The Story of a Gift

Most children start Montessori at an early age. They quickly grow accustomed to the beautiful materials. They grow accustomed to being treated with respect.

What happens when a child who has never been in Montessori sees Montessori materials for the first time? What happens when a child who has never been in Montessori is treated with respect?

Recently I talked with a customer who is a teacher in the public school system. She is Montessori trained but her public school is not a Montessori school.

As often as possible, she tries to bring Montessori methods and materials into her classroom. Some may claim that this could do more harm than good, but I don’t think so.

Listen to her story:

“When I took the job teaching Social Studies to 6th graders in the public school, I told the principal that I was going to do things differently than she had ever seen before. She was okay with that, so I started teaching.

Every day I found ways to bring Montessori into the classroom – the children worked mostly independently, rather than me monitoring them closely. When I gave them assignments, I made them open-ended so the children could choose how and when to complete them. I tested as infrequently as possible and used the tests as a way to see where I had failed to make sure they understood the material.

The state curriculum told us that we should study South America. I bought the South America Continent Kit from you, Lori, and printed and laminated it. I cut the cards apart and put them in labeled envelopes. On the outside of each envelope, I wrote the number of pieces that belonged in it (pictures, labels, etc.)

In my Montessori training, one of my trainers had sat down at the rug with all of us in a circle. She was presenting something amazing – like the Geometric Solids – and she began by holding one of the solids in her cupped hands, stretching her hands towards us, and saying “I have a gift for you.” It made the work precious to us and even more interesting.

gift1So I decided to do this with my class when I was introducing the South America materials. I stood at the front of the class and held the envelopes containing the nomenclature cards in my cupped hands. Stretching out my hands towards the students, I said, “I have a gift for you. I have made this for you.”

I showed them each envelope and told them what to do with the materials. I placed the envelopes around the room and let them choose which one to work on and for how long. I simply asked that when they were finished, they count the cards to make sure none were missing.

I watched as the children reverently, gently, opened the envelopes and worked with the materials. Some of them came to me with tears in their eyes, saying, “Miss Stacey, did you really make this for us?” One little boy said solemnly, “No one has ever made anything like this for me before.”

As they were working, if a piece was missing, every child fell to the floor to search for it until it was found. No pieces were ever bent or damaged even though the entire class worked with each set of cards several times. We also studied Asia the same way.

At the end of that year, the students came to me and told me how much they loved the projects we did, how much they appreciated having the freedom to make their own choices. For some children, it was the first time a teacher gave them a gift – not so much the gift of the materials themselves, but the gift of respect.”

What an amazing story! It makes me think of an email I once received – from a Montessori school director – who was asking me for tips on how to make the materials sturdier. The school used heavy laminate on the materials, but the children were so rough with them that they were always ruined by the end of the year. I’m not saying it’s like that at every Montessori school, but it may be more common than we realize.

How often do any of us take the time to really instill a reverence in the children for the materials and how they treat them? I think it’s something we could emphasize more. No child can resist being told “I have a gift for you.” The Montessori materials are a gift to children, just as the Montessori philosophy has been a gift for all of us.

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21 Responses to “The Story of a Gift”

  • Deb @ Living Montessori Now said at April 6th, 2011 at 2:52 pm :

    Beautiful post, Lori! What a perfect way to introduce materials you’ve spent so much time lovingly preparing. I think presenting materials as gifts, demonstrating how to care for materials, and the teacher’s own respect for the materials are great ways to encouage children to show respect for materials. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at

  • Lori Bourne said at April 6th, 2011 at 3:14 pm :

    Thank you so much, Deb! I love your suggestions for how to encourage children to treat the materials with respect. It’s a great reminder. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jessie said at April 6th, 2011 at 3:39 pm :

    This post speaks to me, because I’m a Montessori teacher and my own children attend public school and I homeschool them with Montessori. After my oldest left the school she attended, she was sad. I wanted her to have the Montessori materials, but most importantly the philosophy. I was sad for her, and I already owned many things from training and this site, so I set up our den/library as a mini classroom for her birthday that summer. She will have it as long as she needs 🙂 Now all three are happy little Montessorians with traditional school mornings.

    Great post. Montessori is a gift!

  • Lori Bourne said at April 6th, 2011 at 8:01 pm :

    What a great story, Jessie! How amazing that you are able to give your children the gift of Montessori in your own home. Awesome!

  • Vicky Twyford said at April 7th, 2011 at 5:46 pm :

    That is such a wonderful story! Many of the books I use in the classroom used to belong to my sons, who are now 25 and 22. Many of these books are in great shape today and have been used by so many children over the past years! It is so nice when the students treat all the materials respectfully.

  • Gigi Newcomb said at April 7th, 2011 at 6:18 pm :

    Great Post! I LOVE the Montessori methodology and I try to use it as a basis for how we have chosen to home school our girls. Thank you for all the wonderful insight! I have featured your post on my Blog: A Better Me Day By Day! And have added a link back to your page. 🙂

  • Lori Bourne said at April 7th, 2011 at 8:35 pm :

    Thank you so much, Gigi, that is very sweet of you!

    Vicky, I know just how you feel. I love showing my children the books I read when I was young, still in great condition. It gives them a sense of shared history.

  • Valerie said at April 7th, 2011 at 9:10 pm :

    I love this! Beautiful! Great story to share especially to some of the children at our school who have this disposable mindset that things can just get replaced if it breaks. They need to learn to treasure and cherish and respect and care for materials vs living in a “throw-away” society.

  • Terri Ann said at April 7th, 2011 at 9:52 pm :

    Thank you for posting that story Lori. That is a beautiful way to present materials. It proves the beauty and effectiveness of Montessori; everything is made specially for the children. Once students believe and feel that we are there for them their outlook on learning changes. Kudos to that teacher for sharing this valuable method with her students.

  • Ms. Linda said at April 7th, 2011 at 10:14 pm :

    Thank you for the refresher on Enlightenment and Respect. This inspiration has enhanced the spirit of my teaching journey! It is truly through the enlightenment of the child that we all gain in the understanding and respect for the Montessori Way! Thank you for this wonderful reminder!

  • Colleen said at April 8th, 2011 at 1:46 am :

    What a lovely post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Lori Bourne said at April 8th, 2011 at 1:45 pm :

    It reminds me of the saying, “Every child deserves a Montessori education”. I could re-phrase that to say, “Every child deserves the gift of a Montessori education”!

    Thanks for all of your lovely comments!

  • Bhavana said at April 11th, 2011 at 2:57 am :

    I had tears in my eyes when I read what the child said, “Miss Stacey, did you really make this for us?” One little boy said solemnly, “No one has ever made anything like this for me before.”
    Thank u Lori.

  • Tamara said at April 12th, 2011 at 7:27 pm :

    We’ve occasionally had a “traditionally” schooled child join our lower elementary class at 2nd or 3rd grade and it is amazing to see the transformation of their attitude toward school when they are in a Montessori environment. This year we had one such child. His parents sent us this note a few days into the school year:

    Dear [Teachers],
    I would like to share [our son’s] feedback after the pre-conference. When we talked about it, he told me that he really enjoyed the conference, because “everybody treated him like he was a grown up person” and that he felt very happy about it.

    Thank you so much! We cannot even express how happy we feel seeing his eyes sparkle with joy when he talks about his new school! We have never seen this before.

    Thank you again,
    [Parents of New Student]

  • Lori Bourne said at April 12th, 2011 at 7:54 pm :

    I love it! Thanks for sharing, Tamara!

  • Kerri said at April 25th, 2011 at 12:19 am :

    Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing it!

  • Heather @ MontessoriBuddy said at April 25th, 2011 at 9:12 pm :

    That is such a wonderful story. It was the perfect way to end my day ; )

  • Barbara Barton said at August 7th, 2011 at 9:03 am :

    Thank you. I will, also, share your story!

  • Lori Bourne said at August 7th, 2011 at 11:45 am :

    Thanks, Barbara!

  • Ms. Carolyne said at September 21st, 2011 at 11:33 am :

    Thank you for this website and post. I really needed to read how others are being renewed in their journey as teachers of the Montessori philosophy. I feel as though I am fighting an uphill battle in the area that I have a very small, very authentic Montessori program. It makes me sad when parents in our area do not value what they want to see in children the most because they lack the patience to allow their children to develop in their own time. I appreciate the story. I will be including this website on our blog. It’s wonderful.

  • Lori Bourne said at September 21st, 2011 at 4:30 pm :

    Hi, Carolyne! So glad you found us. I love this story too. I’m glad you can share it. Don’t lose hope!

    Thanks for stopping by!