Posts Categorized: General

Let’s Think Bigger About Montessori

I want to talk about Montessori in a way that’s less sensational, less sexy, less focused on immediate marketing strategies. I want to start a conversation about a Montessori education and it’s possible impact on the aging process.

On November 11, 2015, I had a stroke. I was 33; this was very unexpected. My stroke was mild and I liked to think my recovery was going very well, thanks to my amazing support system and speech therapist. However, I spent several weeks with moderate-severe Aphasia.

Aphasia happens during any brain injury to any one (or many) specific parts of the brain that control language. Aphasia doesn’t affect cognitive intelligence, but it affects one’s ability to communicate. There are many different types of Aphasia. In my case, for the most part, I could understand others, but could not adequately speak back.

During my time struggling with the depths of Aphasia, visual imagery was my primary way of understanding the world. While I have always strongly tended toward visual thinking over linguistic thinking, the absence of language altogether was immensely frustrating and debilitating. (As a Montessori toddler teacher, I have new compassion for this common struggle among toddlers!)

During this time, I could recall blank sentence diagrams. One of my favorite teachers I have ever had was Mrs. Esneault. Many years ago, she was my English teacher for both 7th and 8th grades. (She must be good, because I’m a math girl at heart.)

I don’t think it was a part of the curriculum she was asked to teach, but Mrs. Esneault taught us how to diagram sentences. When words were coming back after my stroke, I could tell that my sentences were just on that straight line, like this:

eden-sit

And I was missing those diagonal lines altogether, like these:

folder

And I knew I did not have a handle on these little spaces, missing here:

doctor

I practiced diagramming sentences along with my intensive speech therapy and I strongly believe this aided my recovery.

BUT ONLY BECAUSE I HAD BEEN TAUGHT IT BEFORE.

All this got me thinking more about Montessori education (as if I ever need an excuse).

Montessori does more than offer two places to put something in your brain, like words and a diagram.

Montessori is tactile;
it’s visual;
it’s baric;
it’s kinesthetic;
it’s auditory;
it’s stereognostic;
it’s linguistic.

In short, that new sucker is “in there”.

In fact, many of Dr. Montessori’s original material designs were for the mentally handicapped or brain-injured children.  It was only after these children ended up scoring as well as conventionally-educated “typical” children did she begin to ask:  what’s going wrong everywhere else?  (Kramer, R., 1976)

In addition to the pictures of the sentence diagrams, I could recall two Montessori language symbols.  These two:

                  CONJUNCTIONS                                  PREPOSITIONS
conjunctionsprepositions

(I only know some basics about Montessori elementary grammar — it’s not my area.)  But, these were some of the types of words I was having the most trouble with!

I can only imagine if instead of a brief fling with learning about Montessori grammar, I had spent years feeling the 3-D representations of the parts of speech, moving the shapes that represent the parts of speech, using grammar boxes, moving the cards, writing my own sentences, and using colored pencils to denote my own handwritten sentences with symbols, how all of that would have affected my stroke recovery.

grammar-symbols

… not to mention how my brain circuitry and word recall would have been different had I spent my early years choosing objects and pictures to spell with the moveable alphabet?

photo 3

Imagine what my brain would have kept then!

So, I get it:  when we are choosing a toddler program or a preschool or even an elementary school for our children, none of us think — well, what if my child has a stroke in their 30s?  How will this preschool education impact that?

It’s not something we generally think about.
However, every single one of us ages.
You just aged right now. And now.

And, yes, of course we want to plan to make sure our children get a solid education now.  We want them to be capable of achieving their dreams!

Dr. Montessori says that it is the young adult in the ages of 18 to 24 who is finding out where his/her interested and education intersect with the world’s needs.  We all envision our children asking these questions and struggling to find the answers to them.

But, life doesn’t end when we find our occupation.

I’ll say that again, because I think sometimes we are in too much of a hurry to notice it:

Life doesn’t end when we find our occupation.

We have vibrant family and like-family lives until the very end.  I just have to believe that a Montessori education provides much, much more than an education that will give a child a future productive career.  I believe it will give them a healthier brain.  A healthier brain to enjoy their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren.

So, I’ll admit:  this isn’t the best advertisement for prospective parents looking for a place for their child to learn their ABCs.

But, I would like to encourage you to think BIGGER about what it is you want for your children.  For all of our children.

Small disclaimer:  My joy in Montessori is even bigger than healthy brains, although that is a recent event.  A Montessori education is much, much more than *simply* a multi sensory education and I feel that I’d be misrepresenting Montessori if you left thinking this.

Montessori education educates the whole child and embeds peace education from the very young in the effort to bring about greater harmony.  Hoping for a better, more peaceful world is why I chose a Montessori education for my children and why I want it to be available for more children worldwide.

Brandy Lighthall
Hampton Cove Toddler Lead Teacher

References

Kramer, R. (1976).  Maria Montessori:  A Biography. New York:  Capricorn Books

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January 3, 2017 6:00 am  |   Category: ,   |   Comments Off on Let’s Think Bigger About Montessori

Cooking with Children in Montessori Class

img_3573You always see a lot of joy on children’s faces on the day we have a cooking class. You also hear lot of questions – What are we cooking? Is it time yet? They show lots of curiosity on what happens next.

After all the preparation of watching lessons and working with the practical life materials, it is time now for putting them to use. The kids show excitement in their faces while watching boiling water, melting cheese, frying, baking, toasting, and breaking eggs or turning simple banana to a yummy treat. Even though they are picky eaters, they enjoy eating what they cook because they made those all by themselves. They show a lot of pride in their accomplishment.

Cooking in Montessori class involves all areas of the classroom – practical life, math, language, science, geography, history and culture, and sensorial.

Practical Life activities include Washing hands, Mixing, Rolling, Cutting, Cleaning, Peeling, Pouring, Hand and Eye Coordination, and the use of different kitchen tools such as knives, spoons, forks, egg-beaters, tongs, etc. Also, it teaches how to follow steps in a recipe, and improves fine motor skills.

Math includes activities such as Measurement, Fraction, Numbers, Time, etc.

Language activities include exposure to new words such as names of ingredients, recipes, places, etc.

Science includes activities such as differentiating between hot and cold or solid, liquid, and gas, or boiling and melting, etc.

img_3570Geography activities include learning about the different continents and countries the recipes and ingredients used are from.

History and Culture activities involves understanding about the holidays and festivals from different regions of the world.

Sensorial activities involve all the five senses – touch, smell, see, hear, and taste.

Shree Atluri
Primary Lead Teacher

December 12, 2016 6:00 am  |   Category: ,   |   Comments Off on Cooking with Children in Montessori Class

Brain Gym for Home and School

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Visit our class at 9:00 am and you will see the children getting water and getting ready to start our day… the Brain Gym way.

We begin our days outside on the playground for a bit of fresh air, socialization and playtime.  Following our outdoor time, we drink water to get our neurons firing and begin Brain Gym.  The children follow the teacher through a variety of mid-line movements, such as the cross-crawl, neck rolls, and lazy eights.

These mid-line movements help increase uper-lower body coordination which are  necessary for both gross and fine motor skills when both the right and left hemisphere of the brain are working together.

img_6087Other movements include energy exercises such as  brain buttons, hook-ups and  positive points.  Like electrical circuits in buildings become overloaded, our energy circuits overload at times as well. These energy exercises activate the neocortex and refocus the electrical energy back to the reasoning centers, thus regaining coordination of thought and action.

We conclude our Brain Gym time  with two minutes of silent meditation followed by a time of sharing.  Most children look forward to sharing their thoughts and meditations which vary from vacation experiences, to works in the classroom that they want to do, to thoughts about peace and friendship.

img_6091Our Brain Gym and meditation time is something I look forward to every day.  Come join us sometime and experience it yourself!

Please read the following articles that explain the educational kinesiology of BrainGym and to see examples of exercises you can do with your child at home.  These are great exercises for all ages!

December 2, 2016 7:35 pm  |   Category: ,   |   Comments Off on Brain Gym for Home and School

Art with Dr. Hequembourg

As a brief introduction for those parents who do not know me: my name is Laticia Hequembourg, my daughter Harper attends kindergarten at MSH (she is in Shree and Leela’s class). Teaching and creating art are among my greatest passions in life. I hold a PhD in adult education from Auburn University. My dissertation explored creativity generation and the creative process in adult learners. I also hold a master’s of art education from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and a BA in studio art with a concentration in sculpture from The State University of New York in Potsdam, New York. I have taught for the last few years as an adjunct professor in the fine art departments at both Alabama A and M University and Calhoun Community College.

This year at MSH I teach two kindergarten art classes, and both the lower and upper elementary art classes. The kindergarten art curriculum explores the basics of creating art through the inspiration of a variety of art forms and disciplines. Thus far we have found inspiration for our paper cut outs through the literary work of Shel Silverstein. We have also concentrated on learning about the elements of art with the construction of a visual chart that highlights both color and texture. This week we will be weaving paper to create work mats and then moving along to watercolor.

Both lower and upper elementary have been concentrating on the fundamentals and basic compositional components of drawing. They are currently working on self- portraits in oil pastel. In the next few weeks to come we will be transitioning into painting and focusing on color theory.

Also, as a note to all parents: I wanted to take a moment to inform parents that I will be utilizing a website called Artsonia (www.artsonia.com). Artsonia is a free online digital portfolio and student art gallery dedicated to promoting the visual arts curriculum in schools worldwide. I will e-mail parents individually with a password so that you can log on and view your child’s work throughout the year (you can also upload artwork yourself). This is a great way to share work with friends and family, keep a digital record of creative development, and the website offers fun keepsakes (these make excellent personalized gifts) with your child’s work, with 20% of sales going directly to the participating school’s art program. Keep a look out for more information regarding log-in details.

Thanks in advance for all of your support, if you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Dr. Laticia Hequembourg

September 28, 2016 3:34 pm  |   Category: , , , , ,   |   Comments Off on Art with Dr. Hequembourg

Why Follow a Phase-In Schedule?

Every August brings the beginning of a new school year. It is a fresh start. Children return to the classrooms. Some of them are veterans of the class, having been in the room for one or two years already, and some of them are entering a new environment for the first time. Whether returning or new, each one of these children will be phased into the classroom.

Over my many years as a toddler teacher I have had a few parents ask why we follow this “phasing-in schedule.” It is true that slowly bringing the children into the new school year can cause a bit of a juggling act for parents. Work schedules may need to be altered for the week. Childcare may need to be arranged. In the end, all of that teeter tottering about is worth it. The children are the most important work, and their most important work is starting a new school year off successfully.

In every one of my first emails to our toddler parents, I give them their child’s phasing-in schedule. I also write that this schedule is the key to success. Children need a gentle introduction. They need time to adjust to new things, new places, and new people. It is through this process that they gain trust in everything and everyone around them. Their brains are allowed to assimilate what is new and what is old in a seemingly unrushed manner.

Have you ever noticed how your child is more tired at the beginning of the school year? I have. My son is fifteen years old and still took a nap every day he came home during the first week of school. School is a child’s work. It is serious business for them. When you allow a child to move at their pace you are listening to them and their needs. You are helping them to succeed. So, why do we phase our children in instead of putting them directly in the classrooms for full school days? My answer is, why not?

Rebekah Spooner
Toddler 1 Co-Lead Teacher
South Huntsville Campus

August 18, 2016 2:26 pm  |   Category: , , ,   |   Comments Off on Why Follow a Phase-In Schedule?