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Montessori School of Greater Lafayette Blog


Insights and inspiration from our Montessori classrooms.rss

Heather Harvey
Heather Harvey

 Heather Harvey is the Media and Staff Coordinator at the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette.

She has an AMS Early Childhood Credential and worked as an assistant and lead teacher at MSGL from 2000 to 2013. To read Heather's full bio, click here.

 



 

   

      "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" said the little blue engine as she chugged faster and faster to the top of the mountain. And she could, of course. She did. The little blue engine saved the day by successfully pulling the stranded train full of good things for girls and boys over the mountain and into the valley where the children lay sleeping. Watty Piper's The Little Engine That Could, published in 1930, was my favorite picture book as a child and the little blue engine my favorite heroine. Sure, she was kind and a lovely shade of blue, but more importantly she was a strong female character. She was useful! She did important stuff that helped children! And she did it at the end of a long day even after all of the self-important macho engines said, "I pull the likes of you? Indeed not."

     It never occured to me until preparing this post, that The Little Engine That Could, which was read to me over and over again - as many times as I wanted, by my devoted babysitter Arnetha Trent - might have been key to the formation of my beliefs about society. Perhaps it was this determined little engine that opened my eyes to the truth that not everyone wants what's best for children. After all, if three out of four engines are not willing to pull a train filled with fresh milk, veggies, toys, and candy (just enough for an after-dinner treat, mind you) over the mountain to the children in the valley? Something's not right in the world. Four-year-old girls notice things like that.

     I use this newly discovered self-knowledge as a metaphor because our school, the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette (MSGL), has been called by some, "The Little School That Could." We are small and we operate on a tight budget, but do a lot with what we have. We offer 10 different programs for over 200 children, ages one to nine years, and we make it all happen in seven classrooms on our five-acre campus. We are a non-profit, parent-owned school which means when something needs to be done, whether it's adding an elementary program or building a new sand box, the families and staff work together to make it happen. This willingness to collaborate and create the best possible environment for children is the source of our strength. It's why we are known as the scrappy little school that's brought respect, independence, and a love of learning to the girls and boys of the Wabash Valley for over 42 years.

        Clearly, I'm proud of our little Montessori school. It's been my extended family since my daughter started preschool here in 1998. And it has chugged its way up more than a few metaphorical mountains. But I'm especially proud today as I share news that not only is MSGL still making a difference in the lives of its families, it's poised to make a difference in the lives of families across the country. Our accrediting organization, the American Montessori Society (AMS), delivered three such helpings of good news this week. First we learned that we were featured in the quarterly publication Montessori Life for our parent development program, "Bringing Montessori Home." This event took place in January and will be offered again this year. You can read it here:

    Then we learned that we were selected to present "Bringing Montessori Home" at the AMS National Conference in March. All of MSGL's lead teachers will be traveling to Chicago, March 11 - 13th, 2016, to take part in this presentation to other Montessori teachers, administrators, and parents from all over the United States. You can read more about the conference here:

 

 

     Finally, the AMS Board of Directors officially approved our school reaccreditation this week. The two-year reaccreditation process involved a lengthy self-study of our educational philosophy and practices, business practices, and plans for growth and improvement. An on-site team visited the school in March to verify that MSGL's practices are in-line with the AMS standards and our own self-study documentation. The team reported that their visit to MSGL was the most organized they have experienced mostly because of the work of our own Lena Atkinson, Office Manager and Parent/Infant Teacher. Lena organized all of the school's documents online so the reaccreditation team could simply follow links to view documents instead of sorting through file cabinets. Now, Lena has been asked to host a webinar to show other schools how she used tech to improve the tedious reaccreditation process. Reaccreditation with AMS occurs every seven years. Congratulations to the staff, board, and families who have been working toward reaccreditation since August, 2013 and to all future MSGL families who will benefit from it!  You can read more about the value of the AMS accreditation process here:

 

 

     So, it's been a big week and we are pleased with the school's good work. We are excited that others in the Montessori community appreciate that good things can come in small, scrappy packages. But I can't say we are surprised by the news. Just like my favorite little blue engine, we always thought we could.

     Thanks for reading,  Heather            

 

 


 

We Love Our Teachers!


The lovely ladies of MSGL, August 2014

     It's Teacher Appreciation Week and it's the perfect time to give a shout out to the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette's amazing teaching staff. Our teachers come from all over the world and from many different backgrounds, bringing their experiences, understanding, and love of children to share with our Montessori families. Did you know that West Lafayette is the most culturally diverse city in the Midwest? This is largely due to the population of Purdue University which is ranked 2nd in the nation for total international student enrollment. Since over 60% of our families have a connection to Purdue either as staff or students, it's not surprising that MSGL's teaching staff is also diverse. 

     One way we measure this diversity is with a tally of languages spoken by the staff. Over 26% of the staff speaks English and a second language fluently. And 10% of staff members are trilingual, allowing MSGL to offer students daily exposure to Spanish, Russian, and Korean language and culture. Here is a breakdown of staff languages.  

     The teachers' love for their work shows in the number of years they have been with the school and their eagerness to enroll their own children here. Over half of our staff members have been with the school for over 10 years. And 61% of the staff currently have children enrolled at MSGL, are parents of MSGL alumni, or are MSGL alumni themselves.

     Some of our teachers came to Montessori after studying education. Many others followed their children here before deciding to become a teacher with backgrounds including art history, biology, interior design, psychology, anthropology, nursing, journalism, medieval studies, philosophy, history, and chemistry. However they discovered Montessori, we are grateful they found us and chose to stay. Here is a look at these hard-working ladies over the past year.

 


Mary Dyrenfurth and Cathy Stier


Revati Nemani


Stacie Seipel


Constance Straight


Machelle French


Lena Atkinson


Angie Shamo


Somdatta Datta Roy


Eunsuk Han


Dilya McClaine


Dena Saunders


Ana Ramirez


Pam Adams


Anita Trent


Janet Lee


Emily Frazier


Suman Harshvardhan


Fay Mentzer


Marilyn Martin


Erica Wallskog


Ginette Roos


Heather Harvey


Melissa Valencia


Chloe Garwood


Beth Nichols

 

     We salute you, beautiful ladies of MSGL! Thank you for bringing your dedication, your love of children, and your sense of humor with you each and every day.

     ~Heather


 

froggie on the playground!
 

  • "My heart is biggest but I like your heart, too.
  • "I can run faster than any human."

 


 

  • "She's my best friend."
  • ​"Is it cake pop day?"
  • "I will share with you."

  • "You're like a grandma." (Spoken to a teacher whom the child thought was being bossy.)
  • "Look what I've got! Shorts!! Underneath my pants!!!"
  • "Heather, you look GOOD!"
  • "There's no more blocks missing like sometimes...like sometimes I probably stole them."
  • "I need to sit. I'm tired of standing up."

 

  • "I'll bet you can skate on it's rings." (After learning that Saturn has rings made of ice.)




 

  • Child 1: "We are going to play outside for 100  minutes." Child 2: "100 minutes isn't even a thing!"
     
  • "We ALL have zippers on our fleeces."
  • "If you want to be a scientist, listen to me!"

chemist in the making?
 

  • Child 1: "My brother is 100." Child 2: "Brothers can't be 100. Dads can be 100."
     
  • "My dad is 14 years old. Maybe even more."
     
  • Child 1: "God is dead." Child 2: "No he's not." Child 1: "Yes he is. He died." Child 2: "God has 10 lives and when he dies he comes back to life, right?"
  • "I'm an architect."


 

 


 

     These class photos from 1973 and 1974 were recently shared by Jan Dilley who, along with Jan Knote, is a founding mother of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette. MSGL opened in 1972 with one preprimary class. Unfortunately we are unable to find a class photo from that first year. These two photos represent the second and third years that MSGL was in operation inside the Temple Israel in West Lafayette.


1973 - MSGL preprimary class

 


1974 - MSGL preprimary class

      Do you know anyone in these photos? We would love to hear from you in the comments section.


 

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AMS Accreditation Visiting Team: Brenda Huth, Laura Bowen-Pope, Heather Gerheim-Gladden, Micah Earle

 

We are pleased to announce that our two-year re-accreditation process with the American Montessori Society (AMS) is finally behind us and MSGL performed very well. Although our re-accreditation will not be officially announced until later this summer, all indications are that we met or exceeded the standards. Those standards include the areas of: Vision and Purpose, Leadership and Governance, Teaching and Learning, Documenting and Using Results, Personnel, Facility Resources, Records and Support Systems, Stakeholder Communication and Relationships, and Commitment to Continuous Improvement.

The AMS onsite team arrived on Sunday, March 29th. Members included Brenda Huth, Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Micah Earle, Chantilly, VA; Laura Bowen-Pope, Woodinville, WA; and Heather Gerheim-Gladden, Brecksville, OH. The team toured the school and conducted interviews with the administrative staff, current and alumni parents, and the MSGL Board.

 

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Angie and Somdatta charm the visiting team in the Birch Room

 

We are so grateful to the parents who took time Sunday afternoon to share stories of their experiences with our school. Thank you to Tiina Jaagosild, Melissa Law-Penrose, Melissa Fraterrigo, Ginette Roos, Janet Lee, Genevieve Wang, Tony Harvey, and Gretchen Freese. We were especially honored that MSGL’s founders, Jan Dilley and Jan Knote, shared their stories of how they started MSGL back in 1971. “The Two Jan’s,” as they are affectionately called, are very proud of the continued success of the little school that grew out of their dreams and the dreams of the eight families who initially pooled their resources to open its doors in 1972.

 

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Jan Dilley and Jan Knote, founders of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette

 

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Current and alumni parents share experiences of MSGL with the visiting team

    

MSGL alumni parents Mary and Dwight McKay hosted a welcome dinner Sunday evening in their home for the board, staff, and visiting team. The evening was the perfect opportunity for the team to see how important MSGL is to our community and for us to learn about the hometowns and Montessori schools of the four team members.

 

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Hilary Cooke and Fay Mentzer at the welcome dinner


 

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Brenda Huth and Mr. Dilley share a joke
 

Monday and Tuesday allowed little time for socializing as the team was busy observing classrooms, interviewing teachers, and reviewing documents. Some of our families provided homemade goodies for the team to snack on during the day. Thank you to Amy VanHorn, Joni Lane, and Abby Christiansen for the treats! In the evenings, the team wrote up reports about all they had learned during the day.

On Wednesday morning, the team presented its exit report to the steering committee. The report was comprised of commendations and recommendations for the continued excellence and growth of the school. The team was moved by the level of parent involvement and the joy shown by the MSGL children. Team chair Brenda Huth praised the teachers for their willingness to “wear many hats” and work where they are needed. Lena Atkinson was also commended for her work in preparing all of the school’s documents so they could be accessible online. Lena’s work made this the most organized onsite visit the team has ever experienced and they hope she will share her ideas at the 2016 AMS National Conference in Chicago.


Angie Shamo and Anita Trent discuss spring plans for the Oak Room Garden.

The AMS re-accreditation process takes place every seven years.  When completed, families can be assured that the school operates according to the high expectations set by this national organization. We are currently one of only five Montessori schools in all of Indiana that are accredited. We could not have completed this process without the help of the staff and families who have worked for the past two years preparing themselves and the campus for this visit. Have you helped inventory library books or helped mend classroom materials? Have you shoveled mulch and washed windows at parent workdays? Have you swept sidewalks and helped maintain the buildings on your days off? Have you made donations to our classrooms or scholarship fund? You are one of the generous MSGL family members who continue to make this a great little family-run school. MSGL can’t happen without all of you. Thank you for the love and support you show MSGL. We look forward to seeing what the next seven years will bring.


 

 

     Here are some very familiar faces from around 2000. They are posing with Miss Terri, former ADP assistant teacher in classroom A at the Morton Community Center.


Chloe Garwood, Molly ?, Grace Harvey, Miss Terri C, Melina Pajor, Cami Brown, Nikolas Gamarra, Roxanne Harvey

 

 


 

     February in Indiana is tough. It’s 28 days of Arctic cold, howling winds, and brown slush everywhere you turn. The air hurts your skin and the gray sky steals your hope. Do you know why February is only 28 days long? Because no one would survive if it lasted even one day longer. February is the Chuck Norris of our calendar year.

Not everybody loves the snow! He was mostly pretending to be sad.
 

     I think February brings out the worst in everyone, even the sweet little children at the Montessori school. So it's often in February when I remind myself that the primary purpose of preschool is socialization. Sure, our Montessori classrooms have these beautiful materials and teachers trained to present them, but our primary goal is for each child to develop naturally into a well-rounded and well-adjusted individual. And for that to happen, each child must learn many, many social skills. Here’s a partial list. Lucky for me, blog inches are cheap!

  • How to talk to others.
  • How to listen.
  • How to respond to positive events.
  • How to respond to negative events.
  • How to express emotions.
  • How to read emotions.
  • How to move gracefully across the room.
  • How to walk peacefully in a hallway filled with people.
  • How to be part of a group.
  • How to speak in front of a group.
  • How to listen as part of a group.
  • How to lead.
  • How to follow.
  • How to make decisions.
  • How to choose an activity.
  • How to clean up and put away.
  • How to sit next to a friend.
  • How to ask for help.
  • How to offer assistance.
  • How to comfort others.
  • How to share.
  • How to ask to share.
  • How to say “No, thank you” to sharing.
  • How to improvise.
  • How to make do.
  • How to say “I’m sorry” and mean it.
  • How to stick up for yourself.
  • How to show respect.
  • How to be worthy of respect.

     Preschoolers do all of this really challenging work surrounded by 23 other children who are all trying to do exactly the same thing. (Twice that many, if enrolled for a full day.) Preschool can be very hard work!

     Sometimes a child will do something inappropriate to another child and a well-meaning parent will ask me, “Did you tell them not to do that?” Of course. Every day our teachers remind children that hands are not for hurting and to use their words. But listening is not the way young children learn morals and social skills. (Although it IS the way they learn language.) Preschoolers learn by doing and that means that sometimes - lots of times, actually - they do inappropriate things. And gradually, they learn from them.

     So, since young children are not born knowing the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and they can’t simply follow our instructions, the grown-ups have to give them lots of opportunities to figure it out with other children. We must provide them with an environment that allows them to safely - with close supervision - make many, many bad decisions. In our preschool classrooms, the teachers expect inappropriate behaviors and respond to them consistently with each occurrence, knowing that they will lessen over time. A child’s “bad” behavior might keep us on our toes, but it rarely surprises us.

     And thank goodness for that! Imagine if doctors were shocked to see so many sick patients every day. Or if plumbers were bewildered by clogged pipes. Or firefighters were stymied when houses caught fire. They would not be very effective at their jobs. In order to be effective at my job as a teacher in a Montessori classroom of three to six-year-olds, I have to first: like children, and second: understand that all of the terrible things that children can do to each other are not failings, but simply a natural part of their development. A child who hits or bites or kicks is showing me that she is upset about something and has not yet learned to respond without hurting. It’s my job to help her develop a new, appropriate response while doing my best to keep the other children safe.

     I admit that my best isn’t always enough. And it’s not easy to watch these children suffer through the process of dealing with separation anxiety, or a friend’s harsh words, or simple frustration at being unable to dress themselves. I love the children in my care and it hurts to watch them hurt themselves or others when their anger literally comes out of their fingers and toes.

     Recently, I was sitting next to two children who had been playing very actively all morning. I will call them Danny and Sandy. They were having trouble working together but they just couldn’t stand to be away from each other. They are each learning how to be friends with someone who drives them a little bit crazy. I stayed close to them so I could intervene and help them resolve the issues that were bound to arise when things got out of hand.

     At group time the children got to talking about which animals they liked the most. Danny laughed and said, “My favorite kind of animal is Sandy.” I turned to them just as Sandy pulled back her arm and punched Danny squarely in the face. Danny was really surprised. He thought maybe he was hurt for just a moment, but quickly regained his composure.

     Seeing that he wasn’t hurt, I said, “I don’t think Sandy liked it when you called her a name. What do you think?”

     “I was just saying it to myself,” he said.

     “Well, I'm pretty sure she heard you," I responded.

     Having made herself clear already, Sandy had nothing to add.

     Did Danny deserve to be hit? No. But he did need to know that Sandy didn’t like the way he treated her. Should Sandy have hit him? No. But she did need to let him know that it wasn’t okay to call her a name. Did either of them “get in trouble” by me? No. We talked about other possible responses and there was no more name-calling or punching that morning. But it’s not over. I will keep those two on my “Watch List” for the rest of the year and when I hear their voices get loud or see them chasing each other I will do my best to be right there to help them work through their next disagreement. That’s my job. Not to punish or shame children, but to help them learn to express themselves and to be good listeners and… ah, just refer to the previous bulleted list.


 

     I have read about preschools with zero tolerance policies for hitting and biting. My question is always, "Where will they send all of those children?" If a 4-year-old is banned from preschool because she has not yet learned to get along with others, what’s next for her? Reform school? Prison? Dr. Phil?

     Preschool is THE BEST place for young children to learn how to get along with others. Sometimes it’s tense, sweaty, gritty, even frightening work. But the mis-steps children make in preschool prepare them for a future that is much less secure. A time when they won’t be surrounded by loving adults waiting to step in and guide them to resolve problems peacefully. A time when using hands to hurt can have lifelong consequences.

     I am not complacent about children hurting each other and I put myself between thrown punches and sweet little faces every time I can. But I also know that "bad" behavior is not a fault in a child, it signals an important learning opportunity. A child who lashes out is showing us how we can help her. Maria Montessori put it this way,

“The undisciplined child enters into discipline by working in the company of others; not being told he is naughty. Discipline is, therefore, primarily a learning experience and less a punitive experience if appropriately dealt with.”

     Please try to be patient with your children and other people's children as we all wait for the Earth to travel just a little further around the Sun. February will become March, winter will become spring, and children who are not yet peaceful will develop a little more self-control and gradually, gracefully learn to cope with the many frustrations of being a small child.

     Thanks for reading,

     ~ Heather


 

Montessori School of Greater Lafayette - 1981

Children from an MSGL class in 1981. Row 1: Cristy Belz, Andruzca Rukhin?, Cristy Welch, Jensen Douglas, Ben Pealman, Gretchen Behnke, A.J. Marks, J.P. Rowe, Rolf Friedlaender. Row 2: Ila Ela, Luke Murphy, Sara Williams, Cristopher Armstrong, Catherine ?, Yoshi Furata. Row 3: MaryBeth Meyer, Niki Plante, Tony Hwang, David Bluestein, Kwesi Coleman, Nina Garza.

This is the oldest available photo from the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette.

Notes on the photo list some of the names. 1st Row: Cristy Belz, Andruzca Rukhin?, Cristy Welch, Jensen Douglas, Ben Pealman, Gretchen Behnke, A.J. Marks, J.P. Rowe, Rolf Friedlaender. 2nd Row: Ila Ela, Luke Murphy, Sara Williams, Cristopher Armstrong, Catherine ?, Yoshi Furata. 3rd Row: MaryBeth Meyer, Niki Plante, Tony Hwang, David Bluestein, Kwesi Coleman, Nina Garza.

 


 

If you know more about these photos, please comment and share.

 

 


 


An MSGL preprimary student prepares carrots at home using a chopper and cutting board of her own.

     Dozens of MSGL students are enjoying increased independence at home thanks to the “Bringing Montessori Home” parent development night held January 21, 2015. Thirty parents and grandparents attended the 1 ½  hour event that offered live demonstrations of Montessori-inspired activities children can do at home as well as hands-on activities, and an introduction to the Montessori philosophy.

     Small groups of parents rotated through three different classrooms to observe and take part in presentations. Dena Saunders and Emily Frazier presented Care of Self and Care of the Environment. Getting dressed, caring for plants and pets, and cleaning up spills were some of the topics covered. Dena elicited “oohs and aahs” from one group when she demonstrated how to use masking tape to make a square on the floor so a child can easily sweep spills into a dust pan.

     Angie Shamo and Machelle French demonstrated how to put together a few simple art activities on a shelf at home for when a child wants to work creatively and independently. The cutting strips, which consist of thin, sturdy paper strips on a tray with a pair of scissors, allow the child to practice cutting safely and successfully. Another suggestion was to offer just three colors of watercolor paints at a time - in the beginning - so a child can successfully create a painting without all of the colors mixing into brown. Families were also given the school’s popular recipe for making play dough at home.

     Many parents tried their hands at peeling and chopping carrots and peeling clementines in the food preparation class led by Anita Trent and Ana Ramirez. Each activity was arranged as it could be in the home, including child-sized tools. Hand-washing and serving etiquette were also discussed as these are important aspects of food preparation for young children. While one parent offered sliced carrots to the group, Anita said, “Imagine how it feels for your child to serve you just like you have always served your child.”

     After the presentations, many parents said they were excited to try these activities at home with their children. They also felt that some of the things their children were already doing at home, such as preparing a salad and feeding the fish, meshed nicely with the Montessori philosophy.

 

And this one isn't too bad either.
Each family received a selection of child-sized items to use at home.
 

     Each family in attendance received a materials bag containing a child-sized vegetable peeler and chopper, a small pitcher, a dust pan set, cutting strips and scissors, child-sized sponge and towel, and a hook to hang the child’s coat or book bag at a level where she can reach it. Families also received a custom-made photo book - created by the teachers - that reviews materials covered in the presentations as well as offering additional ideas and resources.

     Materials bags and books are still available for purchase in the office for $10.

     Thank you to everyone who attended! MSGL plans to offer “Bringing Montessori Home” again next year and will include new activities and take-home materials.

 

 

 


 

     Last week, the preschool and Kindergarten children from the Catalpa Class learned about the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and they discussed what peace means to them. Here are some of their thoughts:

  • When you can choose what you want to do
  • Being respectful
  • No hitting
  • Doing what you are supposed to do
  • People thinking about you
  • No spitting
  • Quiet
  • No throwing things
  • Being nice
  • No hurting
  • Sharing toys
  • Making friends
  • No kicking
  • Keeping germs to yourself
  • When people are not selfish
  • All people can go to the same places
  • Smiles


 

     I was excited to capture this video of a preschool friend doing the 9 Layout recently. The 9 Layout is a Montessori math activity that presents the ideas of place value and increments. Beads representing ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands are counted and matched with the numerals. Here, my friend has completed the ones place and has started the tens. She is adding bars of ten until she makes ninety. (You might turn down your volume. The background is a bit noisy.)

 


 

     What I noticed when I reviewed the video is how she stops to reflect after each increment. She moves the bars up, adds one, then sits back to review or reflect on the work. This is one of the beautiful aspects of Montessori - or really, just scientific pedagogy in general - the child doesn't need a teacher to step in and say, "Great! That makes 60!" All she needs is to see how to do the work then be allowed to do it.  When she is all finished with the tens, then she looks up at me. My mentor, Don Czerwinskyj, made sure I understood the importance of offering a child a reflection when they were finished with work. He told me to wait for the child to finish and watch her face when she looks up. Is she pleased? surprised? excited? confused? Wait for her to assess her own work before offering any feedback. In this child's case, when she looked up at me and seemed satisfied, I said, "Ok. You did it! You completed the tens. Are you ready to count the hundreds?" She said she was and she continued.

     A friend of mine told me recently about visiting a preschool where every child's work was praised lavishly. Every painting or block structure was met with, "Oh my! That's the most beautiful picture/castle/birthday cake I've ever seen!!" Montessori educators try to avoid empty praise because it causes children to look outside themselves - rather than inside - for affirmation. Just like adults, kids have opinions about their work and their performance. If a child is happy with her work then we can be happy for her. If she is unsatisfied with her work or feels she doesn't understand it, we can offer empathy, advice, or suggestions - depending on what's needed.  

     When this student was finished with the work, I snapped this photo just as she added the last thousand cube. She was pleased with herself, as the photo shows. 


 

     Now, because my job is to observe and assess her understanding of the concepts she was learning, I noticed that she had only stacked 8 cubes, instead of 9. This was no time for criticism  - look at that beaming face! So I commented on how pleased she was with her work. I asked her if we could count all of those cubes. When she got to 8 thousands she realized that she needed one more. She added one more cube, we counted them again together, and I said, "There are 9 thousands and this says 9000. Is that correct?" She said it was, and together we determined that her work was complete. She then put all of the materials away.

     Sometimes we think our grown-up words are essential to motivate children to learn and to keep them on track. But most of the time, we could get by with a few words and more time simply observing and offering reflections. Rather than saying, "That's a beautiful painting," we could say, "Wow! You used 5 different colors in this painting. Do you have a favorite?" It requires more work for us to look so carefully before commenting, but it shows the child that we are truly interested in her work. And, we are interested in the process and not just the product.

     If words fail us, we can always try those three little words everyone loves to hear,  "You did it!" 

     ~ Heather


 


The best kind of snow day is when you can actually play in the snow.

     Last week provided a miserable welcome to the new semester. Snow, high winds, and bitter cold meant that the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette was in session for only 20 out of a possible 40 hours over four days. Our staff did its best to maintain communication with the families and those families were very understanding. There were, however, a few questions about how we respond to Indiana’s volatile winter weather at MSGL.

     The question of the week was “If the weather continues like this, can we expect to continue having so many delays and closures?” The short answer is, "yes." But how are decisions about school delays made? That's a longer answer.

     I would have thought this to be a very elementary understanding. Doesn't everyone know when it's too dangerous to take the kids to school? But when I found myself working as MSGL's "Weather Delay Intern" last week, I discovered that many factors contribute to a closing or delay, and they are not always obvious to everyone.

     First, there are no hard and fast rules for determining if conditions are too dangerous for school. Everything depends on timing. Temperatures below -12F are a general cut-off if people are going to be outside for more than a few minutes. However, if the roads are clear and the temperatures are on the rise at 8 a.m., then -12F might be acceptable at arrival. High winds could change that, of course. Roads that are clear now may not be clear when morning classes dismiss. Or they might be passable in town, but dangerous out in the country. And all of this has to be considered over the course of our 10-hour day.

     MSGL can't follow the determinations of local school districts because they have special considerations - such as bus transportation and a large number of students who walk to school. Generally, MSGL can be in session more frequently than the public schools.

     The weather is just one component of a weather-related school delay. Preparation of facilities and the safety of our staff are two others. And our families themselves are an important consideration.

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     Facilities: The parking lot and sidewalks must be clear of snow and ice before staff and families arrive. Our school is a small, not-for-profit, parent-owned school. A small core of people manage the day-to-day operations of the school and the needs of over 500 people. This is why we rely on a private company to clear the parking lot, sidewalks, and steps of snow and ice. That company serves several other businesses each day AND it needs two hours to clear MSGL after a snow or ice event. As an example, if the snow stops falling at 6 a.m. on a school day and we are third on the list for snow removal, school cannot open at 7:30. The ability of our snow removal contractor to clear our lot and paths before we arrive is a major determinant of our start time.

     Cultural Considerations: Another little-known factor is our region's cultural relationship with winter weather. As one parent said, "I grew up in Vermont. We don't cancel school there." Indiana's threshold for tolerating winter weather might be a bit lower than other cold places because we don't see as many snowy days and our street departments are not equipped for a large quantity of snow on a regular basis. And because the majority of the West Lafayette community is made up of faculty or students from Purdue University, we also have a lot of families who come from places with absolutely no snow, ice, or cold temperatures. It can take these families a few snowy days to get the hang of dressing for the weather and driving in it. We are more comfortable with snow than Los Angeles, but less comfortable than Montpelier - and that makes a difference in how we respond to it.

     Staff: Teachers and staff need to be able to travel safely and arrive at school before the children. Our staff are dedicated to their jobs and they want to be at school. While it’s easy to imagine teachers being excited to have a snow day, the reality is that the majority of our teachers have school-aged children of their own. Just like MSGL families, the teachers have to scramble to get their children safely to school in case of a delay or to arrange other care if public schools cancel and MSGL is in session.

     Many of our staff live outside of city limits and travel county roads to get to work, so their ability to arrive safely is always a top priority. Delaying the start of school allows them to get out of their driveways and travel potentially hazardous roads in daylight so they can be here when the families arrive. We could call on substitute teachers to work for staff who cannot make it to school, but our substitute teachers are also home with their children on these days. Operating without adequate staff is not an option so we need to be sure all of our teachers can get to school.

     Forecasted weather: Conditions throughout the day, and not just at arrival, need to be considered to determine closures and delays. The weather may be clear at morning arrival, but if incoming snow and/or ice and wind threaten later in the day, staff and children could become stranded at school or out on the roads. The administration must take into account the anticipated timing of dangerous weather and sometimes cancel classes in advance of this weather (even if that bad weather never fully materializes.)

     Our early arrival and after school programs are the first to be cancelled because MSGL is a school and not a daycare facility. We do offer before and after-care programs that can function as full-day care for families, but our primary function is that of a school. This means being open during class time from 8:30 - 3:00 takes priority over being open before and after class.

     We understand that it is frustrating to wake up to a school delay or cancellation. Our Montessori parents have jobs, commitments, and plans and not being able to leave their children in our care causes real problems for them. That being said, MSGL is a parent-owned school. We were started by parents over 40 years ago and all current MSGL families are the current owners of the school. If you are reading this and you have children enrolled at our school, you are one of the owners of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette. With that ownership, come some responsibilities.

What can MSGL families do to help?

1. Stay informed - before school and during the day. We announce delays, cancellations, and early dismissals through many different sources. Here is a listing.

  • Check msgl.org. If we have a closing or delay it will be posted on our front page. (This is new.)
  • Read your email. When possible, we will email you with closings/delays. But email can be delayed or misplaced in a spam folder. So don’t depend only on your email from us. Check these other sources.
  • WLFI TV 18 and Wlfi.com offers a text and email notification service that will alert you any time MSGL announces a weather delay. You can sign up for this service at http://wlfi.com/text-alerts/  or http://wlfi.com/email-alerts/ Be aware that there can be a delay between the time we announce and the time you receive a notice.
  • WLFI TV18 and local radio stations, including WBAA AM920 or 101.3FM,
  • Facebook - Like us on facebook and select to receive notifications any time MSGL makes a new post. You will receive email or a text from Facebook.
  • Follow us on Twitter.
  • Any of these sources can be unreliable from time to time if humans are involved. That’s why we ask that you plan to check with at least 2 different sources to determine if MSGL is delayed or cancelled. If it is, consider notifying your MSGL friends. 

2. Offer help, if you can. If you have some time after bringing your child to school on a wintry day, you might: 

  • Help clear a path. Snow shovels and ice melter are available by the entrances. If you see the path has become unsafe, please take a moment to clear it if you can do so safely.
  • Check with your child’s teacher to see if there is something you can do to help in the classroom.
  • Check in at the office to see if there are any urgent needs there.
  • Check with other families to see if they need help with transportation or just getting children across the parking lot.

     If possible, we would prefer to be able to control the climate and prepare the outdoor environment as carefully as we prepare our students’ learning environments. But the realities of winter weather require our staff and families to be vigilant, flexible, and patient with weather events - and the timing of those events - over which we have no control.

     And if you, like me, are curious how the large, public school districts determine delays, this video from Louisville, KY is interesting.

http://www.courier-journal.com/videos/news/education/2014/11/17/5034741/

Thanks for reading, ~Heather

 

 


Small donations by many children purchased these two refurbished bikes for the Community Christmas Dinner.

UPDATE: We received the following thank-you note from the organizers of the Community Christmas Day Dinner for our donation of two refurbished bicycles. "I wanted to say thank you again. On Christmas Day, we served 2,500+ meals and gave away 472 bikes. A lot of kids had "The Best Christmas Ever" because of people like you!"

 We are thrilled to let you know that your donations to the "Buck for a Bike" fundraiser totalled $157.45 towards the purchase of two bikes! Our friends at Virtuous Cycles, 215 N Tenth Street, Lafayette allowed us to choose two bikes even though we only had enough for one, so a huge thanks to them! If you are thinking of buying a bike for yourself or one of your little ones, please check them out. Virtuous Cycles is the source for all of the popular Strider bikes that see constant use on our playground.

     On Christmas Day at the Community Christmas Dinner at Lafayette Jefferson High School, two very happy teenagers will receive new bikes. Self-sufficiency and getting around town are developmental needs for adolescents so thank you all for helping to meet that need!

     MSGL GIVES BACK in a big way! Gracias! Spasibo! Danke! Xiexie! Grazie! Thank you! Sas Efcharisto! Arigato! Dank u! Shukran!

     ~ Anita Trent, MSGL Development Director


 


Children at work in the Montessori Elementary class.

     October is observation month at our Montessori school. Now that the classrooms have been up and running for six weeks and the children are mostly adjusted to being away from their parents, we invite the parents to spend 15 minutes in the class just observing to see what their children's days are like. Parents are given a clipboard with an observation sheet that asks some general questions about what they see. After class, the teachers read over the observation sheets and respond to any questions or concerns the parents may have at the upcoming Parent/Teacher Conferences. Observation month is offered again in April.

     Parent observations are important to the teachers because they keep us focused on our own observations. "I'm seeing that this child rarely chooses to work by himself. I wonder if his parents will see the same thing? Is that how he is at home or only at school?"

     Observations are important to parents because they can serve as an informative window into a child's day. "I didn't realize she had so many friends at school. Does she ever work by herself?"

     Observations are also important to the children because every child enjoys when Mom or Dad come to visit. "Mom's at MY school watching ME work??? Awesome!" Being a part of your child's day promotes good feelings and almost guarantees terrific dinner conversation.


Children at work in a Montessori preprimary classroom.    

     So what can you expect during your in-class observation? 

  • Your child is going to notice you. If MSGL had the facility of its dreams, each classroom would have a one-way window that would allow you to observe your children from the hallway without changing the dynamics of the class. But, we have the beautiful facility that we have, so we can only offer in-class observations. Your child, especially a very young child, may want to spend the whole time sitting with you and that's okay. You can remind her that she should continue doing what she was doing before you walked in, but don't push the issue. Tell her that you are just watching and not talking, and that may help. With so many children in the class, there is plenty to observe even if your child is sitting on your lap.
  • The teachers will be busy but not in control of the classroom. They will greet you politely then get back to their jobs of presenting, observing, and responding to the children.
  • Children will be doing lots of different things. Some children will be working with Montessori materials, others will be drawing, others will be having snack, and still others may be pouring beans into the dishwater. When you see things that make you curious (or even anxious), write them down! The teachers would love to discuss them with you at conferences.
  • You will see many good things. Ask yourself, are children Concentrating? Cooperating? Leading? Following? Smiling? Laughing? Moving gracefully? Being polite? Write those things down, too.
  • There will, occasionally, be chaos. The children may be adjusted to being away from home after six weeks, but the classrooms are far from normalized. Many children are still learning how to work independently, to share space and materials with others, to care for themselves in the bathroom, to join in group activities peacefully, and to clean up after themselves. Within the span of a 15-minute observation, dozens of things can happen that the teachers would prefer did not happen at all, let alone in front of innocent parents!  But this is also the reason we invite parents in so early: we want you to see the tremendous changes that take place - in the classrooms and within the children themselves - between October and April.


Children working in the Montessori toddler classroom.

​     ​Sign up for an observation time outside your child's classroom. We look forward to seeing all of our parents in our classrooms!

     ~Heather

 

 

 

 


 

 

Miss Emily tries out a science experiment during the Teachers' Silent Journey and Discovery.

 

     Have you ever wished you could experience Montessori through a child's eyes? We would like to offer you the next best thing. Please join us on Monday, September 22nd from 6:00 - 7:30 pm on the MSGL campus for the Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery. This is your opportunity to see the classrooms as your children do and to use the same materials they use to develop their bodies, minds, and spirits.

     The Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery will take you on two guided tours of the school, starting as an infant and progressing through the Toddler, Preprimary, Extended Day, and Elementary classes. The first tour is silent. Your tour group will spend 5 minutes in each room looking at - but not touching - the classroom environment and the various materials. After the first tour, your guide will once again take you to each of the classrooms, but this tour will be the Discovery portion when you can use the materials, ask questions of the guides and teachers, and take part in the teachers' presentations. We will wrap up the Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery by gathering together for refreshments and discussion afterwards.


Miss Stacie presents the Squaring Chains.  

     We are very excited to offer this new parent education event and we highly recommend it for all new families and anyone who would like a hands-on experience in our Montessori classrooms. This is also a nice tour for grandparents and caregivers. The teachers practiced the Silent Journey and Discovery in August and really enjoyed the experience. You can read about one parent's experience with a Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery on the I Heart Montessori blog.

     Childcare is available for children ages 2 and older who are currently attending MSGL or familiar with MSGL. All of our teachers will be on hand for this special evening and we look forward to seeing you there, too!

     Please register for this fun event and sign up for childcare in the office or by phone by this Friday, September 19th.


 


A child explores the knobbed cylinders.

"Gradually the children begin to concentrate. One day one child, another day two or three children. After they have concentrated the children are different. They become detached and work for themselves. The disorderly children begin to love order. They all become so orderly that disorder is an extraordinary thing." - Maria Montessori, The Child, Society, and the World

     "Normalized" is the word Maria Montessori coined to describe children in their natural state. She believed that a "normal" child is one who is able to focus on activities that interest him and, through these experiences, he constructs his personality. A normalized classroom is one in which the children interact peacefully while exploring activities that introduce them to the world. Montessori described a normalized classroom this way,

"A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently, and voluntarily, without commiting any rough or rude act, would seem to be a classroom very well disciplined indeed." - The Montessori Method.

     At the beginning of the year, Montessori Toddler and Preprimary classrooms are far from normalized. Some children shout, wander the room, and maybe even throw objects or dump materials on the floor. There is crying and spilling. Messes are made and not cleaned up. Disagreements arise. Those first few weeks can be wild, indeed! In traditional educational methods, teachers might respond to these behaviors with reprimands and punishments. In Montessori classrooms, the teachers respond with redirection to purposeful work. 

     For example, when a new three-year-old is wandering the room and disturbing the work of others, a teacher will take him by the hand and present a new material to him. If he has shown an interest in counting then we might present the Hanging Bead Stair. When this work is completed, we assist him in finding another activity that calls to him. 


While polishing the sailboat, a child tunes out everythiing else around him.

         Whatever the activity the child is redirected to, the aim is always the same: to develop concentration. Concentration is the key to a child's natural development and all learning takes place in a state of concentration. We can think of ourselves in our adult lives to get a better understanding. When you need to study for your GRE exam, what do you do? Do you head to a busy shopping mall to work on your laptop in the food court with your friends, or do you choose a quiet place? If you need to paint a room in your home, do you do it in the afternoon when the children are busy around your feet or do you save it for those glorious, quiet mornings when they are at school? Adults relish those moments when they can concentrate and really focus on their work without interruption. Children also relish those moments, but they must first know what concentration feels like.

     This is what a Montessori classroom does: it provides an environment where children are free to concentrate - without interruption - on work that is essential to their development. A child who is excited and distracted by all the activity around him will transform into a peaceful, thoughtful individual when he is able to concentrate on a work he enjoys. Because concentrating and being in control of his body feels better than thrashing around wildly and causing mayhem, he continues to seek out other activities that allow him to feel this way. 

      Since concentration is the ultimate goal of every activity in our classroom, we are reverent of it when it appears and we do not interrupt it for any reason. If all learning occurs during a state of concentration, it would be illogical to interrupt a child's concentration in an attempt to "teach" her something. Corrections, points of interest, fixing a lock of hair that has fallen over her eye, picking up the pencil that rolled off the table, reminding her to wash her forgotten snack plate - we must do none of these things. In fact, when a child begins to concentrate on an activity, our job is to quietly step away and behave as though we are not in the room.

"The great principle which brings success to the teacher is this: as soon as concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist. Naturally, one can see what he is doing with a quick glance, but without his being aware of it." - Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind


Dressing the baby doll and fastening its clothes requires great concentration. Some children choose this activity nearly every day.     

     Eventually, in a few weeks or even months, the classroom has been transformed from a noisy, chaotic scene into a peaceful, happy place to learn and play. We have seen this transformation begin in our classrooms. The children are beginning to put their belongings in their lockers and walk quietly into their classrooms. They greet their friends warmly, but not loudly. They choose work, complete the work, and put it away when they are finished. They choose to work with a friend or by themselves. They tap us on the shoulder when they have a question. They pour their own water for snack and wash their dishes when finished. They use the toilet without assistance (although assistance is always available.) They are also preparing to read, write, and count to 1000 - but when you are a young child, those accomplishments are of secondary importance compared to the ability to control one's body and interact peacefully with friends.

    Your children always benefit from opportunities to concentrate on an activity. You can provide these opportunities at home by providing space and, most importantly, time for them to focus on just one thing. Maybe painting with watercolors, washing the breakfast dishes, watering the plants outside, looking at the spider web by the front door - let her look and explore for as long as she wishes. Be available to answer questions, but don't obey your urge to jump in and explain everything you've ever heard about spiders or tell her all about color theory. Let her concentrate and formulate her own ideas and questions. When her curiosity is satisfied and she is ready to turn her attention elsewhere, you may notice that she looks refreshed and relaxed. This is a sign that she is learning and making new connections in her brain! Dr. Montessori observed that, "The child who concentrates is immensely happy." 

     Do you have a story about concentration from your life or your child's life you would like to share in the comments below? We would love to hear about it.

     May you find yourself concentrating and immensely happy in the week ahead. Thanks for reading.

~ Heather

 


 

 


Following Friends to Physics


Free play and building with logs and boards is a realistic way to explore physics concepts. MSGL has an outdoor space that allows for more than just "recess." Outside time is not a chance to get away from the classroom, it's an opportunity for children to use their whole bodies to learn and, most importantly, have fun with friends.

     On Thursday, a quartet of boys was getting very silly in the back corner of our Montessori classroom. They were speaking with outside voices and using all available paper to make pretend swords so they could have a pretend swordfight. When I tried to redirect them, they asked to make paper airplanes and see whose would fly the farthest. Although Montessori teachers are known for their flexibility and laid-back grooviness, I could not condone sword-fighting and airplane-flying during class on this, only the second full week of preschool. What would people say?

     I empathized with these friends because they wanted to play together and needed to actively move their bodies, but it was still 30 minutes before we (read: I) could even think about going outside where this type of gross-motor play was appropriate. They took a half-hearted interest in another activity and I sat at a table nearby to observe. When they realized I was there to stay, they started putting away their work and chanting with dead eyes and sad voices, "No more fun. No more fun. No more fun." It would seem I had officially become "the man." They went to the other side of the room to build a tower with the brown stair and the pink cubes and within minutes, they were using the smallest brown stair as a lever to launch the smallest pink cube across the rug. Clearly, they were trying to tell me something.

     What these boys wanted was action. They are perfectly willing to come in each morning and work on their maps or practice writing their names, but after a time they really want to make things move. And it's not just the boys, of course. Girls thrive on kinesthetic learning activities and they are usually the first to line up to walk across the log seesaw.


 

     In fact, all young children are kinesthetic learners. Most mature into adolescents who can learn successfully through watching and listening, but not all. As long ago as 1979, researchers studying how humans learn understood this:

"Restak (1979) and others have indicated that many students do not become strongly visual before third grade, that auditory acuity first develops in many students after the sixth grade, and that boys often are neither strongly visual nor auditory even during high school. Therefore, since most young children are tactual and kinesthetic learners, such resources should be developed and used, particularly for those who are experiencing difficulty learning through lectures, direct verbal instructions, "chalk talks," and textbook assignments."- See the full article at Education.com

     No one is suggesting that preschoolers should be taught through lectures, but sometimes society (or maybe our high school principal's voice in the back of our head) worries us into thinking that if we don't make our children sit down, concentrate, and learn - how will they ever be successful in school or the Real World that supposedly comes after?

     Parents sometimes ask, "When will you teach him to sit still and listen to the teacher?" The answer is that he will sit still and listen when what I am saying is of interest to him. It's my job to find the topic that is so fascinating to the child that he can't help but hold his body still so as to not miss a single word. A teacher's job is to be fascinating; but only until the child is so interested in the subject that he sets off to explore it on his own. At that point, the teacher observes and prepares for the child's next question then guides him to find the answers on his own. (Please note: Matters of health, safety, and courtesy are always addressed immediately. No one in the classroom has the freedom to hurt themselves or to hurt or disrupt others.)

He has found the exact point to stand where his weight balances the log.
 

     Maria Montessori observed that not only do young children learn kinesthetically, they absolutely MUST learn this way for proper brain development. 

"Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas." - The Secret of Childhood

     So, as a good teacher who believes in a research-based approach to education, I am obligated to consider the kinesthetic learning style of my preschool students. I am also obligated to follow a child's interests because a child who is studying something she is interested in, as opposed to an externally-imposed curriculum, is much more likely to retain that information and build connections in her brain. So why were we still inside the classroom and NOT outside studying the physics of flight and simple machines? Because I didn't know they were interested until Thursday. But now I do.

     As a result, my assistant and I will be following our 3, 4, and 5-year-olds into the action-packed world of physics this week starting with the simple lever. We will spend a little extra time outside on the log seesaw for some major gross motor exploration, then we will scale down the kinesthetic experience to make smaller levers inside the classroom using blocks, rulers, pennies, rocks, and pompoms. We will introduce the appropriate words such as "load", "effort", and "fulcrum" and we will figure out how many pennies it takes the raise the rock load. I will do my best to be fascinating. There may be squeals of joy and pompoms flying through the air, but no more "No more fun."

Thanks for reading,

~Heather 


 

   
Grace's first day of Montessori preschool, 1997.

      Last summer, my 19-year-old daughter was getting ready to move into her first apartment. I was excited for her to have the chance to live on her own and had been setting aside household items that I thought she could use. One day, after admiring the “steal” of a chair I had found at Goodwill, she asked me, “Aren’t you sad that I won’t live here anymore?”

     “Well, honey,” I said, “I always imagined that you would grow up and move out of the house. That was our goal all along for you to be an independent, self-sufficient person.”

     “I know,” she said. “But I’m kind of sad that I won’t be sleeping here anymore.”

     I reminded her that she had hardly slept at home at all since she started college last year. She lived in the dorm, four hours away from home and we often didn’t hear from her for days.

     “Yeah, but this is different. I just can’t believe this won’t be my home address anymore. Are you going to change the garage door code?”

     A-ha! Then I figured it out. She was worried about cutting the cord from the house where she grew up. I had been concerning myself with making sure she was comfortable “out there” and she was worried she would no longer be welcome back at home.

     It occurred to me that not much has changed between that day and the day sixteen years ago when we were preparing to send her to preschool here at the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette. Back then we were so excited to help our “baby” pick out a new lunch box and indoor shoes but we had little idea what to do to help prepare her (or ourselves) emotionally for this new chapter. She sailed through preschool and is now working through nursing school just fine, but we have learned a lot since then. Today I am sharing some tips and advice gathered from teachers and parents here at MSGL to help you and your child prepare for the first days of preschool.

Talk about school - mindfully.
     Talk with your child about preschool when he is in the mood. Maybe he will bring it up or you can start the conversation, just don’t push too hard. If your child seems “done” with the conversation or is becoming anxious, let the topic drop until later. And be honest about your feelings when you do talk about school. Some children worry that their parents will be sad or lonely when they are gone. When you say, “I am going to miss being with you in the morning, but it makes me happy to know you will be enjoying yourself at school,” it lets him know that you will miss him but you are confident that school is a good place for him to be.

Check out the new environment.
     
MSGL’s Parent Work Day is Saturday, August 16th. This is a great time to get familiar with the school and classroom environments and to be part of the school community. Children are encouraged to help clean lockers, pull weeds, and load and unload wheelbarrows full of mulch right alongside their parents and new classmates. And, each family member's time counts towards your volunteer hours requirement.

     You will have another opportunity to get familiar with the school when your child attends her New Student Orientation visit on Monday, August 18th. This is her first opportunity to see her teachers and classmates in her new classroom. She can put her indoor shoes in her locker, locate her cubby and extra clothes box, and see where the bathroom is. The whole family can attend the Parent Orientation later that evening and maybe your child can give a tour of her new classroom.

Make new friends.
     You will receive a class list via email in August. Consider contacting a few families on the list to set up a playdate before school starts. Even if you can’t get together with any other families, you and your child can look over the names on the list together. You may discover that one of his classmates lives on your street or maybe someone has the same name as a sibling or a friend.

Help her dress for success.
     Our Montessori classrooms are prepared to encourage your child’s independence and you can help by providing your child with shoes and clothing that she can put on and take off by herself. Belts, suspenders, and jumpsuits look smart but they can be difficult for your child to use successfully. Provide your child a choice of clothing that allows her complete independence in her self-care routines. And please remember that preschool is a time to jump in and explore. Paint, snack, sand, and dirt from the garden can stain your child’s clothing, so please send her to school in clothes that can stand to get dirty. 

Plan a morning routine.
     
Now is a good time to do a mental run-through of your morning routine. Consider how much time your child needs to wake up, get dressed, and eat breakfast. Allow time for packing lunches, finding coats and shoes, and getting on the bike or in the car. Then add a few extra minutes. Parents and children who are not in a rush tend to have much better experiences at drop-off. Some families even do a few “practice runs” in the summer to see if they can get to school and work on time.

Create a goodbye routine.
     Discuss with your child how you each want to say goodbye at drop-off. Some families say, “After you put on your inside shoes and put away your lunch box, we will walk to the classroom and I will give you three hugs and two kisses before I go to work.” Some children like to wave to dad out the window and some parents leave their children with specific plans for what they will do after school. “Sonia is picking you up today” or “we are going to the Farmer’s Market on our bikes after school today.” Children have so little control over their daily lives that they appreciate at least knowing what is happening and when.

     And while we’re talking about goodbyes, let’s take just a moment to consider the specter of separation anxiety.

What if my child cries when I walk away?
     
Separating from your child that first time can be heart-breaking, but remember - it’s only for a few moments. The majority of children who are sad when they separate from their parents are able to calm themselves and choose an activity within a few minutes. If you have gone through the goodbye routine and are finding it hard to turn around and walk away, ask your teacher for help. Sometimes parents say, “Please help me. I need to leave.” That is the teacher’s sign that she needs to hold your child’s hand or pick her up so that you can walk away. Teachers don’t want to step in before you are ready to go but they are happy to help when you ask them.

     The best thing you can do for your child at drop-off is to be consistent and walk away when you say you will. Lingering tends to just prolong the heartache for the parent and the child. The first few times you drop your child off may be difficult, but trust that with consistent repetition you and your child will develop a peaceful good-bye routine.

Talk with the teachers. 
     
Talk with your child’s teachers about how the adjustment period is going. The teachers help dozens of children adjust to school every year but this may be your first time. They expect you will have questions and concerns. Email is a great way to communicate with your child’s teachers and all of the contact information is available on the classroom web page at Msgl.org.

Help your child talk about his day.
     
If this is the first time your child has been away from home you will no doubt be very eager to know what he did all day. Unfortunately, preschoolers often say they “did nothing” or “just played.” A lot of things happened between the time you dropped him off that morning and when you picked him up several hours later, but he might not yet be able to give a sequential list of his activities. Here are some ideas to help your child tell you about his day.

  • If your child brought home artwork or papers in his book bag, try asking him specific questions. “Please tell me about this. Are you studying planets? Does this go with another work? What class did you make this in?” Please note: Some children do not bring home very much paper work, especially in the early years. Montessori materials are designed to be concrete and hands-on to allow the child to absorb the experience but not necessarily record it on paper. The following link sheds some light on what your child might be doing if he is not bringing anything home.  MSGL blog: What did you do at preschool today?
     
  • Look through the classroom photos on msgl.smugmug.com with your child. Teachers and parents take lots of photos throughout the week that provide a window into the life of the classroom. This is a great way to see what your child is doing, learn the names of his friends, and learn about some of the Montessori activities that he might be choosing.
     
  • Read the whiteboards outside of the classroom at drop-off and pick-up time. Announcements about that day’s special guests, food preparation activities, and exciting new units of study will be posted there.
     
  • Check the teacher’s classroom blog at msgl.org each week. Each teacher gives an overview of the topics being explored and special projects coming up. This is also the best way to find opportunities to volunteer in the classroom where you can see first-hand what your child does at school.

Take care of yourself!
     
The best thing you can do during these last few weeks of summer is to give you and your child the gift of a regular bedtime that allows enough sleep to wake up refreshed and ready for the big days ahead. Fill up with a good breakfast each morning and be extra patient with your child and especially with yourself. Parenting preschoolers, like college students, is hard work and there is no right way to do it. Follow your heart and follow your child, and in sixteen years, or so, you will be very proud of the people you have both become.


 
 

MSGL Summer Camp is open to Preschoolers through 1st Graders who are currently enrolled or recent alumni and while it is a really great time for all of those kids who have been here before, it is especially helpful for children new to MSGL and for the toddlers who are graduating to preschool. For these children, Summer Camp is the perfect way to ease into the routines of preschool and to set the stage for a successful start in August.

     The absolute best part of being a Montessori directress - or ANY teacher, anywhere, I imagine - is watching the children develop and grow. We spend time with your children each day, observing and guiding them, and we get to see them just as they are in that moment. And what they are, as Grace Harvey says, is "totes amazeballs" (totally amazing). They grow in strength, wisdom, and courage right before our very eyes.  

     Today I will just speak to their courage because courage is the thing that gets your child through his or her day without you. In more stuffy circles it might be called confidence, but when you are only 28 inches tall and mom or dad just drove out of the parking lot, you’ve got to be brave to pull yourself together, to turn to face that great big green space filled with people you don't know and sally forth through the rest of your morning.

     Maya Angelou said, "Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistenly without courage." During last week's Summer Camp, there were many examples of children developing their courage and I will share a few.

    During Friday's Bike Day, a 4-year-old friend who enthusiastically embraces everything at school stopped his bike right at my toes, looked out at the cars going by on Sagamore Parkway, and said, “I miss my dad and my mom. And my little brother. And our dog. And they are missing me, too.” I listened and commiserated and soon he took off speeding around the course. His courage waned for only a moment then he got back on his bike.  

     The 5-year-olds are totally courageous (one might even say fearless) out on the bike course and they consider their turn during Bike Day to be a race even though there is no starting line and no trophies. As they put on their helmets, their talk is all about who will win. When D missed his turn to ride with his fellow 4-year-olds, he got to ride with the 5's (a truly courageous decision) alonside his big brother. After the race, D was a little upset that he didn't "win." His big brother reassured him, "No, you DID win, D! Did you see all those people going by you? That’s because you won!” (Just a note: We have a lot of siblings at camp this year and even though we know sibling rivalry is a real thing, you couldn't tell by watching these brothers and sisters interact at school. Whether it's inviting a little sister to play or feeding a little brother apples during snack, your children take good care of each other when they are away from mom and dad.)

     The exploding paint activity required all different types of bravery, especially from the teachers. For this activity, the children put a scoop of baking soda and some colored vinegar in a plastic baggie, sealed it and shook it up before throwing it on the ground to watch it explode. If there was no explosion the child could take a pin-puncher and pop the bag. Loud noises, spraying liquids - it's not an experiment for the timid.

     Courage hung thick in the air under the willow tree on Friday as children experimented with the log seesaw. Little ones who started out holding our hands as they walked the length of the log until it dropped to the ground were able to do it by themselves after seven or eight attempts. One group of brave 5 and 6-year-old girls inspired their younger sisters and friends to walk the seesaw and soon there there were eight girls waiting in line for a turn. These are some of the same girls who regularly show others how to draw pictures of princesses and fairies in the classroom. For me, this experience was a reminder that when we worry that a child is "only drawing" or "only playing" it's time to take a break and get a cup of coffee while the children follow their interests. 

     Maria Montessori observed that by using their senses and their big, beautiful brains, children can naturally learn everything they need to about their world. All they need is a caring community of adults to prepare an environment where that learning can occur. She described it this way, "The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”

     MSGL provides such an environment in our classrooms and on our beautiful campus that has been created by you and other parents like you. When you bring your child to Summer Camp next week or to Preschool this fall, you are allowing her to bravely conduct her own experiences apart from you. And that requires real courage from both of you.

See you soon!

Heather

 

 


 

What are "Indoor" Shoes?

 

     MSGL students get to play outside every day that the weather allows. This means their shoes can get wet and muddy. To avoid tracking that dirt onto the carpet, we ask that you provide your child with one pair of shoes to wear inside the classroom. These shoes will stay at school.

     Your child will probably change outdoor shoes with the seasons - from sandals to sneakers to snow boots - but indoor shoes can stay the same all year. Walking around in the classroom with bare feet is not allowed, so a comfy pair of shoes that the child enjoys wearing is a must.

     Below are some good examples of indoor shoes that work well for the children.  These styles of shoes keep a child's foot dry from spills, are non-slip, stay attached to the foot, and they allow the child to get them on and off by themselves.

 

 

     Below are some examples of indoor shoes that DO NOT work well for the children. Slippers are not water-resistant and they can be difficult to walk in. If a child has not yet learned to tie, shoes with laces can be impossible for a child to get on and off by himself. Please save these types of shoes to wear at home.

 

                     

 

 

 

     If you want to be sure your child's belongings find their way home, you can order personalized labels for shoes, clothing, lunch boxes, and etc. online. This year, we are partnering with Mabel's Labels for a handy fundraiser. During August and September, 2015, you can buy labels and MSGL will receive a percentage of your purchase price.

 

 

     Your thoughtfulness when shopping for indoor shoes will help put your child on the path to independence. Thank you!