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Is St Nicholas real? What about Santa? December 6, 2014

 Santa

Is. St. Nicholas real?

Is Santa Claus real?

Who brings the presents and fills the stockings?

Is Jesus real?

Children ask questions that are difficult to answer. I tend to start story telling, celebrations and debates with phrases such as:

  • This is what some people believe.
  • This is a story from long ago.
  • This is how some families celebrate.

boots

As an example, today we celebrated the festival of Saint Nicholas. We looked at the world map and found Europe, and then looked at the map of Europe and found the Netherlands. We heard some facts about the real Saint Nicholas who lived a long long time ago. We learned that he was kind and generous, especially to the poor and hungry. We learned that he became a bishop, an important person in his church. We looked at a picture of how Bishop Nicholas might have looked and dressed long ago. We learned how people in the Netherlands remember Saint Nicholas on his feast day. The children leave out a boot, or shoe, or maybe even a clog (We have a pair of clogs that the children can try on!) on the Eve of his day, and then in the morning, on December 6th, the children look to see if Saint Nicholas has left them a treat – perhaps a small toy or something sweet to eat. We then left a boot outside the classroom door and waited for St. Nick to arrive and bring us a treat. Sure enough, he left each child a sweet treat – a cookie and a tiny candy cane. One of our children, from another European country, told us that St. Nicholas travels by boat – yet another tradition.

clogs2

“But is he real?”

“Saint Nicholas was a real man. He was kind and generous, and liked to give people surprise gifts.”

“Is he still alive?”

“He lived a long, long time ago. We just remember him on his special day.”

“Does he still bring gifts?”

clogs

“Some families like to think that he does. Other families like to remember St. Nicholas by doing what he did – giving surprise gifts.”

And I am sure we will have similar discussions when we celebrate St. Lucia, and then on a later date take a ride on the Polar Express to the North Pole. The St. Lucia celebration follows a similar pattern to that of St. Nick. We’ll locate Sweden on the map, we’ll talk about what we know of the real St. Lucia who lived long ago, we’ll learn about how her feast day is celebrated in Sweden. We’ll dress up, share a special treat, enjoy candle light . . . and talk about celebrations in general.

When we act out ‘The Polar Express,’ we begin right at the start by saying that we are acting out a story. We talk about ‘acting’ and ‘pretend’, and how we will pretend that we are riding on a train, so we can imagine what that would be like. We will pretend that we are at the North Pole. Some children will get the chance to pretend to be elves, or Santa, and we will all get the chance to be part of the story and have a good time together. We’ll talk about traditions and celebrations some more.

And inevitably someone will ask, “Is Santa real?”

And again we will talk about family traditions and beliefs.

“In my family, the gifts under the Christmas tree are from our family, and Santa fills our stockings.”

“In our family, we give each other gifts at Christmas. We don’t believe in Santa.”

“In our family, we don’t get or give gifts. Christmas is about Jesus.”

“In our family, Santa brings the gifts under the tree and fills our stockings.”

“In our family, we get to open a gift on Christmas Eve.”

“You are all so right. Families celebrate in so many ways and have so many traditions. That’s what makes our family special. We share some special beliefs. Other families have their own special beliefs. What is important is that we know that most families like to celebrate and share special traditions, and that these celebrations are very special. It’s okay if other families believe something different. We can just say what our families believe without saying that what someone else’s family believes is wrong. I might say something like, “Oh, your family believes that the gifts under the tree are from Santa? Our family puts gifts from family members under the tree.”

So, hopefully you can use a similar technique when your child comes home in tears and says, “James said Santa is not real,” or something else that casts doubt on your family traditions or beliefs.

“James has family traditions that are different from ours. That’s okay. Every family is different. In our family tradition …..”

This is obviously much more of an issue as children grow into the kindergarten and elementary years. They tend to be more verbal, and very interested in debating and questioning. And they can be so passionate about their beliefs. These debates open up an opportunity for me, that I will take on Monday, to talk to our K/1 students about respecting other people’s beliefs and traditions. As a parent, you can also use these moments to talk about your family traditions and that it is okay for others to have different traditions and beliefs.

 

And now a confession ~ I wrote letters from Santa to my children until they were well into their twenties. One Christmas Eve I was just so tired, I didn’t write the letter. Everyone was so sad, but understood. It had been a lovely tradition, and one I hope will be brought back to life if and when we have grandchildren!

 

Traditions, celebrations, beliefs . . . they are all part of what makes us human!

 

St. Lucia

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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

 

 

 

 

 

The First Five Years February 22, 2014

Why is early learning so important?

Did you know that 85 – 90% of a child’s brain is developed before the age of five?  It truly is amazing how much children learn in these early years – how to support their head, how to control their muscles, how to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, throw and catch a ball, jump, hop, skip, dance, how to take in sounds, sights, tastes, smells and feelings and make sense of their world around them, how to understand and use language, (sometimes more than one language!) how to regulate their own emotions, how to take care of many of their own personal needs, how to be part of a family and other groups . . .  And often, children seem to learn these skills effortlessly and with great satisfaction.

And that is part of the reason why early learning is so important.  During the first five years, children are like sponges, picking up so many skills from their environments.  Maria Montessori used the term ‘The Absorbent Mind’ to describe this ability.  ImageAt no other time in life is it as easy to pick up a new language and use it fluently, for example.  It is not that any of the skills can’t be learned after the first five years of life, but learning them will take more conscious effort and practice.

So please do help your child make the most of the golden opportunity for learning that the first five years of life offer.

One of our favorite resources for ideas to help you make the most of the birth to three years is http://lovetalkplay.org/ where you’ll find lots of everyday ways to love, talk and play with your baby and toddler.  All of the ideas take advantage of normal, everyday moments, such as changing your baby’s diaper, giving him a bath, dressing him, feeding him, and playing together.  No difficult schedule or expensive supplies are needed ~just you and your child doing everyday things together, but making the most of each opportunity to learn!

 

 

 

Developmental Milestones February 12, 2014

Filed under: Child Development — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:39 pm
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Where can I find information about a child’s normal development between the ages of birth to six?

DSCN2074Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones.  Children develop at different rates and reach these milestones at different ages.   While children develop according to their own inner timetables, opportunity to try out and practice new skills also play a part.  A baby confined to a car seat for long periods of the day will not have as much opportunity to stretch, wriggle, kick, reach, and eventually roll over, crawl and begin cruising around the furniture, as a baby who has time to play on her tummy or lay on her back on a blanket on the floor.  As they grow, children need opportunities to run, throw and catch a ball, climb, jump, use crayons and pencils and paint, look at books, listen to stories, listen and talk with others, take care of their personal needs, make choices, contribute to the family by helping . . .  Children develop according to their own inner timetables and the opportunities provided by their environments.

So how do you know what to expect from your child and when?

Here are some of my favorite, easy-to-use guides to developmental milestones in the areas of thinking, social skills, listening, talking and movement, small and large muscle development, vision and hearing skills.

Learn the Signs.  Act Early. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/  You can click on an age and read the milestones.  You can click on the next age your child will reach, and be prepared for the next stage!

The Baby Center also has lots of information and short videos about developmental milestones.  The videos show the importance of tummy time for babies, for example.  You can even use the site to keep a record of your child’s developmental milestones.

http://www.babycenter.com/milestone-charts-birth-to-age-3

What if I have concerns about my child’s development?

If you have a concern, it’s best to bring your concern to your child’s health care provider a.s.a.p.   Perhaps there is nothing to worry about, and if so, you can be reassured.  If there is a concern about your child’s health or development, then the sooner the problem is identified, the sooner your child and family can receive support and services to help your child reach his or her full potential.

A personal story~ I was so glad that I discussed with our pediatrician my concern that our toddler was not babbling or starting to say words.   It would have been easy to just blame it on her older sister doing all of the talking for her!  However, it turned out our toddler had lots of fluid build up in her ears.  It was as if she was hearing under water!  Once we addressed the problem with her ears (fluid, constant ear infections, a burst ear drum), she blossomed into language.  Thank goodness we got help when we were first concerned.  Otherwise, our toddler might have missed out on some important years for language development.  (Our ‘toddler’ is now in her thirties, and a language maestro!)

Please ask if you have any concerns!  Babies, toddlers and young children can’t wait!

Boost Collaborative (509 332 4420) provides free and confidential screenings for children birth to three, and support services for families, for the whole of Whitman County, Washington State.

 

For children over the age of three, check with your local school district for screening services.

 

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.

 

Repetition September 12, 2013

Filed under: Repetition — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:03 pm
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Parents ask the best questions!

“My daughter keeps bringing home the same work.  Is that okay?”

This parent has noticed a key concept of Montessori education – the desire in the child for repetition.

Do you remember your child learning how to walk?  No matter how many times he or she fell down, your child persevered until walking was mastered.   There was a lot of repetition!

That’s the same attitude that makes your child want to persevere and repeat cutting work, or counting to 100, or tracing his or her name.  Your child will repeat the work until it is mastered.  Once a child reaches mastery, the work no longer is interesting or appealing, and the child’s attention moves on to a new activity.

We still go through the same process when we are older.  Learning to drive a car takes a lot of repetition, for example.  If we try to learn a new skill, such as surfing, playing the guitar, playing tennis, we would find that one lesson and one practice session is just not enough for us to master the new skill.  And, with any new activity that is appealing to us, we would be excited to practice, to try and try again, and to work towards improving our skills.  For our children, there are so many activities that are new and exciting, and they will practice these activities over and over again.  Just watch them grow and improve!

Parents – please do post a question and I’ll do my best to answer.  I bet other parents are wondering about the same concepts as you.

 

So, what exactly is Montessori Education – three answers short enough to give in an elevator! August 20, 2013

number rolls 1

What exactly is an elevator speech?  It really just means a very short, prepared speech you can use when someone asks you a question such as, “What exactly is Montessori education?”  When someone asks you this question in an elevator, you usually only have about a minute to answer before one of you reaches your floor.  If you don’t have something prepared, a golden opportunity can be lost as you mumble either jargon (sensitive periods, normalization, prepared environment) or an answer involving catch phrases such as ‘whole child’ or ‘hands on.’  Or even worse, “It’s too difficult to explain.”

So, here’s my first attempt at an elevator speech, using an analogy, describing Montessori education in terms of something else.

Person in the elevator notices my name tag for the Montessori conference . . . or someone asks where I work . . . or someone asks where my children went to school . . . or . . . leading to

“So, what exactly is Montessori education?”

“You know how if you only offer your child nutritious food, and no junk food or empty calories, whatever your child chooses to eat will be good for him, and help him grow strong and healthy?  Well, Montessori education is like that, only for the whole child.  Montessori education offers your child so many choices of activities, but whatever he chooses, you can be sure that it will help him develop and reach his full potential, because there are no activities that are just filling in time, no junk activities . . . You might enjoy seeing for yourself a whole class of children, working on their own or with a friend or in a small group, all focused on activities they have chosen for themselves, based on their own interests.  Montessori classrooms are filled with happy, interested, engaged children.  If you call your local Montessori school, I’m sure you could arrange a visit.  Oh, this is my floor.  Bye.”

number roll 2Elevator speech, take two – telling a story.

“So, what exactly is Montessori education?”

“Oh, I love Montessori education so much, I don’t know where to start.  I know, I’ll tell you a story about a real girl in one of our Montessori classes.  She loved counting and numbers, and one day I watched her start writing a number roll.  She took out one bead and wrote the number one on her roll of paper, followed by two beads and the number two, and so on until a few days later she had written to over a hundred, and then she told me that she could write numbers all by herself, without the beads.  She’d figured out how our decimal system works.  Well, she continued writing her number roll off and on all year, writing into the thousands.  Her number roll grew enormous!  It stretched further than the length of a long hallway or across the playground.  This little girl told me, “I could write numbers for ever, couldn’t I?  Numbers never end!”

This pre-kindergarten child, using the Montessori math materials had just built for herself a deep understanding of the concept of infinity, and she was so excited about her discovery.  I think that’s really cool . . . Oh, I could tell you so many stories like that, but I think it would be even better to see for yourself.  Here’s my card . . . contact me, and come visit, please.  Oh, gotta go . . . this is my floor.”

number roll 3Elevator speech, take three – talking about the differences

“So, what makes Montessori so special?” or “Why did you choose a Montessori school for your children?”

“Well, I wanted my children to be able to be who they were meant to be.  At Montessori, they get to make choices for themselves and develop at their own pace.  They are unique individuals at Montessori . . not just part of a herd, being moved en masse from one activity to the next, whether they are ready to move on or not.  They go to the bathroom and eat snack on their own schedule.  The children and teachers enjoy being together in the classroom and talk to one another like real people!  I’d love it if you took a look at our Montessori School and let me know what you think.”

Maybe you won’t be asked the question in an elevator, but another parent might ask you a similar question in the grocery store, or at the swimming pool or at the park.  Please take a moment to think how you might answer.  Only 3% of children attend a Montessori school, and I hope you agree that Montessori Education is too worthwhile for children to be kept a secret!  I encourage you to think of a story you might tell, or perhaps talk about what you noticed on a visit, or what your child has been learning about, and please end with an invitation to take a tour.  I love showing off our wonderful school.