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Montessori: Your Daily Dose of Resilience-Building by Melissa DeVries, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Wednesday, 05 February 2014
in School News

Montessori:  Your Daily Dose of Resilience-Building

Raising children in the twenty-first century is a most rewarding challenge. In modern society we have increased access to mass media and greater sprawl within families. Youth are increasingly influenced by sources of information beyond parental control. Thus, our task as parents is to figure out how to balance sheltering our children while still preparing them for the future.

Research has identified many key elements that predict better quality of life in adulthood; academic achievement, absence of medical and mental health problems, financial stability, and rewarding social connections with others. Yet most of us at one point or another face situations that create vulnerabilities in these areas. So this begs the question, how do we bounce back? And more importantly, how do we teach our children to demonstrate the same perseverance when faced with stressors?

Everyday I work with families who are striving to bolster the skills and abilities of their children. They seek to help them to adapt to current stressors and challenges, and to acquire characteristics likely to help them lead a successful life in the future. My method of teaching is based on building resilience.

Drs. Goldstein and Brooks, authors of Raising Resilient Children (2002) stated, “Resilient children can cope effectively with stress, pressure, and everyday challenges. They appear capable of bouncing back from disappointments, adversity or trauma. They learn to develop and set realistic goals for themselves and those in their lives. They are capable of solving problems and interacting comfortably with others. They possess self-discipline and a sense of self-respect and dignity.” Temperamental differences can play a role in how resilient children are, but this mindset can also be taught in everyday interactions.

One of the most inspiring lessons I have learned through teaching others is that there are so many consistencies between the guideposts of Resilient Parenting and the tenets of the Montessori Method. Let’s examine a few:

First, resilience-minded parents teach their children to solve problems and make decisions. This allows children to have a sense that they can control what happens to them. This mentality fosters independence and a sense of responsibility. The Montessori classroom allows children to develop self-reliance by making choices and dealing with the consequences of their choices. Children develop awareness and trust in their decision-making through the feedback loops of choices and consequences.

Second, resilience-minded parents discipline in ways that promote self-discipline and self-worth. This helps children to appreciate mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than indications of failure, furthering the child’s emerging sense of ownership and responsibility. Positive feedback, encouragement, natural and logical consequences are all powerful teaching tools. The Montessori classroom also encourages children to learn from mistakes and successes by allowing for independent decision-making. Children make choices and experiment within a well-prepared environment that promotes creativity, confidence, and a sense of purpose. It is appreciated that children need time and practice to master new skills and that unnecessary help actually hinders development. Montessori truly embraces the “help me help myself” attitude.

Numerous other similarities can be drawn out between the Montessori Method and resilient parenting practices such that I consider Montessori a model of resilient education, with well-trained teachers to serve as additional charismatic, influential adults in our children’s lives during the school day. As parents, we are in a unique position to extend these teachings. Parents can adopt a mindset of resilient parenting “to foster strength, hope and optimism in our children” everyday.

Melissa DeVries, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist

Please join us on March 4th from 6:30pm - 8:00pm as Melissa DeVries, Ph.D., an MCS parent and our school psychologist, shares more about raising resilient children and how a Montessori education supports resiliency.

The Kindergarten Year in Montessori by Edward Fidellow

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Wednesday, 08 January 2014
in School News

An MCS Kindergarten student works on the Addition Strip board discovering "Ways to Make 10"


Kindergarten is the harvest year for all the planting and intellectual tending that has gone on for the preceding years in preschool. The kindergarten child’s learning explodes into an avalanche of reading and writing and math. All of the earlier preparation (practical life, sensorial) now finds academic outlets. The kindergarten child not only gains a wider breadth of knowledge but a deeper understanding of what she has learned and now is able to use this knowledge to enhance her own intellectual pursuits.

A Montessori education is not just cumulative in its learning; it is exponential in its understanding. The learning that happens in kindergarten is not just adding another year’s knowledge but multiplying what is learned and applying it to what is to come.

It is common for Montessori kindergarten graduates to be able to read well (and write) and to understand math far beyond addition and subtraction all the way to multiplication, division and geometry.

To miss this formative year that sets successful life patterns is to miss the ultimate advantage of this unique preschool experience.Maybe even more significantly, the lifetime patterns of responsibility, goal setting, having a work ethic, working through mistakes, inquiry and curiosity are being firmly set.


The kindergarten year in a Montessori classroom is also the year of mentoring. It is the year when the five year old is able to really help her classmates. This mentoring year is significant for two reasons. First, when you teach others, you really master the subject for yourself. Second, when you are asked to teach you demonstrate your mastery of the material. It is this mastery that produces the profound feelings of self-confidence and assurance that is the hallmark of Montessori students. Real achievement and real achievement demonstrated builds real self-esteem.

Leaving the Montessori program before kindergarten often places a child into an educational setting that is not as advanced; nor one that allows for the initiative that has been carefully cultivated during the earlier preschool years. The child is often introduced to a different curriculum one that lacks the individual intellectual satisfaction that comes from exploring and discovering the wonderful world of learning found in Montessori.

The essence of successful life is to be able to make wise choices. The Montessori kindergarten student is at a major threshold of exercising that wise decision making power. To lose that opportunity is to lose a significant part of the hard won success of the preceding years.

The great gift of an education is not the accumulation of facts and statistics but the lighting of the fire of learning, discovery and joy. It is a gift that Montessori children have the privilege and pleasure of opening and using for a lifetime.

by Edward Fidellow

Check back soon for more information about our Kindergarten program here at MCS!

Parent Education Night:Positive Discipline with Toddlers

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Wednesday, 11 December 2013
in Parent Education

The Toddler Parent Education night on Positive Discipline was a great success. Thanks to Ms Meghan for co-ordinating the information and setting up the program and also to Ms Nanette, Ms Sophie and Ms Kenzee for their informative and often entertaining presentation. At various points during the evening parents asked follow up questions. The teachers always had great suggestions but reminded the parents that sometimes certain approaches will work and other times not and it is important to keep trying new tactics.  It was stressed that it is vital to always be respectful of each child and to try not to get into a power struggle as this always ends up with one winner and one loser. It was also suggested that if a child was pushing them to their limits that they try to have the child take a break to calm themselves and if possible take a break themselves.

It is always heartening to hear other parents speaking of their struggles and frustrations so that it is clear that most people are experiencing the same issues and that this is normal stage of development for each child and that there are many ways to help make the process more manageable and hopefully enjoyable. There is no doubt that Toddlers are sometimes challenging but they are also so delightful, capable, inquisitive, lovable and growing and learning at such a rapid pace. We are most fortunate to have these children in our school community and our Toddler teachers are amazing. We are constantly impressed with their knowledge, patience and loving attitudes.

Courage

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Tuesday, 03 December 2013
in Parent Education

Courage

by Edward Fidellow

It is amazing to observe the breadth of accomplishment that a Montessori environment fosters. Courage is not traditionally thought of as an educational outcome but then again Montessori is not traditional. For children, courage is the ability to try new things even if I am afraid. And as they mature courage becomes the ability to do what is right and to do what is good.

For a child everything is new. That is the reality of childhood. The awesome task and purpose of childhood is to create the adult. Life takes courage to navigate and to become a fully functioning independent adult. And it is this kind of courage that must be nurtured and practiced for it to become a practical virtue.

We tend to identify courage with physical courage – running into a burning building, pulling people out of rivers etc. However, real life every day common courage demonstrates itself in intellectual, emotional and spiritual settings. The courage to do what is right, to do what is good for others, to use our gifts, talents and opportunities well and wisely is the kind of courage practiced and displayed in a Montessori environment.

We well understand that the opposite of courage is fear. But for a child fear doesn’t yet have a definition. It is represented by an indistinct but palpable feeling of unease. For a child fear is “defined” by the unknown, the unfamiliar. (That is why Montessori children love and are so at home in their environments because of its constant sameness and familiarity.)

For the child conscious fear starts from the unknown – the dog, the dark, strangers and then becomes attached to the inability (and frustration) of not being able to handle and control the environment – bringing it back to sameness. (Perfectionist children come to this earlier than others.) Then this fear attaches itself to the perceived rejection that comes from disapproval. The child, unconsciously thinks, that if I only do what is absolutely safe or what receives guaranteed adult approval I don’t have any reason to fear or face disapproval.

One of the hardest concepts for a new Montessori teacher to understand (and embrace) is that of not correcting children in the middle of their work. (This is particularly difficult for perfectionists and controllers.) Unless the child is damaging the material or endangering others or himself or being rude you let them continue. There are two outcomes to not correcting the child in the midst of the work. One, the child discovers his own mistake and corrects it which produces a sense of accomplishment and control. The second outcome is far more subtle. Because you are not corrected at every turn, you do not freeze up; you do not constantly look over your shoulder; you are not waiting for the next shoe to drop. You gain breathing room to make mistakes – that’s how we learn. In this way mistakes do not become the end of the universe or the world as we know it. The child is willing to try something new (which is an act of courage) without being weighed down with the fear of failure or reproof.

Not being corrected (all of the time) is the strange and unique Montessori training ground for courage. In trying something new the child gets to practice courage every day. Eventually, the child becomes use to trying new things without the overpowering fear of failure. The child learns to work his way through mistakes which becomes a normal part of life and the learning process – which is a significant part of adult life.

Life requires courage to live fully. The Montessori classroom provides daily opportunities to develop and practice courage.

Becoming a Montessori Parent by Edward Fidellow

Posted by Britney Peterson
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on Monday, 25 November 2013
in Parent Education

 

Becoming a Montessori Parent

by Edward Fidellow

This Montessori parent, and school administrator, joins her three Montessori children on a field trip this fall.

There are seven simple steps to becoming a Montessori parent. When we say simple we don’t mean that they are not challenging. It is a lot like the definition of bull riding. “The object is to keep the bull between you and the ground.” Simple – but challenging.

The first step to becoming a Montessori parent took place when you enrolled your child in a Montessori program. That in itself is a challenge. Most of us weren’t raised in a Montessori school. The whole concept is foreign and takes a bit of courage to step out of the norm and our comfort zone. We may have chosen the program because it wasn’t like our school experience (which is why we chose it.) Or we chose it because we saw something unique in a Montessori child we knew. Or we were just plain lucky and stumbled on to a Montessori school and were fascinated by what we saw. Even then we had to deal with the question, “If this is so great, how come the whole world isn’t lined up outside the door to enroll?” (Which is the same question Montessorians keep wondering about too!) But you made a complex and challenging decision to become a Montessori parent. And here you are. So how do you get the best out of your decision? You go to step two.

You begin to understand the core philosophy of what Montessori is all about. Fortunately, you don’t have to become a Montessori teacher to be a good Montessori parent. (You don’t have to know how to manipulate all of those materials and you don’t have to keep fifteen children from climbing the walls.) The most significant Montessori concept is to respect the child. I can almost hear the wheels turning “Of course I respect my child, I love them very much that’s why I have them in Montessori, I want the best for them.” Of course you love them – but respect is different. Respecting the child is first, to respect the nature of children. Children are not mini adults waiting to be molded. They are like tadpoles and caterpillars that have their own form and function of life waiting to become what they are intended to be. We are often impatient for them to become because we don’t realize that childhood – with its curiosity, playfulness, messiness and all – is part of the process of them transforming themselves into the adults they will become. We have to respect that process – which doesn’t mean they always get to do what they want. One of the operative words in Dr. Montessori’s writing is the word “train”. We do need to train our children but we need to train ourselves “not to destroy that which is good” in the nature of our children. The second part of respect is to respect the personality of your child. Your child is not a blank slate. They are already imbued with the unique characteristics of who they are. The artistic bent is already there. The math bent is already formed. The leader, the follower, the giver, the taker, the extrovert, the introvert are already dna’d into your child. Right or left handed, right or left brained are already formed.

So how do you cooperate with nature? You become an observer. That is the next step in becoming a Montessori parent – you train yourself to observe. What does your child gravitate to? What gives them great joy? What occupies them endlessly? These are all clues to who your child is becoming. You are fortunate that you have a trained helper in your child’s Montessori teacher. Your next parent conference should ask more than what has she done but who do you see her becoming. It is hard to cooperate with nature if you are not aware of the nature of your child.

Our third step is to become their champion. I know. I hear you say, “Of course, I’m their champion. I love them.” And so you do. But are their goals your goals? Translation: Do you have goals for them that do not take into account who they are. (There are many jock fathers who do not have jock sons.) Yes, you have many wonderful goals for them to be caring and loving, honest and faithful, upright, truthful, etc – and these are worthy, significant and meaningful goals which they should attain to. But the expression of their lives – career, vocation, work – is best met and fulfilled according to their gifts. When your five year old says, “I want to be a fireman.” He may be reflecting the latest book or television program he’s seen. However, if you continue to ask the why questions, “Why do you think that would be a good job? Why do you think that you would enjoy that?” you may discover that your child is not drawn just to the excitement but to the fact of wanting to help people or he likes the aspect of being part of a team. All are important clues to his personality. Your child needs you to champion and encourage his personality (especially, if it is different than yours.)

The fourth step is to practice what they learn at school – grace and courtesy. Please and thank you, may I, excuse me, please forgive me and a host of other considerations practiced (and modeled) at home will go a long way to giving your child every advantage in life. People respond favorably to a child with great manners.

Fifth, practice independence. Independence is the ability to be self-governing and that comes from making choices, living with the consequences and having responsibilities. As often as possible give your children choices. “What do you want for breakfast, cereal or eggs?” “Do you want two spoonfuls of carrots or one?” (Don’t offer choices where there are no choices. “Do you want carrots? They say no and you serve them anyway.) Give your children chores they can accomplish – making their beds, putting dirty clothes in the laundry, dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Chores build responsibility; responsibility builds independence; independence builds confidence.

Sixth, give them the gift of time. Give them time to accomplish their chores. Give them time to be children. Give them time to breath. Give them your time.

Seventh, practice humility. They have a lot to learn from you. What is easy for you as an adult is mystifying and beyond challenge for them. Let your words be seasoned with grace. Look for the good in what they do. Their motives are often pure; their actions imperfect. Yet, we have a lot to learn from them also. And when you are wrong (when, not if) practice the humility of saying, “Please forgive me.” It will not destroy your authority or their respect for you. It will teach them one of the great lessons of life – when you fail, whether it’s in a relationship, school, career or life – own the failure and start over again – to succeed another day.

Becoming a Montessori parent is to become the best parent you can be.