Montessori Philosophy: Celebrating World Holidays with Your Child

As a Montessori parent, you may be looking for new and creative ways to incorporate the Montessori philosophy into your family lifestyle at home. One of the ways you can do this is by developing an appreciation for different cultures by celebrating world holidays. Culture is a major topic of study in the Montessori curriculum and by celebrating world holidays, you can easily teach children about the various traditions and rituals that people celebrate around the world. Here are just a few of the holidays that you can adopt at home to teach your children about the beauty and value of other cultures.

Diwali              

Also known as the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali is a five-day festival celebrated by people in Fiji, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Representing the renewal of life, Diwali is a holiday filled with many rituals that honor this tradition – such as lighting diyas (lamps), cleaning homes, opening windows, and wearing new clothes.

Chinese New Year

As one of the most prominent and celebrated festivals in the world, the Chinese New Year is celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. Each year is characterized by a different symbol in the Chinese Zodiac, such as the Year of the Tiger or the Year of the Dog.  The Chinese New Year is often celebrated with many different traditions such as cleaning, having dinner with family, repaying debts, playing games, and consuming special foods. It is also customary for children to receive red envelopes filled with money in honor of the Chinese New Year.

Kwanzaa

A celebration of African-American Ancestry, Kwanzaa is all about honoring ancestors through food, gift sharing, community service, history, and family. The week-long celebration dedicates each day of the week to a different principle:

  • Umoja -Unity
  • Kujichagulia – Self-determination
  • Ujima – Working together
  • Ujamaa – Helping our neighborhood grow
  • Nia – Purpose
  • Kuumba – Creativity
  • Imani – Faith

Hanukkah

Also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that is observed for eight nights and days. Hanukah is celebrated by lighting a candelabrum each night called a menorah, eating fried foods such as potato latke (pancakes), playing a game with a dreidel (a four-sided spinning top), and giving gifts.

Earth Day

This special holiday is celebrated annually with worldwide events on April 22nd. This holiday is celebrated in order to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Celebrated in 193 countries, Earth Day has a different theme each year, such as “End Plastic Pollution,” “Environmental and Climate Literacy,” and “Clean Earth – Green Earth.”

How We Celebrate Culture at MASS

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we have found many ways to integrate culture within our practices of the Montessori philosophy. Along with celebrating numerous world holidays, such as the Chinese New Year, MASS students also participate in the Model United Nations conference – a forum that provides students with the opportunity to learn about other countries and hone in on their diplomacy skills.

Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs also offers a new international, multi-language extension program called the Global Language Academy at Sharon Springs (“GLASS”). The GLASS program provides young minds with the opportunity to learn a second language and understand different cultures while growing in the era of globalization. Courses in Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Farsi, German, French and ESL (English as a second language) are all offered under the GLASS program.

Last but certainly not least, we have the MASS International Festival.  This yearly event offers a day in which we not only have fun, but also learn and experience many of the cultures found within our amazing community, and beyond.  The event unfolds with a flag raising ceremony followed by the parade of countries. Then, children receive passports – becoming world travelers as they tour different countries while they visit each classroom community. Each country (classroom) offers the child a unique experience with the opportunity to engage in crafts, music, food, or other activities.

Montessori Education: Creating a Garden with Your Child

Nature is an important element of a Montessori education. When you watch a seed grow into a flower, you get to witness one of the many miracles of nature. In the same way, seeing something you nourish with the proper nutrients develop into something beautiful is exciting and gives you a sense of accomplishment. At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, our outdoor garden allows our students to experience these feelings daily.

A great way to incorporate these environmental principles of a Montessori education outside the classroom is by creating your own garden at home. By creating a small garden in your yard with your children, you can share these joyous feelings with your little ones and expose them to the wonders of nature.

What to Grow with Your Child

While there are dozens of different crops that can be planted in a backyard garden, it is a good idea to choose crops that are easy to grow, grow relatively quickly, and are fun to harvest. In this way, children do not lose interest in the garden because it is taking too long for it to grow.

One of the best crops for a child to grow is a sunflower because it begins sprouting in one week, and once it is taller, it will grow hundreds of seeds that can be eaten or replanted. Not to mention, the vibrant yellow color of the flower’s bloom is beautiful to look at every day. Lettuce and snow peas are other great options because they grow quickly as well as deepen a child’s appreciation for vegetables. Many children tend to love cherry tomatoes and carrots because they are particularly fun to harvest and eat!

Tips for Gardening with Your Child

In order to make gardening a fun experience for your child, there are several things you can do. Give your child their own gardening plot or put them in charge of a particular crop. This will keep them engaged, as they will feel responsible for their section of the garden. Giving your child real gardening tools instead of the plastic one made for kids is usually a better idea – as long as you are supervising – because the plastic ones break easily and often frustrate the child. This also makes your child feel that their work in the garden is just as important as yours.

Instead of buying garden starters, you should begin by planting real seeds. This will help your child gain a better understanding of a plant’s life cycle and feel a greater sense of accomplishment once they harvest their crop.

Lastly, you can help your child build a scarecrow for the garden. This is especially useful if your child starts to become bored with gardening, since it will help regain their interest in protecting their crops.

Virtues Learned from Gardening

There are several important virtues of a Montessori education that your child will learn from gardening. Growing a crop does not happen overnight; it requires patience, dedication, and hard work. A child will learn that they must continue taking care of their crop in order for it to grow. They will enjoy seeing it blossom as it goes through different stages of its life, but they must continue nurturing it in order for it to fully grow, bloom, and produce fruits or vegetables.

Children will also learn responsibility and ownership through an at-home Montessori education involving the environment. If they are put in charge of growing a particular crop, that crop becomes their responsibility and they will feel a sense of ownership over it. Once it is fully grown and harvested, they will feel proud that their hard work created something useful for their family. Studies have shown that children who garden are happier and more confident in their abilities.

 

Developing the Whole Child in Montessori School

In a Montessori education, one of the main emphases is on the development of the whole child. While a traditional school may focus mainly on developing a child’s cognitive abilities, a Montessori school, like Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, aims to develop every aspect of a child. These aspects include the four major elements that make up what Montessori refers to as the whole child: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive.

Physical

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that knowledge, learning, and movement were all interconnected and that learning through the senses engaged the whole body. That is why movement in a Montessori environment is so important. By ensuring that children are moving around and staying physically active throughout the day, the Montessori method promotes physical growth and maturity.  Not only do physically active children develop stronger muscles and bones, but they also tend to have an easier time falling asleep at night.

Another positive to developing the physical aspect of a child is the opportunity they get when they play outside. Outdoor play allows children to be exposed to all of the beautiful things that nature has to offer. The outdoor environment is also the perfect place for children to use their senses. Outdoor objects like plants, rocks, and animals can serve as a classroom as well.

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we encourage our students to move about both inside and outside the classroom. Our students participate in physical education activities on a regular basis and are able to participate in additional enrichments including tumbling, playball, and tap-ballet.

Emotional

Dr. Montessori also believed that developing the power to love through flourishing the inner peace and depth of the soul should be one of the most important goals in life. Learning how to recognize and manage emotions, therefore, is a very important life skill. Because many conflicts in life are a result of a person feeling hurt by another’s actions, it is crucial for children to learn at an early age that their actions can affect other people.

In a Montessori school, the value of respect is highly emphasized. If students get into a disagreement in a Montessori classroom, they learn how to talk about their feelings in order to resolve the issue peacefully. In a Montessori environment, children also learn how to recognize what emotions others are feeling by looking at body language and facial expressions. Through the development of emotional intelligence, children are able to form stronger bonds with others.

Social

Another key part of developing the whole child through the Montessori Method is recognizing the importance of social interactions. One of the main features of a Montessori school, multi-age classrooms, takes this into consideration. In these classrooms, children are grouped according to the plane of development they are in, rather than the traditional method of grouping based on exact age.

Multi-age classrooms, therefore, allow students to interact with children of varying ages, which helps young children feel more comfortable with older children. Older children also benefit from being in multi-age classrooms because it develops their leadership skills by being able to serve as mentors to the younger students and assist them with their work.

Cognitive

In the Montessori approach, the classroom expands far beyond four walls. To a Montessori student, the world is their classroom. With this in mind, it is important to note how the world plays a key role in the Montessori method’s aim to foster creative thinking, problem-solving abilities, and the drive to learn and challenge oneself. With the world as their classroom, students learn to view themselves as global citizens and begin to recognize and appreciate the beauty of different cultures and traditions.

In a Montessori environment, children begin to understand that they are part of a greater universe and therefore they develop a moral responsibility to protect our planet for the future. They also develop a profound respect for the natural environment and understand the importance of practicing good virtues. Art and music programs allow children the outlet to express themselves while computer classes help prepare them for our technologically progressing society.  Through a combination of these subjects and Montessori approaches to learning, children develop the cognitive skills necessary to succeed today.

 

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, our child-centered Montessori Method of education values the human spirit and strives for the development of the whole child. In our Montessori school classrooms, our dedicated guides work on developing every the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects of the whole child on a daily basis.

The History of Montessori Schools

When considering a Montessori education for your child, it’s important to discover a little bit about the history of Montessori and how the method came to be. Developed over 100 years ago, the Montessori Method was the product of years of research conducted by the Italian physician, educator, and innovator Dr. Maria Montessori.

Pre-Montessori Schools

From an early age, Maria proved her thirst for knowledge by entering into an all-boys technical institute at the age of 13 to prepare for a career in engineering. She later changed her mind and decided to become a doctor instead. Eventually, she was accepted into the University of Rome’s medical program, which opened the door for future women in the field. In 1896, Maria graduated from medical school, becoming one of Italy’s first female physicians.

Her interest in education developed during the early years of her psychiatry focused medical practices. She attended classes on pedagogy and immersed herself in educational theory. Through her studies, Montessori was able to observe and call into question the widely established methods of teaching children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Montessori Movement

In 1900, Maria Montessori was appointed co-director of a new training institute for special education teachers. Through this institute, Maria was able to further her observations and experiment with different teaching methods to see which ones worked best. The program ultimately proved to be successful with many of the children making unexpected developmental advances.

A few years later in 1907, Dr. Montessori opened her first Montessori school – the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House – in a poor inner city district of Rome. Using her prior scientific observations and experiences, Montessori was able to design a high-quality classroom environment complete with a variety of learning materials that fostered the children’s natural desire to learn.

In her book The Secret of Childhood, Montessori wrote:  “Before elaborating any system of education, we must, therefore, create a favorable environment that will encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts. All that is needed is to remove the obstacles. And this should be the basis of, and point of departure for, all future education. The first thing to be done, therefore, is to discover the true nature of a child and then assist him in his normal development.”

Dr. Montessori dedicated the rest of her life to perfecting her child-centered approach to learning. She held a series of lectures, wrote articles and books, and created a program for teachers to learn how to apply the Montessori Method. Due to her efforts and the work of her devoted followers, Montessori education spread internationally.

Living Montessori

The Montessori Method now lives through about 4,500 Montessori schools in the United States and about 20,000 worldwide. In her book, The Montessori Method, Dr. Montessori wrote:  “Today, however, those things which occupy us in the field of education are the interests of humanity at large and of civilization, and before such great forces we can recognize only one country – the entire world.”

Although many Montessori schools in the United States are privately owned, there are a growing number of Montessori programs that can be found within the public school systems. These programs, in both private and public schools, come in many shapes and sizes, from small infant or early-childhood classrooms to larger elementary, junior high, or high school classes.

The Benefits of Multi-Age Classrooms

Multi-age classrooms are one of the main features of Montessori schools that set them apart from traditional schools. A child in a Montessori school will be placed in a classroom not by exact age, but by his individual level of development. Typically, students are grouped according to which plane of development they fall into. The planes of development include the following age groups: 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, and 15-18 years old. These three-year cycles are based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s psychological studies and scientific observations of the child.

Why it Matters

Unlike a traditional school system which sets only one teacher per year, mixed-age classrooms allow children to stay with the same teacher for multiple years. This lets the teacher develop a deeper bond with each student and allows them to gain a deeper understanding of each child’s individual needs, leading to a more effective teaching method. Children are also able to cultivate a more relaxed feeling around their teacher and their classmates because they have known them for a longer time. Because they are comfortable with their surroundings, the children are able to focus easily on their education without the worry and challenges of having to get to know a new teacher and a new set of classmates every year.

Montessori classrooms foster life-long leadership skills. In each mixed age classroom, the older students have the opportunity to become like mentors to the younger students. These mentors help to teach their mentees concepts and ideas that are more advanced. The mentors are also there to answer any questions that their younger mentees might have. This form of peer-to-peer learning is beneficial to the mentor and the mentee as both of them gain skills by collaborating with one another. Teaching the younger students helps the older students reinforce their own knowledge base, while the younger students benefit from having a mentor who is readily available to help them.

How it Affects Development

According to Dr. Maria Montessori, as children pass through the planes of development, they begin to develop certain attributes and needs according to the aforementioned age groupings. Each period of transformation is taken into consideration in the Montessori classroom, where children are grouped according to their plane of development in order to maximize the child’s learning. As they remain with the same teacher throughout these three-year cycles, more understanding is gained and the teacher is easily able to base the education on each child’s individual needs.

Additionally, having the opportunity to interact with other children, who are either younger or older, can help a child develop important social skills. Oftentimes, younger children are intimidated by older children simply because they have not interacted with them before. However, in a Montessori classroom as students of different ages interact with each other on a daily basis, they become more comfortable playing and learning with older children. Furthermore, by being around children of different ages, they are exposed to three or more levels of all subjects at all times. This constant cognitive stimulation sparks a greater and more organic interest in learning.

Our Mission                                                                                                            

We designed our multi-age classrooms here at Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs to help our students develop leadership skills, confidence in their abilities, and a deep love of learning. Children learn how to get along with others and resolve conflicts peacefully in our classrooms. They also learn the importance of being kind to others, sharing learning materials, and providing assistance when other students need help. All of these are valuable skills that will last your child a lifetime.

Learning Through Nature: The Montessori Philosophy

Nature provides one of the biggest driving forces of curiosity and exploration while offering rich sensorial experiences for children.  For this reason, nature has always been an integral part of the Montessori learning process. Montessori education draws a deep connection between nature and childhood development.  Children come to appreciate nature and all that it has to offer.

The Montessori Philosophy

Dr. Maria Montessori considered the outdoor environment an extension of the indoor classroom. According to her philosophy, the natural world provided endless possibilities for experiential learning. “Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur,” she wrote in The Absorbent Mind.

The Montessori Method stresses immersion in nature because of its effects on the growth of the whole child. According to the method, nature enriches the life of each child by supporting physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.

By increasing a child’s interactions with the natural world, Montessori guides and Montessori parents are promoting the child’s development as a young naturalist. Spending more time in nature will also influence the child to lead an environmentally responsible lifestyle throughout childhood and into adulthood, as well.

In a Cosmic Education

Dr. Montessori stressed the interconnectedness between humanity and nature. “The land is where our roots are,” she wrote. “The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.”

In her explanation of cosmic education, Montessori emphasizes that the child should understand that they are part of a greater universe. By going outside and learning from nature firsthand, this profound understanding can be achieved.

“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”

How you can apply it at home

As Montessori parents, you can continue this cosmic education outside of the classroom, too. Here are just a couple of ideas:

  • Take your child on nature walks in or around the woods or beach (depending on where you live).
  • Visit the nearest botanical garden or zoo together, and encourage them to keep nature journals and take photos of anything they see that catches their interest.

Through these activities, your child will become more connected with nature, and begin to understand their place in the universe.

Montessori vs. Daycare

Montessori vs. Daycare

When comparing child care options for your child, you may have some questions about the differences between a Montessori preschool and a traditional daycare. Every classroom is unique, even within the same educational system. However, there are some major differences between Montessori and traditional systems.

Time:

In a traditional daycare system, a child usually stays in the facility until they turn five years old and can then enter kindergarten, where they begin to really focus on important concepts such as reading, writing, and mathematics. In a Montessori education system, children will begin their academic career at around age three. This means that children in Montessori schools have an additional two years to learn and develop the skills necessary for them to do well in school later in life. Montessori children usually remain with the same teacher for multiple years. This extended period of time allows them to bond with their teacher and gives the teacher the ability to develop and implement an individualized teaching plan for each child in their classroom.

Flexibility:

Traditional daycares focus on structure, and the caretakers are the ones who determine the activities that all of the kids do each day. Montessori classrooms, however, allow for flexibility when it comes to the individual needs of a child. There is an emphasis on each child being able to work and move at their own pace, learn freely through activities, and collaborate with others. If a child wants to work on one activity for an extended period of time, the child has that option. This gives each child the opportunity to learn at their own pace until they fully understand a topic.

Holistic Approach:

The primary goal of a daycare is to introduce basic educational topics and entertain a child while her parents are at work. Montessori preschools, however, work to develop a well-rounded, well-educated, and successful individual. Montessori students develop social skills through life habits and learning principles taught early-on, as well as through collaboration and group work. Older students are commonly given the opportunity to mentor younger students, which teaches cooperation, altruism, and leadership.

Freedom:

Traditional daycares usually rely on instructor-directed discipline to function, but in Montessori education, children are free to move around the classroom, exploring and learning through a variety of activities. This freedom allows children to learn through interaction in their stimulating environment. As children grow older, this emphasis helps develop a deep love of learning, instead of the repetitive memorization of facts and concepts.

As they grow and mature, every child will learn differently and be shaped by their educational experiences. Choosing a Montessori school for your child will no doubt be beneficial for both their development and their future.

Practical Life – Part 3

Today we conclude our series on Practical Life. 

One important aspect of the Practical Life environment is that all the materials used are real 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 using 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 the 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.

Earlier posts in this series:

Practical Life – Part 1

Practical Life – Part 2

Parent Education: Practical Life – Part 1

Today we are looking back at a series that we posted back in the summer, Practical Life. 

In a Montessori classroom, the Practical Life area is one of the first areas that a child explores. This section of the classroom provides the child with real-life materials that help to develop coordination, concentration, independence, and order.

Through the exercises of Practical Life, the child learns the skills that enable him to become an independent being. From birth, the child is striving for independence and concerned adults, parents, and teachers should help him on his path by showing him the skills he needs to achieve this end. Having been shown a skill, the child then needs freedom to practice and perfect.

In a Montessori classroom, preschool children learn basic motor skills in the Practical Life areas by teaching themselves and learning from other children rather than by specific adult instruction. As the child becomes absorbed in an interesting activity, he develops concentration. If the activity is appropriate and meets a need, it will be interesting for the child. The longer the child is absorbed by an activity the  better for the development of concentration.

Through activity, the child learns to control his movements. The idea that the path to intellectual development occurs through the hands is a major theme in the Montessori Method. The exercises of Practical Life provide opportunities for the development of both gross motor and fine motor movements. In addition, the child learns to keep the environment in a clean and ordered way, putting everything away in its right place. He is taught to approach each new task in an ordered way, to carry it out carefully, to complete the activity, and finally, how to clean up and put the materials away. Engaging in this complete process encourages logical thinking.

Another great post on Practical Life can be found here as well.