Tag Archives: Toddler

What (Not) to Wear

 

By: Alex Chiu

Many parents anticipate that perfect “first day of school” photo with their children wearing fresh, new outfits, slinging those bright new backpacks over their shoulders, and smiling as they exit the front door ready to start a new school year. Before you begin your back-to-school shopping however, teachers (and especially preschool teachers) would love to offer some advice on what clothing choices are most appropriate for children to wear to school.

Choose clothing that allows freedom of movement
First, parents should consider their children’s daily school activities. Especially in a Montessori environment, children move a LOT. The clothing they wear should allow for comfort and freedom of movement, both in the classroom and out on the playground. Remember, Montessori work can take place either at a table or on the floor. Clothing that allows for sitting ‘criss cross applesauce’ is important!

Choose clothing that is ‘worry-free’
In addition to being comfortable and allowing freedom of movement, clothing at school should be ‘worry-free’. Montessori children work with water, soil, plants, paint, sand, and many other potentially messy supplies. While one of the goals is for children to use the materials purposefully and to be able to master using them without excessive spills, the reality is that spills happen. Often. Montessori education is prepared for that, which is why children also learn the important skills of cleaning up after their messes! However, children are much more likely to participate in all areas of the classroom uninhibited if they aren’t worried about staining a new dress or scuffing nice dressy shoes. They are then free to explore the environment and learn skills across all of the classroom’s offerings.

Choose clothing that encourages independence and safety
Just as many professions have a dress code for professionalism and safety, classrooms also encourage a dress code that is geared toward keeping students focused on what’s important and safe. For younger children who are learning to use the bathroom independently, a proper school wardrobe might include pants that are easy to pull on and off independently. While belts are fashionable, they may not be the best choice for success in toilet training! Similarly, in order for children to feel safe and successful on the playground, consider your child’s footwear. Sneakers or other closed-toe and rubber-soled shoes are the wise choice. These types of shoes allow children to climb and run more safely, and they don’t prohibit children from participating in activities in the gym or on the playground equipment.

Provide your child with time to learn the skills needed for dressing him or herself
Finally, as you assemble your child’s school wardrobe, allow your child to practice zipping the zippers, buttoning the buttons, snapping the snaps, and hooking the eyehooks. As adults, we may forget that these are skills that are learned and require practice. Provide your child with enough time when dressing to complete these tasks on his or her own or with minimal help from you. Then, send your child off to school to do his or her work with no worries about wardrobe and dressed for success!

The Montessori Children's Academy

Sing for Peace!: International Day of Peace Celebration 2016

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

The Montessori Children's Academy

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

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

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

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

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

The Montessori Children's Academy

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

Light a Candle for Peace
by Shelley Murley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepping for Preschool

By: Alex Chiu, Hannah Ferris, and Jax Pisciotto

Your child’s first day of school is a major milestone for your family. It is undoubtedly a very exciting time and likely will be marked by new clothes, a new backpack and lunchbox, and many adorable “First Day of School” photos. While the anticipation of a new school year is very exciting, it can also be stressful, for you and your child alike. Many years of experience have provided the staff of The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) with special insights into some simple things parents can do to prepare their children, and themselves, for preschool. We hope you find that these tried and true methods will help alleviate any stress that may be surfacing as the new school year approaches and that they will allow your family to truly enjoy the excitement of your child’s first school experience

1. Don’t miss “Meet the TeachersDay”

The first day of school at MCA is a bit different than what one might expect. We call this special day “Meet the Teachers Day”, and it’s coming up very soon! Parents and children come to MCA together to visit their new classrooms and meet their teachers face-to-face.

Meet the Teachers Day is followed by a “Phase-In” period that is aimed at helping to alleviate any separation anxiety and provide the children with a smooth transition into their new school environment. Meet the Teachers Day is just one piece of the school orientation that allows the children to acclimate both socially and emotionally to being apart from their parents and begin to take part in all aspects of their classroom community.

2. Take your child shopping for school supplies

Allow your child to get excited about going to school by bringing him or her with you when you go shopping for school supplies. Giving your child the freedom to pick out his or her backpack and lunchbox will also create a sense of ownership of these items, which will inherently point your child in the direction of being responsible for his or her belongings.

3. Begin evening and morning routines before school starts

Many of our teachers at MCA have already begun to re-adjust their internal clocks, which have been set to summer mode for the past two months. During the summer, we often stay up later, knowing that we can sleep in a bit. However, as we approach the start of a new school year, it is helpful to get back into a ‘school day rhythm’.

We know that it’s not always the simplest task to settle your little ones down for bed, especially when the sun is still shining, but it is important to establish a healthy bedtime for the school year. School days at MCA start early, at 8:30 or 8:45AM. If an early bedtime is proving to be tricky, you may consider implementing family “quiet time” in the evenings. This can involve quiet play, or you could engage in the time-honored tradition of reading before bedtime. Have your child pick out 3 or 4 favorite books to settle down with if he or she isn’t quite ready to sleep. As your quiet routine continues in the days leading up to the first day of school, cut back to 2 – 3 books until your child is prepared to settle down a little earlier.

In the morning, try the lure of a favorite breakfast to help rouse your little one while your family’s bodies adjust to school mode. Perhaps even do a practice run, where you and your child have breakfast and leave the house together to drive past the school. This will also allow you to assess how much time it takes to actually get out the door.

4. Differentiate your anxieties about separation from your child’s

Whether this is your first child heading off to preschool or your fourth, it is normal for parents to have some hesitation about leaving their children in the care of others. In order to assist children in making a smooth transition, it is important for parents to display a positive attitude and send children off with a big smile, a brief hug, and the assurance that you are looking forward to sharing stories about each of your days when school and work are done. Your positive attitude helps your child sense that you believe he or she will be able to manage the school day just fine, and that positive attitude just might be contagious!

To help you maintain a smile before you say goodbye, take some time to reflect on the successes your child has exhibited in playgroups or at other times when you were not by his or her side. Be confident that should your child need some extra support, the teachers at MCA will help you both through this transition until everyone is comfortable with a new school routine.

5. Talk about school at home using the names of teachers and classmates

After Meet the Teachers Day, and then throughout the school year, invite your child to share stories about the events of his or her school day. Keep a class list handy to help you both remember the names of new teachers and friends until they become familiar. Ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to share details, and be patient if it takes some time to remember events from the day. You might ask, “What story did you listen to during circle time?”, “Who did you eat snack with today?”, or “What did you do on the playground?” Gradually, you may find that your child will initiate and guide the conversations about school.

6. Take the time to meet other parents

 Chances are you won’t be the only parent who is nervous about leaving your child at school for the first time. Some veteran parents may feel the very same way! We can guarantee that there will be friendly and sympathetic faces willing to lend advice to a first-time preschool parent. Take the first step and introduce yourself to another parent after drop-off, and set up time to meet over coffee to share your experiences. The other parents in your child’s class will be wonderful resources at the beginning of the school year, and in time, you may find that they become good friends as well. Just as your child will be experiencing new things and making new friends during his or her school experience, so will you.

We can’t believe that the summer is almost over, but we are anticipating a wonderful 2016-2017 school year! Our teachers are busy preparing their classrooms, just as your family is preparing for the school year in your own way. Everyone at MCA is excited to welcome you on September 7th. To all of our new and returning MCA families, we look forward to seeing you very soon!

Maintaining a Montessori Mindset Through the Summer

By: Alex Chiu

Summer is the time of year when schedules are a bit more relaxed, bedtimes push back a little later, and vacations and staycations abound.  Some parents worry about what to do with their children during the summer and about ‘summer learning loss’ (where students, not immersed in daily learning at school, lose a portion of what they gained during the school year).  However, this doesn’t need to happen at all.  Instead of summer being a vacation from learning, it can instead be an opportunity for your children to find new ways of channeling their curiosity and practicing and refining the skills that they have obtained throughout the school year.

To help maintain a ‘Montessori mindset” throughout the summer, there are a few things that parents can do.  A good place to start is by following the example of Montessori teachers who take great care in preparing their classroom environments, upholding expectations for everyone in the classroom community, and following the children’s lead as their interests and needs come into focus. With a little planning before summer vacation begins, you can create a bridge between your child’s school-year Montessori learning environment and your own home during the summer months.

First, prepare your environment.

Keep an assortment of activities available for your child to use during the ‘down times’ of the day when chores are finished and outings are not planned.  Items should be placed where the children can reach them, and a child-sized work area should be established.  This allows your child to make decisions about what to do with his or her free time and to be able to do things independently, without mom or dad having to participate at all times.  To help you begin, think about the places where you and your child spend the most time during the summer days.

In the Kitchen

You might consider designating a shelf in your kitchen to hold activities such as:

  • An art box with child-safe scissors, scrap paper, colored pencils, leaves, ribbons, buttons, glue sticks, and a tablemat encourages children to create imaginative collages.
  • Small pitchers and a collection of cups provide opportunities for practice with pouring dry ingredients (like beans and rice) or liquids.
  • A large, deep tray or dish filled with sand or salt along with seashells, a small rake, and pretty stones invites your child to design ever-changing paths in his or her own miniature Zen garden.

In the Family Room

  • A basket of books in a cozy corner with pillows and good lighting invites children to spend some time each day in the company of good books.
  • Recycled items in a basket become building materials where children construct rockets, sculptures, or skyscrapers. Save tissue boxes, oatmeal containers, paper towel tubes, empty water bottles and other ‘trash’ items for inventive uses
  • A collection of objects (marbles, coins, cotton balls) and number cards offer practice in matching quantities to the numbers.

Also, rotating puzzles, matching cards, counting activities, and favorite toys every few weeks keeps things interesting and fresh through the summer months, as children choose which activities they would like to do.

In the Backyard

Don’t forget to prepare things in a space outside, too!

  • A bucket with fresh water alongside sponges and paintbrushes might inspire your child to wash the deck or outdoor furniture.
  • A tray with bubble-making supplies and unusual bubble blowers such as funnels, rope tied into a circle, and a slotted spoon put a new twist on an old favorite activity.
  • A container garden with a watering can and weeding gloves helps your child take responsibility for the care of plants. Consider a variety of herbs that smell good and that may be used in cooking!
  • A butterfly net and bug viewer might be kept together for children to investigate how animals behave in your backyard.

It may take a little time and creativity to collect household items to use for the activities, but this preparation of your home environment is worth the effort.  And it needn’t be expensive.  You can easily use items you already have available around the house.  After you have your prepared environment set up, show your children what activities are available, where they may do their work, and what to do when they are finished using the materials, just like their teachers do at school.  Then, let them enjoy the freedom to choose their work and play!

Second, uphold your expectations that your children are contributing members of daily family life.

In a Montessori classroom, children learn to respect themselves, others, and the environment.  They know that everyone has responsibilities and that the classroom community relies on everyone contributing and doing his or her job.  Parents are fully aware that just because it is summertime doesn’t mean that families are on a vacation from the usual day to day responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.  So, while your children are at home this summer, be sure to include them in these necessary daily chores.  They will be happy to show off the Practical Life skills that they have been developing all school year!  Have your children help with age-appropriate tasks such as:

  • Setting the table
  • Sorting laundry
  • Sweeping the front walkway
  • Assisting with mealtime food preparation
  • Scrubbing the back deck with sponges and soapy water

Not only does upholding your expectations allow them to practice their skills, but it also confirms that your children (and the work that they do) are important.  That is a very motivating feeling!  Patience on the part of the parent is essential for helping your child to grow in his or her mastery of these skills, but summer is a season to give your children time to complete their work to the best of their ability, resulting in a great sense of accomplishment (and in all likelihood, a much more willing little household helper!).

Finally, challenge yourself to “follow the child”:

In Montessori classrooms, teachers learn to ‘follow the child’, and summer is an opportune time for parents to try to do the same.

But first, what does it mean to “follow the child”?  At its essence, it means to observe your child and to open the doors that your child is knocking on with his or her questions, interests, and behaviors.  As your child chooses activities around the house, you might pay attention to which ones he or she chooses over and over again and which ones are left to collect dust.  The toys and games being used most often are certainly drawing your child’s attention, and you can try to uncover just what it is about these things that intrigue your child.  Maybe he or she is drawn to everything decorated with bugs and dinosaurs.  Well, there’s the door waiting to be opened—summer can be the time to collect books on those subjects or to visit local museums where together you can learn more about them.  Or maybe you observe that the most repeated activities are those where your child feels most challenged or most relaxed, and that is what keeps him or her coming back again and again.  Stand back as your child works and plays.  What do you notice?

Equally important are those children’s items around the house that are collecting dust.  Is your child-size easel always clean and bare?  Maybe your child doesn’t know what to do with it.  Perhaps a fresh supply of watercolors or different sizes of paper or brushes might inspire a new or renewed interest in art.  Or a visit to a local gallery might open up a new door to artistic expression for your child.  By quietly observing your child, you can get some great insights into his or her interests and as well as his or her needs.

Following the child doesn’t mean that you can’t also offer suggestions for activities you might do together this summer.  And if you have a special interest, share it with your children.  Astronomy?  Gaze at the summer nighttime sky and try to identify different constellations.  Read the myths behind their names, and visit a planetarium to learn even more.  These experiences nurture your children’s natural curiosity and provide them with ways to extend their learning beyond books and into the ‘real world’.

Other ideas for following your child’s interests and expanding your child’s summer experiences include:

  • Exploring the outdoors–look for animal tracks, build fairy houses, and learn what types of trees and plants are growing in your backyard.
  • Going on local ‘field trips’ in your neighboring towns. This area is rich in culture, art, nature, and so much more!
  • Using public transportation (trains and buses) and having your child try to map your routes or log how many miles you travel.
  • Inviting your children to brainstorm what charitable acts they could do this summer—a used toy or book sale on your front lawn or a lemonade stand with the proceeds going to a local charity?

Together you can choose do-able options from this list.  Then let your child outline a plan and put it into action.  But remember to stand back and observe all of your children’s efforts—you will be amazed by what they think and at what they can do when you trust yourself to follow their lead!

With a little preparation, patience, and a “Montessori mindset”, you can provide your child with fulfilling activities that reinforce the skills he or she has gained during the school year.  You will find yourselves sailing smoothly through the summer months and right back into the new school year when it begins again before you know it in September!

Pennies for Peace 2015-2016

By: Camilla Nichols-Uhler, Hannah Ferris, and Alex Chiu

Since September, MCA students have been raising funds for Pennies for Peace, a “service learning program that brings cultural and philanthropic education to students and educators all over the world”.  Each campus recently totaled its pennies, with the help of our math-savvy students, and now plans to send the contributions on to assist children at schools throughout Asia.  Read on to learn how many pennies our MCA students counted, resulting in a significant contribution to this very worthy cause!
IMG_5199

Program Overview

Pennies for Peace is part of the educational component of the Central Asia Institute (CAI).  CAI is an international development organization that works with communities to improve access to education in Asia.  The CAI believes that education can alleviate poverty and reduce conflict.

Pennies for Peace is a fundraising program designed specifically for children, and its philosophy of “students helping students” is relatable even to preschoolers.  MCA students, whose capacities for compassion find their foundation in the Montessori Philosophy, have taken ownership of this yearlong project.  The children collected pennies from home and then brainstormed additional ways to engage the community to help them with their fundraising efforts.

Through their classroom Cultural studies, the children have learned a great deal about the state of education in certain areas of Asia.  And perhaps of more significance, they have also come to understand the importance of sharing some of what they have with others who are less fortunate.  When the MCA students discovered that just a few pennies could buy school supplies like notebooks and pencils for children in these far-away communities, they realized that many pennies could do even more.  They wondered if they could work toward collecting enough pennies to build an entire school.

Connecting Curriculum with a Cause

The Pennies for Peace program ties in nicely with the Montessori Culture and Science curriculum. Over the course of the year, MCA students have learned a lot about life in the more educationally deprived areas of Asia.  For example:

  • In many communities, the need for children to work on family farms often prevents them from going to school;
  • Often the physical terrain is very difficult to travel, and many children cannot get to schools in larger villages because roads through the Himalaya Mountain Range are dangerous;
  • Cultures place an emphasis on boys’ education at the expense of girls’ education. In some areas, only 12% of girls can read.
  • The culture in countries is very different from that in the United States: many families move from place to place based on the seasons to farm, they celebrate different holidays, and they eat different types of food.

In addition, participation in Pennies for Peace relates to the Montessori Peace curriculum, which aims to teach children how people working together peacefully can make the world a better place for everyone.  The Pennies for Peace program also taught the MCA students about organizing their efforts for a good cause.  They learned the process of brainstorming ideas, developing a plan for collections, and then putting that plan into action.  All of these efforts resulted in building their understanding that working together towards a common goal is hard work, but that it reaps wonderful results and is well worth it!

MCA Students and Families Take Initiative

At first, the children came to school with handfuls pennies that they found around their homes.  The sound of the pennies clinking as they were dropped into the collection jars was music to the children’s ears.  As the number of pennies in the jar grew, so did the enthusiasm and creativity of our students, leading some of our students and families to go beyond dropping their pocket change in the classroom penny jars.  We are extremely grateful to everyone for supporting this schoolwide project, and we wanted to recognize a few for their extra special effort:

  • One of our students took advantage of the warm autumn weather and sold lemonade to his neighbors. He accepted payment only in pennies and explained to his customers that the lemonade proceeds would benefit MCA’s Pennies for Peace  He collected thousands of pennies in one afternoon!

IMG_0968

  • Back in December, on an unseasonably sunny and warm Saturday, one family spearheaded a community fundraiser with the help of our friends at Café Beethoven in Chatham. Their children and friends from MCA created posters illustrating facts about the project and shared their knowledge about the countries they studied through the program with passersby.  Many kindly donated their coffee change after learning about the project.  This group of friends raised a total of $270 at the Saturday morning Café Beethoven fundraiser.

Cafe Beethoven

  • Recently, our MCA Elementary students sent a letter to the Short Hills Director, Mrs. Amy Hidalgo, and our Elementary Director/Senior Director, Mrs. Jeanine Christiana, pitching an idea for yet another Pennies for Peace In this letter, they asked permission to host a car wash before the end of the school year.  They explained in the letter:

E letter

Bragging Rights

The students at MCA are growing in their sense of responsibility as citizens of a global community through their involvement with the Pennies for Peace project.  As part of the Pennies for Peace philosophy, MCA students have helped spread the word about the project to other Montessori schools in the Tri-State Area, including sharing information about their participation with their pen pals at Brooklyn Heights Montessori School.  Our students recently found out that their friends at Brooklyn Heights are also in the process of totaling their pennies.  They realize that together they are making a difference!

Across our three campuses in Morristown, Chatham, and Short Hills, the MCA community has raised a grand total of $1,081.43 so far this year for Pennies for Peace.  That’s a lot of pennies… 108,143 to be exact!  Our Elementary students are currently working on a Math project to determine exactly how many school supplies this $1,081.43 can purchase for their friends on the other side of the globe.  Perhaps they will not build an entire school, but they are well on their way to building enormous positive changes in the lives of children in Asia who will benefit from their hard work this year.

We are incredibly proud of our students for sharing information about Pennies for Peace with their families, their Montessori counterparts at other schools, and their communities.  And we want to sincerely thank all of the parents, staff members, and community members from Chatham, Morristown, and Short Hills who contributed their pennies and their time to our various projects this year.

For more information about the Pennies for Peace program, please visit their website http://www.penniesforpeace.org.

 

 

 

 

References for this post:

“Pennies for Peace – a Free Service Learning Program.” Pennies for Peace. Central Asia Institute, Oct. 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.