Posts Categorized: General

Montessori Work Cycle

The Montessori Work Cycle is the three hour work period all Primary and Elementary Classes observe in Montessori Schools. Our toddler class alters the length of the work cycle to accommodate the needs of our younger students. The morning work cycle in our toddler classroom is generally two to two and a half hours. It grows longer as the school year progresses, meeting the growing attention spans of our children.
Each day has structure but can also be fluid to meet the ever changing needs of the children. Our day starts with a brief time of free choice of work or outside play. This allows the children to socialize with each other by getting their ‘hellos’ and other greetings out of the way before the actual school day begins. Bringing your child to school before morning group time and the actual work cycle begins allows them to meet these social needs without disruption.

Circle time/Job time begins between 9-9:15am every day. Throughout our many years as toddler teachers we have seen time and time again the importance of the children being present for this time of coming together. They enjoy helping with classroom jobs, doing simple yoga and periodically working together to achieve a group lesson. Our circle time ends with the dismissal of children to begin the work cycle.

The children begin the work cycle by choosing simple works in the classroom, often choosing their ‘favorite’ works and doing them repeatedly. Half-way through the work cycle the children experience what is known as ‘false fatigue.’ A Montessori school we once visited referred to this as the time when most working adults take their coffee break. As teachers, we allow the children to use this time when they are not focused to go potty and walk about the room socializing. When they do settle back in and begin working again that is known as ‘the great work period.’ During this time the children achieve their most challenging works. There is not much socializing going on in the classroom during this time as they are all concentrating on their task at hand. When the work cycle ends the children begin to socialize again, and that is often when we take them outside.

Allowing the children to engage in their entire work cycle with minimal interruption is pertinent. If a child arrives late or an adult needs to speak with one of the teachers it is important to enter the room quietly, maintaining a low-key approach. If you observe that the classroom is working and the teachers are engaged with the children, but you need to communicate something to the teachers it is best to email or leave a note. When the work cycle is disturbed the entire classroom as a whole is deprived of the Montessori work cycle. We strive every day for all of our children to have fulfilling and productive days.

November 8, 2013 4:07 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off

Do you Montessori at Home?

“We must give the child an environment that he can utilize by himself: a little washstand of his own, a bureau with drawers he can open, objects of common use that he can operate, a small bed in which he can sleep at night under an attractive blanket he can fold and spread by himself. We must give him an environment in which he can live and play; then we will see him work all day with his hands and wait impatiently to undress himself and lay himself down on his own bed.”
Maria Montessori

Maria makes it sound so easy. Just give them an environment of their own and all will be magically well with our children at home. It’s not a magic wand, but by instilling some of the Montessori values into your home may make life a little less hectic and a little more focused for all.

Create a home environment where the child has everything in his/her reach. Small things like lowering the rod in the closet or only putting clothes in lower drawers so they can dress themselves can help your children be more independent. Try keeping their dishes in low cabinets so they can set their own place at the table and a basket full of parent-approved healthy snacks in their reach.
Teach real life skills as soon as it is developmentally appropriate. Young children can help with laundry by matching socks and folding towels. Preschoolers can help with washing and peeling vegetables. As your child ages he or she can learn more sophisticated tasks such as how preparing simple meals or using tools to help with tasks around the home.
Promote concentration. Turn off the television and limit other screen time. Set your children up with materials that interest them. For example, if your child loves the stars, then provide books and puzzles to help them learn about astronomy. Keep a basket of high quality books or visit our school library to give them something to do while the tv is off. Make sure their work environment fits their needs. Some children may work best at the kitchen table and others may want to spend time in a quiet corner. Monitor their responses to their environment and adjust accordingly.
Nurture inner motivation and shy away from tangible rewards. Your praise should be specific, sincere and value effort over outcome. “I like how focused you are” or “You worked so hard” is much more effective than “good job.”
Give your child an opportunity to learn with and from peers. Schedule playdates or sign them up for a class. Interaction with peers and learning from someone other than mom, dad or the regular teacher will boost their confidence in themselves.

November 5, 2013 4:07 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off

Grandparents and Special Friends

“Grandma and Grandpa are special to me whether in person or we talk on the phone…” Tomorrow little voices and big voices will ring out with this wisdom as we celebrate our grandparents and special friends. All of us at MSH enthusiastically echo this sentiment. Grandparents and family friends are a vital part of our organization. Their energy and creativity keep us moving forward, and we are grateful for their experience.

It turns out that grandparents and older friends are good for a family unit. They pass on the cultural heritage of the family, support the emotional development of the child, and serve as great role models providing opportunities for learning new skills. You can find out more about how grandparents support families at http://www.bblocks.samhsa.gov/family/Time/grandparents.aspx.

I can credit my own grandmother with teaching me the all-important skill of blowing a real bubble with my bubble gum. To this day this is one of my most favorite memories of her. What are your favorite memories of grandparents and family friends? Please comment and share ways you celebrate grandparents and older friends or how you keep the connection with family who may be far away.

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October 3, 2013 3:48 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off

Why I chose Montessori

My husband and I went with friends to dinner the other night. The conversation rolled around to education and we were asked why we have our kids in a Montessori school. Thirty minutes later I came up for air and realized I might have stopped speaking right before they dozed off. I decided I needed to work on a succinct answer to that question because it will inevitably come up again. My new answer to the question, “Why Montessori?” simply paraphrases Montessori philosophy; “Our kids are in Montessori because we want them to learn to love to learn.”

We purposely bought our house in a wonderful school district. We had our two oldest in a Montessori program for preschool and Kindergarten with every intention of switching them to public school when the time came. I’d filled out all the paperwork for the local elementary school for our oldest to start in the fall. We’d toured the building, attended an open house, and met teachers and administrators. It is an impressive school physically and the staff were all wonderful and seemed very capable and caring. Then my husband saw something that made us both rethink our decision about public school. Sir Ken Robinson, a leading expert on education, creativity, and innovation, was on Charlie Rose talking about why our education system is broken. The system came about during the Industrial Age when our country needed workers to put a widget in a hole the same way repeatedly without much trouble or thought. Our world has changed dramatically since then. Computers, a global economy, Internet commerce have changed our economic landscape and our daily lives. There are still widgets that need to go in holes, but in our world we need computer programmers to figure out how to get the machine todoit better and faster. Increasingly, we need problem solvers who aren’t limited by common convention and the status quo. We need workers who are innovative and not afraid of making mistakes in the process of creating solutions.

Rose also had an expert on his program who tested creativity in children who had not yet attended any type of formal education. They all tested at the genius level, specifically in creativity. After one year of preschool, creativity scores had plummeted with no students repeating the genius score. We all know funds for education are limited. Teachers are underpaid, overworked, and held to ridiculous standards given their resources. An inquisitive child is often more of a nuisance or impediment than a joy. Teachers simply don’t have time to let a child come to a lesson on his or her own terms with the current set up in most public schools. In many classes, children are taught the same way at the same time with little room for individual learning styles or abilities. “Everyone open your books to page 26…”

I’ve always been a believer in Montessori, even before I knew what Montessori was. When I was about eight, we went to visit my aunt and uncle in Ohio where my aunt owned a Montessori daycare. She gave us a tour and let us watch the children for a bit. The skills those children had were amazing. Little three year old children showed us all the curriculum they were working on. They knew so much! I was embarrassed that these little children knew more than I did, and I was so much older than they were. Punks.

My husband and I attended The Journey at the Montessori School of Huntsville several weekends ago to learn more about the methods used to educate our children and find out why Montessori is so incredible and effective. We were both amazed and so grateful our children go to this school. The respect shown to each individual child and their learning style is impressive. We love the fact that a Montessori education is all encompassing, forming the whole child and stresses the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have done to you. Maria Montessori believed world peace could be achieved through education. Respect and care for environment and society is a cornerstone of a Montessori education.

As we got into the curriculum of the primary and elementary students The Journey got really engaging. I should note I don’t like math and I didn’t really care that much for science. It never came easy to me and I don’t enjoy it. Why does 2×2=4? Because it does. That’s how I was taught math. There was nothing behind it besides rote memorization. Yuck. No wonder it was unappealing. An atom? The basic unit of matter? Why? Protons and neutrons? What? I can’t even see them. When it came time to pick a major in college, a big part of my decision was based on which avenue had the least amount of math and science. Certainly, based on our personality traits, we are drawn to specific subject matter. Not everyone was born with the skills, intellect, and drive to become an astrophysicist. However, looking back I find it really sad that I missed out on some career paths that might have been very fulfilling to me because I was afraid of math. I feel very confident my children will not feel like that about any subject. The Montessori method for teaching math, science and English is visual, physical, logical, and both social at times and solitary when needed. Montessori speaks to all learning styles. There are physical pieces to move and see and change to visualize large numbers and sentence structure. There is a partnership with fellow classmates. It was amazing. The students help each other, learn from each other and respect the working space of their peers.

My husband and I are both products of public schools. We turned out okay, with both of us holding Bachelor’s degrees and three advanced degrees between us (he has more…Punk). Jim is a Colonel in the United States Army. They don’t just hand that rank out. But both of us were asking each other, “What could I have been if I had learned like this.” Would I have loved math? Would it have made more sense to me? Would I have been able to find things in alphabetical order without having to mentally go through the whole alphabet? Could I have done simple addition without deferring to the digits on my hands? Could I have been strong enough in the sciences to want to do all the work to become a doctor or a biologist?

We went for a hike a couple of weekends ago with our kids. Everything was fair game for questions; acorns, squirrels, tree bark, sleeping bags, water tables, bacteria, jellyfish, shoe sizes, on and on. I had my phone with me so I could look up answers to the rapid fire questions as they arose. Everything was interesting and appealing, and they all wanted to learn more about everything we saw and heard. Children are naturally inquisitive, but their level of curiosity since starting a Montessori education has increased dramatically because our children know they can find the answer through investigation and creative problem solving (and a parent with Internet access in the woods).

Paying for a Montessori education is a sacrifice for most families. There are vacations that won’t be taken, cars that won’t be purchased, maybe some families will stay in a house they’ve outgrown for a longer period of time than they would have if they weren’t paying for tuition. For our family, I can say it is a small price to pay knowing the solid foundation we are giving our children to set them up for a lifetime LOVE OF LEARNING.

Journey_3-1  journey_2

October 1, 2013 3:45 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off