Graciela Quesnel

Montessori Nautilus

Today I’m finally writing about what I’ve been up to since school has begun for my youngest daughter, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to exchange some work for her tuition, which I couldn’t possibly afford at present. Let me tell you a bit about Graciela and her wonderful school:

This is Graciela Quesnel, playing an excerpt from “The Prophet Bird”

“El pájaro profeta” by Schumann

She runs the “Montessori Nautilus” school, and thanks to her both of my girls have been blessed with an education we could only have dreamed of.

When my oldest daughter started school I was very reluctant to send her off because I wanted to raise her up all by myself. I could not understand why I was being forced to have someone else educate her. I was worried that whomever that person would be, might not share our values, nor respect or understand them. And quite happily for us we came in contact with Graciela just one year after she had started kindergarten.

A picture of my daughter when she was 5, holding a Halloween vampire plushie.

My oldest daughter around the time when she started school.

My worries were soon replaced with a very deep feeling of gratitude and appreciation that only seems to increase as time goes by. Attending Graciela’s school has given my oldest daughter such valuable lessons and tools for life that I would not have been able to give her all alone. There is so much more than only education involved in raising a wholesome child and I hope my limited command of the English language conveys clearly what I’m attempting to say.

Picture of my daughter's school generation while at a visit to a near by greenhouse

This photo is right next to the school’s telephone, my oldest daughter is the last in the line, thus you can only see her coat, and Graciela is holding a child’s arms up. She seems to always be smiling and is full of energy!

I had hoped since childhood that when I had children they would attend a Montessori school (because I was in one for two years) But everything else I hoped for as a parent for my children, all those feelings I could hardly put my finger on to or put into words are even more important. Like having someone really see and perceive this precious child as I would, or address her feelings and thoughts at least close to the way I would. But when I’m getting everything and more than I was expecting and wishing for, then life actually makes sense in a grandiose and pristine manner!

(And most of the time it needs not be put in as many words as I have used here!)

Here’s a little tour of the school:

View from the school's entrance to the garden, you can see part of the mural on the ceiling.

Mural of a prehistoric ocean on the ceiling of a Montessori school's porch

Mural of a prehistoric ocean on the ceiling of a Montessori school's entrance

Another part of the mural of a prehistoric ocean hidden in the porch's ceiling

Mural that depicts a prehistoric ocean, this picture shows the bit right above the entrance.

This is a mural depicting a prehistoric ocean that you can only see once you’ve reached the school’s main entrance. I can’t help to gaze at it every time I walk by it!

three girls practice on their flutes on the school's porch

Right under the mural are 3 wooden benches and a couple chairs. These girls were practicing flute after having lunch.

A view of the school's garden

This is a view of the garden, there are some games like monkey bars, a slide, a roundabout, fruit trees, an orchard that the children tend to way at the back, and an area where the dogs are kept during school hours, right by a swing made with a huge tire (that’s one of my youngest’s favorite places).

A view from the entrance of the "workshop one" classroom all the way to the kitchen.

This is a view from the entrance of “Workshop 1” and you can see all the way into the kitchen. The Montessori classrooms are very different to the traditional classrooms. The children 3 – 6 years old are in a classroom called “Children’s house”, 6 – 9 years old in “Workshop 1” and 9 – 12 in “Workshop 2”

Picture of an armchair on a Montessori classroom/environment in "Children's house" overlooking the fish tank

This is an armchair in “Children’s house”, overlooking a fish tank.

Hammering, assembling material, tangram, tracing shapes, finger paints

And these are the shelves seen behind the armchair. There are  materials for hammering, assembling, there’s a tangram and fingerpaints among many others.

A beautiful brass set of pictcher and bowl for small children to wash their hands with in the Montessori school's environment "Children's House"

I keep wanting to call this an ewer or aguamanil in Spanish, I just love how that Spanish word sounds. And it’s used precisely for children to wash their hands, one of them pours water while the other one washes his/her hands over the copper bowl.

Shelves full of different materials, the Montessori learning material is designed to be very attractive

These are shelves in Workshop 1, the Montessori material is designed to be very attractive, For example the basket on the first shelf has miniature shoes:

Pictures of miniature shoes lined up with word cards to their right describing several aspects of each shoe, the miniatures are truly gorgeous. This is a vocabulary/grammar excersise.

Picture of a child’s work for a vocabulary excersise in Workshop 1

The cards to the right describe different aspects of each shoe and the child learns the name of each part of the sentence and its attributes in an active way.

A tray with seed samples in Workshop 2

This is a wooden tray with different seed samples.

These are to learn mathematical divisions, I attended Workshop 1 for 2 years when I was in elementary school and have always wanted to learn how to use them!

These are “The test tubes”, it’s a material to learn mathematical divisions, I so wanted to learn how to use them when I was a child! But I didn’t know how to multiply back then :D

Montessori material designed to teach length and width, probably colours as well

These are the cylinders, they are designed to teach depth, width, length as far as I know at this time.

Montessori material to learn width, thickness, size and probably colours, these are the yellow cylinders.Montessori material to learn width, thickness, size and probably colours, these are the blue cylinders.

Montessori material to learn width, thickness, size and probably colours, these are the red cylinders.Montessori material to learn width, thickness, size and probably colours, these are the green cylinders.

Montessori material to learn width, length and heightMontessori material to learn width, height and depth, this is a skinny and long one

Montessori material to learn width, height and depth, this is a short and wide oneMontessori material to learn width, height and depth, this one is long and thick

The pictures underneath are mathematic material at Children’s House

These are for everyday life, to learn how to button up and unbutton, how to tie up laces and buckle up, and to the right on the floor there are a tiny bucket, brooms and a mop.

Material to learn how to fasten laces, button and unbutton, buckle up and next to them on the floor there are a tiny bucket, broom and mop

Below is a reading circle at Children’s House. They set their tiny chairs up in a circle and listen to a book being read out loud while looking at the pictures in it and sometimes Graciela sings them a song with a story and they sing along with her.

Reading circle at Children's House. They set their tiny chairs up in a circle and listen to a book being read out loud while looking at the pictures in it and some of them also have songs to go along them.

This is Workshop two, can you make out the piano in the back next to the window?

picture of the workshop 2 classroom, can you see the piano all the way in the back, next to the window?

It’s wonderful to listen to Graciela playing piano throughout the morning, she teaches the children that want to learn, the songs they choose. My oldest daughter was learning Gymnopedie 1 by Erik Satié.

This is Graciela practicing a song with Itzel:

Graciela hired a principal so she could spend all of her time with the children, which is where she wants to be. She’s usually very busy, if you notice in the video a little girl came looking for her and she quickly – and shortly – left to tend to her. On the day I was filming, Workshop 2 was leaving on a camping trip and she was in a bit of a hurry, but she still made some time for me! :) It’s great to be at the school and around her, I’m really happy that my youngest gets to attend her school now. These are some pictures of my youngest that I took while she was eating lunch. I was hiding behind a wooden toy truck on a bookshelf in the library.

My youngest seen from the library, I was sneaking up on her since she's not supposed to "see" me during school hours!My youngest seen from the library during her lunch time, I was sneaking up on her since she's not supposed to "see" me during school hours!sneaking up on my youngest while she's having lunch

My oldest daughter loves to visit when she has a day off at her own school, there are still some children left that were attending at the same time she was. They will be graduating in just a few weeks! These are some pictures of my daughter and David that they took during one of her visits:

Nitai and Luis

Reflected in the mirror is Fabi, one of the girls my daughter was fast friends with while she was in this school. That is just another important thing that makes sense to me, the age difference, they get to know children of different age groups and learn how to interact with each other. It seems only natural as opposed to only having friends and acquaintances of your same age group.

My oldest and Luis making 'wait, what?' faces

Here they were making “wait… what?” faces. If you notice behind them is a sink to wash the plates and mugs they use during lunch hour.

heating up lunch, in a real stove, in a real kitchen, a real meal more than a lunch

These are some kids from Workshop 2 heating up their lunch, these kids eat a real hot meal and not a “lunch,” on real plates, and in a wonderful environment. The next picture is a detail of the first one,

They have a real stove to heat up their lunch on.

the older kids heat up their own lunch and take turns cleaning up the kitchen after lunch. The young ones have an adult heat it up for them. The fruit-flavored water that they drink with their lunch is made at the school (by the kids) and often there’s also fresh fruit that Graciela brings for the entire school and the kids cut it and sort it into plates for everyone, under adult supervision.

Workshop 2 during lunch timeI had my lunch with Workshop 2 a few days ago and Graciela read us the beginning of a really nice book while we were eating! I loved it! :D

This is the other mug I like looking at, it's really tiny and has a big red flower that looks like a poppy and many yellow flowers and tiny blue flowersThere are two enameled mugs in the kitchen and that like to look at, this one has a scene with sheep.

These are some things that I always notice when I’m around the kitchen, because I find them cute. There are lots of interesting things to look at, these are some at the library:

Folk wooden tureen shaped like a bird, it has cups hanging from its rim.

This is on top of the highest shelf, the wooden bird is a tureen, it has wooden mugs hanging from its rim.

This miniatures are delightful! They're made by the people who build the real life sized ones. They are typical of Morelos State and are as tall as a house, they're used to store harvested grains

These are miniature cuexcomates, they’re in the library and are true beauties, I was very lucky to  have watched a class learning how to build these miniatures a long time ago. They are endemic to Morelos State. There is a larger version of one at Jardin Borda, you can see a picture of it on this post: Lenten Season

I believe that I have so much to say about the school, the time I spend there and the things I’m learning that I will start a stand alone page for it.

However, if you feel like looking at more pictures and reading a little more about it I’ve uploaded some more to my flickr account:

Click to see the set of Montessori Nautilus pictures on flickr

If you would like to read Graciela’s thesis click on this line. (It’s in Spanish)

And this is a link to the school’s website.

I hope to hear your thoughts in the comments section!  :)

Also posted in appreciation, Blog, environment, garden, gratitude, how to, life, México, Montessori, Montessori method, Montessori Nautilus, Passions, piano lessons, school, school years, Schumann | 2 Comments