Tag Archives: Montessori preschool NJ

Reflections at The Montessori Children’s Academy

As we enter this new year, we thought we’d take a look back at just some of the MCA special events and highlights from September through December. In just a few short months, the children have experienced so much both inside and outside of the classroom. Reflecting upon the fall 2017 semester, we are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to work with our MCA children and families, as well as with others in our local areas and the broader Montessori community. As we look forward to what 2018 holds, we are filled with hope and anticipation
for all that we are yet to discover and achieve together!

Commemorating the International Day of Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Harvest Family Fun Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit from Our Local Firefighters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Diwali

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Music

 

Picasso Studies

                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elementary Study of Atoms

 

 

 

 

 

MCA’s Disaster Relief Bake Sale to Support Montessori Communities in Puerto Rico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paws of War Assembly with Jason and Dixie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Around the Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gingerbread Decorating

Looking ahead to 2018…

The Gifts of a Montessori Education

By Alex Chiu

During this busy holiday season, many people find themselves frantically searching for ‘that perfect gift’. They are looking for the right size, color, and fit. Or they are trying to find something unique and one-of-a-kind. Some parents have their children write out wish lists of items they are hoping to receive, in order to be sure to select just the right thing. However, if we look beyond the clothes, toys, games, and gadgets, there are some incredible gifts that our children receive every day in the form of their Montessori education. Let’s unwrap some of the ‘gifts of Montessori’.

Montessori students are given:

A Beautifully Prepared Environment
From the moment children enter the classroom, they are welcomed into a carefully prepared environment that has been created especially for them. Child-sized furniture allows them to sit comfortably and with correct, safe posture. The beautiful Montessori materials, designed in specific inviting colors and crafted with care, are organized sequentially so that children may work with them and build on their growing skills from one material to the next. Items are placed where children can easily access them, and artwork is hung at the child’s eye level for their enjoyment and appreciation. Everything in the classroom has a purpose in further developing the child while at the same time welcoming them into a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, home-like environment in which they can grow, learn, and thrive.

The Guidance of a Carefully Trained Teacher
Montessori teachers undergo many hours of training as they learn the purpose and practice of using the various Montessori materials in the areas of Language, Math, Sensorial, Practical Life, and Cultural Studies. In addition, they practice the art of observation, a key component of teaching in Montessori. Their keen observations of their students drive teachers to modify the environment make decisions about which lessons to present, and continuously work to maintain a productive, engaging, inspiring classroom environment for their students. Montessori teachers are passionate about their calling to be in the classroom.

A Global Perspective
Perhaps we could say that Montessori students are given the world. The Cultural Studies area introduces children to geography, cultures and traditions from around the world, and fundamental, basic human needs. Montessori students ‘travel’ the world as they learn about the continents, countries, states, and regions. They explore the unique differences between areas because of geographical features, as well as because of the people and animals that inhabit each place. They also come to learn what is fundamentally similar among all people, no matter where they come from or live. This global perspective allows students, even from the confines of their classrooms or communities, to move beyond what is familiar and to learn to respect, admire, and take interest in others.

Time to Develop Independence, Confidence, Responsibility, and Mastery
Within the Montessori work cycle, students have the opportunity to choose which types of work they would like to complete. They might spend a good part of their morning captivated by a Montessori Math material or engrossed in creating a map of Europe. Once an activity is completed, the child then moves on to his or her next choice, and is allowed time to work without interruption. Students learn to take ownership of their learning. They are responsible for using their time well. And by having time to engross themselves in their learning, they lead themselves to mastery in a variety of areas of learning. Having freedom to choose what work to do helps students develop independence, as do the self-correcting materials. As students work in the Language, Math, Cultural, Sensorial, or Practical Life area, they develop confidence in their abilities as they build on acquired skills with new knowledge. All of this naturally moves with them from their earliest Montessori classroom experiences on into adulthood where these skills will enable them to be productive, inquisitive, creative, and diligent workers in the world.

Opportunities to Contribute
In conjunction with Cultural Studies, students also engage in a Peace Curriculum, as Dr. Montessori strongly believed that “establishing lasting peace is the work of education”. Learning problem-solving strategies, becoming comfortable with silence, and developing strong communication skills all encompass this peaceful component of the school day. Students, through their cultural and peace studies, gain empathy and compassion. This is then translated into a variety of community outreach service projects. Montessori students understand that they are part of a greater whole, and that they have a responsibility for making positive contributions to their communities and the world at large. They learn that small actions can have big impacts, and they learn to facilitate ways for others to join in doing things for the greater good.

Sharing the Gifts of Montessori
For those of you who are current MCA parents, we believe that you will agree that the ‘gift of Montessori’ is one that will stay with your children long after they leave The Montessori Children’s Academy. And we hope you are considering extending the gift to your child(ren) for another year or beyond. As you know, MCA will soon hold its in-house registration for the 2018-2019 school year, which is then followed by open registration. Our program offerings include:

Montessori, My Child, and Me (for 18-30 months old with a parent or caregiver),
2 ½ – 3 ½ Year Old Program,
3 – 6 Year Old AM and PM Programs,
Full Day Kindergarten
Elementary for students in grades 1 through 8

We will be holding an MCA Kindergarten Open House at each of our three campuses during the month of December.

Chatham Campus Kindergarten Open House:      Tuesday, December 5th,         3:15 – 4:15PM
Short Hills Campus Kindergarten Open House:    Wednesday, December 6th,   3:15 – 4:15PM
Morristown Campus Kindergarten Open House: Thursday, December 7th,       3:15 – 4:15PM

Our MCA Elementary Open House will be held on Thursday, December 7th from 7:00 – 8:00PM at our Short Hills campus. We hope you will join us to learn how you can continue to enrich your child’s educational experience by extending this beautiful ‘Montessori gift’ through the Elementary and Middle School years.

We invite you to attend our Open Houses to learn more about the benefits of our Kindergarten and Elementary Programs, and we hope you will bring your family and friends so that they, too, can learn about the many gifts a Montessori education has to offer!

 

Photo Credit: http://www.discovertheregion.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/blog-giving.jpg

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

The Language of Montessori


By:  Alex Chiu

If your family is new to Montessori, you might think you hear your child speaking a ‘new language’ when he or she returns home from school each day. As the children are learning their new classroom routines, they are also learning some of the terminology unique to Montessori. In order to help you ‘translate’ some of the new phrases that might be coming home, we’ve put together a brief list of common terms you may encounter as you begin your Montessori journey.

The Prepared Environment: This is your child’s classroom. However, the Montessori classroom is specifically and meticulously arranged in such a way as to provide teaching opportunities at every turn. Organized by areas of learning, your child’s prepared environment at MCA includes the full complement of beautiful Montessori materials designed to facilitate learning and exploration in the areas of Math, Language, Sensorial, Practical Life, and Culture/Science. Teachers thoughtfully place the materials, furniture, rugs, and adornments with the children’s needs in mind. You’ll notice that the furniture is just the right size for the children and that artwork is hung at the child’s eye level. The classroom is set up to facilitate independent and group learning, and to offer children a safe, comfortable space in which to grow and learn.

Work: This is the term used for the activities the children engage in at school. Montessori ‘work’ includes all of the meaningful, beautiful materials the children will receive lessons on and then may choose from the classroom shelves while they are at school. At home you might ask your child, “What work did you choose today?”

Normalization: As defined on the American Montessori Society website, “normalization” refers to “A natural or “normal” developmental process marked by a love of work or activity, concentration, self-discipline, and joy in accomplishment. Dr. Montessori observed that the normalization process is characteristic of human beings at any age.” In Montessori schools, the beginning of the year focuses on the activities and skills that lead to a ‘normalized’ classroom in which students understand the expectations and are able to function in the classroom independently and successfully.

Grace and Courtesy: Part of the “normalization” process at the beginning of the school year involves a big focus on “grace and courtesy” in Montessori classrooms. Teachers model and then have students practice using simple courteous phrases such as “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”. Students learn the polite way to ask for help or to get someone’s attention. They learn how to walk around the work rugs of their classmates so as to not disturb them. They learn how to stand in a line or how to sit at circle without interfering with the physical space of their friends. These lessons are the fundamentals of a functioning classroom, and Montessori students learn them quickly and wonderfully!

Work Rug or Work Mat: Students define their work space in the classroom by using a work rug or mat. This keeps the materials contained and safe, and it also designates the area for the child’s activities. Other children learn to walk carefully around the work rugs or mats of their classmates. Your child may also use a special work mat at a table, especially when working with water or paint. The tablemat also contains the work to a specific area and helps in the cleanup of the work area as well.

Three-Period Lesson: When a student is introduced to a new concept for the first time, he or she is given a three-period lesson.

The first period is naming. Using the Montessori materials, the teacher first tells the child the name of or provides the specific vocabulary for the new concept. The teacher will say “This is a cube” or “This is a circle”.

The second period is recognition after being given the vocabulary. The teacher next will use the material in some manner, and then invite the child to show what was just named. For example, the teacher might say to the child “Show me the cube” or “Show me the circle”. The child is required only to recognize and identify the newly learned item.

The third period is when the child is able to provide the vocabulary spontaneously, showing mastery. In the third period, the teacher will ask the child to provide the vocabulary for the new concept. The teacher will ask, “What is this?” and the child is expected to give the name (e.g., “This is a cube” or “This is a circle”).

Note that a child may not reach the third period right away—a lesson may require several attempts over the course of time for a child to be able to master the third period and identify and provide the vocabulary of a new concept.

Work Cycle: Montessori students are given a wonderful gift of time called the “work cycle” during their school day. The work cycle is a long, uninterrupted work time during which the children may choose their activities and then spend time doing those activities for as long and as often as they wish. Montessori education understands that children need time to make choices, complete tasks, repeat tasks, and engage in their learning. During the work cycle, the child may complete many independent tasks, work with a teacher one-on-one, or do activities with a friend or in a small group—all productive and important components of the school session.

Practical Life: Especially at the beginning of the school year, the Practical Life area of the classroom is the most used and most popular. It is in this area that children learn the fundamentals used across all areas of the Montessori classroom. In Practical Life, they learn the steps for selecting work, taking the work from the shelf to the work space, organizing the work, performing the tasks, completing the work, and returning the work to the shelf so it is ready for the next person.

Practical Life activities involve a great deal of fine motor control, concentration, patience, and motivation to complete. Each activity assists the child in developing necessary everyday life skills from dressing to cleaning to preparing food, etc. As adults, we often take these skills for granted, but in Montessori classrooms, we know they are learned skills that promote learning across all areas!

Pincer Grip or Pincer Grasp: While not a uniquely Montessori term, children develop their pincer grip as they perform a multitude of tasks across the Montessori curriculum. The pincer grip is the combination of the thumb and forefinger working together to manipulate, move, or grasp an item.

Sensorial: The colorful and inviting Sensorial area is where children develop a heightened awareness of their five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Children also develop understanding of size, space, and sequence, and the Sensorial materials provide a foundation for the Math and Language academic areas. The popular Pink Tower, an iconic Montessori material, is just one example of the Sensorial work your child might choose, building the tower from the biggest pink cube (which is 1 cubic decimeter) to the smallest pink cube (which is 1 cubic centimeter).

Control of Error: Because the child is encouraged to explore and learn at his or her own pace, the Montessori materials have a built in ‘control of error’ that lets the child know whether or not he or she has completed the work correctly. For example, if a child is learning to pour water from one small pitcher into another, the control of error is if the water spills. The child can see his or her success in completing the task without any interference from the teacher. If there is a spill, the child has learned already how to clean it up. Then, he or she can make another attempt at pouring, and another, until he or she pours without one drop spilled. Imagine the satisfaction felt after achieving that goal!

Circle: Again, this is not a uniquely Montessori term, but one that often is used in Montessori classrooms. Circle time refers to the time of day when the entire class of children come together with their teacher(s) and sit (usually in a circle) to listen to stories, sing songs, observe a group lesson, or do some other all-class activity.

Absorbent Mind: As defined on the American Montessori Society website, the “absorbent mind” is the time when “From birth through approximately age 6, the young child experiences a period of intense mental activity that allows her to “absorb” learning from her environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously”.

If you encounter a Montessori term that is new and would like to learn more, or if you’re interested in gathering more information about Dr. Maria Montessori or the Montessori philosophy, you might enjoy reading some of the following books:

A Parents’ Guide to the Montessori Classroom by Aline D. Wolf
Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E.M. Standing
Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard
Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents by Maren Schmidt and Dana Schmidt
Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education by Trevor Eissler
The Absorbent Mind by Dr. Maria Montessori

 

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!