MCS Prepares for the New School Year Featured
A happy welcome to the new families entering Montessori Community School. Parents, you will soon discover that being a part of a Montessori community is encompassing and the efforts you make towards supporting the Montessori approach will determine the success your child has in this environment. Below is an article by Edward Fidellow which will give you several tips to embracing your new role as a "Montessori Parent."
And so begins your journey......
Becoming a Montessori Parent by Edward Fidellow
There are seven simple steps to becoming a Montessori parent. When we say simple we don’t mean that they are not challenging. It is a lot like the definition of bull riding. “The object is to keep the bull between you and the ground.” Simple – but challenging.
The first step to becoming a Montessori parent took place when you enrolled your child in a Montessori program. That in itself is a challenge. Most of us weren’t raised in a Montessori school. The whole concept is foreign and takes a bit of courage to step out of the norm and our comfort zone. We may have chosen the program because it wasn’t like our school experience (which is why we chose it.) Or we chose it because we saw something unique in a Montessori child we knew. Or we were just plain lucky and stumbled on to a Montessori school and were fascinated by what we saw. Even then we had to deal with the question, “If this is so great, how come the whole world isn’t lined up outside the door to enroll?” (Which is the same question Montessorians keep wondering about too!) But you made a complex and challenging decision to become a Montessori parent. And here you are. So how do you get the best out of your decision? You go to step two.
You begin to understand the core philosophy of what Montessori is all about. Fortunately, you don’t have to become a Montessori teacher to be a good Montessori parent. (You don’t have to know how to manipulate all of those materials and you don’t have to keep fifteen children from climbing the walls.) The most significant Montessori concept is to respect the child. I can almost hear the wheels turning “Of course I respect my child, I love them very much that’s why I have them in Montessori, I want the best for them.” Of course you love them – but respect is different. Respecting the child is first, to respect the nature of children. Children are not mini adults waiting to be molded. They are like tadpoles and caterpillars that have their own form and function of life waiting to become what they are intended to be. We are often impatient for them to become because we don’t realize that childhood – with its curiosity, playfulness, messiness and all – is part of the process of them transforming themselves into the adults they will become. We have to respect that process – which doesn’t mean they always get to do what they want. One of the operative words in Dr. Montessori’s writing is the word “train”. We do need to train our children but we need to train ourselves “not to destroy that which is good” in the nature of our children. The second part of respect is to respect the personality of your child. Your child is not a blank slate. They are already imbued with the unique characteristics of who they are. The artistic bent is already there. The math bent is already formed.The leader, the follower, the giver, the taker, the extrovert, the introvert are already dna’d into your child. Right or left handed, right or left brained are already formed.
So how do you cooperate with nature? You become an observer. That is the next step in becoming a Montessori parent – you train yourself to observe. What does your child gravitate to? What gives them great joy? What occupies them endlessly? These are all clues to who your child is becoming. You are fortunate that you have a trained helper in your child’s Montessori teacher. Your next parent conference should ask more than what has she done but who do you see her becoming. It is hard to cooperate with nature if you are not aware of the nature of your child.
Our third step is to become their champion. I know. I hear you say, “Of course, I’m their champion. I love them.” And so you do. But are their goals your goals? Translation: Do you have goals for them that do not take into account who they are. (There are many jock fathers who do not have jock sons.) Yes, you have many wonderful goals for them to be caring and loving, honest and faithful, upright, truthful, etc – and these are worthy, significant and meaningful goals which they should attain to. But the expression of their lives – career, vocation, work – is best met and fulfilled according to their gifts. When your five year old says, “I want to be a fireman.” He may be reflecting the latest book or television program he’s seen. However, if you continue to ask the why questions, “Why do you think that would be a good job? Why do you think that you would enjoy that?” you may discover that your child is not drawn just to the excitement but to the fact of wanting to help people or he likes the aspect of being part of a team. All are important clues to his personality. Your child needs you to champion and encourage his personality (especially, if it is different than yours.)
The fourth step is to practice what they learn at school – grace and courtesy. Please and thank you, may I, excuse me, please forgive me and a host of other considerations practiced (and modeled) at home will go a long way to giving your child every advantage in life. People respond favorably to a child with great manners.
Fifth, practice independence. Independence is the ability to be self-governing and that comes from making choices, living with the consequences and having responsibilities. As often as possible give your children choices. “What do you want for breakfast, cereal or eggs?” “Do you want two spoonfuls of carrots or one?” (Don’t offer choices where there are no choices. “Do you want carrots? They say no and you serve them anyway.) Give your children chores they can accomplish – making their beds, putting dirty clothes in the laundry, dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Chores build responsibility; responsibility builds independence; independence builds confidence.
Sixth, give them the gift of time. Give them time to accomplish their chores. Give them time to be children. Give them time to breathe. Give them your time.
Seventh, practice humility. They have a lot to learn from you. What is easy for you as an adult is mystifying and beyond challenge for them. Let your words be seasoned with grace. Look for the good in what they do. Their motives are often pure; their actions imperfect. Yet, we have a lot to learn from them also. And when you are wrong (when, not if) practice the humility of saying, “Please forgive me.” It will not destroy your authority or their respect for you. It will teach them one of the great lessons of life – when you fail, whether it’s in a relationship, school, career or life – own the failure and start over again – to succeed another day.
Becoming a Montessori parent is to become the best parent you can be.
Lunchtime for Toddlers Featured
MCS Parent Testimonial Featured
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.
Many of the skills that are essential to function as happy, passionate, and contributing members of our society, do not come naturally and take years to master. Entire books have been written and read by adults on how to acquire the skills to be effective members of the society. I think about, organizational skills, a sense of order, the capability to work independently, research, thinking and analyzing, leading meetings & debates, conflict resolution, listening skills, mindfulness, staying connected with your passions, goal setting. At MCS, my children have been learning and integrating these skills starting in early childhood. The process is so natural that they do not even realize it. When leaving on a camping trip, I can always count on Elise to make the checklist and organize the trip. She started planning all our camping trips in 3rd grade! In upper elementary she was able to successfully lead a group discussion with parents, make sure everyone had a chance to express their opinions, and keep the conversation going during silent moments. She has always followed her passions and inner voice, a quality I attribute to the school environment where children always have a choice within a well- prepared environment. She knows how to bring order and re-organize living and work spaces. She even enjoys it, as that is the kind of environment she has always known at home and at school. As a middle school student today, she helps my husband come up with solutions to problems that arise in the daily management of our business. Thinking things through is something they have always done at school.
My son started MCS only in Kindergarten. It took him a long time to feel safe in a larger group. His teachers were well aware that he needed to observe his environment first, before he could start working on reading and writing skills. As he was not subjected to testing, he never felt behind. Today at 9 years old, he is a confident reader and does not want to put his reading book down at night.
Annabelle, my 6 year old loves art. Half of her time at home is spent doing art project. It has been wonderful for her to continue doing art project at school and still work on her reading skills. Because the Montessori materials are so unique and adaptable to the individual needs of each child, the teachers guide her to art projects that integrate reading and writing skills.
She also loves to do everything by herself and is convinced that is how she learned reading and writing. I love that in the Montessori method. From an early age on the children are empowered by learning independently, through well-adapted and beautiful materials, with little guidance from the teachers. They are confident that the knowledge of the world is at their fingertips.
-Marie Bosteels 2013, current MCS Parent
Life Can Be Messy... Featured
Nature Education Featured
Montessori and the Universe Featured
An Early Child student is read to by a Lower Elementary student.
“If salvation and help are to come, it is from the child, for the child is the constructor of man and so of society. The child is endowed with an inner power which can guide us to a more enlightened future.”
– Maria Montessori
Service-Learning is built into a Montessori Education’s curriculum starting at the toddler age through adolescence. As per the National Service-Learning Partnership, Service-Learning is defined as a teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies or other type of intentional learning activity.
Montessori Community School starts this education with a simple question, “How may I help?” This simple question plants a seed within children early on in the toddler years. There, it is nurtured, and cultivated. As the years go by, this seed continues to grow. Soon a sensitivity of self-awareness and self-reflection emerge. Not only do students begin to recognize and develop their personal talents, abilities, and interests but they are also able use them to meet the needs of others.
This academic understanding takes deeper root through our literature and writing curriculum, class meetings, informal and formal class discussions, and day-to-day interactions. Concepts such as empathy begin to intertwine and connect with not just, “How may I help?” but, “How do I recognize when another person’s fundamental needs are not being met, and how may I be of service?”
Montessori Service-Learning Education fosters respect for others, inspires children to build positive relationships and make contributions to the local community, and to the world. Emphasis is placed on taking care of the environment, self, and others.
MCS Enjoys the Warming Weather! Featured
"It is also necessary for his physical development to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the directly educating forces of living nature."
With the weather improving, what could be better than moving some daily learning into the outdoors? Maria Montessori was a real advocate for the learning experiences that take place outdoors. She emphasized the outdoor environment being an extension of the classroom. Our teachers are so fabulous at encouraging and helping our students to enjoy explore, learn, and love the outdoors.
"I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life."
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Author, Poet, Nobel Laureate, Montessori Student
Dear Montessori Community School:
The Montessori Foundation works tirelessly to promote the idea that education should be joyful, not a race to nowhere. The proof can be seen in Montessori classrooms, and in our Montessori graduates. Their success and satisfaction in their lives speaks volumes.
Since 1992, The Montessori Foundation has worked tirelessly to...
Every year the Montessori Foundation participates in the 24-Hour Giving Partner Challenge.
We only have one hour to go in this year's 24 Hour Giving Challenge. Families and friends around the world are lending their support to the schools, museums, theaters, and other organizations that have meant so much in their lives.
We need your help. Please join me in making an enthusiastic donation to The Montessori Foundation.
Your contribution will support:
Invite your friends, family, colleagues and co-workers to contribute $25 or more to the Giving Challenge. Donating to the Challenge is quick, simple, and makes a real impact.
Whether your gift is $25 or $25,000, every gift counts towards our ability to improve the lives of children.
The Montessori Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, and your gift will be tax deductible to the full extent provided by the law.
The Giving Challenge is supported by these great organizations:
Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Charlotte Community Foundation.
But it is a myth as far as Montessori education is concerned. Traditionally, a low student–teacher ratio is desired if you are trying to make everyone do the same thing at the same time. (It is a lot like herding cats – the less you have, the easier it might be to perform.) Ratios aren’t critical in Montessori for three reasons.
- In Montessori education you do not teach classes (numbers) you teach children (individuals.)
- The goal in the classroom is not just to teach the material but to facilitate the child’s ability to learn on her own – which in effect makes the learning one on one.
- And because of the nature of the classroom where children are encouraged to help each other – the five year olds teach the four year olds and the fours teach the threes – you literally have more teachers than students.
Parents wonder still – “If there were fewer students wouldn’t my child get more attention from the teacher?” Interestingly, it is not just the amount of time your child needs but the amount of focused time (time spent directly on your child’s priorities and needs) that effectively contributes to her learning.
A Montessori teacher can be compared to a juggler who spins plates on a stick. She will begin spinning the first plate, then the second, third and fourth. She might go back and give the first plate a spin before she spins the fifth and sixth. She might then spin the second plate – and that first plate might need another spin before she gets the seventh plate rotating. Likewise, the teacher notes each of her students and what it takes to power up the learning gyroscope in each child – so the child can keep the learning plates spinning on her own. A low ratio is good if you are driving the learning – not as consequential if you are leading it.
Now, because the teacher doesn’t spend all of her time driving the learning, she has time to study each child(read more about observation here): to study her needs, her skills, her aptitudes and personality. All the ratios in the world are meaningless – unless you know your student.
Ironically, there are many advantages of not having a low student–teacher ratio in the classroom.
- Children aren’t smothered by attention. They are given the opportunity to breathe and explore. The teacher does not feel compelled to guide and fill their every moment.
- Because the teacher does not dominate the society, the classroom becomes a community of interaction and learning. Cooperation is a virtue (instead of “Go back to your seat and mind your own business.”)
- With the adult not hovering and micromanaging, the child is free to develop initiative. This initiative creates the fantastic learning that comes out of a Montessori classroom (which a teacher would be hard pressed to produce in a traditional setting.)
- The child develops a personal sense of responsibility over the learning she has initiated.
- The child develops the ability to make meaningful choices – instead of just following directions.
- The power to choose wisely is a growing marker of maturity.
- Real choice making needs the opportunity to make mistakes, to correct them, to recover from them and to learn from them. (That is hard to do when someone is hurrying you along to get to the next lesson.)
- All of this allows the student to build confidence in herself. When the student assumes responsibility for the learning she begins to build confidence in her ability to navigate in the world as it is being opened to her through the classroom, the classroom community and the world of knowledge.
Montessori teachers have to train themselves in the art of not interfering with the internal learning process of the student. They have to train themselves to observe the child, to know how the child learns and how to allow the child to learn.
Ultimately, they have to learn how to help the child learn for herself – which is always one on one.
Article by Edward Fidellow
In Celebration of Earth Day Featured
MCS would like to wish our community a Happy Earth Day. What a lovely opportunity to celebrate the beauty of our miraculous earth. Montessori is known as a method that advocates environmental education and invites children to become stewards of the earth. Maria Montessori herself said that "children are inspired with a feeling for nature" and believed that nature plays a most important role in the development of the whole child.
Unconstructed play and exploration in nature foster creativity and independence. Students learn the value in community and their interconnectedness as they begin to recognize and care for living things. Richard Louv, author of 'Lost Child in the Woods' and proponent of the need for nature in education noted, “multisensory experiences in nature help to build the cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development.“ At present, electronics have an overwhelming presence in society and in the development of the child. Research indicates that this presence has the ability to hinder children's overall development. So what do they need to counter all this visual stimulation? Outdoor experience! Time and effort in nature gives children the opportunity to experiment with cause and effect and avoidance of immediate gratification, which they experience so frequently with electronics.
One of the most unique principles of Montessori programs is the Cosmic Curriculum, an overall Montessori approach to education that involves helping children develop an awareness that everything in the universe is connected and interdependent and forms a harmonious whole and that they themselves are part of and contribute to that whole. The Cosmic Curriculum lends itself to exploration and appreciation of nature. Environmental education is a curriculum that encourages children to explore the wonders of nature; including botany, zoology, preservation of the earth, and other scientific concepts that are present in Montessori such as the study of the earth, water, weather and the universe as a whole. These subjects come alive with hands-on experience.
And so, in honor of this world wide celebration, we offer thanks to Maria Montessori and all those who join us in bettering our children's future as we share insights to miracles of the universe through education of the child.
“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them in cupboards.” Maria Montessori
Read more about our environmental education here.
The Magic of Observation Featured
Most Montessorians will agree that beneath many layers the most basic element continues to exist. This simple concept that gives heed to the needs of the child is that of observation.
"The Montessori Method continues to serve children well because it is based on the scientific observation of individual children....The lessons, the materials, that careful order of presentation, work because, and only because, they respond to the observed needs of the individual child. Montessori requires consistent and objective research into the conditions of each child. Montessorians often seek peace first and precision later. But it is through the specificity of unbiased observation that our compassion emerges for each child we serve. It is by understanding the needs of each child, as a unique and concrete individual, that we see his humanity."
Catherine McTamaney, The Tao of Montessori.
Montessori teachers are carefully trained in the skill of observation. Preparation of the environment, lesson plans, and daily scheduling are all reliant on their precise understanding of the needs of the children, which comes through observation. Through observation they gain the full picture and see any outlying factors that might affect a students learning patterns or behavior. Once a new concept is presented and practiced by a child, the adult is responsible to watch the child and ask "does the child do what they have been taught to do?" Again, this can apply to their practice of the materials and concepts in the classroom but is also applicable to behavior, social interactions, etc. Montessori teachers are also taught to think twice before interfering with anything a child is doing. Is the action purposeful and intentional? Is anyone or anything being harmed? Is their opportunity for growth?
In addition to the careful observation of the Montessori teacher, we encourage observation by the child in a Montessori environment. Through observation, children learn more than one way of doing things. They also learn the important and essential skill of patience. Children are encouraged to stop and think. As they learn to observe, they give themselves time to evaluate and think of outcomes. Observation is a beautiful skill for our young people as it allows them the ability to see the perspectives of others and the recognition that there can be more than one way. It supports the idea that we teach children to learn to think and love to learn.
One of the great attributes of success is confidence. While success breeds confidence, confidence also breeds success. However, there are no real courses on success, no seven easy steps, no magic potions, so how do we help our children build this important component into their lives?
The first level of building confidence is the ability to finish a project. In Montessori you introduce activities that are reasonable for the child to achieve. Second, you then give the child the time to achieve. Third, the project has to have value; it has to be worthwhile. (Learning to tie your shoes for a young child meets this need.) For confidence to build the project also has to have an element of real challenge – not one that can be accomplished in a moment or a day – learning to read fills this bill. Real confidence has to take you through all kinds of situations for which you are not prepared – which is pretty much a definition of life.
A Montessori classroom offers a child the ability to work at a problem (and the one that follows that etc) for a long time, while making mistakes (and not being devastated by them) and working your way to a satisfactory conclusion. Confidence just doesn’t come from finishing but by surmounting the problems that prevent you from reaching an easy victory. Confidence comes amidst the obstacles, the problems and the difficulties.
As parents, we don’t want our children to struggle so we often short circuit the confidence process by doing the heavy lifting or rescuing our children. We often don’t hear the child’s inaudible cry, “Help me do it myself.” Dr. Montessori heard it and developed a whole environment to make it possible for them to do it themselves.
Confidence also comes and is aided by people who tell you that you can, instead of telling you that you can’t. The seeds of confidence are tiny and are watered by small words, small deeds and small accomplishments. A Montessori environment opens to your child not only the realm of the possible but the realm of the impossible. When you are three or four years old so many things seem impossible – math, riding a two wheeler, jumping rope. Ironically, as you grow the list of the impossible grows along with you because now there are so many more things you never even know about that seem to go on the impossible list.
This is where real confidence begins its ascent of the mountains of impossibility. Everyday in a Montessori classroom where your child has a plan of activity, works through mistakes, takes one bite at a time of the problems, is being encouraged and works at the challenge again and again is laying the bedrock for a lifetime of confidence.
Confidence is like the ancient story of the shepherd boy David who said, “I killed the bear and the lion, this Goliath (of a problem, a challenge an impossibility) will be no different. Confidence – been there, done that – bring it on!
by: Edward Fidellow
by Edward Fidellow
It is amazing to observe the breadth of accomplishment that a Montessori environment fosters. Courage is not traditionally thought of as an educational outcome but then again Montessori is not traditional. For children, courage is the ability to try new things even if I am afraid. And as they mature courage becomes the ability to do what is right and to do what is good.
For a child everything is new. That is the reality of childhood. The awesome task and purpose of childhood is to create the adult. Life takes courage to navigate and to become a fully functioning independent adult. And it is this kind of courage that must be nurtured and practiced for it to become a practical virtue.
We tend to identify courage with physical courage – running into a burning building, pulling people out of rivers etc. However, real life every day common courage demonstrates itself in intellectual, emotional and spiritual settings. The courage to do what is right, to do what is good for others, to use our gifts, talents and opportunities well and wisely is the kind of courage practiced and displayed in a Montessori environment.
We well understand that the opposite of courage is fear. But for a child fear doesn’t yet have a definition. It is represented by an indistinct but palpable feeling of unease. For a child fear is “defined” by the unknown, the unfamiliar. (That is why Montessori children love and are so at home in their environments because of its constant sameness and familiarity.)
For the child conscious fear starts from the unknown – the dog, the dark, strangers and then becomes attached to the inability (and frustration) of not being able to handle and control the environment – bringing it back to sameness. (Perfectionist children come to this earlier than others.) Then this fear attaches itself to the perceived rejection that comes from disapproval. The child, unconsciously thinks, that if I only do what is absolutely safe or what receives guaranteed adult approval I don’t have any reason to fear or face disapproval.
One of the hardest concepts for a new Montessori teacher to understand (and embrace) is that of not correcting children in the middle of their work. (This is particularly difficult for perfectionists and controllers.) Unless the child is damaging the material or endangering others or himself or being rude you let them continue. There are two outcomes to not correcting the child in the midst of the work. One, the child discovers his own mistake and corrects it which produces a sense of accomplishment and control. The second outcome is far more subtle. Because you are not corrected at every turn, you do not freeze up; you do not constantly look over your shoulder; you are not waiting for the next shoe to drop. You gain breathing room to make mistakes – that’s how we learn. In this way mistakes do not become the end of the universe or the world as we know it. The child is willing to try something new (which is an act of courage) without being weighed down with the fear of failure or reproof.
Not being corrected (all of the time) is the strange and unique Montessori training ground for courage. In trying something new the child gets to practice courage every day. Eventually, the child becomes use to trying new things without the overpowering fear of failure. The child learns to work his way through mistakes which becomes a normal part of life and the learning process – which is a significant part of adult life.
Life requires courage to live fully. The Montessori classroom provides daily opportunities to develop and practice courage.