Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How to Have Happier Holidays!

Holidays can be a time of family togetherness, a break in the routine of daily life and a celebration of special moments and events.  Sometimes the stress of meeting expectations, the added work of preparation and the arrival of relatives and friends can lessen our appreciation for these events. 

Children, especially those who struggle with change, will benefit from advance information about what will happen during the holiday.  Reading books about the history of the event, telling stories from your childhood, and involving everyone in the preparation will reduce some of the apprehension and worry.  

Focusing on the real message of the holiday instead of special meals and gifts will give everyone a joyful outlook.  Play music and sing while doing the tasks around the house.  Take pictures of the cleaning, cooking and shopping and make a collage of them to show all the family how joyful this time can be. 

In my home there is a permanent picture wall with photos of family members, friends and special times.  A frame above says:  We Are Thankful.  It started as a Thanksgiving reminder for our lives and now is a part of everyday.  Create your own traditions!

In our beautifully diverse culture here in Houston we are fortunate to have a wide array of holidays and events which provide a rich source of knowledge for our children.  It can be difficult with all of the media and retail focus on Christmas.  If your family does not celebrate this holiday perhaps focusing on the winter aspects of this time would work.  There are ice skating rinks, snow events where children can build a snowman, and lots of festive lights.  The library has many books about winter.  One I especially love is "The Mitten" by Jan Brett.  It is the story of animals who take refuge from a snow storm in a lost mitten.  Her web site has a print out of masks of all the animals and a question game to play. 
She has written many charming books for young children. 
A friend makes treats with her children and delivers them to neighbors and friends who celebrate Christmas.  They try to make the treats with spices and recipes from their culture and include the recipe and the history of the food in the gift.  

If we explore ways to lessen the commercial aspects of the holidays, focus on our family history and culture and remember that sharing and giving cross all cultures and borders, we will help our children to truly celebrate these special times.

I wish you a joyful winter holiday!   Maybe making s'mores over a campfire!

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Art of Giving Gifts

Throughout the year we have many opportunities for gift giving:  birthdays, holidays, as a thank you  and just because we care about someone

As we try to decide which gifts to give our children there are several things to consider:

  • What does the child want?
  • What is age and developmentally appropriate?
  • Can we afford it?
So let's address each of these questions.  

What does the child want?  Often television ads, movies and store displays convince children that getting that toy, game or costume will be fun and "everyone will have one".
But is this true?  Most of these items are of short lived interest and with little play or educational value.  They are only promoted to make money for the companies. Often these items are discarded after a short time, or they break or they are just not very interesting.  

What is age and developmentally appropriate?  Sometimes children ask for things that will contribute nothing to their growth or to enjoyment or to knowledge.  It is important to examine the real interests of the child and try to match that information to meaningful gifts. 

Can we afford it?  Wonderful gifts can be inexpensive, even without monetary cost.  We should not spend large amounts of money on items that will be discarded, broken or even harmful.  Instead let's think about the long term value of a gift.  A  bicycle, skates, a big set of building blocks or trains all are expensive but provide years of fun. 

Some ideas!

Gifts to grow the mind and body:

Art materials: crayons, paint, paper, glue, a box of collage materials (buttons, lace, string, etc.) An easel.   
Garden tools and seeds
Blocks, Legos and other building materials
A sand box and sand toys
Science experiments
Child size cooking implements, an apron and even a chef's hat
Child size cleaning tools (yes, children like to clean!)
Music:  a cd player, cd's 
Music instruments:  kazoo, rhythm instruments, harmonica, a drum, a recorder 
Sports equipment:  basketball goal and ball, baseball glove, bat and ball, ring toss, plastic horse shoes
Board games (especially cooperative ones)
Models of animals:  these are great fun in conjunction with sand, blocks and clay  activities

These are all items that will be of great interest to all children, especially if the parents and other siblings are included in the activity.  
Here are some resources for you to explore:
 A great place for many of these items.

a web site for children's music and games

Many family friendly cooperative games...fun for all, even the adults. 

A box with dress up clothes and hats:  a firefighter's hat, a cowboy (or girl) hat, a chef's hat, and any interesting clothes and jewelry.  Create a play!  Invite the family to see it! 

Hobby Lobby and Michaels and local dollar stores can be a great resource for art supplies, animal models, etc. 

Have fun and help your child build a lifetime of creative play. 
Please post your own ideas in the comments section of the blog!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

It's Fall..A beautiful time to be outdoors!

At last we are approaching cooler weather, seeing changes in our trees and landscapes and a great opportunity to enjoy some of the activities with our children. 

Here are just a few suggestions for spending some great family time together. 

Jesse Jones Park located just north of the Bush Airport has numerous events planned for the fall.  Go to the web site at:
to get information on dates and events.  All activities are free, the park has picnic areas, a great playground and miles of trails for hiking.
Check out the Pioneer Day...it is a fun filled day in November with a model pioneer village and interactive demonstrations of cooking, gardening, blacksmith skills, churning butter, pumping water, washing cloths on a washboard,  The volunteers are dressed in period costumes and pioneer games are available to play.
Native American Heritage day gives an opportunity to take part in living history.  Hear stories, see traditional dancing and demonstrations in the Okokisa-Ishtak Village in the park.

If you haven't visited our local jewel, Hermann Park lately, fall is a great time for a new adventure.  Of course the zoo is always fun, but there is so much more.  Hiking trails, the paddle boats on the lake, gardens and of course, the train are all waiting.  Take a few minutes and plan an outing.  https://www.hermannpark.org/

Galveston Island State Park  http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/galveston-island
Just a short trip down I45 and a day of beach, sun, sand and picnicking waits your family.  For a small fee the day is yours.  Grills and covered picnic tables are just steps from the beach and on the bay side of the park miles of trails and lots of beautiful birds will entertain you for hours. 

On the east end of Galveston Island there are miles of beaches, great fishing and the Galveston/Bolivar ferry.  This free ferry ride goes to Bolivar Peninsula.  You can park your car and walk onto the ferry for a round trip ride, or take your car aboard and explore the peninsula.  Dolphins play alongside the ferries and gulls swoop down to catch bits of bread from the passengers.  Great fun!   http://www.galveston.com/galvestonferry/

Brazos Bend State Park http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/brazos-bend
Screened in shelters and campsites are available if you would like to spend a few days with nature at its best.  The George Observatory located in the park gives a stunning view of the night sky.  More information is on the above web site.  Hiking, fishing and alligator watching provide thrills and picnic areas and grills are ready when you are hungry. 

Happy Fall!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Help! My Child is Crying When We Come to School.

Image result for crying child
As loving parents we are excited for our children to come to school and we are worried when they cry, complain and are upset when they arrive at AMCS.

Understand that this is very normal behavior.  Here are some tips that will help you and your child make this transition more easily.  

First of all, our teachers are prepared and knowledgeable in assisting children who are upset.  We reassure them that their family will be back and that we understand they are sad.  Then we help the child to become interested in some activities in the classroom.  Usually it only takes a little while for an activity to catch their interest.  The other children are quick to help comfort your child.

At home you can help your child by talking to them about how the day will go.  Assure them that you will be back after school and will be happy to see them.  It is important to recognize their feelings.  For example, telling the child not to cry will usually make things worse.  Try instead to say things like "I see that you are sad."  or "It's hard to leave mom (or dad), isn't it?"  When the child knows you understand it is very helpful. 

Of course we feel some anxiety ourselves, so dealing with our own feelings so that the child doesn't pick up on our worries will make things easier.  

 Try not to ask a lot of questions about their day.  One way to encourage sharing is to begin by telling your child about your day.  Did you enjoy your work?  Perhaps you spent some time with a friend or relative.  It is fine to say how happy you are to see your son or daughter, however telling them you were sad and missed them terribly can create guilty feelings and an increased desire to not go to school.  I remember my son's first day at Montessori.  He was three.  This was the first time he had been away all day and I was worried and a bit sad.  As John was getting out of car he turned, waved and said "Don't worry Mom, I'll be fine"  Sometimes our children pick up on our anxiety!

 Make some plans for after school:  a trip to the library or the park. Read a special book or just go for a walk together.  And remember.....this period will pass and school will become the happy place you are wanting for your student.  

Why Montessori

Why Montessori?
Montessori…your children have the benefit of a free public charter school that provides the lifelong benefits of this unique and proven method.  Montessori gives students a love of learning, a deep understanding of science, math and language, the ability to discover and invent and a strong level of confidence and self control.
Here are some facts that will show why Montessori is the best possible education for your child and the importance of completing the primary, lower elementary and upper elementary years at AMCS. 
The primary classroom:  ages 3-6 years
Primary students stay with the same classmates and teacher for three years.  During this time the teacher develops a deep understanding of the students, how they learn and what their interests are.  The children form strong friendships that sometimes last a lifetime.  With each year the children become more confident, self motivated and eager to learn.  The third year is the most important of all.  Much of the work is completed in that last year.  Math and language lessons culminate in a real exploration built on the previous years.  Each student becomes a leader of the class, helping the younger students and building confidence in their ability to solve problems and be independent.  Each student progresses at his or her own pace with the teacher keeping careful records of which lessons have been mastered.  This allows the students to deeply explore areas of interest while ensuring all of the necessary work is completed.  The curriculum includes practical life, music, geography art, science, botany, cultural studies, sensorial work which is pre-math, language development, including reading and writing, math, using the concrete materials to explore numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as well as basic solid and plane geometric figures.  Each day there is opportunity for new adventures in this rich world of learning.
The Elementary Classroom:
Divided into lower elementary (ages 6-9) and upper elementary (ages 9-11) this is the time for the student to use the skills and knowledge from the primary classroom to move into deeper study of the world and academics.  This age child loves to work in groups, to explore facts and information, to categorize and work extensively in all areas.  The materials are comprehensive and exciting, giving the children keys to the history of our earth and people.  Books from our large library encourage exploration of their interests.  Again, the students stay with the same teachers and classmates which provides a deep understanding of each child and builds strong bonds.  The teacher can truly develop a strategy to maximize each student’s potential, guiding them through the lesson plans which are made collaboratively and with an individualized understanding every child.  A true knowledge of how to work together, to solve problems and to concentrate and focus develops because of the unique nature of the curriculum, the attention of the carefully trained teachers and the natural interest of the students in their work. 

The Adolescent community (ages 12-14) provides these young people opportunities to expand their earlier experience by creating viable projects which utilize all of the skills they have learned from their Montessori education.  They collaborate on serious activities which  benefit others, taking full charge of costs, solving problems and planning.  Each day math, science, history, technology, music, art and language expand their understanding of the world and each other.  Lasting friendships are formed with the experienced and understanding teachers who guide and encourage each step of the way to becoming an intelligent, hard-working and caring young adults.  As they go on to high school and college all of this preparation and knowledge forms a solid base for success and continued learning with joy.  
Only with the full experience of the primary,  elementary  and adolescent classes can the true power of Montessori be obtained.   Giving your children this amazing opportunity to grow, learn and start on a lifetime of learning is a great gift. 
Our teachers and administrators form a deep bond with the AMCS families; united in our common goal of having each child reach his or her academic, social and personal potential.  We are truly a team united for the development of the future leaders of our community and world and in the pursuit of joyful lifelong learning.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Your Montessori Home

Your child is thriving in the Montessori classroom.  You see signs of increased independence, love of work and growing social skills.  How do we prepare our homes to continue this great work of the child?

School and home are, and should be different.  We do not need to create an academic world at home.  Think how we would feel if we arrived home from a challenging job only to find our job has been recreated at home and we need to continue working that same way.

The 3-6 year old child can be summed up in this phrase: "Help me to help myself."  This is the time for developing the mind and body for the great work to come.  Independence grows as children learn to care for themselves and their home.  Their intellect develops with stories, songs and books in the home, with toys that support their curiosity about how the world works.  The strong sense of order that is part of this age is developed with a place for everything and everything in its place in the home. Concentration comes from time to contribute to the home and to have time to focus on their interests,  So how can we create this in our homes?

Let's look at each room:

The living room:  A child size chair and table, a low shelf for books, a shelf for a few toys, perhaps a small lamp on the table.  Toy boxes are not ideal as they cannot give the child a place for belongings.
It is nice to have some art work displayed at the child's eye level. Be aware that if a television or other electronics are in use your child is absorbing what is being seen and heard, even if they appear to be not paying attention.  Remember that for this age child only 1/2 hour a day of all screen time combined is a safe level.

The kitchen:  This is an area of great interest.  A small step stool to give access to the sink for hand washing and food preparation, a child size apron on a low hook, an area in the refrigerator with a small tray holding water and snacks, child size kitchen tools and a basket containing cloths for cleaning up spills all contribute to fun and a sense of independence. Low plates, flatware and glasses so the child can set the table.

The bathroom:  A step stool for the sink and toilet, a small bar soap or a liquid dispenser that the child can operate, A low towel bar for hand and bath towels  A basket or container for bath toys.  Be sure your child can reach the toilet paper unassisted.

The bedroom:  Be sure your child's bed is not too high to get into unassisted and easy to make up.  Light blankets help with making the bed.  A small flashlight for comfort in the dark.  A bookshelf and perhaps a small rocking chair or other comfortable seat.  Shelves for a few toys which can be rotated to help the child be organized.  A low drawer for folded clothes and low hangers and hooks.  A shoe rack.  Televisions, cell phones and video games should never be in the bedroom.  They are a distraction from relaxation and sleep.

Outdoors:  Child size gardening tools and a watering can.  A small bucket and sponge to help with washing the car or bikes.  Sidewalk chalk in a basket.  A parking spot for bikes and other riding toys.

These are a few beginning ideas to help your child's sense of independence and capability.
Remember that this age child is working for the experience, not the result.  Be sure to acknowledge the effort and not the result:  "You made your bed!  The pillow is at the top and your pajamas are put away.  The blanket in on the bed.  You are taking care of your room."  Now the blanket is not smooth and is dragging on the floor, the pillow is crooked..and it is important not to correct at this point.  It is helpful to show the child the first time, then let their observation gradually improve.

Giving all family members opportunities to contribute to the family and the home will result in increased confidence, eagerness to work and a strong connection to the family and the home.  You are setting the stage for responsibility and joy in work...life skills that will be valuable all through life.

The next post will give ideas for the 7-15 year old!  A very different child indeed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring time! Having fun the Montessori way.

Spring time...we all want this to be a time of fun and relaxation with our families and friends.  We don't have to spend a lot of money, fight crowds of people or travel many miles to have a great time.

Picnics at nearby parks can be wonderful.  Pack a lunch, grill a burger, go kayaking, hike or bike the  trails, play games or read a book near a lake or under a tree.  With a little planning you have all you need for days of family fun.

We are fortunate to have many beautiful and free places close by.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Alexander Deussen Park:  http://hcp1.net/Parks/AlexanderDeussen.hiaspx
Fishing, swimming, hiking, a great dog park, many playgrounds, kite flying, boating, picnic areas..this free park has it all.  Lake Houston is at our doorstep...enjoy!

Jesse Jones Park: http://www.hcp4.net/community/parks/jones
This treasure on the far north side of the city has a lot to offer.  Visit the web site for a list of ongoing activities.  Pontoon boat rides, a visit to a pioneer and Native American village, a nature center, miles of hike and bike trails and fishing in Cypress Creek, plus lots of playground and picnic opportunities will make any family happy.

Galveston Island State Park  http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/galveston-island
Just a short trip down I45 and a day of beach, sun, sand and picnicking waits your family.  For a small fee the day is yours.  Grills and covered picnic tables are just steps from the beach and on the bay side of the park miles of trails and lots of beautiful birds will entertain you for hours.

On the east end of Galveston Island there are miles of beaches, great fishing and the Galveston/Bolivar ferry.  This free ferry ride goes to Bolivar Peninsula.  You can park your car and walk onto the ferry for a round trip ride, or take your car aboard and explore the peninsula.  Dolphins play alongside the ferries and gulls swoop down to catch bits of bread from the passengers.  Great fun!   http://www.galveston.com/galvestonferry/

Brazos Bend State Park http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/brazos-bend
Screened in shelters and campsites are available if you would like to spend a few days with nature at its best.  The George Observatory located in the park gives a stunning view of the night sky.  More information is on the above web site.  Hiking, fishing and alligator watching provide thrills and picnic areas and grills are ready when you are hungry.

 These are just a few of the opportunities nearby.   For the best time include the children in the planning.  Older boys and girls can do research and plan the route to the park.  Everyone can help pack supplies and food.  The whole family can make a list of what to take along! Don't forget kites, balls, blankets,  bubbles and books.  The preparation for the outing can be as much fun as the trip.
This is a good time to leave the electronic games at home, relax and enjoy this special time with the children!


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Get Growing! Gardening with children.

How gardening can affect the BRAIN:
 The wonder of seeing a garden grow may spark your kids to ask questions like: Why do the plants need sun? How does the plant “drink” water? Why are worms good for the plants? Soon you will be talking about soil composition, photosynthesis and more! Add a little math while gardening by measuring how much plants are growing from week to week or counting the flowers on each plant. Supplement the experience of gardening with books about plants, trips to a botanical garden, or a photo journal of the plants that you are growing.
Once you harvest your produce, think of all the brain-building vitamins, minerals and nutrients your kids will be eating and how that will continue to boost brain development. Foods like spinach, garlic and beets (which are all easy to grow) have been shown to help with cognitive function and can give your kids an advantage in their growth and development. Even if kids may not love the foods they grow at first, teach them to keep tasting and trying and to train their taste buds to enjoy the bounty of their garden.
How gardening can affect the BODY:
When children participate in gardening, the fruits and vegetables that they are inspired to eat will no doubt have a positive effect on their body. But the act of gardening itself can also promote a healthy body. Kids LOVE to get their hands and feet in the dirt, which can run counter to the modern parenting style of compulsively keeping hands and surfaces cleaned and sanitized. However, consider the “hygiene hypothesis,” a theory that a lack of childhood exposure to germs actually increases a child’s susceptibility to diseases like asthma, allergies and autoimmune conditions by suppressing the development of the immune system. So getting dirty while gardening may actually strengthen a child’s immunity and overall health.
These days all kids could benefit from a little more physical activity and sunshine they’ll get while gardening. Activities like moving soil, carrying a heavy watering can, digging in the dirt and pushing a wheelbarrow can promote gross motor skills and overall strength for a more fit body. Plus, these activities, known as “heavy work,” have been shown to help kids stay calm and focused.
How gardening can affect the SOUL:
In this electronic age, kids need time for meaningful family connection. Time in the garden allows for team building and promotes communication skills. Planning a garden, planting the seeds and watching them grow give kids a sense of purpose and responsibility. Making sure that the plants get enough fertilizer, water and sun fosters mindfulness. The concepts learned while gardening, like composting food scraps for fertilizer or using gathered rainwater, can show kids a deep respect and responsibility for taking care of our planet.
Furthermore, studies show that when children have contact with soil during activities like digging and planting, they have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety. Most important, the self-esteem a child gets from eating a perfect cucumber that he grew himself is priceless.

Grow hearts, bodies and minds together!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Consequences Instead of Punishment: Building character and maturity

We have all been there...our child makes a poor choice and creates a problem for his or her self.  We know we want them to learn an important lesson, but how to bring that about?

And what is the difference between consequence and punishment?

Punishment is often not related to the problem at all.  For example...see the bike at the top of the page?

Mom and Dad finally bought the much wanted bike for their son.  A designated place was marked off in the driveway (or garage) and the child was told: " When you are not on your bike it must be in its parking place and no where else.

One day the boy was in a hurry to get inside and he left the bike in the middle of the driveway.  Sadly, a delivery truck did not see it and ran over it.
Oh, the wailing and tears.  "Dad, dad my bike is ruined.  I love that bike so much."

So the punishment response might be: "See I told you what would happen if you left that bike in the wrong place.  And now it is ruined and you don't have a bike.  You need to pay attention when I tell you something.  You will have no TV for two weeks.  Maybe that will teach you to be more responsible."
As understandable is the parents anger, this punishment and response is not the best way to get the result of better behavior.  It is not directly related to the mistake.

Now for the consequence response:  Oh, my son.  I know how much that bike means to you.  You really love having it, don't you?"  This is empathy and sympathy, but NOT approval of the mistake.
The boy gets that Dad understands how upset he is and replies:
"Can I have another bike, please, please?"  Of course we might want to reply, "No way.  You left it out and now it is gone."

So try this: " Yes, you can have another bike.  How do you plan to pay for it?"  This puts the problem back in the child's lap.  He will probably say that he doesn't have any money.  Responding with "Well we can talk about some ways for you to earn money.  And you have some money from your birthday."  It may take a long time for the money to accumulate (and the parent can chip in after a while or offer payment for extra jobs around the home).  This is a real consequence of the child's actions.  It is a lesson that is fair, delivered without anger, and gives him a way to right the wrong. From this he will learn responsibility, the advantages of hard work, and that his parents are fair and reasonable, but follow through when mistakes are made.

As with all new things, it may take a while to get comfortable with this approach, but the dividends are worth it.  The time to teach responsibility is when the child is young.  These are what we call affordable mistakes, mistakes that do not have dire results.  We want our children to learn these lessons before the teen years, when mistakes and errors in judgement can have serious consequences and even life changing problems.