Another Great Year

So another year will conclude with our annual Ice Cream Social Thursday. This is a busy time of year as graduation and end of year activities happen and student photo and work portfolios are sent home. It is also a time to reflect. I am blessed to have some of the best, most hard working teachers and families.

We have been privileged to be part of our toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners  journey of discovery. We laughed, cried, danced, played and observed our children learn, grow and thrive.

While each day brings new challenges and opportunities, every year brings joys, challenges and our team's own journey of self discovery. Every year brings hope, excitement and possibility.

Bring on the new year!

Unnecessary Help

We are going through re-enrollment right now. While it is a busy time of year sorting out returning students and helping enroll new ones, it is also a time to reflect on the year so far. 

We are fortunate to have two toddler classrooms with children anywhere from 12 months to 33 months. Maria Montessori believed in the power of the mixed age group and as educators, the faculty and I witness the benefits on a daily basis. At any given time there will be ample opportunity to assist children in self-help skills, lessons, conflict resolution and many other tasks. 

As the day unfolds, children are working independently or together. Then there are times when they need help. 'Help' is an interesting term. While one may think what they are offering is help, it may not actually be beneficial. You may ask, "How can helping not be helpful?" Perhaps when we feel the child is not prepared to do something for themselves or it might be easier to just do something for them. When we are not allowing the child opportunity to come to their own conclusion, help can actually be a hindrance.

Recently, one of my teachers presented me with this article from the Center for Montessori Teacher's Education/NY,, Please read on for simple ways to help children- 

“Any unnecessary help given to a child is a hindrance to development”  -Maria Montessori

Guidelines for Giving Necessary Help:

1.      Entice the child with slow, calm movements (vs. overly enthusiastic or exaggerated movements.)

2.      Watch child’s eyes as the child leads with the eyes before the hands.

3.      Be observant of the tiniest movements indicating interest toward the activity (a tiny finger poking forward.)

4.      Wait and give the child time to participate.

5.      Be observant of yourself and the child so that you will be able to move in and out of a child’s energy field without disrupting it. (We do not want to overwhelm a child with our presence.) Montessori stated that we should not substitute our personality for the child’s.

If you will consciously practice the above skills, you will increase your sensitivity and be more aware of when to help and when not to help. The child is then free to grow in independence and self-awareness.

Credit: Center for Montessori Teacher’s Education/NY

111 Year of Montessori Education!

February 25th through March 2nd of this year marks another Montessori Education week. This is a national week of recognition for this timely, amazing, "whole child" philosophy. Maria Montessori's great work and contributions to children's care and education are one focus. It is also an opportunity to dispel some misconceptions and highlight positives during new family tours, our Face Book posts and family nights.

Classrooms allow for freedom of movement not a "free for all." Children have a choice of materials to work with as long as they are being respectful. Children also follow a schedule throughout the day, a guideline that can change depending on the schedule and needs of the children. Often times, especially for toddlers, the daily schedule and routines become the curriculum. Concentration, problem solving, resolving conflict and just having fun are only part of what happens in a typical day. Skills we take for granted are being honed each day a child is in his or her classroom or outside in their play area.

Practicing the principle of "freedom within limits", Montessori schools inspire children to work at their own pace, alone or with others. Trained, certified Montessori teachers encourage the growth of self-motivated, independent children by balancing active, self-directed learning with small group collaboration and peer teaching. Classes are comprised of a range of ages and abilities. Older children take on the role of peer mentors, reinforcing their own skills and experiencing the responsibilities of leadership through helping others. Younger children revel in the attention and focus from the older children. Everyone learns to respect each other in a warm atmosphere of acceptance and joy.

Perhaps the hands-on materials, many designed by Maria Montessori herself and placed at the children's level in a specially prepared environment is the common denominator to all Montessori schools. Materials have a control of error built into their design (self-correcting). Children can see and learn from their own mistakes without a teacher pointing it out. This is one of the many ways a Montessori classroom fosters independence.

As the team of terrific educators and I prepare for the week, I can't help but be reminded of the importance of fostering independence but also the lifelong love of learning. It is when we do this that we transform the child into the world well equipped. Go Montessori go!

 

'Tis the Season

Here we are, the last month of the year. I am reminded of the John Lennon Song, "Happy Christmas".  Mr. Lennon sings, "So this is Christmas and what have you done?" The lyric reminds me to reflect on another school year. 

As every year, we are a busy group of educators and families. So much to do that we need to make sure to slow down and take in the special moments of accomplishment and pride. Take time to smile, play and learn and give back. It may seem like the same thing each year, but it changes based on the students and we love it.

We celebrated our thirteenth year, recognized as a top school on Cape Cod. This is the second time in three years we have received this honor and we couldn't be more grateful and proud. Without our fabulous families and faculty, we would just be a building instead of home. An establishment instead of a community. To be able to be a part of the lives of so many is a gift all of us here gladly accept.

This past year has seen us welcome new faces and say farewell to others, which is the natural order of things. If only every student could stay...but time changes everything.

So as we say farewell to 2017, we say goodbye to all the fun, inspiration, challenges, joy and laughter the year could muster and look forward to all 2018 has to offer!! 

No matter how you celebrate the beauty of the season, we wish you joy, peace and prosperity!

Kathy, Jen, Jennifer, Cara, Gretchen, Susan, Kathleen

 

Peace Be With You

Our Pre School and Kindergarten just commemorated World Peace Day last Thursday. It got me thinking that Montessori curriculum stresses peace and even 100 years after Maria Montessori put her curriculum into practice, this concept is still so relevant and timeless. 

Will we ever have peace? I tend to think we will always live in a world without true peace. If this will continue to be the norm, then I love that the Montessori method provides an exception. Peace begins at home and the classroom becomes an extension of that through the respect provided to the children, each other and the classroom environment. The goal is to have everyone work together as a child develops, so the child progresses.

In a Montessori classroom, children are taught important executive function skills like; how to wait, how to watch, how to interrupt politely, how to take care of their belongings and the classroom, how to plan, and how to solve conflicts peacefully. This focus provides opportunity for perseverance and tolerance.

Last Thursday, as I watched the children sing and sign, "Light a Candle for Peace", I was struck by their excitement and innocence. There is a level of trust that knows no boundaries. It is up to us to stoke that trust, creating a solid foundation that can lead the children to perhaps, a different, better outcome. If the children are our future, then it is up to us to give them the tools to be successful and peacefully prosper toward adulthood.

As Maria Montessori said, “This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them as to a single centre. Mothers, fathers, politicians: all must combine in their respect and help for this delicate work of formation, which the little child carries on in the depth of a profound psychological mystery, under the tutelage of an inner guide. This is the bright new hope for mankind.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 15)

Wishing you all "Peace"-

Kathy :)

Bubbles-Bubbles!

It has been awhile. Winter melted into spring and as I write this, summer is passing by. One thing I have found is a constant with our children, and perhaps your own is the excitement of bubbles. Chasing them, catching them, popping them and ultimately, blowing them. Something we take for granted, is a skill set so vast I had to write about this powerful right of childhood.

Got to thinking about a picture I posted onto our Face Book page, showing a toddler blowing bubbles with a straw in a plastic cup. If I had shown a followup picture, you would have seen the immense joy and pride that came with being able to master this task. This boy and a friend started blowing bubbles and were quickly joined by the rest of the class. As I watched each child, it occurred to me how much is involved in doing this and how much a child gains by being exposed to bubbles. Don't believe me? Read on-

You can start exposing children to the joys of bubbles when they are infants. They can track the movement of the bubbles to develop visual discrimination and focus. Babies can build body strength during mat time by holding themselves up to look and follow the bubbles as they float and land. 

As children get older, start to crawl then walk and run, bubbles provide opportunities to build muscles. So many opportunities to develop muscle tone and balance. Every time a child stops, changes direction, jumps up and so on, they are building muscles and coordination. Eventually they will want to hold a wand or tool to practice blowing their own bubbles. This will help develop fine motor skills which will aid in writing and drawing.

Other skills developed include building facial muscles by practicing blowing which aids in language development. Practicing saying words like, bubble, blow, big, small, up, over, down, etc.. give the child opportunities for speech development. Following directions is another skill learned.  Learning where their body is in relation to the world around them is also a critical skill(spatial awareness). 

Who knew when you picked up that bottle of soapy liquid from the store and started making bubbles, you were also making ample opportunities for your little one to learn and grow? Why not pick up some bubbles today and get "blown away" with the results!

Happy summer!

Celebrating Montessori Education Week - Here's to Montessori!

The last week of February brings Montessori Education Week and celebrating a wonderful, empowering philosophy for children and their families. Enjoy the following blog,  highlighting the positives of Montessori, especially how important it is for the third year (kindergarten) student:

Student-teacher ratios are a hot topic when it comes to choosing the right school for your child. Most people assume low ratio is good, and high ratio is bad. This is not necessarily the case. Yes, when putting your child in a traditional classroom setting the ideal is to have a low student-to-teacher ratio. 

This will make it more likely your child gets much deserved individual attention, and his needs aren’t simply lost in a sea of students.  In a traditional setting, more students can mean more chaos, and therefore more of the teacher’s time being spent on classroom management than learning.

But in a Montessori school, things are a bit different. Montessori classes for children above the infant and toddler level might include 20-30 students whose ages span three years. All members of the classroom “community” benefit from this set-up. Older students are proud to act as role models; younger ones feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead.  Part of the reason this approach works so well is because of Dr. Montessori’s design of the classroom environment. Materials are stored on open shelves in a very specific arrangement.  Children are free to choose their “work” independently at any time for however long it takes them to complete their task.  Traditional schools assume the teacher is the sole source of instruction, leading large groups of children doing the same thing at the same time and frequently within scheduled time limits. In a Montessori classroom, the guide instructs each child individually. After instruction, students may repeat their task independently at any time.  

So how does the guide/teacher manage to instruct everyone individually and still cover important material? This is where the benefits of a multi-age classroom come to play.  Dr. Montessori observed the best teacher of a three-year-old is often an older child. This process is good for both the “tutor” and the younger child. In this situation, the teacher is not the main focus. The larger group size of a Montessori classroom is engaged in a different manner than a traditional one and puts the focus less on the adult and encourages children to learn from each other. The “tutor” becomes the leader.

Think about this; the child able to complete their third year as a Montessori kindergartener will never be in this position again. They are the true leaders of the classroom. Once they move on to a new school, they are part of the same age group (traditional) or youngest in a new group (Montessori).

As mentioned earlier, students are not expected to do each task in unison and on the same schedule. The nature of exploration, open layout and individualized nature of Montessori education actually makes higher numbers more desirable, with more opportunities for social interaction, leadership and learning roles to take place (real life?). By consciously bringing children together in larger multi-age class groups – in which two-thirds of the children normally return each year – the school environment promotes continuity and the development of a stable community. 

Cheers to the benefits of Montessori education!

Hurry Up And Wait

The year has just begun, offering possibility and hope. I wish you and your family prosperity, health and happiness. As the year unfolds, you wait for exciting and mundane things to happen. Easy enough because you know how things happen, waiting is integral - years and experience shows you.

Children on the other hand do not have this ability. Waiting can be difficult, but is a good thing to practice. Self-regulation evolves. This is critical especially in today's world of instant messaging, texting, cellphones and electronics. Waiting is a skill. I am happy to share another wonderful article from our friend, Maren Schmidt. I hope you enjoy it and gain an appreciation for the importance of self-regulation development. Enjoy! 

Please Don’t Eat The Marshmallow!   

In the 1960's, Walter Mischel conducted the now-famous "marshmallow study" at the Bing Nursery School at Stanford University.  
A researcher would let a fouryear-old choose a treat from a tray and tell the child that he or she could eat the treat right away or wait until the researcher returned and have two.  
About one-third of the four-year-olds could wait until the researcher returned 15 minutes later. Most of the children could wait for three minutes before popping the treat into their mouth. 
 
The study has shown a high correlation between those children who could wait and better school outcomes, including scoring over 200 points higher on the SAT's than the children who ate their marshmallows in less than 30 seconds. 
The ability to choose behavior, in this case, choosing to wait for the second marshmallow to appear, is called self-regulation or self-control. 
 
Self-regulation for children and adults demands a variety of skills. The child must trust the adults in the situation. I would guess that the children who could wait for the marshmallow also had adults in their lives who kept their word and earned the children's trust. 
Self-regulation requires that you feel safe. If you think that someone is going to come in and take your marshmallow while you wait, it makes sense to pop it into your mouth right away. Self-regulation needs imagination and an ability to redirect focus.  
 
The child with self-control has to imagine something that is not there, in this case, the second marshmallow, and be able to think ahead. Children who resisted eating their marshmallow were able to redirect their attention on something other than the marshmallow. Researchers found that children who were taught to imagine that the marshmallow was a picture and visualize a frame around the marshmallow, were able to resist temptation longer than they had previously. 
 
Fifteen minutes of self-regulation at age four also involves experience and practice starting from a young age. A friend related watching her 15month-old niece self-regulate at a family get-together. All the adults' cell phones were on the coffee table, along with one of her niece's toys. My friend watched her niece walk over to the table and start to reach for a cell phone. But as she extended her arm, her niece stopped, and a pensive look swept over the toddler's face. Instead she picked up her toy and sat down to play. At 15 months, self-regulation was already at work. 
 
Living in an environment that promotes trust and safety helps the child's development of self-control. Having positive experiences based on respect helps the child's development of predicting a sequence of events. Self-regulation is a foundational skill for success in all of life--physical wellness, emotional stability, positive social interaction and intellectual growth. Being able to control their thoughts and behavior gives our children a vital key for a life well lived. 
 
Help create a place for our children to safely live with adult trust and respect so that they can imagine and redirect focus to wait and enjoy the second marshmallow for all their lives. 

     Maren Schmidt, an AMI trained elementary teacher, is author of Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents, and writes the weekly syndicated column, Kids Talk.   Visit http://MarenSchmidt.com.