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Welcome to 2017-2018 from MCS Admin

Dear Montessori Community  School Families,
 
Each year as we welcome back our returning students and families and welcome our new students and their families to our school community we feel such a sense of anticipation for all the experiences we will enjoy together during the academic year. 
 
By the time that the children  arrive the teachers have worked tirelessly for 7 days to prepare their  beautiful environments for the arrival of their students. There is such a buzz of anticipation that is infectious. Everyone is so excited about all the possibilities of the new school year. And finally the children are here and the year begins. It is always such a special time for all of us.
 
As we move forward this year we want you all to know that we are grateful to all families who have entrusted their beautiful children into our care. We are dedicated to "following each child" to  best support their optimum growth emotionally, socially and academically. We look forward to building partnerships with each of you so as to afford your child/ren the best possible experience.
 
Please know that we will always make ourselves available to answer questions or respond to comments. Our doors are usually open and we invite you to stop in. We appreciate the opportunities to further develop our relationships.
 
Thanks to those of you who were able to join us for the New Student Orientation on Tuesday morning and the Back To School Night for Toddlers and Early Childhood families that evening.  We look forward to getting to know you better at such events as our Welcome Picnics and ongoing community events.
 
We are grateful for our dedicated and caring teachers and all of our families and look forward to an incredible year. 
 
Best wishes,
 
Robyn, Ramira and Britney


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How can failure be a gift?

When I started teaching 20 years ago, childhood was altogether a different experience.  Raising children looked different than it does now and, since I'm now in the midst of raising my own three children, I believe this more than ever before.  The single most important thing I think we may be missing with this generation of parenting is the realization that growth comes from failure!  Scary concept, right?  But honestly, when everything goes according to plan, there are no hiccups in the way, or any process is simple, precise and easy we learn very different lessons than when we have to struggle and stretch.  I think it would be fair to say that your own failures (or struggles, at the very least) provided clear opportunities for learning and growth. I recently watched a really wonderful TedTalk called "The power of believing that you can improve" by Carol Dweck in which she uses the word "yet" with great meaning and power.  (Watch here.) 


Believe it or not, when our kids become afraid of failure, they become disinterested in learning.  Life gets scary. Autonomy and the ability to bounce back helps kids feel confident and connected.  

What happens if we tell our kids they are the best (at anything!) and they discover that they are not (at some things)? The feeling of failure, of letting us down, of believing they are less than they really are is just the kind of feeling that keeps them from trying again and from experiencing new things.  The realization that they still have space to grow, on the other hand, and the belief that they are surrounded by loving people who will give them space for that to happen? POWERFUL! Our generation of children are learning that there is a lot of immediate gratification in the world.  But let's be real, parents - life includes a lot of waiting, trying again, picking ourselves up off the ground, and re-thinking how things "should" be.  

How do we really step back and let our kiddos stretch?  It's hard, right?  And honestly...it can be totally inconvenient.  Not only is childhood different but so is adulthood.  If I count the number of hours I really get to spend with my own children in a week, it seems far less than ideal.  We are a busy family.  Life is beautiful and lots of fun, but it is REALLY BUSY! So how can I adapt my "helicopter parenting" approach (which is in some ways for my own convenience) to one that gives my kids the best chance at being resilient? 

  • Praise wisely: Point out the effort, the process and the strategies that your child used whether they succeed or fail at something.  Outcomes are typically less than we imagined and so the process is an important one to celebrate, think about and understand!
  • Plan ahead: Ask questions to get your kiddo thinking about outcomes without giving up the best answers.  The more we tell them the answers, the more children lack the opportunity to think of them themselves.  And believe it or not, some day they WILL have to make decisions without you. The small ones they are making now, under our care, are the safe ones to practice on.  
  • Step back: As much as you want to step in and tell them "I already tried that, it didn't work" or "But what if.." DON'T DO IT. Little failures are great opportunities to learn.  And, when we are there rooting for them despite their failures not only do they learn to try differently, but they learn that we are there no matter what. (How comforting.) The other beautiful thing about stepping back is that when they do step in at the face of real danger (I'm talking serious circumstances here) and we step in, they'll know they face real danger.
  • Listen: Guess what?  Our job as parents is not to be problem solvers.  I know, weird right? I have a hard time with this one too. But really, sometimes children just need someone to listen.  They are people and, like us, can oftentimes talk themselves into the best answers.


What I'm presenting here is not an easy feat.  There is no expectation for any of us to get it right every time.  As a matter of fact, the same concepts apply to parenting...we will make mistakes.  And we will learn from them.  And when we are better next time, our kids will learn that being better is the most important part.  I have never apologized more to anyone on this earth than I have to my oldest son. And I believe that my humility and admittance of my failures goes a long way in teaching him that humaning is a process....er, at least I hope it does! If nothing else, he has seen me mess up and get back on that horse!  I will not give up and he knows that. 

In her book The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey talks about autonomy supportive parenting. Clear expectations and clear consequences make people feel safe.  From traffic laws to moral obligation, this is true on every front. I can't tell you enough how lovely a concept this is! 


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Parents, Stop Feeling That Everything You Do Is Wrong

“You should look down at the rocks and make sure they never crash against them, and prepare them to ride the waves.”
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg


Let's be honest, this parenting gig doesn't come with a description of roles and responsibilities that make it completely clear what is expected at all times.  Giving our absolute dedication and best effort just doesn't look the same from day to day (or moment to moment!)  Throw your hands up (or hide in shame) if you have ever ended the day thinking "I am an awful person...my child probably went to bed thinking how awful I am and they don't feel safe and they don't feel happy and I've ruined everything."  Just me?  Didn't think so.

This article really spoke to me in terms of how we can (and should) give ourselves a break.  News flash - we are raising our kiddos to be humans.  Giving them human experience, whether we feel good about it at the end of the day or not, is essential to their success and existence.  I have decided that I have three main goals, call them standards if you wish, for parenting:
  1. Do I honor my child for the person that they are every moment?  (You can't imagine the number of parents I've met who wish their child was different...if you are talking poorly about your child any time you might be doing it wrong.  Not just parenting - but life.) Am I willing to see them change at their own pace and will I fight for their authenticity? Yes - to the death!
  2. Have they heard me say "I'm sorry" and have they watched me make effort at being better? EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Admitting we are wrong shows our kids that it's okay to make mistakes and that doing so in our care is a safe place to do it.  We accept mistakes as opportunities to do better.
  3. Do I follow my own guiding set of principles and give myself a break for being imperfect?  Hmmm...principles, yes.  Giving myself a break...work in progress.

I am the first to admit that I am imperfect and I question myself constantly when it comes to parenting.  But at the end of the day, I really do think that there is more than one right way. My wish for you is that each day ends with perfect love, even when everything else seems to have gone awry. 

Best wishes for a fun-filled weekend,
Britney

My props to Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg and his Lighthouse Parenting strategy, a true delight and inspiration.  His methods are discussed at length in Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love With Expectations and Protection With Trust.  (MCS parents - don't forget to log in to your Compass account to place your Amazon order.)
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Teaching Children "Soft Skills"

While the ultimate goal of parenting is to prepare these little humans to be successful, happy, and fulfilled adults it seems that more and more, parents are taking the opportunity away for their children to develop the skills necessary to accomplish goals of lifelong success, happiness and fulfillment.  The terms "helicopter parenting" and "overprotective" become more and more frequent and, as an educator I have seen the negative impact of this shift on my students over the years.  As a mom, though, I am mostly unsure how to avoid it.  I want to give my kiddos every opportunity and worry that the things they miss will have a great impact.  This article by Peter Davidson (Mariamontessori.com) is really wonderful in reminding us that "soft skills" are the things our kiddos really need in their tool box to successfully and confidently pursue lives of happiness and fulfillment (let alone be successful college students!)

Happy Reading,
Britney  


I had an interesting conversation with a prospective parent recently who teaches at a local college. She shared that she and her colleagues are constantly discussing “how underprepared kids are for college in terms of ‘soft skills.’” By soft skills she meant skills other than the purely academic — the personal qualities, habits and attitudes that make someone a successful college student and, by extension, a good boss or employee later in life. She had just come from an observation in toddlers and primary and was surprised to have seen that in Montessori, “starting in toddlers students develop the self-motivation, independence, and follow-through that many college students lack!” In other words, beginning at these very young ages, Montessori children are already developing the soft skills that will benefit them so greatly later in life.

Read More


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Parenting Young Children through Fear

The things we hope to teach our children seem to be countless and I have discovered that just when I think I have overcome one parenting hurdle, immediately following that nice pat on the back, I find another hurdle standing in my way.  Fortunately, we live in a day and age where accessing helpful information can be so easy.  While it can be hard to rifle through all the information that is available and decipher the good information from the bad information, as long as we stick to our guiding set of principles, we can find some truth and some support in a variety of wonderful places.  I always like to share some of my favorites...especially from the list of things that we never even realize we will face as parents.

Children's fears are ongoing.  How do we teach our children self-soothing, positive self-talk, how to recognize their true feelings, and, most importantly what to do with their fears to become better and more resilient humans? My 13 year old son's fears have shifted...gone are the days of monsters under the bed.  I am discovering that helping him develop his own set of guiding principles becomes increasingly important with each passing day.  The Fred Rogers article below gives some helpful insight to helping young children through their fears.

Enjoy,
Britney

Parents want their children to be afraid of some things, because fears can keep children from doing dangerous things. But we don't want our children to develop irrational fears that hold them back from doing healthy things, sleeping well, and making friends.

Part of our "job" as parents is to help our children feel safe and secure. Sometimes it can be very frustrating to try to explain to a frightened child that a monster or witch or some other imaginary thing isn't real. We adults have already learned that, read more here.

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Parent Education Night - Preparing for Adolescence

MCS Parents,

Please join us for Parent Education Night next Tuesday, March 8th, from 6:30-8pm. Child care will be available but must be signed up for in advance. There is a sign up sheet in the office.

Melissa DeVries, Ph.D, MCS School Psychologist and parent will be talking about adolescence...because its never too early to prepare. Below is an excerpt from Melissa about her upcoming presentation.

“We should be like lighthouses for our children—beacons of light on a stable shoreline from which they can safely navigate the world. We must make certain they don’t crash against the rocks, but trust they have the capacity to learn to ride the waves on their own.” –-Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP

Adolescence is a uniquely challenging, yet rewarding period of development for both parents and teens. Teens are trying to find the answer to “who am I?” by striving for more independence, seeking new experiences. Meanwhile, parents are realizing their time and direct influence is decreasing and they may fear “how will I ever be able to let them go?” or “are they ready?”

No matter your child’s age, it is never too early, or too late, to start thinking about adolescence. Not just getting through the here and now, but preparing your children to survive and thrive far into the future. Join us for an informative evening of education and discussion about parenting during the adolescent years presented by MCS School Psychologist, Melissa DeVries, PhD. Information presented will include an overview of research on adolescent brain development, and parenting strategies from a leading expert in adolescent medicine with an emphasis on how these strategies fit with a Montessori perspective.


Melissa DeVries, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist who provides contracted psychological services to the Montessori Community School and Valley Behavioral Health. She holds a Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of Arizona. Dr. DeVries has co-edited textbooks and numerous book chapters on various topics within child and adolescent mental health and developmental disorders. Dr. DeVries provides psychotherapy and behavioral consultation for children and adolescents, parenting education and classroom consultation. She also possesses extensive background and experience in comprehensive evaluation for learning, behavioral, and emotional disorders across the lifespan. In her free time, Dr. DeVries enjoys playing recreational soccer, skiing, running and rock climbing.
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7 Ways to Raise Kind Children

Am I the only one who finds themselves getting tripped up with this parenting gig sometimes? I believe firmly in the "village" approach because, quite frankly, I can't possibly teach my children every lesson I would like them to learn and my own example sometimes (okay, maybe often is a better word) falters in its ability to send the right message.  This article on AltHealth Works by Yelena Sukhoterina spoke to me and I hope that it will have a similar affect on you. As adults we know that the attributes listed in the article below can be really hard to achieve but I think that childhood is the perfect time to start learning them, while our children have a soft spot to land, and the people who love them most to catch them, should they make a mistake.  
Enjoy,
Britney

Many of us were hoping that our high-tech lives would make parenting easier – apps for tablets and smart phones are able to give children knowledge on any subject, entertain them with a movie or a game, and keep them occupied while we go through our hectic days.

But the downfalls of this technology are huge; there is a bigger disconnect than ever between children and parents. The parents of the Information Age are having a harder time building loving relationships with their children, which in turn leaves some kids unable to create healthy friendships, to understand how to be caring and helpful to others, to feel and express gratitude, to think for themselves, and to understand and control feelings and emotions in a healthy way.

As a part of the making Caring Common Project, Harvard University compiled the following seven main tips from their most recent research about raising kids that are kind, caring, respectful, helpful, grateful, and ethical. [The main funding sources are summarized from the study along with the writer’s own interpretations and thoughts on the subject].

Keep Reading...



References: 

althealthworks.com
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Raising your Montessori Child

 

As Montessori parents, we are giving our children a great gift that does not just start at 8:30am and end at 3pm.  This gift should be nurtured, honored and recognized at all times, particularly in the home. Donna Bryant Goertz wrote one of my favorite Montessori books about classroom management in the Lower Elementary classroom, 'Children Who are Not Yet Peaceful'. This book highlights the value of community and truly honoring and trusting each child to develop in their time, in their way, and in absolute authenticity.  It is powerful and inspiring for educators and parents and I highly recommend it to those of you who are raising Lower Elementary age children or who will be doing so in the near future. However, its values are appropriate for children, parents, and educators of all ages.
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A Closer Look at Montessori Math

The Montessori math curriculum is quite unlike the traditional approach that each of us experienced.  It is based on developing a strong foundation through concrete experience and manipulation until the time a child reaches the age of abstraction, typically around nine years old. As they engage in the Cosmic Curriculum, children are given a basis for the interconnectedness of all things and encouraged to engage in the wonder and magic of mathematical concepts.  Various activities and materials develop the mathematical mind, preparing the child for their inevitable explosion in to abstraction and connection to the power of relationships. 



The following was written by Lower Elementary Spanish teacher, Diana Haro Reynolds.

Mathematics is the study of quantity, form, and magnitude. We live among it. It is in the position of the sun and in the shell of a snail. We carry math in our pockets, in our devices. It is what makes our communication possible. We touch and live math, whether we know it or not. It is our responsibility as Montessori guides to help the child discover this framework of mathematical order that makes up our world. This rationale proposes several reasons for teaching math in the Montessori classroom. It will explain the journey the child will take from concrete concepts through to abstraction.

Human beings have a tendency for order. Since the beginning of human origin, math has been used to unlock the mysteries of the world. It began with a man’s need to
keep track of his belongings. Then came early techniques that created the experience
with numbers of counting. After a long time, came comprehension, which led to
improvements and shortcuts. Finally, humankind reached abstraction. This same
process is seen in a child. (Doer, 2012)

Mathematical order leads to a mathematical mind. As the mathematical mind unfolds, it develops capacities such as sensorial interaction among objects, observation
of patterns, and awareness of the physical world, mental classification, abstract thinking, and knowledge of the power of relationships. Math supports understanding by encouraging order, concentration, independence, special relations, patterning, one to one correspondence, combination, difference, and similarity. Additional goals supported by math are predictability, exactness or sense of accurateness, concreteness, logic and reasoning, problem solving, and decision making skills, as well as refinement of the mind and thinking. (Stockton-Moreno, 2015)

Why the need to teach math in a specific Montessori way? There are a lot of aspects that prepare the child for math. These include the prepared environment, giving the child the power of choice. Practical life works build concentration and confidence. The child enjoys practicing a task over and over for the pure pleasure of it. The joy is in the process. This mentality is preparing him for the academic areas. Sensitive periods serve as the specific times in a child’s development where part of their needs include an insatiable thirst for specific tasks. There is a sensitive period for concrete tools of precision. We must capitalize on these sensitive periods. (Stockton-Moreno, 2015)

The aims of Montessori math are to make the child aware that math is a part of her life; to build confidence and prepare the child for life. Confidence comes from the sequential growth in which the materials are presented. It starts with the importance of the Three Period Lesson. The first period being the presentation of the concept. The
second period is where the child practices and shows that which has been presented. In math, this second period is much longer than in other areas of study. This is the time in which the child is practicing, exploring and making discoveries, day in and day out, about the concept presented. The third period is that in which the child shows understanding of the concept through teacher observation or helping someone else.

The main goal of Montessori math is to move the child from concrete to abstraction and helping him form a mathematical mind. In the book, A Way of Learning, Ann Burke Nerbert explains that “the mathematical mind derives from experience” (Stockton-Moreno, 2015). We must not rob the child from forming her mathematical mind. She must have ample time to experience the joy of working with the materials and for understanding and internalizing the processes and concepts. The materials are
multimodal in that they appeal to multiple senses. This aids in the "permanent wiring of the brain that will be available as your child gets older and uses her brain for analytical thinking and problem-solving" (Duffy, 2008). Knowing is not understanding. Montessori math provides the path toward understanding.

According to Michael Doer, the passage towards abstraction is done in four stages. The first is the Concrete stage. This is where the child works purely with the material. No works is shown on paper until the child is nearing the end of this stage. The second stage is Concrete Materials lead to Symbols. This is when the child works with
the materials and records the process in writing. This is the longest stage and requires
that the focus be on the process, not the end result. This is the time in which the child is “internalizing the algorithm” (Doer, 2012). Towards the end of this stage the child may begin to work with charts rather than manipulatives. The third stage is often overlooked perhaps because it is the shortest. This is the stage when Symbols connect to Concrete Material. Essentially it is the reversal of stage two. The child does the work on paper then uses the materials to check their answer. The Symbolic stage is the fourth and final stage. This is where the emphasis is on showing the written work. (Doer, 2012)

Doer also emphasizes mental calculations and mental carrying as the two key elements in reaching abstraction. Mental calculation or memorization requires that the
child know math facts with accuracy and speed. The child should take no longer than
three second to recall a fact, otherwise, memorization has not been reached and the
child is calculating. Accuracy should be no less than 98%. It should be recall only. The
second key, mental carrying, requires that the child be able to keep track of the carrying without making a mark on paper. Having the child work on other forms of memorization, such as poems or definitions, will greatly help achieve this goal.

Math is part of our society. We need it in order to function. But there is also a math phobia. Math in Montessori makes it more than accessible, it makes it real. Whenever possible, real life problems should be presented to the child so as to give her
the context for these new skills. Among with word problems, research in the area of
math is a great way to expose the child to the practicality of math. We must cultivate a love and understanding of mathematics in our children by proving the keys and allowing them to make their own discoveries.

Diana Haro Reynolds - Lower Elementary Teacher/Intern



References

Doer, M. (2012). Numbers: Montessori arithmetic for lower elementary.

Duffy, M. (2008). Math works: Montessori math and the developing brain. Hollidaysburg,

PA: Parent Child Press.

Stockton-Moreno, L. (2015). MONT. 633*01, week 1 notes [PowerPoint slides].
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Spring Cleaning as Brain Food by P. Donohue Shortridge

The holidays have come and gone and spring is just around the corner.  This might be a fine time to consider sorting through your children's possessions.  If you take a close look at the sheer volume of your child's books and toys, you may determine that just like adults he uses only a percentage of them.

Thinning the herd, so to speak, offers much to recommed it; Its a lot easier to find things if there are fewer things to find. 

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"Go Outside and Play"

"Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors."
—American Medical Association, 2005

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Spring has arrived! I can't help but be excited by the thought of sunshine, hikes, water and fresh air! This article written by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., a Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services spoke to me in considering how outdoor time is such a powerful tool for our children. In the article, Jane offers a variety of ideas for making the best of your outside time with your little one. 

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Rhombus, Reniform and Rembrandt

Your child’s education in Montessori is different – so different that it makes you shake your head in wonder and say, “Is this something my child is really learning?” As parents we want our children to excel at reading, writing and math. Yet their Montessori education leads them through strange and esoteric materials. (At least they are foreign to most adults.)

Why would a three year old need to be versed in geometry? Fine, a nice circle, a square and maybe a triangle but what purpose for an isosceles triangle, parallelogram or a rhombus? Then if that is not enough esoteric learning, your child moves on to the botany cabinet. How many three year olds need botany? They are introduced to leaf forms like spatulate, orbiculate, sagitate and reniform. Most of us adults can’t even pronounce them let alone know what they are.

If that is not enough diversity in the curriculum, Montessori education then introduces them to the whole world of art. They meet Picasso, Monet and Rembrandt. What in the world was Dr. Montessori thinking? And where is the math and reading?

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Discipline as Guidance by P. Donohue Shortridge

Your child wants to do what is right, even at the youngest age.  First of all, she wants to because she loves you and wants to be just like you.  She also has a powerful inner drive to adapt to the world around her, the world of your home, and to do so she needs to know what the rules for life are.  She looks to you to show her. 

As parents, if you can keep that in mind, you can create an approach to discipline that is positive, less stressful on everyone and it will assist your child in developing into a competent, civilized, compassionate and joyful person.

So, what are some strategies that you might employ?

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Silent Journey and Discovery 2015

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The Silent Journey and Discovery is coming up on February 7th from 9:00am - 1:00pm.
Sign up in the office, space is limited. Attendance is free of charge, brunch will be served & child care will be provided to those who sign up in advance.

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Help me do it myself! The drive for independence.

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The biggest challenge parents face is their children’s drive for independence. A toddler or a preschooler’s drive for independence is even fiercer than a teenager’s. While a teenager may be looking to undo parental control your preschooler is looking to share control. They are trying to become part of your world by taking responsibility for their own actions.

This drive for independence is slow and messy. Learning to walk – the first great independence is full of falls and scares (more for Mom than for baby). And it is a slow and unsteady success. Even when they accomplish vertical independence their rate of locomotion impels us to pick them up and carry them if we want to get anywhere now.

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Upcoming Parent Education Night

Parent Education Night is coming up next Thursday, October 2nd from 6:30-8:00pm.  Toddler, Early Childhood and Elementary parents are invited.  Child care is provided, free of charge, but must be signed up for in advance in the office.
 
Scroll down for more information about each programs presentation details for the evening.
 
This is a great way to earn Parent Participation Hours AND stay in touch with your child's Montessori experience!
 
 TODDLER PARENT EDUCATION NIGHT
 
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EARLY CHILDHOOD PARENT EDUCATION NIGHT
 
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ELEMENTARY PARENT EDUCATION NIGHT
 
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MCS Parent Testimonial

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When asked "In what ways has your child thrived in the MCS environment?" this was one Montessori Community School parent's response:


Every one of my children is different. Because Montessori adapts to the individual needs of every child, the Montessori Community School has been the right place for each of them.

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What Are Your Summer Plans? Becoming Media Savvy Families

MCS School Psychologist Melissa DeVries, Ph.D.
 
With the end of the school year fast approaching we are all likely finalizing plans for how our children will spend their summer days, whether it be a day camp, travel or time at home with a parent or other caregiver. Whatever your family’s summer plans may be, it seems that the majority of us loosen up a bit during these summer months. The rush of the typical school morning is long forgotten, bed times creep later into the evening and a sense of relaxation sets in. With our children having more free time, it can be easy to reduce the amount of time spent in organized activity in lieu of more free-choice. Oftentimes, however, free choice can result in increased access to technology. Youth may spend more time watching TV, YouTube and movies, playing on game apps, browsing the Internet and social networking. While these activities can be fun for children, it’s important as parents to maintain an awareness of our children’s media and the impact of that access. 

How much media content does the average child in America view?

A 2010 study noted that children aged 8 to 18 years watch an average of 4 hours of television and spend 1.5 hours playing video or computer games per day. Children will see an average of 2 gun-related violent acts for every hour of television they watch. As of a decade ago, 40% of the top grossing non-animated G- and PG-rated movies featured at least one character with a firearm and an average of 4.5 armed characters per film. Even current animated films and television often contain some intense scenes with aggressive, if not violent, acts among characters. Often pitched as slapstick humor and “jokes for adults that simply go over a child’s head,” children are exposed to violence, aggression and adult innuendos in animated features as well. Approximately two-thirds of E-rated video games contain intentional physical aggression.

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In younger age groups it appears that 66% of children aged 6 months to 6 years watch television every day, averaging 2 hours per day. In children under the age of 2 years, an astounding 83% use some form of screen media on a typical day.

What do we know about the cognitive and behavioral impact of media on child development?

It is difficult for research to keep pace with the advancements in technology; however, years of research on children’s television viewing have produced impactful findings. According the existing research, consumption of violent media predicts increased aggressive behavior among youth because children imitate the scripts they see modeled by others. They can also become desensitized and condoning of violence, believe that the world is hostile, and lose empathy for victims. Longitudinal studies have revealed that 1st and 3rd graders who were heavy viewers of violent television content were three times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime by the time they were in their twenties. Admittedly, violent media is not the only culprit for future behavioral problems, but it does represent a substantial risk factor. Even mass media preys upon our survival instincts by stressing elements that trigger rapid, irrational fear responses through fast paced content, sales pitches that demand immediate response, and by presenting rare violent events as far more commonplace. While younger children may be more frightened by fantasy material, older children are often more disturbed by such realistic content, including the news.

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Violent content aside, even heavily sanitized media access can have unforeseen consequences. Research has argued that having non-stop access to media content through handheld devices and personal computers produces a high number of irrelevant distractions and demands to attempt to multitask. This creates too much to pay attention to and in turn, can degrade our memory for important information. For example, reading is an activity that offers few distractions. It requires intense focus for sustained periods of time, imagination and memory. In contrast, TV and other media content, often demand little imagination, and require fragmented attention and frequent, rapid task switching. Distraction is the norm, thus inhibiting memory and development of sustained attention. Children who watch more “pure entertainment” media (i.e., no educational value) demonstrate lower academic performance, even after controlling for other factors. Television viewing at young ages (under 2 years) can prohibit language development because young children, including preschoolers, need responsive, engaging, stimulating interaction with their surroundings including exposure to language and sounds. They learn through interactions with adults who respond to their actions in real-time, and free and creative play. They need to explore the world and manipulate objects around them, accompanied by guidance, structure, support, praise, attention and positive feedback from adults and peers. Children younger than 5 years old who watch TV spend less time in creative play and less time interacting with parents and siblings, which extends beyond the time they are in front of the screen. TV viewing among children younger than 3 years has been correlated with irregular sleep schedules.

Pre-teens who use social media have been found to value fame more than kindness and community involvement. Video game play late at night reduces the quality of sleep. Periods of downtime (i.e., without the constant demands of Tweets, texts, and Facebook status updates) are necessary for consolidation of learning, which is virtually impossible for youth who have 24-hour access to their smart phones. Other risks of technology use may include reduced empathy and increased stress. Studies have even shown abnormalities in portions of white matter responsible for decision making in brains of adolescents who were “preoccupied” by internet usage (defined as those adolescents who had repeatedly attempted to control their use without success, resulting in restlessness, moodiness, irritability and depression). Overall, studies have shown that youth who spend more than 2 hours per day watching TV or using computers are at increased risk of psychological difficulties.

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Make an Informed Decision

Technology is so pervasive in our day-to-day lives that it may be difficult, or even unnecessary to go totally “screen-free” for the summer. Many sources argue about the immense benefits of raising tech-savvy children in that they can keep up as adults in the modern world. Thus, I frequently encourage parents to consider technology like a dessert, “okay in moderation.” While some media access is acceptable, if not beneficial, the most powerful protective factor against all the potentially negative effects is parental monitoring. Let’s pay attention to what our children access, how much time is spent with media and encourage them to have a balanced diet of activities for the summer (and beyond).

Helpful Resources to Monitor Your Children’s Access to Media Content

www.imdb.com (database that contains a detailed parent guide for content of movies, television series and video games. Each instance of sex/nudity, violence/gore, profanity, alcohol/drugs/smoking, and frightening/intense scenes is identified).

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/internet-safety-tips-for-elementary-school-kids

http://www.safekids.com/kids-rules-for-online-safety/ http://internetsafety.trendmicro.com/

Consider adopting a media diet:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-sue-swanson-md-mbe-faap/tv-for-preschoolers_b_2704097.html

References:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/media-and-violence-an-analysis-of-current-research

http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/23/opinion/gazzaley-mobile-brain/ http://www.i-a-e.org/articles/46-feature-articles/48-the-effects-of-electronic-media-on-a-developing-brain.html http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1074

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/18/social-media-kids_n_3111259.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/technology/25brain.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brain.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brainside.html

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-and-entertainment-media-the-view-from-the-classroom http://kff.org/other/event/generation-m2-media-in-the-lives-of/

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/126/2/214.abstract

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/10/11/peds.2010-1154.abstract

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/10/12/peds.2011-1753.full.pdf+html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201212/how-technology-is-changing-the-way-children-think-and-focus



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What Are Your Summer Plans? Becoming Media Savvy Families

What Are Your Summer Plans?  

Becoming Media Savvy Families

Melissa DeVries, Ph.D.

With the end of the school year fast approaching we are all likely finalizing plans for how our children will spend their summer days, whether it be a day camp, travel or time at home with a parent or other caregiver. Whatever your family’s summer plans may be, it seems that the majority of us loosen up a bit during these summer months. The rush of the typical school morning is long forgotten, bed times creep later into the evening and a sense of relaxation sets in. With our children having more free time, it can be easy to reduce the amount of time spent in organized activity in lieu of more free-choice. Oftentimes, however, free choice can result in increased access to technology. Youth may spend more time watching TV, YouTube and movies, playing on game apps, browsing the Internet and social networking. While these activities can be fun for children, it’s important as parents to maintain an awareness of our children’s media and the impact of that access.

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How much media content does the average child in America view? 


A 2010 study noted that children aged 8 to 18 years watch an average of 4 hours of television and spend 1.5 hours playing video or computer games per day. Children will see an average of 2 gun-related violent acts for every hour of television they watch. As of a decade ago, 40% of the top grossing non-animated G- and PG-rated movies featured at least one character with a firearm and an average of 4.5 armed characters per film. Even current animated films and television often contain some intense scenes with aggressive, if not violent, acts among characters. Often pitched as slapstick humor and “jokes for adults that simply go over a child’s head,” children are exposed to violence, aggression and adult innuendos in animated features as well. Approximately two-thirds of E-rated video games contain intentional physical aggression.

In younger age groups it appears that 66% of children aged 6 months to 6 years watch television every day, averaging 2 hours per day. In children under the age of 2 years, an astounding 83% use some form of screen media on a typical day. 

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What do we know about the cognitive and behavioral impact of media on child development?

It is difficult for research to keep pace with the advancements in technology; however, years of research on children’s television viewing have produced impactful findings. According the existing research, consumption of violent media predicts increased aggressive behavior among youth because children imitate the scripts they see modeled by others. They can also become desensitized and condoning of violence, believe that the world is hostile, and lose empathy for victims. Longitudinal studies have revealed that 1st and 3rd graders who were heavy viewers of violent television content were three times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime by the time they were in their twenties. Admittedly, violent media is not the only culprit for future behavioral problems, but it does represent a substantial risk factor. Even mass media preys upon our survival instincts by stressing elements that trigger rapid, irrational fear responses through fast paced content, sales pitches that demand immediate response, and by presenting rare violent events as far more commonplace. While younger children may be more frightened by fantasy material, older children are often more disturbed by such realistic content, including the news.


Violent content aside, even heavily sanitized media access can have unforeseen consequences. Research has argued that having non-stop access to media content through handheld devices and personal computers produces a high number of irrelevant distractions and demands to attempt to multitask. This creates too much to pay attention to and in turn, can degrade our memory for important information. For example, reading is an activity that offers few distractions. It requires intense focus for sustained periods of time, imagination and memory. In contrast, TV and other media content, often demand little imagination, and require fragmented attention and frequent, rapid task switching.  Distraction is the norm, thus inhibiting memory and development of sustained attention. Children who watch more “pure entertainment” media (i.e., no educational value) demonstrate lower academic performance, even after controlling for other factors. Television viewing at young ages (under 2 years) can prohibit language development because young children, including preschoolers, need responsive, engaging, stimulating interaction with their surroundings including exposure to language and sounds. They learn through interactions with adults who respond to their actions in real-time, and free and creative play. They need to explore the world and manipulate objects around them, accompanied by guidance, structure, support, praise, attention and positive feedback from adults and peers. Children younger than 5 years old who watch TV spend less time in creative play and less time interacting with parents and siblings, which extends beyond the time they are in front of the screen. TV viewing among children younger than 3 years has been correlated with irregular sleep schedules.

Pre-teens who use social media have been found to value fame more than kindness and community involvement. Video game play late at night reduces the quality of sleep. Periods of downtime (i.e., without the constant demands of Tweets, texts, and Facebook status updates) are necessary for consolidation of learning, which is virtually impossible for youth who have 24-hour access to their smart phones. Other risks of technology use may include reduced empathy and increased stress. Studies have even shown abnormalities in portions of white matter responsible for decision making in brains of adolescents who were “preoccupied” by internet usage (defined as those adolescents who had repeatedly attempted to control their use without success, resulting in restlessness, moodiness, irritability and depression). Overall, studies have shown that youth who spend more than 2 hours per day watching TV or using computers are at increased risk of psychological difficulties.

b2ap3_thumbnail_scaled.P1060433.JPG

Make an Informed Decision


Technology is so pervasive in our day-to-day lives that it may be difficult, or even unnecessary to go totally “screen-free” for the summer. Many sources argue about the immense benefits of raising tech-savvy children in that they can keep up as adults in the modern world. Thus, I frequently encourage parents to consider technology like a dessert, “okay in moderation.” While some media access is acceptable, if not beneficial, the most powerful protective factor against all the potentially negative effects is parental monitoring. Let’s pay attention to what our children access, how much time is spent with media and encourage them to have a balanced diet of activities for the summer (and beyond).

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Featured

Montessori Community School is in Full Bloom

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Montessori Community School is in full bloom as we move into our last month this 2013 - 2014 school year. The end of a school year can be stressful time. The weather is warmer, summer break is in sight, and both students and teachers are reflecting on the work accomplished, materials learned, and planning for the summer and the next school year.
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We are so proud of our students, teachers, and families for the dedication, involvement, and passion thus far demonstrated within our school community. We are so grateful to have such a great environment in which to educate, grow, and explore with each other. 
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This year, we have watched our students blossom. As we make this last push through the remainder of the school year, we hope there will be time for reflection and appreciation toward our incredible student body. 


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