Post Office

Posted on Jan 26, 2018

The sun is shining (yes, really) and Sean is busy, fussing over his post office, writing all sorts of important stuff. A customer (Miss Felicity) approaches

“Please may I buy a money order?”

“Yes, of course”

“How much will it be?”

“Fifty pounds”

Startled, but fully aware that she is talking to a master of the universe in the making, Miss Felicity tells Sean that she has to go to the school’s ATM to draw some cash. She returns and, under Sean’s watchful eye, counts out five £10 notes to make £50. Sean hands over the money order and says:

“Would you like anything else?”

“Yes, please. I’d like some stamps.”

“How many stamps?” Sean is nothing if not patient.

Miss Felicity tells Sean how many stamps she needs and he carefully counts them out for her.

“How much do I owe you?”

“One hundred and eighty five pounds!”

“Goodness, that’s so much money. How am I going to pay you?”

“You must give me money with £185 on it”

There not being such a thing as a £185 note (nor any notes, seeing as Miss Felicity is currently £50 lighter on account of the money order), Miss Felicity and Sean decide to embark on a bit of quantitative easing. They use as their inspiration a poster, pinned to the garden shed, of Australian dollar banknotes (the reader need not be concerned that we appear to have moved countries. Children at Victoria Road frequent countries, and continents, at their pleasure, and Sean has been much taken by Australia during the term’s theme of The Continents).

While they are easing away, and making an excellent job of recreating the faces on the notes too, Miss Felicity, who has learnt a thing or two over the years, starts telling Sean about the two faces on the $20 note: Mary Reiber and John Flynn.

Mary Rieber was a child convict, transported, aged fourteen, to Australia before making a considerable success of herself. At the end of Miss Felicity’s peroration, Sean knows a lot about transportation; possibly, he is left with the impression that the way on to an Australian banknote is to steal a horse first…

John Flynn created the flying doctor service and Miss Felicity is no less loquacious in her description of the importance, given the vast and inhospitable terrain that is most of Australia of this essential, and life-saving, facility.

Suitably nurtured, and having finished the necessary banknote production, Miss Felicity enquires again as to the price of the stamps:

“One thousand eight hundred and fifty pounds”, says Sean!! Miss Felicity is tempted to ask Sean for his views on the Weimar Republic’s inflationary period but thinks better of it.

“Sean, to count that amount of money we are going to need some help!” Miss Felicity and Sean go back into the classroom and emerge with the Golden Bead, which, together, they use to re-create the massive numeral of one thousand eight hundred and fifty, and its quantity, laid out in exquisite glass beads! I know many readers will be in urgent need of a full explanation of the Golden Bead. Well, tough. All you need to know is that it is to Montessori maths what Mozart is to music.


So, what has Sean done? Personal, social and emotional development by interacting with teachers and peers as the postmaster; maths by selling (successfully) money orders and diamond-studded stamps, geography by visiting Australia, history by learning the wisdom of being a horse thief and a doctor with a pilot’s licence; art by creating, drawing and colouring banknotes. What will Sean take home in his bag? Nothing, because learning like that does not get written down. But Sean knows, and we know, and now you know too.

To train or not to train?

Posted on Aug 6, 2014

Whatever sparks imagination in children, they (the children) are not usually short of it. One morning, two boys arrived at the junk-modelling table. The possibilities of junk-modelling are unrestricted! We have seen boats with multi-function turrets (some to catch pirates, some to make biscuits!), castles, rockets (galore) and even space booster packs, strapped on with metres of tape. In this case, it was string that caught the boys’ interest. String is for tying, or, if you think of it as rope, it is for pulling…train carriages. Chairs make good train carriages, so the string was tied to the chair and the chair pulled into the middle of the room, to be joined by a second and a third, as the train got longer. Curiously, the boys seemed more interested in the process of moving the chairs than in the actual train; the train was just the excuse to move chairs. They tried to move teachers stools but had to agree with a teacher that these made a *lot* of noise. Thus, their effort to expand their activity led back to chairs: not just a single chair, but now two chairs. For this, a teacher had to be persuaded to tie two pieces of string together to allow for the second chair. Disaster! Two chairs could not be moved without one, or both, falling over, and although they persevered that result remained the same.

What, now, is the temptation for the teacher who has just arrived in the classroom to witness two boys pulling chairs that keep falling over? A mild admonishment of “in school we carry our chairs like this”? Not at Iverna Gardens. The teacher immediately understood the benefit of what she was witnessing: for 40 minutes those two boys were completely engaged, caused no disruption to those around them, caused no damage, problem-solved, role-played, practised their fine and gross-motor skills, and developed their concentration, self-esteem and probably their friendship too.


Posted on Jul 26, 2014

The summer term is (often) the term when we teach the children about the continents. Amongst many other activities, they make their own map of each continent and position on it items that represent features that can be found there eg Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, or the Eiffel Tower in Europe. For the South American map, sugar is one of the features, with Brazilians not only producing masses of the stuff but leading the world in sugar consumption (59 kilos per capita per year!).

Somewhat rashly, we use a sugar cube to represent sugar. This cube of deliciousness is stuck on to the map using PVA glue. The children don’t know what to make of this, coming (mostly) from families who, if they allow their children sugar at all, only do so when accompanied by catacysmic warnings as to its BADNESS. Thus, the children, who know exactly what a sugar cube is, will open the bidding with:

“Is this an iceberg, Miss Emily?” They know, of course, that it’s sugar. They know that you know it’s sugar but they also know (from experience) that, as an adult, you are going to deny it. They help you to save face by suggesting at the outset that it’s an iceberg.

“No, it’s sugar.” This is a most surprising answer.

“Real sugar for eating?”

“Yes, real sugar for eating, but this sugar we are going to use for gluing.” What the children think of this response is not known because by this time they have spotted the box of sugar cubes, which Miss Emily keeps as close to her person as is possible without actually ingesting it. If you ever want to make your child entirely invisible except for thumb and forefinger, keep a box of sugar cubes close by and watch it carefully. The child you do not see, hear or even sense. A leopard in the dead of night makes more noise than a child hunting a sugar cube. Just watch the box, and do not blink.

In time, the children realise that Miss Emily has been doing this for a lot longer than they have and they settle down, glue a cube on to their map and wait. They wait for the day when the map “goes home”. Ah, mother or no mother (and, in any case, mothers are no match for determined children), that cube is ripped off between school door and pavement and eaten glue and all.


Posted on Mar 20, 2014

Miss Susanna’s lunch bunch is nothing if not fun. This week she made an attempt at a mini-project on spring. With the London temperature close to zero, the children were less than impressed and decided to put the popcorn they had made (to represent blossom) to better use. One sought out reels of coloured ribbon, and the rest laid the table with plates and glasses of water. Once the entire area had been festooned with satin streams, the children partied. They talked and laughed and drank their water and declared, to a person, that it was the best party to which they had ever been.

Which all goes to show that much as the one year old prefers the wrapping to the wrapped, so the grand project is no match for water, ribbons and joie de vivre.

Tears of happines

Posted on Mar 25, 2013

One of the more important skills that young children need to acquire is the ability to treat their friends kindly, to share and cooperate with them. To help with this, the teachers will model behaviour, as two of them did this week to demonstrate that being kind to another can lead to happiness.

Miss Ruthie played a child who was sad because her friend would not play with her and Miss Karin played a child who offered to be her friend and to play with her. Miss Felicity, to reinforce the modelling, suggested to the children that happiness can come both from someone being kind and also from the act of being kind to another.

At the end of this playlet, a boy said: “Miss Felicity, I’ve got water running down my cheeks”. Indeed he had: tears were pouring from the little boy’s eyes, without his really understanding why.