Category: Self-Motivated Learning (page 1 of 4)

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, educational 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

by Carmen Gamper)

“Non-Invasive Teaching” describes 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 up our books…”. Carmen Gamper developed the guidelines for “Non-Invasive Teaching” based on Maria Montessori, Klaus Dieter-Caul, Reggio Emilia, and Rebeca and Mauricio Wild’s approaches.

Educators can respect the unique physical, emotional, and intellectual state of an individual child by using a variety of teaching skills and tools.

a. Prepare Self-Directed Learning Environments and Provide Hands-on Learning Materials.
Environments can inspire the natural acquisition of academic, practical and social skills. The classroom becomes a ‘third teacher’.

b. Let Children Play.
Prepare environments for pretend play, dramatic play, imaginary play, block play, and movement play. Don’t interrupt children’s free play unless it is necessary – learning and emotional processing is occurring during play. ASSIST free play with clear boundaries and guidelines, e.g. A child plays the director: “You are the king, you are the cook and I will be the princess.” Ask all children involved, if they would like to play the assigned roles, or if they prefer to do something else. Often the weaker, more quiet children can get overwhelmed by the louder children who are ‘playing out’ TV-experiences.

c. Nourish Genuine Curiosity and Willingness to Learn.
 Offer group and individual lessons by asking each child if he/she would like to participate. Only the children who are genuinely interested join the lesson. This way disciplinary issues are minimized, and the teaching remains non-invasive.

d. Let Children Imitate You.
Collaborate with the children’s natural instinct of imitation. Show the new concept or skill as often as needed. Narrate your activity step by step, and give instructions in simple terms. By narrating simultaneously, terminology becomes clear and can be correctly absorbed.

e. 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, he/she receives a chance to self-correct.

f. Use Non-invasive, Non-manipulative Language.
E.g. Instead of “Look at this house!”, you can say “What do you see?” . Asking friendly questions, accepting a different point of view, and also allowing a child to say “No” to specific things, are inherent parts of respect.

g. Compassion, Empathy and Authentic Communication Instead of Punishments and Rewards.
Punishments can create deep, unforgettable wounds and can condition a child for life. Of course, educators need to state boundaries and expectations. However this can happen in kind ways by informing a child as often as needed, and help re-directing a child’s behavior. Kathryn Kvols developed simple and efficient guidelines for developing healthy relationships with children. Her website “Redirecting Children’s Behavior”


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