Category Archives: Special Events

Considering Summer Camp

Students everywhere are already feeling the itch that begins as summertime nears. Parents, too, anticipate this time of year, and can sense the change in the air and in the attitude of their children. For some, summer is a respite, a breath of fresh air, a welcome change from the scheduling demands of the school year. For others, it is a time to worry about how to keep the kids occupied and how to balance not having a school schedule when the demands of a continuing parent work schedule still must be followed.

Whether or not parents’ career schedules continue as usual during the summer, there are some great reasons to consider signing your child up for camp during the summer, even for just a week or two. In addition to providing working parents with a child care alternative, summer camp provides kids with fun and beneficial experiences.  Here are just a few reasons parents might consider summer camp for their children this summer:

  1. Camp provides continued structure for a child’s day. Just as with school, summer camps adhere to a regular daily schedule. Arrival and dismissal times are set, and while activities may vary, generally, summer camps have a predictable routine for their campers to follow. Children thrive on routines and most feel a sense of calm when they know what to expect on any given day, from arrival rituals to snack time, organized activity to free play opportunities, lunch to water fun, children often do best when their day is set up in a predictable pattern.
  2. Children have the opportunity to make new friends and learn from new adult leaders. Even if your child attends a camp affiliated with his or her school, there will likely be new faces among the campers as well as the staff. While sometimes a transition to a new teacher or caregiver can make some children apprehensive, children who participate in summer camp or other out-of-school activities learn to adapt to social situations with new people when given these opportunities. They may form bonds that continue even when summer and camp are over, and they will have grown in their ability to interact with others.
  3. Your child will undoubtedly learn something new while at camp. Camps are set up to offer experiences that are different from what children are used to doing in school and at home; therefore, camp provides children with the opportunity to try something that might be out of their comfort zone, and who knows, even find a new passion. At the same time, as children try new things and discover new interests, their self-esteem grows, and they gain confidence when faced with something unfamiliar.
  4. Summer camp can reduce the effects of ‘summer slump’. The American Camp Association has enlisted educational and psychology experts to research the many benefits of camp. They report that educationally speaking, “Camp is a natural extension of the classroom. Research indicates that by participating in strategically planned, structured summer experiences, children reduce summer learning loss. Camp challenges children, keeps them engaged, develops creativity and their talents, and expands their horizons” (acacamps.org).
  5. Camp can be cost-effective. When parents work full-time, camp may be the most cost-effective solution for child care during the summer months. Especially today, there is a wide variety of camps from which to choose in most communities.  From township camps to church camps, school camps to sleep-away camps, there are options for every budget, scheduling need, age, and interest. Local parenting magazines and newspapers often feature a special camp issue in the spring as parents begin to plan for the summer months. Some camps even provide financial assistance if there is a need.  Given the wealth of choices, there is sure to be a camping opportunity to suit most families’ needs.
  6. Camp is fun! No doubt about it, camp is fun for everyone. With an entire day devoted to active, creative, and leisure pursuits, children can enjoy their summer vacation by doing a laundry list of fun things. Even if families do not need to use camp as a childcare solution during the summer, they might want to consider enrolling their children in even just one week of camp to experience some of the benefits of this summertime rite of passage. And did you know? There are even camps out there for adults, so as you consider signing up your child for a fun week at camp, you might find the perfect fun camp experience for yourself, too!

The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) offers summer camp experiences for MCA enrolled students, ages 3 through 8th grade. For more information, please contact your Campus Director.

MONTESSORI CHILDRENS ACADEMY

110 Years of Montessori

Montessori schools around the world are celebrating Montessori Education Week this week. Parents and visitors to The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) will notice festive banners on display at our schools and an excited buzz in the air as we begin this week-long celebration in honor of Dr. Montessori and the Montessori Method. Montessori Education Week is a highlight of the school year for MCA, and the warm feeling and festivities surrounding this occasion are certainly a welcome respite from a long, cold New Jersey winter. We wanted to share a little bit more about why we’re celebrating and what we’re doing to mark 110 years of Montessori education.

Why We Celebrate Montessori Education Week

There are four reasons we choose to celebrate Montessori Education Week:

  1. To reflect on the extraordinary life of Dr. Maria Montessori: Did you know that, in addition to being a pioneer in education, Maria Montessori was a medical doctor, a WWII refugee, an author, an advocate for peace, and a parent? Her biography is as impressive as her legacy. An important part of Montessori Education Week is learning about Dr. Montessori and her contributions not only to the world of education, but to the world as a whole.
  1. To share the benefits of a Montessori education with our local communities: Many people recognize the word “Montessori” but don’t understand its meaning. The Montessori Method is an innovative, hands-on, cross- curricular, and globally conscious educational philosophy. Children from early childhood through elementary and beyond benefit from working in Montessori environments, as they provide students with opportunities to expand both their academic and social skills necessary for critical thinking and civic responsibility in an ever-changing world.
  1. To celebrate the “birthday” of Montessori education: This year marks 110 years since the establishment of the first Montessori school, Casa de Bambini (or “Children’s House”) in Rome, Italy. 110 years is quite a milestone!
  1. To build a strong school community: MCA’s families are united by a common thread: a shared belief that a Montessori education is the best choice for the children in their lives. We relish the opportunity to have more of our parents, as well as important extended members of our MCA families – grandparents, nannies, and alumni students – join us for the special activities and events we have planned during Montessori Education Week. The continued support and dedication to MCA by this wide school community is a testament to the spirit of Dr. Montessori.

How We Celebrate

Every year, MCA plans a variety of celebrations during Montessori Education Week. Some of these special activities occur in our classrooms during the school day, and some are shared off-campus throughout the local towns where our MCA families live.

This year, parents have the opportunity to join us each day of Montessori Education Week for classroom observations and to watch students present formal demonstrations of favorite Practical Life lessons. During the school day, students will be taking part in special lessons about Maria Montessori, her native Italy, and timeless peace activities, such as lighting a candle for peace. Finally, we hope to see families from all three of our MCA campuses at Romanelli’s Pizza and Italian Eatery in Madison for our capstone Montessori Education Week celebration on Saturday, March 4th. At this event, students will share their favorite Montessori lessons with friends from other campuses, and the MCA community will wrap up its Girls on the Run community outreach campaign.

MCA is also spreading the spirit of Dr. Montessori beyond the walls of MCA through student-created art displays. Under the guidance of our Head Teachers, each MCA class has created an art project inspired by Montessori materials and lessons. Student artwork can be found at the public libraries in the following towns where MCA families live: Chatham, Florham Park, Livingston, Madison, Maplewood, Millburn, and Morristown/Morris Township. If a visit to your library is in your weekly routine (and we hope it is!) remember to check out the incredible exhibits featuring MCA’s students’ original artwork. The photo below is MCA’s display at the Madison Library:

Get in the MEW Spirit: Three Fun, Shareable Montessori Resources

  • Shaping a Love of Learning at MCA’s Morristown Campus: This short video shares the stories of some of our alumni students and how their time at MCA inspired a lifelong love of learning.
  • The 10 Commandments of Maria Montessori: We borrowed this infographic from our friends in NYC at Twin Parks Montessori. It’s a wonderful guide for parents and teachers alike!
  • BBCs “Extraordinary Women” Series had an episode about Maria Montessori a few years ago that we love. Watch an excerpt from the episode below and to learn more about Dr. Montessori’s biography:
preschool open house nj

Five Questions to Ask at a Preschool Open House (Repost from October 2016)

As this is a common time of year for families to begin their preschool search for the next school year, we would like to once again share with you some pointers when attending a preschool Open House. An Open House provides parents with a firsthand impression that cannot be replicated via a website or a brochure. The opportunity for parents to establish a personal connection with the administration, the teachers, and the classroom environment is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Moreover, an Open House gives parents the opportunity to ask questions to help determine whether the school is the right fit for their family. If you’re just starting out on your family’s preschool search, begin by asking the following five questions when attending preschool Open Houses:

  1. What is the school’s educational philosophy?

Today, there are dozens of different philosophies and methods applied in preschool settings.  First, do your research. Once you know a bit about the different early education philosophies, you may be able to narrow your search based on what you believe fits in with your family’s values and educational goals.

At The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA), we believe that a Montessori education benefits children in so many ways. Montessori classrooms are designed to recognize and address various learning levels and styles. Teachers take unique roles as classroom guides and observers, providing children with the freedom and opportunity to learn at their own pace within a carefully prepared, stimulating environment.

It’s also important to determine how strictly the philosophy is adhered to at each school. This is particularly important if you are looking at Montessori schools. Many parents are unaware that the American Montessori Society (AMS) has established guidelines for adhering to Dr. Montessori’s practices. Programs that work with AMS are required to uphold high standards in areas including teacher certification, classroom preparation, and parent education regarding Montessori education. The Montessori Children’s Academy is an AMS Member School.

  1. How does learning take place at the school?

Children must have opportunities to explore how things work, to move their growing bodies, and to engage in activities that they find enjoyable. Especially with preschoolers, hands-on activities involving multiple senses often better facilitate the growth of children’s natural curiosity and their interest in learning for learning’s sake. When attending an Open House, ask what types of activities the children participate in during their school day. How much time is spent in teacher-directed activity? Do children have opportunities to make choices and move throughout the classroom? What types of learning materials are used?

The materials in Montessori classrooms are attractive, inviting, and meaningful. They also grow with the children, as the lessons move from concrete to abstract concepts. Every aspect of the Montessori classroom promotes the development of fine and gross motor skills, the expansion of new knowledge, and the joy in learning. Children have a balance of independent work time where they choose what they would like to do, small group learning lessons, and large group activities. Learning opportunities are integrated into all aspects of the Montessori classroom.

  1. What is the school’s standard for teacher qualifications?

Some early childhood facilities, like cooperative programs run by local parents, and traditional day care centers, do not require state or nationally recognized teaching certificates for their staff. Regardless of the type of school setting, it is important that preschool teachers understand how children grow and learn. You will also want to find out whether teachers and their assistants are trained in CPR and First Aid, and if they regularly attend continuing education workshops to stay current in their field.

If you are looking exclusively at Montessori schools, check that the teachers have their Montessori teaching credentials. This will ensure that they have been trained in the Montessori Method by a qualified teacher education program. You can learn more about AMS Montessori teaching credentials from the Montessori Center for Teacher Development.

  1. How is discipline handled?

Preschools have a very important responsibility in how their teachers manage their classrooms and help children grow and develop in a healthy, safe environment. Since preschool is often a child’s very first school experience, how discipline is handled can make a difference in how children view school and how well they succeed in learning.

MCA focuses on positive discipline and conflict resolution. Teachers are keen observers in their classrooms, and they are carefully trained to manage a variety of situations before there is any escalation of improper behavior. Redirection, positive reinforcement, and logical consequences allow teachers to help children learn respect, self-control, and responsibility in the most natural of ways. Peace Education is also a significant component of the Montessori curriculum, and children are guided through conflict resolution techniques with the aid of teachers and peers. Montessori classrooms are communities, and children learn that every member of the classroom is valued and important.

Later this month, MCA will host guest speaker Teresa LaSala, a positive discipline expert and author. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, please consider attending this Parent Education event, as it is open to the public. Details can be found on MCA’s website.

  1. What will a typical school day look like for my child?

This is an important question because it will help to alleviate some of the common anxieties that parents have when the first day of school arrives. Understanding how the day flows will help you to determine if your child will be comfortable in the classroom. As young children thrive on routines, it would be helpful to learn about things like what the procedures are for eating snack or lunch at school, using the restrooms, spending time on the playground, or having a resting time. It is important to know how much structure is in the school day. You might also ask what opportunities the children have for socializing with peers, spending one-on-one time with the teacher, or learning responsibility by having a classroom job.

At any Open House, it is important to get a feel for the facility and to meet the staff. Above all, you want to be able to picture your child in the classrooms. If possible, bring your child along to the Open House so that he or she can meet the teachers and interact in the school space. Watching your child explore might make your choice just a little bit easier.

The Montessori Children’s Academy is hosting Winter Open Houses at each of its campuses on the following dates:

Morristown: Saturday, January 21, 2017, 9:00-11:00AM

Chatham: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 9:00-11:00AM

Short Hills: Saturday, February 4, 2017, 9:00-11:00AM

 

Montessori Childrens Academy NJ

Celebrating the Seasons the Montessori Way

One of the greatest gifts Montessori children receive as part of their education is the gift of time.  They are given time to observe different types of work being done by peers.  They are given time to make choices about what work they would like to do during the school day.  They are given time to focus on their own work and time to explore without interruption during their three-hour work cycle.  This gift of time provides Montessori students with many benefits.  They learn about independence, decision-making, and the joy of learning for learning’s sake.

When holidays pop up on the calendar, Montessori students are given another gift.  Instead of a holiday taking over one day on the calendar without any connection to the days before or the days following the holiday, Montessori classrooms embrace celebrations of the seasons in a more cross-curricular, more involved, less obtrusive way.  For example, in the weeks prior to a holiday of importance, the Practical Life shelves may reflect the colors and symbols of the season in the pouring, sorting, or transferring works.  The Language area and circle time activities will most certainly incorporate poems, stories, and songs related to the seasonal celebrations.  Math works may use counting items that correlate with holiday themes.  Art supplies change to stimulate the children’s unique artistic expression using materials inspired by the time of year.  And perhaps the best part of the classroom to share information about specific holidays is the Cultural area, where the children may find continent boxes filled with photographs, artifacts, and items associated with various holidays and the cultures from which they originated.

The beauty of celebrating in this way is that the security and predictability of the child’s school day remains intact.  Children rely on this type of schedule.  They thrive and perform best in an environment where they understand the expectations and where they feel they have some control over their day.  Instead of having one day in the month where things become chaotic (and we have all attended school holiday celebrations that leave us exhausted and overwhelmed!), the season of celebrations unfolds slowly.  The children learn about the history, discover the traditions, and find delight in celebrating a variety of holidays over the course of time and within the parameters of how their school environment is already set up for them.  To enhance this learning and make it even more meaningful at The Montessori Children’s Academy, parents, relatives, and special guests often come into the classrooms to share their personal experiences with special celebrations, giving the students great insights into and appreciation for other cultures and the people within their community.

If we really think about it, we will realize that there is more to learn about a celebration than can possibly fit into one classroom session for it to be truly meaningful.  Montessori children learn about the celebration as something more than what they might see on television or in advertising.  Most would agree that the commercialization of many holidays could easily cause children to misunderstand the true meaning behind the celebrations.  However, in a Montessori classroom, the commercial ‘noise’ is silenced as children are provided with age-appropriate information about the people, places, foods, and traditions surrounding the holidays.  Celebrating the seasons the Montessori way provides children with the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities that teach them so much more than about just one day on the calendar.  By learning about holidays, they learn about other cultures.  They also gain an awareness of what is different and what is similar among people worldwide.  They learn tolerance and acceptance.  They learn about what brings joy to people around the globe.  The Montessori approach to celebrating special days is a gift to children as it expands their minds, their hearts, and their worlds.

Here are just a few Montessori-inspired ideas for making your family holidays more meaningful:

  • Visit your local library and check out books or music CDs related to the holiday before it arrives. Let your child choose one or two books to read each day leading up to the holiday and keep a CD in your car to listen to when driving around town.
  • Take out a map or globe and help your child find the part of the world where the holiday originated. In the days surrounding the holiday, share one new fact about the culture.  If it is a more global holiday, research how it is celebrated in different parts of the world.
  • Turn down outside ‘noise’: If the media tends to overload commercialized messages about the holiday you are celebrating, consider turning off the TV and tuning in to what makes the holiday important to you.  Make a ‘holiday happiness jar’ where you write the things that you enjoy most about the holiday on little slips of paper.  Each day, take out one of the notes to remind you what is important about the celebration.
  • Share special memories you may have of celebrating the holiday when you were a child and discuss what things are the same and what things are different when celebrating today.
  • Include your children in the preparations. Let them create a special centerpiece for the table or make decorations to display on the front door.  If special foods are part of the celebration, invite your child to help measure and mix ingredients.
  • Maintain a ‘normal’ schedule as best as you can. Children do best when their day follows a predictable pattern.  If you have special outings or you know your daily schedule will be interrupted because of holiday preparations or celebrations, prepare your child so that he or she knows what to expect.
  • Carry on a tradition from your upbringing or begin a new one with your child to help make the holiday even more special and personal!
The Montessori Children's Academy

Sing for Peace!: International Day of Peace Celebration 2016

September 21st may not be a date you recognize, but around the world and in our Montessori community, we look forward to celebrating the International Day of Peace on this day.  Established by the United Nations in 1981, the International Day of Peace began as a way to promote a time for people worldwide to “honour a cessation of hostilities…and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace” ().

The Montessori Children's Academy

The UN’s theme for the International Day of Peace this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”.  Youth from around the world have been invited to share via YouTube their video messages of peace with ideas related to this year’s theme.  Solutions related to ending poverty and helping the environment are evident in the concerns of today’s youth.  The videos can be viewed on the United Nations Peace Day 2016 YouTube Channel, and they include brief messages from young people representing many different nations.

To do our part to celebrate this special occasion, The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) plans to take part in a variety of activities leading up to September 21st.  Each class will choose its own special way to celebrate.  Some will be reading books about peace, making peacemaker necklaces, or learning how to say ‘peace’ in different languages, while others will recite peace poems or decorate symbols of peace.  Then, on the big day, we will all participate in a worldwide event called Sing Peace Around the World.  The goal of the project organizers is to have the song “Light a Candle for Peace” sung continuously over a 24 hour time period all around the globe.  The singing will begin in New Zealand and end in Hawaii 24 hours later.  Our designated time to sing “Light a Candle for Peace” in Chatham, Morristown, and Short Hills is 9:30AM.  Please consider joining the endeavor–wherever you are at that time, take out the lyrics and sing along!  To date, nearly 90,000 children from around the world are registered to participate in this event, including all of our MCA students.  We hope the sounds of children singing for peace will echo across every land on every continent, and that it will reach into the hearts of all people in every corner of the world.

Of course, peace education and awareness is not something MCA recognizes only for one day or by singing just one song.  It is an important component of the Montessori curriculum and an integral part of each and every day in all of our schools.  Everything you find in a Montessori classroom has an intentional meaning and an underlying lesson and goal.  For example, the manner in which Montessori classrooms are prepared aim to promote the development of self-discipline.  The Montessori materials are designed to provide students with challenges that spark their critical thinking.  There are countless opportunities in Montessori classrooms for creative problem solving.  Montessori students are exposed to Cultural Studies, where they learn about people, places, and traditions from around the world, gaining a global awareness and appreciation for similarities and differences among people in all nations.  The focus on ‘grace and courtesy’, as well as the modeling of respect by the adults in the classroom, helps children to, in turn, learn to exhibit grace, courtesy, and respect.  These are all intentional features which are carefully woven into the fabric of Montessori education.  Dr. Montessori developed her method of education to teach not only academic subjects, but also to instill important values in children.  Montessori education is intended to help students learn how to work cooperatively and in harmony, to discover how to solve problems peacefully, and to find ways to promote peace in their interactions with others throughout their lives.

As Dr. Montessori said, “The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity.  He has shown us the true process of construction of the human being.  We have seen children totally change as they acquire a love for things and as their sense of order, discipline, and self-control develops within them…. The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind” (Education and Peace).  Maria Montessori knew the importance of education for the greater good of the world, and she insisted on providing children with many opportunities to learn and internalize their roles as peacemakers through educational experiences, which encompassed not only academics, but the development of responsibility and character as well.  As she is well known to have stated, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.”  Dr. Montessori was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and her advocacy for peace has made a lasting impression.  We are proud to uphold her legacy for spreading peace throughout the world.

Below are the lyrics to “Light a Candle for Peace”.

The Montessori Children's Academy

Please feel free to share the song with others, and help us to promote peace in our schools, our neighborhoods, our towns, our nation, and all around the world.  We wish everyone a meaningful International Day of Peace!

Light a Candle for Peace
by Shelley Murley

Light a candle for peace
Light a candle for love
Light a candle that shines all the way around the world
Light a candle for me
Light a candle for you
That our wish for world peace
Will one day come true!
(repeat)

Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world

Light a candle for peace
Light a candle for love
Light a candle that shines all the way around the world
Light a candle for me
Light a candle for you
That our wish for world peace
Will one day come true!

Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world

For more information about Montessori peace education and other peace initiatives, as well as to find children’s books about peace, check out the resources listed below, some of which were used as references in this article:

Duckworth, C. (2008). Maria Montessori’s contribution to peace education. In Encyclopedia of Peace Education. http://www.tc.edu/centers/epe/
Montessori, Maria. (1992; first published 1949). Education and Peace (The Clio Montessori Series). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Wolf, Aline D. (1996). Nurturing the Spirit: In Non-Sectarian Classrooms. Santa Rosa: Parent Child Press, Inc.
www.childpeacebooks.org
www.singpeacearoundtheworld.com
www.un.org/en/events/peaceday