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Making Peace November 15, 2015

I love the concept of peace being an active process.  It is something we can make, and we can actively model how to do that so the children in our classrooms can work together to achieve a peaceful community.  Learning how to resolve conflicts and coexist peacefully may be some of the most important skills our children can acquire.  It is important to remember that like any other skill, children need time to practice in a safe environment, and that with practice, the skill gets easier and more automatic.  The more we ride a bike, the easier it gets, and the less we need to consciously work on balance.  The same is true of using conflict resolution skills and making peace ~ the more we practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.

Montessori education uses various tools to help children practice making peace.

With babies and toddlers, the focus is on establishing a peaceful and loving environment, in supporting their emotional and social development, and in developing strong and trusting relationships.  This allows our youngest children to develop a positive and trusting attitude.

In the children’s house, the peace rose is an aid to helping children take turns using their words to solve a problem.  When you hold the peace rose, it is your turn to talk and the other child’s turn to listen.  We model how to use this format:  I feel ____________ when _________________ because ______________ and I would like ______________________.  “I feel hurt when you run away from me on the playground because I feel left out and I would like you to let me play in your games.”  “I feel mad when you knock down my tower because it took me a long time to build and I would like you to respect my work.”  The rose is then passed to the other child.  “I want to play with lots of friends.  I don’t like it when you want to play with only me.  I want to play with you, but I want to play with my other friends, too.”  “I am sorry.  I won’t knock down your tower again.”  This process encourages active listening, and active problem solving using words.  This is so much better than hitting, calling names, pouting, sulking, or throwing a tantrum.

At the elementary level, the children participate in classroom meetings, focused on acknowledging the contributions of one another to the classroom community, and then engaging in group problem solving.  The older children can run the classroom meetings, gaining practice in leadership skills, too.  Problems discussed might include children not reshelving their books in the library area, hogging materials for a long time so no-one else can use them, being too loud and preventing other children from concentrating, leaving children out during playground games . . .  The children may keep a peace journal to record their own and others contributions to the peace of the classroom community.  This is a beautiful way to help children become aware of peace being an ongoing process, needing careful tending.

What I love about these peacemaking activities is the focus on being open to discussing problems and actively working together to find solutions.  We could all learn from our children.  They are so generous in accepting an apology, in owning up to a mistake and saying sorry.

Our children are the hope of our future.  Let’s help them grow in tolerance and acceptance.  Let’s help them grow to be leaders in making peace.  That’s what our world needs!

Photos below:  Peace journal, a step by step guide to making peace for the elementary aged child, children successfully solving a problem about sharing building materials (Just look at their happy faces – this was a win/win problem solving session), the peace rose in action in the classroom.

IMG_2254IMG_2253making peace 1peace rose 2


I love drama! November 4, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 8:32 pm
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Drama can be different to theatre.  I think of drama as being more spontaneous, and an audience is not necessary. While telling a story, you can simply invite the children to act out the story with you and join in with the words they know.  Young children can pretend to be each of the three bears in the Goldilocks story, and show with their hands how big their bowls are, and then pretend to be Goldilocks and show with their faces and words what Goldilocks thought of each bowl of porridge.  Even the shyest child might pluck up the courage to join in when everyone is participating, and so it feels like no-one is watching.  Next week, in preparation for our Thanksgiving International Feast, I will tell the story of ‘Stone Soup’ and invite the children to participate in the story.  I’ll play the part of the hungry traveler, and the children will be the villagers who had to be taught that when we share what we have with others, we can all benefit.  The traveller will add a magic stone into the soup pot to make stone soup, and then say something like, “Oh this will be delicious, but would be even better if we added some carrots.  Who could add some carrots to the soup?”  For sure, one of the children will jump in with, “I can” and so on, until we have a pot full of vegetables ready to cook for soup.  Children feel free to improvise and add their own suggestions and details.  “Can Nolan be the village chief?”, one child suggested.  Nolan was the oldest child in the class, and gladly accepted the role of elder statesman of the village!  “Can we invite another village to share our soup?”

Recently I spent some time with the lower elementary class polishing up a few improvised plays to perform for their parents and the younger students.  The children worked cooperatively to select roles, make suggestions , such as adding musical sound effects and making masks, and to practice skills such as speaking loudly and clearly, and using their bodies and faces to show emotion.  Every child in the class participated willingly and with great enthusiasm.  Putting on a play is just so much fun!

Drama is one of my passions, so I share my interest willingly with the children I work with.  When you share what you are passionate about with children, you give them a gift.  You are sharing your time, talent and energy.  We invite our parents to share their passions with our children.  Music, cooking, sewing, gardening, art, writing, poetry, fossil hunting, geology, scrapbooking, woodworking

halloween play 11990590_10153667062071774_3714091300891171861_n 12063650_10153667063526774_3396278032943775584_n 12193332_10153667064181774_1773576328261281601_n 12191676_10153667064706774_5429518333248574964_n . . . so many possibilities for enriching the lives of children!

I have included the photos to show how casual the performances can be, but just take a look at the focus of the little children in the audience.  They were totally engaged in watching the spooky Halloween stories unfold.


Visiting Childpeace Montessori School, Portland, Oregon November 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:18 pm

 Whenever I get the opportunity, such as through travel, I always try to observe in a Montessori School.  This is especially important when you live in an area that is rural and away from large population centers.  Montessori education in our area is growing ~ big shout out to the Montessori School of Pullman, Children’s House (Lewiston), White Pine (Moscow) and Blue Willow (Moscow).  However, it is still a thrill to visit a city like Portland, with a Montessori training college, and over forty Montessori schools!  I chose to observe in Childpeace Montessori School because I visited this school on a tour during the Montessori International Congress in 2013 and wanted to see more.  I was impressed with how cozy and inviting the school was, while also maintaining its very urban, hip vibe.  Situated under elevated portions of the freeway, on the edge of the Pearl district, the school is surrounded by the roar of traffic and warehouses.  The school itself may be in a converted warehouse.  Externally it has a very industrial look.  Once inside, though, the use of lots of natural materials, masses of plants, both large and small, huge windows at child level, and cozy seating options, transform the space into one that is intimate and child friendly.  I observed in two toddler environments, two of the classrooms for 3 – 6 year olds, and one of the lower elementary classrooms.

There was so much I loved about this school.  The schedule impressed me.   For example, the children’s house shortest option was for a child to attend from 8:30 – 1:00, with an extended day being offered until 3:00.  The long morning (8:30 – 1:00) means that it is easy to fit in a long, uninterrupted work time, a communal lunch time and playtime outdoors, without feeling rushed.  The 1:00 – 3:00 afternoon provides time for the all day children to have another long work period.  These long work periods allow the children to really settle into their self-chosen activities.  That’s the atmosphere I felt – relaxed, settled, peaceful, unrushed.  The atmosphere matched the name of the school – childpeace!  Our school (The Montessori School of Pullman) has made changes this year to increase uninterrupted work time for the children, and I wish we could do more.  An 8:30 – 1:00 schedule would be fabulous, but I worry that this might make Montessori less affordable for some families.  I would love input from families and other schools on how they manage this.

A single blogpost can never capture all you see in a long morning of observations, so I am choosing to focus on ‘peace’.  The school signals its commitment to peace in its name.  That’s the atmosphere I experienced.  I noticed that in the children’s houses and the lower elementary classrooms, there were noise-blocking headphones available for children to use whenever needed, and indeed, I saw children using these in all of the classrooms.  The sound level in all of the rooms was quiet, but for total concentration, the headphones offered a nice option, and helped individual children find peace.  In the lower elementary classroom, I loved their peace journal.  Children and teachers could write down what they did or saw others do that contributed to the peace of the classroom.  This is such a simple, active and kid friendly way to celebrate peace and acknowledge the peacemakers.  The classroom also included a simple to follow guide to making peace, with step by step instructions for resolving conflicts.

I am excited to share the peace journal and making peace instruction booklet with the elementary teachers in our school.  Being able to peacefully resolve conflict and live peacefully are some of the highest skills we can give our children!

Many thanks to Childpeace Montessori School for a wonderful visit.