Category: Self-Motivated Learning (Page 1 of 2)

Tips to Optimize your Home-Environments for Children

by Carmen Gamper

Help your children feel welcome at home by re-arranging some basic things around the house based on Montessori-principles: Allowing independent activities within healthy emotional boundaries and within a safe inspiring environment.

Intentionally prepared spaces directly influence the kind of activities children are drawn to. Observe your children lovingly, soon you will see that behind the sometimes cute and seemingly illogical activities, true learning processes are occurring.

• Create YES-environments: Take all decorative vases and delicate china from the lower shelves in kitchen and living room, and place them in adult height. The lower shelves work perfectly for toys, books or art supplies. This way you won’t need to worry, if they will break, and your children are granted free access to specific items.

• Prepare shelves or drawers with basic art supplies for your child’s independent use, meaning they don’t need to ask for permission when they would like to start a small art project. Place paper in various sizes and colors, pencils, kid-proof scissors and glue, beautiful pictures for collages, colorful yarn… Use supplies you already own, also “waste material” like toilet paper rolls, egg boxes, and yogurt cups make great art supplies.

• Prepare play and work-spaces where your children can play without interruptions. Create sunny, comfortable, lovely spaces with cushions, so that your children love to spend time there. A carpet can define a play-space on the floor, so that toys and learning material don’t flood the whole living room. To enhance creative work, you could add an extra table for art projects, if you need to have the kitchen table for other uses.

• Most children love role-play and pretend play. By imitating adults and ‘re-playing’ experiences with puppets and the like, children process emotions and situations they experienced. By pretending to fly, dive or eat, their creative and imaginary world is activated, and children explore the concept of symbols, which is the foundation of literacy and numeracy. You can prepare a “dress-up”-space with colorful materials, jewelery and hats. You can help arrange puppets, stuffed animals, dolls and miniature landscapes with cars, trees and figurines.

• Have water and little snacks freely available for your kids without having to ask for it. You could dedicate a lower space in the kitchen or on a side table to a water pitcher and glasses, also to some carrots, apples or strawberries. Please, add a sponge and towel for cleaning up, so spilling is no big deal. Always, show your children patiently what you expect from them, inform them, when needed, on your boundaries.

• Your children might need lots of movement to maintain a healthy body. If you have an outdoor space in your home, take all potentially dangerous items out, e.g. boards with nails, pieces of glass, unstable ladders. Wander through your garden and find out if the tree is suitable for climbing, where little huts or fairy houses could be built, and where your children could start a little gardening space to see the tomatoes grow. If you don’t have an outdoor space at home, explore nature trails and playgrounds in your area. Go for a theme walk, e.g. together find as many different forms of leaves as you can. Then, look them up in an encyclopedia at home or take a trip to your local library.

• For teenagers: Help them find a “real-life” project, like planning the family’s vacation, painting a wall or repairing the fence. In adolescence it is essential to find meaningful ways to contribute to the family, and also to a larger social circle, like volunteering at a community garden or at the library.

Carmen Gamper, consultant for child-centered education.
Please visit to find out more.

Race to Nowhere – Finally a movie about the immens unnecessary pressure and suffering our kids are exposed to at schools


Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political by igniting a national conversation in this groundbreaking documentary about the pressures American schoolchildren and their teachers face moving into the 21st century

What started as a private family matter widened into a cogent examination of systemic pressures faced by youth and teachers today an increased focused on test scores, a shrinking global economy and increasingly unrealistic expectations of parents, universities, school districts and society at large. The demands have crushing, widespread consequences. Cheating has become commonplace, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and students arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people who have been pushed to the brink, parents who are trying to do whats best for their kids, and educators who are burned out and worried students aren’t developing the skills needed for the global economy, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic running rampant in our schools.

Race to Nowhere is a call to families, educators, experts and policy makers to examine current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become the healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens of the next century.

Non-Invasive Teaching

“Non-invasive teaching” is a term I developed to describe a variety of teaching modalities which avoid giving direct orders such as “Come to the blackboard and show me…”, and group orders, such as “Now we are all opening our books…”. I developed guidelines for non-invasive teaching” based on Maria Montessori, Klaus Dieter-Caul, Reggio Emilia, and Rebeca and Mauricio Wild’s approaches. All non-invasive teaching supports the unique physical, emotional, and intellectual state of a child by using a variety of teaching skills and tools. here are a few insights into the many ways we teach at Rebeca Wild based (RWB) schools.

a. We prepare hands-on learning environments.
Environments can inspire the natural acquisition of academic, practical and social skills. The classroom becomes a ‘third teacher’.

b. We let children play.
We prepare environments for pretend play, dramatic play, imaginary play, block play, and movement play. We don’t interrupt children’s play unless it is necessary – learning and emotional processing naturally occurs during play. We assist free play with clear boundaries and help during potential conflicts.

c. We nourish genuine curiosity and willingness to learn.
We offer group and individual lessons by asking each child if they would like to participate. Only the children who are genuinely interested join the lesson. This way disciplinary issues are minimized, and our teaching remains non-invasive.

d. We let children imitate us.
We collaborate with the children’s natural instinct of imitation and genuinely enjoy what we teach. We show a new concept or skill as often as needed. We narrate your activity step by step, and give instructions in simple terms. By narrating simultaneously, terminology becomes clear and can be correctly absorbed.

e. We have time and patience for learning processes.
Steps in the learning process are not seen as mistakes that need to be corrected immediately, but as precious steps in the process of acquiring a new skill. When the child is shown the correct way again, they receive a chance to self-correct.

f. We use non-invasive, non-manipulative language.
E.g. Instead of “Look at this house!”, we often say “What do you see?” . We ask friendly questions, accept a different point of view, and also allow a child to say “no” to our offer.

g.  We use compassion, empathy, and authentic communication instead of punishments and rewards.
We are aware that punishments can create deep, unforgettable wounds that can condition a child for life, so we eliminated all punishments from our schools. Of course, we educators state boundaries and expectations. However this happens in kind and firm ways by informing a child as often as needed, and by helping a learner process root emotions and causes as well as establish different behaviors.

Of course, in RWB schools, we adults are also constantly learning and growing along-side the children. We learning companions meet regularly after school hours to support each other and give each other helpful feedback. We keep in touch with our own inner children to better understand our students, and it is not always easy! Yet, it’s worth it! Our schools truly are learning places for everyone not only the children.

Playing is Learning

Learning with joy is playful by its own nature. It wouldn’t make sense to expect mastery from a beginner. A novice has the right to make mistakes, to try the same thing over and over again, to learn from his/her own mistakes, self-correct, feel the joy of the first successful steps. When learning is fueled by free will, curiosity and enthusiasm a learning processes can start effortlessly and playfully. So, please don’t expect mastery from yourself or your children…enjoy the learning process. If the joy of learning is kept alive, relentless attempts are the natural consequence and can eventually lead to mastery.

The basic principles of inspired self-directed learning help you feel good about your child playing, because it becomes clear that he/she is actually developing intelligence on many levels:

For example, nurtured pretend play and dramatic play is truly the natural development of representational skills, symbol recognition, oral language, narrative understanding, logic, strategic thinking, self-regulation and social skills. Most of all, pretend play is the child’s way of processing emotions and experiences which would otherwise create tension in the body and actually might develop into obstacles to learning.

Read more about it in my handbook “The Sacred Child Companion. Handbook for Inspired Self-Directed Learning”.

Education based on Self-Directed Learning

Montessori education surrenders to the child’s inner learning guidance. In Montessori-schools children experience an emergent academic curriculum as they follow their inspiration to learn at their own pace, in a very active way – having at their disposal a multitude of intelligent hands-on learning materials.

Montessori education is still revolutionary in the regard of allowing the child self-directed learning, choosing activities and moving freely in an inspiring intelligent nourishing environment.

I feel that ultimately academic education needs to surrender to the inner guidance of a child. Children accustomed to listening to their own needs and interests from an early age on, know what they need to learn at the moment. As Maria Montessori puts it: The children’s “absorbent mind” is activated and they follow their inner guidance expressed through sensitive periods and stages of development – the periods when a child is particularly open to learning specific things, like e.g. writing, reading or subtraction. When we as educators flow with the absorbent mind, most learning disabilities and blocks can be prevented. The intellectual learning process needs to grow from the child’s genuine interest, will and love to learn, in order to keep the joy of learning alive.

Lessons can be taught in schools based on self-motivated learning as well: The only requirement is that a child has the ability to choose if he or she wants to participate in the moment in that group activity, or if he/she wants to follow their inner learning guidance and personal projects in a thoroughly prepared learning environment.

However, children need and enjoy the educator’s guidance when learning social rules, i.e. learning how to be a friend, or how to feel welcome at a dinner table with guests. Healthy boundaries are not obvious; they change from family to family and from culture to culture. A child needs to be introduced step by step to what is expected from him or her, and patiently reminded as often as needed.

Free choice concerning the intellectual learning process and compassionate and firm guidance when learning healthy boundaries is a great combo when helping a child develop on the journey towards an intelligent loving Human Being.

Let’s enjoy every step of it!
Carmen Gamper

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