Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Books for Parents!


 Welcome back to our parenting blog!  Today I am posting a number of books that will give more insights into Montessori education, the Montessori child and some just for enjoyment of a glimpse into the child's world.  You are always welcome to comment, ask questions or add ideas. 

Learning about Montessori:

The Discovery of the Child

This is Dr. Montessori's own book which is an essential part of every teacher's education and training.  We read and reread this brilliant insight into how children learn and grow. 


The Joyful Child:  Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three:  Susan Mayclin Stephenson

Child of the World:  Montessori, Global Wisdom for Ages 3-12: Susan Mayclin Stephenson

These two books are a great introduction to Montessori and understanding the development of the young child. 

Montessori Today:Paula Polk Lillard  

Looking at the benefits of a Montessori education and a readable and comprehensive overview of Montessori life. 


Books to enjoy:

You Can't Say You Can't Play:  Vivian Gussin Paley  

The Girl With the Brown Crayon Vivian Gussin Paley

Paley is a former teacher with a joyful and deep understanding of young children.  She has written many books filled with humor and joy.  

Some of these books are available in the public library and online (do a search).






Friday, September 18, 2020

What is Montessori? For new and returning parents!

 




This year we return to a very different experience for our students, parents and staff.  Even as we navigate the best approach to provide the closest Montessori learning possible, there are challenges and necessary adaptations.  

Today I want to share with you an important part of my experience through over 40 years teaching and being an administrator in both public and private Montessori schools. 

If we return to Dr. Maria Montessori's teachings and her own knowledge of children we learn that every child has the same basic needs and interests.  It is our responsibility not to put barriers in the path of the child as they grow, learn and mature.  Montessori called these needs the human tendencies.  

These are true for all children and adults everywhere.

Order:  At home or at school, a sense of order helps the child to organize their thoughts, to feel secure and confident, to become more and more capable and independent.  In the classroom, everything has a place and that place does not change.  At home, the child's room can be set up to provide this benefit. 

Communication:  Communication comes in many forms:  words, actions, symbols, signs, body language and behavior.  In Montessori talking with friends when appropriate is encouraged.  Teachers make time to talk with each child every day, to tell stories and share ideas.  At home, family time together to talk, sing, play games and share a meal helps the child to feel valued and understood.  Language is the tool of the intellect.  

Orientation:  This is the ability to fit in, to relate to a place or group.  Orientation gives the child a sense of direction and belonging.  If the child is disoriented he may be insecure and unsure of himself.  In Montessori every child has grace and courtesy lessons that teach manners, respect and ways to resolve problems.  These lessons are given as information, not as correction or disapproval.  At home, helping your child to understand what is expected as a family member and how he or she can contribute to the good of the family will aid in achieving orientation.

Concentration:  We all want our children to be able to concentrate.  To build concentration skills it is important that the work is interesting and attractive to him.  Montessori lessons are designed to build on the child's interests and abilities.  At home, reducing outside interruptions will help develop the ability to focus.  If you are reading with your child or engaged in a lesson or conversation giving full attention will demonstrate the importance of the book or task, and of course, show the child how important he or she is.  

Repetition:  Learning takes place through repetition.  Children have a desire for perfection and for this reason it is important to allow time for repetition.  As the child repeats the work they become more confident and ready to move on to the next challenge.  Remember that when we try a new activity it takes time to feel confident and strong.  Mistakes are just the steps to competence.  We must honor the effort and not just the result as the child repeats any skill. 

Perfection: All human beings have the desire for perfection.  We achieve perfection by practicing skills, following our abilities and interests, and staying with a task until we succeed.  It is important that children have the time and support to work toward perfection.  This will differ with every child and in every endeavor so patience on the part of adults while encouraging and supporting effort will be most helpful.

Exactness:  The human tendency for exactness shows in our ability to do intricate work, to choose the right words when speaking, to follow a recipe, drive safely and in many other areas.  Children develop this ability in the Montessori classroom with many activities which require increasing exactness, culminating in the ability to do complex math, solve difficult problems and be orderly and precise in their work.  

Exploration:  Young children are sensorial learners.  At a very young age they will spend hours building towers with blocks, using clay, playing in the sand.  In school many of the primary Montessori materials use this tendency to encourage exploration of size, sound, touch and weight.  As they progress, later work encourages discovery of results of experimentation, exploration of the history of the world, the secrets of science and math.  Without the tendency to explore mankind would not have progressed. 

Abstraction:  The human tendency to seek abstraction begins with a base in reality at the youngest ages.  For this reason we offer only real information to the primary child.  As the child forms a solid base in reality (no talking animals, etc.) the ability to begin thinking beyond what they know and move into the world of imagination and more complex creativity becomes possible.

Movement:  Movement is essential for all humans.  Children who are free to move about will show increased ability to concentrate and focus.  In the Montessori classroom children are free to move about, to choose different kinds of work as long as they do not disturb others.  In my early days of teaching I went to a child who was just wandering about and suggested he choose some work.  This four year old replied "I am working.  I am thinking about numbers."  I learned a lot about movement from this young boy.  As parents let's help our children to have activities every day that involve moving:  gardening, playing ball, washing the car, cooking...all of these will built confidence and skill. 

Work:  Every human needs to engage their mind, body and spirit in a purpose.  Work helps the child feel productive and useful and gives a sense of belonging.  In Montessori we call our lessons work because we want the children to respect and enjoy work.  As adults when we show respect and enthusiasm for our own work we teach a valuable lesson to the child. 

Activity:  This is a new dimension of work.  Purposeful activity gives all people a sense of value and importance.  Donating time to a cause, helping a neighbor, caring for someone who needs help, planting a garden...all of these are examples of how we build self esteem and confidence.  Children can contribute to the good of the family.  Even the youngest child can help in many ways.  Think about calling these activities "contributions to our family" rather than "your job".  These important activities are part of every classroom as the students care for plants and animals, clean up after lunch, keep their materials in a neat manner and enjoy being a real part of the school through their activity.  In the adolescent community (middle school) the students take on projects and community activities which are the culmination of earlier work in the classrooms. 

I hope this gives you a glimpse into the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori and her deep understanding of the needs of all humankind, especially children. 

Next week I will post some books if you would like to explore the world of Montessori further.  




Saturday, August 22, 2020

IDEAS TO GET THE MOST FROM LEARNING AT HOME

 




We strongly encourage you to implement these ideas every day.  Consistency is important in any educational experience, and especially now.  It is important that you help your child realize that although they are at home it is a school experience. These suggestions will help your child to feel more as if they are in the actual classroom and will increase concentration and attention.  

 

Make sure you know your child’s class schedule and set an alarm at least 15 minutes ahead so they can be ready on time.

 

A paper calendar with the days and times for class time noted and posted where it can be seen will help prepare your student. 

 

 It will help your child to be more attentive and prepared if they are wearing appropriate clothing:  our school uniform or a nice tee shirt, pants, skirt, hair brushed, shoes on.  Make it a pleasure to “get ready for school”.  


Have a regular, dedicated space with a desk or table, a comfortable chair, pencils and any other books or supplies the teacher has suggested.  Try to keep this space the same every day. Have a dedicated place for materials to be kept between sessions.

/Be sure to keep distractions at a minimum.  We know you are at home and there will be some disruption.  Perhaps ask friends and family not to call during school time, turn off television, cell phones and music while your child is “at school.”

It will make the time for class more useful if your child uses the bathroom beforehand, and, depending on the specified time, is not hungry or thirsty.  

 

We know that you will join us in doing everything possible to help the children have the best possible experience.  Please show a positive attitude toward the remote learning experience, emphasize the positive and know you are contributing greatly to your child’s education.  Our faculty is working hard to achieve that same end.  We are all in this together.



Thursday, August 20, 2020

Getting Outside....Safely

 

Most of us are either at home or spending our days working.  

Families are busy helping children with remote learning, navigating the pages of information about the virus, deciding what is safe to do, how to get groceries, manage changing finances and all of the other challenges we face together.  

Children, especially young children, cannot really understand all of the changes in their lives, even with loving parents and teachers doing their best to support them. 

An essential part of a healthy life for everyone is spending time in nature. Walking through a garden, observing birds and wildlife, listening to water create a musical backdrop to a stroll through a forest; these moments can make worry and fatigue fall away.  

Finding these safe havens can be a challenge.  We are fortunate that we have many parks and natural areas close by the Houston area where families can be safely distanced from others and be safely outdoors.  Explore the options with your family and go experience some of the most beautiful and peaceful areas of our city.

It is good to be prepared.  Bring snacks, drinks or even a full picnic.  Pack hand sanitizers, masks for those that can wear them, wet washcloths in plastic bags, and sunscreen if needed.  It is summer in Houston, after all.  Make sure everyone uses the restroom before leaving to limit stops in public places.  Go over the rules for safety and go have fun!

Most of the following places can be visited safely, especially if you go early in the day.  I routinely walk at Mercer Botanic Gardens at 8 a.m. and am often the only person there.  The picture at the top of the blog was taken there. 

Mercer Botanic Gardens:  https://www.hcp4.net/parks/mercer/

Miles of hiking trails, fountains, flowers, a children's garden, picnic tables and a playground make this a great place for family outings.  If you are lucky you might see deer, rabbits, armadillos and lots of birds!  Best of all...it is free. 

Alexander Deussen Park:  https://www.hcp1.net/Parks/AlexanderDeussen

309 beautiful acres on Lake Houston with lots of room for bike riding, hiking, a duck pond, a dog park, fishing and boat ramps are all open and free.  Lots of room to spread out, play ball, read and relax.  

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center:  https://houstonarboretum.org/

A gem in the heart of Houston!  Visit the web site for a map of the many trails.  Be sure to check the link for restrictions due the Covid19 as they change frequently.  

Brazos Bend State Park:  https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/brazos-bend

Ready for a "wild" experience?  Come hike the miles of trails, fish, picnic and see the wildlife.  Alligators, birds and other animals are common sightings.  Be sure to check out the link (more info !) for current information on restrictions due to Covid19. 

For more places to get your nature on go to the Texas State Park website.  

'Parks are listed by location and have full information.  

Play safe!  Let's get outdoors and have some fun!

Look for the next post for ideas on how to make being at home a positive experience.  We are doing this together! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

COOKING AT HOME...AND SOME NEW ART ACTIVITIES ON LINE


Most of us are at home with our families.  Meals become an important part of the day; an opportunity to be together and nourish our bodies and our minds.

Children of all ages usually love to participate in the preparation of the food and even the youngest can help.  In our Montessori classrooms lessons on peeling and chopping carrots and apples, peeling oranges, slicing hard boiled eggs and even baking are part of every day. 

When given the title of "sous chef" helping takes on a different feeling.  A stool for the younger child to reach the counter, or a low table if available is a great idea.  Wearing an apron (or a dish towel around the waist adds importance to the activity.  Don't be afraid to show your child how to use kitchen tools safely.  At school we use a round tipped, serrated knife with a wooden handle and a sturdy cutting board. 

If you wish, excellent child size tools and aprons are available at
www.forsmallhands.com

So what to prepare?  A few beginning places to look:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/recipes-for-kids/cooking-with-kids/recipes-kids-can-make

https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/easy-recipes-for-kids-to-make-by-themselves/

https://cooking.nytimes.com/68861692-nyt-cooking/930565-51-recipes-to-cook-with-your-kids

Or just make your child's own favorites:  mac and cheese, tacos, kebabs, a fruit salad and of course, always, cookies.

The important thing is to have fun, relax, laugh and of course, everyone helps to clean up.  Believe it or not, most children will enjoy that if it is a shared activity.

Happy Cooking!!!!

And here is a new link from our amazing Museum of Fine Arts Houston. 
https://www.mfah.org/blogs/inside-mfah/family-friendly-art-activities-at-home
These are great ideas for all ages (including the adults in the family).

Stay well! 



Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Nurturing Our Mental Health and Stress


This was shared with me by my daughter, Avia Benzion.  She is a therapist specializing in stress and trauma.

This is a helpful video on how to nurture our mental health during the pandemic from trauma research author Bessel van der Kolk, MD.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny1hBwulGcA&feature=emb_share&fbclid=IwAR2PPJX83Er8vndfVnP7OOdMfTlybwbrsUmEv5X00j9h693rYo_LHIgvlhY

There is additional helpful information on Dr Kolk's website (the link is at the start of the video).

Additionally it is very helpful to get out into nature safely.
The short video above was taken at Mercer Arboretum, an uncrowded, beautiful and free spot to visit safely.  I walk there early in the mornings (around 9 a.m.) and there have been very few people.  Those who are have been courteous and will avoid walking anywhere close to others.  The west side has paved trails, deer, rabbits, birds and squirrels.  The east side has beautiful planted areas, a view of Cypress Creek, and an interesting children's area.  At this time the playground, benches and tables are all off limits for safety and the park is closed on the weekends and open Monday through Friday.  You can read more about Mercer at:  https://www.hcp4.net/parks/mercer/

If you can't get out, try this virtual link to the Dallas Arboretum which also has links to STEM activities for children.  https://www.dallasarboretum.org/visitor-information/virtual-visit/

Do you do Yoga, Tai Chi, like to sing, play an instrument, cook, play board games or garden?  Involve your children and have some relaxed, fun time together.  We will all get through this, closer and better for the challenges.

Stay safe and well!






Monday, March 30, 2020

Some Calming Moments for the Whole Family


Good morning,
As we all are adjusting to the challenges we face together I want to share a free resource for everyone.

Have you noticed the downward spiral of thoughts that can happen when you're worried, stressed, or nervous? 
It’s common to fast forward into an unknown future and play out worst case scenarios in our mind. The antidote is to bring awareness to our thoughts and emotions, and return to presence. This helps recenter and stabilize us in times of uncertainty.

Calm.com is providing some peaceful tools for adults and children.

A walk outdoors, keeping your distance of course can be helpful. The photo above was taken at Mercer Arboretum, a free, uncrowded place of beauty.

Stay safe and well!