Authentic Montessori: Giving Students the Freedom of Choice

The teachers and parents of Montessori students see many benefits from the practices of authentic Montessori teaching. This philosophy of education for the primary, middle, and upper Montessori programs offers a different kind of classroom and a different way of guiding social, emotional, and academic development. From a love of learning, to practical life skill mastery, to the growing independence and confidence in multiple contexts, students demonstrate the positive outcomes of one of Montessori’s key practices: freedom of choice. These desirable characteristics and skills that Montessori Pre-school education fosters can be seen in the role of the teacher in the classroom, the classroom environment itself, and the ways parents bring the practice of freedom of choice into their homes.  

Role of teacher

In the Montessori classroom, teachers are observers, guides, and facilitators. In all these roles, the teacher creates space for freedom of choice. It is up to the student to determine what piques their curiosity, the best method to satisfy it, and the way they want to share or demonstrate mastery of the subject. Teachers utilize broad, relevant, and interconnected curriculum topics and substantial blocks of time during the classroom day to allow students to independently choose and pursue their learning goals.

Role of the prepared environment

In order to foster freedom of choice, while not overwhelming a student with a disorganized space or hobbling their curiosity with a chaotic classroom, Montessori teachers take great care to create an environment prepared for learning. The Montessori classroom is designed with all classroom amenities within reach and the learning tools and activities they need on accessible shelves. There are ample surfaces and space for students to do their independent work, to form small groups, or to access the teachers who are, themselves, ready classroom resources. The prepared environment evolves as students learn and acquire skills, and creates the dynamism necessary to truly host a student’s freedom of choice in their learning process.

Bringing it home

Some Montessori parents will extend these practices to their home and the way their family functions as a whole. While many families may not be able to achieve a prepared environment in the same way a Montessori elementary school classroom can, some will encourage the practice of practical life skills with child-sized household tools, like brooms or food preparation utensils, or provide access aids like stools and low-level storage. Families may also incorporate more choice into family time, authentically asking what activity their child wants to engage and how they want to help in the execution of it. There are many ways to bring Montessori practices home, and in this regard, Montessori teachers can be an excellent resource for parents too.  

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Helping at Home: Demonstrating Age-Appropriate Chores to your Preschooler

Day Star Montessori recommends introducing your Montessori preschool children to simple tasks and building to more advanced responsibilities as they get older. To give you an idea of what works best for preschool children, we’ve put together some simple ideas to get you started– and your children motivated.

Putting Things in Their Place

Some of the activities that are common in Montessori preschool include picking up toys, sorting trash and recyclables, and placing books on a bookshelf. These are all great tasks for small children from daycare through kindergarten. In addition to gaining a sense of responsibility, these tasks also help with sorting sets of objects and other higher logic functions.

The Daily Routines

Preschoolers are ready to start putting dirty clothes in the hamper or even putting away their own clean clothes. They can also help with parts of the daily routine such as helping set or clear the dinner table, giving food or water to pets, and setting out their clothes or packing their book bag to prepare for school the next day.

Personal Hygiene

By the time your child is ready for preschool, they are also ready to take a personal interest in hygiene. Brushing their teeth, washing up for dinner, and taking nightly baths are all appropriate for preschool children– although they may need a little help with bathing properly at first. You may even want to keep a whiteboard with a daily checklist which will help them learn to read in the process of doing regular chores.

Learning Independence

Keep a partial jar of peanut butter and a small squeeze bottle of jelly available for your children to make their own simple snacks. You may want to use a clothespin to seal the bread bag, and pre-package chips or other finger food to reduce the potential for spills. Allowing your preschooler to be more independent is a big step in helping her prepare for the added responsibility which comes with going to 1st grade and beyond.

Becoming more responsible is a big part of Montessori preschool, and providing age-appropriate chores at home is beneficial in showing children that they can play an important role in home life, which in turn leads to taking on a more responsible role in their larger community.

Exploring Foods: Encouraging Your Preschooler to Try New Fruits and Vegetables

Eating healthy is a subject which comes up early in Montessori preschool classrooms because it is such an important part of childhood development. The stereotype of children who refuse to eat fruits or vegetables is not as common as you may think, and there are some enjoyable ways to help build an interest in not only fruits and vegetables, but locally grown produce from your own community.

Toss a Salad

Because of their hands-on approach to learning, trying new foods can be easily adopted into the Montessori preschool. For example, preparing a tossed salad gives children an immersive way to become interested in fruits and vegetables. Allow your children to choose some of the ingredients themselves, and be sure to add healthy options like romaine lettuce, baby carrots, and bean sprouts. Sweet fruits like pineapple, fresh cherries, and watermelon chunks add a delightful flavor.

Visit a Farmers Market

Make it a habit to visit the local farmer’s market once or twice a month. Many communities have weekly markets which allow local farmers to offer their fruits and vegetables direct to the public. Seeing the kinds of organic foods are being produced locally helps children feel closer to the foods they eat and gives them a glimpse of who is providing them.

Healthy Snacks

Instead of cookies and candy, keep a selection of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables on hand for anytime snacking. To satisfy their sweet tooth, provide sweet dips, fresh honey, or a fruit puree so your kids will still be getting a sugary flavor while they consume healthier foods.

Go to Festivals

All over the country, local communities hold festivals celebrating the harvest of their local fruits and vegetables. Strawberries, pumpkins, apples and even things like corn and avocados are celebrated within driving distance of the Bay Area. These cultural events include music, games and a taste of the local produce. Unlike the farmer’s markets, produce festivals tend to be more entertaining for young children who are engaged in discovering the world they live in.

There are a lot of ways you can get your children to eat more fruits and vegetables without resorting to tricks or forcing them into unwanted behavior. When you make eating healthy foods exciting and fun, your children will begin to enjoy trying new taste sensations.

Montessori Lesson: Teaching Responsibility through Classroom Activities

A portion of the daily curriculum at your local private elementary school is intended to help children become viable, responsible members of their community. Through projects and activities, children learn about many different subjects, with the underlying goal of building self-esteem and becoming personally responsible for their own actions.

Role Playing Responsibility

Acting out scenarios in their private elementary school helps children learn to be more responsible. This also helps kids learn to see both sides of a disagreement or confrontation and learn alternative ways to deal with such problems.

Responsibility Through Montessori

The Montessori Method itself is intended to teach responsibility, although the concept can readily be applied to other educational systems. Children choose their own activities, but conform to an underlying structure and agree to abide by their decisions. In this way, they learn that their choices have meaning and the importance of following through on them. Even the mixed ages of Montessori classrooms are intended to help children be more responsible, not only for themselves but for the community that is their classroom.

Responsibility Through Cooperation

Any classroom activity which requires the participation of multiple students is a type of cooperative project. When all of the children in the group work together and perform their individual tasks, the project can be successfully completed. This teaches personal responsibility and relies on students encouraging one another to complete their specific tasks.

Responsibility Oriented Projects

Art, writing, and group discussion are all activities which can be geared toward lessons of responsibility. Students can work independently or in groups to develop examples of responsible behavior, while the teacher acts as a guide and advisor to help children reach responsible conclusions.

Performing responsibly is a critical component of learning. It gives children a sense of awareness concerning their role in group activities and ongoing projects. Without the self-control which comes from being responsible, children can develop unruly behavior patterns which are more difficult to overcome later in life.

Montessori Classroom: The Prepared Environment

Montessori classrooms differ from traditional classrooms in several ways, and one significant difference is the way the physical space is arranged. Vital to the Montessori Method is the “prepared environment,” a term for the specific dynamic, layout, and learning materials that comprise the classroom. The prepared environment is a powerful tool for the Montessori teacher and is cultivated with care. Likewise, students from primary to upper elementary Montessori programs engage with the prepared environment with curiosity and help to guide its evolution throughout the school day and year.

 

A Conduit for Learning

In her experience teaching and as she cultivated the Montessori philosophy of education, Maria Montessori observed the powerful influence the physical properties of the classroom had on her students’ capacity to learn. In her first position as a teacher, it did not take her long to see the need to alter the classroom layout she inherited: the familiar rows of desks and chairs that monopolize the space and face the front of the room where the teacher is positioned as the sole arbiter of learning. Instead, Montessori moved the desks into clusters around the room, introduced open spaces and unobstructed walkways for students to move through as they chose, and stationed learning tools and activities on easy-to-reach shelves on the periphery the room. She emphasized natural light, uncluttered surfaces, access to the outdoors, and physical movement. Montessori believed that students learn best by doing and by letting their innate interest and curiosity guide their acquisition of knowledge. In today’s Montessori classrooms, the prepared environment is constructed to facilitate this learning process and offer opportunities for students to observe the teacher in hands-on demonstrations, collaborate with their peers in small groups, or have space to work independently.

 

A Responsive Room

When students are encouraged to guide their own learning, the classroom becomes a dynamic space. In the prepared environment of Montessori classrooms, teachers are not tasked with lecturing, corralling, or generally battling with energetic bodies to keep still. Instead, Montessori teachers are asked to observe students as they engage the learning tools and activities and offer support and new challenges. As students progress in a lesson and want to further explore the topic, or are in need of further practice with the concept, Montessori teachers can introduce new or different learning tools to the shelves, or encourage small groups to form where students can teach and learn from each other. Montessori teachers receive constant feedback in the form of the students’ engagement with the prepared environment and can adapt the classroom to meet their curiosity.

February Holiday: George Washington’s Birthday – Teaching Preschoolers about our First President

As our nation’s first President, George Washington is a very important person. Teaching preschoolers about him can be a little tricky, but there are quite a few activities available to make the task easier. We encourage you to incorporate a few educational activities at home as well.

Coloring Pages

Coloring in images related to George Washington will introduce children to the Father of our country in a fun way. You can use the images found here, or choose a few of your own. Better yet – tell your kids about some of Washington’s greatest feats and ask them to draw their own interpretations. Keep in mind that the outcome does not have to be accurate so long as the children convey what George Washington means to them – and to all of us.

Dressing Up for the Part

Creating a tri-cornered hat or wearing replica clothing of the era is another way to introduce kids to George Washington. The activity will do more than teach preschoolers about our first President – it will also help them develop fine motor skills and give them hours of fun things to do and talk about. The girls shouldn’t be left out, and can dress up like George Washington’s wife Martha or even Betsy Ross who designed the nation’s first flag.

Learning About Washington’s Life

George Washington’s life is well documented, and sharing some of the more notable achievements will help children understand why the man is so important. He was more than the first president – he also played a key role in the War of Independence and worked hard to shape the way our government worked after the war was won. You can even take your kids on a virtual tour of the White House, or Washington’s home of Mount Vernon.

Unlike traditional education, Day Star Montessori uses play-based learning to teach kids about subjects of historical interest. This method is more effective than rote memorization from a textbook and can be a lot of fun for the kids. If you would like to know more about the Montessori Method or the curriculum we teach at Day Star, contact us today.

Setting a Sleep Routine: Helping your Preschooler Succeed in School

Preschool children need more sleep than older kids or adults. Experts agree that preschoolers need between 11 to 13 hours of sleep a day, including one daytime nap. This helps children develop properly and contributes to better health and fewer behavioral problems. To help you establish a sleep routine that works for your child, we have compiled some helpful information from specialists, parents, and educators.

Consistency Counts

Preschoolers need a schedule that they can adjust to. This includes routines and schedules that can be followed day after day. It is okay for your little ones to stay up later now and then, but they need a regular pattern that works for you and them most of the time. This includes bathing, dressing for bed, and even a bedtime reading session that you are able to stick to. If you are not able to adjust your schedule to the desired routines, you may have to modify the routines so that your schedule is not a problem.

Keep It Short

Your child’s sleep routine should be something simple. You want them to prepare for bed and follow a normal routine, but overloading the evening schedule can make doing so more difficult for everyone and may even have undesired consequences for small children. Try to keep the nightly routine down to a handful of specific tasks and perform those tasks in the same order every night.

Bedtime Chart

Devise a chart or checklist to help your child with the nightly routine. This helps your child feel like they have more power over their lives and gives them a sense of accomplishment. In a busy household, it will also help you keep track of where your children are in the sleep routine process. The checklist should be a list of things which need to be done daily, including the parts you participate in as well, such as reading a bedtime story or assisting with choosing an outfit for the following day.

Your child’s sleep routine will be different than other children. It may take a week or two to establish the best schedule, but once you have it worked out, it is important to stick to the routine. At Montessori Children’s Center, we encourage our preschoolers to play and explore on their own, while still maintaining a set educational routine.  To learn more about the Montessori Method, contact us today.