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.

Second Plane of Development

Today we pull from our archives to continue our series on Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the second plane, spanning from age six to twelve – the elementary years. 

As a child moves into the second plane of development (ages 6-12 years) the focus is on “why” and “how”. The child seeks intellectual independence. 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), that the attitude of the child from birth to age six – “let me do it myself” – is replaced in the second plane of development with “let me find out for myself.”

In her book, To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori refers to the child’s mind as a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture. Reason and imagination are the keys to unlock learning during this phase. Logic and reasoning take hold, and a child is able to perceive complex concepts.

In addition, during this second plane of development, children have a fascination with the extraordinary. Due to this fascination, the subject of the universe appeals to the elementary child since it is vast, mysterious, and irresistible. For this reason, “cosmic education” along with the “great stories” becomes the main staple at the elementary level.

As Hall describes, the goal is to fan the flame of imagination and to inspire the child into new paths of exploration. Cosmic education can best be defined as stressing the interrelatedness of everything. Examples of cosmic tasks include: coral removing calcium from the ocean, plants absorbing poisonous carbon dioxide and using it to produce oxygen, and bees pollenating plats.

As Hall points out, Montessori believed that humans, as a part of the universe, also must have cosmic tasks. The elementary child discovers and understands these cosmic tasks through research.

First Plane of Development

Today we’re pulling from our archives to continue our series on the Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the first plane, spanning from birth to age six.

The first plane can be best described as a time of exploration. As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, points out in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), development psychologists have called the infant “the scientist in the crib. ” As a child comes closer to the primary level (2.5 – 6 years), the need for psychological clarity and order develops. Children at this age are natural explorers who enjoy learning what. Their primary focus is on developing and testing how the world works.

Hall notes that moderns science confirms what Montessori discovered over 100 years ago: the child from birth to six has extraordinary intellectual powers given to help in the task of creation. Montessori believed children have an absorbent mind and go through sensitive periods that are optimal times for learning. During the first plane, children hae a love for the natural world, refining their skills through coordination activities that aid in the development of concentration. Independence becomes a priority, and they develop a keen sense of order.

Montessori Planes of Development

Today we’re pulling from our archives to start a short series on Montessori’s Planes of Development. 

Montessori education is based upon three planes of development: birth to age six to twelve, and age twelve to eighteen. As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, described in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMT Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011) each plane is a distinctive psychological learning period characterized by the physical and psychological changes that take place during it’s span, as well as specific environmental needs to support development.

The Montessori Method considers the unique needs of each age group varying focus within each plane of development. In the first plane, the child focuses on the world and facts. In the second plane, the focuses on the universe and reason. In the third place, the adolescent focuses on how to transform society.

Join us over the next several posts as we discuss each Plane of Development and the importance of fostering the joy of learning.

The Importance of the Outdoor Classroom

We impart a huge “thank you” and express our deepest gratitude to the FMS PTO, Park Landscaping, and all the families who participated in the 5K fundraiser in April 2014 that made the renovation of the outdoor classroom possible!

The Montessori outdoor classroom is an extension of the indoor classroom and offers students the opportunity to experience firsthand; the beauty, wonder and mystery of the natural world. At Foothills Montessori School, the outside classroom is available to each of the Primary children on a daily basis. During our work cycles, small groups of students from each of the four Primary classrooms rotate to spend time in the outside classroom. Many of the “jobs” set up outside offer the children the opportunity to delve deeper into the insect world, by using magnifying glasses to look closely at bugs, and then to look at books nearby that reference interesting features and facts about bugs. A brand new greenhouse will anchor the outside classroom experience by providing the children opportunities to work with soil and plants and immerse themselves in the growing cycles of flowers and vegetables.

The impact of an outdoor classroom on the children is both immediate and long term. During the work cycle it offers the students a chance to relax, to let go, be exposed to the fresh air, sunshine and the many birds and insects who visit the space. It also gives students from four different classes the opportunity to interact with each other as they explore the garden with hand held magnifying glasses, painting pictures using a standing easel, manipulating puzzles, manipulating blocks, and experimenting in the ever popular water table. All the while, grace and courtesy lessons are being directly applied to their interactions and the ever important lesson of sharing is always in play. Even the direction of leaving the outdoor classroom to return to their Primary classroom is a powerful lesson in compliance.

The long term impact of exposing our students to the wonder and mystery of nature is profound. We’ve seen over the past ten years a decrease in time children are spending outdoors and an increase of time children are entertaining themselves with technology and media. It is a shift from the spontaneity of making up games and “hanging out” outside with small groups of children to a more solitary and more predictable environment. Technology has its place and function in our children’s lives, but the creativity and variety of an outdoor experience cannot be replaced with a reality experienced in front of a screen.

Recent research has raised concerns about children’s lack of exposure to the natural world and the ramifications both to the individual child and to the collective society overall. “Lost Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Order” by Richard Louv, points out “that for a new generation, nature is more an abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore.” Furthermore, Louv points out “as the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow physiologically and psychologically and this reduces the richness of human experience.”

At Foothills Montessori School, we are committed to creating an outdoor space infused with the beauty and variety of nature Our veteran teacher Ms. Val (Lead Teacher for the Outdoor Classroom) so aptly states, “As a teacher, I take my observations of learning from my students, as they explore the unpredictable and immensely, ever changing experience of the outdoor classroom. Together we embrace the elements and are inspired by nature and its ongoing life lessons it so generously imparts. It lifts my spirit to provide this opportunity for our students.” Richard Louv concurs with this sentiment as he says “spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that one of the first windows to the wonder is the natural world.”

 

Practical Life – Part 3

Today we’re pulling from our archives for finish out our series on Practical Life.

One important aspect of the Practical Life environment is that all the materials used are real life life objects. Maria Montessori was a great believer in the “reality” principle – objects and tasks should reflect real life, with instruments adapted to a child’s size and potentiality. The Practical Life activities are naturally interesting exercises for the child since they are activities he/she seen grown-ups do.

The sequencing for Practical Life begins with scooping and spooning, rolling and folding, twisting, squeezing, grasping and controlling, stringing and lacing, pounding and pushing, care of the self, care of the environment, grace and courtesy, and ending with food preparation. Materials are sequenced according to the following progressions: using hands to use tools, large to small, left to right, top to bottom, gross motor to fine motor, no transfer to transfer, two handed to one handed to two handed in opposition, size and shape of medium used, dry materials to liquid, simple activities to complex, few materials to many short activities to long, skills in isolation to skills in combinations.

Children benefit from all aspects of Practical Life environment. They learn the direct aims of independence, concentration, coordination, and order, as well as the indirect aims of the actual skills being practiced. Practical Life is the foundation of the Montessori classroom and enables the child to become a well-adjusted individual.

Practical Life – Part 2

Today we continue our series exploring the Practical Life area of the Montessori classroom, focusing in this post on the ways in which Practical Life skills benefit other curriculum areas. 

Many of the exercises in the Practical Life area are preparation exercises of Sensorial works. The exercises help to fine tune the development of the child’s senses. Many uses of the five senses occur in the Practical Life area: sound, sight, and touch are used in equipment-bases activities, such as bean scooping; smelling and tasting are involved in the preparation of food.

Practical Life not only develops the child’s senses and teaches real life skills, but sets the basic foundation for other areas to come. For example, understanding size, weight, and equal distribution are skills which are vital when the child is introduced to the Math area of the classroom.

Perhaps the most significant is the development of the pincer grip, which allows the child to correctly grip a pencil and begin working in the Language area.