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Working Together for the Common Good ~real practical life in action! February 12, 2016

In December, our kindergarten and elementary students were invited to participate in a program called ‘Kids Give.’  This program is organized by a local group, “The Alternative Giving Market of the Palouse,” and in 2015 the money to fund the ‘Kids Give’ program was donated by our local Food Co-op through their ‘dime a bag’ giving program.  Each time a shopper brings reusable bags to the Co-op, a dime is donated to a local non-profit.  So

already you can see a large group of people working together for the common good ~ a local non-profit, a local Food Co-op, and all of the shoppers who donate their dimes.

The Kids Give program gives each participating class $50 to donate to a local non-profit.  The children learn about what each charity is about, and then through small and large group discussions, the children come to consensus about how to donate their $50.  This is a kid friendly introduction to the concept of philanthropy.  And children are so naturally generous and excited to get involved.  This is a second year for our school to be involved, and both times the children have responded with, “What else can we do?”  In 2014, the children decided to work for donations at home by completing extra chores, and some also brought money from their own piggy banks and ‘tooth-fairy’ money.

This year, the children have been enjoying cooking meals together, so they decided to cook and serve a lunch for donations.  This project involved so many skills – choosing a menu, setting the date, advertising the event, lots of food prep work (slicing, dicing, stirring, whisking, measuring, timing, mixing, serving . . .), setting up our ‘pop up café’, clean up, money work (donations – cost of ingredients = amount to donate), and more group discussions and decision making about where to donate the money raised.

The children prepared penne pasta with made from scratch creamy garlic alfredo sauce, salad, chocolate brownies and strawberries.  The food was delicious, and the whole school smelled like an authentic Italian restaurant.  The children served about fifty lunches, including serving themselves!   You can see from the photos how busy they all were.

This project fitted in so well with our values – child-centered, love of learning, community, diversity and dignity.  The children were excited, proud and enjoyed all of the tasks involved.  They worked together in teams, building their sense of community.  The project was the kids’ idea, and they were deeply involved in every step, so it was definitely child-centered.  I really love it when children experience the dignity of real work and are able to work together as a community for the greater good of the larger community.

As a side note, several families have told me that their child is now cooking dinner for the whole family on a regular basis.  Scrambled eggs, made-from -scratch macaroni and cheese, English muffin mini-pizzas, salad, grilled cheese sandwiches . . . all made with love by a child.  What could taste better than that!

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The Absorbent Mind December 3, 2014

 

baby

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

These are some of the qualities I hope surround our children at school ~ kindness, consideration, security and friendliness!

Babies are amazing!  They are born without culture or language, but with a built in sensitivity to faces, language and a mind that is able to absorb through sensory impressions.  Montessori called this ‘the absorbent mind.’   The absorbent mind allows the baby to adapt and fit in to whatever environment surrounds the baby.

Babies are born with the capacity to make all sounds of all languages, but through repetition and feedback, the sounds of the baby’s mother tongue are strengthened, and sounds that the baby does not hear, are repeated less and soon fall out of the infant’s regular babbling.  If the baby hears ‘ba, ba, ba’, or ‘ma, ma, ma’ or ‘da, da, da’, those are the sounds the baby repeats.  When these sounds get a response, then the baby repeats them again.  This is how the baby builds his or her ability to make the sounds of his or her mother tongue, and then is able to form words and simple sentences.

Similarly, through absorbing what goes on around him or her, the baby picks up appropriate body language and facial expressions for his or her culture.  Food preferences, musical tastes, favorite activities, use of eating utensils, such as forks or chopsticks, are all picked up from the baby’s environment.

The absorbent mind is such a wonderful tool for survival and adaptation, and allows babies to learn so much and at such a rapid pace.  Just think what a child learns in the first five years of life.  Yet, it also comes at a price.  Because babies learn, rather than rely on instinct, they are far more dependent on their parents for a longer period of time.  Their environments play such a big role in their development, too.  Babies and children learn what they live!

This poem says it so well!

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

 

 

 

 

 

Independence – what does it look like in your child? September 22, 2013

This month the teachers and I have been focusing on  the development of independence in our children.  In the upcoming newsletter we will soon publish, we have included examples of what independence looks like in a two year old, all the way up to our big six year olds, and how the Montessori environment supports the development of independence.

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When I saw this photograph, as part of a whole sequence of photographs taken by my daughter on a recent backpacking trip, I began to think about what independence looks like in adults.  I have three adult children, aged mid-twenties to early thirties, all Montessori school graduates.  They are all strong independent thinkers, enjoying a good debate, whether in a class or around the kitchen table.  Independence means you are not a follower.

My middle child is an avid explorer, enjoying backpacking in the wilderness, and traveling independently within the USA and abroad.  She is a confident traveler, whether by foot, bike, kayak, and just recently, by sailing.  Aware of her environment, respectful of the weather, animals, other people, she is confident of her skills.  That’s all part of independence – respect, awareness and confidence.

Of course, just like parents of younger children, independence in our children can cause us anxiety!  I worry about my child getting into difficulties on the Pacific Crest Trail, just as you worry when you see your child handling a knife, or scissors, or carrying a real glass.  We don’t want our children to get hurt.  But trust me, our children are capable of so much, and by giving them the gift of independence, we encourage them to live their lives to their full potential.

 

Where we are from November 14, 2012

As the children sang, “We’ve got the whole world in our hands,” I was reminded that Maria Montessori aimed to let the children hold the whole world in the palm of their hands, through a rich, cultural experience.  I also remembered sitting at a lunch table as three children discussed how they said ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in their languages.  All of the children involved in the conversation spoke several languages.  That has been the case in every Montessori school I have taught in or visited.  Cultural diversity and richness is the norm.  Tonight, at our International Feast, sampling foods from around the world, seeing the word ‘welcome’ written in many languages, hearing people at the microphone welcome everyone in their languages, I was reminded once again of the richness of the Montessori experience for children.

This year we also wrote a poem online, as a community endeavor, suggesting images from our backgrounds.  I put some of the images together in a poem, and share it here.

One of my favorite moments of the International feast (bringing it home and making it personal!)  –  One of our children came to the microphone after the others had finished saying ‘welcome’ in their languages and said,

“And in Pullman, we say, “Hello.”

Please say, “Hello” to parents and children you meet in our hallways.  It’s a simple way to make our school a more welcoming and community minded school.

We are from . . .

silk dresses

saris

headscarves

kimonos

T-shirts and blue jeans

from shipyards and rain

a one room house

a bed shared with a sister

a home filled with love and opinions

from bare feet playing outdoors

from bamboo and pomegranate

turnips, tatties and leeks

from saffron and rice

from a young maple

and the crab apple

whose long gone roots I remember as if they were my own

We are from . . .

sharing our day and dancing the hora

from sitting in the sun and playing in the sand

from coffee, fried chicken,

and home made pie

from reading the daily paper

from lullabies

We are from . . .

Why Aye, Man and Dinnit fight

and the love of a mother is as vast as the ocean

We are from . . . cue song

North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe

We are from here, there and everywhere

We are from.

 

Each child is a unique individual August 29, 2012

When revisiting the sensorial materials, a four year old likes to combine and make patterns.

Parents ask the best questions.  Questions help us examine our practices and beliefs, and then to explain them in plain, non-Montessori jargon, so everyone can understand – or at least that’s what I hope happens.

Recently a parent asked “How do Montessori teachers differentiate the curriculum to meet the needs of children returning for their second or third year?”  As a parent, you definitely don’t want to think of your child doing the same thing again, year after year.

In general, our three year olds love practical life (pouring, scooping, cutting, cleaning, dressing frames, food prep) and sensorial activities (associated with learning about size, shape, color, texture, smell, sound, pattern, etc, through the senses).  They are working on developing their attention spans, their fine motor control, their independence, and refining their senses.  They are learning new words all of the time to describe what they see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and so on.

Four year olds begin to spend more time in the language, math and cultural (history and geography) areas, learning about numbers, sounds and letters, how to read and write, and about the world around them.  When four year olds work with the sensorial materials, they are more likely to be combining, matching and making patterns.  They may like to work with a friend, too, whereas many of our three year olds still like to work side by side with a friend, rather than on a two person project.

Our five to six year olds often spend their time focused on just one or two challenging and longer activities per work session – making a map of the world, writing words in a journal, counting a long bead chain, working on a booklet of multiplication problems.  These children are developing their social skills and their leadership skills.  They often like to work in a small group.  Ms. Sudha has a ‘journal writing group’, for example.  They like to work together and share ideas for writing.

A Montessori teacher is trained to notice the changing interests and abilities of the children as they grow and develop, and to find activities that match and challenge each child.  When a child returns for a second year at Montessori, the teacher will check the child’s understanding and memory of previous work.  If the child was working on learning to recognize numbers 1 – 10, both in and out of sequence, and to count objects to ten, then the teacher might begin the year with some counting games.  If the child still remembers number 1 – 10, the teacher will introduce the teen numbers.  If a child was previously working on teen numbers, the teacher will introduce the decimal system with the golden beads, the hundred board and the activities for learning to count by tens to one hundred – ten, twenty, thirty, etc.  As most lessons are individual, it is easier for the teacher to find the right amount of challenge for a returning student.

Similarly in language, if a child remembers the letters and sounds of the alphabet from a previous year, the child will begin writing and reading simple three letter words.  If a child completed the previous year knowing how to read three and four letter words, the teacher will introduce more challenging reading and writing work – compound words, such as ‘football’ and ‘bedroom’, or sight words, such as ‘their’ and ‘said.’

A child may continue through three years at Montessori with an interest in a certain activity.  A child may love puzzles, for example.  Knowing this, as the child develops over the years, the teacher will introduce many learning opportunities to this child through puzzles – puzzle maps, to learn the name and shape of the continents, and then countries and states, names of the parts of many animals and plants, the human skeleton, the planets, etc.  We have many puzzles in Montessori classes, going from the simple, suitable for a very young child, to the advanced, maybe a hundred pieces or more.  With a wide array of materials on the shelves, the teacher can find something that is just right for each child, whether they are brand new, or a child returning for a second, third or even fourth year.

To get back to the question about differentiating the curriculum for a returning student, I am reminded that the teachers differentiate the curriculum for every child, depending on their interests, abilities, and attention span, regardless of whether the child is new or returning.  In Montessori, no two children in a class will follow the same path through the materials, because each child in the classroom is recognized and valued as a unique individual.