Third Quarter Review: Is your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

Today’s kindergarten is similar to the 1st grade of years gone by. By the time a child enters kindergarten, they should be capable of meeting a few guidelines, including being able to take care of basic personal functions alone, following classroom rules, interacting with others, and possessing a basic academic knowledge of letters and numbers. While the exact details of kindergarten readiness may vary from one state or school district to another, the following four categories will all be addressed in some form no matter where your child attends school.

Academic Readiness

Children need to have the ability to write their own name before advancing to kindergarten. In some states, this requirement is expanded to include knowing their address as well. The kindergarten-ready child should also be able to recognize basic shapes, recognize (but not necessarily recite) the alphabet and numbers from 1 to 10, and some states may require recognizing colors although this is problematic for children who are colorblind.

Attentiveness and Self Control

Self control is important and may be measured in a number of ways. In general, the child must be able to control their impulsive urges and behave in an acceptable manner. They should also be able to listen to and follow simple instructions from a teacher or other authoritative person. This includes the ability to participate in class functions and solve basic problems regarding behavior and performance.

Motor Skills and Coordination

The ability to manipulate small objects is considered one test of motor control skills, along with top level motor skills such as walking, jumping, and moving around without assistance. Kindergarten readiness is also contingent on being able to control basic bodily functions, and the ability to relieve oneself without assistance. This category also includes the ability to dress oneself, including putting on their own shoes.

Social Skills

Social interaction is a necessary part of your child’s school day, and social skills are a test of their kindergarten readiness. This includes the ability to participate or play with others in a peaceful manner. Other important social skills include relating to both adults and other children, a willingness to learn, and the ability to empathize with the needs and feelings of other students. Similarly, a child is not ready to advance to kindergarten until they are able to express their own needs and feelings in a socially acceptable manner.

Children who are not able to do the things listed above may need to be held back, or “redshirted” for another year. Needing a little extra time to prepare for kindergarten is not a problem, and may benefit your child in other ways as well. California allows for both early kindergarten admittance and skipping over kindergarten completely, which takes the pressure off children and their parents when additional preparation time is required.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, we offer primary programs for ages 3-6.  If you are looking at kindergarten options for next year in the Flagstaff area, be sure to contact us today to set up a school tour.

Preschool Classroom: Use of Technology

The process of Montessori education has been compared to the process of playing computer games. In order for either one to hold any interest for a child, they have to contain elements that combine involvement, excitement, and discovery. If the game is too difficult or the classroom materials too advanced, then children will lose interest and stop participating.

But how about the use of technology in a Montessori classroom? Is that a conflict of interest, with technology competing for real-world, hands-on activity? Not as much as you might think, and technology is improving by leaps and bounds.

Technology is the Real World

There is no longer a dividing line between communications technology and daily life. Because our smart technology has become so pervasive in our lives, including it in a well-rounded education is more important than ever. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of adult guidance involved, but hi-tech devices are here to stay, and preparing our children to use them responsibly will help them later. Obviously, your preschooler isn’t using social media, but they could be using any of a variety of apps designed expressly for teaching young children. On a computer at home, Gcompris is a well-rounded educational tool, with puzzles and games designed for a range of age groups, and a huge variety of learning tools and more.

Expanding on the Original Concept

Technology can be useful in the Montessori classroom as well. It allows greater customization of computerized materials to individual students, including adjusting the difficulty levels, and allowing easier manipulation of information from outside sources. For example, the former scenario might including learning to use math in incremental stages, while the latter could be something like keeping a database of images of leaves or bugs. Both would progress along with the child and interact with physical activities in a number of ways. The idea is not to separate technology from Montessori, but weld the two together.

Montessori Education is Immersive Education

When the Montessori method was being developed, technology like we have today didn’t exist. If it had, Maria Montessori would have had to include it into her materials and learning stations. Technology is too much a part of our lives for it to continue to be ignored. Instead, young children need to learn about the possibilities and dangers involved with technology. They need to be prepared for a world where calling a taxi and learning how to make a simple volcano are only a few clicks away. This does not mean that physical, real-world activities have to be shunned – only that the activities and the technologies need to be used together for the best results.

Technology has a place in a Montessori classroom. We live in a world which relies on technology, so including it in a well-rounded education makes practical sense. If we teach children to use safe technology practices from early childhood, they will be more responsible technology users as they get older.  To learn how the teachers and staff at the Montessori Children’s Center incorporate technology into the classroom and students’ overall learning experience, contact us today to schedule a tour.

Preschool STEM Activities

STEM is short for Science, Technology, Engineering & Math, a broad term used to describe a specific type of curriculum. STEM activities tend to be hands-on, which makes them a perfect fit for the Montessori preschool and children’s early education. Additionally, learning about science and engineering at an early age gives children the foundation for being a more productive student and citizen as they get older.

Edible Erector Sets

Pretzel sticks, marshmallows, and other finger snacks are an excellent way to learn basic building practices. Children can use the items to create bridges, buildings, and even vehicles which roll. And while they are enjoying this delicious fun, they will be learning the fundamentals of engineering and design, including the importance of common design principles such as arches and suspension bridges.

Aquarium Biome

Students are encouraged to find and capture the plants, insects, and animal life needed to create a functioning habitat in an aquarium. Each new find is an opportunity to learn about that type of life, what kind of environment it prefers, and what other living things it needs to stay healthy and grow. Variations on this project include building an ant farm or creating an aquatic biome with fish, frogs, and water plants. A simple observation project is to catch tadpoles and watch them turn into frogs over time.

Volcano in a Pan

Place a paper towel roll or other cylinder upright in a deep pan, and build a mud volcano (or use a mixture of flour, salt, and water) around the tube. Children will enjoy getting their hands in the dirt, and the hillsides can even be decorated with small plants and grass. Once complete, allow the mud to dry until the volcano is firm. Next, pour a tablespoon of baking powder into the top of the tube, add about on ounce of vinegar, and watch the volcano erupt! Add food coloring to the vinegar before pouring it in the tube for colorful results.

Measuring Things

Using a large measuring cup with amounts labeled on it, small children can learn to read measurements and absorb the principles behind fractions. A good project to use for this would be something like no-bake oatmeal cookies, instant puddings, and things of that nature. On the surface, this activity is about learning to measure items, but underneath that is the fact that cooking is a type of household chemistry, turning individual ingredients into tasty treats.

Children are never too young to learn about science, technology, and engineering. In Montessori environment, which is already based on play and hands-on activity, STEM activities are custom made to encourage interest and give children a fun way to learn.  STEM activities are incorporated into the curriculum at the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus, even at the preschool age.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and learn more about the Montessori Method.

February: Celebrating Black History Month

In the United States and Canada, February is African American History, or Black History Month. Throughout the month, schools are teaching about important African American people and how they have helped to shape the nation we live in. This year is themed around blacks who fought in American conflicts, from the Revolution to Syria and Afghanistan.

African American History Month Themes

Each year, Black History Month covers a new theme. A recent previous year saw African American women being celebrated, and 2018’s theme is “African Americans in Times of War.” African Americans have fought in every war our nation has participated in, from the Revolutionary War to recent wars in the Middle East, but they rarely receive the recognition that is due. This year, African American History Month hopes to correct that by paying homage to those brave men and women of uniform.

African Americans in the Revolutionary War

The very first person to die in the Revolutionary war was an African American named Crispus Attucks. He died during the Boston Massacre and a monument was erected for him in 1888. Another famous first was the first black minuteman, Lemuel Haynes, who fought in the Battle of Lexington in 1775.

Famous Military Firsts

African Americans have achieved many things while serving in the military. The U.S. Army’s first field officer was a black man, for example, fighting alongside Union troops in the Civil War. And an African American was the first black man to be honored for going above and beyond the call of duty in 1918. The Montford Point Marines were the first black platoon in the U.S. Marine Corps., many of whom were recently given posthumous gold medals of honor by Congress.

African Americans in Vietnam

Vietnam marked the first war in which blacks were enlisted in high numbers. In some ways, this marked an acceptance of black men in society, but it was also used unfairly, as blacks were more likely to see front line combat than their white counterparts. The war did, however, bring African Americans to realize their rightful place as citizens, and black enlistment continued to soar even after Vietnam and conscription came to an end.

The list of famous African Americans goes on, including the first black man to earn the rank of 4-star general, and the well-known Colin Powell, who rose as high as Chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the rest of the month of February, introduce your students to some of these fine men and women who have served our nation so well.  The Montessori School of Fremont believes in educating its students about diversity – celebrating different races, cultures, and traditions.  Contact us today to see how our teachers incorporate history into this celebration.

Benefits of Hands-On, Interactive Learning

More and more schools are moving toward hand-on, interactive learning for young children. From the beginning, this has been the Montessori approach, in recognition of Maria Montessori’s observance of children during her early studies. The benefits can be remarkable, helping children learn faster and giving them real-world experience they will remember.

Montessori Materials

The materials used in a Montessori classroom are designed for use by children. From simple objects to more more advanced materials, everything in the room is designed to pique a child’s interest and make them want to play with the materials, learning as they do so. The idea is to provide children with learning materials they want to use, and derive pleasure from doing so. In this way, Montessori schools use hands-on learning to encourage hands-on education.

STEM Activities

Giving children a hands-on approach to science and math have a proven body of research to support it. Science is much easier to comprehend when the students are actually doing science experiments, and math, such as counting coins, can be put into perspective to help children understand how it works. As children get older, they can build on early STEM activities to acquire more knowledge and relevant experience.

Growing with the Children

Montessori activities are designed to allow them to be expanded on as children gain knowledge and experience. In this way, simple classroom tools will serve different purposes as your child moves from skill or focus subject to the next. Different subject lessons can even be taught using the same tools, adding to the familiar aspect of hands-on learning.

Social Interaction

Hands-on education gives children the opportunity to interact with each other. There is a growing body of research which indicates that social interaction is vital to emotional and intellectual development, which makes joint projects, games and other group activities integral to the early learning process. In the process, having a point of focus during social interaction helps children learn about etiquette and general good manners. And sharing the information between older and younger children is one of many benefits for the multi-aged classroom.

From social skills to motor control, hands-on learning is a better way to learn. Interacting with other children to accomplish goals and enjoy activities builds a sense of community and provides children with a sense of belonging that may not always be available through traditional education systems. The benefits are many, and the drawbacks are few, which should be reason enough to pursue hands on education at home and in school.

The Montessori Children’s Center in Fremont, CA uses interactive and hands-on learning throughout all daily activities. Based on Maria Montessori’s method, using this approach allows students to explore things with each other and at their own pace.  To see this method in action, contact us today to schedule a tour.

Tax Season: Can you deduct Preschool Expenses?

The 2017 tax season is over, and filing time has arrived. For parents of small children, the question of whether they can claim preschool expenses, and how to claim them is important. We have compiled some pertinent information which should be helpful in trying to gets your tax forms in order.

Child and Dependent Care Expenses

Kiplinger’s explains that a portion of your child care expenses can be claimed as a credit, which affects your net income. Note that this is a credit used to calculate net income, rather than a deduction calculated against that income. There are some qualifying considerations before you can claim the credit, including:

  • Parent Requirements
    • Single parent working or attending college fulltime.
    • Both parents work fulltime, or looking for work
    • One parent works fulltime, the other attends college classes fulltime
  • Income Parameters
    • Income less than $15,000 can claim up to 35% of expenses
    • Percentage gradually decreases down to 20% for income greater than $43,000
  • Maximum Credit Amounts
    • Maximum of $1,000 for one child
    • Maximum of up to $6,000 for 2 or more children

Information Concerning IRS Publication 503

IRS Publication 503 details the forms necessary for claiming child and dependent care expenses. To claim the credit, you will have to file Form 1040, and include Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expense as part of your long-form filing. Publication 503 lists the information necessary, including when you must file a Form w-10, which tests you must pass to be eligible, and other information. For additional assistance, you may contact the IRS directly, or seek the help of a tax professional.

Charitable Donations

If your child’s preschool is a non profit organization, money or items you donate may be deductible. The important thing about charitable donations to the school are that they must be made to the school itself, rather than supplies intended for your child alone. For example, donating art supplies may be deductible, but providing art supplies specifically for your child are not. This is true for school uniforms, classroom supplies, or other donations. As long as you donate to the entire class or the school in general you are okay, but sending supplies for your child are not – and may be required by the school’s charter anyway.

As you see, you cannot claim the cost of preschool directly, but may be eligible for credits that affect your overall tax obligations. Even though you may not be able to get credit for the entire cost of preschool, you will be able to use Form 2441 to reduce the amount of money you owe, or to adjust your net earnings.

The Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus offers programs for preschool and kindergarten children, ages 3-6.  Our children’s house allows students to work at their own pace with gentle guidance from teachers and older students.  To learn about our programs and curriculum, contact us today and schedule a tour.

Learning about Martin Luther King, Jr.

February is Black History Month, and Martin Luther King, Jr. is a central part of those lessons. Additionally, the third Monday of January is a holiday named in his honor. Even though there was a lot of racial violence during his lifetime, Dr. King insisted that violence was not the way to achieve equality for black people, but that they should instead use their rights to assemble and peaceful protests to bring about the changes that were needed.

A Modern American Hero

Martin Luther King, Jr. earned a place in the history books by standing up for the rights of African Americans. He believed that no one should be discriminated against on the basis of the color of their skin. He saw how racial prejudice was harming the country and taught that peaceful protest was the best way for African Americans to attain a better life.

Understanding Civil Rights

Civil rights are the everyday rights of people and are the cornerstone of American freedom. When Martin Luther King, Jr. became famous, black people were treated unfairly in many ways, such as not being allowed to sit where they wanted on public buses or eat in the same restaurants as white people. Dr. King is famous for saying, “I have a dream,” and his dream was that everyone would someday be allowed to enjoy the same protections under the law.

Peace and Kindness for All Americans

Martin Luther King, Jr., a baptist pastor, wanted a revolution in civil rights, but he did not want people to fight. Instead, he believed that peaceful solutions were vital to our country. His form of revolution was to hold peaceful protests that pointed out how African Americans were being discriminated against and demanded that the government take steps which guaranteed the rights and freedoms of everyone equally. He did not want people to fight, but he knew that these changes were the only way to avoid a racial violence.

The Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his famous speech, delivered in August of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. laid out his dream for the future. He said that he dreamed of African Americans rising above protests involving violence and crime. He said that “all men are created equal,” just as it had been written into the Declaration of Independence. He dreamed of a world where his children would not be treated unfairly based on the color of their skin. He dreamed of black people having the same rights as Caucasians, including the ability to vote, travel freely, use public services, and eat in the same establishments.

Even though he only spoke of peace, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April of 1968, by James Earl Ray, who was a confirmed racist. That action gave credence to the Civil Rights movement. In some ways, that 1963 speech led to the first African American President, Barack Obama, being elected 45 years later, in 2008.

Montessori education treats and teaches every student equally, regardless of the color of their skin.  At the Montessori School of Fremont, our teachers use the past to teach students about the present, using hands-on lessons and encouraging open discussions.  We invite you and your child to tour our school today and see the Montessori Method first hand.

History of the Montessori Method

The first Montessori school opened more than 100 years ago in 1907. The school introduced what was a new approach to education at that time. Today, Montessori schools are found on every populated continent, and the methods first used by Maria Montessori have become popular in public and private schools alike.

The Origins of Montessori Method

In 1896, Maria Montessori became one of the first women to become a doctor in Italy. Her focus was on psychiatric methods to help educate children with disabilities. Far from accepting that these children were unable to learn, she looked for alternative ways to reach their natural curiosity. She experimented with different methods which seemed to show more success, and in 1900, she was given a role as co-director of a training institute for teachers in the field of special education. She put many of her earlier observations into practice, and the program turned out to be a success.

The Children’s House

Maria Montessori’s flagship experiment, Casa dei Bambini, opened in an underprivileged Italian district in 1907. Children who were considered ill-behaved or even unteachable responded enthusiastically to puzzles, hands-on education, and real-world activities. Maria observed how the children responded to stimuli, teaching themselves by playing and performing enjoyable tasks. Instead of forcing the children to learn using unfamiliar materials, she designed a classroom that was child-centered and interesting. The Montessori Method was born, and soon achieved recognition throughout Italy. By 1910, Montessori education began to be accepted worldwide, and a new way to educate children had arrived.

Child Based Learning

The tenets of the Montessori method were revolutionary and based on the idea that children learn better in their own environment and at their own pace. The Montessori classroom was designed around children rather than the adults and teaching materials included enjoyable activities. She believed that children are learning even when they are playing, and her classrooms were developed to encourage children to get involved and entertained as they learn. Instead of forcing children to learn in an academic situation, she fostered participation by making the learning process more enjoyable, using play and real-world activity rather than focusing on textbooks and rote memorization.

Child, Environment, and Guide

Teachers in a Montessori school are typically referred to as guides. Their primary purpose is to create an environment which children can identify with and respond to in a positive manner. The guides maintain a sense of order while allowing children to move about the different activity centers freely. To help foster learning, multi-age classrooms allow younger children to learn from older ones, which has the added benefit of creating a sense of worth and responsibility in children as they grow.

The Montessori method is a different approach to education, but one that has been shown to work, not just over the last century, but throughout the history of mankind. Children have always learned by observing and doing, and Maria Montessori developed a way to bring those traits into the classroom.

Montessori Children’s Center in Fremont, CA offers Montessori programs for children ages 3 months to 6 years.  Our teachers and staff follow the methodology first established by Maria Montessori herself more than 100 years ago.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the impact of child-centered teaching.

How to Keep and Preserve your Child’s Artwork

Every piece of art your child creates is worth preserving. But when your little Picasso is creating more art than your fridge can handle, it might be time to get creative when keeping and saving their timeless masterpieces.

Here are some fun and innovative ideas on how to keep, enjoy, and preserve your child’s artwork for many years to come.

No. 1 – Have a Filing System

In order to curate and preserve your child’s artwork, you should first have a filing system in place. Choose a storage container where you can keep all of your child’s artwork and separate it by using the following categories:

  • Use for Crafting Projects
  • Frame and Hang
  • Save for Later Use
  • Mail to Loved Ones

You can add your own categories depending on what you plan to do with your child’s artwork. But the important thing is having a system in place to deal with the onslaught of colorful rainbows and smiling stick-men your child joyfully brings you every day.

No. 2 – Download Keepy

Take your child’s artwork into the digital world by downloading Keepy – an awesome app that allows you to upload pictures of your child’s art which you can then save, share, and print until your heart is content. This will also help you de-clutter your current collection.

No. 3 – Make a Mini-Gallery

One of the best ways to celebrate your child’s talents is by creating their very own art gallery in your home. You can start by picking a specific wall, painting it with magnetic paint, and then hang up your child’s favorite pieces. You can then rotate the art once a month so you’re always keeping it fresh and interesting.

No. 4 – Use it for Wrapping Paper

As long as you don’t mind parting with some physical copies of your child’s artwork, you can use it to wrap presents on special occasions and holidays. Not only will you save some money on wrapping paper, but it will make your gifts even more unique and thoughtful than before.

No. 5 – Start an Annual Tradition

If you want to keep as much of your child’s artwork as possible while also documenting their progress as they grow up – you can make an annual tradition of sorting, filing, and comparing their work at the end of each year.

Get some three-ring binders and label each one with a different year. Then, you and your child can sit down to go through their artwork, comparing them to previous years and preserving the best ones in labeled page protectors.

Getting Creative

Saving your child’s artwork can be a bonding experience for the whole family while also teaching them important lessons in organization, preservation, and creativity. And by turning their doodles and drawings into lifelong memories, you are helping to give them the confidence and skills they need to succeed later in life.

At the Montessori Children’s Center in Fremont, California, we encourage creativity throughout our curriculum and specifically use hands-on learning techniques that allow children to explore on their own.  We treat each child as an individual and can help you come up with a plan for working to preserve all your child’s work, including their artwork.  Contact us today and schedule a tour of our school.

Tools used to Assess your Montessori Student

In traditional public schools, testing is the required norm. Some classes test the children every week, and all kids must take standardized assessment tests periodically to determine their progress. Everything is different in a Montessori classroom. While each child is being continuously monitored and assessed, the methods used are far more subtle, and often subjective, focusing on the skills of the individual child rather than trying to fit the child into age-specific standardization.

Standardized Tests

Some Montessori schools use standardized testing as well as other methods. This practice is more common in public Montessori schools, or privately operated schools which transition children into public education as they get older. Some of the data collected in these tests can be used to improve the Montessori system, but individual progress carries more weight than standardized questions.

Daily Assessment

Assessment takes place continuously in the Montessori classroom. Guides observe the activities of children and offer assistance or suggest other methods as children require it. Teachers also speak with children regularly, allowing the guide and student to look at the individual’s progress and plan future activities accordingly. Where a public school teacher may know that the class is on page 247 of a textbook, the Montessori guide knows that your child is learning to master a particular concept or skill. The key is that the children in the class are working at their own paces, and they are not all on the same page.

Self-Paced Learning

Montessori learning encourages the children’s natural inquisitiveness. Because the kids are allowed to learn at their own paces, each student may move about the Montessori classroom and various activity centers as they learn new skills. Since this follows a more natural pattern of learning, many children are able to absorb subject material faster.

All Children are Special

Maria Montessori believed that all children are special. Each one has unique talents and is able to grasp different concepts more quickly than others. In the Montessori classroom, this allows gifted children and challenged learners to work together in the classroom, advancing at their own pace, without becoming separated from their peer group. In addition to allowing individual advancement within the classroom, this also allows interaction between children, benefiting those who are having more trouble and creating a sense of self-worth for the children as a group.

Montessori schools teach the same kind of information, in approximately the same age-groups, as traditional schools. But the methods used to do that are much different, focusing more on personal achievement, hands-on learning, and social responsibility. Both methods attempt to provide children with a well-rounded education, but the approaches used by each are like comparing apples to oranges.  Schedule a visit at the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus today to learn more about the tools we use to assess students.