Parenting Challenges in the Global Village: A Summary


We thought we’d end this year’s newsletters with a summary of the talk by Ms Rukmani Ramachandran from Navadisha Montessori Foundation, as part of the series of talks from Indian Montessori Foundation (IMF). Her talk was titled “Parenting Challenges in the Global Village,” and the details were shared on the broadcast groups for all classrooms.


She began the session by breaking the participants in small groups to discuss what we perceived as a major parenting challenge. A list of challenges that came up were, inability to set limits for children, entitlement among children and challenges of parenting in a joint family. She said she would like to go back to the principles of Montessori theory and practice, as that is what we have most experience with. We would end up getting most of the answers from Dr. Montessori’s talks. Dr. M said she had ‘discovered’ the child. Humans have been on the earth for over 40 million years! In the light of this knowledge, it is a very weighty statement to make that she has “discovered” the child! She believed that we don’t actually “see” the child and that the child’s true nature is always hidden from us. She believed she had discovered the secret which made the child reveal themselves truly to us!


Humans themselves haven’t changed much from when we became bipedal and able to influence the environment around us with the large brains that we were gifted by evolution. Not much has changed from the early hunter gatherer times. Like them, we still look to orient ourselves when we go to a new place – we ask ourselves, where is the closest grocery store, where can I buy clothes; we look for a shelter and we tend to beautify the place we call home. Besides, the fundamental needs of food, shelter, and clothing, like early humans, we have spiritual needs of love of the finer things. For all that we profess that we have come so far away from the early humans, if we think about it, not much has actually changed.


So, in the light of this, why and what are parenting challenges today? We seem to believe that the life of the earlier generation was somehow easier than ours… If we think back, the generation that saw WWII probably thought that they are the generation going through the most crisis. This kind of puts the current pandemic in perspective. Montessori’s ideas transcend time. They focus on the unchanging! The child is born in a timeless world.


If we were to look at parents from all generations, they, from time immemorial, have wanted a good, happy life for their children. Our challenge today is: how do we support our child to lead a good happy life? Our environment today confuses even us, as adults! How do we help this child in today’s confusing times? She gave an example of the mall which is not just a physical space selling goods alone. They sell dreams, they sell a lifestyle, a “need” that we do not have! It is in this confusing physical, moral, emotional, intellectual environment that we must raise children. How do we identify these problems in order to solve them? Sometimes, we are so tired and anxious that it affects the way we engage with our children.


She moved onto what she believes is a key challenge that we face today – we don’t have time today! We jump into the shower, we spin around the kitchen, we rush to the grocery store, we are impatient at the toll plaza or the bill counter. So much so that we walk fast, talk fast, and want people around us to work faster as well. We multi-task all the time, thinking we are being effective. Many of us have not had an oil bath in years! Our lives are ruled by urgency and hurry!


She spoke of how she sees teachers these days in a perennial rush all the time as well. She spoke of her own anecdote when she was a freshly minted Montessori graduate and in her first year of training, she was exhausted by the load of work in school and she was perennially tired! She had built a sand pit under a mango tree that she spent a lot of money on (which she realised later that she didn’t need at all 😊). She would send the children away to go play after a small work cycle and when her trainer observed this, she came up to her and told her that the children didn’t need playtime; it was she who was tired. Why was she asking the children to play when in fact, it was she who needed a break? It was because she hadn’t looked at her own needs. When she became aware, the class transformed. What the children needed was devoted attention and time from the adults. Are we giving this to our children?


The child, on the other hand, is born timeless. He is born in the present moment and does not know the past or care to predict the future. He has all the time in the world! This is a huge challenge for the child, which calls us to awareness. The only way to snatch back time is to observe oneself. Until we become aware that we are rushing, we will not be able to help us and the child. As a human being we owe it to ourselves, to study oneself and be aware and mindful. We have to be worthy of the child.


So, this leads us to what she thinks is the solution. The philosophy provides us the answers. She urged us all to clock every activity of our day, in the time it took for one whole 24-hour cycle. This would help us a tool for reflection. We do not have time because we don’t know how to plan. Despite having all the latest planning gadgets and fancy stationery to organize our lives, we still lack time. Planning is an act of creation; it is a craft. A craft is a skill that we learn through experience. We cannot get it right the first time around, it needs practice… the first time we planned for a huge dinner party, something was sure to go wrong! When you build experience, then your ability improves.


In the past, during the 1940’s, cooking was much harder than it is now. Nothing in the shop was available readymade back then, so much so that even wheat flour had to be bought as kernels and taken to the mill to be ground and stored in large quantities, ensuring that it does not get spoilt. However, today, with a press of a button, wheat flour gets delivered at our doorstep. ‘Long term planning’ was a part of life then. Today, feeding into instant gratification, everything is available as we wish for it. Back then, most homes were frugal and simple things like Coca Cola, which needed to be shared among siblings, were a treasure to be cherished!


Planning requires long term thought. Where is long term in today’s times? When we don’t plan, we have to do things that very instant and this then leads to stress which we blame on the lack of time, and not lack of planning! Summer holidays in the 90’s were planned months in advance. Planning needs flexibility, a cushion for things to not go as expected. We choose not to do this and blame it on the lack of time!


Planning means saying no! She cited an example of a doctor’s appointment. If we know that we have an appointment to meet the doctor at 10 am, do we say no to the parenting challenge webinar which starts at 9 am and goes on till 12 noon?  We instead convince ourselves, that on the way to the doctor’s office, we will login to Zoom and listen to the seminar. We never end up fully listening, because we are constantly interrupted. All this because we have been unable to say no and prioritize! We have to learn to prioritize our day into what we would love to do and what we have to do. It ends up being that for most of us, what we have to do takes priority over what we love to do. That’s when dissatisfaction creeps in. In order to be able to do what we love to do, we will have to learn the art of saying no to a few that we have to do!


Planning can be enjoyable if we truly are able to think long term and work backwards in smaller chunks. Planning gives the room for pleasure! She quoted Dr M’s “Work is rest and rest in work.”


While this does not immediately strike out as being a parenting challenge, if we as a parent don’t have time for our children, then what are the children experiencing from us? They experience rush, hurry, irritation and so on. We are unable to focus on the small pleasures that the child has all the time for! The ant crawling on the ground, the flower that has just bloomed, looking out of the window and seeing the birds along with our children – do we have time for all this with them?


Children need endless time and need our complete focus and attention. Albeit, for a window of time, but do we truly give them that undivided attention? It is better to have one attentive adult to many children rather than having many adults for a group of children, who are on their phone, distracted by conversations with other adults, unaware of the child’s needs! When we have time for ourselves, we are relaxed, and so more present for the child.


She left us with the thought that, while being able to say no and prioritizing are key aspects of planning, any good plan is contingent on order, consistency, and routine. There is no human life without order. For adult life to thrive, we must establish a routine and order. It seems to be common these days for families to say that they do not have time to eat together as a family! She insisted that this is not a statement of pride and that each family needs to invest in planning to eat together. Food is most relished when done in a social unit together. This requires planning and adjusting for each other’s times so that the family can enjoy one meal at least together. This requires committing and honoring each other’s commitment.


This talk was truly inspiring for us a school. We have committed to introspect and see how we can plan better for the upcoming year and wisely invest our time.

Parenting While Teaching Remotely


Surrounded by toys, gadgets, art & craft supplies, spilled food, my two beloved children, who are now fast asleep, and a planner that holds no meaning for now, I sit quietly, enjoying a peaceful morning and sipping the last few drops of coffee and my freedom that is about to come to an end.

The alarm goes off, waking my eldest one from her siesta. So I do what every mother does – straighten up and soldier on.

As everyone knows, being a working mom is hard. The pandemic, however, has made it even harder. Before the world was paralysed by this virus, my life as a working mother and a professional was segregated. I left home and went to work. I came home and did my chores. Now, it’s just people asking for things non-stop.

I’m a directress in Anthea; an institution that encourages us to guide not lecture, and inspire not ignore. My organisation, unlike many other elementary education systems, does not believe in the one-size-fits-all curriculum. Instead, we give our students the freedom of choice. Children learn to solve problems and think on their own; they face challenge with an attitude of inquiry. These are some of the primary reasons I chose this type of education for my children too.

However, due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, the things I loved seemed to have turned against me. Now, instead of face-to-face interactions, cheerful Good Mornings, Namaste and As-salamu alaykum from children, I receive a low data sign or internet disabled message on my horrid flat screen, where I sit inside one small box, and watch the tinier versions on my students. Some confused, some restless and others looking blankly at the screen, but all of us just trying our best to learn and adapt to this new normal, with time this new normal has been adapted by most of us with a smile and  positive vibes that we all are connected.

I start my day by waking up my children who are 5.8 and 3 years old. Taking care of them, hoping that everything in their basic needs at the very least is covered. Then, I work towards preparing everything for my class in the best way I can. Of course, having children at home 24/7 is a big challenge. So many times it’s impossible to complete my work during working hours. So it means making lunch and dinner, taking care of children and the house and several other chores. And then once they’re in bed, I continue to do my work in the middle of the night.

On some days, this whole process feels like an emotional roller coaster ride. I start feeling like I’m not doing a good job in any area of my existence. For example, I feel like I’m not being a good mom because I’m not really 100 per cent there for my children, never around for their online sessions too or a good teacher because,  I was distracted at times.

But through it all, there have been many good days too. More recently, I have begun to feel like I have finally managed to take the reins of my life. I believed in Maria Montessori’s words – ‘Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed’.  Thanks to Anthea, my children have always been quite independent, but with a little assistance, they have now become well-versed with technology too. My elder daughter manages to log in into her online classes on her own every day with absolute ease and helps her little brother, too. She types almost proficiently and often times help me with my work! There are days when the two of them stay without any adult assistance at home for hours.

With time I have finally accepted the help of technology for my children. A set of reminders for the day makes our day smooth. Some reminders are set for the whole week like the online session timings .This has helped me control my BP and continue working without a break 😉

My elder one plays the role of a mini adult in the house by helping the little one just how much is required. Her sentences are framed this way – “Come on, I know you can do it yourself.” “You know right, you are a big boy now” “Look at how to do it, I will do and you can see me and try” and lots more. To all this my little one tries proving that he is a big boy and can do all that she does.  A quote of Maria Montessori’s fits in well here “The greatest gift we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

Over time, screams of “MAMMA”, “MUMMY”, “MA” coming from the other room, have now turned into gentle knocks and polite requests because now they understand that mummy’s working. Of course, there are occasional meltdowns and many, many fights, but there are many snuggles, hugs and kisses too. And for this and much more, I am grateful.

My favourite quote from  Maria Montessori aptly says, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ’The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ Seeing my children do that (both at home and in Anthea) makes me not just a happy parent, but a happy teacher too.

Transitioning to The Second Plane: What to Expect As Your Child Nears 6

A remark that we often hear from the parent community is the magic of the 3rd or 4th year (depending if the child started their primary journey at 2.5 years or 3.5 years), when their child turns 5 plus and how many are looking forward to the magic. So, we thought it would be a good idea to address how and what needs to be done for this to occur!

We will start with a brief overview of what happens in that final year of primary classroom (3-6 years mixed age). This ‘older child’ who is now the role model or leader was once the three-year old, who was looking up in awe of his/her older peers and learned the skills of becoming a guide for the younger ones and can now easily navigate through the structure of the community. One of the biggest advantages of a mixed-age group is this community where children take on their roles organically with very minimal adult intervention. This child is now able to exercise the self-control that he has been practicing diligently and is able to place the groups needs above their own! They become the discipline keepers and typically tend to point out those that are ‘not following the rules’ Often this is perceived as tattle telling by the adult, but the child is merely exercising his/her moral compass. The egalitarian nature of the Montessori classroom reinforces to them that knowledge is to be shared and by helping another, we crystallise our own learning.

However, this does not happen automatically when the child hits the chronological age of 5 or more. This is more a culmination of all that the child has seen at home and in the classroom and absorbed as a part of his psyche. This could happen earlier for some children and later in others. These skills are fostered throughout a child’s time in the Montessori classroom and at home living life every day, gaining independence (provided it is offered to the child) and solidified in that final year. This really is, as Maria Montessori writes in the Absorbent Mind, ‘Education for Life’.

Montessori preschool, done well, is a 3-4 year cycle, where there is a partnership and clear understanding of how a child learns. They typically start at age three and spend a lot of time learning foundational skills during the next two years. They spend time learning to strengthen their arm, wrist and hand muscles doing activities such as pouring water, washing tables, transferring objects with spoons etc. While the direct aim is to refine the pincer grip, this aids in building the ever-so important Independence, that we keep harping on! All of this has a layered effect on the personality of the 5.5-year-old in the final magical year.

They also develop the skill of concentrating, by building the pink tower, fixing the puzzle pieces of the various continents and colouring in the maps and much more. Working in an uninterrupted manner is crucial as it affects the concentration which indirectly leads to poor sitting tolerance in later years. It also affects the confidence of the child and hence it is important to be aware if the adult has become the obstacle for this blooming child.

They are gradually introduced to the letters of the alphabet with sound games and by tracing sandpaper letters and will begin to build words with the moveable alphabet, and start to learn about math with number rods, spindles, and the bead materials. An in-built trait of all of these activities is the ability to choose independently, complete multi-step processes, focus for extended periods of time on a activity while building increasing social emotional skills such as asking for help politely and helping a peer with a task they are struggling with and more.

While all of this can be mechanically taught to the child, care needs to be taken to look for these subtler indicators of readiness. Learning only occurs in a healthy brain that is ready to absorb. While a child can copy off the board with enough repetition, true writing is an expression of the child’s inner thoughts. For that to occur, it is crucial that the child be ready with an explosive vocabulary which should be given in abundance in the younger years. A rich early-years foundation is key to the final year children being good readers and writers.

Having said that, once the child has honed these foundational skills, reading and writing are keys to independence. It is our moral responsibility to ensure that children are reading and writing comfortably when they can do so, else we will be doing them a dis-service. If the child is resisting any of these activities, it is key that we find out where the resistance is coming from and look for means to make it joyful. Art is one such powerful medium to encourage a love of writing and reading to the children copiously is a great habit to inculcate, right from infancy.

All of these are beautifully layered one over the other and so it is imperative that each layer is woven with care and attention. If all this occurs, then the magic happens in the final year, where the children make a huge leap in their capabilities. It seems like an explosion but is actually a well curated journey for the child. Montessori cannot be piecemealed as it is a delicately balanced structure that depends upon many factors such as the home and school environment not being too starkly different from each other, consistency shown by all the adults, a dependable routine for the child, respectfully set limits and adherence to boundaries and many such Montessori principles. The gift of this final year should never be taken away, as it sets the child up for future academic and social success, provided all these foundational tasks are set in place in the preceding years.

The Joy of Writing: A Teacher’s Perspective

Babies are exposed to a wide variety of sounds, from the cooker whistling, to pets barking and meowing, to cartoon characters emitting funny noises. Somehow, they manage to sort through all of these alien noises, and take away what is necessary for their own survival on earth – human language. They listen carefully and are soon able to not just respond, but also produce, meaningful words on their own. Children manage to figure out so much on their own – eating, standing, walking. Why, then, should reading and writing take any concentrated effort on the adult’s part? How come the child doesn’t just manifest these processes independently too?

In her book, The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Montessori says that for children below the age of six, ‘…nature grants them (of) learning to write without making special and conscious efforts of application and will.’ She talks about an ‘explosion’ into writing which starts when the child learns to talk, and culminates in their joyfully and spontaneously forming words, sentences, paragraphs, all on their own.

This may seem like a completely unreal ideal to parents who are struggling with children resisting writing. There’s no denying that writing is a far more nuanced task than the physiological tasks I quoted as examples earlier, such as eating or walking. These tasks are purely mechanical. Writing, on the other hand, requires dexterity that’s not just manual, but also intellectual. Both the hand and the mind have to be prepared in order for the child to eventually write. Rather than waiting until the age of five or six to start, the beauty of the Montessori method lies in the child slowly being prepared over the years, isolating one level of difficulty at a time.

When you pause to think about it, so much goes into writing. A writing instrument has to be grasped in a perfect pincer, with enough force to make a mark on the paper without tearing through it. Hand-eye coordination is required to move that pencil in the way you want it to. Visual cognition ensures the symbols we call letters are mapped clearly, while memory skills are required to associate each to the appropriate sound. Neural connections and auditory discrimination need to be finetuned to translate those visual memories onto paper in a recognizable sequence, in the left-to-right, top-to-bottom manner in which we write as a society. On top of all this, the emerging writer needs to have the resilience and discipline to labour through each of these steps any time they want to put a thought onto paper. Which brings us to the most important consideration – the person writing needs to have something to write about in the first place.

Over the three years a child spends in the Primary classroom, each of these skills are isolated and practiced in a myriad of beautiful, instinctive, developmentally appropriate ways. I won’t get into the mechanics, because I firmly believe it is the school’s responsibility to ensure these aspects get addressed.

Instead, I want to talk about something close to my heart – just because someone knows how to write doesn’t mean they will. When children don’t write despite the mechanics being in place, it’s an opportunity to reflect.

Is there a point to their writing? We all agree that writing ‘I will not talk in class’ 100 times is a punishment. However, how is it that different from writing words like ‘cat’ or ‘dog’ multiple times? Worksheets and word lists rarely motivate children after the novelty value fades off. There’s no end goal other than submitting them for an adult to evaluate and be pleased about.

Compare this, instead, to writing out a grocery list of ingredients, which the child then takes to the store and gathers. Making up a recipe, dreaming up an experiment, creating an invitation to a playdate: all of these are examples of children writing down their own thoughts, and expressing their own preferences. It is a privilege witnessing a child’s first incredulous realization that the ideas in their head can be understood by someone looking at a piece of paper they worked on!

Of course, in order for this to succeed, the child needs to have ample practice having opinions and expressing themselves. Technically, the process of writing starts when your child is born, and you start talking to them – using rich vocabulary and expressing opinions, you are modeling the process of communication for them.

Do invite dialogue at every opportunity. It is vital to encourage children to talk for themselves rather than rushing to fill in the gaps in their sentences, or answering for them. This translates into them knowing their opinions are valued, and gives them the confidence to eventually transfer their thoughts onto paper when they are equipped with the tools to do so.

Are they the only ones writing? Children are remarkably astute. Just as they know to hold mobile phones carefully because the adults around them do, they also know what the adults consider unimportant for themselves. No amount of talking about how important writing is can inspire them as much as modeling writing can. Model writing exactly how you’d like your child to write – not as a chore, on a scrap of paper torn off randomly, or in a tearing hurry.

Treat yourself to good quality stationery. Find a dedicated spot in your house with good lighting and a flat surface to place your paper on. Play music, if that works for you. Consider your words carefully. Delight in taking the time to write in your best handwriting. Make it a ritual you genuinely find joy in for yourself, rather than a ‘teaching’ opportunity for your child. Children are good at sensing authenticity 🙂

When my daughter was just starting to identify sounds with letters, we would take turns forming words with magnetic lowercase letters on our fridge. I would also make her lunchbox doodles that were phonetic (‘big hug’ etc).

As she started forming letters, we would take turns giving each other challenges (‘List all the things you see which are red’ etc). We would write on a chalkboard easel to begin with, so that she could freely move around in between writing. Another favourite at this time was writing word labels for the things in the room (‘window,’ ‘curtain’ etc) and scrambling them, then matching each label to the object as quickly as we could.

We would also make posters for her room that were mind-maps on discussions we had, such as what she wanted to be when she grew up, or what to remember to do daily. When she was able to form sentences, we set up a post box in our home, and started writing letters to each other. She also has a writing station where she has pre-cut ruled and unruled paper in various colours with ribbons and other book-making supplies. All of these little ideas help us write whenever inspiration strikes, without any elaborate prep work.

Honestly, there are plenty of incredible ideas for pre-writers on online forums and Pinterest boards. If I were to sum up what worked for us, however, it was this: watch your child, follow your instincts, and enjoy yourself. Don’t stress about the mechanics such as handwriting or spelling. Remember that’s the school’s job, and they’ll reach out if they need further help from home. As parents, we get to enjoy sparking passion in our children and watching them find their own motivation for writing!

The Myth of Gender Equality

Thanks to Mr. Arun (Father of Maya, Serenity) for sharing his thoughts on gender equality in parenting!

I spent the first 17 years of my life in a conservative household where my mom would wake up every day at the crack of dawn, clean the house, cook breakfast and prepare lunch, before anyone else in the household even woke up. She would then help me and my brother get ready for school and ensure my dad’s lunch was packed before leaving for office. She would spend the next 10 hours in commute and office work. On the way back from the office, she would buy groceries and vegetables for the rest of the week. Then, she’d get down to preparing dinner for the family and feeding three men (who took all of this for granted for years).

In India, amongst the elite class, much is spoken about gender equality, or lack thereof. I have indulged in this display of moral superiority myself. Most men I have come across consider this to be
1. A problem of the past – It used to happen in the earlier generation
2. A problem of class – It happens in low-income groups

Is this really true? Is this a solved issue?

Let me answer that by describing a typical day in our lives before the lockdown. We had help to clean the house. We had a cook who prepared meals for us. If the cook didn’t turn up, we’d order in. Our grocery shopping was online and it took my wife all of 15 minutes every week. I took care of the errands, paying bills etc. My wife was the primary caregiver to our daughter. She’d get our daughter ready and take her to school where she worked as a teacher. Whenever I could come home early, I’d play with our daughter for an hour or two. Gender equality = Solved problem in the Rao household. This is what I truly believed.

comfort room signage

However, the Covid-19 induced lockdown caused me to re-examine these beliefs. I’ve come to realise that gender inequality is a problem of default expectations. It needs to be examined from the lens of what we expect the default to be when the trappings of economic prosperity are stripped away.
– Who cooks when the cook doesn’t turn up?
– Who cleans when the maid doesn’t come?
– Who does the grocery shopping when the supplies are running low?
– Who is expected to spend time educating the child when schools are under lockdown?

I have a really demanding job as an entrepreneur. Somewhere deep down, I’d always believed that Akshaya was the primary caregiver and I was the primary breadwinner. I believed that the daily pushes and pulls of running a company gave me the right to take it easy on the other aspects of running a household. I believed that it was my right to be insulated from the mundane.

A few days into lockdown, I was in for a rude shock. My wife put in as much hard work, preparation, patience and time as I did into her work. While managing a demanding job, she was also the one cleaning up, planning the meals, telling me what to buy and keeping our daughter engaged while we both worked. In short, the comfortable had masked the ugly truth – We were not equal. We never were!

In all my meetings with male colleagues, I see them joining conference calls from a study table in a closed room. The female colleagues, on the other hand, join meetings while sitting on the bed with kids often interrupting them. I have not known men to relinquish their laptops because of their child’s online classes. It is the lady of the family who needs to work around her kid’s schedule. This “default” thinking permeates even the smallest of actions in our daily life.

Have my actions changed much? Unfortunately, not as much as I’d like. However, there is a higher awareness of my privilege as a male. Also, a deeper sense of what equality means and a bigger desire to set a better example for my daughter. I DO NOT want her growing up in a world where the default expectations on her are higher than those on her partner. I want a new normal for her, and it surely isn’t the one I grew up with, or the one she’s seen for the first five years of her life.

I promise to do better. Will you?

As we navigate long-distance learning, we invite parents to email us articles/thoughts/any fun ideas that your children have responded well to. We will regularly feature these in our newsletters and blog, as we believe the entire Anthea community benefits from our collective experiences. 

Playing with Connector Toys

Thanks to Ms. Rama (Mother of Zera, Serenity) for sharing her experience of learning through play with connector toys!

Connector materials/ toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes, structures and age appropriateness. They are essentially a part of constructive free play and can start as early as 6 months, going all the way upto being fun for adults too 😊! It helps children deeply understand structures and how things come together.

We happened to experiment with a basic set of straw connectors, which was sparingly used over the last year or so when we first got it, but during the lockdown both the kids, Z (5.5 yrs) and J (3 yrs) rekindled their interest in working with this basic set. Once they got very comfortable with the straw connectors, we then moved to stick connectors which are sturdier and more versatile in use, although they offer slightly lesser flexibility in movement.

This was one of the things that really worked for us as the children could sit at it for hours in a day and still are going strong with it at 5 months+. Often, their creative builds and our reality would clash, where what they called a dinosaur would definitely not look like one! But it was amazing to see their attempts to replicate objects around us and create some new ones of their own.

There are several known benefits to connector play, just highlighting a few which we noticed for sure:

  • Excellent boost to fine motor skills esp. for the younger kids, as they grasp and attempt to mould and exert pressure to make the connections
  • Imagination and creativity, allowing to make with their hands whatever their minds imagine and create lovely stories around the objects made
  • Basic geometry and spatial sense – Mind thinks of a structure and pattern and tries to replicate that using the tools available
  • Problem-solving, tinkering and experimenting – It gives the child immediate feedback on the work and an opportunity to self-correct with minimal guidance
  • Works great for individual as well as group play (in our case siblings)

One of the big advantages of connectors are they facilitate a high degree of movement of the things that the child makes, which allows them to explore more ideas than modular building blocks (while they are great too!). Initially, doing this together with the child and starting with basic forms (something simple like shapes) can also be a great way to encourage the child and give them confidence.

Building their own versions of different objects and forming structures can be so much fun for children and hearing stories around them has definitely been fun for us too.

As we navigate long-distance learning, we invite parents to email us articles/thoughts/any fun ideas that your children have responded well to. We will regularly feature these in our newsletters and blog, as we believe the entire Anthea community benefits from our collective experiences. 

Partnering With Parents: A Teacher’s Perspective

COVID 19 has been the talk of the town ever since its inception and man does it know how to make an entry and steal the thunder! The problem with a pandemic is not only the pandemic but what comes along with it as well. A major part of the population has never experienced it, nor have they ever thought about battling it. When the survival seems bleak that is when the greatest gift of humanity kicks in and we start accepting and adapting. After having innumerable meetings and a lot of uplifting conversations we had to accept the inevitable reality that this virus is here to stay, and we must work around it.

This was also a great time for the Montessori community all around the world to come together and brainstorm and come up with ideas that best suit the situation. Maria Montessori, having been through a pandemic herself knew about the difficulties faced while living through a pandemic and that never shook her philosophy of work. Montessori methodology does not depend on only physical material available in the environment, which are carefully thought over and designed in a specialised way, but other materials can be substituted as well. A major part of the pedagogy, however, are the observations which help to plan future course of action which was not possible virtually. This gave us a great platform to work with the parents and build a stronger bond in the partnership to help the child.

The year normally begins with the child first adapting to the environment and getting comfortable and then the work is presented and then begin the observation to see where the child’s curiosity leads them. As we moved closer towards starting virtual session we kept wondering as to what can be done about this key aspect which is when we had to trust the partnership with the parents as they become our eyes at home which brings us to the next step, which was to communicate what and how to observe. The workshop conducted throughout the year were a sneak peak of what happens in the class but more so often the most important aspect of observation is left out as that in itself is a huge topic in itself and no matter how much time we spend on it, we’d just scrape the tip of the iceberg.

A decision had to be made to best support the child and that lead to us then educating the partners through the process of observation which would not only give a better perspective but also help us plan through. The webinars held on some of the frequently asked topics before the virtual sessions started were a great help as that was helping the parents gear up for what followed. In the weeks ahead, the conference calls were a great help and the conversations helped the parents understand our point of view and the suggestions made were a great help as well.

During these challenging times it was great to see that despite the different challenges that each one of us faced we are working through some of those challenges if not all to make learning a joyful experience. As time goes on, we are sure that this bond will only grow stronger and the parents have enough resources to carry out the Montessori philosophy at home to best support the child. I would like to end this note knowing that the parents are genuinely trying to work with us, and we shall come out of this with some great memories.

The Montessori Method & Ancient Indian Practices


Over the last 4 months, ever since we have gone into lockdown to fight the Novel Coronavirus, like most of us, I’ve had time to introspect on a lot of things, primary among them being the Montessori Way of Learning.

With re-runs of Mahabharata and Ramayana running nonstop on Satellite Television, it made me wonder, MONTESSORI education system is not a novel idea for us Indians. In fact the basic facets of Montessori education can find their roots deeply embedded within the ancient ‘Gurukul’ system of learning.

Look at the instances of Rama, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan, going to Guru Vasishtha’s hermitage or of the Pandavas and Kauravas going to Guru Dronacharya’s ashram. While all the students of the gurukul were taught the same lessons, over a period of time, the individuality of the person would come to the fore and be the primary skill of the person. That is the reason why you had students graduating with varying skill sets. These were brothers of varying ages, going to the same gurukuls, learning the same lessons and graduating at the same time, but the unique trait of each one stood out.

The princes resided in ashrams in the middle of the forest, with just the basic amenities being provided. They had to study with fellow students belonging to different walks of life, develop relationships with them, forage into the forest for their day to day meal and help the matron of the ashram with domestic chores. The princes had no choice other than to be independent and had to complete any work given to them. The princes were exposed to a whole gamut of subjects, basic home management skills, geography, history, economics, mathematics, political sciences, medicine, etc. This made the students completely rounded and capable of facing any situation.

We all have read about the likes of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya travelling to Takshashila in modern day Afghanistan, in the quest for knowledge and learning the real time application of the knowledge obtained. We have also read about travelers from far away lands visiting our nation and quenching their thirst for knowledge at the world-renowned Nalanda University. This also has kindled me to research more into such parallels that exist in other cultures and religions as well.

In all the examples I have cited above, there is a pattern that emerges. All these places of learning were built on 3 cornerstones.

  1. Making the child independent.
  2. Providing the children an insight into all subjects and aspects of life.
  3. Nurturing the child’s individual talent

Are these not the same corner stones on which the Montessori Education system is based upon?  The more I delve deeper into this subject there is one conclusion that I come to. This has very much been the fabric of our ancient system as well.

Home Affairs: Mandala Art For Your Family

Thanks to Githanjali (Mother of Vedant Duvvuru, Serenity) for sharing insights and ideas on incorporating Mandala art in children’s life!

The word Mandala originates from Sanskrit and means a circle/circular form. It represents wholeness and life and can be found across many religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American traditions and more.

The mandala is a sacred symbol of the essence of creation as mandalas exist everywhere around us. In flowers, in tree rings, spider webs, snow flakes, in shells, the sea…literally everywhere! Anything that has a centre that radiates inside out has a sense of perfection which is referred to as Mandala.

Colouring mandalas is believed to be an excellent mindfulness practice and can be a fantastic way to create focus and concentration. So why introduce mandala art/ colouring to little kids? As Dr.Montessori spoke about the holistic development of the child, this activity, thus lends to that beautiful thought. There seems to be a threefold impact in terms of emotional, cognitive and behavioral aspects which is beneficial to their overall growth. Here are some reasons why.

  • Promotes hand and eye coordination and other fine motor skills
  • Fosters attention and concentration because of the design intricacy
  • Encourages spatial thinking and an understanding of geometric forms
  • Is said to reduce stress and anxiety (something that’s even more essential during this lockdown time)
  • Helps with patience and perseverance
  • When the child is allowed to colour unhindered (no prompting in terms of colours or designs), it increases creativity and imagination
  • Increase self-esteem and stimulates an aesthetic sense. By letting a child finish a coloring page, you let him or her feel a certain sense of accomplishment for a job well done, thus, building his or her confidence and self-esteem.
  • Improves writing by reducing the possibility of incorrect pencil grasp.
Keeping these listed benefits aside, I invite you to view mandala art as a beautiful meditative practice that our children can deeply benefit from. The fact that there are so many other bonuses to it is just an add on.

Ever since the lockdown began, I have seen my son go through one mandala book after another without showing signs of getting “bored” of it. (So this article is being written after months of direct observation) You get mandala colouring books for children online and at bookstores. These would probably be best for 4 years and above because of the design templates. For toddlers who need more fluid art exploration, you can create circles of different sizes on a piece of paper and use paint brushes of varying sizes to create different sized dots or draw some basic designs they can colour. You can use fallen leaves and flowers, pebbles, dominoes, coins etc to play around with this concept if you see your child enjoying it and want to take the exploration beyond colouring pages. You can even make madala colouring a fun family activity.

Challenge how you view art and colouring. Introduce the concept of vertical art by pasting pages on safe surfaces and allowing the child to experience what vertical art feels like (very diff from horizontal art) while colouring the mandala. You can choose to play gentle music or audio stories if your child seems inclined towards it. There are so many ways of making this an enjoyable time.

I truly believe that exposure to art in any form is one of the ways we can raise a happy, healthy generation. A generation that will respect and help heal our beautiful planet.
Hope you decide to discover the magic of mandalas 😊

All in a Day’s Work: Behind the Scenes on Lockdown Learning


Anthea Montessori’s Centre Head, Ms. Jyothi Nayak, provides a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of teachers as we navigate online learning.

Up at 5am with a jerk that I had not mentioned an important point in the email to parents. Quickly logged in to my system to resend the message and cleared out all other emails from my inbox, as I knew it is going to be a long day! Plan for the day was to get the individualized work packets ready (for around 120+ children) for the next month.

Cooked a quick meal for myself, as I had to prepare myself the long day. Packed my lunch. Prepared breakfast for the family and left home by 8 am after finishing a few quick chores at home.

With the news of an anticipated lockdown, with no clarity on when that will be announced and for how long…. We had to fast track the process and finish the entire work in just 2 days. Finalize the work sheets that will go into each child’s pack – send the folders to the printer- sort the papers once prints have arrived. Coordinate with the printer, count the number of prints that arrived. Sort them based on the age and other prerequisites. Ensure the right papers go into the right pack. Oh! This child writes in print and not in cursive – child A like puzzles – child B needs help with sorting colours add this sheet to his packet …. each packet individualized according to the child’s needs 😊

Our online sessions are running parallelly. We as team had clearly shared our work for the day, who will be running the online sessions, who is calling the parents for the one on ones, who is at school to sort the work packets – we had spent the previous evening (post our online sessions for the day) planning on these to ensure today goes smooth. The emails for prints had gone out in the night, and instructions given to deliver a few folders at night so we could start our work as soon as we reach school in the morning. Teachers had to be on calls with us during their online sessions to help us in sorting if we had any doubts. It was multi-tasking at its best for each one of us in the team.

While we work on these packets all day – mind is parallelly worrying on so many other things: there was a threat of a lock down that could be announced anytime! Hope the internet works well today so the online sessions go smooth. Hope all the zoom links provided to the parents (for the sessions through the day) are all correct and work fine. Hope there is no ban on Zoom for our online classes to function……with all the uncertainties, we still went ahead positively that we will get the work packets ready and hand it over the next day.

We get a few calls informing us that the lockdown could be announced any time and the Government is serious about it. We did not want to take any chances having worked so much on these packets. So, we send out an email to parents saying the work packets will be ready for collection tomorrow morning. And now its race against time!

We teachers start discussing about the online classes as we are sorting the papers. It is interesting to note that all the parents seem to be attending all the sessions and have some great suggestions to make. In the 40-minute session, the teacher is expected to be:

  • As bubbly and as enthusiastic as possible
  • Use the right language and accent
  • Make it fun for children
  • Plan for body breaks (as there are many such sessions for the teacher)
  • Cover academics of course
  • Math – most important!
  • Ensure each child to get a chance to talk
  • Create possible scenarios for children to interact and socialize
  • Cover Telugu and Hindi
  • Remind them of ground rules – raise a quite hand if you need to talk, wait for your turn, etc.
  • Talk to them about social etiquette, courtesy, empathy etc
  • Teach them online etiquette
  • Observe and make notes about each child
  • Make notes of what to talk to the parents

Teachers are working continuously, with no lunch break or even a break for natures call! Their energy levels and enthusiasm seeing the children does not drop at any time of the day. They are in front of the laptop all day taking sessions one after the other, and preparing for the sessions next day, Lesson plans for the week, also adjust/modify the plan based on the observations. Work on worksheets to be sent for children for the following month. Talk to parents on a weekly basis, suggest ways of how to support the child better at home, update notes, observations for future reference. I started to wonder, is this a teacher that I am talking about or a Super-hero!

As we now introspect, learning curve for teachers was really big. All of this was new to all of us. We are trained to be in the classroom physically with children. Online sessions, technology are all new terms. We all had to become tech-savvy overnight. We took up this challenge with no complaints as it was the children that we were doing it for! We have worked through the summer learning these news ways of working, getting trained by mentors in different parts of the world, understanding the new normal. As we were all working from home, we have our children, family who have supported/helped us through out in their own special ways. A teacher’s day at home also is just like any other. Plan for household chores either before or after the sessions, give time for our children, spend time with family, juggle between roles while learning new ways of working from home. Stay up late in the night or wake up early in the morning to do justice to each role that we all play.

And we did it! We managed to finish the work and complete the humongous task that we had set for ourselves for the day! Tired, exhausted and a sense of satisfaction 😊 This is when it struck me that the stress levels for any teacher world over would be roughly the same and my respect for this tribe has grown multi-fold.

I come back home by 6.30 pm to see my son, who is seeing me for the first time for the day. I leave home even before he wakes up in the morning. I have to be as enthusiastic and give him a patient listening as this is the only time I get with him through the day. He is talking and updating me about how his day was, telling me all about how his online session was, how intrigued he was about the topic his teacher covered – 8th continent discovered! , how he managed to finish his follow up work for the day all by himself, his cricket practice and playing badminton for 3 hours. He proudly announces he managed to complete 20 thousand steps as per the smart watch, etc etc..…. he could go on…. He generally does not talk so much. Is he talking to me like this because he is missing me? Am I not spending enough time with him? Am I not available to my child when he needs me? All the guilt of a working mother starts to hover in my mind……and I realize how blissfully ignorant I am of this part of my world as I walk into the kitchen to get started with making dinner!