Posts Categorized: Toddler HC
Happy Thanksgiving Montessori Community,
I hope you had a restful and joyful holiday this Thanksgiving. This time of year, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude for you, our Montessori Community.
Gratitude to our current families. Thank you for choosing MSH as partners in your child’s education. Thank you to our volunteers supporting our classrooms, strategic planning, and campus beautification. Our mission to instill a lifelong love of learning wouldn’t be possible without you. Thank you.
Deep gratitude to our donors. Alumni and current families who accept the call to sponsor Montessori strategic growth and sharing a vision of Montessori for every child. Thank you for your financial sacrifice.
Finally, thank you to our teachers and administration. You wow us with your devotion to Montessori and our children on a daily basis. Thank you for your sacrifices and professional dedication.
With Deep Gratitude,
Montessori School of Huntsville
Join our community of generous donors.
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:
And I was missing those diagonal lines altogether, like these:
And I knew I did not have a handle on these little spaces, missing here:
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;
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:
(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.
… 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?
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.
Hampton Cove Toddler Lead Teacher
Kramer, R. (1976). Maria Montessori: A Biography. New York: Capricorn Books
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?
Toddler 1 Co-Lead Teacher
South Huntsville Campus
Practical life is the heart of any Montessori Toddler Classroom and plays a major role in the development of children for years to come. Practical life offers several major benefits to the child: the acquisition of a practical skill, the development of focused attention, and preparation for writing and reading.
The acquisition of a practical skillOver the course of the two-year cycle in the toddler classroom, your child will have the opportunity to develop his/her skills in increasingly complex fine motor activities, care of self activities, care of the environment activities, and water activities.As a part of the care of self curriculum, your child will be learning to dress him/herself, hang his/her own coat up on a hook, as well as use velcro, buttons, zippers, and snaps. Threading beads and lacing work offers preparation for more complex dressing skills they will work on in the primary classroom (such as lacing and tying shoes).The care of the environment and fine motor skills curriculum is vast. Your children will have the opportunity to learn opening and closing various containers, spooning items from one bowl to another, dry pouring, pouring of water, transferring items by hand and with tongs, dusting, hammering, carrying a chair, folding a variety of cloths with a variety of folds, washing cloths by hand, washing dishes by hand, washing a table, sweeping, using a dust pan & brush, mopping, setting a table, and many more!
It is important to note that these are the opportunities every child will have in the toddler classroom, but every child will not master every skill. Because the children have the freedom to develop themselves, there will be a great variety of skill acquisition. However, there are only good choices of activity in the classroom, so you need not fear that your child will spend hours idle. All work is important work, and we get to see how each child uniquely unfolds!
The development of focused attention
According to the material originally designed by Dr. Montessori, the child will first develop focus in the practical life areas. Toddlers, as well as 3 and 4 year olds, naturally gravitate to these areas. Dr. Montessori noted this and developed the curriculum so that the activities start simple and slowly increase in difficulty, with specific areas of focus. The child will learn to concentrate well by spending much time in practical life. With this foundation in toddlerhood and up to around 4 (or sometimes 5), he or she will be ready to spend focused time in other ares of the classroom, becoming much more competent in these more abstract areas when they are developmentally ready for them.
…I believe I was created with a unique potential to love. My work and play are the development and expression of my love towards myself, others, and my environment. Yes it gets messy at times.
…I believe I am an amazing soul with a body and a mind. My favorite experiences and relationships captivate all of me. Yes it gets messy at times.
…I believe I am an important part of an incredible world. Becoming myself is my life. Yes it gets messy at times.
…I believe who I’ve been, who I am, and who I will be…is beautiful!
…I’d like a school that respects what I believe.
To me, this quote brings out two main thoughts regarding work and belonging. First, work is fundamental to the prepared environment in Montessori. Children often see Montessori work as a game, something fun and challenging that engages their attention to detail. Children are allowed to express themselves through their work because they are allowed the time and space to make their own conclusions. The beauty surrounding a child’s work is the whole process, from being prepared by the directress to the execution of work by the curious child.
Secondly, each child belongs. Each child has an individual soul, a beautiful experience unique from all others. If each child feels the way the above poem suggests, we as a Montessori community have achieved our goal: instilling character, curiosity, and purpose into each member.
What we believe about children is foundational in our Montessori experience. Not everyone will agree at all times about the most important aspects of Montessori, but we should all acknowledge that a child has a set of established beliefs that has an impact on the way we educate.
The Montessori School of Huntsville, Hampton Cove