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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.

 



 


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

     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 outside and one pair to wear inside.

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.

 

                     

 

Because so many children choose the same types of shoes, please be sure to write your child's name on each shoe so we know whose shoes are whose. If you want to be fancy, you can order personalized labels for shoes and clothing online.

 

 

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

 


 

     Bunny the Guinea pig came to us when her family decided to adopt an actual rabbit, sometime around 2010. She was the much-loved and snuggled River Birch class pet until her death last week while the children were on summer vacation.

     Bunny didn't really like to move around very much. She was content to sit in her well-appointed enclosure and munch on carrots and timothy hay. The children were allowed to pet her, brush her, and feed her as long as they were gentle and respectful. She sat in a box on their laps in the green chair and they could pet her with one finger or two.

 


 

Bunny never required medical care, but she did get a few check-ups.


 

     Bunny tolerated being brushed, especially if she had a sweet apple core to keep her occupied. She really loved spring and summer when she could get fresh lettuce from the school garden.

         Bunny was peaceful, quiet, and - did I mention - tolerant? She only nibbled a couple of fingers but we are sure she was just testing to see if they were carrots.

 

     Thank you for remembering Bunny with us, today. She is certainly going to be missed.

~ Heather

 


 


 


Seen outside Globe Willow class: "I wish this was a boring school and it was longer so I can finish my work."

 


 


 


 

     Happy birthday! Two of the four Wyandotte chicks have hatched in the Birch room. Stop by before or after class to meet them.

 

 


 


 

 

     What did your child do at preschool today? You can try asking, but often they will say they did nothing or they “played.” The most common question I receive from parents is, “How can I know he is doing anything at school? He never tells me anything and his cubby has been empty for days.”

     Please believe me, your child is doing something. A lot of stuff, actually. But he may not remember "doing" anything at all that day. And his accomplishments often cannot be held in the hand or seen with the eye at pick-up time. If he could tell you, it might sound like this:

 

I concentrated today!

When someone asked to play with me, I said yes.

I looked at the caterpillars in the jar - for a very long time. Then my teacher read me a book about butterflies. Twice. Because I asked.

I sat next to a friend who was labeling the lifecycle of the frog. I handed her the labels and helped her match them. I got her a paper towel when her fingers were gluey.

When everyone was talking about bees I told them, “Bumblebees don’t sting. Only honey bees sting. Bumblebees just bumble.” Everyone agreed with me.

I looked at a real chicken egg and a real duck egg. I said the duck egg was bigger.

I used the very heavy tortilla press to make playdough tortillas. My friends helped and we laughed. None of us pinched our fingers.

I compromised about sitting in the comfy chair.

I served myself a snack, ate it politely alongside my friends, and cleaned up after myself.

I felt sad - just for a little bit - because I missed my mom.

I noticed that the lizard’s food bowl was empty and cut some lettuce for him.

I waited for a turn on the orange bike.

I heard that a friend is going to Korea for the summer and I gave him a hug to say goodbye.

     A preschooler's greatest and most important work often doesn't have any external product to show for it. Having and being a friend, acting out of kindness, demonstrating patience and self-control, taking care of oneself, feeling satisfied with a job well done - these things are all internalized. The children in our classrooms build their character and their understanding of the world every day, but they can’t always verbalize it. They are doing so much challenging work! But they do not yet see their actions and successes as separate from themselves.

     After a sunflower seed sprouts in the garden we might notice as the stem grows taller, but we cannot see the acts of photosynthesis and respiration and transpiration that take place every single day. The sunflower plant continues to do its work converting sunlight to sugars and sugars to fuel - the internal work of living - whether we take notice or not. Then, one day it blooms and we look at it and say, “Finally!”

     Maria Montessori believed that the child reveals himself through his work, not through his outwardly visible successes and accomplishments. Every experience he has is internalized and becomes a part of his very being. She put it this way, “The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.”

     Stories from their day and recorded work, like the blooms of a sunflower, are parts of the child we can see and they might be pleasing to us, but they are only the product of a monumental amount of internal work. So please don’t worry when your child says she did nothing all day. Nothing to grown-ups can be everything in the life of a child.

     Lots of peace, lots of love ~ Heather

 

 

“The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!" - Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

The Spinosaurus
 

     Perhaps you like listening to and collecting phrases like I do. Our Montessori classrooms are great theaters for listening. Three, four, and five-year-olds are intensely thoughtful and they tell us so much about themselves just by talking with their friends. 

     This week I had the pleasure of working in the Willow, River Birch, and Canoe Birch classes and I collected as many fabulous phrases from the children as I could. The words are theirs, the spelling is mine.

On being the first to arrive... "The only time I'm not first is when Mommy brings me. Daddy is faster than Mommy."

"Frogs lay eggs, right? Butterflies lay eggs, right?"

"I had my birthday before my brother's."

"Our grandpa makes a Donald Duck sound."

While drawing dinosaurs with friends... "It's a Spinosaurus. It's the biggest carnivore on land and it's name means lizard. It reaches in the water just a little bit and snatches a fish with it's crocodile long snout."

"A drobeosaurus has toe claws and it goes 25 miles an hour."

A different dinosaur friend... "It runs 100 and 90 hours. He has a bunch of blood in his body. It's called Spinadoctora Hundreds."

"At my house I have five lipsticks. No, six."

A child was looking for a bike to ride on the playground. I asked, "I see that blue bike is available. Would you like to ride that one?"  "No! he said. "I just fell off that one."

"I'm trying to sing Let it Go, in German, but it's too hard." (The children in one class burst into singing "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen at least six times in one morning:)

"Being in the sun is so much fun."

"Will you do something interesting?"

I like to listen to teachers, as well. I overheard a few of them talking about the possibility of having a couple of chickens at school and which type might be best suited to be Montessori chickens.

"They're good egg layers, the Wyandotte's. "And they're peaceful."

"I am concerned about them getting upset and flying up into the pine tree."

"There is a 100% chance of them getting upset."


Wyandotte chick

      May all your chickens be peaceful as you enjoy some fun in the sun this holiday weekend.

     ~ Heather


 

Thanks to the timeless quality of Montessori materials, it seems that only the faces have changed in these photos from MSGL classrooms in 2000.

It's a genuine Polaroid photo and the genuine Mr. Jeff.
It's a genuine Polaroid photo and the genuine Mr. Jeff presenting abstract computations with the Stamp Game.

 


We still use the same dishwashing stands in the classroom today.

 


Miss Chloe has been preparing the environment at MSGL for a long time.

 


The Unifix Cubes are not a Montessori material but they allow for counting, sorting, color recognition, and provide a clear control of error. 

 


It just feels good to put the colored pencils in their matching holders.

 


Taking the spindles out of the boxes reinforces the counting activity used to put them in - and it builds concentration.

 


Two friends can work together on the Teen Boards. They are matching the quantity with the symbol and witing the numerals.

 


Using scissors is classified as a language activity because it builds hand-eye coordination and strengthens the hand muscles required for writing.

 


A comfy chair is better when it's big enough for two.

 


And finally, what is Steve building? 

I hope that was as fun for you as it was for me! Have a warm and wonderful Wednesday.   ~Heather


 

     Let's recap our Building MSGL series on Wayback Wednesday. Montessori Parents, Inc. purchased the Calvary Baptist Church on Soldiers Home Road in 1999. Demolition of the interior began in September, 2000. Now it's December, 2000 and the stud walls are in place so that wiring, plumbing, and drywall work can begin.

 


Looking toward the Oak Room in Building B.

 


Standing in Catalpa looking through the wall into the Oak Room.

 


Looking out the door of the Maple Room into the office hallway.

 


Here's the view walking in the office door.

 


Here's that same view just a couple of months later.

 


This is the Maple Room looking toward the stairs.

 


This is the Willow Room looking toward the kitchen area.


And here is the Spruce Room filled with drywall supplies.

 


The Harvey & Son Construction crew. Steve, Don, Nolan, and Tony working over Thanksgiving Break.

 

That's all for this week. Have a terrific Wednesday!

 


 

     It's been a long week for everyone at MSGL and it's only Wednesday. The roots of our beloved river birch tree, which shaded the sandbox for more than 10 years, finally overtook the sewage pipe coming from Building A. The tree was cut down, the sandbox was dug up, and the lovely pergola that Ron Stier designed and built to shade the children has been dismantled. This is the sight today as workers remove roots and begin to repair the pipe. As luck would have it, we received 3 inches of snow this morning so classes were cancelled.


It's not a pretty sight right now on the playground. (Photo by Tony Harvey)

 

Yesterday, we said goodbye to the river birch tree.


The river birch comes down, one limb at a time. (Photo by Lena Atkinson)

 

        But this is Wayback Wednesday and we have to go way back. So let's take a look back at how we got here. This is the sandbox under construction in 2001. The river birch was planted later that year. It probably seemed like a really good idea at the time.


2001 - Sandbox under construction.
 

     Two years later the children are enjoying the new sandbox. The birch tree is wrapped in black at top left.


2002


     Miss Sherry and friends enjoy the shade of the river birch and the pergola during summer camp in 2010.


2010
.

     And here is a nice photo of the whole area from Summer, 2011.


2011

 

     Certainly one of the most popular areas in our outdoor classroom, the sandbox is going to be sorely missed until it can be reconstructed. But even as we lament this loss, it's good to remember that things could be worse. Back in September, 2007, this was the view outside of Building A.


2007 - Old toilets being removed during demolition of Building A.

 

     Take heart, friends. The water will soon be flowing in Building A and children will once again play in a shady sandbox. And Spring is only eight days away. Have the best possible Wednesday!

~ Heather

 


 

     This week's installment of Building MSGL focuses on the work of the jackhammer, a tool that was put to much use during the first few months of the construction project. Lots of concrete had to be broken up and hauled away so we could remodel the buildings and install new steps and sidewalks. 


Tony Harvey breaks up concrete in Building B to make space for new plumbing for sinks and bathrooms. This was one of his least favorite days of the entire 6-month project.


Looking at Building A as the concrete demolition gets underway.

 


Later that day, it looked like this. Watch that first step - it's a doozy.

 


Don Harvey and Craig Lamb prepare to take out the upstairs landing.

 

     As the demolition continued, it became apparent that the light-duty jackhammer they had been using was not going to cut through some of the steps. One parent volunteer took a look at the slow progress they were making and set off to find a better solution. Half and hour later he pulled in with a trailer-mounted mobile air compressor and a much more powerful jackhammer. Tony Harvey said that was a real game-changer for this phase of the project.

     "We had a little jackhammer that you could plug into an outlet in an airplane bathroom," he joked. "This parent came back with a rig that looked like Iron Man built it. When we flipped the switch on the big one you could see lights flicker in the apartments across the street," he said, once again, joking. "We had been working all day on those steps and in just 20 minutes with the big hammer, they were dust."

 

The old steps are broken up to make way for the new stairs/ramp that will lead into the upstairs hallway in Building A.
 

     Just for fun, I am including before, during, and after photos from Building A so we can admire the progress from an old church basment entry to a modern, ADA-compliant school entrance.


Before.

 


During demolition.
 


Here it is with the concrete walls freshly poured. 
 


Here,  the railings are being installed.

 


And here it is that first summer, looking quite lovely.

 

Thanks for joining me in the wayback. Have a super Wednesday!

 

 


 

"No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe." 
- Maria Montessori, 1948, To Educate the Human Potential

 

The Elementary students present their space projects in these photos from 2000 - 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Stay warm out there and have a terrific Wednesday!


 

The Media Scape area of the Cummins Corporate Office Building in Columbus, Indiana. Photo by the Antal Building Corporation.

  

- Thanks to Jennifer Tyrrell for this guest post. Jennifer is a Montessori teacher who worked in the Spruce Toddler class at MSGL from 2003 - 2005.

     One of the arguments I hear most often when I'm describing Montessori is that the open workspace—in particular the freedom to move around, to work where you do best for a specific task, and the ability to make a snack when you like—is not properly preparing children for the realities of life or the workforce: at some point they will have to learn to stay at their desk and do their work like everyone else. I think my husband's workplace shows the opposite to be true. 

     My husband Jeremiah took the family to visit his "office" in Cummins’s COM building. Cummins is a well-known, large, international, Fortune 500 company that makes diesel engines, and they’ve recently built this COM building in their Columbus, Indiana, headquarters with a “collaborative workspace” design. They have converted several spaces in other buildings to this open style, as well. With this collaborative workspace, departments are located on the same floor, as much as possible. Though employees can work wherever they like on any floor, they are encouraged to work amongst their department's floor.

A work area with sitting and standing work spaces in the Cummins Corporate Office Building.  Photo by the Antal Building Corporation.

 

     He showed us his locker (hook and cubby) with a couple drawers for his personal items and work laptop (each employee is given one as their primary work tool), and a thin cabinet for his coat and outerwear. Then we walked around a huge floor with areas that have a variety of tables, some standing height, some for chairs; other areas with couches and coffee tables; other more intimate areas with armchairs and footstools (Jeremy's favorite). A couple of kitchenettes with long counters and stools (snack tables) are located centrally with no walls enclosing them. There are cabinets (shelves) that divide some places and contain files and materials for everyone to access. 

 

The kitchenette area in the Cummins Corporate Office Building. Photo by the Antal Building Corporation.

 

     There are even treadmills with laptop spaces and hookups for those who need movement as they work (they are calibrated for walking, not running . . . we walk in the workplace :) There are walls to divide the elevators and small conference rooms (which can be used and reserved by any employee), but other than those areas, there are no rooms, no “offices”, no cubicles, it is all shared space: managers working amongst underlings. It looks like, well . . . a grown-up Montessori classroom :)

 

Employees working on treadmills at the Cummins Corporate Office Building in Columbus, Indiana. AP Photo/The Republic, Joe Harpring.

 

     They are doing this to encourage collaborative problem solving and to make the workday more pleasant so that Cummins continues to retain younger employees. Please share with anyone who questions the appropriateness of Montessori's open workspace. :)

     You can read a news article about more of the company's redesigned workspaces see additional photos, here.

Cheers!

Jennifer

     Jennifer Tyrrell is a Montessorian who has worked in public and private Montessori schools in Indiana and Wisconsin. She got her start in 2003 as an MSGL toddler assistant and is very thankful for that experience. MSGL is the strong benchmark by which all the other schools she has taught in are compared. She is currently living in southern Indiana, soaking up rural life in the woods with her two children, her husband, and soon, some chickens.

 


 

     If there truly is a flashback movie that plays in our heads just before we die, the remodeling of the MSGL buildings will certainly be a part of mine. And the sweaty people covered in dust will be in it too, smiling (mostly) like they were in these photos from the first week of demolition.

     The following pictures represent some of my favorite memories of the building project because we were all so young and optimistic. We didn't truly grasp what working for six months through the winter with no electricity and no toilets and no babysitters would be like. So many parents, teachers, spouses, and extended family members gave their days off and their nights and weekends to prepare this space to be our new and improved Montessori School of Greater Lafayette.  They did it for free and, most importantly, they did it with a sense of humor.


Dragging the folding partitions out of the basement. 

     The above photo brings to mind a particularly disheartening day. The church basement was divided up into classrooms by these heavy, orange, folding partitions. Before we could start cutting into the concrete floors and tearing out the ceilng, we had to remove all of these partitions. Did I mention that they were extremely heavy? So heavy, in fact, that we couldn't move them once we got them detached and rolled up on the floor. I recall seeing Craig Lamb, Beth Nichols, and Tony Harvey pushing on them with all of their might and they just weren't budging. The wise, manly men in our group decided to drag them out of the basement using the Bobcat. Don Harvey did just that. As Tony, project manager, recalled, "That part of the demolition was really brutal. You would go in and see what was going to beat the heck out of you that day."


 

     Just like in a Montessori classroom, every volunteer found a niche. Some of the parents didn't want to see anything go to waste, so they took out the light fixtures and the doors and anything that might be of value and marked it for a remodeling sale we had a few weeks later. 


Ellie's mom is organizing the salvaged items in the future toddler room.

     One of the reasons we had such a dedicated group of volunteers is that demolition work is really fun! After a long day we could put on our grubby clothes and work gloves, grab a Wonder Bar and tear into the drywall and studs.


Ron and Cathy Stier.

 


Brian Berndt.

 


Beth working in the future River Birch room.

 


Beth and Cathy take out nails so we could re-use the studs.

 


Tools like the Sawzall made the job a lot more fun. This volunteer is standing in what is now the Willow room.

 


Tony unloads another wheelbarrow of debris.

 


Water girls, Gaia and Grace.

 


The author was concerned about lawn maintenance.

     I was really worried that the lawn would grow too long and we would look like bad neighbors. This was the first and last time I mowed the entire campus with a push mower.

 

     That week was lots of fun, but I'm glad it's done. Have a great Wednesday!

Heather