Conflict Resolution

Montessori classrooms are rooted in a strong emphasis on peace and treating each other with respect. Conflicts, and how they are navigated, play an important role in establishing these roots. In the studio, a conflict comes in many forms; perhaps it’s a clash of interest among friends, or a struggle over a difference of opinion, or through establishing boundaries. 

Though uncomfortable, we don’t see conflict at Ascent as a negative thing. If you look at conflict through a curious lens, it is a great learning tool. Conflict is a time when a person is filled with emotions, and can learn self-control, patience, active listening, and empathy. All of these important social skills are essential for problem-solving in the future. Montessori education empowers children to make their own decisions even when it comes to conflict resolution, sometimes with the help of a moderator.  After all, humans have to learn how to navigate difficult social situations and how to be in a community with others, just as much as learning to read and add numbers – and the former creates an even greater challenge.

One important aspect of Montessori conflict resolution is to create an environment where  children practice speaking respectfully, calming their bodies, and voicing their needs or boundaries. If there is a conflict over who will eat their snack first, or who will work with a particular material first, for example, they are supported in identifying the problem and are provided with language tools needed to express themselves. This can serve to validate the child’s feelings, and then help them find a peaceful solution. Guides support this process without judgment. They are simply there to offer comforting support and to hold the process.  

In the Spark studios, we have adopted a 5-step system to navigate conflict resolution: 

  1. Approach: Can I talk to you about a problem?
  2. Mindfulness: Take a breath and calm your body
  3. Intention: Place your hand on your heart and wish the other person well
  4. Verbalize without labeling: When you _____, this happened _____. Next time, please_______.
  5. Connect: High five, elbow bump, handshake, etc.

The system has given the learners the tools they need to successfully resolve conflicts with each other, without placing blame or relying on the guides to solve their problems for them. Children also gain confidence when they are actively being a part of finding a solution. The goal is to help the child learn to navigate conflicts and social situations on their own. 

“Preventing conflicts is the work of politics: establishing peace is the work of education.” 

-Maria Montessori 

Gratitude and Thanksgiving in the Montessori Environment

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” — Cicero

In the Montessori environment, lessons on grace and courtesy are vital at every level. These lessons go beyond the common “please” and “thank you” by demonstrating empathy and courtesy as integral life skills.  Gratitude is one of the many lessons of grace and courtesy. We are hardwired to teach “thank you” as a habit, but to truly understand the value of thankfulness, one must first build a foundation of generosity, humility, wisdom, joy, integrity and trust.

To help children learn to value gratitude, we practice incorporating it into our daily Montessori activities. With younger children, we can learn to be vocal about the things we appreciate. We begin by modeling, using our words and tone of voice to appreciate what we see around us:


  • – I appreciate how Adam cleaned up after he made a snack.
  • – Thank you for these lovely flowers. I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness, Samantha.
  • – Freddie the fish really appreciates his water tank being cleaned. Thank you for helping with that today!


We can help children express their gratitude by using descriptive compliments, or “appreciations.” Appreciations often make others feel important and acknowledged by recognizing their efforts. Maren Schmidt, of Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents, writes, “Descriptive compliments describe what you see, what you feel, and then use a word that sums up the entire experience.” (Schmidt, 2007) Descriptive compliments describe rather than evaluate, which make them a bit different from a general compliment, or praise. In our Spark studios, we practice appreciations throughout our day by naming and noticing behaviors and actions that we appreciate.

Let us all remember that Thanksgiving is more than a day of feasting- let true thanksgiving and gratitude live in our hearts every day!


“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” — Gilbert Keith Chesterton


Movement in a Montessori Environment

Montessori started a shift in education by thinking about movement differently. When observing any Montessori environment you will notice a lot of movement throughout the studio as this is an integral part of the Montessori environment. 


When our bodies are in motion, we are connected to the environment around us. Our minds cannot be dormant, because our hands, feet, arms and legs are at play. Movement brings about strength, joy, effort, and a wondering of possibilities. Montessori saw and made the connection that when we move, we engage. Many of the children are naturally drawn to the activities that involve exploring the classroom like Environment Cards, Zero Game, or other memory activities.


Montessori also recognized the disservice of young people being confined to a desk all day to learn. She believed the body needed room to move and grow.  Unlike traditional schooling, a Montessori environment gives the child the freedom to move about the space and choose their lessons. This type of movement also allows for spontaneous social interaction to occur with no need for permission from the guide. 


Thought requires movement and movement facilitates thinking. This happens by creating a prepared environment in which children are free to explore their own interests. Not only is this type of movement directed and focused on purposeful work, it allows children to expend their energy in productive, concentrated ways. When movement is involved, the brain is stimulated differently than it is when one is passively watching and listening. The brain depends on all types of movement to develop. 


“One of the most important practical aspects of our method has been to make the training of the muscles enter into the very life of the children so that it is intimately connected with their daily activities.” – Maria Montessori,  Discovery of the Child


Montessori based her method of education on the premise that learning is linked to movement. When a child can engage multiple senses in a learning activity, it builds stronger connections to the brain. Children trace the Sandpaper Letters with their fingers while they learn sounds. When working with Number Rods, the Pink Tower, and Brown Stairs, the child carefully carries the materials, one by one, from shelf to mat, allowing them to observe the subtle differences in weight, size, color and shape. Children discover more about themselves and the larger world by making connections through all of their senses.


Movement applies to the guide as well. The guide moves softly about the room, quietly among the students, not to disrupt or dictate the work, but to carefully observe and to trust the environment is prepared exactly as the children need it. The guide also aims to connecting themselves to the environment  and this creates a space for a shared trust and a fluidity between the guide and the child.


“It is high time that movement came to be regarded from a new point of view in educational theory.” – Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind


Spark Insight Journal – Page 20 – False Fatigue

In today’s blog post we are diving deep into the ebbs and flows of the three-hour Montessori work cycle. Once the children settle into their day, you can see them with a sense of happiness and satisfaction absorbed in their work. There is a productive hum in the studio. Then, about an hour into the morning work cycle, there is a noticeable rise in movement and voices, and it appears the children begin to lose interest in their work. Dr. Maria Montessori termed this natural restlessness as “False Fatigue”.

She further observed that this period lasts for about 20 minutes and the children used this time to get to the next level of their work, to find their focus and concentration in their own time. Dr. Montessori explained this phenomenon as the child searching for their “maximum interest.” She went on to explain that this period of “false fatigue” is necessary for the child to get absorbed in more challenging work in the studio.  

Consider false fatigue in the same way you would take a break for fresh air, or to stand up and get away from your desk. The child experiences the same “mental” need, the need for a reset so they may get back to properly concentrating on their work again.

As guides, we are trained to observe and stay back and put our full faith in the child and the Montessori environment. When the guides step back and avoid disrupting the period of false fatigue, the children have the opportunity to return to their work with more focus and concentration than the prior period.

It is part of our inner work (takes so much practice) to not work on mitigating the restlessness. A Montessori Musing Place writes: “By anxiously stepping in and ‘managing’ at this point, teachers (guides) replace the child’s will with their own.” That observation sums up the impact of “doing something” about false fatigue. Interfering may actually make the period of false fatigue last longer.

“Work chosen by the children, and carried out without interference, has its own laws. It has a beginning and ending like a day, and it must be allowed to come full circle.” ~ E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work

Spark Insight Journal – Page 19 – Peek into Spark Play

To gain insight and a peek into what Spark Play looks like, we’d like to revisit a two-part blog post we published on the flow and rhythm of this element of the learners’ day (everything remains the same this year, save the timings). You can read it here and here. We overheard a learner exclaim to his parents during the morning drop-off a few days back, “This is not a playground, this is Spark Play!” We get that! This is a sacred part of their day.
For today, we leave you with this beautiful quote on play and pictures. 


This kind of play (loose parts play) is complex, pleasurable, self-motivated, imaginative, spontaneous, creative, and happily free of adult-imposed goals and outcomes. Children determine and control the content of this play, following their own instincts, ideas, and interests. 

 -Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky

Loose Parts 



Spark Insight Journal – Page 18 – Goals of Montessori Materials

“In Montessori education, children learn to learn by learning… Academic skills are essential to learning and knowing, not the aim of learning and knowing.”

The Authentic American MontessoriSchool, p. 43

Montessori materials are a crucial part of the prepared environment forming the very basis of budding attributes of independence, curiosity, concentration, intrinsic motivation, care of self, care of the environment (social responsibility and citizens of the world), and academic preparation. Beyond the direct subject and skill presented by a given activity, lie indirect- yet critical- opportunities for the formation of these attributes, leading to the development of the whole child.  

The direct goals of the Practical Life activities like spooning, hand washing, window washing, sweeping, sewing, brooming, etc. are: independence, broadening the child’s experience of their immediate environment, care of self and the environment, control of movement, and grace and courtesy. Indirect goals include: hand-eye coordination, motor control, preparing the wrist, and development of the pincer-grip for writing. Understanding of freedom and boundaries also largely comes into play in this area of learning. 

The direct goals of Sensorial activities like the pink tower, color tablets, rough and smooth boards, or the thermic tablets include: refinement of senses, language for the different qualities that the matter possesses, (rough, smooth, hot, cold, dark, darker, darkest), and strengthening of muscle memory. 

The direct goal of Math and Language is academic preparation. The indirect goals include:  independence, critical thinking, problem-solving, curiosity, and intrinsic motivation. The goals can be broken down even further. For example, when a child is using the Movable Alphabet, our goal is not to make sure a word is spelled correctly, but rather, to work on actual word-building (using letter sounds to make words/writing) and further decoding them as a natural next step to reading. Words could look like “osum” (for awesome), “luv” (for love). This all ties in as an example of literary independence and critical thinking. 

The goals for Culture – Botany, Science, and Geography- are very similar to that of the other areas, and also open young minds to the world outside, and their role/relationship with and within it, as the citizens of the world. 

“The developing child not only acquires the faculties of man:  strength, intelligence, language; but, at the same time, he adapts the being he is constructing to the conditions of the world about him.”  

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 61


Spark Insight Journal – Page 17 – Friendships and Tribes

Spark Insight Journal – Page 16 – Welcome

Spark Insight Journal – Page 15 – Thank YOU!

Thank You for Trusting Us

As this very unique year comes to an end, we are sealing it with trust and gratitude, just as we started this journey. Thank you for being on this journey with us as our fellow travelers, and trusting us with your child. Thank you for the support, partnership, and community. We are deeply honored to be a witness and guide in your child’s growth and learnings, and wish you and your families the very best in everything that is to come!
We can’t wait to see what the future holds in all of our Hero Journeys together.
Happy Summers!
So much love and gratitude,
Spark Guides.

Spark Insight Journal – Page 14 – Freedom and Boundaries

Ascent’s approach to freedom and boundaries at the Spark level, inspired by Maria Montessori, is an approach blended with compassion, observation, and clarity. Freedom is experienced through great choice within the prepared environment; boundaries come into introduction and practice via the grace and courtesy lessons which lay a clear foundation for respect for the studio space, respect for each living being, and the larger environment. When introducing a boundary, a guide’s goal is to be concise, clear, consistent, and bring in reason and safety for the whole group in our words and actions. 

Some quick examples to explain the above would be – 

  • We use gentle hands to keep ourselves and others safe, 
  • We use walking feet in the studio; our hands are for helping, caring, working, and playing 
  • I see that you are upset but I can’t let you hit me. 
  • I am going to put this material away for now and you can try again tomorrow with gentle hands.  

“The task of the adult then is not to inject or teach discipline, but to offer the child suitable forms by means of which he can individually and socially follow and express the dictates of his inner discipline.” (Joosten, p. 58).