Teaching Gratitude to Children

One time when one of my boys was about four years old I found myself in a common battle trying to get him to clean take care of his belongings and clean up the toys that were scattered about his play room. I felt good about our system and knew that I was not asking him to complete a task that was outside his ability to complete.  We had cleaned the room successfully on a number of occasions. Finally, out of frustration, I told my son that if he did not clean up the toys I was going to gather them up, put them in a garbage bag, and give them to children who didn't have any toys.  I left the room and, to bolster my threat, returned seconds later with a large trash bag.  My son approached me with an armful of toys and dropped them passionately in to the open bag.  Baffled, I asked "what are you doing?"  and tearfully he replied "I didn't know there were kids without any toys."  

My heart ached.  Not that he had discovered something so disturbing to him, not that I hadn't really intended to make good on my promise, and not even that there actually are children without toys...in that moment my heart ached because I had failed to help instill in him a sense of interconnectedness among our society.  I had a hard moment of realization that this little person was so willing to give of himself and of his most prized possessions and I had not yet given him the opportunity.  Our young children, at their most vulnerable and impressionable development deserve to practice, recognize and express gratitude. Before they are swept away in a growing world of immediate gratification, online shopping, and disconnected communication we should be giving our children true practice with the gift of gratitude. 

Gratitude is a conscious process.  One that takes practice, patience, and a deep consciousness that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Gratitude is scientifically proven to make people more happy. Research from the Greater Good Science Center tells us that "gratitude actually blocks toxic emotions even as it allows us to celebrate the present. What’s more, grateful people are more stress-resistant and have a higher sense of self-worth." Who doesn't want that for their children?  Gosh, who doesn't want that for themselves?

So, how do we teach our children gratitude?  

  • Gratitude, as a character trait, must first be instilled through your children's most influential role model - YOU. Model gratitude for your child.  Express gratitude in their presence regularly.  Recognize that any amount of gratitude can not co-exist in an environment of annoyance or criticism.  Saturate your environment in gratitude and, even in times of irritation or misdeed, seek out the good and say, out loud, that which you are grateful for. 
  • Give children opportunities to participate, make decisions, and develop awareness of the many tasks and responsibilities surrounding them.  Do not allow your children to think that laundry, dishes, dinner, new purchases, etc. go without a certain amount of preparation and follow through.  Share those tasks, involve children in the process, and let them see (and participate in) the complete cycle.
  • Write thank you notes. When your child, or your family, receive a gift or are otherwise cared for, express written gratitude. These notes do not have to be perfect but the effort that goes in to expressing written gratitude is developmentally effective in teaching a lifelong skill of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Teach your child that immediate gratification is a delusion. Example - teach that the vegetables or bread we eat comes from seeds planted, nurtured, watered, harvested, packaged, transported and sold by store keepers and involved many, many people who work hard to put food on our tables. Saying Grace helps us remember to be grateful to all who contribute to our well being. 
  • Spend leisure time doing things that do not involve spending money or result in "stuff."  Teach the satisfaction that comes in accomplishing goals, laughter, fresh air, conversation, story telling, painting, singing, playing instruments, drawing and physical movement.
  • Talk often and honestly about feelings. Share gratitude but also share other emotions.  If your child is sad, validate their feelings of sadness.  If your child is happy, give validation.  Teach them language around feelings and reflect on outcomes.  We have a tendency to talk about feelings or situations "in the moment" but revisiting past events, talking about outcomes, and finding the good that comes from each scenario are hugely powerful in teaching resiliency and, you guessed it, gratitude!

May this Thanksgiving offer you many opportunities to experience gratitude.  May you be enveloped in peace, laughter, friendship and love. 


MCS Halloween Carnival 2015

MCS would like to extend our deepest gratitude to all of the parents, grandparents and other community members who worked together to make our Halloween Carnival such a smashing success.  Thank you to those who came out to play and enjoy this great event with all of us. And, congratulations to the Uinta class on the success of their first Spook Alley.

An Early Childhood Aspens class student smiles for the camera.

As always, the reptiles and other creatures were a huge draw, exciting children and adults all throughout the night. 

Two families with students in the Magnolias class enjoy the trunk-or-treat in the parking lot. 

This Early Childhood student had a great time showing off her wings all night. 

We had a great time watching the magician.

Hey Chris!

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


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].

Uinta's May Outdoor Adventure

Early this month the Uinta class (Upper Elementary, 9-12 year olds) embarked on a great adventure to Fremont Indian State Park as part of their Great Outdoors Expedition.  The students have spent time in the classroom studying the Fremont Indians and on GO they have given attention to human interaction with nature and so this was a great way to culminate their studies as they walked the trails and read the stories of the Fremont Indians while eating and sleeping in the out of doors. Students, teachers and parent chaperones worked together to create a comfortable camp space and prepare delicious meals to be shared.  


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Montessori Madness - Trevor Eissler

Montessori education is unique, untraditional, and gaining popularity across not only the state of Utah but the entire country.  During parent interviews we often ask parents "What are your hopes and dreams for your child?" and the following is among the list of heartfelt responses that we often receive:

  • To develop leadership skills
  • To develop self-discipline
  • To develop a sense of personal responsibility
  • To develop independence
  • To develop initiative
  • To discover their passions
  • To develop a lifetime love of learing
  • To build a strong academic foundation

Classrooms at Montessori Community School offer all that and more as we strive to follow each individual child, carefully prepare an environment that supports each of these goals, and work as a community in the best interest of each individual.  

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Praise and Punishment

"Eventually we gave up either punishing or rewarding the children."
—Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

It's a new year and many of us make resolutions. As parents, in spite of our best intentions, we sometimes get stuck in patterns that are no longer working or may not be the most beneficial for our children. What are some new ways to deal with the normal day-to-day challenges of being a parent?

Re-Thinking Some Common Practices

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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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Raising Your Successful 35-Year-Old: Motherlode, New York Times


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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


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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MCS' Annual Kid's Clothing Swap



Spring cleaning? It's that time again to bring in all of your children's gently used clothing that is too small, or unworn and swap it for something that fits. Please drop off your gently used items in the bins located in the MCS gymnasium. You may drop off items March 16th - March 20th. 

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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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Silent Journey & Discovery 2015 - With Thanks

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Admissions Information Meeting - Open to the public

What: Admissions Information Meeting

When: Thursday, January 15th from 6:30 - 8:00pm

Where: Montessori Community School

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Winter Camp 2014

This year's Winter Camp has been themed around a Winter Wonderland. Students have had many creative arts and craft activities. One of the favorites was the Snowy Owl Pinecones pictured above.

Students also got the chance to play outside with their friends. Blowing bubbles in the snow made for a great learning activity. The students loved chasing, popping, and watching the bubbles float to land on the snow- Would the bubbles freeze, or not?
Also, learning about some of Winter's greatest wonders and works of art, the Northern Lights, students created their own beautiful art using the aurora borealis as inspiration.

TGR “Almost Ablaze” Flood Fundraiser Movie Event

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” --Margaret Mead


When Annie Guerrero, mother of an MCS Upper Elementary student, came to us in October and presented her idea to screen an extreme skiing movie in order to raise funds to offset the losses from the flood, we loved her suggestion but had no idea where to begin. We were busy moving the classrooms, settling them in, communicating with parents; Robyn, the Head of School, was knee deep in choosing new tiles and cabinets, carpets, and baseboards. Fortunately, without much help from us Annie took her idea and saw it through every step of the way until it was realized on Wednesday, December 3.

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MCS Celebrates Dia de los Muertos

Montessori Community School is celebrating Dia de los Muertos this week by creating beautiful candy skulls, key chains, and other festive artwork. We have three altars set up in our lobby to celebrate the lives of people we love and admire.
Dia de los Muertos assures that the dead not be insulted by mourning or sadness. Instead, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and actifities the dead enjoyed in life. The holiday recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community.  On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share in the celebrations with their families and loved ones. 
We give a special thank you to all those involved in our Spanish program and for the wonderful job they do in teaching, sharing, and enriching our lives with such a beautiful language and culture. 

Upcoming COEEF Event

Montessori Community School has been raising money for the COEEF and have supported several girls in the program for over 10 years.  We are currently supporting seven young girls.  It is a pleasure to share this opportunity to further support the COEEF program with our MCS community.

Things are coming together nicely here

Hello MCS Families,

Things are coming together nicely here at the school. We are still working out some details but are really looking forward to the students return on Monday. Again, we can not express enough our appreciation for all of the offers to assist. And, we want you to know that the teachers at the school have worked tirelessly to prepare temporary classrooms, to support one another, and to keep the energy positive and uplifting. Our teachers are amazing!

  • We are looking for an old washer and dryer that can be used to clean our mops and some carpets that were submerged in water. Please contact the office if you are getting rid of any old machines that the school could use temporarily.
  • Thank you to all who attended Parent Teacher Conference last week. We were so excited to launch our online record keeping system, Compass, which will allow you to get activity reports about your child's school experience. However, with all that has happened with the flood and the temporary displacement of classrooms and students we have decided to put a temporary hold on the activity reports. Thank you for your patience. As mentioned previously, every one of our classrooms are being effected in some way and we feel it is most important that the teachers energy be placed on providing structure and support to the students. Thank you for your understanding.
  • The Silent Journey is postponed until further notice.
  • We anticipate that the Halloween Carnival will still happen and more details about it will be available Monday.

Enjoy the remainder of your unexpected break in this most beautiful fall weather.

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Trying to keep more mess out of their classroom

Margaret and Laura trying to keep more mess out of their beloved Uinta classroom!
Ruby has been a most wonderful photographer and documenter!
Brandi feeling overjoyed about the set up of the temporary Lower El classroom at the church.
Laura in the new Uinta and Arches space.  
Joshi displays some of the Arches work that survived the flood.
Look at the beautiful mural in the background! Bonnie has been hard at work. 
An energetic and helpful MCS student cheers for the churches offer of space. 
Kay and Lorena setting up the Magnolias temporary classroom in the Toddler Moons space.
Kate and Cinthya hard at working helping their fellow teachers set up and clean up. 
Dear MCS Families and Interested Community Members,
WOW!  The outpouring of love and concern is truly incredible. A huge thank you to our enthusiastic staff who have assisted in the clean up, transport, and set up of new classroom space.  We are very excited to get back to it on Monday.  We miss the children very much.  
As you can see from the photos above, we are making a lot of progress here at the school.  The teachers are working harder than ever and their love of the students is evident in their care and attention to setting up the classrooms. The teachers will be sending detailed emails so that you know what to expect for Monday. Thank you for your patience as we prepare. 
A few recent updates:
  • The road is still not fixed at the school's entrance.  We are hopeful that it will be fixed by the weekend.
  • At this time the building has no heat. (We are grateful for the warm weather!) We hope to have a temporary boiler in place by Monday. It will be a smaller unit that will heat our upstairs.  We will have to purchase a new boiler and hope that the transition will be as unobtrusive as possible.  We have some temporary heaters to supplement the heat from this smaller unit until the new boiler is in place. 
  •  We are working on a list for volunteer opportunities.  So many of you have been so generous with your offers to help.  Up to this point we have not known areas where you can assist.  However, we anticipate that we will need assistance in the future.  Once we have created this list we will share it with you.  
With thanks,
MCS Administration


Dear MCS Parents,
We wanted to share a quick update about how things are progressing here at the school.  Most of the staff have been here cleaning, taking inventory of damaged or ruined materials, and moving materials in preparation for Monday.  There is a lot of cleaning to do still before the materials can be taken to the church (our official temporary location) and the classrooms there prepared.  
Thank you again to all who have offered to come to the school to help.  There are already a lot of staff who are here trying to work around the cleaning staff so we do not feel we can direct many more hands.  Thank you for the kind offers. We have been informed that there are families who are still looking for child care for their children.  If you are willing to help in this capacity please let us know and we will try to get you in touch with families who are still searching for child care.  
The following updates might be helpful:
  • We've had another confirmation that we are not dealing with sewage or pesticide contaminants. There are no microbial issues and the water does not pose any health risk.  The water that flooded the school contained soil, dirt, bark, etc. but the word "contamination" in this sense simply means the items are dirty.  
  • We are still waiting for information about the boiler repairs. There is nothing new to report and the boiler is not currently working.
  • Our power has been restored. (YAY! Light has been very helpful.)
  • The road outside the school is torn up and is closed at both ends of the block.  We are hopeful that they will lay new asphalt on Thursday or Friday and the road should open over the weekend.
Keep checking Facebook, the website, and email for updates.  
Many people have asked how they can make financial contributions.  If you would like to make a donation please go to our website (www.mcsslc.com) and visit "Flood Relief Fund."