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. 

Thanks For Giving

As I take a break to look out the window, I am happy to see the myriad of leaves have been removed from our outdoor play space. Oh sure, there was plenty of opportunity to rake piles, jump in them, toss them into the air and create collages too. There was also a sense of starkness as trees became stripped of leaves by the wind. This may read strange, but the lack of leaves adds a sense of order to the space. We can actually see when a child's mitten goes missing or see where the instrument or toy ended up when they walked away from the area they were playing in. Bikes, scooters and feet can navigate the path much more safely now too.

While I look at the emptiness of the trees where color once was, I am reminded that spring will be here before you know and nature's bounty will once again be shared. The leaves will bud and bloom, giving promise to what lies ahead next fall. I am also reminded to be thankful for all the trees in our play space that give color and shade through spring, summer, fall and evergreen color through the winter. 

So thanks for giving us so much beauty and opportunity all year long planet Earth. I'm so thankful to see evidence everyday. So thankful for the laughing voices of children busily raking, jumping and tossing those leaves. Thankful to see the large landscaping truck arrive to haul the multitude of them away. I may be thankful the leaves are gone from the ground, but will miss them until they return this spring.


Meet Your Infant-Toddler-Pre Primary Program

Thought I would share a feature from the Sandwich Enterprise. How fortunate are we to have been serving families from Sandwich and the surrounding communities since 2004. As the first Montessori Infant/Toddler Program in the area, we have thrived from the support of so many families over the years. When overwhelming feedback was given years ago to open our Preschool/Kindergarten program, how could we refuse? It has been an amazing journey with our many families, their precious children and we look forward to welcoming new families over the course of our next 12 years! Thank you - Thank you. Hope you enjoy the article.  Kathy

Sandwich Enterprise - October 2016

   Montessori  Beginnings is not just a school, but a foundation for life. It is child and family centered, provides 10- and 12-month programs, a robust event calendar, snack and lunch daily, sibling discounts as well as flexible schedules. 
   This “home away from home” hosts children 12 months to 6 years. Kathy Raymond, head of school, marvels at her and the faculty’s daily service opportunities. “While meeting the needs of our wonderful families, we have been fortunate to have steady growth over the years. We are caring and educating a family’s most precious gift; a responsibility we do not take lightly. Being a hands-on, available owner, it is vital I make sure each family is taken care of during their time with us. That personal touch is something unique to our locally owned school.”

   Two bright, home-like toddler classrooms provide a balance of nurturing, independence and “freedom within limits.” Having both rooms gives flexibility to place each child in an optimal learning environment. The large, bright preschool/ kindergarten room allows opportunity for growth as individuals in a multi-age Montessori Beginnings School 180 Farmersville Road Sandwich 508-477-7730 montessoribeginnings.com setting, while developing self esteem and a life-long love of learning. An expansive, beautiful, certified Nature Explore outdoor play space and toddler deck provide many opportunities for fun and movement. Jen Curtis, education director and Montessori lead teacher, describes the classrooms as nurturing, stimulating, and orderly: “We support our children in building vital skills, self-esteem, and good concentration habits. We spend time outside exploring nature and having fun. A key for us is to meet the needs of each individual. This is definitely not a cookie-cutter type program but a unique communit

Fall Into A New Year

As we move from a fun, engaging summer to a new year of opportunity, I am moved by the power of children; their pure faith and unconditional love.  New families have joined us, ready to learn and take a leap of faith - their children beginning their journey of trust and growth. Returning families continue their trust and support as their children develop and amaze. Thanks to all our families/partners for your interest and faith in us. Thank you for sharing your amazing children with us!

We are so fortunate to begin our new, busy school year with a wonderful team of teachers and fabulous families! We look forward to a rewarding partnership this year and can't wait to see how the school year unfolds. 


The Dog Days of Summer

Oh summer! A favorite time of year here at the school. We may be year round but we know how to have fun! There's water everywhere, not to mention bubbles, shaving cream in the wading pool, music, the annual mud run and outdoor play aplenty.

We are excited to announce The Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research have certified us for a third year as a Nature Explore-nature based play space! Our excitement to become the first school on the South shore with a nature based space has only spurred us to share our good fortune whenever we can. Whether it is educating our families, opening up our space for annual open house events or presenting at our annual Montessori conference; we love to share the benefits of nature based play.  From increasing creativity, problem solving skills and physical activity, to decreasing stress-outdoor play is essential to development.

The children love being outside digging in the dirt, building with BIG blocks, swinging, triking, painting, splashing and having fun! These are just some of the ever changing components within our outdoor space. So with the last month of summer upon us, the children's enthusiasm definitely will not wane and the fun will keep on coming!   

Kathy :)                 


12 Tips For a Healthier Brain

You know I love to share Maren Schmidt's articles from time to time and this month is no different. She is actually sharing John Medina's, 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and play in his 2013 book, Brain Rules. Mr. Medina is affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Each chapter of Brain Rules focuses on one of the principles outlined here. This checklist is full of great information - enjoy!

Twelve Tips For a Healthier Brain    

Rule #1: Exercise boosts brainpower. Movement helps our brains grow and increases oxygen levels throughout our bodies. Oxygen is critical to effective brain function. Feeling fuzzy-headed and having trouble thinking? Get moving. 
Rule #2: Our brain has evolved. We actually have three brains. The reptilian brain focuses on survival. Our mammalian brain regulates our emotions. Our third brain, the cortex, makes us human by allowing us to reason, analyze and create. If we don't feel safe, our reptilian brain focuses on survival and keeps us from tapping into the problem-solving resources of the cortex. 
Rule #3: Every brain is different. We are not going to find a common place in the brain where certain memories or functions are found. Our brain grows based on our response to our environment, and that is as unique as every person on this planet. 
Rule #4: We don't pay attention to things that aren't interesting to us. If something is boring or holds no meaning for us, we tune out. Also, the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. We waste a lot of time and brain effort switching back and forth between multiple activities. We are better off if we focus consistently on one thing at a time. So, yep, turn off the television when you study. And instant messaging and... 
Rule #5: We have to repeat information to learn it.  Also, the richer the sensory experience, the more likely we are to remember it. A rich sensory experience is like we repeated information several times. We need to make an effort to repeat and use all our senses to help us remember.  
Rule #6: Reliable long-term memories take many intervals of repetition, perhaps years. We can't cram for the exam. We need to repeat the feat. 
Rule #7: Sleep is important to optimum brain function. Loss of sleep affects attention, our ability to make good decisions, short-term memory, mood, the ability to deal with numbers and logic and well as quantitative skills and motor dexterity. Protect your brain. Sleep 8 -10 hours a day. 
Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way. With a stressed brain, the reptilian brain takes over, and survival trumps our ability to learn and remember. 
Rule #9: The more senses we use, the more we remember. The smell of hot cocoa can trigger memories of a Christmastime sleigh ride and the words to a tune you haven't heard in years. 
Rule #10: Vision is our dominant sense, and it is not 100% accurate. We learn best through pictures, not through written or spoken words. This brain rule suggests that the old adage is true: A picture is worth a thousands words. 
Rule #11: Male and female brains are different. Men don't think like women, and women don't think like men. Understanding the differences in how men and women process information can help us. 
Rule #12: Humans are natural explorers. We are born to explore our world and be inquisitive. Our natural tendency to explore, if we use it, keeps our brain flexible and growing for all of our lives. 
Use these 12 tips to have a healthy brain that will survive and thrive at any age.   
Visit John Medina's site at www.brainrules.net.  

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.  

March Madness

So basketball may not be our forte, but our March madness manifests in other ways. Whether we are juggling enrollment for the upcoming school year or observing a little "spring fever" among the students in the classrooms-we are still "mad" for Montessori! 

Each year at this time we hope all students and families could stay forever but we understand some age out of the program and must move on. Of course we would love to keep all our kindergarten students too, but realize we will lose some to public school. This is always a bittersweet time for us as we understand the immense opportunity the third year-five year old to six year old experience is for students. We can't help but feel sad when families disagree for whatever reason. 

During Kindergarten, children have the opportunity to assume a leadership role as well as refine critical learning skills for future academic work, self-regulation and social-emotional development. The environment fosters children to be eager, self-motivated learners throughout their educational experience. This is an amazing year of growth and sets children up for an easier transition into first grade.  

As the enrollment process subsides, it gives way to that little thing you might be feeling-"spring fever". The sun is warmer and peeking through the clouds more often. The temperature is rising and the beginnings of new growth can be seen all around. Our children must feel a change since the energy in the classrooms is heightened. We love to see this spirit in the children and make sure we have more engaging works, movement and fun built into each day.  

Our madness continues as the end of the school year fast approaches. Before you know it we will be "sprucing up" the school with faculty and family volunteers, showcasing children's work in our annual art show, holding our bridging ceremony for departing Pre-Primary students and finally, celebrating the 2015/2016 school year with the end of year Ice Cream Social! It is busy but worthwhile and I say this year as in every year; "bring it on!"