Understanding the Principles of the Montessori Method

The Montessori Method is an educational approach for helping children learn and develop in a natural manner. Focusing on children’s curiosities, a Montessori teacher will be able to implement a prearranged lesson plan to foster exploration and further learning. The Montessori concept focuses on basic principles to ensure the highest learning potential.

The Basic Principles for Understanding the Montessori Method

Implemented in classrooms for the last 100 years, the basic principles of the Montessori Method focus on cognitive, social, physical, and emotional development of the child. Fostering the whole child helps create a sense of self. Unlike traditional classrooms, a Montessori learning environment allows for different age groups. Interacting with older and younger children provides many benefits including leadership skills, social interaction, and cognitive development. Using the Montessori approach helps engage all students in a well-prepared learning environment.

Respecting the Child as an Individual

Highly trained Montessori teachers recognize each child as a unique individual. This approach allows teachers to build upon each child’s skills, focus, and natural interests. As the children in the Montessori classroom begin to explore, a sense of independence occurs. Fostering the independence allows children to interact with peers in a positive manner. Children learn self-discipline by engaging in the environment.

Engaging the Absorbent Mind

Montessori classrooms do not focus on rewards. Instead, the focus is primarily on engaging the absorbent or curious mind. The joy of learning something new is far more rewarding than a letter grade. Part of the natural learning process, this allows Montessori educators to show children mistakes without punishment. Realizing how the error occurs, children learn to identify and fix mistakes on their own.

Understanding Children Has Sensitive Periods

Children naturally go through sensitive periods. Each sensitive period is a crucial learning point for different types of development. Engaging in predetermined activities, Montessori teachers recognize the natural development process by engaging the child for optimal learning. The prearranged environment allows the child unlock maximum learning potential.

Preparing the Classroom Environment

Montessori teachers carefully analyze the needs of the children in the classroom to prepare a learning environment. Focusing on independence, the Montessori Method focuses on hands-on learning. Children are given the opportunity to choose an activity based on personal interests. Along with the prepared learning environment indoors, the Montessori classroom focuses on nature as an integral component in natural development. Being outdoors provides children many opportunities to expand vocabulary, social skills, and individual curiosity.

Over time, older children learn practical life skills as part of the classroom activities. Preparing snacks, brushing teeth, and putting everything back in the proper place allows for a foundation of skills that will last a lifetime.

Self-Education

The Montessori Method relies on continuous learning or self-education. This approach focuses on the concept children want to learn. As new materials are available, a natural curiosity of a subject will occur. Providing children with uninterrupted blocks of time to explore allows for the successful implementation of self-education.

Day Star Montessori relies on the principles of Montessori education as established by Dr. Maria Montessori over 100 years ago.  Our students are encouraged to explore independently, work with students of various age groups, and be guided by the teacher as to the learning environment that best suits them as individuals.  Visit us today to see the benefits of enrolling your child in a Montessori school.

The Value in a Montessori Elementary School Education

A Montessori education prepares your child to thrive with an exceptional curriculum that prepares them skillfully and meaningfully for our ever-changing world. When your child leaves their elementary school environment, they will be ready for opportunities and challenges awaiting them in high school, college, and life in general.

The Value in a Montessori Elementary School Education

Elementary education in the Montessori school is divided into two parts. Lower Elementary are students in grades 1 through 3. Upper Elementary are students in grade 4 through 6. All grades throughout the two parts are taught subjects in accordance with the Montessori ‘cosmic education’ principle. This principle means your child will be taught to make direct use of their knowledge. They are encouraged to pursue their own interests independently and in depth. Support is provided, so your child doesn’t spend time just memorizing material, but will use their knowledge in real life applications.

Grades 1 through 3

Students in the lower elementary grades begin cultural work to look at their universe from the beginning of time. Timelines are used to organize and explain the formation of the earth and origin of life. Your child will learn about plants and animals and along the way, learn the history of life forms.

Lower elementary students’ curriculum also includes math, language, and practical life studies. When your child learns math skills, they will also develop problem-solving skills and be able to use math skills in their daily lives. Language will give them an understanding and appreciation for reading and literature along with knowledge of all writing and grammar styles.

Practical life studies will prepare your child to perform a series of jobs necessary to their classroom community. They will be asked to take care of a class pet, clean up after a group setting, or prepare and serve a class snack. These studies will show the importance and necessity of group work within a community setting.

Grades 4 through 6

Upper elementary students continue work introduced in the lower elementary. They extend the study on cosmic education with courses on human history. Studies will also include following the sequence of earth science, physical science, and biology. Their math curriculum will provide them a strong foundation in plane figures, area, volume, and formulas along with an introduction to congruence, equivalence, and similarity concepts.

As an upper elementary student, your child will expand their knowledge of grammar, creative writing, and different writing styles. They will be exposed to an in-depth literature curriculum. There are also practical life studies included in the upper grades to help prepare your child for necessary everyday practices.

Enriched Social Development

The Montessori Elementary education provides students in both levels with a well-rounded educational experience. Teachers will incorporate art, music, different languages, and physical education into their time. Students are encouraged to discuss, and problem solve issues that arise among them and speak honestly while feeling safe and included. They are taught to deal with social and emotional issues with empathy and respect.

Montessori education is different from a traditional education, in that students are encouraged to learn at their own pace and work with their peers and older students alike to gain better understanding of the world around them.  At Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus, we offer a full elementary program for grades 1 through 6.  Our elementary program not only inspires academic excellence but also encourages each child’s curiosity, creativity, and imagination.  Contact us today to schedule a tour.

Valentine Crafts for Preschoolers

February 14th, Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to do fun crafts with preschoolers. Children love holidays. As caregivers or parents, you can provide a memorable experience with simple crafts. Most of the needed materials are inexpensive. In fact, you may already have the supplies on hand or you can purchase the materials at your local dollar store.

Heart Collages

Young children love to make a mess! Making a heart collage can be both a messy and developmentally enriching project. As children put different textures of materials on the heart shaped tag board or construction paper, they will use fine motor skills. As the instructor of the project, you may want to begin by supplying the precut hearts. Use pink or red for variety. Next, allow the children to glue different materials on the shape.

  • Noodles of different sizes, shapes, and textures
  • Scrap pieces of paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Yarn
  • Googly eyes
  • If you are feeling really brave, you can also add glitter.

Salt Dough Valentine

Creating a salt dough Valentine requires flour, salt, and warm water. As a caregiver, you have the option of making the salt dough shape hearts prior to the project or allowing the children to participate in cutting out the dough. Either way, begin by making the heart shape dough cutouts which will need a day to dry. Remember to pierce the heart toward the top to allow children to hang up their Valentine project. After you make the salt dough Valentine ornament, decorating is the next step. Paint with non-toxic acrylics – pink, red, purple, and white are the top colors for Valentine’s Day.

Coffee Filter Hearts

Coffee filter hearts allow children to mix and discover colors. Begin by cutting out the coffee filters into heart shapes. This messy project requires each preschooler to have a tray or small baking sheet to contain the colored water. Next provide different colors of food coloring in small cups. The preschooler can use plastic eye droppers to carefully drop different colors onto the coffee filter heart. As the colors mix together, a tie-dye appearance will form.

Puppet Hearts

Creating puppet hearts allow preschoolers a chance to make a one of a kind Valentine’s Day project fueled by their imagination. Preschoolers can glue heart shape construction paper or tag board to the top of Popsicle sticks. Depending on the time frame for the project, a caregiver may prepare the Valentine hearts ahead of the time. Next, comes decorating the heart shape. Provide googly eyes for the puppet. Supply different items to glue on the heart and stick for a personal touch, such as:

  • Small pieces of scrap paper in different colors
  • Yarn pieces
  • Small pom-poms
  • Glitter

Preschoolers love spending time creating. As preschoolers make Valentine’s Day crafts, you are inspiring their imagination, engaging fine motor skills, increasing vocabulary, and social skills. Along with all the developmentally enhancement, these Valentine’s Day projects are just fun.

At Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus, we encourage our preschoolers to explore their creativity through self-discovery and independent learning.  Our hands-on approach of the Montessori method truly embraces and highlights each child’s differences.  Call us today to schedule a tour and learn how our teachers incorporate arts into their daily classroom environment.

What Nature Teaches Children

Children are born with a natural curiosity to learn about the world around them. As a parent or educator, building upon their natural desire to learn will help in a child’s overall development. Part of a valuable learning experience is exposing children to nature. Being outdoors or bringing nature items indoors has numerous benefits. For young minds, the potential learning opportunities are endless.

Learning in Nature

Indoor classrooms have limits for the safety of the children. Introducing children to an outdoor environment has fewer restrictions. Encouraging children to run, skip, hop, and simply play brings numerous benefits to each child’s development.

  • Encourages Creativity and Imagination: Being outdoors allows children to approach the natural environment in different ways. The interaction provides children a chance to engage in physical activity. As children begin to explore the different smells, textures, and hear various natural sounds, the endless world of imagination and creativity about the environment will follow.
  • Allows for Additional Learning: The natural curiosity about the outdoor surroundings encourages children to ask questions. Responsible caregivers will build upon the questions, providing more opportunities to learn.
  • Promotes Autonomy: As children explore, a sense of independence develops, thereby providing children with the confidence to learn about the various aspects nature has to offer. Fostering a sense of independence will help children grow in future academics.
  • Encourages Personal Responsibility: As children learn about the environment, personal responsibility develops. Learning how the living world works will allow children to view consequences.
  • Development of Fine and Large Motor Skills: Being outdoors allows children to engage in physical activity which aids in the development of large motor skills. Just as important, the outdoor environment provides children a chance to develop fine motor skills. Picking up small stones, acorns, or sticks for further exploration requires the use of fine motor skills or simple hand movement. Establishing a foundation for further learning, building fine motor skills helps in hand/eye coordination. Later, the skill will develop into the ability to write.
  • Develops Social Skills: Being outdoors in a group of peers provides numerous opportunities for interaction with others. Sharing discoveries, discussing the environment, or simply engaging in creative play develops valuable social skills. The interaction provides opportunities to build vocabulary, learn from peers, and self-regulation to rules.
  • Encourages Fun: Like adults, children are often subject to busy schedules. Spending time outdoors reduces stress from everyday commitments. Outdoors, children engage in self-directed learning. Having the opportunity to explore the outdoors is fun.

Being outdoors allows children to grow physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually. As they explore, children learn to discuss their personal experiences, providing teachers and parents a chance to find additional materials. Children will use their natural curiosity to continue learning. Exploring the outdoor world allows children the opportunity to appreciate the natural environment.

At Montessori Childrens House, we incorporate nature and outdoor learning into our Montessori approach.  We encourage students to discover and explore on their own.  Contact us today to see the Montessori difference!

Be Sure to Claim These Childcare Expenses on Your Tax Returns

Are you paying more than you should be on your taxes? There are a number of credits and deductions available to parents, including the childcare credit.

Claiming the Childcare Credit

The childcare credit enables you to get a portion of your childcare expenses back on your taxes. Rather than a tax deduction, which decreases your taxable income, this is a tax credit, which decreases your taxes, dollar for dollar. In other words, if you are claiming $3,000 on the credit, your total tax bill is reduced by $3,000.

Qualifying Expenses

The childcare credit allows you to deduct a variety of childcare expenses that were paid so that you and your spouse could work or look for work. This includes the cost of daycare, a nanny, babysitters, and even summer camp or day camp. It does not allow you to claim the cost of tutoring, schooling expenses, overnight camp, or date night sitters.

Who Can Claim Childcare Expenses

You can claim your childcare expenses for this credit only if you are the custodial parent of the child. If you are not the custodial parent, but you pay child support, you can claim the child as a dependent, but you cannot claim the childcare tax credit.

How to Claim Childcare Expenses

In addition to your 1040, you will need Form 2441 and Publication 503. Once you’ve completed the form, the credit amount will be entered onto line 49 of your 1040. You cannot use Form 1040EZ if you intend to take the childcare credit.

Limitations

There are a number of limitations on the credit, so make sure you do your research before taking the credit.

  • You can claim 20-35 percent of your childcare expenses, depending on your income, for a max of $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for two or more.
  • You cannot claim the credit for childcare that was provided by your spouse, teenage child, or dependent.
  • You cannot claim more than the earned income of either you or your spouse. If either of you were unemployed and a full-time student for part of the year, you can use $250 per month of schooling to figure “earned income” for the year.
  • You must first deduct any benefits you receive from your employer for childcare, such as from a pre-tax dependent care account. Only the difference in childcare costs will qualify for the credit.
  • If you are claiming the cost of a nanny or babysitter, you will have to identify the person and include their employer identification number or social security number. This makes you a household employer, so you will also have to withhold taxes and pay social security and Medicare taxes throughout the year.

Raising kids is expensive, but the childcare credit can help offset the cost. The child tax credit and the earned income tax credit offer other opportunities to recoup expenses, while dependent care accounts allow you to pay for childcare with pre-tax dollars. For more help saving money on your 2016 return, be sure to consult a tax professional.

At Mission Valley Montessori, we teach students to be well-rounded and independent, including making smart choices like you as parents will make when it comes to taking advantage of tax credits available to you.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the Montessori educational approach first hand and learn how our school can be a great fit for your child!

Teaching Elementary Students Citizenship

The elementary school years are a perfect time for students to learn about the great importance of citizenship. Good citizenship is about far more than just knowing facts about the United States, although this is quite important in its own right. Good citizenship also involves living by certain principles that help children live harmoniously with others, as well as treat others fairly and justly.

Important themes of good citizenship that kids must know include:

  • The courage to do the right thing even in bad circumstances
  • A high sense of personal and public responsibility
  • Respect of self, others, and ideas
  • Compassion for other people and all living things
  • Honesty in all dealings

Sharing Stories

A good way to help children better understand these principles is to share stories related to the principles of good citizenship. Discussion starters always help make these ideas come to life and provide a more personal take that students can easily relate to. Even younger kids are likely to have something to share and hearing from their peers often helps them decide to take the initiative and share their thoughts.

Some good discussion starters to consider include:

  • Talking about a person that the child has a high opinion of
  • Asking about a time they felt brave about something they did
  • Discussing times when they’ve shown that they care about someone

Role-Playing Often Helps

Kids in the elementary school years often relate to certain concepts through the use of role-playing. Although discussing or writing about certain ideas is helpful, some children might find it easier to act out certain situations to gain a better understanding of them. Interactive activities can also help kids learn these concepts together.

Art activities related to historic Americans who have been examples of good citizens can help children understand the concepts of citizenship in a more meaningful way. When children collaborate on larger projects, such as murals or dioramas, they will also understand the importance of working together with others to achieve goals.

Learning More About What Matters

Children in elementary school are at a good age to learn more about current events that relate to their lessons. The Montessori method encourages kids to take the initiative and learn more about things that interest them. Examples of how children might act on these ideas include:

  • Learning more about how to help those in need, both inside and outside the community
  • Understanding how leaders are elected and how people make their choices
  • Studying the history of events currently in the news and events that happened leading up to them

The Montessori approach is one that is ideal for helping children learn to become better US and world citizens.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus, our teachers incorporate hands-on and play-based learning into their lessons.  This allows children to discover on their own, including through role-playing and sharing stories.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the Montessori approach firsthand.

What Does a Montessori Child’s Day Look Like?

A Montessori classroom is completely different than a traditional school classroom. The basis for the Montessori educational approach focuses completely on the child. The classroom has many opportunities for self-directed learning activities, collaborative play, and the freedom to make individual choices.

As you bring your child to the Montessori classroom, you will immediately see the differences. The classroom environment is set up to draw the students’ attention to specific hands-on learning activities. By actively engaging in individual activities or small group activities, the classroom provides unique learning opportunities for your child throughout the entire day.

A Typical Day in the Montessori Classroom

The age of your child will determine the exact learning environment. The Montessori approach incorporates a mixed aged classroom. For example, a single classroom may have children as young as 2 ½ years to 6 years of age. The multi-age classroom allows for a family-like atmosphere which helps in the learning process. Learning leadership skills, older children will naturally mentor younger ones, teaching them valuable skills along the way.

Social Exchange

Upon arrival, each child receives greetings from the teacher. The social exchange builds vocabulary, self-awareness, and mutual respect. The teacher recognizes each child as an individual with unique learning interests. By engaging in respectful exchange, students learn to understand the environment. Eventually, children will understand and develop empathy and compassion for their peers.

Block Activities for Development

Students participate in numerous activities throughout the day. Teachers provide the prepared learning environment for specific block activities to build upon the students natural curiosities for optimal development. Learning areas will provide activities for full development of each student physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally.

As children develop different interests or they desire further exploration on a subject, teachers will add to the learning environment. Creating a continuous, hands-on learning environment allows children to participate in activities of interest in a self-directed manner. Encouraging children to go at their own pace enables maximum learning potential for each interested subject.

Being Flexible

The prepared learning environment provides specific time blocks for activities. By providing children the freedom to explore, the learning environment provides flexibility. As a way of self-discovery and exploration, your child may spend most of the day learning about one subject. By allowing for the freedom to choose, your child will gain a much deeper understanding of the subject. Over time, the curiosity may allow for further exploration into other areas of learning.

Imagination Activities

Along with the prepared intellectual learning environment, teachers prepare open-ended activities to increase imagination. By encouraging imagination, students learn self-expression and critical thinking skills to try new methods of play. Exploring imaginary ideas also increases vocabulary word use, maximizes social skills, and develops the basis for thinking outside of the box.

The Montessori approach seeks to develop each student to reach their own, individual maximum potential. If you would like further information on a typical day for a Montessori student, contact Day Star Montessori today to schedule a tour.  Parents and students are encouraged and welcomed to to spend a day in the classroom to see the Montessori difference firsthand.

Teaching Kids how to be Internet Safe & Savvy

The internet is full of information that kids can use to write reports and to learn new things. It can also be very dangerous. If your children don’t know how to use the internet safely, you cannot be sure who they are really talking to. Predators often pose as children to gain a child’s trust to commit a crime. Also, curious children will often visit sites that are not appropriate for children. As a parent, it is up to you to make sure that your children know how to be safe when they are online.

Set Up Parental Controls

The most important thing that you can do to keep your children safe online is to set up parental controls. This safety feature will block your child if they try to enter any website that is not age appropriate. When setting up the parental controls, be sure to use a password that you children won’t be able to easily guess.

Insist On Having Their Passwords

The best way to know who your children are communicating with online is to insist that they give you their email password and their passwords for social media. As they get older, you can change this rule. However, if your child is young and they insist on using email and social media, you should have access to their accounts so that you can check up on them.

Teach Your Child to Only Communicate With People They Know

Predators will often send children friend requests on social media. You should explain the dangers of befriending strangers to your children. Remind your children that people online are not always who they say they are. Let them know that if they don’t know the person in the real world, they should not accept their friend request. Even if the person has a few mutual friends with your child, they still should not accept the friend request. The friends that the person has in common with your child could be children who haven’t been taught the dangers of befriending strangers.

Teach Your Child to Speak Up

You should teach your child that if they see something on the internet that makes them uncomfortable or that they feel is wrong, they should walk away from the computer and tell you. This could be messages and emails from strangers or classmates bullying another child. Remind your child that it is their responsibility to help and speak up whenever possible.

Remind Your Child That Posts and Photos Are There Forever

Many children are naive when it comes to the internet. They believe that if they post something and then delete it, that it is gone forever. It is important to remind your children that everything they put online is saved somewhere and it can come back to cause them serious problems in the future. This is not just photos, but also written words.

It is very important to teach your child how to use the internet safely. It could potentially save their life.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Cedar Campus, children will learn how to make smart and informed decisions throughout their Montessori education.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and learn about the Montessori difference.

Parent Volunteers – Observing in the Classroom

Every parent wants the best learning opportunities for their children. An early love for knowledge builds a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Observing and volunteering in your child’s Montessori classroom may help you to better understand the diverse learning environment.

Volunteering is different than simply observing. Asking to be a volunteer is usually the role of the teacher to a parent. Being an observer is generally a task where parents ask teachers if they can come into the classroom. Each one plays a vital role in your child’s education. Understanding the classroom environment allows parents the opportunity to incorporate learning into regular home routines. Most educators welcome the opportunity to show concerned parents the daily routine of the classroom.

Right to Observe In the Classroom

Volunteering and observing in a classroom allow you to learn about your child’s day. Failing to take an active part in your child’s education may result in problem areas in the future. In the Montessori school setting, parents are welcome to visit. Trying to accommodate parent observation requests, some classrooms actually come equipped with an adult sized chair just for parent guests.

If you are a parent who is denied the opportunity to observe the classroom, you must stand up for your rights. Ask why access to your child’s classroom was denied. Explain the reasons for wanting to observe the classroom. As a parent, you must take into consideration that your presence will be a disturbance in the classroom. Many teachers want to plan your visit to allow for the maximum exposure to the daily classroom environment.

Guidelines to Observing in Your Child’s Classroom

Every teacher has a specific time frame for the length of the classroom observation. Prior to entering the classroom, you may want to ask the teacher or educator the time allowed for observing. In order to understand the Montessori environment, try to observe for at least one hour. Remember to ask the teacher or staff about the other guidelines to follow.

  • Remember your role in the classroom is to observe. Carefully watching the interaction of your child and other children in the classroom will help you in understanding the Montessori learning environment.
  • Enter and exit the classroom quietly. Some Montessori teachers will introduce parent observers.
  • Montessori classrooms are busy with various learning opportunities happening at the same time. As a parent, you may want to just focus on your child. In order to fully understand the learning environment, you should also watch other areas.
  • Do not interrupt the teacher; simply take notes to ask questions later.
  • After observing, ask the teacher or administration staff for a follow-up conference to discuss any questions or concerns.

Observing in the classroom provides parents with opportunities to understand the interaction between children and educators. The Montessori learning environment is not like the traditional classroom. Observing the class in motion will help a parent understand the learning strategies of the Montessori model.  To visit a Montessori classroom in person, contact Montessori School in Newark today.  Schedule a tour and see how Montessori education is firsthand.