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.

Creating an Herb Garden with Your Toddler

Are you looking for a way to develop your toddler’s interest in growing things? Creating an herb garden together is an excellent way to get children excited about science and nature. Herbs are generally pretty easy to care for and can be grown either outside or inside, in a garden or in containers.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your child’s first experience with nature and gardening is a positive one.

  • Keep it small. To encourage ownership of the garden, keep it to just two or three plants for your toddler. You may have a larger garden with many more plants, but your toddler should be expected to care for only a few. Herbs such as mint, chives, and basil are fairly easy to grow.
  • Choose the plants with your child’s help. Toddlers are too young to do the actual research themselves, but they can “help” you choose what herbs to plant and learn how to care for them. Once you plant, make sure each of your child’s herbs is marked. A plastic marker with a picture is helpful for toddlers.
  • Choose between indoor and outdoor. Is your toddler’s herb garden going to be inside or outside? In containers or in the ground? This decision may depend on whether you have the space outside. Either way, most herbs like a lot of sun and well-drained soil, so if you plant a container garden be sure they have drainage holes and are placed in a sunny window.
  • Decide whether seeds or seedlings are best for you. Planting seeds is more educational for children because they get to experience the entire process from beginning to end, while planting seedlings is more exciting because they get to see progress right away. What you choose depends on what kind of experience you are wanting for your toddler.
  • Encourage independence. To help your child take ownership of their own garden, help them carve out a space that belongs only to them. This could be a corner of the garden outside, a large pot that contains two or three plants that belong just to your child, or a collection of small containers with one plant in each. Help your child plant the seeds or seedlings and teach them basic care such as how much water to give. Even if you have to do a little of the maintenance yourself, allow your child to take ownership of the plants.

Inspiring Young Gardeners, Scientists, and Nature-Lovers

The best part of growing your toddler’s first herb garden is seeing their excitement and their interest in taking care of the plants. We love projects like this at Montessori Childrens House for how they inspire children to learn. To find out more about the kinds of projects we explore in our classrooms through Montessori education, please contact us today to schedule a tour.

Tips to Help your Preschooler Learn the ABCs

By the time your child enters preschool, they should know their alphabet. They don’t necessarily need to know how to write each letter; however, they should know the alphabet song or at least most of it. They should be able to recognize some of the letters. If you want to start preparing your child for preschool, you can start their lessons at home.

Singing the Alphabet

One of the most effective ways to teach your child the alphabet is to sing the song for them. You can start doing this very early, even before they are able to speak. If you listen to a song on the radio all the time, eventually, you will know it by heart. Most people don’t print out the lyrics and memorize them. Just hearing the song over and over makes the words stick in your head. The same will be true with your child and the alphabet song.

Read Alphabet Books Together

It is good to start reading to your child at a young age. Not only will it help you bond with your child, it will also help instill a life long love of reading. When your child is preparing to enter preschool, you should start reading alphabet books together. There are plenty of books available that will teach your child the letters of the alphabet and also the sounds that they make. Books are great learning tools when you are teaching your child the alphabet.

Alphabet Puzzles

Wooden alphabet puzzles are excellent learning tools. Children love puzzles and most incorporate learning. Alphabet puzzles have pieces shaped like letters. Many puzzles also have a picture on the puzzle piece that coincides with the letter. The better your child gets at doing the puzzle, the more they will learn.

Incorporate ABC Lessons in Your Daily Life

You don’t need to be sitting down at a table to teach your child the ABC’s. You can work on your lessons when you are cooking dinner or walking to the park. For example, if you are cooking and you need the butter, you can tell your child that butter starts with B. If you are walking to the park and you see a tree, you can tell your child that tree starts with T. If you do this often, your child will begin to get the connection between the letter and the sound.

Alphabet Flash Cards

Alphabet flash cards are excellent teaching tools. Each card has the letter printed on it, as well as an object whose name begins with the letter. At first, you may need to give your child the answers; however, over time, they will be able to start naming the letters and the objects themselves.

The Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus will take the alphabet lessons that you have taught your child and will build on them in fun and creative ways. It won’t be long before your child is reciting, recognizing, and writing the alphabet. Prospective parents and students are invited to tour our school and visit our classrooms to see the Montessori difference.  Contact us today and make an appointment.

Spring Crafts for Ages 0-6

Spring is always a fun time for kids, and few things help them get into the spirit of things like craft activities. One of the best things about doing craft activities is its ability to engage even the youngest of children. No matter whether your child is already experienced with crafts or just starting to play with crayons, these activities will help awaken your child’s imagination.

Tray Spring Art

These pieces of spring art are easy for even the youngest toddlers to create, made from one of the simplest items available – a meat tray. Let your child color in the background with non-toxic markers or paint. Then, attach colorful foam shapes such as butterflies or flowers that fit in with the spring theme.

Colorful Windchimes

Kids love windchimes, but you might have concerns about working with glass or metal pieces around little kids. Twig chimes are a fun alternative, and your kids will enjoy selecting their own twigs as part of a nature walk. Paint the twigs in bright spring or rainbow colors, then hang them in a spot where everyone can enjoy them.

Tissue Paper Rainbows

A rainbow is a great way to introduce young kids to colors. Tissue paper is easy for little ones to work with and cut using safety scissors. Once the rainbow is put together, your kids will want to display it and tell stories.

Clay Vase Necklaces

These necklaces help spark kids’ creativity when they get interested in working with clay. One of the best parts of making them is that it is easy to shape the clay and run the string through. For an extra bit of fun, go out exploring with your kids and find some pretty flowers to put in the miniature vases.

3D Animals

Animal figures are lots of fun for kids, but nothing comes close to making your own. Help your child trace the outline of an animal on a file folder with its body spread out; make sure the fold will be in the middle of the back. Cut the figure out, color, and then fold it so the animal stands up.

Drip Dye Flower Pot

Drip dye is a fun activity for kids who like paint and playing around with colors. Drop one or two paint colors into a cup filled with water, then pour the dye over a plain vase. When the paint dries, the vase will have a unique look your child will take pride in.

These fun activities are perfect for a spring day in the Bay Area and for helping your child prepare for school.  At Montessori School of Pleasanton, students are encouraged to embrace their creativity, including through art activities.  Our hands-on, interactive learning approach allows students to explore independently while working with their fellow students to engage in the subject at hand. Contact us today to schedule a tour.