Gift Giving Montessori Style

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The holiday season is in full swing and if you haven’t already started your shopping you’re probably thinking about it!  This week we take a look at gifts for children, whether they be your own kids, nieces and nephews, or friends.  We all adore that look of joy on a child’s face when they open up a surprise.  Read on for a Montessori holiday gift-giving guide…

Keeping Development in Mind

Montessori’s concept of the developmental planes can be helpful to keep in mind while selecting gifts. Reminding ourselves of the characteristics of each phase of childhood can give surprising insight!  Here’s a brief summary with ideas:


Developmental Plane

Some Characteristics

Gift Ideas

Ages 0-6

  • Sense of order

  • Language development

  • Movement/ development of motor skills

  • Refinement of the Senses

  • Child-sized cleaning supplies

  • Books

  • Scooters or bicycles (tricycles or training wheels)

  • Playdough or cooking tools

Ages 6-12

  • Use of Imagination

  • Creative Thinking

  • Social - Prefers Groups

  • Cultural Awareness

  • Science-based activities or games

  • Art supplies

  • Board games

  • Books about topics of interest

Ages 13-18

  • Creative Expression

  • Physical Development

  • Looking for Place in Society

  • Personal Reflection

  • Music (albums, player, headphones, lessons)

  • Sports or outdoor gear

  • Tickets to an event

  • Journals or items related to their current interests


It’s Okay to Reinvent Expectations

Many of us have fond memories of large piles of presents and we want our children to have great holiday memories, too.  The thing is, it’s okay if their holidays don’t include so much stuff.  Young children, especially, don’t have expectations like we do.  A few carefully chosen, nice quality gifts will make them just as happy as you were as a kid.  You know that nagging feeling you sometimes have that their toys are taking over the house?  It’s totally okay to give them less.   

Another idea to consider is to give the gift of experiences.  This works really well for adults and older children, but can be used with younger children as well.  Tickets to an event, movie passes, or a gift certificate (trampoline park, art open studio time, mini golf) will always be appreciated.  As a bonus, the recipient can often enjoy these experiences with someone they love.

Build in (or Continue!) Traditions

You likely already have traditions, either from your own childhood or that your family has developed over the years.  Creating rituals creates memories, and a deep sense of love and celebration that won’t soon be forgotten.  Looking for some ideas? We’ve got some!

  • Have a collection of holiday books.  Keep them packed away in a closet most of the year, but this time of year they can be placed in a nice basket in your living room, with a new one added each year. 

  • Find a way for your family to give back to the community.  Older children can volunteer at a soup kitchen, but even younger children can help bake cookies to take to local firefighters.  If you live in an area where there is a homeless population, you might work as a family to create care packages: small bags filled with food and other items that might be useful.  They can be kept in your car to give to people as you meet them, or they can be dropped off at a local shelter or similar organization.

  • Bake cookies.  Or cook or bake something else that’s special to your family.  Time spent together in the kitchen is so special, plus you’ll be sharing important skills with your kids.    

  • Make decorations.  With a little guidance, even a six-year-old can string together popcorn and cranberries.  

  • Enjoy storytelling.  Every culture, religion, and family have tales to tell.  Gather around a fireplace, candlelight, or just cozy up on the couch and tell stories.  Folktales, myths, and family history are all great!

Resources for Montessori Families

Are you looking for specific places to buy gifts?  Try supporting small local businesses - they often have items that are hard to find anywhere else.  As a bonus you will be supporting your local economy and helping your neighbors!

For Montessori-specific gifts, we recommend the following:

For Small Hands/Montessori Services

https://www.forsmallhands.com/

https://www.montessoriservices.com/

This company provides high-quality products with Montessori families specifically in mind.  

Acorn Naturalists

https://www.acornnaturalists.com/store/index.aspx

If you’re looking for nature and outdoor learning gifts, look no further!  This website caters to teachers, but many of the learning materials would be just as appreciated at home.

Nova Natural

https://www.novanatural.com/

With a focus on real wood and natural fibers, this Vermont-based toy company is a Montessori parent’s dream.

Happy shopping!

Zoology in the Montessori Classroom

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Montessori curriculum tends to give children opportunities to learn about fascinating areas of study very early in their school career.  Science is no exception, and one major component of a Montessori elementary (and even primary!) education is the study of zoology.  This post will highlight the content covered and how students typically explore the work.

Starting with the big picture

In the Montessori world, most areas of study start with the big, overarching picture and gradually narrow down to specifics.  This gives children a firm understanding and context in which they can place the details.  Zoology is no different.

What better way to teach about life on our planet than to begin with a look at the five kingdoms?  Montessori children learn about monera, protista, fungi, plants, and animals.  These early lessons are simple; they describe the major defining characteristics of each kingdom and give a few examples of each (with pictures, of course).  One neat feature of this work is that the lesson can be given to younger children as they first begin to learn about zoology, but can be given again at a later age when children are ready to expand upon this knowledge.  Science material that can be appreciated at different levels of learning is especially handy in a multi-age classroom.

Categorizing

After children learn about the five kingdoms, they begin to categorize the animal kingdom.  The simplest way to do this is to define and sort the vertebrates and invertebrates.  Children learn the evolutionary advantages to having a backbone, when the earliest creatures with spines began their life on earth, and which modern animals have one or don’t.  

After mastering their understanding of vertebrates and invertebrates, children begin their study of the five classes of vertebrates: fish, reptile, amphibian, bird, and mammal.  Once again, this work starts out simple but becomes more complex as time goes on and the child’s knowledge base expands.  

A layered curriculum

A six year old’s study of reptiles will look very different from the study of a child just a year older.  The six year old will likely be at the word level of reading and learning (especially early in the year).  They will learn that a turtle has a head, feet, tail, and a shell made up of a plastron, carapace, and bridge.  You may have noticed that some of these words are quite familiar, and some are most likely brand new and fascinating to the child.  On the other side of the table our seven year old will be studying the body functions of the turtle.  They will discover how the turtle meets its needs for movement, protection, support, circulation, respiration, and reproduction.  This will include information such as the reptile’s three-chambered heart, the fact that it lays leathery eggs, and that it uses lungs to breath in oxygen.

Older students may review this information by playing classification games and asking one another questions (much like a scientific version of the game twenty questions).  They may conduct research on animals they find particularly interesting, which gives them opportunities to explore their own work, learn how to research properly, write a short report, and gather more zoology information.  Eventually they will go on to more deeply explore invertebrates and their contributions during the evolution of life on earth as well as what they look like and function like today.

What are three part cards?

Many areas of study in Montessori classrooms utilize three part cards, particularly in primary classrooms.  While studying zoology, children will use this style of material as they work to define the five classes of vertebrates.  What, exactly, are they?

In the primary classroom, a set will include cards with pictures, cards with labels, and a control card that displays the picture with the label so that the child is able to check their own work.  While something similar may be used with students just entering the elementary level, three part cards at this level tend to look a bit different.  They generally consist of a picture, label, and definition.  While there is a control available as well (often in the form of a booklet or wall chart), the elementary-style cards provide a higher level of reading opportunity so that the child is able to practice multiple academic skills within the same work.

The beauty of three part cards is that children are drawn to them, they have built-in controls that foster independence and self-teaching (after the initial lesson), and a teacher observing a child using them can quickly discern the child’s level of mastery

Extensions and more...

As mentioned before, studying zoology lends itself seamlessly to research projects for older students.  Students of all ages can benefit from art integration as a means of reinforcing concepts while expressing their creative side.  For example, a collage of a fish’s body may be made, which may then be turned into a labeled diagram.  

Did you know that the Montessori study of zoology directly ties into large parts of the elementary history curriculum?  Many of the animals the children study in their science lessons can be found on the Timeline of Life, which is a beautiful and impressionistic material that teaches children about the evolution of life on earth.  Starting with the beginning of the Paleozoic era, in which one-celled organisms and simple life forms floated through the sea, through the Quaternary period and the emergence of early hominids, children are able to see the connections between the various kingdoms and classes, bringing the details of their learning back to the big picture again.

Thanksgiving Through a Native Lens

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Thanksgiving is a much-loved American holiday for most people.  As with many events in history, many of the facts have been altered throughout the years. Often these false versions of the event are even taught in a variety of schools.  In the spirit of taking a closer look at our country’s culture and history, we dedicate this blog post to acknowledging the perspective of the native people.

History of the Event 

When the early colonists (often referred to as ‘pilgrims’) landed in North America, they built their village in close proximity to a group of people called the Wampanoag.  While the two groups had made contact with one another, they weren’t really considered friends. In fact, the colonists stole corn and other items they found that was assumed to be harvested by the native people.

Life in a new land was very hard on the colonists.  Many of their people died and everyday life was a struggle.  To celebrate the passing of their first year, the people decided to hold a celebration which would include food and games.  They discharged weapons as either a part of their celebration or perhaps while hunting, and the sound of the guns alarmed the nearby Wampanoag people.  Sachem Massasoit and a group of 90 men traveled to investigate the situation and soon realized that there was no threat.  This small group of Wampanoag men joined in the celebration which lasted three days.  Primary source documents suggest that the native men hunted several deer and perhaps some other game to contribute.  Many of the foods we consider traditional were not, in fact, enjoyed during that celebratory feast.

It is important to note that while this one particular Thanksgiving celebration is the root of our historical holiday, the Wampanoag people gave thanks via formal celebrations several times each year for thousands of years prior.  These traditions were a way of acknowledging the earth, as well as their people’s connections to the earth and to each other.  Today’s modern Thanksgiving is a day of mourning for many native people, as they remember their generosity toward the settlers was met with theft of land, violence, and destruction of their homes and people just a generation later. 

Wampanoag Thanksgivings

Wampanoag people gave thanks each day and held many special celebrations throughout the year.  Their new year coincides with planting crops in the spring. The beginning of summer is marked with a strawberry celebration. Cranberry Day was (and still is) celebrated in the fall and a winter celebration was a time to share food and supplies with those who did not have as much.  To this day, native children are given the day off from school to celebrate Cranberry Day, an important cultural tradition.

The video below shows elder Gladys Widdiss recounting her experiences with Cranberry Day when she was young, and also shows Wampanoag educator Annawan Weeden teaching a group of teachers how to play a traditional game called hubbub.

Interested in trying traditional native food?  The recipe for nasaump comes from the Plimoth Plantation website (https://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/recipes): 

Nasaump is a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from dried corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens and is similar to a porridge or oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1 cup strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three

1/2 crushed walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds or a combination of all three

1 quart water

maple syrup or sugar to taste (optional)

Combine cornmeal, berries, crushed nuts, and the optional sweetener in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.  

Follow the link above to find more recipes, including the English settlers’ stewed pompion (pumpkin).

Common Myths

History has debunked much of what we consider to be true about Thanksgiving.  Some common myths:

  • The pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.  Plymouth Rock is a landmark that visitors flock to even today.  There is no evidence that the colonists actually landed on the rock, and in fact evidence suggests quite the opposite.

  • Squanto was a friend to the pilgrims.  Squanto, one of the few native people that spoke English, often served as an interpreter between the two groups.  Years earlier, he had been captured and taken to Europe as a slave, only to eventually return home to find his people’s village wiped out by disease.  Squanto used his position to his own benefit, often stirring up trouble between the colonists and the native people.

  • There was cranberry sauce and popcorn at the celebration.  There is no record of either, or many other foods that people believe the Wampanoags and colonists shared.  There were the deer that Massasoit and his men caught, as well as turkey, nasaump, and pumpkin.

  • The colonists and Wampanoags were friends.  The Europeans viewed the native people as heathens and the Wampanoags did not trust the colonists.  As time went on, the colonists took more of the native people’s land, and when the Wampanoags attempted to defend themselves, they were massacred, sold into slavery, or forced to flee.

To learn more about the history of the Wampanoags, early English colonists, and their interactions, visit the following pages:

http://www.wampanoagtribe.net/pages/wampanoag_education/celebrations

http://www.bostonkids.org/learning-resources/native-voices

http://oyate.org/index.php/resources/43-resources/thanksgiving 

https://www.plimoth.org/learn-something-old

Freedom Within Limits

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“To let the child do as he likes when he has not yet developed any powers of control is to betray the idea of freedom.”  -Maria Montessori

One of the more common misconceptions about Montessori education is that we let the children run free to do what they please all the time.  It is true that we let our students make choices for themselves, not just about their work but about their preferences and even care of their own bodies, but those choices are made within carefully crafted parameters.  To give a child (or any human) choice is to give them empowerment.  To give them choice within boundaries will assist them in becoming the adult they are meant to be.

Why give choice?

When we give children the ability to make their own choices, we are letting them know we trust their decisions.  If children know the adults in their lives trust them, they will begin to trust themselves.  When a person has confidence in their own abilities, their thoughts and energy can be put into new ideas and making progress.

Decision making is a skill that must be learned just like anything else.  From the most basic everyday tasks to major life events, we all need to make choices in our lives.  When we create an environment that allows children to practice this skill and be successful, they are given an opportunity to become successful as they grow older.

Giving choice is also a means of showing respect.  We respect that children should have a say in what they want.  While as adults our role is to keep children safe and guide them, we do not have all the answers nor do we understand what is always best for each child.  Giving kids a say shows them that we honor their autonomy.  

Why place limitations?

While we believe it’s important to give children choices, too many choices can feel overwhelming and be counter-productive.  Placing some limitations keeps their decision-making process safe and manageable.  Children actually want us to define limits for them as boundaries give them a sense of structure that is critical for their development.

Think about the last time you went to a typical grocery store.  Just deciding on a box of cereal can seem like huge task!  There are so many choices, and while it feels good to have options, there can definitely be too much of a good thing.

Another benefit of placing limitations on choices is that we can create a scenario in which any choice made will achieve the desired results.  If we want children to practice a specific skill, we can give two or three options that will allow them to do so.  If we want them to complete a certain task or meet a goal, we can envision different paths that will lead to the same destination and let them decide which they would like to take.

What does this look like in the classroom?

When it comes to academic work, Montessori children get to make choices about which work they will focus on, where they sit, who they sit with, and in what order they do things.  They move about their mornings with a sense of purpose, because they get to call the shots in regards to their own education.  In a structure like this, school doesn’t feel so much like a place where you go to receive knowledge that’s being given to you; it’s a place where you go to explore, learn authentically, and immerse yourself in work that’s important to you.

With all those choices, it’s important for teachers to create an environment that sets kids up for success.  Montessori guides only give children lessons on materials they are ready for.  They only put materials on the shelves that the children as a group are ready for.  The materials they do put out are so beautiful and interesting that the children cannot help but want to choose them.  

Even when it comes to taking care of themselves, we want children to be in charge.  We create structures that allow them to eat when they are hungry, use the restroom when they feel the need, and to rest or move their bodies as they see fit.  Most Montessori classrooms have a snack table that children can sit at whenever there is a seat available (limiting this to two chairs is one way guides make snack socializing manageable).  Children don’t need to ask permission to use the restroom; we make sure they have access to a toilet that they can use at any time.  The furniture in our classrooms are arranged in such a way so as to encourage safe avenues to body movement, individual seating, group seating, floor seating, or table and chair options.  As adults we need variation and choice to be productive and we recognize that children do as well. 

Our job as Montessori educators is to create the conditions for children to independently make decisions that will help them grow and develop.  We want them to explore who they are, to learn about each other, and to gain basic academic skills.  We want to cultivate inquisitiveness, leadership skills, and a sense of humble independence.  All of these goals can be met through careful planning of a classroom environment that facilitates choice within limits. 

What might this look like in the home?  

It can help to observe in your child’s classroom to get ideas.  If you are just getting started with offering choice at home, it can help to focus on just a few areas in the beginning.  Food, clothing, and entertainment are good places to start.

While we do not advocate making separate meals for everyone in your home (this can quickly lead to picky eating habits), kids can have some say in mealtime choices.  Find ways you are willing to be a little flexible and ask their opinion.  Perhaps they can choose some fruits or vegetables at the grocery store, or help decide what gets packed into their lunches.  If you have several dinners planned for the week, your child could help decide which one to have on a particular night and then help you prepare it.  When it comes time to eat, let your child practice serving themselves, while reminding them about the importance of not wasting food and only taking as much as we expect to eat. 

Getting dressed for the day is great time to practice decision making.  This tends to be one area that requires the most intentional release of control from us as parents, as young children tend to have quite the eccentric tastes when it comes to personal style!  Keeping weather and activities of the day in mind, set some guidelines and let your child pick out their own clothes.  Some Montessori experts recommend only putting desirable options in the child’s drawers.  If this isn’t feasible, even young children can follow simple directions such as, “Please choose something with short sleeves and long pants.”  Expect combinations you would never choose for yourself and remember that this is an important step in their development and self-expression.  How we dress is one way we present ourselves to the world and letting your child make these choices tells them you trust that they know who they are.

When it comes to having fun, children love to give input.  If you read stories at bedtime, your child could select whatever number of books you decide, or they could choose from a pre-selected few that you give them.  If you let your child watch television, give them a pool of shows that you feel are appropriate to choose from.  If you want to get them outside, ask them if they would rather go to the playground or ride their bike.  The key is to consider your true objective, then present multiple ways to achieve that goal.  

We hope that this post has been helpful, and we would love to hear how you implement choice at home!

Math Fact Memorization: Montessori & Current Research

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When someone starts talking about memorization of math facts, people tend to have strong opinions.  We all had a variety of experiences as children ourselves, and those experiences coupled with notions of best practices in education can cause for heated debates.  In today’s post we would like to share the results of recent research on the topic.  At first glance, the results may seem at odds with Montessori theory, but upon further examination this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Read on to find out why our materials and methods can provide children with exactly what this “new” information suggests they need.

The Findings

This summer Paul L. Morgan, Ph.D. published an interesting article for Psychology Today.  Morgan works at Penn State as a professor in the education department as well as Director of the Center for Educational Disparities Research.  He and several colleagues (George Farkas and Steve Maczuga) conducted research to investigate instructional practices and their effects on student achievement.  Their specific focus was on first grade classrooms in math.  

The researchers observed a variety of students and classrooms and determined that the only teaching method that had a positive effect on student achievement was teacher-directed instruction, as opposed to student-centered.  [This is the part where those of us who adore Montessori will audibly gasp, but keep reading!]

Morgan, Farkas, and Maczuga define teacher-directed as the following: “Teachers initially demonstrate specific procedures for solving problems, and then provide students with repeated opportunities (e.g., worksheets, routine practice and drills) to independently practice these procedures. Teacher-directed practices should help students increase their procedural fluency in applying explicitly taught and repeatedly practiced sets of procedures to solve mathematics problems, which should result in more effective use of higher order thinking and problem-solving skills.”

What Do Montessori Teachers Do?

According to the researchers’ definition of teacher-directed learning, this is exactly the approach that is taken in regards to students learning their basic math facts in Montessori classrooms.  Our initial reaction is simply a result of semantics and misconceptions.  Do Montessori teachers utilize worksheets and drills?  Well, not exactly, but we still meet the definition in other ways.

One of the most common misconceptions about Montessori education is that the children are let to do whatever they want all the time.  Some people think that choice is the driving force (it is, at least in part) and the students run amok.  Anyone who has spent any time learning about Montessori or observing in a classroom knows the opposite to be true.  Montessori is really all about choice within limits.  Teachers create an environment rich with materials that call to the children, and while they do have lots of decision-making opportunities, they are only provided with options that will lead them to meet desired outcomes.  The same is true for math fact instruction and practice.  

Let’s get down to the facts: in Montessori classrooms, the teachers provide direct fact memorization instruction.  At the lower elementary level in particular, one will find shelves stocked with materials that were designed to aid the process of math fact memorization.  Typically a teacher will give a child a lesson on a material to explain how it is to be used, and then detail their expectations to the child.  Children are generally going to be practicing and recording their facts on a daily basis.  Montessorians believe that while understanding the concept of why we manipulate numbers and having a visual representation helps children in the long run, we agree that when it comes down to it those basic facts really need to be memorized with an emphasis on speed and accuracy.  This is one of the reasons our children are able to solve larger complex operations problems at a younger age than children in many traditional settings.

 Bead Cabinet

Bead Cabinet

Taking a closer look at specific materials, how they are used, and their intended outcomes may help to refine these points.

  • The bead chains/bead cabinet: Children begin using this material as early as 3 years old.  While the initial purpose is for children to learn to count, during the elementary years that skip counting translates into speedy memorization of multiplication tables.  The transition tends to be fairly smooth, as they’ve already been practicing for years!  Bonus: the same material will help them understand squares and cubes just a little further down the road in their school career.

  • Addition and subtraction strip boards: While a student initially uses these materials to explore the concept of adding and subtracting, they quickly notice patterns and build speed as they gain confidence.  These materials are typically introduced at age 5 or 6.

  • Multiplication and division bead boards: Like the strip boards, these are initially used by students to gain a basic understanding of the concept.  As they master individual facts, they naturally start to create shortcuts for themselves and a trained Montessori teacher will observe that they are ready to move on to more challenging materials.

  • Finger boards: Created for each of the four operations, these materials are essentially wooden versions of the classic fact charts.  Children are slow to fill them in the beginning, but after repeated practice they build speed and accuracy.  Control charts are readily available for immediate feedback, ensuring that even when a child is practicing independently they will be able to know whether they are answering correctly or not.

  • Blackline masters: Montessori teachers have blackline masters, which are essentially paper copies of the finger boards, that are available for children.  Children are expected to complete the material and then record the information on the paper version, thus providing another layer of repetition.  

Room for Improvement?

If there is one area that many math teachers (Montessori and otherwise) could stand to improve upon when it comes to math facts, it would be taking the time to target math fact instruction.  Making sure our students are practicing daily, quickly, and accurately is critical, but might we also help them practice smarter?

Sitting down with each individual child to gather a quick assessment periodically can make a huge difference in progress.  While gathering data in this fashion is time-consuming, we may find it well worth the effort.  Teachers can sit with a child and quickly run through a chart of facts, asking the child for answers orally.  Highlight the facts the child can answer quickly and confidently, leaving the others blank.  Teachers make a copy of this sheet so that the student can keep it to reference.  When it’s time to practice math facts, children can focus on the ones they haven’t yet memorized, rather than eating up time going over the facts they’ve already mastered.

If you are interested in reading more about Dr. Morgan’s work, follow the links to his article and the research findings:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/children-who-struggle/201808/should-us-students-do-more-math-practice-and-drilling

http://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/rbtfl/J2BxFXoAWRPSo/full

Book List: Inspiring Independent Thinkers

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As parents and educators, we want the best for our children.  We want them to be happy, to feel the joy of learning, and to live rich lives.  Many of us value creativity and innovation, and we admire the great thinkers throughout history.  This often leads us to wonder how we might instill similar values in our own children.  How do we cultivate independent thought?  One way to start is by teaching them about people who have changed the world for the better.  Read on for a list of books you might enjoy together. (Click on the book image to go to the book’s page on Amazon)

 

Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives, by Gene Barretta

Thomas Edison was arguably one of the influential inventors of modern times.  Often credited with inventing a refined, marketable version of the incandescent light bulb, he also worked to create batteries, movie cameras, and record players.  This book is geared toward elementary children but could be enjoyed by both younger and older students as well.

 

Darwin and Evolution for Kids, by Kristan Lawson

This multifaceted book covers biographical information related to Darwin beginning with his childhood, but also touches on a variety of content areas including botany, geography, history, and genetics.  This book gives information while also detailing 21 fun explorative activities for kids. 

 

Leonardo da Vinci: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House Merlin Mission #10: Monday with a Mad Genius, by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (fact tracker series)

The Magic Tree House series is wildly popular with older primary and elementary aged students.  While the original series has elements of history blended with fantasy, the fact tracker series is completely nonfiction.  For extra fun, pair this book with Monday with a Mad Genius!  Learn all about the fascinating man that was Leonardo da Vinci.

 

William Shakespeare & the Globe, by Aliki

Beloved author and illustrator Aliki brings us a book to learn about one of the world’s most famous playwrights.  Recommended for children in kindergarten through elementary, this book details the life of Shakespeare through the building of the modern Globe.  This gorgeous book will entertain kids and the adults who read with them.

 

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, by Kay Winters, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

It’s not often that biographies take the time to revel in the childhood of a famous figure.  This book does just that, giving kids a chance to relate to one of the greatest political figures in the history of our nation.  Parents will love that Abe loved books!  The books he read shaped him into the courageous man he became and led him to make decisions that would prove to change the course of history.

 

Who Was Gandhi? by Dana Meachen Rau, illustrated by Jerry Hoare

Long after his death, Gandhi remains a symbol of peace around the world.  Children will learn about his fight against discrimination and attempts to dismantle India’s caste system.  This book is part of a large series of popular biographies for kids, so if your family likes Who Was Gandhi? know that there are plenty more to explore!

 

Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams), by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Frau Isa

Available in hardcover and board book versions, this book appeals to toddlers as much as it does to second graders.  Charming illustrations accompany simple yet informative sentences, with the aim to inspire youngsters to break boundaries and follow their dreams.

 

Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson’s book has received the Coretta Scott King Honor award.  It tells the story of an inspired boy who worked his whole life to create a more just and equitable world for all people.  This is a tale that clearly illustrates the difference one person can make.  We may have to work hard and endure sacrifices, but Mandela persevered and stood firm in his convictions, leaving the world a better place.

 

What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis, illustrated by Phyllis Hornung

Is your child enamored with math, geometry, and solving problems?  This cute book might be just the one for them.  Join young Pythagoras as he considers different ways to solve real problems, and how math can be applied to help the process along.

 

The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin, by Cheryl Harness

Not many people can be expert candle makers, printers, and political activists simultaneously.  Introduce your child to the marvelous Ben Franklin with this factual book that is perfect for kids in grades 2-5.

 

What other famous independent thinkers should be on this list?  Happy reading!