While assisting in the classroom this afternoon, I had the opportunity to observe a few students hard at work. They had completely put together a puzzle up-side down, from memory. I asked them what their strategy was, and they simply replied, “we just place the pieces that fit together.” This is a true example of Montessori students hard at work, finding variations and challenging ways to complete a work that’s been done many times before. A camera-worthy moment if I’ve ever seen one.
Summer Camp at HBMH is always an exciting time of the year. Over the past few weeks, our friends have been enjoying various lessons and art activities focusing on the United States of America. We learned about American history, the USA flag and Pledge of Allegiance, various significant landmarks, the different states and their capitals, studied flags, painted pictures, and so much more. It was fun-filled summer camp, packed-full of exciting activities!
Friends gather around the American and World Peace Flag to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
We colored pictures of significant landmarks in America.We made special hats, adorned with stars and stripes.Some of our older friends drew state flags from memory, using only a study book as a guide. The focus on detail is so amazing!A pin-pricking of the United States of America. A lot of concentration and focus went into making sure each line was carefully poked out.One of our kindergartners got creative and used the moveable alphabet to spell some of her favorite American landmarks.
Our next summer camp theme, “dinosaurs”, is set to be just as exciting as our recent camp. Stay tuned for more pictures and stories to come!
Did you know that potty training, or “toilet learning”, as we call it, should start before 18 months of age? In our school, children begin the toileting process as soon as they can pull themselves up and support their bodies. It’s not about setting high expectations, assuming child will learn how to use the toilet and control their bladder right away, but more of establishing a routine, and providing all of the tools the child needs to succeed. In time, they will recognize that using the toilet is a common routine. They will internalize the concept, ‘my urine goes in the toilet, not in my diaper or on the floor’. They recognize that you respect their time and space by providing a safe place for them to fulfill their bodily needs. Each meticulous step in the toileting process, is a step towards the child’s overall independence and self confidence.
When Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project released their report, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values,” many parents and educators — myself included — were surprised to learn that despite all our talk about instilling character and empathy, kids may value academic achievement and individual happiness over caring for others. In the report, the authors explained that the children’s values reflected what they believe adults value.
In the wake of these dispiriting study results, the Making Caring Common Project and the Ashoka Empathy Initiative created a set of recommendations for teaching empathy to children.
Empathy goes beyond being able to see another person’s point of view, Rick Weissbourd, the co-director of the Making Caring Common Project, explained in an email. He points out that sales people, politicians, actors and marketers are able to do this kind of “perspective-taking” in pursuit of their professional goals. Con men and torturers use this ability to manipulate their victims for personal gain. In order to be truly empathetic, children need to learn more than simple perspective-taking; they need to know how to value, respect and understand another person’s views, even when they don’t agree with them. Empathy, Mr. Weissbourd argues, is a function of both compassion and of seeing from another person’s perspective, and is the key to preventing bullying and other forms of cruelty. Continue reading
One of our absolute favorite blogs that we religiously follow, How we Montessori, posted a wonderful article explaining the benefits of allowing our children the opportunity to work with dangerous, or fragile things. In the classroom, our students are encouraged to work with challenging tools, such as scissors to develop fine and gross motor skills, they’re also allowed to grate/cut vegetables as part of food preparation/”practical life”, which teaches valuable life skills, and they’re invited to use glass tumblers to drink out of during mealtime. If they drop the glass, it’s not a problem. They’re well-equipped with problem solving skills to clean up any mess they make. We want them to learn how to handle delicate materials so that they will learn self-control, and self-discipline, amongst many things. We empower and enable our children to be self sufficient, working with tools that aid in their independence. Often times, learning from mistakes can be a powerful method.
Children need risk. Risk challenges them and keeps them alert, it makes them responsive and teaches consequences. However parents are often so afraid, it’s to the detriment of their children. Maria Montessori would call this oppression.
Children are capable. But they need our help. We need to enable and empower them.
Children need to learn new skills, real life skills. Once they are capable in one area they will have the confidence to work and excel in other areas. When they complete real work there is a powerful sense of accomplishment which can build the child’s sense of self. Children need work and accomplishments they can be proud of.
“Here, let me help you.”
These words, while innocent enough, can interfere a great deal in a child’s development. It’s natural for us as adults to want to interfere and offer assistance when a child is struggling to carry a heavy, full water pitcher, or can’t put on their coat and shoes by themselves at the end of the day. It’s just what we do as parents and educators; to protect our precious little ones whenever they’re struggling, hurt, or going through a hardship. We need to, however, ask ourselves this question, am I really helping them?
I can share a personal example (among many), of my son and his struggle with independence.
While dressing himself this morning, and putting on his shoes, I reached over, “Here, just let me help you.” At the time, I did not realize the harm my interfering had caused. I did not see the disappointment in his eyes as I took his shoe and hurried to put it on his foot.
Our mornings are generally rushed, eating a quick breakfast, grooming, dressing, feeding/walking the dog, getting bottles/cloth diapers ready for sister, etcetera, etcetera…there’s very little time allotted for my son to put each article of clothing on his body by himself.
I replenish a “changing basket” in my son’s room every night, complete with a few pairs of pants, shirts, socks and underwear so that he can choose what to wear for himself in the morning. I’ll give him between 20-30 minutes to dress himself, which usually ends in me pulling his shirt over his head, or putting on his shoes because, I’m sorry my dear, but we just don’t have all day! I’ve recently discovered that because of this, he is now dependent upon me to finish getting dressed. He will follow me around the house with his shoes, waiting for me to put them on his little feet. If I can’t help him immediately, he will resort to crying or try to get my attention in a negative way. It’s as if I’ve set such high expectations for him to put his shoes on, and why not, I’ve made it clear that he needs an adult’s help to do so, through my impatient actions. So the way I see it, I haven’t really helped him during his morning routine. Instead, I’ve damaged his independence, and made him more reliable on me. Granted, he is 2.5 years, and may need help with some of his day to day tasks, but I can confidently say that dressing himself is a task that he can do all by himself.
Dr. Maria Montessori said, “The task of the child is the formation of man”. In the earliest years, the child is forming the kind of person they’ll be for the rest of their life. They will refine fine and gross motor skills, learn how to cope with different emotions, experience social interactions, conflict resolution, and so forth, all with a strong emphasis on independence. They can achieve this independence by working in an environment, well-equipped with tools they can use, free from adult interaction. Montessori guides strive to be “invisible”, letting the materials teach and manipulate their student’s young mind. Through works in “practical life” (care of environment, care of self, care of others, etc.), the child learns to control his movements, they develope concentration, self-discipline, control of error, scope of sequence, and so many other qualities that can further strengthen their independence.
Self discipline is key to a child’s independence. Children who have developed internal self-discipline, have the freedom to enjoy independence. We need to allow the child to develop self-discipline on their own terms; they need that internal struggle in order to grow independently. Self discipline comes about through a child’s concentration, and their ability to successfully complete a challenging task.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
We all love our children and want to nurture them, overload them with love and affection, and help them at all times. By doing too much for our children, we take away their ability to learn independently. By following your child’s natural rhythm of learning, and allowing them to experience obstacles for themselves, they will become more intelligent, better-coordinated, disciplined, self-sufficient young children, well equipped with the knowledge to solve problems on their own. Do not feel guilty to let them make mistakes, and learn through “control of error”.
A BIG thank you to our entire community for coming out to our recent Fall Festival; we had a record turn-out this year! This has always been a successful fundraiser for us. It gets better and better every year. Thank you all for coming out and supporting our school!
Face painting, henna art and hair/nail salon was a big hit!
Thank you, Ms. Insiya for creating such lovely henna for our guests! Visit Insiya’s Temporary Body Art homepage for background on her beautiful work.
Of course, everyone’s costumes were nothing short of amazing.
Our First Annual Chili Cook-Off was a huge success! Congrats to Ms. Maya for winning on overall presentation and flavor of chili! Thank you to all of our participants!
Thanks to Jay’s help, our concessions this year included smoked ribs, chicken, and hot dogs…yum!
The petting zoo came fully equipped with chickens, roosters, a calf, piglets, bunnies, and a few other furry friends.
Mr. Monty was the “tractor conductor” and towed the kids in the barrels all night. They absolutely loved it!
We had THREE bounce houses this time, which included obstacle courses and slides.
Another “congratulations” goes to all of our silent auction basket winners. With your help, we raised over $1,800!
Plenty of smiles to go around! This had to have been one of the funnest fall festivals yet.
On behalf of the entire HBMH community, thank you to all who came out and supported our school. This event is always the largest fundraiser of the year for us. With your continued support, we raised funds that will go towards the growth and improvement of our school!