146 Times Around the Sun: Happy Birthday, Dr. Maria Montessori!

146 times around the sun; Happiest of Birthdays, Dr. Maria Montessori!

Today is a day we celebrate the life and legacy of the most important, influential developer of the Montessori pedagogy.maria-montessori

Our Primary community celebrated by participating in a traditional Celebration of Life for Dr. Montessori.DSC_0710A few friends were chosen to walk the earth around the sun, signifying the years of her life. Naturally, we didn’t make it around the sun 146 times, however we did talk about significant milestones in her life after each lap.

Students were asked “What do you like most about Montessori?” One child said they thought she had good ideas about children. Another reflected on how she worked in a hospital. We learned lots of interesting facts today!DSC_0715Following tradition, we baked muffins for the occasion, and shared them as a class.

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Biography

A physician, scientist, educator, innovator, child rights advocate…

Dr. Maria Montessori spent a lifetime developing an educational method focusing on the way that children learn. This method is still widely known and practiced today.

Dr. Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. She later graduated from the University of Rome in 1896, becoming the first female doctor in Italy. She chose to focus on pediatrics and psychiatry as her specialties.

Maria Montessori became the director for the Orthophrenic School for developmentally disabled children in 1900. It was there that she began her research on early childhood development.

The first Montessori home was developed in 1907, called Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House). This is where Montessori first practiced her pedagogy, preparing each classroom environment to promote creative learning and exploration. Her methods soon became internationally recognized.

Around 1940, the Montessori movement began to fade, and Maria was forced out of Italy. She fled to India, where she developed a program called Education for Peace, which earned her two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

In the years following, Maria Montessori continued to advance her approaches to education. She lectured all over the world, documenting her theories in books and articles. She developed a program to prepare teachers in the Montessori method; through her efforts, her pedagogy was adopted worldwide.

Aiding to the Construction of the Child’s Intelligence through the Education and Exploration of the Senses

When infants first interact with the world, they don’t have words to describe what they encounter, so they absorb their surroundings and new information through their senses. They experience the external world through the use of their senses. Our eyes help us see, our ears let us hear, our hands help us feel, our noses let us smell, and our tongues help us taste. feet

Children are spontaneous learners. Every day is a new opportunity for a child to learn. You can use almost anything surrounding you to help stimulate a child’s senses. Begin by experimenting with different smells, watch their expressive language for likes and dislikes. Visit a park, find nature objects to touch, taste, smell, using language to describe what you’re experimenting with. Children respond differently to sensory experiences. These experiences can greatly improve their motor skills, raise awareness of the world around them, and contribute to language acquisition. They can also be quite therapeutic. Enhancing and building upon the child’s senses helps improve their social, emotional, cognitive, physical and language development.basil

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Developing Young Children’s Self-Regulation through Everyday Experiences, Ida Rose Florez

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According to Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making, regulating one’s thinking, emotions, and behavior is critical for success in school, work, and life (2010). A child who stops playing and begins cleaning up when asked or spontaneously shares a toy with a classmate, has regulated thoughts, emotions, and behavior (Bronson 2000).

From infancy, humans automatically look in the direction of a new or loud sound. Many other regulatory functions become automatic, but only after a period of intentional use. On the other hand, intentional practice is required to learn how to regulate and coordinate the balance and motor movements needed to ride a bike. Typically, once one learns, the skill becomes automatic.

The process of moving from intentional to automatic regulation is called internalization. Some regulated functions, such as greeting others appropriately or gollowing a sequence to solve a math problem, always require intentional effort. It is not surprising then that research has found that young children who engage in intentional self-regulation learn more and go further in their education (Blair & Diamond 2008).

To read the article in full, click on the link below:

https://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201107/Self-Regulation_Florez_OnlineJuly2011.pdf

Attachment to Reality: The Importance of Real Materials in the Classroom

“Yet, when all are agreed that the child loves to imagine, why do we give him only fairy tales and toys on which to practice this gift? If a child can imagine a fairy and fairyland, it will not be difficult for him to imagine America. Instead of hearing it referred to vaguely in conversation, he can help to clarify his own ideas of it by looking at the globe on which it is shown.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

One of the most obvious differences between Montessori and your typical, conventional daycare, is the use of real materials in the classroom, as opposed to plastic toys made from synthetic materials. The pedagogy is only successful if the child has real tools to work with. One of the characteristics of a normalized child is their “attachment to reality”. We strive to provide real material as safely and practical as possible. We want children to develop real skills and habits for living in a real world.

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I use a glass mortar and pestle to grind fresh cinnamon. The sound of the crushed spice against the glass, and the fragrance stimulate my senses.

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with imaginative/fantasy play, however there is a time and a place. Play is the work of the child. Playful learning is done so through many aspects of the Montessori philosophy. Play is beneficial for children in a variety of developmental areas, and different types of play is associated with different stages. The pedagogy is dedicated to meeting all of the developmental needs of the “whole child”. Montessori guides must consider play as a developmental area, and observe and guide the children’s movement in the classroom to support their growth. These areas should contain the same preparation, analysis and sequencing as all other areas of the classroom.

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” -Fred Rogers

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What is my Child really learning through Exercises of Practical Life?

“If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities, which they can perform themselves. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down the stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence.”  Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

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I find it fascinating how children have an innate desire to be a part of a community; to belong. They want to be involved in purposeful work, and to keep their tiny communities clean and orderly. It’s not necessarily something we have to teach, but something that can come about by providing the right tools, and making sure these tools are easily accessible. We model for the child how to carry about one’s body, how to handle fragile things, that everything we do has certain steps that have to be followed, and that their are effects or consequences for everything that we do. In Montessori, we teach the child skills that can be used in “real life”, beyond the classroom. These lessons are done so through their persistent participation in exercises of “practical life”.DSC_0265There’s much to be said about the Exercises in Practical Life, and how beneficial and extremely crucial they are to the child’s overall development. It’s through practical life works that the child learns concentration, focus, scope and sequence, pre-writing skills (cleaning a table with a bar of soap from left to right in circular motions), fine and gross motor development, small and large muscle development, they develop a sense of order, and generally learn to take pride in their work. They learn to be independent young adults, free to think critically and problem solve. Continue reading

Look Who’s Talking! A Child’s Thirst for Language Development

“Words are your [child’s] best friends. They are bridges of understanding and passages that seed all of humanity.” (Montessori Today, Paula Polk Lillard)

A child thirsts for new language like they thirst for water. They crave new language experiences for many reasons; to be in touch with their surroundings, engaged in their environment, and to communicate with others around them. We want to provide a variety of language opportunities for children, especially between the ages of birth to six years, when the child is in the “sensitive period” for language development.

At HBMH, our community is well equipped with language-rich learning opportunities. We talk to the children and adult with respect, modeling how to interact in a positive, productive way. We model grace and courtesy so the child understands proper social interactions. Every lesson is an opportunity to expand upon the child’s language development.

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In Montessori, we discourage talking to a newborn in a “baby voice”. Instead, we carry on conversations and talk to them as if talking to another adult. We share stories with them, and encourage them to respond. We “coo” in response to their little noises to show that their words and noises matter, and that they can communicate their needs through language. Our tone of voice conveys a specific message and emotion. We tell them what we’re going to do before we do it. For instance, “I’m going to pick you up”, or “I’m going to wipe your nose”, and so forth. Continue reading

Parent Discovery Session: “Third Year Montessori”

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“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” – Jane D Hull

We had a great turn out for last night’s Discovery Session, “See. Experience. Believe. Third-Year Montessori.” Families from all our classrooms came to witness our senior primary students presenting lessons in the classroom. Our friends were very excited to display works that they’ve been practicing for many months now! This was truly an enlightening, informative night!

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One of our friends showing the short chain of 1-5 to her parents. The beads allow the child to visually see number quantities, and skip count (3…6…9…and so forth). This is an important step in learning enumeration; a lesson that is taught all throughout their three-year primary cycle. It was so neat to witness our young friend teach her mom and dad this special lesson!

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Everything the child learns as a young infant, prepares them for works such as this. When they first enter the primary community at age 3, they’re given the opportunity to explore and discover their new community. The second year is a time of solidification, further refining these new-found skills. And the third year (5-6 years old) is a time for application. Each lesson builds upon itself, ultimately preparing the child for the last year in our primary community.

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I practiced for such a long time on the Map of Europe. My muscle memory allowed me to do the entire puzzle off the board, and without a control chart. I was so happy to include my mom and dad in this work!

Thank you, parents, for supporting your young ones, and being a big part of their educational development!

Third-Year Montessori

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“To prepare our students for world stewardship, we provide them with a foundation of learning that embraces the cultural, social, visual, historical, and physical aspects of life.” – HBMH Philosophy

This philosophy builds the structure of our kindergarten program.

From early infancy, we have been preparing our students for this very moment. Everything leading up to this point has been a preparation for their kindergarten year, and on. The most important commitment a parent can make to a Montessori child is to promise, both to the child and school, that the child will be allowed to complete the full three to four year primary cycle. The three-year old year is a time of discovery. The four-year old year is a time of solidification. The five-year old kindergarten year, hereon referred to as the “third year”, is a time for application of all the child has learned since early infancy.DSC_0286

The primary third year is critical to the development of self-confidence and independence. It is also the last chance to take advantage of the amazing abilities of the Absorbent Mind before it disappears forever.

Montessori children are given freedom to choose their own work. They know the expectations of the classroom, and they treat one another with grace and courtesy. Their work is respected by the guides and fellow classmates. We never interrupt their concentration, allowing them to develop their full potential.

Some parents choose to enroll their child in a new school for kindergarten because they believe this is the norm; that children of this age must go to public school. Montessori primary communities are well equipped for kindergarten-aged students. The curriculum is based upon the expectation that the child will remain in the same program through their 5th or 6th year.

Imagine working on a machine. You know you have six years to complete the project; the last year, you’ll have an opportunity to use the machine in the real world. You spend years perfecting and manipulating each piece of the machinery, preparing it for the last year when you’ll be able to present it to the community. Now imagine being pulled from the project on the 5th year, only to be told that you’re being moved to a new project, in a completely different environment. This is similar to what our kindergarten-aged students experience when they’re pulled out of their school environment before that last, critical year; the “application” year.DSC_0462

Unfortunately, not every school practices Montessori. A child who is used to working independently, getting one-on-one attention from the guide, completing each step at their own pace and not being rushed, working at the table or on a floor rug, and so forth, is now forced to sit at a desk all day, with restricted movements, listening to one teacher speak to the group as a whole. Montessori prepares the child to appreciate learning, develop a passion for discovery and research, use their creativity, problem solve, grace and courtesy, care for the environment, self control, amongst many other things. We want our children to leave our school, prepared to face each of life’s challenges and milestones with optimism and motivation. We want them to be young leaders of this world, tolerant and accepting of all cultural diversities.

In order for the child to succeed, they need to perfect their Executive Functions. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Executive Functions are a set of particular mental skills that help the child reach maturity, such as memory, mental flexibility, and self control. These skills, along with many others, are embodied in the lessons and materials that our students work with every day.DSC_0620

The primary third year is a time for the child to master life skills; skills that they’ve been working on their entire life. Skills that help prepare the child for the modern 21st Century. Many public/private preschools do not include these skills as a component of their curriculum, which are actually very critical to the child’s development. For instance:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
  • Collaboration and Leading by Influence
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • Oral and Written Communication
  • Assessing and Analyze Information
  • Curiosity and Imagination
  • Love of Work

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

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“We need every worker to be a ‘knowledge worker’. How do you do things that haven’t been done before, where you have to rethink or think anew, or break set in a fundamental way, it’s not incremental improvement.” – Hellen Kumata, Managing Partner at Cambria Association

“Our children are allowed to choose, explore, manipulate objects. They are encouraged to formulate ideas, try these ideas out, and accept or reject what they learn.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Collaboration and Leading by Influence

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“My greatest concern is young people’s lack of leadership skills. Kids just out of school have an amazing lack of preparedness in general leadership skills and collaboration skills. They lack the ability to influence versus direct command.” – Mike Summers, VP of Global Talent Management at Dell Computers

“Classroom communities encompass a two-or three-year age span, which allows younger students to experience the daily stimulation of older role models, who in turn blossom in the responsibilities of leadership. Students not only learn with each other, but from each other.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

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“Leadership is the capacity to take initiative and trust yourself to be creative. I say to my employees if you try five things and get all five of them right, you may be failing.” – Mark Chandler, Senior VP and General Counsel at Cisco

“We encourage curiosity, creativity and self-directed development. The prepared environment creates innovation competence by means of including trained adults and the correct works and resources. The classroom is organized to support experimentation and learning rather than dictating what will be learnt and what the experiment will be.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Oral and Written Communication

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“We are routinely surprised at the difficulty some young people have in communicating: verbal skills, written skills, presentation skills. They have difficulty being clear and concise; it’s hard for them to create focus, energy and passion around the points they want to make.” – Mike summers, VP for Global Talent Management at Dell Computers

“Our students are encouraged to think for themselves and articulate their own opinions. Socially, they care about others, know how to work well in groups; take a long-term project and break it down into “do-able” parts, and they see assessments as feedback.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Assessing and Analyzing Information

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“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps.” – Mike Summers

“Montessori children are encouraged to observe, explore, question, and investigate everything. They are allotted the freedom and time for the conception of a problem or situation and the discovery of its solution. This gives them the opportunity to produce ideas through flexibility which allows for the ability to switch from one perspective to another.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Curiosity and Imagination

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“I want people who can think – they’re not just bright – they’re also inquisitive. Are they engaged, are they interested in the world.” – Clay Parker, President of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards

“Children can compare, find similarities, and refine the powers of discrimination in order to create abstractions. They learn to distinguish similarities and differences, and learn to place these variables into an ordered progression. We foster an environment that inspires “what if” and curiosity.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Love of Work

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“Children know when their work is worthy and good. They know when it measures favorable against their inspirations, talents, efforts, values, and abilities. They learn to assess themselves and their ideas honestly.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

HBMH’s kindergarten program gives children the opportunity to perfect all of these skills in a safe learning environment. Every parent must eventually make the decision where their child attends kindergarten. Of course, we respect your choice, whatever it may be. Our goal, as educators and Montessori mentors, is to encourage each child and family to reach and exceed their full potential. We are here to guide you through this decision, and find the right path for your child’s upcoming academic career.

Green Spaces Linked to Kids’ Cognitive Development

(Photo: PhilipYb Studio/Shutterstock)
“Children spend a considerable part of their active daily time at schools, and ‘green exercise’ has been related to greater mental health.”

Parents, as a rule, want to give their children every possible academic advantage. While this usually takes the form of tutors or computers, a new study suggests a surprising factor they may want to consider when checking out a new school, home, or neighborhood: Whether it provides adequate access to the natural world.

New research from Spain finds that, among second-, third-, and-fourth graders, quality time spent climbing trees and playing games on grass helps mental abilities blossom.

“Our study showed a beneficial association between exposure to green space and cognitive development among schoolchildren,” writes a research team led by Payam Dadvand of Barcelona’s Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology. This is partly, but not entirely, explained by the fact that kids who get to play in nature are exposed to less air pollution than those who hang out on city streets. Continue reading

Sweet Sleepy Baby

Photo Credit, Melissa Marciszko Photography