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1836 W. Grand Arbor Circle
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
United States

605-271-9945

Bringing Montessori to the iPhone and iPad.

Blog

Blog: Inside Montessorium

My mother would have loved the iPad

Angie Leinen

“Bilingual” has been a buzzword for families, schools, and quite a few of us entering the work force for some time now. It seems the world is changing, becoming smaller and more intimate, bringing us closer to one another than ever before, which also precipitates a new skill set. Namely, learning another language.

The task seems daunting, especially for those of us who hail from the solidly English speaking region of northern Minnesota. It’s entirely possible, however, to share an appreciation, passion, and love of language learning with your child, even if you’re not a native speaker of a second language.

I’d love to share a few anecdotes from my own childhood, as well as observations based on my recent experience developing a children’s app in both Spanish and English. The app is called Intro to United States, by Montessorium. The lessons from childhood fall under the category of “my mother”.

I grew up in a very northern European household. Enjoying a plate of lefse wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, and my grandmother was known to use some choice German words when she was upset. However, as I began my journey through school, my mother became determined that I learn Spanish. Her enthusiasm must have been effective, as I later went on to finish a degree in Hispanic Studies, travel through quite a few Spanish-speaking countries, and work as a translator. 

Here are a few of her tricks. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in front of your child. My mother wasn’t very good at Spanish, and I took every opportunity to correct her, which in turn helped me practice.
  2. Find a native speaker to help. Even in our small town, we were able to find a lovely Honduran woman willing to assist a young linguist. In fact, those lessons developed into a sort of club at the elementary school!
  3. Incorporate the language wherever possible at home. We often listened to Spanish music, stuck Spanish labels around the house, for example on “el horno” or “la leche”, and found Spanish children’s programs on TV.
  4. Use the opportunity to learn together. Mom would often ask me to translate a sign or help with a word she wasn’t familiar with. If I didn’t know, we’d usually grab a dictionary or track down a translation online together. 

Recently, while working on the geography app that helps children learn the state names, shapes, and animals in both Spanish and English, I was reminded of these lessons in language learning from childhood.

At first, I imagined Intro to United States would be utilized by both English and Spanish speakers in bilingual homes, but I never realized the potential for children of non-native speakers. You see, just as my mother discovered, there’s plenty of possibility to incorporate a second language, even if it’s not spoken in the home.

The beautiful visuals, easy to navigate activities, and encouraging voiceover of Intro to United States all provide a positive and engaging experience for early language learners. 

I’m pretty sure if the iPad was around when I was growing up, my mother would have loved it.

Written by Angie Leinen, project lead at Montessorium.

Reflections

Angie Leinen

This week, as we announce an investment of up to $1 million in our company, we’d like to take a minute to reflect on the journey of the past 5 years. Because, let’s be honest, we weren’t quite sure we’d make it to today, but here we are: thriving.

We made a commitment to get in the game when we opened the first accredited Montessori in the state of South Dakota, in 2007; and later, when we started an educational app company, called Montessorium, in 2010.

When the traditionalists threatened to dis-accredit our school for our involvement with the apps, we received a personal note from Steve Jobs, who inspired:

“Don’t be discouraged by the traditionalists. The parents and kids will prove you right. Just keep going!”

Ever since, that’s been our modus operandi - to just keep going. We’re passionate about taking the unique lessons of Montessori, and trying to disseminate them to a new generation of learners, on these “magic and revolutionary” new devices.

We’ve just received a significant investment to help us grow Montessorium. We’ll still be able to reach a global audience, but this investment will help us keep things local. 

We’re not an app company. We’re a team of passionate educators, developers and designers, committed to helping children learn. Quite honestly, we just feel lucky to be a part of the conversation.

So here’s looking forward to the next five years. We can’t wait to get started.

The choices we make

Angie Leinen

We're constantly making choices. They range from the mundane, "What should I wear today?", to life-altering, "Should I move to France?". While at times too many choices can be disabling, often they give us a chance to customize our daily experiences and follow our interests. 

Maria Montessori observed that children, too, enjoy having choices. In fact, one of her best known quotes is, "Follow the child." At Montessorium, we design our apps with just that thought in mind, namely, creating experiences for children to follow their interests, wherever they may lead. 

In our newest geography apps, Intro to United States and Intro to Geography: World Edition, you get to make the choice of how many states or countries you'd like to work with at one time. We'd love to dive a bit deeper into the why's and how's of this feature.

Personalization

To personalize your app, head to "Settings" in the parent portal, where you can change how many countries or states you'd like to work with at one time. Choose 3, 6, 9, or 12, depending on how ambitious you feel!  (Just a note, the default is 6, and progress is lost when changing difficulty settings.) It's the perfect opportunity, if your child has completed the app, to return to it with a new focus. "This time, I want to try it with 9 countries!".

A Challenge

Every child learns at their own pace and can decide what he or she feels comfortable with. Changing the sets of countries is a way for your child to challenge themselves without undue pressure or intimidation. We've heard from one parent about his son's preferences: "My son already finished it all and asked me to turn up the difficulty to sets of 12."

Concentration

As a parent, you are the best judge of a good starting point for your child. Have you observed that he or she enjoys a challenge from the get-go? Perhaps start the app with 9 states. If your child is younger, or prefers to acclimate himself or herself to an experience before diving in the deep end, try 3 states at a time. In this way, the app grows with your child. Customizing the state sets is a great way for your child to fully concentrate on the tasks at hand without getting frustrated or fatigued.

There's nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment. As your child journeys through our two newest geography apps, our wager is that they'll return again and again to challenge themselves, gain a sense of independence through exploration, and be completely engaged by the "You did it" mentality.