Montessori: What’s in a Name?

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A common question among parents is, “What, exactly, makes a school ‘Montessori’?”  The answer is more layered than you may think.  The truth is, any school can call themselves ‘Montessori’ but the interpretation of the approach can vary greatly.  Read on to better understand the differences...

Humble Beginnings

As you may already know, Montessori education had its start in the slums of Rome, Italy.  Dr. Maria Montessori was a physician who had been studying child development.  She already found some success with institutionalized children who had been deemed uneducable.  Her first school, Casa dei Bambini, was created to serve the children of poor families while their parents worked during the day.  It was here that Dr. Montessori worked to create more materials, observe the children, and further develop her ideas and methods.  

Dr. Montessori’s successes quickly gained attention of the international community and schools began to open across the globe.  

Organization: AMI

Dr. Montessori soon realized the importance for standardization among Montessori schools.  She felt it critical to preserve the integrity of the method, ensure teachers were well-trained, distribute publications, and manufacture materials.  In 1929 she created AMI, Association Montessori Internationale, to meet these goals.

Today AMI has its headquarters in the Netherlands and supports affiliated societies in thirty-five countries around the world, including the United States.  AMI works to provide high-quality teacher training, materials, consulting services, publications, materials, and much more to Montessori schools.  AMI is the original Montessori organization and is regarded as having high standards and preserving Montessori’s original ideas, methodology, and work.

You can learn more about AMI here: https://montessori-ami.org/

Information about AMI USA can be found here: https://amiusa.org/

New Ideas: AMS

While Montessori had come to the United States much earlier, it wasn’t until the 1960s that its popularity really began to spread.  Nancy McCormick Rambusch was a young American teacher who trained at an AMI center in London.  She was appointed by Mario Montessori (Maria Montessori’s son) to be AMI’s United States representative.  Rambusch opened the Whitby School in Greenwich, Connecticut, and worked to support the spread of Montessori education in the United States.

Over time, Rambusch and her colleagues began to advocate for certain changes within Montessori.  They felt that for Montessori to be successful in the United States certain elements of the curriculum needed to remain flexible.  Leaders at AMI disagreed, arguing for preservation of Montessori’s original ideas in their entirety.  Representatives from both perspectives worked together toward a solution, but eventually parted ways and the American Montessori Society was created.

Rambusch established AMS at Whitby in 1960, and it continues to be the most prevalent Montessori organization in the United States today.  AMS functions similarly to AMI, in that it provides teacher training, publications, and resources to Montessori schools across the country, as well as to a number of international schools.

More information about AMS can be found here: http://amshq.org/

Montessori Schools Today

As mentioned earlier in this article, any school may call themselves a Montessori school.  Montessori can mean different things to different people, and it can be helpful for parents to understand the differences.  Montessori schools can be public, private, or charter schools.  They may be affiliated with a church, but most are non-denominational.  Beyond those basic definitions, the delivery of a Montessori program can vary widely.  Some of the many possibilities include:

  • Montessori Inspired Schools

Educators around the world have learned from the important work of Maria Montessori.  Her texts and lectures are often regarded as some of the most respected guides to non-traditional education.  The strong emphasis on child development, individualized education, and a beautiful environment appeal to educational facilities across the nation.  Montessori materials are now much more readily available than they were even a decade ago, so preschools or even homeschool families implement them in various ways.  The creation of online programs has increased access to basic teacher preparation.  

  • Montessori Member/Affiliated/Associated Schools

For a school to become an AMS full member school, the school must meet specific requirements.  Most importantly, every lead teacher at the school must be certified through an approved teacher education program (including those affiliated with AMS, AMI, and several other well-respected organizations).  Starting in 2020 there will be additional requirements for heads of school as well.

AMI requires specific standards to be met in all its schools including AMI trained teachers, a full complement of AMI approved materials, and specific requirements concerning class sizes, ratios, and organization of the work period.  Schools that meet a certain percentage of these requirements or are committed to meeting all requirements within three years may be considered affiliated or associated schools.

  • Montessori Recognized/Accredited Schools

Schools who wish to be formally recognized at the highest level by either AMI or AMS must adhere to the strictest of standards.  

If a school meets all the requirements of an AMI school, they may receive an AMI Certificate of Recognition.  Schools must reapply annually.  Details on those requirements can be found here: https://amiusa.org/school-standards/

For those wishing to be accredited by AMS, the process is typically about eighteen months long and includes the writing of a self-study report, a site visit by a specially trained team of evaluators, and a commitment to ongoing evaluation and improvement.  After initial accreditation, schools must apply for reaccreditation every four years.  More information on the process can be found here: http://amshq.org/School-Resources/AMS-Member-Schools/AMS-Accredited-Schools

Still have questions about what it means to be a Montessori school?  We would be happy to chat with you.  Contact us today!

Service to Others: Instilling Values Early

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Have you ever thought about finding ways to get your kids involved in community service?  Many families think it’s a great idea, but it can be hard to figure out exactly what to do.  Especially when it comes to our kids - we want to make sure we find an activity that is age-appropriate, safe, and helps them feel a deeper connection to others.

If you have found a way to make this work, great!  We hope you can share you experience in a way that encourages others to do the same.  If you wish you could but want some practical ideas, read on.  Even our youngest children can pitch in to make the world a better place.

Hunger

Communities across the country work hard to provide food to those who simply don’t have enough.  Food banks and soup kitchens are always looking for donations.  This is one simple way families can make a difference.  Some tips to make it even easier (and more helpful):

  • Call your local food bank or visit their website to see what donations they are most in need of.
  • When you go grocery shopping, grab an extra box of pasta, can of vegetables, or bag of dried beans.  
  • Organize a food drive in your school or business.  All it takes is an empty cardboard box and a sign.  Once the box is full, take a drive to your local donation center to drop it off.
  • Give your kids some guidelines and let them help choose items to buy.  For example, let them pick which can of vegetables or what shape of pasta they think a family in need might enjoy.

Homelessness

While it’s not always so obvious in rural or suburban areas, those living in urban communities likely notice homeless people in and around their cities.  One simple way you can help the homeless is to create small care packages, and it’s an activity that appeals to children as young as 3 or 4.  Simply purchase quart or gallon sized zip bags and fill them with any number of useful items.  Some ideas:

  • Granola or energy bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Travel-sized first aid kits
  • Travel-sized toiletries
  • Small package of tissues
  • Bottles of water
  • Crackers
  • Chapstick
  • Wet wipes
  • multivitamins

Have your kids help assemble care packages assembly-line style.  Keep a stash of them in your car for whenever you see someone in need.  There’s a good chance your kids will be in the backseat when you do, and the act of reaching out to help others will make a lasting impression on them.

Elders

Elder care facilities are a great place for children of all ages to make a difference.  Call your local nursing home and find out what works best for them.  Just being there to say hi to residents can make a huge difference to elders and children alike.  One simple idea is to bring some basic coloring supplies along.  Children who love to sing may also want to share that talent.  You don’t need to bring anything at all, but flowers or children’s artwork will always be welcome.

Remember to talk to you children ahead of time to give them an idea of what to expect.  It’s also a good idea to talk to them after the visit to find out how they felt about the experience.  Who knows - you may make some new friends!

Animals

Your local animal shelter is full of hard-working men and women who do a lot, often without enough resources.  Much like collecting food for hungry people, it’s easy to collect and donate supplies for animals, too.  Be sure to contact the shelter and find out what supplies will be useful.  Children of all ages can help choose what to donate and visit the shelter for drop-off.

Animal shelters are often in search of volunteers.  While this wouldn’t be appropriate for young children, find out what ages are welcome - it’s typically 16 and up.

The Earth

Why wait for Earth Day to help our planet?  This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to be of service, because it starts in your home with simple lessons every day.  Talk to you kids and get them involved in a wide range of topics:

  • Reducing, reusing, and recycling
  • Mindful food choices
  • Water conservation
  • Finding ways to reduce energy consumption
  • Read about endangered animals and how we can help

One final idea

Many older children across the country are skipping gifts at their birthday parties in favor of something more altruistic.  While this shouldn’t be forced upon a child, it’s certainly a nice trend to see!  

Finding ways to give back to your community with your kids should be a fun, rewarding, and memorable experience.  When we teach our children to help, we are nurturing values that will serve them and others for a lifetime.

Author Spotlight: Grace Lin

So it’s halfway through the summer and you’ve been enjoying lots of reading time with your kids.  You’ve been through all their favorites in the bookcase - many, many times.  Looking for some new ideas?

Grace Lin is a Newbery-winning author whose work appeals to children of all ages.  Read on for a partial list of her books that will pull your family out of a book rut and provide hours of reading enjoyment!

(Click on the book image to go to the book's page on Amazon)

Picture Books

The Ugly Vegetables

A child admires the flowers in her neighbors’ gardens, while wondering why her mother insists on growing veggies that look so different than everyone else’s.  When harvest time rolls around she realizes the beauty in diversity and how a delicious pot of soup can bring people together.

 

Dim Sum for Everyone!

The bright illustrations and minimal text in this story will appeal to preschoolers and new readers.  A child describes the magic of going out to eat dim sum, and how special it is to share a meal with family.

 

Kite Flying

A family works together to make and fly a kite.  While the story honors the Chinese tradition, it is relatable for any family who likes to fly kites.  Much like Dim Sum for Everyone!, the pictures and short text make this book ideal for preschoolers and early readers.

 

Lissy’s Friends

Being the new girl at school can be pretty lonely.  Lissy decides to solve her problem by creating a tiny friend using origami.  Her collection grows quickly and brings her much needed joy.  Eventually, she is able to share her love of origami with her new human friends.

 

Early Readers

Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather

Ling and Ting are twin sisters who take readers through their fun, silly, and relatable lives in this early reader series.  From thunderstorms to rainbows to selling lemonade, the girls have fun together in all seasons.

 

Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly

Ling and Ting take readers through six ridiculously silly stories, including high hopes for planting jelly beans and devising intricate plans to pick the apples from the top of a tree.

 

Ling and Ting: Share a Birthday

Of course the twins share a birthday, but they love sharing lots of other things, too!  This book begins with a tale of two pairs of shoes and takes readers through the fun of birthday cake, shopping, gifts, wishes, and a special story at the end.

 

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same

While Ling and Ting are alike in almost every way, they are not exactly the same.  This book takes readers on yet another series of silly adventures.

 

Chapter Books

Year of the Dog

This is Grace Lin’s first book featuring a character named Pacy and her family and friends.  The book begins with Pacy and her family working to prepare for their Chinese New year celebration.  It is the year of the dog which Pacy’s mom describes as a good time to find oneself.  Throughout the rest of the story readers follow along as Pacy does just that.  As with many of her other books, Lin manages to blend cultural traditions with modern family lives.

 

Year of the Rat

The Pacy series continues as Lin crafts books based on her own childhood experiences.  Pacy is not feeling as lucky as she did in Year of the Dog, as she deals with her best friend moving and struggles to work toward her goals to be a writer and illustrator.  As with many of her books, Grace Lin tells many stories within this story, layering traditional tales within modern realistic fiction.

 

Dumpling Days

This third installment in the Pacy series has readers traveling to Taiwan as Pacy and her family prepare for her grandmother’s birthday.  Pacy continues to navigate her way through new cultural traditions and life experiences.  As with the other books in the series, nurturing relationships is an underlying theme.

 

Novel

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

This novel will transport older readers to a world of fantasy.  Min Li embarks on a journey to meet the old man of the moon in hopes of asking him how she might change her family's’ fortune.  Throughout her journey she meets an array of fascinating characters - including forming a friendship with an unconventional dragon - and learns more about herself than she ever dreamed she might.

 

Grace Lin has written and illustrated many other books.  We hope this list will help you and your family discover a new author for everyone to enjoy!

 

Assessment in Montessori Schools

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Testing is a hot-button topic for many families.  When making decisions regarding your child’s education, it’s important to know a school’s stance on assessments.  Read on to get an idea of where Montessori schools stand.

Let’s Define Assessment…

Merriam-Webster defines assessment as:

“the action or an instance of making a judgment about something : the act of assessing something”.

If we take a look at the evolution of the word itself, we find that assess comes from the Latin word assidere, which means ‘to sit beside’.

While any type of assessment is a means of judging progress, Montessori teachers take the Latin root to heart.  We literally sit beside the child, observing and assessing as we go.

While there are many different forms assessment can take, most of them can fit into two main categories: formative and summative assessment.  Formative assessment happens while the teaching and learning is taking place.  This is the type that Montessori teachers rely heavily on.  It allows teachers to shift gears mid-lesson and to get an instant record of how a child is doing with a particular skill at any given moment.  Summative assessment is more like your traditional test at the end of a unit, or a major standardized test at the end of the year.  These tests are typically data collection points and are often used mostly by the adults and not to give feedback to the student.  

How Do Montessori Teachers Track Progress?

Notes.  Notebooks full of thoughtful and detailed handwritten notes.  At least that’s the traditional way of recording progress.  Many schools are now shifting over to digital platforms that are created for and cater specifically to Montessori schools and their goals and values.  Still, many Montessori teachers continue to keep their own detailed records by hand.

Montessori teachers are masters of observation.  They think like scientists and spend lots of time sitting back and quietly watching the children at work.  When they’re not giving lessons, they’re observing.  They write all these observations down and then review them later to help decide what lessons to revisit, what new materials to present, or even what parts of the classroom environment need attention or change. 

How is Mastery Evaluated?

Often, mastery is evaluated while the teacher is giving a lesson.  Montessori developed a fascinating tool called the ‘three-period lesson’.  When a teacher is presenting new material to a child, they may only present the first period, or the first two, depending upon how the child reacts to the work during the lesson.  When the teacher suspects mastery, the third period portion will be given.  There is a certain amount of variation depending on the subject matter, but the general pattern is as follows:

  • First Period: “This is ____.” The teacher introduces the skill.  If the child is to learn the parts of a mountain, the teacher may say, “This is the summit.  The summit is the highest point of a mountain.”  A visual will be presented along with any other supporting materials.
  • Second Period: “Where is ____?” The teacher provides part of the information and asks the child to identify the rest.  For example the cards highlighting the various parts of the mountain may be laid out and the teacher asks the child to point to each defined part in turn.  “Where is the summit?”
  • Third Period: “What is ____?” The teacher is determining whether the child can independently recall the information.  The mountain cards are now laid out without any labels, and the child must identify the parts without any cues.  “What is this part?”

The best part?  Because of the beauty of the materials and the tone of the classroom, the child perceives this as a sort of game rather than a test to be dreaded.

What About When Children Get Older?

Parents often wonder how their children will make the transition into their local public schools or other more traditional private schools once they age out of their Montessori school.  This is where there’s a little more variability.  Different schools take different approaches, but some give the option of offering some form of standardized testing for their oldest students.  This could be in the form of state testing, or something similar.  This testing is typically not a requirement, but is sometimes an option for students or families who are interested.  Contact us to learn more about how our school handles this transition.

A Note About Self-Assessment:

Montessori classrooms are not just designed for teachers to assess the students, but also for the students to assess themselves.  This is done in two main ways.

Most Montessori materials are autodidactic, that is they are self-teaching.  They have been intentionally developed in such a way that the child can not complete the work incorrectly, or there is a built-in means for them to check their own work.  This looks different at the different levels and is best understood by visiting a classroom to observe, which we always encourage parents and prospective parents to do when they are curious.  When given a lesson on how to use a material correctly, the children learn about these built-in tools and how they can use them to guide their work.

Secondly, Montessori students are taught to be reflective.  As they get older (typically elementary and above), individual meetings with their teacher give them the opportunity to be an active participant in planning their own education.  They are not told what they must do, but they are asked how they plan to accomplish specific goals.  Some of these goals are set by the teacher but others are set by the child.  When needed, teachers will give strategies and suggestions, but the hope is that eventually the child will develop more of these on their own.  

We want our children to be able to take a look at their work and evaluate it with a critical eye, while still basking in the joy of accomplishment and learning.  By not passing obvious judgement in the form of grades or other traditional feedback methods, Montessori children come to see their learning as a constantly fluctuating process that they are empowered by.  If we can instill those values in them as children just imagine what they will be capable of as adults.

Living Montessori in the Summer

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If you’re reading this, you’re either:

  1. Sending your child to a Montessori school and totally dedicated to the philosophy, or
  2. Very curious about whether Montessori might be a good fit for your family.

Either way, you can create a Montessori-style summer that will either continue the experience, or give you a chance to try it out.

Maria Montessori cared deeply about honoring human development.  From the materials she created to the environments they are placed in to the delivery of the model, great attention is paid to the specific developmental phase a child is in.  You can do the same, simply and with just a little forethought...

Keeping your child’s needs in mind

So what exactly did Montessori have to say about the different stages of development?  Here’s a very quick rundown:

Infants and toddlers: Children in the earliest years are making great strides in development of movement and spoken language.  Though they will seek some level of independence, they still need quite a bit of support and lots of nurturing.  Children of this age display a strong preference for order.

3-6 year olds: The sense of order continues in this stage.  Primary-aged children want to do things for themselves, often literally saying, “I can do it!”  We try to let them, and modify their environment to make this possible.  It is also a time of huge growth in language, sensory refinement, early reading, writing, and math.  Children tend to work beside their peers, but independently.

6-12 year olds: The strong sense of order tends to disappear around this time, and is replaced by an emphasis on justice and social development.  Children at this age care very much about friendships and spend much of their time figuring out how to resolve conflicts together.  They are inspired by storytelling, science, history, and geography.  They continue to make great strides in the core academic areas.  They want to think for themselves.

Adolescents: Montessori recognized that adolescents are trying to balance their need for independence from adults, while still requiring quite a bit of support from them.  Increasing their responsibilities and providing them with challenges helps them work through this time.  This is a great time to start teaching children the skills they will need to master when they are finally ready to set out on their own.

Consider the routine

Routine is helpful for most humans, important for children, and critical for young children.  While vacations and daily activities will certainly mix up any routine, it’s a good idea to establish one anyway.  Routines give children consistency, which makes them feel safe.  It reduces behavioral issues and gives children the freedom to explore their world and take safe risks.  Consider the following:

  • What does your child need to do each day upon waking?  Depending upon their age, what can you do to support their independence in this area?  A toddler may have a floor bed so that they may physically rise on their own, while a six-year-old might be responsible for getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and preparing their breakfast.
  • What can your children do during the day (especially on days when there are no specific plans)?  Is there a bookcase containing age-appropriate books?  Are toys, games, puzzles, and art supplies organized and accessible?  Do your children feel free to explore these things independently, and have the knowledge and sense of responsibility to clean up when they are done?
  • Do your children have independent access to snacks and water?  Allowing them to listen to their bodies and self-identify those needs is a precious gift.  
  • Depending upon age, might your children help prepare meals?
  • Is there a balance between active time and quiet time?  Between togetherness and independence?
  • Just as it’s important to have a morning wake-up routine, consider what type of routine you want to establish for bed-time.  Though this might vary a bit from the regular school year, it’s still helpful to keep it consistent.

Integrate academics

This is totally possible to do without evoking moans and groans.  First of all, most Montessori children delight in academics.  Secondly, it can be done in short, effective bursts.  Some ideas:

  • Read daily.  Read to them, have them read to you, to each other, to themselves.
  • Find math in everyday life and talk about it.  The kitchen, shopping, driving - the possibilities for real-world word problems are endless.
  • Spend 5 minutes a day on math facts.  Make it fun with sidewalk chalk, silly songs, jump roping, or dry erase markers on the living room window.
  • Explore!  Dig into science, history, and geography by visiting local museums, parks, and landmarks.  Encourage their curiosities and research more together.
  • Older children can journal their experiences.  This is especially effective with a fancy notebook and pencil.

“Going Out”

A hallmark of the Montessori elementary years is “going out”, or small groups of children organizing and executing a field trip to further their individual interests.  Are your kids into dinosaurs?  See if there are any nearby fossil sights or museum exhibits.  Do they love sea creatures?  Check out an aquarium or visit the beach to explore tide pools.  They key is to listen to your children and let their interests guide the trip.  

Embracing nature

People simply feel better when they spend time in nature.  Ideally, we should all get out there at least a little bit each day.  If you live in a place adjacent to a natural area - say a body of water or forest - then this should be easy.  But even in urban areas there are options.  Does your family have a favorite park?  Does your city have a botanical garden or arboretum?  Is it possible to drive a short distance to more natural areas?

Keep your child’s developmental phase in mind when planning outdoor experiences.  It can be easy to get excited about a hike only to find out little legs can’t make it as far as you thought.  Build in breaks, bring snacks, and take lots of pictures!

Making time for the arts

It’s fun, easy, and important to build art into your summer plans.  Children can both appreciate the art of others and create work of their own.

It’s likely that your local community has more art on display than you may realize.  Search for not only museums, but galleries, sculptures, and street art such as murals.  Older children can have fun making art scavenger hunts for younger siblings.  

Drawing might be inspired by art they see, their outdoor adventures, or even tiny plants and creatures in your own backyard.  It can also be fun to participate in a daily sketchbook challenge such as this one: https://tinkerlab.com/july-sketchbook-challenge/ .

Other art possibilities are endless.  For infants and toddlers, it can be as simple as giving them a paintbrush, cup of water, and a smooth rock warmed in the sun.  They can paint the water on it, watch it disappear as it dries, and repeat for as long as the activity holds their interest.  Older children may want to experiment with a wide variety of medium.  Think pastels, watercolor, clay, collage, or charcoal.  Let them experiment and find new ways to use the materials.

Hopefully this post gives you some ideas for blending Montessori with summer home life.  Let us know how it goes!

Montessori Basics: Freedom Within Limits

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“Freedom within limits” is a phrase often used by Montessorians.  What do they mean and what does that look like?  Read on to find out...

The Myth: Montessori schools let children do whatever they want.  The children just play all day and the teachers don’t really teach.  It’s complete chaos.

These types of statements are typically made by people who don’t really know a whole lot about Montessori and haven’t spent time in the schools.  Montessori is very different from traditional and conventional education methods, so it’s natural to draw those assumptions based on limited information.  People who are familiar with the philosophy tend to have a very different take.

The Environment

Preparation of the environment is one of the most important things a Montessori teacher can focus on.  We believe that it is possible to create an environment full of materials that entice children to learn.  These materials are organized very carefully on wooden shelves so that children may access them independently.  As the needs of the children evolve, the offerings on the shelves evolve, too.  

In short, we think about the desired learning outcomes and create an environment that will allow children to achieve them with a certain level of independence.  We want them to satisfy their own learning curiosities and feel empowered by their own education.  We give lessons and we stand back and watch the children practice.

Care of Self

At a very young age children begin to feel a desire to do things for themselves.  Isn’t that what we all want for them?  Sometimes out of habit, and sometimes when we are in a hurry, it can be easy to jump in and do things for our children.  If we are careful to build in the time and structures that allow for independent self-care, it is amazing to see what kids are capable of.

This begins in the toddler class when they are learning to use the toilet independently.  In primary classrooms we actively teach children how to prepare their own snacks, and even encourage them to listen to their bodies’ needs and have a snack when they decide they need it, not when we decide it’s snack time.  Whenever possible, we don’t have our students ask for permission to use the restroom.  We trust them to take care of themselves when they need to.

Have you ever thought about your own attention span?  When we focus on challenging work for long periods of time we need to stop and take breaks occasionally.  This is healthy and makes us more productive in the long run.  We trust children to do the same, but we are right there to guide them back on track whenever they might need a reminder.

Work and Learning

It is true that Montessori children are free to choose their own work.  We want them to learn to follow their interests but we also want to give them opportunities to learn time management skills and responsibility in an authentic way.  While toddlers and primary aged children have lots of choice, older children are expected to follow a general academic framework.  While an elementary teacher is giving small group lessons, the rest of the class is working independently.  Some children might have a written work plan, others might have internalized the need to cover the major academic areas, and still others may need more direct teacher guidance.  Our goal is to meet regularly with each child to check in with their work and have a conversation about how that independence is going.  Children may choose the order in which they do their work, where they sit, and who they work with, but they know that ultimately it’s their responsibility to get it all done.

Parents often ask, “What if my child wants to avoid a particular work?”  This happens with many kids, as we all have things we like and things we don’t!  Montessori teachers give children strategies to address the avoidance.  When a child is younger, we may find a way to tie a personal interest into the work (for example, dinosaur counters in math).  Older children are open to learning work ethic strategies.  We may gently say, “I notice you’ve been avoiding grammar.  Sometimes we save the things that are hard or that we don’t enjoy so much for last, but completing that work first is helpful.  Why don’t you try that today and see how it feels?”  Acknowledging the struggles we all face and providing helpful feedback gives kids the support they need to grow as learners.  

Social Growth

One of the great things about Montessori classrooms is the flexibility we have in regards to time and structure.  Because we don’t ask children to sit at desks (we allow them to make their own seating choices and their own work buddy choices) they are free to have more authentic social interactions.  Kids under six often engage in what we call ‘parallel play’.  That is, they tend to be more apt to work individually beside their friends.  These younger children receive lots of lessons in grace and courtesy and their teachers are nearby to help guide them through any challenging social situations.

Once the elementary years begin, children become very social people.  This is a time in which they are learning all about friendships and how to interact socially with their peers.  They often delight in these interactions, but sometimes they are confronted with conflict.  Montessori teachers have the time to specifically teach conflict resolutions skills and peer mediation.  We are able to sit with children and guide them through the process in such a way that children feel heard, respected, and empowered with the skills necessary to resolve their problems independently in the future.

A Gradual Release

It’s important to remember that while Montessori schools do place great value in the development of independence we recognize it’s not something that happens overnight.  Luckily, when teachers work with children for a three year cycle, they become so tuned in to each child’s needs and progress that their learning experience is truly tailored to the individual.  

We don’t simply expect children to be independent and make great choices right away.  We slowly foster and encourage those values over time.  While paying close attention to each developmental phase and each student’s needs, we can intervene only when necessary.

We all appreciate being able to make our own choices when it comes to ourselves, our work, and our friendships.  Montessori just makes this possible for kids, too.