Jeannette Toulemonde – A Lie, Really ? (1969)


This article was published in partnership with the Nascita Montessori Centre of the North and its documentary collection.

(Documentary collection, EV. 1969 – Extract “Le vrai et le faux”, by Jeannette Toulemonde, founder of the CNMN and L’Enfant et la Vie)

What if we think we discover a lie in our child?

“Mom, the mistress said we should bring a roll of tape…”

A little girl would ask her mother something new every day. The mother asked the teacher and learned that she did not require anything of the kind.

She thought about her own attitude towards her daughter and acknowledged that, although she was generous with toys, she did not like to lend her the contents of her drawer: glue, pencils, etc., or buy these items from her at the stationery store.

By hearing the answer ‘no’, the little girl had found a way to acquire these objects, much more interesting for her than toys, and much more constructive.

Behind our children’s ‘lies’, we can often find a mistake on our part. This error is often too much of an influence on the child, forcing him or her to use indirect means to achieve the goal set for him or her internally.

Again, this is a deviation: the child has encountered an obstacle and is moving in another direction. Let us not be an obstacle in our children’s path.

But let us not take for lies all their words which are not true according to us.

The little child is an apprentice.

His mind is exercised, seeks; he can sometimes make mistakes. It is not by taking it back, by scolding it for a so-called lie that we will help it to see clearly.

Let’s help him with a clear atmosphere.

To a 4-year-old boy who says to his friends: “my daddy drives a big truck”, whereas this one is employed at the town hall, for example, we don’t answer naughty little liar; because it’s not on purpose that he has made reality turn sour.

An unconscious fault is not a fault.

He took, as often “his desires for realities”, it is so imposing a big truck! And he wanted his father, whom he loves, to have the pleasure of driving him.

The child always has a reason.

Let us look for this reason every time we see a disorder, a deviation. Even if we haven’t found it, let’s make it the positive atmosphere in which the defect cannot live.

Montessori : the importance of observation


Observation is a very active posture that requires motivation and will, obliges us to restrict our propensity to do.

It also leads us to question our beliefs about education in general, as well as our expectations of this particular child.

This neutral and benevolent view feeds an essential need for the child’s development, who feels under this view, this listening, that he can show himself as he is: under construction. It is also a necessity for the educator. By going to our child’s school, we enlighten our educational and pedagogical choices, in order to support his “creative energy”.

On many occasions, our trained eyes and ears bear witness to the small miracles of a child’s life as a man seeking to become a man.

We have become “observers of humanity”!

Observation of the other: a pillar of Montessori education

I observe the life around me in a floating attention and my gaze stops on Marguerite, three and a half years old, who leaves the activity room and heads towards Pablo, to whom she is close, to reach out to him in order to take place in a circle that is being formed.

He opens the circle and welcomes it.

But I am surprised, because here she is refusing to take the outstretched hand of another person who is quick to integrate her into the circle.

Is it because she knows Maud less or because it wasn’t her initiative?

My questioning is of short duration because barely two seconds pass and Marguerite turns to Maud and, and while she shrugs her shoulders high as when we are depressed, and says no to her with her head with vivacity (two gestures to mime simultaneously in order to understand the complexity of the gesture), she opens a hand (I had not seen that one of the hands was closed), and reveals to her some crafts that she has just done and which are placed there.

A precious asset that does not allow her to respond to the invitation and enter the circle completely.

Marguerite thus gives to understand in silence and with all her body, the reason for her refusal. There is in that moment, in that little girl, an affirmation of herself and an ability to pay attention to the other.

Marguerite’s moral sense, social sense and personal freedom combine to reveal the full promise of her being. All this happened in a short time – not even a minute!

And should this be specified? In a totally non-verbal communication. Who saw it? Me, at least. “Seeing, is a matter of practicing,” recalls Maria Montessori. I can’t get enough of it. This is worth gold while being totally free.

From grandfather to grandson

I listen to Philippe during a friendly meal where we are placed side by side:

“I don’t know why, but things are going well between me and my grandchildren. We talk a lot, they ask me questions on important topics.”

And the conversation is going well with this 65-year-old grandfather who tells me about his childhood history in eastern France, in the heart of a somewhat isolated village.

A little later, in the conversation, he reminds me more precisely of the moments he lived with his grandfather, whom he always knew blind and yet a good walker. And he explains as if he was still there, what was going on between them:

“He laid his hand on my shoulder and we travelled together. What could we do but talk!”

And I, immediately to make a connection, that I can’t help but point out to him:

“Philippe, this beautiful relationship you have with your grandchildren, I know where it comes from!”

All generations combined, the need for communication is in man’s nature and its implementation leaves its mark. Philippe made it a happy and lasting experience.

This makes it more natural for him to be present to his grandchildren who feel it well.

Living human relationships, as was the case during this shared meal, is a privileged opportunity to realize that our stories of yesterday and today are linked and that they have much to teach us.

Autonomy in Montessori Education


The child’s first impulse from birth, and during his formative years, is expressed in an unequivocal word: AU-TO-NO-MY.

And to do so, he demands with force, and always more consciously, activities in which he frees him or herself from the adult. This outcome necessarily involves the exercise of his will, through explorations and learning at his initiative; he gains in concentration, precision and complexity; this is how self-discipline, body, heart and mind, emerges in him.

This is best acquired when the child feels that the authority exercised towards him/her by his/her environment is good and accessible.

Gradually he/she faces the realities of life, he/she consents to the laws of “living together”, he/she honours his/her destiny within the universe to which he/she is open. He/she becomes a free being with dignity.

Montessori: The last word and the notion of autonomy

Celia, 6 years old, wants to have the last word. This is on many, if not all, occasions.

She refuses orders and requests or outbids until she wins her case, leaving them all exhausted.

Could it be her way of expressing, as best she can, this powerful human tendency that drives her, which consists in conquering her autonomy by herself?

This behaviour exceeds Marie-Adèle and Christian, her parents.

Both participating in the Parent-Researcher Workshop, on the theme “Observe to help”, they decide to pay particular attention to this delicate moment of homework every weekend, which begins under tension and ends in noisy discord. 

I encourage them to do so.

At the next meeting we take stock of the past period and I like to hear this beautiful observation-hypothesis-repair from them.

Marie-Adèle and Christian implemented their decision and that is what happened to them.

Rather than leading with “things need to be rigorous with four children” (Celia having three older brothers and sisters), and not without some very legitimate resistance – because they want to honour the law of this school where homework is essential – they nevertheless took the risk of proposing to Celia to choose the time of homework.

They have provided an acceptable framework for respecting the organization of the life of the whole family. Over the weekend, Marie-Adèle fought with herself to avoid getting carried away by the fear that the work would not be done.

Christian, for his part, remembered that he would not remind their daughter of the deal and that he would assist her when she told them that she was going to work. This she did not fail to do with clarity since she had decided: at 6pm on Sundays.

Her father let her start with the material of her choice: poetry; he refrained from drawing the lines with chalk himself as he usually did (and so straight) for writing training; he had to let go when, while she was almost finished, she suddenly needed to take a break!

Finally, she settled down at the dining room table and it was there that she did her last work with appetite, two additions. Satisfied, she went to the meal, which was peaceful.

Rather than lecturing their daughter, these parent researchers received a life lesson from her that could be explained as follows: Being proactive in your own business brings pleasure and creativity to yourself and relaxation to others.

That evening, this little girl freely exercised control over her environment (parents, the relationship to time and space), which was not an outburst, but a constructive affirmation.

She was also a teacher of herself and the last word she knew how to address it to herself by going to the end of a work to which she consented, obeying intelligently the law of others of her own free will.

I have no doubt that older children between the ages of 10 and 17 will also benefit from this courageous and unforgettable experience on the part of their parents.

Family in Montessori Education


Which parent has not found a product with a Montessori stamp? To do what with it?

According to Renilde Montessori, Maria’s granddaughter, it is not desirable to “do Montessori” at home if you think it is a question of recreating the specific atmosphere (prepared by professionals). It is very desirable to do Montessori at home by acting according to the principles of education as an aid to life that is Montessori pedagogy.

The parent’s main mission is to support as closely as possible this vital impulse that animates the child, where all this fragile and powerful human potential resides.

Is he not very well placed, the one who accompanies this child, this young man day and night during this long period of training?

He has the power to open it to the universe so that it has the keys to use it, to foster an experience of peace in the relationships forged between them, to intervene of course every time he gets lost, to witness by his own life to the essential in relation to the futile!

Living the Montessori proposal at home is free and for everyone! It is a way of being present to oneself and to the child.

This very serious path can give humanity a happy future and the joy of being that parent there with that child in today’s world.

The Importance of the Family and Parents in Montessori Education

I have been with Priscilla for eight months and she has been asking me questions live during our Skype or live appointments or by email:

  • Which low bed should I choose?
  • How wide should it be?
  • What shape?
  • Do we need colour, patterns?
  • Won’t Nina (two and a half years old) bump into the furniture at night?
  • Will she find a “real” Montessori atmosphere in the school where I enrolled her from birth?
  • Does she suffer from our three moves when I now know that she needs order to build herself?
  • I yelled at Nina, I come back to this moment very often, not her, I feel guilty, will she forgive me?
  • Etc.

There are questions and doubts when you are a young parent. I can understand it, I too have loved being enlightened in this intense period of life.

Keep common sense, choose simplicity, get enough sleep, structure space and time, dare silence rather than force the expression of feelings, surround yourself well, think for yourself, etc.

These are attitudes that this solo mother is gradually discovering.

The proof is when, after many reversals that I am accompanying, she finally cancels her daughter’s enrolment in the so-called Montessori school so much planned, a few days before the start of the part-time school year.

She decides that she wants her to stay in the nursery for a while longer, where she is finally quite well, why undo her? She plans to start school at the age of three, in a school near her new home, a school that I feel good about, she told me after meeting two schools.

On this occasion I have proof that Priscilla is dealing with reality; moreover, she reveals that she no longer has the budget, that she does not have a permit and that she now lives forty-five minutes on foot from this dream place without serious public transit. Why keep it simple when you can make it complicated?

Priscilla knew how to put her ideal and the diktat who would like in certain circles, that there should only be Montessori for recourse; here she is able to assume the consequences of this choice. The relaxation provided by this decision immediately allows Nina to enjoy a certain peace at home without waiting, isn’t that a way to approach the Montessori proposal, among others, and without waiting.

By going to reality, this courageous and searching mother did not let go of her aspirations and intuitions.

She’s on her way and Nina doesn’t want another one.

Educating twins while respecting their autonomy


For this post, I will deviate a little from Montessori pedagogy as such, but still in the field of education. With a subject that is dear to me, that of twins and their autonomy, since I myself have a twin sister.

True or false twins, what’s the difference?

Identical (monozygotic) twins are from the same egg and have grown together in utero, inside the same nest. They are therefore genetically identical. The fetuses of identical twins develop within the same placenta and are of the same sex. 

They look the same as two drops of water but do not have the same measurements: one of them is often bigger than the other. 

The fraternal twins (dizygotes) come from two different eggs.

They are genetically different because they are the result of two different fertilizations. They are not necessarily of the same sex and may not look alike.

The complicity of the twins

Twin fetuses have always shared everything, the nest and all the vibrations that come to them from the outside. They also hear the beating of their mutual hearts.

For them, life has always been double and during early and early childhood, many twins are surprised not to be the “normality”, because for them all children are raised in pairs. 

Why are their ties so strong?

Mothers of two twins cannot fulfill their two children at the same time. The gaps they create when they are not there or when they are busy with another child, the twins fill them mutually.

They are a presence, “the double” protector. As twins we never really feel alone, at least during early childhood… And the habit is quickly taken of systematically counting towards each other.

Are they “identical”?

Twins may look the same physically, but they have two distinct personalities that should normally assert themselves over the years. 

A pair of twins is a true duo in which each is complementary to the other. It is therefore not uncommon to see one or the other twin exercising a certain dominance over his brother or sister: the one who was born first, the one who is the strongest, the tallest or the one who was the tallest at birth… 

Twins, identical or false, of the same or different sexes, therefore have their own identity, which must be respected. 

Encourage them to assert themselves individually!

About clothing: Should I dress them in the same clothes? My answer would be: NO, don’t dress them the same way. Especially when it comes to identical twins. Obviously for you as a mother, it is easier for you to buy several identical T-Shirts, pants, dresses etc… at the same time… in this case, vary the colors, shapes….. 

You don’t have to ask them for their opinion before they are mature, because it’s a responsibility that doesn’t necessarily help them. They will make choices later, when they are more confident of their own tastes!

It is true that many mothers, starting with my own mother, were to enhance us by dressing in the same way, always walking next to each other, etc… and to “play” with our similarity. 

Of course, in our early childhood we found it worth it. As children, we were fascinated by each other by our similarity, we sometimes made each other look like each other. In the end, we were a kind of mirror from which it was difficult to turn away! 

I understand that you may find it “appealing to see twins dressed like that”, but the problem of identical clothing choice reinforces the impression that twins are one and are one. This may delay the acquisition of their independence and their own personality. 

(I would like to reassure you, today at the age of 49, with my sister we are indeed independent and each have our own personality) 

This is why it is necessary from the beginning, to try to “separate” your twins little by little, by simple and daily habits…

Do twins suffer from being “separated”?

Of course, as twins we love and demand the presence of our brother or sister! So it is not a question of not frustrating them or making them suffer!

Very often, parents who are afraid to “separate” them and hurry to reunite them at the slightest cry are mistaken. They project their own desire to have a constant double.

I hope that these reflections from my experience will be useful to you.

Child development from 0 to 6 years of age


As I promised you, I am now focusing on the first development plan, i.e. on the characteristics and needs of children from 0 to 6 years old.

Characteristics of the child from 0 to 6 years old


Maria Montessori named the child in the foreground “Moebelkind” or “the child – furniture”: for her the starting point of her discoveries is the adaptation of the furniture to the size and strength of the child to free her movement. A child needs to have both feet on the ground to access concentration, to be able to reveal his true nature.

A vulnerable being

The child in the foreground is a vulnerable, sensitive being who must be welcomed in humanity.

He needs order and attention.

A being of communication and language

A baby is a great communicator, he needs to be caught up in a language relationship to develop. Language and gestures are part of the child’s psychic food. 

An observer

The child is a passionate explorer. He needs to exercise his movement to explore. 

He’s a sensory explorer. Everything he apprehends from the world around him goes through his senses. The first organ of discovery is the mouth. From the moment he can sit down, he detaches himself from the ground, the hand is released and takes over to explore by manipulating. Through the senses he builds his inner world. 

He also needs to repeat his experiences to build his psychological and physical life. 

Responding to needs through appropriate environments

To meet these needs, the specific approach of Montessori pedagogy, as we have seen, is to provide adapted environments, known as “prepared environments”. There are 4 environments for the first development plan:

– The home (and yes! it is too often forgotten): from birth to 5-6 months

– The Nido: from 3 months until the guaranteed walk. The assured walk also corresponds to the acquisition of the clamp with the opposite thumb and the first intentional words. It is a real development stage. 

– The children’s community: from walking to 2.5 to 3 years old 

– The children’s house: from 2 and a half years old / 3 to 6 years old

These environments have common characteristics:

Order. Every object, every being has its place and order. The child withdraws his security from order and orientation
Motives for activities = psychic food. These reasons constitute the possibility of work. 
Sensory stimulation tailored to the child’s needs.

They also have differences, which I will come back to later.

Adults are also part of the “environment”

The adult attitude (it is one of my favourite subjects, and I will often come back to it on this blog), must also be adapted, and different at each step:

At the Nido

  • Observation. From birth to safe walking, the adult must observe the child with particular attention. This look helps to support the child’s activity. Observation is part of a search for the child’s new faculties.
  • Attention. He needs to share, to be nourished by the relationship, which allows him to be more and more autonomous by keeping the good memory of the relationship. 
  • Intent. The gestures and the way of speaking to a child are very important because children are very sensitive and certainly perceive intention before meaning. 

To the Children’s Community

  • Observation
  • Attention = COLLABORATION. Adults should never do anything without a child. The child is encouraged to participate in all tasks in the community and at home. Autonomy develops through scaffolding. Any object offered to the child is presented, because the culture is TRANSMITTED. This transmission is formal or informal (the child observes). 
  • Maximum effort. The little child is a hard worker. The adult must provide him with opportunities for maximum effort: carrying furniture and other heavy things builds trust in the child, and shows that with effort, the world belongs to him. 

At the Children’s House

  • Observation
  • Providing an environment that allows sensory experiences, activities with a defined purpose, access to writing and reading in different languages (mathematics, language, music)

So much for the general attitude … but when and how to intervene with the child? This is a big question if we do not want to hinder its development, as Maria Montessori says.

That’s why in the next post, I’ll talk to you about sensitive periods.

The 4 Stages of Development of Human Babies


Before going into the concrete aspects of accompanying young children, I would like to recall some of the founding elements of Montessori pedagogy. Some people think that Montessori is above all equipment, activities adapted to children.

But for me, the most important thing beyond the equipment is the way we look at the child. Before proposing things to a child, you must observe him, look at him to better understand what his real needs are. And in this observation, Maria Montessori helps us a lot.

A child’s development takes place in successive jumps

Maria Montessori’s vision of education, which I share, is above all education as an “aid to life”, an education that takes into account the fundamental needs of the child at different stages of his or her development. For Montessori (and others!), life is not linear.

It is experiences that make it possible to grow, to evolve and not the passing of time. The child develops in successive jumps. It goes through periods during which characters will develop, mature and then give birth to a different personality. She talks about birth and rebirth. 

The 4 child development stages

To better understand her reasoning, Maria Montessori developed a complete vision of these steps, which she named the 4 development stages. These 4 stages can be found in other authors: Piaget, Freud. 

The 4 development stages is a psychological approach to child development, for the educator or even for the parents a guide for the children, since it is from the knowledge of these periods that we will prepare an environment adapted to the child.

Some of you may already know them, but I think it would be useful to remind you of them.

  1. 1st development stage, from birth to 6 years of age: early childhood
  2. 2nd development stage, from 6 to 12 years old: childhood
  3. 3rd development stage, from 12 to 18 years old: adolescence
  4. 4th development stage, from 18 to 24 years old: maturity

In each stage there are 2 phases: 

  • A creative, progressive phase
  • A phase of maturation, character confirmation, refinement

Indeed, the child needs time off to integrate, digest, metabolize what he has observed, absorbed. It cannot always be active. Excessive stimulation causes overexcitement, frustration, uneasiness. 

Understanding child development

Maria Montessori has developed a dynamic diagram of these development stages, which makes it possible to better understand, beyond their succession, the specificities of each stage and how they relate to each other. It is the famous schema of the “bulb”, which presents the importance of the 1st development stage (the one that is the subject of this blog), in particular because it also formalizes prenatal life.


On this diagram we have 3 colors. Black is unconscious construction, black metaphorically evokes the fact that development is very hidden, invisible to the naked eye. Red is the visible construction, intense period. Green represents a more peaceful development.

The X is the unknown, to symbolize that there will always be a part of the unknown in humanity. 

The bottom graph represents traditional education, and shows that it does not take into account the characteristics of children at different periods of their lives, since they begin at 6 years of age, and that the older they grow, the more they have to learn. 

Maria Montessori started the connections with the educational system on the Bulb at the nursery school. She indicates the names of the great educators associated with each structure, since the adult’s role is to build this favourable environment. 

The environment must adapt to the child at each period, so that the child who has become an adult is able to adapt and act on his environment when he has become mature. Indeed, even if the child has in him from birth a certain equipment, an inner strength that will allow him to build himself, it is not enough, he needs a favourable environment that will allow him to develop this strength, an environment in which a child can make experiences that will nourish him. 

In the next post, I will come back to the first development stage in more detail. See you soon!