quickly turned into an unbearable agony.  I don’t know how else to describe it but to say, it felt like a truck was parked on my chest. It was so painful to breathe that it felt as if I was only getting 10% of oxygen.  It was the worst pain ever going across my abdomen, and not being able to breathe properly on top of that was excruciating and torturous.

Not everyone has the same symptoms. Some people only have a mild discomfort in their upper right abdomen.

I had no idea what was happening to me, my husband and I just rushed to the nearest hospital, and luckily that hospital had a level III NICU.

HELLP syndrome is a variant of pre-eclampsia, and HELLP is often misdiagnosed.

In my case, one of the nurses initially thought I had a gall bladder infection, but the pain came from my liver expanding. After running blood tests, the doctor announced that I had pre-eclampsia/HELLP and that unless my symptoms improved, we would have to deliver the baby soon. My blood pressure was skyrocketing to the point where seizures were likely to strike.  I had never heard of HELLP before.

Several doctors walked in and reassured me that it was not something that I had done and not to feel guilty. They also gave me 2 shots of steroids in order to boost lung development of my unborn baby.

Our baby girl was born via C-section, about 9 hours after checking in to the hospital, weighing only 1 lb 13 oz, at one day shy of 27 weeks gestation.

Picture of our premature daughter immediately after birth. Preemies often look red because their bodies are suddenly deprived of oxygen.

Oxygen deprivation causes red color immediately after birth

Oxygen deprivation causes red color immediately after birth.

Question: Medically, exactly what is HELLP Syndrome?

Answer:  HELLP syndrome occurs in about 1 to 2 out of 1,000 pregnancies. Most often HELLP develops before the pregnancy is 37 weeks along. Sometimes it develops in the week after the baby is born.

Liver enzymes may be high. Platelet counts may be low. A CT scan may show bleeding into the liver.

*NOTE:  This is not to be interpreted as medical advice and is just part of what she learned during this experience.


Question: You mentioned the experience was like being on a roller coaster. Could you please explain a little about the emotions you experienced?

Answer: First, everything happens so fast it is difficult to have any time to think.

The progress was very slow and everything seemed to be so slow even her stay in the NICU: days feel like weeks and weeks feel like months.

The emotional roller coaster is really tied to the idea that your baby can be doing well for a few days, we are taking baby steps forward, and all of a sudden something happens and we are taken 10 steps back.  It is very frustrating to constantly be waiting for everything to improve. Not everything improves at the same pace. Some babies struggle with different things. They are all on their own schedule.

The introduction to eating had to be done very slowly and very carefully because her stomach was not ready to digest any food. There was the constant worry of NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) as very low birth weight babies are at a high risk of developing NEC especially after the first feeding commences. NEC is very serious and can be fatal. It is the most common and serious intestinal disease among preemies, and could possibly cause a life-threatening infection.

Thankfully our daughter did not catch NEC.

Every day I would call the hospital to check her weight gain (sometimes she would lose) and ask about how she was doing while I was not with her. Parents of preemie get extremely excited over the smallest things or progress with their preemies. It can be that baby pooped on her own or that she did not have a stopped breathing episode that day.

The weight gain was difficult and very slow. It was 1 to 3 oz per day on average. 3 oz was rare and was usually likely to be water. They also gave her a treatment for that.


Question: What were the things that helped you during this time?

Answer: The NICU nurses were wonderful. Deb was the primary nurse, and Stephanie, Irene, Pattie, and Diane all knew so much and helped so much. Nice messages from people, visits, and prayers all helped. We set up a Caring Bridge site, and that was very positive. I felt like I was pumping and going to the hospital around the clock so that I didn’t feel like I had time to take a shower. The Caring Bridge site helped me keep everyone up to date at once as I didn’t have time to call everyone. Reading blogs about premature babies helped, although sometimes they scared me. My sister made a scrapbook from day one through the 81 days in NICU, and that is wonderful to have now.

Question: What was especially difficult?

Answer: Preemies go through so much, they have to learn to breathe, digest food, maintain a regular heartbeat and much more. She was given a suppository every few days to help her digestion.

She was initially on TPN (total parenteral nutrition) which included caffeine and lipids and other nutrients. After awhile they ran out of places to poke her with a new IV;  so they inserted a PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) which is a long catheter running from her wrist all the way to the top of her arm, and can stay in for up to one month.

It was very hard to see her so frail and little, and see all the equipment, tubes, and wires hooked up to her tiny body. It was hard not knowing what would happen with her and worrying about her outcome, and all of the possible long term issues she would face. It was very tough to see her fighting for her life, day after day, while learning to breathe on her own, gain weight and become stronger. It was very difficult to be around the monitors go off every so often, all of that was very scary, especially for first time parents.

Also, we wanted her to be home for Christmas, and that was not possible. We were able to get a photo with Santa, although it was taken in the hospital. It was nice they did that.


Question: How does the NICU staff decide to send a premature baby home?

Answer: Our child was able to be home for the New Year’s Eve, and we were grateful for that. Before a child can be sent home from NICU, there must be no desaturation (drop in oxygen level below 80%) or bradycardia (drop in heart rate) episodes for a week, and no other complications such as infections.

If there is one such episode, then the date is delayed another week.

The doctors at our hospital wanted us to feel confident the child would be fine without any monitor at home.

They have a car seat test before sending the child home, as well. They put the child in the car seat for 90 minutes hooked up to machines to see if they have any desat or brady.  If they don’t for 90 minutes, then they pass!

There are several other tests that have to be passed before the child is released from NICU to home care.

Luckily our daughter did not have major complications. She had 2 blood transfusions and 1 minor infection. Her brain scans showed no bleeding and the eye exam came back with no ROP, which is a GREAT outcome.

Question : How is she doing now?

Answer: Our daughter has been a healthy and happy little girl. She is now 2 and is smaller than her peers (in the 10 to 20th percentile range for height, weight, and head circumference) but one could not tell now that she was born so little.

She is on track developmentally despite a normal delay which should be caught up within a year or so.

We benefit from early intervention services which has been very helpful.

She was extremely lucky given her prematurity and we could not have been prouder.

When she was born, they told me how she was “feisty” that may have helped her during her NICU journey and I can say, it is still true today!!

It never ceases to amaze me what love and technology can do!!

Editor’s Comment: Thank you for sharing this amazing story!

With the spirit of hope and support for premature babies, each blog in this blog hop will have a craft project.  This is the one from Wise Owl Factory. SEE ALSO THIS RAINBOW CRAFT PROJECT ON A FREE PDF, opens here.

world-prematurity-day-blog-hop-rainbows-and-starsBegin with these supplies:  several colors of plastic lanyard cord, a 6 inch mesh circle, and star beads. Plastic lanyard cord stays stiff (acting like a needle) so it is easier for younger children to use, but ribbon, string, or other materials may be used.


Cut the 6 inch plastic mesh circle into a half rainbow shape.  Two rainbows may be made with the one circle.  I cut off 11 rows of mesh as I had six colors, and skipped rows as I did the weaving.  It is also easier for younger children to skip rows, but every row may be used. Also, if more rows are used, the mesh is stronger and easier to work with.


I started with the color closest to red, as children may know the correct order of the rainbow colors.  We call that “Roy G. Biv” at school, as the order of the colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.  My colors only included some of the rainbow colors. Just use what is available and on hand. I cut about 20 inches for each piece of lanyard cord, so there were strings hanging off on which to tie the star beads.


I added the second row after skipping a row of mesh.add-color-two-around-next-row

The third row was added after skipping a row, again. add-row-3-inside-next-row

Here is the rainbow with four woven rows.add-color-four-next-row

Five colors of weaving looks like this:add-color-5-inside-bottom-row

The sixth row, or the row your projects end on, could have stars added.  When I pulled the lanyard cord through the mesh hole, I slipped on a star bead, and then pulled the cord through the same way as I did for weaving the other rows. all-six-colors-rainbow-lanyard-cord-and-beads

The finished project.  Add a string at the top middle to hang up for display. final-hanging-art-project-craft-rainbows-and-stars

Be sure to visit the other blogs in this event as they also have rainbow and star crafts they are sharing. Thanks!

Check out these other posts for more star and rainbow ideas, as well as the stories some are sharing today.

Crystals Tiny TreasuresWorld Prematurity Day Craft Ideas for Kids


Rainbow Colour MixingAdventures of AdamRainbow Shaving Foam Bath Painting

Shaving foam rainbow bath painting

P is for Preschooler -Fine Motor Rainbow

 Fine motor rainbow

Crafts for Kids Rainbow Colour Mixing post.  This is the blog that has organized this idea for World Prematurity Day.  She has done so much work for this and we all thank her!


True AimRainbow Activities for Kids


True Aim Education Spelling and Writing Activity


Thank you for reading,Carolyn Wilhelm

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Free Montessori Gentle Halloween Printables and DIY Activities

Free Montessori Gentle Halloween Printables and DIY Activities

Happy Halloween! This post has free gentle Montessori Halloween printables as well as DIY activities for the very young through age 7.


First, for the youngest learners, here are some ideas for reinforcing the color orange with today’s events.  I adapted an idea I have seen on Pinterest taping a tube to the fridge. I put orange paper around the tube and drew a pumpkin on it.  The idea is to mention the word orange as the child drops the colored puff ball down the tube.  According to Scientific American, we fail to teach color words to our children when we put the color word prior to the noun in a sentence.  So I tried to say, “that is the puff ball that is orange.”  It is so natural to say “orange ball” that I had to keep reminding myself. The idea with this activity was just to help identify the color orange.

Here is the tube on the fridge.  Children seem to instinctively know exactly what to do!


Then, the orange puff balls were provided.


Where did the orange puff ball go?


Children are engaged with pumpkins and this holiday, so take advantage of their attention and sneak in some learning. Five little pumpkins is a fun rhyme to say with children at this time of the year.  Here I just drew pumpkins on bottle caps to represent the pumpkins. Again, moving them one by one to the little bucket was the natural thing to do!

5 little pumpkins

She even checked her work without any prompting!


Here is the FREE printable for Five Little Pumpkins with some Montessori counting cards. This printable opens right here. For more information about how to use Montessori counting cards, please visit this link.  Or, see this post by Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now for expert advice!




Next are some free Montessori matching cards with a Halloween theme.  The pictures are not scary and are based entirely on pumpkins.



Here are some free Montessori 3-part cards with a pumpkin theme.  This printable opens here.



Thank you for reading!

Carolyn Wilhelm


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