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Natural Consequences vs Punishment

When it comes to how you discipline your child, it’s a very personal choice. However, in Montessori learning, there is a concept called “natural consequence” that can revolutionize the way we discipline our children. Unlike punishment, which utilizes fear to get children to behave well, natural consequence helps children understand the impact of their actions, so they want to do the right thing.

What are natural consequences?

The Montessori method explains to us what natural consequences are and how they are proven to work. A simple example of natural consequence can be found in the following scenario. Suppose you give your child a drink of water in a glass cup and he drops it. The glass breaks and the water spills. Yes, this can be a huge mess but it is also a big learning moment. Your child sees that the broken glass and spilled water is a natural consequence of his careless actions. From that point forward (and sometimes after multiple accidents), your child will try to be more careful when holding the glass of water to avoid the same accident in the future.

Through natural consequences, children learn that their choices have an impact on themselves and others. In order for this to truly be effective, however, the child must be able to see that the link exists between their action and the consequence.

Maria Montessori has shown us the way. In her teachings, she said the most important preparation is to ensure that the adult(s) in these circumstances should approach the child thoughtfully instead of jumping to conclusions that the child is acting bad or naughty. Hence, parents, adults, teachers or caretakers should try to see the root of the problem causing the child to behave in such a manner, instead of observing and recording the child’s actions in an unsympathetic manner.

It has been noted on more than one occasion that an unmet need of some sort takes the form of such difficult behavior patterns. In situations like this, adults should be loving and patient towards the child. They should offer more thoughtful activities such as washing exercises, sandbox activities, flower arranging, watering plants, fishing, or any other activity that can exercise their brain to calm down.

What is punishment?

Punishment is a form of conditioning that focuses on reducing or eliminating unwanted behaviors. Punishment can involve two things:

  1. Presenting an unpleasant stimulus, such as loud scolding, when the child has done something wrong.
  2. Taking something that they want away from them when they have done something wrong.

Oftentimes, punishment can be ugly and has also proven to be ineffective in many cases. The main drawback to punishment is that you aren’t offering your child any real solutions on how or why they should achieve the desired or appropriate behaviors.

Dr. Maria Montessori mentions numerous times in her writings that an energetic child needs firm but cheerful guidance for finding outlets for those wonderful and healthy urges, which at times are being expressed inappropriately in the form of unpleasant behaviors. The Montessori child’s daily life of development and education through a self-managing and self-regulating personality is by itself nature’s prevention program that we see deeply rooted within a child.

What happens when there is no natural consequence?

In certain situations, there may not be a natural consequence or the consequence is too far in the future for the child to care about the impact now. In these instances, we can use logical consequences or consequences that we create and link to the child’s behavior, rather than something that that occurs naturally.

An example scenario of a logical consequence is as follows. Your child wakes up in the middle of the night and comes to your bedroom, waking you up several times. Instead of getting irritated about the situation, create a logical consequence. You can explain the following morning that you are too tired to make the French toast and bacon that you normally make because you were woken up so many times last night. The breakfast will have to be cereal or yogurt, or anything simple.

To make these logical consequences work, you have to make sure that you are relating the consequences to their behavior in a way that your child will understand. These consequences also shouldn’t be issued as a threat (like some punishments are) and should be simply stated as a matter of fact. This reinforces the idea that their actions always have consequences.

Discipline at MASS

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we frequently host Positive Discipline classes, where we provide parents with instruction on the positive skills needed to handle temper tantrums and misbehavior. We also give useful tips on how to deal with morning and bedtime hassles, as well as affirmative solutions to defiance and power struggles.

Physical Development in a Montessori Preschool

Unlike traditional preschools, a Montessori preschool focuses on developing every aspect of the whole child. This includes a child’s physical development. From the enhancement of hand-eye coordination and sensorial abilities to the development of gross and fine motor skills, a Montessori preschool will make sure that each child develops the skills they will need to gain a sense of order and independence.

Fine Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination

In the Montessori preschool classroom, children participate in practical life activities, which are known to improve a child’s fine motor skills (coordinated small muscle movements in the hands, wrists, and fingers) and hand-eye coordination (the use of the eyes to guide movements). Actions, like grasping, reaching and releasing an object, and turning the wrist, are the types of fine motor movements that children learn in a Montessori preschool, in order to prepare them for the daily tasks of life. Fine motor development begins almost right away in babies, as they use their reflexes to grasp a rattle or your finger.

As children grow, they will be able to engage in sewing and weaving activities, which develop their manual dexterity. The action of picking up objects with small tongs or tweezers develops a child’s pincer grip, which is a necessary precursor for learning how to write later on.

Gross Motor Skills

To develop the large muscles of the body, it’s important to reach gross motor milestones – such as walking, running, jumping and climbing. Montessori preschools recognize how gross motor development presents many health benefits, boosts confidence and self-esteem, and the ability to assess risk. That’s why Montessori preschools provide many activities that build muscle memory, creative movement, and motor planning.

Sensorial Development

In a Montessori preschool, one of the main focuses of the curriculum is on refining all of the child’s senses including visual, tactile, thermic, auditory, baric, stereognostic, olfactory and gustatory. The purpose of this is for the child to gain a sense of order by making clear and conscious classifications of her environment through the senses.

For example, children learn to sort tablets by slight differences in color and shade, which is done in order to sharpen their visual perception and sense of order. They also learn to sort fabrics by touch, thus enhancing the child’s tactile sense.

Physical Development at MASS

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we provide a beautiful preschool environment filled with practical life materials to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. We encourage the exploration of the senses through music and movement accompanied by freedom of choice. Our toddlers and primary children have the opportunity to jump around, balance, crawl, and skip to enhance gross motor skills. Our primary students engage in many sensorial activities in order to begin understanding the world around them during these formative years.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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 Primer: A Day in Our Lives

The Montessori classroom is a “living room” for children. Self-correcting lessons are displayed on the shelves awaiting the children. The environment’s purpose is to in unify the psycho-social, academic, and physical development of the child. As guides, our purpose is provide children with a solid foundation that includes positive self-image of oneself and school, security, sense of order, curiosity, and persistence. This foundation will help the child become self-disciplined, and have a sense of responsibility to others.

We have parents who observe our classrooms and wonder, “How does the teacher manage the students?” What a wonderful question. The answer is, “The guide designs an environment that allows each student to engage in what interests them.” The students in a Montessori classroom become engaged and involved in their community. Respect is the foundation from which great work stems. The environment works so well because the children have respect for themselves, each other, and their materials.

This wonderful video from Montessori School of Los Altos provides a beautiful view of a day in the life of the Montessori student.

Join us tomorrow as we take a deeper look at the progression of your child’s day with our timeline of a typical day in the classroom!

Recognizing Developmental Milestones

No one knows a child better than his parent. How your child behaves and the manner in which he communicates offer important information regarding your child’s development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends develomental screenings at 9, 18, 24 and/or 30 months. They recommend autism screenings at 18 and 24 months. If you have a concern it is your right to ask for a screening or further evaluation.

Child Find is a free evaluation offered at the state level for early childhood students. This evaluation does not require a doctor or specialist referral. Contact your child’s teacher if you feel further evaluation may be needed. Early intervention leads to better developmental results.

To assist you in assessing your child’s development, please refer to the CDC’s guidelines on milestones at 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years.