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Looking forward to the kindergarten year March 9, 2013

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The Three Year Cycle

Now is the time that parents make plans for their children who are five, and about to enter the kindergarten year.  I always hope that our parents will consider including the Montessori School of Pullman into their plans for their children’s future.

The three year cycle is so important to a Montessori program.  Children aged 3 – 6 work together in an environment prepared especially for them by their teachers, according to the Montessori philosophy.  Each year, about a third of the students graduate out of the program, and we accept new students to join in the community, beginning in August, or even earlier, in summer school.

What is so special about this third year?  Well, your child’s teacher knows your child and family so well.  The teacher has watched your child grow and develop, knows your child’s interests, strengths and challenges.  The teacher is well prepared to guide your child to make great academic and social strides during this year.  During this third year, with help and encouragement from the teacher, the third year students take their rightful place as classroom leaders.

Whenever I am observing the children working together, some of my favorite moments are seeing one of our oldest students interacting with one of our younger students.  It may be showing a lesson, helping a younger child complete a work, reading to a younger child, helping a younger child get ready for outside play, or something as simple as giving a gentle reminder to use a Kleenex or a napkin.

Our third year students develop excellent self esteem, leadership skills and empathy from this third year.  That’s a positive outcome of the three year cycle.  If all of the children are the same age, it is difficult for every child to be a leader.  With different ages, all of our older children have at least one child who looks up to them.  I remember hearing one of our three year olds tell a kindergartener, “When I get big, I want to be just like you.”  The child receiving this compliment visibly grew and shone before my eyes!

At the Montessori School of Pullman we are lucky to have so many options for the five year olds.  Some five year olds come to Montessori alone, either for a half or full day, and then will go directly into first grade.  Other five year olds are dual enrolled in our school and the Pullman School District.  They come to us either in the morning or afternoon, and spend the other part of their day in the Public School Kindergartens.  A school bus transports  the children between the two schools.  Several parents have commented that they really like the dual enrollment.  Their children have the support of the familiar as they transition into the public school system.  Of course, several parents each year also express their hope for a Montessori elementary in the future.

Parent-teacher conferences are coming soon at our school, and I suspect, in many preschools around the country.  Your child’s teacher can be an excellent resource for talking through this important decision.  The teacher can help you answer questions such as: Is my child ready for kindergarten?  How can I help my child make the transition?  What are the options available in my child’s community?

DSCN2681I remember seeing the exact moment a set of parents made the decision to enroll their daughter into our school.  A younger child was watching an older child build a challenging design.  The older child whispered something to the younger child, and the younger child literally jumped for joy.  The older child had invited the younger child to join in the work.  The parents turned to me and said, “I want my child to be like that young child, so excited, and I also want my child to be that big kid, so kind and accepting of a younger child.  He really made that young kid’s day!”

With the three year cycle, your child can experience it all, from looking up to the big kids . . . to being one of the big kids!

In this photo, one of our older students leads circle time songs and activities.

Above photo – Academic success with the moveable alphabet for reading and writing.

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An Afternoon in the Life of a Montessori Child October 26, 2012

I recently spent a couple of afternoons just watching the children work in the classroom.  I kept notes of the different activities chosen by each child, the games they played on the playground, who they played with, who they ate snack with, and so on.  I took lots of photos, too, candid snaps of children building, painting, writing, looking at books, working a puzzle – no cheesy grinning at the camera shots!  I’ve used these notes to write ‘an afternoon in the life of’ each child.  I plan to give each parent a write up of an afternoon in the life of his or her child, together with a collage of photos, so that the parents can experience a typical afternoon at the Montessori School of Pullman, through the activities of their own children.

I saw some really impressive work – painting maps, drawing flags from countries around the world, journal writing, math counting work – but what impressed and touched me most was seeing the quiet leadership of some of our older children.

One girl, who has been at our school since before she was three, is now in kindergarten.  She’s a younger sister in her family, but at our school she is like the older sister to the younger children.  She offered a box of Kleenex twice to a younger child.

“Take a Kleenex and wipe your nose.  Now put the Kleenex in the trash and wash your hands.”

She also helped a younger child engage in a new building activity.

This kindergarten child helps the class run smoothly by taking care of the younger children in a quiet, thoughtful way.  She has grown enormously in confidence, competence, empathy and leadership since she was one of the younger children.

Another child, also in kindergarten, and also a younger child at home, helped several times during the afternoon.  He helped some of the younger children find the sandpaper letters they were looking for.  He helped one of his peers put away an enormous piece of writing with the cursive moveable alphabet.  He helped without any fuss or showing off or need for reward.  He helped simply because he could.

A parent pointed out to me some time ago that in a Montessori environment, younger siblings in a family, and children without siblings at home, get the opportunity to be the big brothers and sisters to children younger than themselves in the classroom.  That’s another benefit of the three year age span of the children.