Thursday, April 28, 2011

Relationships in the Montessori Classroom

Along with the wonderful Montessori teaching philosophy and my own children's ability to learn at their own pace, I can honestly say that another aspect of their Montessori schooling experience that my husband and I value has been the opportunity to learn how to build/maintain and respect relationships among their peers and friends as well as their teachers.  It is very important for children to learn how to get along, work out conflict, respect others and see others strengths as they move through life and function in classrooms, on teams, and eventually jobs. 

One of the aspects of owning my own school that is a huge part of my passion is building community within in the classroom and students.  Because Maria Montessori saw each child as a unique, special child with their own interests, strengths, and personalities, it allowed her to get to know each child as an individual.  Not only does the Montessori philosophy allow children to learn at their pace and develop in accordance to their Sensitive Periods, but it also allows the teachers to see the children as individuals.  When schools attempt to teach the same thing to a large group of children there can often times be many missed opportunities.  In our classroom, we observe everyday children following an inside need to choose certain works that help them learn new skills and perfect themselves.  It is rare that we see children wandering around looking for a work~they truly know what they want to do and stay very busy doing it.  As the children work, teachers are able to observe and see how they interact with the materials and how they interact and socialize with friends.  This allows us to really get to know each child and they all are truly very different!  It also helps us know how to maybe connect two children with similar interests or skill levels-if a child is struggling with a work or skill, we're able to invite a child who may be a bit more proficient to help that child which is great for building community as well as encouraging the children to work together.

Learning to get along with one another, respecting differences and seeing one another as individuals is another wonderful aspect of the Montessori classroom.  Ultimately, this is a huge life skill that children will need to have as they grow up and function in the world.  If they learn and see others as individuals, then they will learn that everyone has something to offer, even if they are very different than themselves.  In our classroom, it's a very respectful environment.  If there is conflict or frustration, we help the children express with their words and we take the time to help them work through their struggle.  These relational skills are something they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Questions Welcomed and Curiosity Encouraged

If you are not familiar with Montessori, you may be surprised to hear that the classroom is very much child centered and a place where children are encouraged to ask questions and follow their curiosity.  In fact, questions matter more than answers.  Newsweek ran an article last summer about America's 'creativity crisis' talking about how creativity in children has declined steadily over the last 20 years (  Why is this happening?  It may be because schools have become increasingly focused on test scores, product outcomes, and conformity.  In Montessori classrooms, we believe that children are born learners and have an intrinsic desire to learn about their world and the people in it.  Allowing them the freedom to lead their own learning and follow their curiosity allows them to be creative thinkers, problem solvers, and builds perseverance because when they are freely given the time they need to work through something or learn more about a certain topic, they learn it more thoroughly and believe that they can continue learning.  Daniel C. Petter-Lipstein is a father of three children who attend a Montessori school-he says, "The culture of inquiry that is the hallmark of a good Montessori school is also a critical foundation for the creativity and innovation that America will need to compete in the 21st century".  In December 2009, the Harvard Business Review published an article called, "The Innovator's DNA" based on a six year study of 3000 creative executives including visionaries like Apple's Steve Jobs, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and P&G's A.G. Lafley.  One of the professors that conducted the study noted "We also believe that the most innovative entrepreneurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmosphere where inquisitiveness was encouraged.  We were struck by the stories they told about being sustained by people who cared about experimentation and exploration.  Sometimes these people were relatives, but sometimes they were neighbors, teachers, or other influential adults.  A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools , where they learned to follow their curiosity.

What does this mean practically for parents right now, in the thick of parenting younger and older children?

1.  Try to answer a question with a question back to the child.  Let them know you appreciate them thinking through things and just not giving them a quick answer.

2.  Try not to move in too quickly when your child has encountered a problem.  If you notice your child struggling, you could say, 'let me know if you need help' rather than rushing in and taking over the situation.  It's not a bad thing to struggle or even fail and try again.  Focus on process vs. product.

3.  When they ask questions, ask them what they think-let them know you trust their thoughts.  Many times when we allow our children freedom, they end up teaching us something.  :)

Have fun with your children!  Encourage their curiosity and creativity.  Allowing them the freedom for these things to develop will help them long term in their lives with confidence and leadership skills as well as thinking outside the box which many times leads to solutions that we never knew existed!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grandparent's Day Take 2

We had our second day of grandparent's visiting day today.  Couple of our kiddos had grandparents yesterday and today which was great!  We definitely see another side of the kids when they are interacting with their grandmas and grandpas-we love watching them!  Some of the great works that were being used today were:  Easel, flower sponge painting, Knobless cylinders extensions, addition with stones, continent coloring, calendar writing, and many more.  Typically, in Montessori classrooms, there is a big emphasis on relationships and social skills.  We understand and respect that children are learning to 'relate' to others.  The ages of 3-6 is a precious time of opportunity for caring parents, adults, and teachers to help and guide children in their relationships.  We want to honor the relationships that children are involved in.  One way we can do that is by inviting their parents and grandparents into the classroom and allowing that time to share their school experience with their loved ones.  Thank you again for all who came to visit Community Montessori yesterday and today.  We hope you enjoyed your visit!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grandparent's Day Take 1

Parent and Grandparent visiting days are some of my most favorite days in the classroom!  The teachers get to experience the joy, growth, independence, maturity, and creativity of the children each and everyday, so when parents/grandparents can join us for a glimpse into the daily lives of their children/grandchildren when they are at school, it's so much fun!  It was such a joy to see the love and admiration the grandparents have for their grandchildren today.  Many of the grandparents who visited today are new to Montessori so many of them asked great questions!  Many comments were made regarding how peaceful the environment is and how the children respected one as well as the materials (demonstrated by them choosing the work, doing the work, returning the work and moving on to the next work). They watched in amazement as their grandchildren moved about the classroom with such authority and independence.  I heard grandparents asking their grandchildren questions about what they were doing and why and the children explained beautifully.  Some of the great works that were done today were:  shaving cream, maze with the Red Rods, Easel, Addition Strip Board, Teen Board, teen bingo, Sound Boxes, absorbent/non-absorbent science experiment, mystery bag, flower sponge painting,  flower still life drawing, Knobless Cylinders, and many more.  I felt like I learned something more about the children today~to see their relationships with their grandparents in action was a gift.  Thanks to all the grandparents who visited today and we look forward to the ones visiting tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sensorial Frenzy

This week some newly found interest has blossomed in the Sensorial area.  The Sensorial area of the classroom is where children refine their senses.  We have some extensions out with some of the classic Montessori materials that are stirring up the children.  Our Brown Stair and Pink Tower can be chosen together with a friend (or two!) to make designs or copy pictures that we have taken.  Some of the pictures the children are copying with their materials are challenging and it's so fun to watch them problem solve and work together to build it to their liking.  The Pink Tower can also be chosen along with pink paper where the children can trace each cube, then glue it to a piece of paper to build the tower on paper and take it home.  Today an extension was shown with the Triangle Box where the children can trace the triangles, then glue them on a piece of paper.  The extensions are presented in the hope that the children will be intrigued and choose to get their hands on the materials they may have chosen many times before, but are interested in doing the work in a little bit different manner. 

Another work that was out today was the Geometric Solids-cube, cylinder, sphere, cone, ovoid, ellipsoid, square based pyramid and triangle based pyramid.  It's another work that is fun to do with a friend. Today, one friend wore the blindfold, and the other friend  handed the child a Geometric Solid.  The child wearing the blindfold had to guess which one it was based on how it felt. It's a great way for the children to rely solely on their tactile sense as well as practice the vocabulary.  This concrete experience with this work is imprinting on their brain and will benefit them later in life when they encounter these shapes/solids.  They will have a real sense, understanding and memory of what these Geometric Solids are. 

I also got to see observe a little girl giving another little girl a lesson.  The one little girl just started at CMS on Monday.  She saw a work she was interested in so I invited another child to give her a lesson.  She did it beautifully!  The new little girl came up and asked me if she could have a chair while she watched her lesson.  I gave her one and she sat and watched patiently for 15 minutes while the child gave her a lesson.  They chatted and she asked questions.  The child giving the lesson had the new child follow her back and forth as she cleaned as well so she understood every step of the lesson.  The child then put the work away, the new child chose it and completed it with no problems.  Love it~I could see a little friendship blossoming as they worked together.