Tag Archives: Montessori in the home

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

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

Avoiding Homework Headaches

By Alex Chiu
Contributors: Debbie Currey, Alisa Jones, and Jacquelyn Kernaghan

Homework. This may be one of the most dreaded words in a student’s vocabulary–perhaps in a parent’s vocabulary, too—but it doesn’t have to be! It’s time to take a look at the purpose of homework and to think about how it can make a meaningful impact on your child’s learning and your family’s after-school routine.

While some schools give an excess of work to take home and others give none at all, at MCA, we look to find a balance that is beneficial to students and their families. When we asked some of our MCA Kindergarten and Elementary teachers what they wanted families to know about homework, we found a common theme in their responses:

The Benefits of Homework

Homework reinforces learning introduced in class.

Homework is a way for students to make a link between prior learning and new learning.

Homework builds a student’s skills and confidence in different subject areas.

Homework teaches responsibility as the student is responsible for completing and turning in assignments.

Homework assists students in developing time management skills and creating routines.

Homework provides teachers with a way to check if their students understand what they’ve learned, and if they don’t, it offers students the opportunity to bring questions in to school for further discussion with the class.

Homework offers students the opportunity to practice following instructions.

Homework is a way for students to share what they’ve learned at school with their families at home.

What homework is NOT:

Homework is never intended to be a punishment.

Homework may not take the same amount of time every day. Multiple assignments may be spread out over the course of a number of days or weeks, and certain homework assignments may take longer than others. Some students may choose to spend a longer amount of time on special creative projects. However, especially in the younger grades, homework should not take an extraordinarily long amount of time to complete. The average amount of time for younger students to spend on daily homework is 30 minutes. The message to students should be that ‘homework is finished when you have completed your assignments and are satisfied with the work you have completed’.

Homework is not the parents’ responsibility.

Homework is not meant to be stressful for students OR parents!

What families can do to avoid homework headaches and facilitate homework success:

Establish a homework routine: If a child knows in advance that a specific time is already set aside to complete homework or to review schoolwork, he or she will be less likely to balk at it. Whether it is when they get home from school, before supper, or after their bath, consistency will help your children know what is expected of them and when. They come to understand that homework, like everything else, has its place in the family schedule.

Create a homework sanctuary: Equally important to developing a schedule is creating a place for your children to do their work. Set up a spot where your child will not be distracted by electronics or others in the house, and where they will be able to find everything they need for their work. Choose a space that is well-lit, relatively quiet, and spacious enough for your child to spread out his or her notebooks and papers. Also, acknowledge that different types of homework could allow for a change in scenery or routine. For example, if your child has to read from a chapter book and it’s a beautiful day outside, that reading certainly could take place in the backyard—what a wonderful way to enjoy homework!

Provide the basic tools for homework: Keep necessary supplies handy in a place that your child can easily access. Designate a special shelf or drawer to house pencils, erasers, paper, index cards, a hole punch, markers, and a stapler for your child to retrieve when needed.

Be present, but don’t intrude: Parents are not expected to sit with their children and do their work with them. However, you might ask for a general overview of what homework needs to be done, and perhaps help your child create a plan or order in which to do the assignments for that day. Make yourself available for questions, but remember to let your children come up with their own solutions. Finally, it’s appropriate to check in on your child’s work once completed, but try to resist making changes. Instead, you might ask your child to recheck a math problem or think about what else he or she could add to a story. Again, homework is the child’s work.

Plan ahead: If your child’s teacher has set days when homework is assigned and expected to be returned, then help your child plan out how best to use his or her time to get it done when it’s due. Prioritize what is due earliest, and work with your child to create a schedule for working on long-term assignments in short pieces over time.

Be a homework role model: Some parents have had great success in helping their children simply by modeling doing work at the same time. Maybe while your child does his or her schoolwork, you can be sitting nearby paying the bills, attending to emails, or doing other homework of your own.

Incorporate mini-breaks into the homework routine: If your children’s homework requires them to sit and stay on task longer than they are able to, encourage them to get up and move after sitting for a length of time. Put on a favorite song and dance for 3 minutes. Do laps around the kitchen table. Play fetch three times with the dog. Once your child has had a few minutes of movement, he or she may be better able to focus on the next sit-down task.

Know when to call it a night: Sometimes your child just cannot get through an assignment. Maybe he or she isn’t feeling well. Maybe there was a special event that took time away from the usual schedule. Maybe everyone is just TIRED. Under those conditions, whatever attempt at homework is sure to be a poor one. Perhaps the best use of time would be to cozy up and read a book together or simply go to bed. Knowing when to say ‘we’re done for tonight’ is important. Maybe this is the rare time your child speaks with the teacher about just not having his or her homework completed. Note, this would be the exception and not the rule, especially if you have created a homework plan when assignments are first given. If this type of situation starts to happen frequently, it might be time to reassess your family’s schedule or your child’s feelings about homework.

Communicate with your child’s teacher: If your child struggles with homework or has difficulty sticking to a homework routine, reach out to your child’s teacher. Teachers have great insights into how their students work at school and might be able to provide further suggestions on making homework run more smoothly for your family!

As the school year ramps up, so may your child’s homework. If you take a little time to remember the value of homework and to create a plan with your child, hopefully you will all avoid any homework headaches and have a successful school year!

Image credit: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2017/08/25/16/58/back-to-school-2680730_960_720.jpg

Packing the Perfect Lunchbox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Alex Chiu

Just one of the many wonderful things about Montessori education is that everything that happens in the classroom is viewed as a learning opportunity. Consider the simple act of having lunch. In a Montessori setting, the children learn how to follow multi-step instructions to take part in setting up and preparing their lunch spaces. This includes retrieving their lunchboxes from where they are stored to setting out their placemats and food, to eating politely, and finally throwing away trash and cleaning up. It’s a lot to remember and complete for our younger students, but they learn the routines quickly and perform the tasks beautifully every time they have lunch at school.

One of the best ways to ensure your child can enjoy eating and socializing during lunchtime at school is by having him or her help to prepare lunch for each day. Providing your child with healthy choices and allowing him or her to decide which to bring on a given day gives your child some control over what he or she brings in to eat and teaches responsibility in getting the lunch packed and ready for school. This begins with including your child in purchasing his or her first lunchbox and continues throughout the year as he or she works together with an adult to pack that beautiful box with daily meals.

Here are some teacher suggestions (or “secrets”) to packing a perfect lunchbox:

1. Label everything! Especially at the beginning of the school year, the children are learning whose lunchbox belongs to whom, and often the children see that their classmates have the same containers or placemats. Not only does labeling all items help your child recognize his or her name, it also helps to make sure all items that belong to you return home!

2. Consider your child’s lunch ‘space’. In a Montessori classroom, children learn to organize their workspaces on a floor rug or table. The same holds true during lunch. Many Montessori classrooms encourage children to use placemats during lunch because the placemats offer the children a visual context in which to organize their lunch and maintain their space among the others sitting at the table. Some teachers have their students make their own placemats to use during lunch, some provide a plastic or vinyl placemat, and some may request that parents send in a cloth placemat to be washed at home as needed for the children’s lunchtime routines. Ask your child’s teacher if a placemat from home is needed.

3. Consider reusable containers. While plastic disposable baggies are easy and light, they are not the best choice for our environment. Since lunch is another learning time in the Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to pack in an eco-friendly way. Not only do you help the planet by packing reusable containers, but you also help your child practice fine motor skills for opening and closing lids. Children learn to match sizes and shapes of containers and lids, and they gain a special awareness when deciding what will fit into different sizes of containers.

4. What about the food?! Montessori children do learn about health and fitness, and preschool is not too early to encourage varied and healthy food choices. While each child has his or her preferences, teachers find that children enjoy a small portion of a variety of foods rather than one large main dish. You might think about sending in a small container of carrots, olives, or cucumbers sliced and paired with a favorite cheese or dip (hummus or ranch dressing). Another Tupperware might be filled with grapes, berries, or apple slices. Still another may provide your child with favorite crackers and a few sliced cold cuts. Having several small portions of different types of foods gives children choice and variety, and creates a ‘picnic’ type of meal which most children really enjoy.

5. Keep it cold (or hot)! Be sure to put foods that need to stay hot in an airtight thermos. Use an icepack to keep cold foods cold. Most schools do not have the space for refrigerators or microwaves in the classroom, so it’s always helpful for parents to take charge of sending the food in the safest manner.

Most teachers encourage students to repack any foods that were left uneaten. It’s important for parents to pay attention to what comes back home in the lunchbox at the end of the day. Perhaps your child is tired of a certain food or is packing too much to be eaten in a given lunch period. Talk with your child about his or her lunchtimes. Ask what his or her classmates enjoying eating, who he or she sits beside, and what special routines the class has for lunch. We may think it’s ‘only lunch’, but in Montessori, lunch is an important part of the school day, too!

Photo from the howwemontessori.com website – a perfect example of a Montessori lunch!