101 Things Parents Can Do to Help Children

We’re pulling from our blog archives today to talk about 101 think parents can do to help children.

Parents often wonder what they can do to reinforce Montessori principles in their home and daily routines. This list, 101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children, was written by Early Childhood Montessori Guide Barbara Hacker, and is full of practical tips for all facets of life.

101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children

Spanish in the Classroom

The Spanish language can be heard in three FMS classrooms as naturally as we hear words and phrases being said in English. Two of our Primary classrooms and one of our Lower Elementary classrooms deliver their lessons in English and Spanish. P1040065In the Primary rooms, the lessons mirror the work shown to the children in English. If a child has done a math lesson using the small bead stair, they will also be given the same lesson using Spanish nomenclature.

“One” becomes “uno” and “two” becomes “dos.” In the process of using the Spanish language to respond to the teacher; the students are reinforcing their core lessons, while at the same time, they are utilizing their second language skills in a practical and useful way.

Lower Elementary students in E3 have the extra benefit of doing math, grammar and word studies in Spanish. They also read books in both English and Spanish, and are asked to apply their written skills in the Spanish language. By the time a student has gone through Primary and Lower Elementary Spanish immersion classes at FMS, they will have had 6 years of actively learning and using the Spanish language. Research confirms that immersion in a second language when a child is young, often makes it easier for the child to acquire the fundamentals of using the second language.P1040072

Author Ronald Kotulak observes, “During the first three years of life, the foundations for thinking, language, vision, attitudes, aptitudes, and other characteristics are laid down.” He states in Inside the Brain, “Consequently, it would be a waste not to use a child’s natural ability to learn during his or her most vital years, when learning a second language is as easy as learning the first.”

Picking up the Spanish language comes naturally in our primary aged classrooms and is further refined as our students move into their lower elementary classrooms. P1040070All students on campus are given the chance to learn Spanish even if they are not enrolled in our Spanish immersion classes.All other classes are visited on a weekly basis from our Spanish speaking teachers and are taught the fundamentals of the language. This time spent learning the Spanish language in a primary and elementary setting lays the groundwork for all of our students who elect to take Spanish in high school. FMS graduates report that having the chance to learn Spanish, while here on campus enhanced their ability to further their skills in high school.

Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 5

Today we conclude our series exploring how to interact with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a key to addressing negative behavior, Logical Consequences.


Logical Consequences

When there are behavioral problems, use logical consequences. Logical consequences should be respectful, relevant, and realistic.

  • Stop the behavior
  • Teach an alternative to the behavior
  • Have the child state the rule
  • As a parent, pull back the limits
  • When child shows a working understanding of the rule, extend limits

When handling misbehavior, it is important to use a normal tone of voice and speak directly to the child. Focus on the behavior and not the child’s character. Be firm; this is not a time to negotiate. When deciding on the consequence, make sure the punishment fits the crime. The time frame needs to make sense to the child. A punishment that is either too long or too short is ineffective.

An example: Johnny is playing in his brother Grant’s room. Johnny has been told that he cannot play in his brother’s room without permission. Grant is at his friend’s house playing and Johnny sees Grant’s new airplane. Johnny says to himself, “I just want to touch it. I won’t break it.” He wanders into Grant’s room and is flying the plane around the room when the dog rushes in and jumps on Johnny. Johnny drops the plane, and it breaks. Johnny starts yelling at the dog and runs downstairs and tells his mom, “Spot broke Grant’s plane!” But did Spot break Grant’s plane? Mom investigates and finds that Johnny was not following the rules their family has in place and did indeed break Grant’s plane. An accident, but an avoidable one if Johnny had been following the house rules. When Grant arrives home, Mom sits Grant across from Johnny. Johnny admits his fault to his brother and apologizes. His brother is very upset. Mom then explains that Johnny will now earn the money to purchase Grant a new plan by doing a set amount of chores for the next two weeks. Johnny also promises not to go into Grant’s room again. Two weeks later, Mom takes Johnny and Grant to the store to purchase a new plan. Johnny pays for it himself and then hands the plane to Grant. This is a teachable moment for both Johnny and Grant. Johnny and Grant have both learned about accountability, consequences, and forgiveness. 

Raising children is an awesome responsibility. No one will every say it is without challenges. But the rewards are amazing!

If you would like more help in parenting your child, we recommend the book Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children.

To let the child do as he likes when he has not yet developed any powers of control is to betray the idea of freedom. – Dr. Maria Montessori


Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 4

Today’s topic is Part 4 of our series on interacting with your child in a Montessori way, and it’s a foundational principle of building a great relationship – Mutual Respect.


Mutual Respect 

The most important part of discipline is respecting each other and each other’s opinions. As your child grows older, respect his decision-making ability. Children who feel respected are less likely to rebel.

So, here is your wonderful five-year-old little girl who has decided that she wants to wear a fireman’s hat with her favorite dress and cowboy boots out to dinner. Your first instinct may be to say, “You look ridiculous. Go change your clothes.” Your child then either refuses and melts down or does as you ask with a sense of sadness. Fast forward 12 years later and your daughter announces that she is going to her friend’s house, and they are going to the mall. Unbeknownst to you, she arrives at her friend’s house and changes into an outfit that is completely inappropriate. Her outfit receives unwanted attention, and she is not equipped to handle the situation. This example my seem extreme, but it does happen.

Set up the framework for trust. Discuss with your child the “why” behind their choices and pick your battles. Children are their own individuals who will make their own choices. You want to be their guides in life, and want them to respect and share with you. Respect who they are and the choices they make will create a fantastic relationship.

Join us next Monday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, through Logical Consequences.


The Importance of Practical Life

In the Montessori primary classroom, the Practical Life area of the room is often the first choice for doing work, especially if a student is new to the room. The jobs in this area employ materials often found at home; such as beans, peas, cotton balls, spoons and small pitchers of water. From the untrained eye, the works seem very easy to do; and often they are. However, the underlying lessons being learned are foundational to the child’s Montessori experience. There is a process for taking the jobs to a work area, for accomplishing the task at hand and then for returning the work to its proper place on the shelf. Many steps in self control, concentration and coordination are engaged whenever a child uses the practical life materials.

Often a child is shown a work that they know they can do quickly, maybe grabbing two or three items at a time, and it is under the watchful eye of the teacher that the child is gently guided to “take one thing at a time.” It is in this slowing down that a child begins to see a pattern for doing work that is simple, clear and offers powerful results. Not only is the child setting a reliable pattern in their own mind for accomplishing the task successfully, there is a growing understanding that every task done with a “single eye” is much easier to do.

All areas of a Montessori classroom influence the habits of learning for a student; but the true foundation for learning begins in the Practical Life area. It is in this part of the classroom that the student practices their new found skills of grasping, tweezing, spooning, pouring and begins to feel at ease in doing those jobs. Not only is the child’s confidence increasing in their ability to accomplish the steps of the job, they are also being immersed in the fundamental process of looking from left to right, thus laying the pattern for pre-writing and pre-reading skills. The typical hand motion of the pincer grip used in the majority of practical life skills is a precursor for correctly holding a pencil and learning to write smoothly.

Dr. Montessori wrote in her book, The Absorbent Mind, “the first thing his education demands is the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given him by nature.” The Montessori classroom is a living laboratory for each student to exercise their observation skills, their ability to listen carefully to directions and most importantly to employ their own will and effort to explore the tasks at hand. She further comments, “Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.” The Practical Life area of the classroom is a key component for creating such an environment.

Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 3

Today we continue exploring the benefits of interacting with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a seemingly contradictory but key principle: Freedom Within Limits.


Freedom Within Limits

According to Maria Montessori, “A child’s work is to create the person he will become.” Freedom within limits is a Montessori principle that is very important. Freedom allows children to follow their interest and become more independent. Limits give children the latitude to be creative while establishing boundaries. If you observe a Montessori morning, you will find a 2 – 3 hour uninterrupted world period. During this time, children are receiving individual or small group lessons. It is also during this time that students choose their own activities. A child may begin in any area of the classroom, reading a book, washing clothes, using golden bead materials; the choices are boundless. As long as the child is engaged in meaningful world, the teacher does not get involved. She will observe. This freedom is not unlimited – the teacher has constructed an environment and invisible structure that the child has internalized. Each child earns his independence over time. In that same observation, you may notice one child who is always sitting next to the teacher or next to another student watching him/her work. The teacher is providing opportunities for that child to see how an activity is started, worked with, and then restored. The child observes this over and over again and will then ask the teacher if he too may have a turn to do such work. The teacher will present a lesson and step back to see if the child can work independently. If he works successfully, he will be left alone. If he needs more guidance, the teacher will provide him more opportunities to observe.

At home, parents should provide activities that engage the child’s interest and opportunities for the child to play alone. Televisions are not interactive and should be used sparingly. Puzzles, blocks, dolls, and other activities that stimulate imagination are encouraged. Avoid interrupting your child as they play.

Do not worry that you need to entertain your child. A bored child is a child who is yet able to solve his/her own problems. Create a jar with suggested activities for your child and continue to add to it.

Suggestions are:

  • Create a book (or picture book for young children)
  • Build a fort
  • Ride your bike
  • Brush the dog or cat
  • Listen to music and dance
  • Clean out the area where you sit in the care
  • Create a treasure hunt with clues
  • Bounce a ball
  • Journal
  • Play with costumes

Join us next Monday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, through Mutual Respect.


Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 2

Today, we continue exploring the benefits of interacting with your child in a Montessori way by examining two core values of a Montessori classroom: Structure and Stability.


Structure and Stability 

Every family has its own structure. In a Montessori classroom, there is a schedule or rhythm that helps children stay focused. Routines give children a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline. As humans we have many fears – one is fear of the unknown. Children are constantly confronted by change – change in themselves, the places they go, and the people they meet. With a predictable schedule, children feel safe to develop and master new techniques and adapt to adjust to a new babysitter; as the child matures, it may mean being prepared for a sleepover at a friend’s house. Constant, unpredictable changes erode the sense of safety for the child and lead to anxiety or an inability to adapt to change.

Structuring the child’s surroundings and developing a routine teaches children how to control themselves and their environments. Children not taught this skill at a young age may find it difficult to care for themselves as adults. Structure allows the child to internalize healthy habits.


Join us next Monday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, through Freedom Within Limits.


Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 1

As discussed in previous posts, following Montessori principles lays much of the foundation for discipline. Using practical life activities helps children learn to care for themselves and their environment, and exhibit grace and courtesy to others. Children that are given opportunities to control their movements will automatically develop concentration and self-discipline. In the same way, foundations are laid for your child’s future development based upon your interaction with your child.

Today, we begin exploring the benefits of interacting with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a core activity we engage in as parents: Teaching Values.


Teaching Values

As parents, you are your child’s first teacher. From the moment you first met your child, you yearned to nurture your child’s sense of goodness for life. Sharing with your child what is truly amazing about your culture and others; that peace is attainable once fear is placed aside. As parents and educators we teach values, ethics, love, kindness, and confidence. We help children to see and respect the differences in people. We want to help them see they can be the change in the world; celebrating differences in each other. In order to celebrated differences, children need to establish and identity separate from their parents yet part of a larger community. Our obligation is to guide the child. We should show them through our actions our values and present the world and it’s problems honestly. Each child, equipped to make his or her own choices, will form opinions. We need to ensure that as they mature into adulthood, they are surrounded by trusted morally competent adults.

Join us next Monday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, through Structure and Stability.

Individual Ownership of Learning

We are pulling from our archives today to see what Individual Ownership of Learning really means. 

When parents are choosing Montessori education for their child, they are trusting their child to take his learning into this own hands. The environment is designed to allow students to discover and learn on their own. The materials are self-correcting and are used until the child says, “I did it.”

This type of learning is very different from traditional learning. In a traditional learning environment, information is housed with the teacher. The teacher instructs the child in what is important to learn and through rote effort, the child memorizes information. To confirm that the student learned the information necessary, the student takes a written test. Weeks later, though, students have often forgotten or have a diminished memory of what they were taught.

In the Montessori environment children discover themselves so information and learning is housed within them. They may then draw connections between the newly learned information and other topics and events in their lives.

On the site mariamontessori.com, and article highlights one family’s experience with individual ownership of learning. In seeing their son, Wyatt’s, newly developed writing skills, his parents questions, “Who taught Wyatt how to write?” Wyatt’s response, “I did.”

Third Plane of Development

Today we pull from our archives to continue in our series on the Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the third plane, spanning from age twelve to age fifteen – the middle school years. 

As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, notes in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), the third plane child (ages 12-15 years) is focused on society, as the adolescent is searching to find a place in the world. Hall explains that adolescents need to experience the world through work, through purposeful movements, and by using their hands.

Maria Montessori believed the concentration at this plane of development should be centered on economic pursuits so children are equipped to become productive members of society. Hall notes that this economic activity allows adolescents to gradually come to understand the role of work in the greater society. Work becomes an agent for the adolescent’s self-esteem; the objective is to contribute to the world in some meaningful way. By contributing to the community, they are fulfilling a need for themselves and for others.

Hall reports that Montessori saw the third plane as a time of rebirth and referred to adolescents as “social newborns,” and asserts that the questions of the adolescent go beyond the “what” of the very young child and the “why” of the elementary child: The adolescent asks, how I can apply what I know? How does this work relate to my life, my world? How can I save the world with my knowledge of the natural laws and the formulas I studied?

Providing experiences such as internships allows opportunities to answer these reflective questions. Education focus during the third plane includes three categories: the opening up of ways of expression, fulfillment of fundamental needs, and the study of the earth and of living things.