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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 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 Primer: Core Philosophies, Part 2 – The Guide

Today, we continue our exploration of the core philosophies of the Montessori classroom by looking at philosophies embodied in the Montessori guide.

It is the transformation of the adult that is the underlying theme of a Montessori teacher, where as a Montessorian is first and foremost an observer, exemplar and protector of the child’s right to learn. Parents likewise can adopt these philosophies in their approach at home, creating an environment consistent with the classroom.

Core Philosophies of A Montessorian

Be an Observer

To learn from the child, one must observe the child. Observation is an art that must be a highly developed skill in Montessorians. Observing a child is a learned art. The teacher needs to be able to anticipate the needs of a child and act on this need.

Be an Exemplar for the Child

The adult needs to “show” rather then “tell.” It is important for the Montessorian to carefully study their demeanor from which the children will derive behavioral clues. Teachers learn to move quietly, work carefully and give the child a chance to follow an example that is geared to the child’s capability and not to the adult’s expectations.

Be the Protector of the Child’s Right to Learn

A Montessorian recognizes that children learn at their own pace, with varied activities, which are both direct and indirect. If a child is to increase, the adult must decrease. The adult must have experienced a transformation in order for a child’s learning to take place.

For more information on this topic, see “What Makes a Montessorian?” by Nancy McCormick Rambusch, EdD (Montessori Life magazine, Summer 2013 Volume 25 No. 2).

Montessori Primer: Core Philosophies, Part 1

We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master. We then become witnesses to the development of the human soul; the emergence of the New Man who will no longer be the victim of events but, thanks to his clarity of vision, will become able to direct and to mold the future of mankind.
Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 1949

Wow! That’s quite a profound statement. To implement this Montessori principle requires setting aside traditional viewpoints on childrearing and adopting a more Montessori way of raising children. Implementing Montessori principles and practices in the home provides benefits for both the child and the parent. Children reap the rewards when, at home, parents are consistent in their expectations and styles of parenting. In addition, children thrive when there is consistency between the home and school.

Here are two Montessori core philosophies parents can implement at home – these best practices will help you understand and appreciate why children thrive in a Montessori classroom.

Recognize Your Child’s Authentic Nature

We are challenged with raising children who are emotionally, socially and spiritually healthy – achieving these goals requires knowing who your child truly is. When parents understand the personality and temperament of their children, children feel their inherent worth. With this understanding, parents are better equipped to aid a child’s development. The child, with the appropriate support, will begin saying, “I can do it myself,” more often. This self-assurance allows the child to become a teen who does not bend to peer pressure, and an adult who has a healthy self-image and owns his intrinsic goodness.

Help Your Child See Himself As Part of a Bigger Picture

In Montessori terms, this vision is termed unveiling the authentic child. Montessori believed it was important for humans to understand the interconnectedness of all living things. Children learn this truth by discovering their own personal interests and capabilities. It is important to know that children’s behavior is directly related to their basic needs. When a child’s basic needs are met, their learning can occur naturally with joyful determination. Children are wired for success. Maria Montessori uses the term “normalization” to describe the stage when a child has internalized the freedom to choose work, work independently, and follow the rules. A transformation takes place within the child. He becomes enthusiastic, focused, and self-disciplined. Maria Montessori warns in her writings that parents should not do for a child what the child can do for himself, as this occurrence communicates to the child that that he is incapable and weak. Preparing an environment that is both ordered and interesting allows the child to discover his unique interests.

Join us Friday as we continue our Montessori Primer with Core Philosophies, Part 2!

A Montessori Primer

Today, we launch a new series designed to help parents gain a big-picture understanding of the guiding philosophies and principles of the Montessori classroom, how those philosophies and principles can be applied at home, and how they impact the classroom experience on a day-to-day basis, at each level.

Over the next few weeks, our Montessori Primer will feature posts by faculty and staff that will walk through three sections in-depth:

Montessori Core Philosophies

8 Principles of a Montessori Classroom (and How You Can Apply Them at Home)

How the 8 Principles Shape the Classroom Experience

Join us this Wednesday as we begin by exploring two core philosophies of the Montessori classroom.

Philosophy of a Montessori Classroom

The following post is by Jessica Stellato, Lower Elementary Lead in the Galaxy Room at MASS. This month, Jessica is sharing insight into various Montessori classroom materials, terms, and ideas. Today, she shares a big-picture look at the philosophy behind the Montessori classroom experience.


Often parents wonder:

What is Montessori?
What is my child going to learn in a Montessori classroom?
Is there really a difference between a traditional classroom versus a Montessori classroom?

I hope to give you a concise explanation of what an authentic Montessori program should entail for your child.

The Montessori method and philosophy is based on teaching to the whole child and encouraging independence beginning at a very early age. Children want to do for themselves. Maria Montessori stated, “Do not do for the child for what they can do for themselves.” Montessori students learn to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly – a skill set needed for the 21st century.

An authentic Montessori classroom will have a certified Guide (teacher) and an assistant. Some classes may have two certified Guides. A typical class will have mixed ages: Toddler 0-3 years, Primary 3-6 years, Lower Elementary 6-9 years, Upper Elementary 9-12 years (some schools join Lower and Upper, making it a 6-12 year old classroom), and Middle School 12-14 years. There are also a few Montessori High Schools, with students ranging from 14-18 years old.

A Montessori child will experience an uninterrupted work cycle, preferably 3 hours long in the morning. This is a sacred and cherished time in the classroom. The children have freedom of movement and choice; however, these choices are within limits.

Throughout the Montessori school experience, each child is valued as a unique individual, with respect of the child being of great importance. Beginning at an early age, Montessori students develop order, coordination, concentration, and independence to think for themselves. Students are part of a close community of caring teachers and classmates. Students are continually encouraged to learn through their personal interests, creating an individual who loves to learn throughout his life. In addition, self-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of a Montessori classroom, allowing the child to know that it is acceptable to make mistakes and learn from them. This approach not only not eliminates a fear of failure, but builds self-esteem, which is vital in the development of a child.

If you are interested in learning more about the Montessori philosophy, please visit the American Montessori Society online or the Montessori Education page on Wikipedia.

Montessori for the Elderly

Montessori is not just for the young ones we have in our care; Montessori is a way of life that can benefit us all at each stage of our lives. Now, many communities that care for the elderly are adapting the Montessori method to help clients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the effects of strokes.

Montessori lessons build on these key factors: repetition, positive reinforcement, and inclusion of the senses. Lessons are developed to increase mental and physical abilities, with individuals receiving customized lessons that strengthen their unique abilities and skills. Lessons like the knobbed cylinders help rebuild the small muscles of the hand, while an activity like recognizing world flags encourages recall. Building lessons like the pink tower help to foster the memory of working in steps. The tower has to be built a certain way; forgetting a step will result in the tower falling or missing a piece.

Hearthstone Alzheimer Care is a leader in this Montessori-based approach to elder care. Their program description offers an interesting basic overview of how Montessori lessons and philosophy are used with patients.