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Nurturing the Spirit of Charity and Goodwill

By Alex Chiu

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “charity” as “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity” and “generosity and helpfulness, especially toward the needy or suffering”. We seem to hear more from charities during this time of year, with Salvation Army bell ringers on every corner and more envelopes than we can carry from the mailbox requesting donations for various groups. It is in December when more people are inclined to volunteer or make a contribution, opening their hearts and wallets a little more easily.

No doubt, we all feel a little lighter when we’ve done something to help someone else. Scientific studies have shown that volunteering and making charitable contributions of time or money can affect how we feel—people who are charitable tend to be happier, and even, according to some studies, healthier. So, if it makes us feel good to help others, why so often, do we set aside the needs of others until December rolls around? How do we keep this spirit of charity and goodwill alive throughout the year not only within ourselves, but in our children?

Think about that first Merriam-Webster definition again. In what ways do we foster “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity” at home? First, it comes from how we treat our own family members, showing respect through our words and actions at home. We then must have the same expectation of our children to show respect to us, their siblings, and other relatives. Words do matter. So do actions. When our children see and then emulate respect at home, this then naturally trickles into their interactions with friends, neighbors, store clerks, classmates, teachers, colleagues, etc. For Montessori students, it’s reinforced daily with Grace and Courtesy lessons as well. In addition, as Maria Montessori herself said, “There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.” The Montessori classroom is an extension of that environment of respect which is developed in the home.

Next, think about the second part of the definition: “generosity and helpfulness, especially toward the needy or suffering”. Again, as the old adage acclaims “Charity begins at home”. How can your child show generosity and helpfulness at home? Very simply, they can do this by participating in the necessary tasks of daily life—tidying up, helping with mealtimes, sharing with siblings, or offering to do something for someone else who may be tired or busy. Parents who model this type of generosity and helpfulness, and who encourage their children to follow suit, have already laid the foundation for spreading that goodwill beyond their homes, where their children will realize that their acts of charity, however big or small, can benefit ‘the needy or suffering’, too.

This year, it’s been impossible to ignore the many needs of people suffering both in our own country and around the world. The many natural disasters, resulting in fires and flooding, have devastated so many areas near and far. Sometimes, even for adults, seeing the news repeat the details of such events can be overwhelmingly sad and disheartening. However, as we have seen with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, these disasters have actually brought people together working for the common good. And even our youngest children can learn that there are ways that they can help.

At The Montessori Children’s Academy, we recently held Bake Sales at each of our campuses, with all of the proceeds benefiting Montessori schools affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The students learned about how the schools were damaged, and class discussions led by the teachers allowed the children to process what it must be like for children just like them to not be able to go to school following such a strong storm. The empathy of the students permeated into their beautiful posters which were displayed at the Bake Sales, and the overwhelming response of parents, teachers, and administrative staff to contribute items as well as purchase them to support this great cause was heartwarming. In all, MCA raised more than $3,000 to support Instituto Nueva Escuela in its efforts to provide disaster relief to Montessori schools and their families in Puerto Rico!

In addition, MCA annually chooses an organization to support through various charitable endeavors throughout the entire school year. This year, we are supporting Paws of War. From September through June, our MCA students will learn about this organization and participate in several activities in the hopes of raising awareness, as well as funds, for the good work that they do. Earlier this fall, the students were treated to an in-school assembly where a Paws of War representative shared information about how the organization trains rescue dogs to become supportive service dogs to military veterans. The children had the opportunity to meet one veteran and his canine partner, and they learned firsthand how this partnership has improved the life of both the rescued dog and the serviceman. Doubly good work! Over the course of the next several months, MCA students will continue to learn about the programs and brainstorm other ways they would like to help.

At home, children learn respect and the value of helping family members. In school, there is a natural extension of this in the multi-age Montessori classrooms, where students help one another every day. Our Montessori children quickly come to learn that it feels good to help others. As a school that promotes awareness of a different charity each school year, our students also learn about the variety of larger needs in our communities. Whether it is by helping a classmate tie his or her shoelaces, making posters for a bake sale, or collecting money to support an organization such as Paws of War, they see that there are so many ways they can contribute to their communities and help others each and every day. And when a sudden disaster strikes, such as the hurricanes of this past fall, they see that their school families can combine efforts to help with those needs as well. Charity then is something that becomes a natural part of the children’s lives. Most importantly, they see that charity isn’t a one-time, December event. The children find that charity comes in the words and actions that they share daily, showing their “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity”.

This holiday season, everyone at
The Montessori Children’s Academy

extends our warmest wishes for
Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All!

*For more information about or to make a contribution to Paws of War, please visit their website www.pawsofwar.org. For more information about Instituto Nueva Escuela, please visit www.en-inepr.weebly.com and the GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/puerto-rico-montessori2montessori to help support the disaster relief efforts for the Montessori community in Puerto Rico.

A Practical (Life) Thanksgiving

 

By Alex Chiu

Thanksgiving is just the holiday for making connections between home and your child’s Montessori school experience. With the number of preparations involved, it’s wonderful to have extra hands helping with all of the details, and your children have a great deal to offer as helpers. Since September, they have been refining many of the skills needed to pull off a perfect Thanksgiving holiday for family and friends. Invite your child to participate in the planning and preparation. They will take pride in and feel great satisfaction in being able to contribute, and you’ll be grateful for the extra help in getting things done!

Before the Big Day

Clean: As you begin your household chores, consider what tasks can be done by your child. At school, Montessori students practice folding cloths, scrubbing tables, washing dishes, sweeping, cleaning the leaves of plants, rolling rugs, and pushing in chairs, just to name a few. See what needs to be done around the house before company arrives, and then invite your child to take on one or more of the chores that he or she can be successful in completing. Simple chores such as putting clean hand towels in the guest bathroom, organizing their toys, or pushing in the chairs around the dining room table allow even the youngest children to feel like they are making a contribution to the festivities.

Decorate: Montessori students have ample opportunity to be creative with a variety of art supplies at school. Charge your children with the task of creating table centerpieces. Encourage them to take a nature walk and collect items to use in their creations. They may also enjoy making place cards for your dinner guests. Provide them with colored paper, scissors, colored pencils, and the list of guests. To welcome visitors, you might like to spend time together making a welcoming wreath for your front door. Using a wire or grapevine wreath frame available at most any craft or dollar store, use clothespins to attach favorite photos or items from nature, or tie strips of different colored ribbons around the frame.

Set the Table: Your children are already old hands at setting the table by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. They have been setting up their lunch spaces since the start of school, and many classrooms have likely set out a “table setting” work on the Practical Life shelf, showing the proper placement of forks, knives, spoons, and napkins. If your dishes are too fragile, work together. Let your child set out the napkins and utensils while you set out the dishes and glassware. And remember to have your child count while doing this chore. How many people are coming? How many of each item will we need? How many utensils will be on the table in all? Learning opportunities across disciplines abound in this preparation work!

Thanksgiving Day

Help with Food Prep: Food prep is often a favorite activity for Montessori students. They become young experts in peeling, chopping, pouring, and so much more. Allow your child to help with measuring and mixing, slicing (with a child-safe kitchen tool) and washing, or pouring and peeling. Remind your child to wash hands prior to doing any food prep, and provide some guidance, but be prepared to be surprised at how well they can manage many tasks in the kitchen!

Practice Grace and Courtesy: Prior to the arrival of your guests, coach your child in some of the social graces you expect of them. You might have your child collect coats as guests arrive or provide newcomers with a small tour of the main level of the house. Have your child introduce guests to one another, and practice some ‘conversation starters’ for your child to use. Share some memories about family and friends who will be joining you for the celebration, or put out some photo albums for your child to peruse with guests as a springboard to hearing old stories and making new lasting memories. At the dinner table, include your child in conversations by asking open-ended questions or encouraging your child to share some stories about school, friends, or special events.

Clean Up: Just as with setting the table, your children can easily assist with certain clean up jobs. Ask them to help clear dishes, wipe counters, or push in chairs. Transferring leftover items from serving dishes into storage containers is a great job for children to do. Whatever the task, allow your child to do the job to the best of his or her ability, and enjoy having the help!

When everyone is full, when all the work is complete, and when the busy-ness of the day winds down, take a few moments to reflect on all of the hard work that was done in order to create a special day for everyone to enjoy. Think about the ways in which your child was able to help and how he or she is growing, developing new skills, and gaining independence. Maria Montessori once said that “Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul.” So before the day is done, share your reflections with your child, and remember to give thanks for it all!

 

Photo Credit:  http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2677/4104214861_9f3e18b225_z.jpg

Promoting a Lifetime of Healthy Habits at MCA

 

By Polly Bliss with Alex Chiu

Teaching health class is my favorite time of the day at MCA. The hand washing and vegetable songs are music to my ears, and I enjoy the great questions and funny, honest comments your children make during class. If you have Diet Coke for breakfast, I may hear about it!” ~ Nurse Bliss

Health lessons at The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) are based on five simple principals that are the same whether your child is in our Preschool, Kindergarten, or Elementary Program.

They include:

1. Washing your hands, brushing your teeth, and taking care of your body.
2. Practicing safety.
3. Taking a deep breath.
4. Eating more fruits and vegetables.
5. Exercising.

Every day, we should all be doing these five simple things.

1. Wash Your Hands! Brush Your Teeth! Take Care of Your Body!

The simple act of washing hands prevents us from getting sick and stops the transmission of illnesses. We encourage the children to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, before they eat or prepare food, and when they come in from playing outside. The first thing children should do when they get home from school is wash their hands.
A Practical Life lesson MCA preschool students learn in Health Class is how to use a tissue, and children are reminded to keep fingers out of their noses and mouths. A favorite lesson is titled “Germs are Not for Sharing.” Using a spray bottle, we dramatically demonstrate what happens when sneezes and coughs aren’t covered—the children do NOT like to get sprayed with the pretend germs, and they quickly learn to use an elbow to catch their coughs and sneezes to protect themselves and others. In the Elementary Program, we take the topic of hand washing further by discussing viruses and germs and the many ways our immune system protects us.
In the fall, our preschool lessons also focus on body parts and how each body part has a specific job to do. We discuss ways to keep all of our body parts healthy and working properly. At the Elementary level, we discuss each body system, how the body systems work together, and ways to keep each body system functioning for optimal health. Later in the year, during Dental Health Month, students learn all about teeth and how important it is to keep teeth clean by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. A local dentist and hygienist visit our classrooms for a fun, interactive dental health lesson, as well.

2. Practice Safety!

In winter, Health lessons focus on what to do in emergencies and calling 911. We talk about what an emergency is and what an emergency isn’t. Students are given different scenarios, and they must decide if it’s an emergency or not. They also learn to call 911. This is a tricky lesson because children cannot practice actually making the call to 911. However, as fewer of us have land lines in our homes, it’s important that children know how to use cellular telephones, so students should practice unlocking the phone, choosing a name to call from the contact list, or accessing the keypad–these are essential skills needed to call 911 in an emergency. Our Elementary lessons also focus on personal safety. After this lesson, you may find that your children remind you, their parents, not to text and drive or cross the street while looking down at your phone!
Poison Prevention Month in January provides us with the opportunity to teach the students about things that are good for our bodies and things that are bad for our bodies and that could hurt us. Students are introduced to a basket of poisons, such as cleaners, laundry detergent pods, dishwasher pods, and medicine, and in Health Class, they discuss the many things children should not touch or put in their mouths. At home, please remember to keep all poisons out of sight and out of reach. Elementary students also discuss medicine, both prescription and over the counter medicine, and they are taught how important it is to read directions and to take the proper prescribed dose. Students are reminded that a safe adult should always administer medicine to them rather than the children taking the medicine on their own.

Later in the year, during the month of May, our safety lessons focus on staying safe around water and the importance of wearing sunscreen. Students often end up reminding their parents to apply sunscreen, which is a wonderful way to see how they have internalized these important lessons!

3. Take a Deep Breath!

Throughout the year, and in every Health Class, students practice taking three deep breaths. The children learn to breathe in through their noses, the body part that warms and filters the air before it comes into our bodies. They learn to sit up, let their shoulders drop, and let their stomachs go out when they take a deep breath. We discuss how breathing is a great tool that can help us calm ourselves, and the children come to understand how breathing helps to flood our brains with oxygen so we can think better. In Elementary, students also use deep breathing as a strategy to calm their nervous systems, de-stress, and refocus their attention to the task at hand.

4. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables!

To introduce nutrition, preschoolers explore a basket of colorful fruits and vegetables and are invited to form a rainbow with the produce. They learn that each different colored fruit and vegetable has different health benefits. For example, blueberries are brain food, naturally red food is good for your stomach, naturally green food keeps your insides clean and builds strong muscles, naturally orange foods are good for your eyes, and naturally yellow foods are good for your lungs, while white vegetables are great for fighting germs. We also discuss the food plate and how important it is to eat a variety of foods.

It doesn’t matter what diet you follow at home, our health lessons at MCA focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. Fruits and vegetables are nature’s multivitamins that come in a form our bodies can immediately recognize, absorb, and digest. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with healthy fiber. We encourage you to send fruits and vegetables for your child’s snack and lunch. If you have a picky eater, there are some strategies you could try to help your child incorporate a wider variety of healthy foods into his or her diet. If your child will only eat vegetables dipped in something or covered with cheese, that is a really great start in developing healthy eating habits. If your child is hungry after school, offer vegetables first. Have vegetables prepared when you are making dinner or setting the table so your children are free to munch on them. Choose different colors, shapes, and textures and let your child pick out new fruits and vegetables to try when you go food shopping.

In Health Class we refer to fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole foods as “go foods”, which are foods that our bodies need to stay healthy and foods that we should eat a lot of each day. “Go foods” also are foods that our bodies immediately recognize and can easily digest. Whole and natural foods have more nutrition in their natural, minimally processed state. At school, we call junk foods “whoa foods,” and these include foods that are loaded with chemicals, sugar, food coloring, preservatives, and anything hydrogenated. Our bodies aren’t designed to digest “whoa foods”. In fact, many foods we consume today wouldn’t have even been considered food 100 years ago. And sugar certainly wasn’t added to practically everything either. Our bodies don’t know how to digest highly processed foods and foods loaded with chemicals and preservatives. “Whoa foods” take much longer to move through our digestive system and since they stay in our bodies longer, it’s no wonder why obesity and chronic illnesses are on the rise.

Our MCA students learn that they should eat “go foods” most of the time and have “whoa foods” every once in a while. If you do choose processed food items, (which are usually the foods you find in the center aisles of the supermarkets), try to keep the number of ingredients listed on the packaging to under five. Another good rule of thumb as you shop is if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the package, it’s probably not good for you. Also, if you lose count trying to count the number of ingredients, it’s not good for you, and if it will stay fresh for a year, it’s not good for you. You might also keep in mind that if your preschooler can reach a breakfast cereal, it probably isn’t good for them, and if your yogurt is loaded with sugar or has candy on top of it, it’s dessert.

During our Elementary nutrition lessons, we discuss the digestive system and how to read nutrition labels including portion sizes. We “re-think our drink” by using a sugar bowl to count out the number of teaspoons of sugar that are in our favorite junk beverages. This can be quite an eye-opening lesson for our students. Try it at home sometime and you, too, will be surprised! Take the number of grams of added sugar and divide by four. For example, if your 16 ounce bottle of soda has 44 grams of sugar, you are consuming 11 teaspoons of sugar. We hope this helps you all to ‘re-think your drink’!

As the seasons change and we get closer to summer, the children are encouraged to visit a local farmers market to see what fruits and vegetables are local and fresh. Not only is this a fun family outing, but a great way to take part in a community event and perhaps discover a new favorite healthy food!

5. Exercise!

MCA students are taught that exercise is also important for healthy bodies. Our bodies are made to move, not to sit in front of a computer or television all day. It’s no wonder so many of us have a stiff neck from looking down at our computers or phone screens constantly. Our MCA students learn that they should engage in at least one hour of physical activity a day. The best exercise for children is simply to go outside and play. Children build strong bodies by playing. Go to the park, go to the playground, go for a walk or a hike, ride bikes together, play a sport, learn to swim, and take the stairs. As parents, we model behavior for our children, so we encourage you to put the phone down, turn off the computer, turn off the TV, and go do something active together with your children. Encourage raking leaves, snow shoveling, vacuuming, cleaning, gardening, and car washing. They are all terrific physical, family activities that also count as exercise. Engaging in physical activity is a family affair that is good for everyone across the lifespan, and all of our MCA students from our youngest to our oldest, learn the value of movement and exercise. The older students extend their understanding of this by also learning about the cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular systems. We are always emphasizing healthy behaviors that keep all of our body systems functioning properly.

Putting It All Together

In every lesson throughout the year, MCA students refer back to the 5 basic principles of taking care of their bodies, practicing safety, taking a deep breath, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising, and they learn to see the connection between these simple steps and staying healthy. It is our hope that our students are learning healthy habits that will last throughout their lifetimes!

Image credit: intranet.tdmu.edu.ua

An Abundance of Autumn Activities for Fall Family Fun

By Alex Chiu and Alisa Jones

Autumn is in the air! Crisp, cooler temperatures make us grab a sweater in the mornings. Vibrant colors of the changing leaves cause us stop to take in their beauty. Smells of cinnamon, apples, and pumpkins spike cravings of pie and cider. Our senses are beckoned at every turn.

Similarly, the senses of children in Montessori classrooms are heightened as we invite them to tune into all that is around them, not only in autumn, but all year long. While the Sensorial area of the classroom is specifically dedicated to stimulating and enhancing children’s senses, Montessori classrooms enrich students’ sensorial experiences across curriculum areas. This happens in every season through a variety of enriching activities that bring in what is unique to each different time of year.

Fall provides us with an abundance of activities we can do that help to build skills across curriculum areas using easy to find apples, acorns, pumpkins, and leaves. There are so many things we do in our classrooms with an autumn theme, and there are even more that you might enjoy trying at home as well. What follows is just a sampling of some fun fall activities that are easy to do with your family and friends this autumn season.

Fall into Science

• Sort types of apples or leaves by size, color, or variety.
• Grade apples or pumpkins from largest to smallest.
• Examine the parts of an apple or pumpkin from stem to skin to core to seeds.
• Experiment to see if apples (or pumpkins) sink or float (and if you find that apples float, why not create an apple boat by slicing an apple in half, adding a toothpick and paper flag, and letting it set sail in a bowl of water!).
• Do an experiment to find out why apples turn brown. Slice an apple, leave one piece as a control, soak one in lemon juice, one in vinegar, one in water (label them). Set them out on plates, and then observe and log what happens to the different samples of apple slices as they sit out over time.
• Explore gravity! Don’t want to drop the apples or pumpkins from the top of the swing set and clean up the mess? Try rolling two down the slide or a ramp made of cereal boxes. Guess which will roll to the bottom first. Were you right? Why or why not?
• Measure the circumference of your pumpkin and compare it to the measurement for your head.

Practical Life Autumn Activities

• Slice and serve apples. Check out the website www.forsmallhands.com for child-safe kitchen utensils.
• Wash a pumpkin. Have a parent carve open the top, and scoop out the seeds. Design your jack o’ lantern.
• Make applesauce or apple or pumpkin pie or muffins, or any other wonderful recipe you have.
• Conduct a blind taste test of different types of apples and vote to see which is your family’s favorite variety.
• Toast pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon sugar, or a favorite spice to try a new twist on an old favorite.
• Transfer acorns from one dish to another using a spoon, tongs, or, if you’re really up for a challenge, chopsticks.

Seasonal Reading Connections

• Read the Dr. Seuss classic Ten Apples Up On Top and then do some follow-up activities.
After reading, see how many apples you can stack. Discuss with your child what makes it easy or hard to stack them? What could you do to make it more stable? (Pyramid? Skewers?)
• Cozy up with some of our favorite pumpkin-themed books, such as Pumpkin, Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington, The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons, Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, Pumpkin Town or Nothing is Better than Pumpkins by Katie McKy.
• Go on a nature scavenger hunt after reading We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger. Invite your children to search for seeds, different types or colors of leaves, a stick that looks like a letter, something fuzzy, etc.
• Count acorns or leaves by ones, twos, fives, and tens after reading Nuts to You or Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert.

Autumn Art Projects

• Chop up an apple, add toothpicks, and build creative 3D structures.
• Slice an apple in half, paint the flat half, and make apple prints. Try slicing one apple through the center and another from core to base to see how the prints differ. This makes pretty fall stationery.
• Make leaf rubbings. Peel off the paper around your crayons to allow for a smoother crayon rubbing.
• Create an apple or pumpkin inspired drawing using crayons, colored pencils, or oil pastels. Look closely at your apple, what different colors do you see? Blend them together and cut out in an apple shape.
• Decorate a pumpkin using paint, pipe cleaners, glitter, buttons, or unusual items you may find around the house.

Math Fun in the Fall

• Count the number of trees that have lost all of their leaves in your front yard or on your street.
• Estimate how many seeds are in your pumpkin as you carve it. Then count them before roasting!
• Collect acorns or leaves when out for a walk (you will need a lot!). At home, have your child set out the leaves by quantity from 1-10 (or as high as you can go!).

As you can see, it’s easy to incorporate fun learning activities into family time this fall season. We look forward to your children sharing all of their family autumn adventures with us when they come to school. And as fall turns to winter, and then spring, and then summer, challenge your family to apply some of these ideas to what is unique to each of the seasons for family fun all year long!

 

Clip art credit to:  https://gallery.yopriceville.com/var/resizes/Free-Clipart-Pictures/Fall-PNG/Autumn_Pumpkin_and_Fruits_PNG_Clipart_Image.png?m=1443543781

Sunshine, Summertime, and Social Skills?

By: Alex Chiu

Let’s face it. Summertime is when we all take a little break. Whether it’s a vacation from work, time off from school, or a slight easing up on the usual daily routines, summer often finds us relaxing in one way or another at some point. And that’s a good thing! With our wound up, stressed out lives, we DO need to take a breather and enjoy the ‘dog days’ of summer while we can.

However, it’s important to remember that even in the summer, we must never allow ourselves, or our children, to take a break from basic human kindness, respect, and compassion. Actually, summer is a great time to focus even more on acts of kindness since it is for many a season that makes us naturally happier! As people are out and about, walking in parks, eating in the outdoor seating of restaurants, etc., we have a chance to connect with others even more. Let’s show our children how to make that connection positive, and how we can use this summer season to spread some joy.

Children in Montessori classrooms learn all about “Grace and Courtesy”— common, decent, kind interactions with others. They greet their teachers and friends with a kind word, handshake, and eye contact to start the day. They take care in how they move about the classroom so as to not disturb someone’s work on a table or rug. They learn the tried and true ‘Ps and Qs’ of saying, “Excuse me”, “Please”, and “Thank you”. They also learn conflict resolution and the art of making a genuine apology. It’s a part of the curriculum that’s as important as the academic subjects children learn. So, just as parents worry about ‘summer slump’ for their children in regards to math or reading, be sure to address your child’s social skills as part of your family’s summer lessons.

Here are just a few ideas of how to attend to your family’s own Grace and Courtesy skills this summer:

  • Greet people with a smile. As you walk through your neighborhood, greet others with a smile and extend a hello. Teach your children that while we must be safe regarding strangers, there is no harm in sharing a brief, kind greeting in passing when they are with a trusted adult.
  • Encourage your children to speak with community members. When visiting the library, encourage your child to ask the librarian where to find a certain type of book to practice exchanging conversation with others. If you see a police officer at a crosswalk, model for your child a “thank you for your service to our community” greeting and then have your child emulate that the next time you see a first responder.
  • Bring a sweet treat to your volunteer firefighters or first responders. Have your children decorate cards and bake cookies (or if it’s too hot to bake, stop by the local ice cream shop for a gallon of ice cream) to share with these hard-working community members.
  • Make a phone call to a far-away family member. Practice before you call! In this digital age, more and more children are learning to text and NOT learning the art of conversation. Keep this fine art alive by making a monthly call to someone special! Teach your children how to ask questions that elicit a response from the person on the other end of the line. And teach them to listen! Both are important skills in being gracious and kind.
  • Write a letter. Similar to phone calls, many of us have strayed from the tradition of letter writing. Still, most of us smile at the sight of a card or letter that’s not a bill in our mailbox! Share that feeling with someone you know who needs a little pick me up. Encourage your children to share a funny story, personal anecdote, or information about a family outing that the other person might like to learn about in the letter. And remind them to include some questions for their recipient in order to prompt him or her to write back! Then wait for a reply to come in the mail! Speaking of mail, why not greet your mail carrier with a cold drink on a hot day? Just another opportunity to perform an act of kindness and learn how to interact with a community member.
  • Maintain the expectation of kindness and respect in your own home. It’s easy for children to get too comfortable with parents, siblings, and other close friends and family members. However, EVERYONE deserves our respect and kindness, so make sure you model this for your children and maintain the expectation that they mind their ‘Ps and Qs’ with you, too! Even when there’s a disagreement, keep the Montessori spirit of Grace and Courtesy at the forefront of your interactions. It’s okay to disagree or to feel sad or angry, but the way we act when we feel this way is in our control and makes a difference in how others see us and how we find our place in the world.

While these words and actions are small and brief, they can have a positive impact on how your child interacts with others and grows in his or her capacity to be a kind, compassionate, contributing member of our world. So go on—enjoy the sunshine of the summer with a smile, and keep those social skills sharp!