Top Factors to Consider when Choosing a Montessori School

Choosing a Montessori school for your child is a huge decision. One that will impact your family for many years to come. That’s why it’s vital to know what to look for in a Montessori educational program, and the type of schooling you want in your child’s future.

Is a Montessori School Right for You?

It’s very important to understand – not all Montessori schools are created equal, and they do not all adhere to one curriculum. Moreover, just because a certain school is a good fit for one student does not necessarily mean it will benefit your child in the same way.

Here’s some of the top factors you should consider when choosing a Montessori school:

No. 1 – The Credentials

Many Montessori schools will choose to join a professional organization to reflect the credentials of their teachers and programs. The American Montessori Society, or AMS, is probably the most common, but it’s important to know which credentials and licenses are held by the school you are interested in and if it is a fully accredited program.

These qualifications are what protects the students’ health, safety and educational opportunities. Without the proper credentials, you might want to look other options.

No. 2 – The Classroom

The classroom is the heart of your child’s educational experiences. When visiting a Montessori school, visit the classrooms and look for a variety of learning materials, as well as lots of space for group and individual activities.

A major difference between a Montessori school and a traditional classroom is the teaching approach. Montessori classrooms should encourage hands-on learning rather than simply reading and repeating information.

No. 3 – The Teachers

We all remember our favorite teacher, right? That’s because teachers have a huge impact on our lives and the good ones really tend to stick out. Therefore, you’ll want to meet with the teachers before deciding on a school and ask them about their qualifications and what approach they take when teaching children new skills.

No. 4 – The Students

One of the most exciting parts about a Montessori education is the support system your child is given access to from day one. Most classrooms will include children who are within 3 years of each other. The older children can help the younger children, but every student is encouraged to be a self-directed learner and leader.

No. 5 – After-School Activities

Extra-curricular activities can help boost a child’s confidence, teach them new skills and improve their social interaction with others. So while every Montessori school is different, if after-school activities and clubs are important to you – look for a program that offers these type of groups.

The Montessori Difference

If you’re considering a Montessori program for your child’s educational needs, consider the factors listed above before enrolling them in a school. For more information on how a Montessori education can benefit your child, contact the Montessori School of Fremont today!  We welcome parents and students to visit our classrooms and meet with our teachers to better understand the Montessori difference.

Helping your Kindergartner get Organized for the First Day of School

The first day of kindergarten is something every parent and child looks forward to, but let’s face it – it can also be a little scary. The key to having a successful start in Kindergarten is in the preparation. Getting your child ready and organized for their first day will allow them to feel confident in starting their educational pursuits.

Here’s some helpful ways you can prepare your child for their first of school:

Explain the Schedule

Simply talking to your child about what they should expect while attending school will ease their mind. Explain how the day will start at a certain time and end at a certain time.

Share Your Experience

We all remember those first day jitters when starting a new school. That’s because every single one of us went through it at one time or another. Make sure your child knows it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous before the big day!

Talk about the Benefits

Knowledge is power. And as a parent, you of course want your child to grow up feeling powerful and capable in everything they do. Tell your child about the numerous benefits education will offer them – just don’t leave out all of the fun and exciting adventures they will also get to experience as a Montessori student.

Make Friends

If possible, introduce your child to a couple classmates before school starts. Let them play together and get to know each other a little beforehand. Then on their first day, they will already have some friends to make them feel more relaxed and comfortable with all of the changes they are experiencing during this time.

Meet the Teacher

Before their first day, have a short meeting with the teacher so your child will be familiar with them as soon as they get into the classroom. As soon as the teacher greets your child as a friend, they will feel right at home!

Get Involved

One of the scariest parts of starting Kindergarten for children is the fact they will be away from their parents for so long. That’s why it’s so important to reassure your child, explain to them you will always be there when school ends each day.

You can also get involved with activities at the school to help foster the educational community that exists there, as well as become an active participant in your child’s learning process.

Have a Routine

Perhaps the most important part of keeping your child enthusiastic and interested in school is having a solid routine they can always depend on. Start this routine early and it will become a habit for the rest of your child’s life, keeping them on track and focused on the goals ahead.

For more information on how to prepare your child for a life of success, contact the Montessori Children’s Center today!  Our teachers welcome prospective parents and students to visit their classroom and see the positive impact Montessori education can have on a child’s life.

Creating Manipulatives for your Preschooler

Manipulatives are fun for preschoolers to play with, but more importantly, they teach kids a variety of skills, ranging from physical abilities such as fine motor skills, to mental development such as abstract thinking. Unfortunately many manipulatives, such as Magna Tiles and other fun toys for preschoolers, are prohibitively expensive if you’re sticking to a budget. Supplement store-bought manipulative sets with ones you make yourself, perhaps even with your child’s help!

  • Pom pom magnets: All you need is a fridge or another magnetic surface and a set of these colorful, fluffy magnets, and your preschooler can be entertained for hours! To make these inexpensive manipulatives, buy a bag of quarter-sized pom-poms and small magnets to hot glue onto them.
  • Clothespin alphabet: Write a different letter on each of 26 different clothespins, and make a complete set of manipulatives that’s great for teaching fine motor skills. These easy DIY manipulatives used to be a staple in every preschool classroom. Kids can line up the clothespins along the top of an easel, or you can string a clothesline across a wall in their craft corner or playroom.
  • Lacing beads and cards: Preschoolers love lacing just about anything! Luckily these are fairly inexpensive manipulatives to put together yourself. Lacing cards can be made at home with cardboard, scissors, and a hole punch. You can purchase large beads or use almost anything else instead, such as tube-shaped pasta. For laces, you can use old (but clean) shoelaces, ribbon with fray check on each end, or even just colorful yarn with a little tape over each end.
  • Puzzles: Anything can become a puzzle, from a photograph mounted on cardboard, to the back of a cereal box with a cool graphic on it. Just cut out pieces using straight lines, squiggly lines, or even in such a way so that you can work on fractions.
  • Duplo math: Looking for an easy way to introduce your child to math and fractions? Chalk markers can be used to write on duplo blocks, and then wiped off after math practice is over or when your child is ready for a new challenge. Start with whole numbers and encourage your preschooler to build a tower with the blocks in order, or put together two-digit numbers. As your child gets better at math, you can use different-sized duplos to introduce the concept of fractions by writing the corresponding fractions on the side.
  • Paper plate practice clock: You can easily use a paper plate, some cardboard for the hands, and a brad to hold it all together and make your own practice clock. Time’s up!

Don’t let the term “manipulatives” scare you away from making your own, as it’s basically just a fancy name for the toys you see in most preschool classrooms. If you are interested in seeing what a fully stocked math and manipulatives center looks like – and the rest of the classroom too, of course – call Montessori Childrens Center today to set up a tour of our Montessori school.  We enjoy having prospective parents and students visit our classrooms to see the hands-on Montessori method first hand.

The Philosophy of Montessori Education and Preschool

When considering the benefits of a Montessori education, it is important to understand the core values of the Montessori Method. Originally designed to meet the educational needs of young children, the system has been expanded to include older kids over the years, but early childhood is still a critical period for teaching children the advantages of learning and showing them how to do it.

The 5 Principles of Montessori

Respect for the Child Children are not puppets, meant to do as they are bid without hesitation. In Montessori learning, the first principle is to respect children, to be aware of how each one is special and unique. This does not mean that children are allowed to run rough-shod in the classroom, but it does mean that the classroom must be centered on the children.

The Absorbent Mind This principle acts on a child’s natural desire to learn. Children can be observed to absorb knowledge as they progress through their daily activities, and the Montessori classroom gives them the freedom to live – and to learn – in each child’s own unique way. The idea is simple: During early education the mind of a child is like a sponge which absorbs what it comes into contact with.

Sensitive Periods If the mind is thought of as a sponge, then sensitive periods are the periods of absorption. Montessori principles states that allowing the child time to become absorbed in subjects of interest allows the child to soak up more knowledge, and thereby build on their own natural curiosity and potential.

Prepared Environment The prepared environment adds to the respect of the child and his absorbent mind by providing a classroom that is child-centered. This includes the furnishings, which are chosen to match the size of the child, but it also includes the way the materials are laid out. The idea is to mimic the natural environment while allowing the child to move freely from one resource to another. The prepared environment includes educational as well as social opportunities, including encouraging children to work together on projects and educational goals.

Self Education The ultimate goal is to teach children a love for learning. Once that has been accomplished, children are able to educate themselves, at their own pace, where the teacher offers guidance more than direct instruction. Autoeducation is the final of the 5 steps to Montessori learning, but it is also the sum of the other philosophies together. When respect, encouragement, time, and environment are all taken as a whole, then the child is able to direct their pursuits towards reaching educational goals and acquiring new skills.

Montessori Method has been shown to work for over 100 years, and has been expanded to include children of all ages. Through the 5 Principles of Montessori, the child is given the ability and access to materials which allows seemingly effortless learning. Just as importantly, it teaches children that learning can be enjoyable in itself, and that is a lesson which will last a lifetime.

At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, we invite prospective parents and students into our classrooms to see the Montessori Method in action.  The 5 Principles are incorporated daily through hands-on, student-led learning.  Contact us today to schedule a tour.

Teaching Courage in School

Courage is a virtue that should always be of great importance in and out of the classroom. Children can appreciate courage the most when they realize that bravery is just one small part of having courage. Some of the ways that kids can learn about this important concept are:

  • Hearing stories about people who did courageous things
  • Reading books about those who exemplified courage
  • Taking part in storytelling about this and other important virtues

Writing About Courage

As children learn more about courage, they are likely to think of times in their lives when they’ve shown courage. Perhaps it was standing up to a bully, or coping with a serious illness at a young age. Keeping a journal is one way to write about these ideas in a meaningful way. Younger kids might share their stories of courage through verbal storytelling or art. Ideas for putting these ideas into practice include:

  • Having the class keep journals and encourage sharing times
  • During sharing times, encourage students to ask each other questions
  • Allow children to act out some of what they write about, within reason

Courage in Art

Art is an effective way for children to express their ideas about courage. There are so many different mediums children can use that they are assured of never running out of ideas. Another advantage of art is that it is a good medium for younger children who have yet to master writing skills. Putting all of the courage-related artwork into one display is also a good motivator to encourage kids to work together.

  • Consider allowing access to magazines or catalogs that students can use to create collages
  • Encourage kids to create a mural as a group activity about courage
  • Do an art activity as a follow-up to the journal entries

Field Trips

There are many examples of courage in history, making field trips a good way to learn about historical figures who exemplify this virtue. A trip to a museum or state historic site is a great way to introduce students to these figures. Sometimes experiencing certain exhibits or displays help bring the idea to life for kids.

  • Consider a reading or storytelling activity before the visit with a story related to the trip
  • Incorporate relevant cultural activities into the lead-up to the field trip
  • Encourage your students to write about the experience or share about it drawings

Teaching kids about courage is vital to their later success in school and larger life. These and other activities will play a role in helping children learn about vital virtues.  At Montessori School of Fremont, our teachers encourage students to be courageous as they grow and learn throughout their school years.  Parents and potential students are invited to tour our school and see our classrooms in person.  Contact us today to schedule a tour.

Preschool Library Corners

Preschool classrooms may vary in their design and the program they follow, but one thing is consistent: They always have a library corner. But why do classroom libraries and book nooks work so well? Here are a few of the ways in which book corners promote literacy in the preschool classroom.

  • They make books always available. In the typical preschool classroom, the library corner or book nook is open during any free play or work session, putting books literally at children’s fingertips at any time. This makes books an integral part of the preschooler’s day, allowing them to explore at will and model good reading habits to other children.
  • They provide a comfortable, inviting space. Most book nooks have comfortable chairs, beanbags, and pillows where children get settle in comfortably. Some also have headphones with music and books on tape or CD. This makes the library corner very appealing to children, especially those who want to get away from the noise and bustle of the classroom for a little while.
  • They provide a source for information. Library corners also often include nonfiction books, where kids can go to learn or look up information. When the class is learning about a specific topic, many teachers even add a few related books to the classroom library, encouraging kids to learn more on the subject during free time or work periods. In this way, kids discover books are not only a source for entertainment and relaxation, but also for research and learning.
  • They provide structure. Children crave structure, so organizing a classroom into small, easily-definable stations gives them visible boundaries. Carving out a separate reading nook, in addition to other learning stations, helps to break up the classroom. Making the reading area well-defined and separating it from other, noisier learning stations also encourages quieter behavior and better focus, helping to establish lifelong reading habits.

Bringing the Love of Literacy Home

You can drive home the importance of books by borrowing the idea of the library corner. This could be an entire room in your home, or perhaps a study or office with a corner for the kids’ desk and books. If you have a dedicated play room or craft area, you could install bookshelves and some comfortable seating on one side of the room, or you could dedicate one corner of your child’s bedroom to a book nook.

At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, our private Montessori elementary school encourages parents to continue the teaching and fostering of their child outside of the school environment.  For more information about how our Montessori preschool program strives to promote literacy and a love of learning, contact us today to schedule a tour of our school.

Using Meditation to Teach Your Child

Teaching your child through Meditation

Meditation and mindfulness are not considered just adult pursuits any longer. These techniques are now being taught to children to help them with relaxation and ways to reduce stress. These calming methods also help children to connect with their inner source of calm. Many Montessori centers are now offering programs for young children to learn meditation techniques.

Using Meditation to Teach Your Child

You don’t need to hire an expert to teach your child how to find this inner peace; you can teach them techniques as a complete beginner. Not all children will be able to do meditation, but they can learn breathing techniques to help them regulate and not lose control. Parents are beginning to realize that meditation can calm their over-active young children. These are some tips to help you teach your child.

Breathing will be the Beginning

Breathing is the beginning and finishing point for meditation lessons. Your child’s breath goes with them every moment of their day, and they need to learn how it can be an anchor. Show them how they breathe, how their chest rises and falls by placing their hand on their tummy, so they feel how it moves with each breath. Doing this with your child will put both of you anchored together in the moment.

Learn that it’s a Personal Journey

Children don’t always respond to new situations the way you want, and meditation will not be any different. You can ask them to sit, close their eyes, breathe, and so on, but if they don’t want to close their eyes, you shouldn’t force them. If closing their eyes is uncomfortable, you can give them an object to focus on instead.

Be Imaginative

Don’t think analytically or rationally as most adults. Use your imagination and create a safe and beautiful place and describe this to your child, so they too feel safe, peaceful, and curious. You know your child has a big imagination; this is the ideal time to let them show you how to use yours.

Use Patience

There are a lot of ways for you to approach the teachings of meditation and mindfulness with your child. What you don’t want is to set a goal you expect to reach. Have an intention, but not one you are determined to achieve. To make the most of your teachings, join in with your child. Asking them to relax means you must relax, and as they notice their body, you must be aware of your own. Teaching your child mediation will be a valuable experience for you both.

Meditation and Montessori

Montessori believes in children practicing meditation to find their quiet inner space. By creating a peaceful and relaxing environment, your child is encouraged to relax and listen to music as they leave any stress they feel behind. This practice has shown incredible success with children finding more control over their own emotions. Contact Montessori School of Fremont, a Private Elementary School in Fremont, CA, to find out how your child can benefit with our unique and successful learning experiences.

 

Special Needs and the Montessori Classroom

 

Montessori Method with Children of Varying Abilities

All children benefit from the Montessori method, but very few parents understand how well it works for those with special needs. The important thing is to acknowledge that Montessori is a learning strategy rather than a teaching strategy. In other words, emphasis is placed on providing children with the appropriate tools for them to learn at their own pace and not on giving teachers a curriculum that all students must be molded to fit.

The Origins of Montessori Learning

Maria Montessori was a doctor who became one of the first advocates of special needs education. In her professional role, she was positioned with the task of working with children who had mental and physical disabilities during an era when such children were considered to be unteachable. Maria did not agree with that viewpoint, and began studying how children learn so that she could make an impact. She later transitioned to teaching “normal” children, but continued using her experiences with special needs children as her guide. The result of her work was the development of the Montessori method, used today by more than 7,000 schools worldwide.

Materials and Organization

The Montessori school is commonly referred to as the “Children’s House.” Each classroom is designed around the children who will use it, including child-sized furnishings and decorations. Even the materials are selected to match the children, such as the progression of beads and bars found in all Montessori classrooms. The materials are arranged for maximum benefit, and children are able to move about the room and up through the progression of materials as they master new educational skills.

Mixed Ages and Special Needs

Since the classroom is designed around mixed ages, there is no social catastrophe when a child needs to be “held back.” Children of differing ages are also motivating for the students, as older kids gain self esteem from helping little ones, and the younger see benefits from having in-class examples of what their goals can become. Cooperation is one of the foundations of Montessori learning, and it creates an environment of helpfulness and acceptance.

Student Goals and the Montessori Method

Some special needs students need special education strategies, and may require specialized guidance or therapy, including speech and behavioral guidance. But even these special needs can be worked into the student’s personal goals, building a more rounded child by matching his needs to his daily educational program. The structure of the Montessori classroom has been shown to assist in the development of children with conditions such as autism.

The Montessori method uses a hands-on approach to learning that appeals to children – having the freedom to work on projects at their own pace, and being immersed in an environment that teaches real-world skills is a comfortable and intuitive way for the special needs student to become all that they can be.  At our private day care in Fremont, CA, the staff at Montessori Childrens Center welcome children of all abilities. Contact us today to schedule a tour!

How Music Plays an Important Role in Montessori Education

Music is more than entertaining for the Montessori student. It plays a role in the education process itself. Music and singing are both used nearly everyday in the classroom, both for the purpose of music education and for the scientifically understood benefits that music can have on the ability to learn and grow. Montessori learning teaches that music is common to all students, but the science behind music in the classroom is equally important.

Montessori Bells and Tone Bars

Early music appreciation is an integral part of the classroom for students. The familiar “Bells,” for example, are used to help children learn to identify musical notes. As a young child becomes more familiar with the sounds of the bells, they are able to identify notes by ear, sorting the bells into correct order, and then using that knowledge to create simple melodies. Adding the equally familiar tone bars expands on early musical education.

Brain Stimulation

The process of making up a song or singing along stimulates the brain. Since music and reading are processed by opposite sides of the brain, associating the alphabet or written words with a melody will encourage higher brain function, bridging the cranial hemispheres. One result of this interaction is the ability to memorize things more accurately when they are associated with music. Another, equally important effect of music on education, is that children are encouraged to enjoy reading when they associate it with music.

Music and Movement

Physical responses, such as clapping in time to the rhythm of music, helps establish and reinforce balance and coordination. An excellent example of how music is applied in this respect can be seen in video and television targeted at early education. Age-old musical songs use repetitive actions to underscore the meaning, and some songs are designed expressly to increase motor control skills.

Growing with the Music

The traditional practice of keeping children in strict classroom desks and positions may be more harmful than helpful. In Montessori learning, attention is paid to the importance of movement, beginning with a distribution of study centers around the classroom, and continuing through the encouragement of physical activity combined with particular subject matter and study sets. Movement encourages physical and mental growth, and the active role of music encourages movement.

Music In the Home

Music appreciation does not end with the school day. At home, parents are encouraged to listen to a variety of music with their children. Sing songs together. Make up new songs together. Treat music as an interactive art form, including group and individual participation, dancing, and other forms of musical expression.

The benefits of including music as an integral part of the educational process are well defined and numerous. It is a tool in the Montessori classroom and should be encouraged at home as well. If you have questions about how to use music in your home parenting programs, contact the Montessori School of Fremont to find out more.  We invite parents and students to tour our school and classroom to learn about the Montessori method firsthand.

Games to Teach your Preschooler Teamwork

Life for your preschooler during his or her school time is about learning how to work with their peers. This concept is difficult for young children, so it’s important to promote teamwork during play to make it inviting and fun. Creative games or art activities are useful tools to initiate communication, collaboration, and cooperation among preschoolers.

Teach your Preschooler Teamwork Through Games

Your preschooler probably loves to play dress up or with blocks as these are common play activities with young children. Through these activities, they naturally develop cooperation between each other, but there are other games they can engage in to further promote teamwork. Try some of these ideas with your preschooler and their peers to focus them more on working together as a team.

Boxes and Balls

Using a large box cover, you can put your child to work as a team member and create an incredibly fun event. The best type of cover is one that has sides, so the ball remains contained on top and does not go rolling off as often. Place your child and their friends around the sides of the cover and put a brightly colored ball inside for them to keep in the middle. As a team, the preschoolers will have to work out how they hold the cover to maintain the ball in the center of the cover.

Group Mural

On a large sheet of paper or canvas draw a circle large enough to accommodate the number of children. Let the kids decide what images they want inside the circle, and they will work as a team to fill in space. This coloring or painting activity will have your preschooler working as a group to decide the style of coloring they choose and how to fill up the circle. It is also a great way for preschoolers to demonstrate or learn different techniques in coloring.

Amazing Maze

You can create an amazing maze with the bottom cut out of a large box. Inside the lower part of this box create a maze using brightly colored straws. Place an object such as a large marble, toy car, or any small movable item the children can work through the maze. With your preschooler and their friends placed around the bottom, each will have to work as a team to tilt the box and move the object through the maze. This activity is ideal for promoting cooperation between the team members.

Montessori Promotes Teamwork and Respect

Montessori classrooms are the ideal environment for your preschooler to learn about teamwork and respect. Classrooms are more like small communities where your child will share and work together with others while they learn the skill of being a team member. This skill is often forgotten in typical classroom settings, but in the Montessori environment, your child is encouraged to respect not only the teacher but their classmates as well. The teamwork aspect is a skill your child will take with them to create a lifetime of success.  The teachers of the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus integrate teamwork activities into their students’ daily learning.  Schedule a tour today to see the positive impact working together has on a student’s learning environment.