Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thoughts and Prayers

On behalf of the staff, parents and children of Discover Montessori School and Oceanside Montessori School, I send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to the families affected by the tragedy at Shady Hook Elementary School.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting ready for school

Here in Canada, the summer holidays are almost over and many Montessori families are getting ready to start school. A quick search on the internet showed  lots of tips and lists to help parents but not many of them were about Montessori schools.  Here are a few suggestions that parents might consider when preparing to send their child to a Montessori classroom for the first time.

Now is a good time to start waking up earlier to get into the "school" routine.

-  Start moving bedtime a little bit earlier every night  if summertime has allowed for a later-than-usual
    bedtime routine.

-  Help your child practice choosing an outfit the night before. If he decides the next morning that he
   doesn't want to wear that outfit, help him choose another by offering him two choices.
    (Too many choices makes for grumpiness.)

-  Set up your kitchen so your child can help make her own breakfast.  If cereal and milk are her
    usual breakfast, put the cereal in an easy to open container and the milk in a small jug. Yogourt and
    fruit?  Same thing - put them in easy-to-open containers.  Place both the food and any utensils she
    needs on low shelves so she can get her own breakfast, giving you time to do other things.

Prepare your child to be independent at school.  

-  Make sure he can get in and out of his clothes by himself without any real help from an adult.
   For example, pull-on pants with no buttons or zippers and Velcro shoes. If your child can't yet tie
   up his shoes, don't send him to school in lace ups.  Remember, your child is striving for
   independence and we can foster that by being aware of (and adjusting for) his capabilities and
   developing skills.

-  Does your child's classroom provide hooks or hangers for his outdoor clothing?  If he is expected to
    hang his clothes on a hook, provide him with a low hook at home so he can practice.  If the
    classroom uses hangers, give him a small hanger with which he can practice. (Use a low hook or a
    door knob if you don't yet have a low hanger bar.)

Make sure you know what to bring on the first day.

Many schools ask parents to bring a second set of shoes and a complete change of clothing.  If you
   haven't been told by the school what to bring, a phone call or email might be in order.
Is snack provided or does your child bring her own snack?  If she brings her own, make sure she
   can open the container by herself and without spilling.  I've written about containers in this post if 
   you'd like a bit more information. 

Separation Anxiety

-  You and your child may have sailed through the observation and tour but the actual, real, first-
   day-of-school can be anxiety riddled.  The most important thing I suggest to parents is to try not to
   show any of that anxiety to your child.  Children are sensitive to parent's emotional states and if she
   senses you are anxious, she may think there is something in this new environment to be anxious
   about. Be positive and enthusiastic about your child's first days of school.

-  Talk about what is going to happen a few times before the first day - children are less anxious if
    they have an idea what to expect.

-  Let the teacher help with the separation.  Indicate when you are ready to go so that she can hold and
   comfort your child if he is crying. Then say goodbye and LEAVE. Don’t hesitate or linger or
   come back because that will just make it more difficult for your child.
-   Don't leave without saying goodbye. The next time, your child won't trust when you are going to
    leave and can become even more anxious. Believe it or not, a solid "Goodbye.  Mummy will pick
    you up at lunchtime" is much more reassuring to a child.

-  Be prepared to do the same thing for a while.  She may have had a great time on the first day of
   school but would really rather stay home with Mummy.  Goodbye on the second, third and fourth
   days of school can be just the same as on the first.  Trust that she will settle down in a little while.
    If you are concerned, arrange to talk with the teacher after school hours.

The first days of a new school are wonderful, frightening, thrilling, and stimulating - for you and your child.  Trust that you've made the right choice and stay in touch with your child's teachers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yoga in the home.

 Once considered by many to be weird and "foreign" , Yoga is now accepted as a beneficial form of physical and mental discipline.  Many Montessori classrooms I've visited have yoga exercises as an activity and, I am pleased to say, it is an activity that is in almost constant use.

   The benefits of yoga are many - decrease in blood pressure, increased flexibility, improved hand-eye coordination -  but I am not an expert on the subject so will let you do your own research to discover those (and other) benefits.  I have observed, however, that yoga in the classroom serves many children as effectively as any of the other activities on the shelves.

In the classroom, the Yoga activity is presented by the teacher to one or two children at a time.  The materials required are just a yoga mat and a few pose cards.


Once the children have been shown how to do the yoga poses, they are welcome to unroll the mat and choose a few poses to practice when ever they want.

Yoga is easily transferred from the classroom ( or the Yoga studio) to the home and can be done by a child alone or with an adult.  I like the thought of a child having his own yoga mat and his own cards so that he can practise at whim or join in when his parents are practising.  With all that said, here are some pictures of M. at home with his yoga mat.

M. has already learned how to roll and unroll a work mat in the classroom so transferring that skill to a yoga mat is easy.

Then he takes off his shoes - just like in the classroom.

And begins to practise his poses.

Look at the joy on his face!  What a great way to get in a little activity and a lot of fun.

Thanks, M.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chores at home and their implications to academic work

For Christmas, G. received a fish tank and fish from his grandparents. He is almost 7 now and attends our elementary classroom.  His mother understands the importance of his taking care of the fish all by himself.  Care, feeding and cleaning of the tank will be his responsibility.  His mother might need to remind him now and then but she will not be doing the work herself because what would that teach G.?

In our conferences at school, we often ask parents what chores the elementary children do at home because there is a direct correlation between school work and house work.  The responsibilities that a child is given at home (chores) help to establish a sense of order and peace that the child carries into more academic work.  Chores also give the child a sense of time management, the ability to prioritize tasks, as well as general organizational skills.

I am not talking about basic things like making one's own bed, putting dirty clothes in the hamper or hanging up one's jacket when coming in from outside.  I am talking about real cores - things that need to be done around the house to keep the home clean and tidy.  These might include cleaning or folding the laundry, washing the floors, vacuuming, washing the windows (inside and outside), pulling weeds from the garden, raking leaves, or shovelling snow.

There are a couple of important thing for parents to remember, however.  NEVER redo a chore that a child has completed - no matter how much you want to and DON'T nag.  Take a page out of a Montessori teacher's album - make a mental note of how well the child did the chore  and where he may need more practice.  At a later date, show him how to do the chore again so that he has another opportunity to observe the way you complete it.

Being responsible for various chores at home makes a child feel validated in his role within the family.  That confidence and validation is brought into the classroom without it being a conscious thought.  When I am in the classroom at the end of the day, it is easy to pick out the children who routinely take care of chores at home.  These are the children who begin to clean up the classroom without any fuss or reminders and are often the children who instinctively take better care of their belongings.  Literature tells us that these are the children who, when they  begin to live away from home, know how to wash their own clothes, clean their own rooms and cook their own food as well as know how to organize their studies or work requirements more effectively and easily.