Social Development in a Montessori School

In a Montessori school, educators don’t merely teach lessons out of a textbook everyday, like you may see in a traditional school. Many of the lessons that Montessori educators teach are valuable life skills that a child will carry with them for a lifetime. Montessori schools focus on developing every aspect of the child – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. These elements make up what Dr. Montessori calls the whole child.

We know human beings are social creatures by nature. We not only depend on each other to fulfill our physical needs, but emotional and spiritual as well. The idea of “culture” is based on the myriad of different ways that groups of humans have devised to meet these needs.

In the Montessori classroom, you will notice that social development takes place in many forms. Some of these include:

Mixed Age Groups

Mixed age classrooms are a signature element of a Montessori school because Dr. Montessori believed that children learn from one another. This is proven in the Montessori environment where you will often see an older child happily helping his younger peers and gaining social maturity from being a role model. The younger child may learn new concepts from the older child and as she looks up to the older child, she will begin to see that she too, will be just as capable one day. Growing together is natural, as children instinctively know when to offer help, encouragement, and comfort to those around them. Hence the mixed age group means that children have the opportunity to interact with both older and younger peers, all of who are at varying levels of individual development. The mixed age group provides daily opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, and receiving or offering assistance. Younger children look to the older children with admiration and for inspiration, and in turn, the older children help and teach the younger children.

Mixed age groups are also a contributing factor competition avoidance among children in the classroom. In the structure of a mixed age classroom, children feel less pressure to compete and more motivated to collaborate and assist one another. The social discipline that Montessori observed describes how children spontaneously interact with each other. Children show:

  • Self-controlled and purposeful interactions with others
  • Mutual spontaneous respect
  • A willingness to help others
  • Spontaneous responsiveness to the needs of others
  • Evidence of feelings of benevolence and sympathy towards others in the group
  • A non-competitive attitude

Small Group Lessons

Although the Montessori focus lies in individual progression and many lessons are presented individually to the students, some lessons are presented to students in small groups. These small groups are great for dialogue and encourage children to share their thoughts regarding particular subjects. The safe environment of the small group also makes children feel comfortable expressing novel ideas with their peers. The small group sessions improve a child’s conversational skills and helps them grasp and understand important concepts.

Set Amount of Materials

Too many materials in the classroom could cause clutter and confusion. However, if there is one complete set of materials for the classroom, then the children will benefit from a sense of order. If a child wants to work on something that involves a material already being used by another child, then they will have to respectfully wait their turn. This teaches the child the virtue of patience and provides them with the opportunity for maturity.

Lessons in Grace and Courtesy

Developing the social skills of grace and courtesy is a key component of the Montessori curriculum. In a Montessori environment, children learn how to interact appropriately with each other and with adults through dialogue. Some of these interactions including greeting and hosting guests into the classroom, preparing and sharing snacks with peers, and exercising appropriate mealtime behavior. One of the main values that are taught in a Montessori classroom is respect. By teaching respect for their peers, materials, and themselves, Montessori educators plant a seed of compassion and empathy in the children.

In a Montessori classroom, children learn how to resolve conflicts and issues by making peace with others. This is often done at the “peace table” and achieved through sharing a “peace object” of some kind, such as a rock or a flower, which is passed back and forth as the children acknowledge their feelings and express themselves.

Social Development at MASS

Montessori observed that there were “phases through which social life must pass in the course of its natural unfolding.”

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we have created a rich, well-prepared environment designed to meet the needs of our young children. The classrooms at MASS are carefully constructed to help children understand the world around them. Our educators focus on helping children form a positive self-image and develop respect for all life.

 

 

Montessori in the Kitchen: Cooking with Your Child

When you walk into a Montessori preschool, you may notice that some of the learning materials look like miniature versions of every day houseware or cookware, such as storage bowls, teapots, and pitchers. A good Montessori preschool will have a wide variety of these materials for children to use in the classroom during what is called practical life activities. The purpose of these activities is to help the child gain control in coordination of movement, become an independent individual, and develop a sense of being and belonging in society.

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” – Maria Montessori.

Cooking with kids has great rewards and provides many teachable moments. As you cook with your children, you can over the sounds of the alphabet, help them learn about math through measurements, and explain kitchen science, such as how water boils. There are many age-appropriate topics that can give an indication of practicing the skills in an environment that is conducive to learning.

Although your child will learn a lot from the practical life activities in a Montessori preschool, you can continue these types of activities at home by cooking with your child. You can keep your child learning at home in the kitchen by following age-appropriate recipes for food preparation and cooking.

Cooking with Infants

With the proper guidance, you can encourage your little one to help you make dough for pizza or bread. This is a simple food preparation that you can get the youngest children involved in. Children between the ages of one and two should be able to help you by adding and mixing the ingredients or by kneading the dough.

Cooking with Toddlers

Children under the age of three do not need to be in a traditional classroom setting in order to learn, they simply absorb everything in the environment by experiencing it and being a part of it. It is therefore important to provide the child with an environment that is healthy and positive, since this is what the child will absorb.

The following are activities that refine their motor skills in the kitchen environment: spreading on crackers, peeling and slicing, shelling peas, egg peeling and slicing, adding and mixing ingredients, kneading dough, and helping to set the table. Helping with food preparation tasks, such as tearing the lettuce for salad and spinning the salad, are part of their tasks.

You can ask your toddler to help you make a salad. Children between the ages of two and three should be able to help you with food preparation tasks, such as tearing the lettuce for salad and spinning the salad. They can also help you with more difficult tasks, such as peeling and cutting apples with an apple slicer/corer and peeling and slicing vegetables. These are tasks that require careful supervision though, as they will be using sharper objects.

Cooking with Preschool Aged Children

Having preschool kids in the kitchen is first and foremost done with the intention of involving them and having them participate in the preparation of mealtime. Secondly, it is done to help them learn the valuable life skill of cooking. Lastly, it is done with the aim of refining their motor and executive functioning skills through a sequence of steps.

These activities build the child’s independence and increase their sense of self-involvement. Most of all, the child will enjoy the process, not just the product. Some age-appropriate activities that will help a preschool aged child get started include the following: squeezing orange juice, peeling and slicing vegetables, spinning salad, using a hand whisk, washing and tearing lettuce for salad.

For children ages 3 and up, you can start making actual recipes. Children in this age group will be able to use kitchen appliances with your supervision and will be able to measure ingredients with measuring cups and spoons. At this age, they follow along with pretty much any recipe you can think of, as long as you simplify it for them!

Cooking at Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs

In our Montessori preschool classrooms, the toddlers and primary age students participate in practical life activities that include the use of food preparation materials. For toddlers, the practical life activities help develop gross and fine motor skills, as well as gain a sense of independence. For primary aged children, the practical life activities play a huge role in helping them understand the world around them, as well as form a positive self-image.

 

The Importance of Sensorial Materials in Montessori Preschool

One of the things that set a Montessori preschool apart from normal daycare is the materials that are used in the classroom. In a regular daycare, children are usually given a variety of toys or educational games to keep them entertained throughout the day. In a Montessori preschool, however, the children are provided with unique learning materials that are designed specifically to foster sensorial development.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children began having sensorial experiences at birth. According to Dr. Montessori’s studies, as children grow up, they explore and learn by interacting with their environment through their senses.   This unique period in a child’s development happens between the ages of birth and six years old. To help children express, classify, and broaden their sensory experiences, Dr. Montessori designed the Sensorial materials.

The purpose of the Sensorial materials is to aid the child in refining the child’s pitch, temperature, and weight and is utilizing language in describing these qualities. These materials are an integral part of developing the whole child — directly building the “mathematical mind” and indirectly preparing for writing.

 

Below are some of the Sensorial materials used in a Montessori preschool.

Visual

  • The Pink Tower, the Brown Stair, and Red Rods are used to develop discrimination of differences in three, two and one dimensions respectively.
  • Cylinder Blocks (Knobbed Cylinders) are used to develop the child’s visual discrimination of size, which prepares the child for later work in math. Handling these knobbed cylinders also indirectly prepares and strengthens a child’s hand for writing. 
  • Knobless Cylinders develop a child’s visual discrimination of gradations of size in a series. The Knobless Cylinders also fine tune a child’s muscle coordination and sharpen concentration skills.
  • The Color Boxes come with matching, as well as gradient style color tablets that the children manipulate in order from darkest to lightest. This helps children identify colors and develop visual discrimination.
  • The Geometric Cabinet includes trays that contain insets of a variety of plane figures, which help children develop visual discrimination of shape as well as learn the names of the various figures.
  • Constructive Triangles are used to form plane figures and help prepare children for geometry by refining discrimination senses.  
  • Binomial and Trinomial Cubes develop a child’s appreciation for the beauty of form in three dimensions. The cubes also indirectly prepare the child for mathematical concepts involving the binomial and trinomial theorems. 

Tactile

Geometric Solids help a child develop the muscular-tactile sense as well as sharpen the visual perception of solid figures. Geometric solids also indirectly prepare a child for geometry and its language.

Touch Tablets, Thermic Tablets, Fabrics and Thermic Bottles develop a child’s tactile senses as they touch and feel varying degrees of roughness, softness, temperature, and texture.

Auditory

Sound Cylinders and Bells develop a child’s auditory sense as they learn to distinguish volume and pitch and become more sensitive to sounds in their environment.

Olfactory and Gustatory

Smelling Bottles and Tasting Bottles allow a child to discriminate one smell from another or one taste from another. The child then applies this knowledge to other smells or tastes in the environment.

Montessori Materials at MASS

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, you will find an extensive collection of Montessori materials. Unlike your average daycare, Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs is focused on enhancing each child’s sensorial experience on a daily basis. We take extra care in providing the most age-appropriate Sensorial materials in each of our classrooms.

 

 

Incorporating Montessori Principles into Your Daily Life

Montessori is more than just an education style; it is a way of life that goes beyond the classroom walls. It’s important for parents to recognize this Montessori lifestyle, so that they can begin to build an authentic bridge that connects the gap between home and school. Here are some key Montessori principles you can incorporate into your daily life as a Montessori parent.

Environment

A Montessori environment is characterized by an unmistakable atmosphere of peace, which in classrooms, is marked by certain features such as the peace corner, the peace rose, or the peace table. Parents can cultivate this peaceful climate at home by getting into a regular rhythm or routine to avoid the anxiety that comes with worrying about what might happen next. Parents who practice and model meaningful, courteous behavior, such as saying “good morning,” “please,” and “thank you,” will help reinforce their child’s mindfulness.

A child’s sense of peace can also be improved by feeling a connection to nature. Parents are encouraged to take the time to stop anywhere with their child in order to observe and listen to nature, such as watching the sky change color as the sun sets or listening to an animal rustling through a bush.

Discipline

Positive discipline and child guidance are crucial Montessori principles to incorporate at home because they promote children’s self-control, teach children responsibility, and help children make thoughtful choices. A good example of a positive discipline technique that a Montessori parent can take to prevent misbehavior (in a child between the ages of 3 and 6) is acknowledging how the child feels, asking him how he thinks he would solve the problem, and then suggesting what they can do in future situations.

For instance, a conversation with your child might go something like this: “I see you’re frustrated because you wanted to have a turn playing with the truck. When you want something that someone else has, what can you do?” This problem-solving approach to discipline corrects the child’s misbehavior while effectively guiding him in direction of self-discipline.

Activities

There are five types of activities for young children that embody Montessori principles and aid in child development. These five activity styles can easily be incorporated into your daily life.

  • Practical life activities include tasks like cleaning, making their own snack, washing vegetables, watering plants, scrubbing dishes, and cleaning windows.
  • Eye-hand coordination activities include pursuits that work their hands in all sorts of different ways. Making a pasta necklace by threading, water pouring exercises, puzzles and a favorite for many children – locking and unlocking locks on a lock box or latch board.
  • Arts and crafts activities include drawing, sand and clay molding, cutting shapes, painting, and sewing.
  • Language activities include using baskets filled with classified objects in them and reading books, especially books that focus on daily life.
  • Gross motor activities include fun indoor activities like balancing and yoga and outdoor activities like swinging, running, jumping, and sliding.

These are just a few ways to help you get started on incorporating Montessori principles into your daily life. At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, our curriculum offers children a carefully prepared environment, rich in learning materials and experiences. We follow the eight basic Montessori principles that provide a foundation for the Montessori classroom experience: movement and cognition, choice, interest, avoidance of extrinsic rewards, learning from and with peers, learning in context, respectful teacher-child interaction, and order in environment and mind. We believe that what your child learns in class with the proper guidance can be reinforced at home with the proper environment, discipline, and activities.

The Importance of Global Citizenship

As Montessori parents, you want your child to become a part of the emerging world community and to help build that community in the future. Here at the Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs we recognize the importance of global citizenship and how it develops from birth into adulthood. That’s why we make global citizenship a key focus in our cosmic education.

Creating a Vision                                                                                     

From a young age, each child should begin to understand that they are individuals who are a part of the human species, a member of society, and on a much larger scale, a citizen of the world. By nurturing this awareness of the world, the child will begin to develop a universal understanding and appreciation of all life on earth.

As Maria Montessori wrote in To Educate the Human Potential, “Since it has been seen to be necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe.  The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions.” Montessori’s visionary idea was based on her observations of children’s eagerness to understand themselves, the world, and how they fit into it.

Age-Appropriate Development

Montessori also discussed the proper time for a child to be exposed to all items of culture, which she said was at six years of age. This age, she said, is optimal because children are enthusiastic about receiving items of culture. She compared this process to the germination of a seed that will expand and grow if these elements of culture are introduced at the proper time and in the correct way.

“A need arises for a special method, whereby all factors of culture may be introduced to the six-year-old; not in a syllabus to be imposed on him, or with exactitude of detail, but in the broadcasting of the maximum number of seeds of interest,” wrote Montessori.

Building Horizons

According to Montessori, we have a moral responsibility or a “cosmic task” to protect humankind from the threat of self-annihilation caused by the impact of our species’ destructive actions. Nurturing the core value of global citizenship is meant to prepare children to successfully handle the issues that the modern world faces in a peaceful way.

At MASS, we encourage our students to use their conscious minds and imaginations to explore the diversity of cultures and how communities around the world live and work differently. By cultivating a profound respect for cultures and the world as a whole, we hope to develop a generation of adolescents who value global connectedness and are able to collaborate with people across all nations and cultures.

Montessori Learning through Sensorial Work

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that sensorial experiences began at birth. Through their senses, children are able to study their environment. Through sensorial work, children are able to consciously obtain clear information that allows them to make classifications in their environment. These classifications also work as stepping stones to organized intelligence, which leads to the ability to adapt to the environment.

The Importance of Sensorial Work

Sensorial activities in Montessori learning are specifically designed to aid children in discrimination and order, as well as to broaden and refine the senses. Sensorial work with Montessori designed materials helps prepare a child to be logical, aware and perceptive.

The concept of sensorial work was developed by Dr. Montessori long before sensory play was adopted into practice. According to the Montessori philosophy, the child is the “sensorial explorer” and learns to perceive qualities through sensorial experiences.

Sensorial Materials

Montessori materials, like the Pink Tower in the photo above, are designed to aid in visual discrimination by allowing the child to recognize differences in dimension, width, length, and size. There are plenty of Montessori activities that enhance the visual sense, including the Brown Stair, Red Rods, Knobbed Cylinders, and Color Tablets.

The tactile sense is also developed in sensory activities through the use of Touch Tablets and Fabric Feel, while the auditory sense is sharpened through the use of Sound Cylinders and Bells. The olfactory sense, in which a child learns to differentiate smells, is developed through Montessori materials like Scent Bottles, while the gustatory sense, in which a child learns to differentiate tastes, is developed through Food Preparation and food tasting.

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we know that there is no limit to the amount of knowledge children may obtain during their formative years. Between birth and age 6, we know how important it is to develop a child’s senses. For this reason, we place emphasis on helping children understand the world around them. In the classroom, we implement sensorial work and use the proper activities to develop logic, awareness, and perception.

What is Virtue Education?

In a Montessori school system, our primary focus is the whole child. As part of developing all of the elements of the whole child, the Montessori Method concentrates on educating the human potential. Through character education, we are able to help each child unlock their personal potential. Virtue education allows each child to explore the field of morality and learn to discriminate between good and evil.

What are the Virtues?

Virtues are universal and are recognized by people of all cultures. They are necessary for a child’s well-being and happiness. Once they are learned, they will last the child a lifetime.

We make sure that our students learn the following virtues:

Wisdom, courage, perseverance, honesty, kindness, patience, helpfulness, humility, compassion, hard work, creativity, independence, confidence, respectfulness, grace, courtesy, sociability, responsibility, self-sufficiency, curiosity, joyfulness, gratitude, and service.

All of these virtues help build a child’s character and inspire others around them to be better people.

Developing the Virtues

In The Discovery of the Child, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote “She must acquire a moral alertness which has not hitherto been demanded by any other system, and this is revealed in her tranquility, patience, charity, and humility. Not words, but virtues, are her main qualifications.”

In order to develop these virtues, we expose our children to stories and experiences that model them. We make sure that our guides make it a point to display these virtues on a daily basis, so they serve as role models to the students. We also concentrate on positive activities in order to prevent the formation of negative traits. In a Montessori environment, bad habits such as laziness and disorder are quickly replaced by good qualities such as self-sufficiency and hard work.

Cultivating virtues leads a child to develop a more purposeful life. In Montessori classrooms, students learn virtues like service and helpfulness by participating in practical life activities. Such exercises include teaching children to care for the environment and peer to peer collaboration, in which an older student helps a younger student.

What You Can Do at Home

Understanding that learning doesn’t start and finish in the classroom is essential for Montessori parents who want to support the development of the whole child. Children are learning at all times, so the child’s learning experiences at home and at school should be cohesive. One way to form this cohesion is through communication with your child’s guide.

It is important for you to know when and which virtues are being taught in class. For instance, if you find out from your child’s guide that honesty is being covered in class next week, you should find ways to incorporate practicing honesty at home also.

Role play is a great way to do this.  Explain situations that your child can easily understand and give your child various options of choices they could make in that situation.  Be sure to provide some choices that emphasize honesty more than others. Then discuss your child’s choices, and the possible consequences of each choice, as well as why it’s important to be honest both at home and in school.

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.

Feeding Your Preschooler: What’s a Normal Daily Menu?

We’re pulling from our archives to talk about daily menus for toddlers.

“My child isn’t eating,” is a common statement from parents of three-year-olds. At the end of a school day, parents are often surprised that the lunch they so lovingly prepared is barely touched. When teachers are asked, they often say they encouraged the child to eat but the chip simply was not hungry. So, what’s a parent to do?

One thing to consider is the amount of water the child has consumed during the day. Water is readily available in the classroom and on the playground. Children are encouraged especially on hot days to drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration. This high water consumption keeps them hydrated but also decreases their appetite.

Another factor in food intake can be distraction. During the third year of life, preschoolers are very active and mobile. Often at lunchtime, they are socializing with their friends, looking around the room – seemingly focusing on everything except eating.

Their appetite also begins to fluctuate greatly. Sometimes they get stuck on one food. These “only eating chicken nuggets” moments usually don’t last long if you don’t accommodate them. We recommend that you continue to serve a wide variety of nutritious foods.

A healthy child is most important. Speak with your child’s teacher about what foods are successful with other children. Many children like items that are easy to manage: finger foods, enriched drinks, and yogurts, for example. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits, please contact your pediatrician.

Super Kids Nutrition, a nutrition education and healthy eating website for parents and kids, offers this Sample Daily Menu for the average Three-Year-Old child. This menu provides a good understanding of basic needs – often smaller in size than parents expect, though rich in nutrients – within the framework of your particular family’s preferences and appetites.

Montessori Primer – Technology at Home

Studies show that students do not enjoy working at home on the same things that they are doing at school, and that students who do a lot of paperwork for homework are not as efficient in class. Technology can be a great way for children to practice skills they are learning at school in a format that engages their mind and interest in a different way.

Students are increasingly engaging with technology through smart phone and tablet apps, and a growing number of these activities are Montessori-themed. But are “Montessori apps” effective? Bobby and June George, owners of Baan Dek Montessori in Souix Falls, South Dakota, and of Montessorium, a company devoted to creating “self-guided learning experiences for children,” maintain that they are. In their interview with blogger Lori Bourne of Montessori for Everyone, the Georges give a brief overview of their products, how they got started, and why they consider their products to be true to traditional Montessori ideology.

“If Maria Montessori were alive today, we think that she would be at the Apple store, playing with an iPad, thinking hard about these complicated issues… In our opinion, Maria Montessori would be trying to open up and discover new ways to think about how we learn.” – Bobby and June George