The Montessori Environment: What is your Role as an Adult?

In the classroom and at home, the adults in a child’s life play a vital role in education. The Montessori environment positions adults as a guide for children to draw upon for information, guidance, and resources that promote learning. Their role is not to force the child to conform to preconceived ideas, but to provide necessary materials and help the child discover methods or activities that nurture learning and development.

Practice, Consistency, and Motivation

The role of the adult can be summed up using the 3 key components of the adult-child relationship. Far from being an authoritarian role, it is more supportive than dictatorial. The components are simple ones:

  • Practice – Give the child ample opportunity to experiment with ideas and practice skills. Think of this as allowing children to review and reaffirm past lessons rather than rushing them from one milestone to the next.
  • Consistency – Establish and stick to a consistent plan. This does not mean that a rigorous schedule is necessary – it means that the there needs to be regularity in the learning environment.
  • Motivation – This is arguably the most important part of Montessori learning. Children who receive encouragement and support are more enthusiastic about learning and experiencing new things. Motivation builds self-confidence, and that promotes moving forward.

Planning and Support

For the child, a seamless environment is preferable to a chaotic one. Adults, whether they are parents or teachers, need to provide the planning necessary for smooth transitions throughout the day, week, and the years to come. This includes having the materials available for course studies, and providing the encouragement and support which merges one lesson or activity into the next. Give children the freedom to move from one activity to the next by making sure the choices are available to them when they are ready.

Preparation and Guidance

Many of the responsibilities of the adult take place behind the scenes. Planning and preparation are invisible guidelines in the classroom which allow smooth transitioning and freedom to move about the classroom. As a guide, your encouragement and participation are as important as the preparation. This includes discussing how the child is progressing, offering suggestions on how to solve problems, and maintaining a comfortable atmosphere.

Emotional and Intellectual Interaction

In order for a child to excel, they need to be comfortable, both emotionally and intellectually. It is more practical to help a child understand their feelings than to simply dictate why they should react a certain way. This helps put emotional reactions and intellectual understandings on par and gives the child a framework to build on. An adult is needed to help the child understand their feelings and pursue their understandings rather than dictating how one should behave and what they must learn.

Montessori education recognizes that adults play a key role in a child’s education.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, our teachers work with parents and guardians, assisting them with the continuation of Montessori learning outside of school.  If you are looking for more ways to get involved with your child’s education, contact us today to learn ways to play an active role in your child’s daily learning.

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.

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.

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.

Sensory Focused Painting Activities

Children learn by engaging in a variety of activities. Encouraging sensory activities allows your child to explore through touch, smell, sight and sound. In addition, introducing sensory focused painting activities into your child’s routine encourages creativity, large motor skills, and enhances eye/hand coordination. As the activity unfolds, your child will learn social and vocabulary skills which enhance other areas of development.

Painting Activities for the Senses

Sensory focused painting activities go beyond the traditional paint and brush use. Introducing a broad spectrum of materials allows your child to engage in the project with endless possibilities. Using different textures and materials helps engage your child’s natural curiosity for learning. A routine painting activity may lead to other art interests.

Bubble Wrap Painting

Bubble wrap is a fun addition to sensory focused painting activity. Securing bubble wrap to rolling pins, paper towel tubes, or wooden blocks is a great way to paint. Simply dip the instrument into the paint and apply to paper. The bubble wrap produces small trails and texture lines. As your child uses various colors, the paint trails will blend.

Another bubble wrap sensory focused painting activity engages large motor skills and the sense of touch. The bubble wrap may be formed into socks or mittens. Trace your child’s foot or hand. Secure the bubble wrap with tape. Depending on the area of the bubble wrap, allow your child to walk across large sheets of butcher paper or make handprints. Producing art through movement engages the whole child.

Painting with Different Textures

In addition to bubble wrap as a painting instrument, you may use other items to allow for various design outcomes.

  • Yarn
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Sponges cut into different sizes and shapes
  • Marbles
  • Toy cars
  • Spray bottles
  • Eye Droppers
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Pasta noodles

Along with unique painting instruments, apply the paint to different surfaces, which increases the learning experience.

  • Old compact discs
  • Sandpaper
  • Material pieces
  • Aluminum foil
  • Butcher paper
  • Poster board
  • Construction paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Coffee filters

The combination of the instrument and surface increases your child’s engagement in the project. By offering your child choices, the overall experience increases curiosity to further learning opportunities through exploration.

Adding Spices to Paint

Smell is a powerful sense. Using paint with different odors adds to the learning experience of sensory focused painting activities. Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, chili, and vanilla are perfect choices. Along with engaging fine motor skills, the mild smells allow your child to engage another sense.

Children love to create. Sensory focused painting activities are fun and messy. Along with enhancing the sense of touch, smell, sound, sight and depending on the paint, you may include taste.  At Montessori Childrens Center, we encourage our students to embrace their creativity by incorporating hands on activities into our everyday lessons.  To learn more about the Montessori Method, contact us today.