My Child’s Teacher is 6 Years Old

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No matter what side of the argument you stand on, there is concrete evidence and scientific proof that mixed ages in one classroom can be very beneficial. Starting in her earliest primary communities, Dr. Maria Montessori incorporated children as young as 2.5 years in a classroom with children as old as 6 years. This is a very common practice in many Montessori schools today, including our precious HBMH.

For many parents, putting their young 2.5 year old in a classroom with much older students (sometimes over the age of 6), can be quite intimidating. Especially if their child has never been in a daycare setting before. Children grow exponentially between 3 and 6 years of age. It’s quite impressive to see what the younger ones are capable of doing while learning and growing under the leadership and influence of students twice their age.

In Montessori, we want the materials to teach the children, allowing them to work independently. The same goes for their fellow peers; we want the older children to teach, guide, lead, influence, and motivate their younger friends. Through this structure, the younger students observe and imitate the older student’s actions, and the older students gain leadership skills as they guide and support their fellow classmates. They learn to be patient and compassionate for those who rely on them for help. Competition in the classroom is eliminated because every child is at a different stage of learning.

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Children learn more readily from other children than they do from adults…think of when you used to play “school” with your other childhood friends. It comes naturally to our little ones.

Maria Montessori observed that children are eager to learn, and she identified self-directed, observational learning as a central theme of childhood. Describing the phenomenon of observational learning in a multi-age group, Montessori wrote that the child “…suddenly becomes aware of his companions, and is almost as deeply interested as we are in the progress of their work.”

Through my observations in our primary community, I’ve witnessed multiple occasions of older students voluntarily helping their younger friends. I’ve witnessed lessons being given between the two, as if they themselves were the Guide. I’ve seen a 5 year old help a younger friend carry a full water pitcher to the hand washing basin, showing them how to walk with much precision while balancing the container, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. I’ve watched as older students volunteered their time to help roll up nap rolls for those who couldn’t yet do it themselves, tutoring them on each careful step. I have to restrain myself from interfering when I see a young child struggling to carry a full block of knobbed-cylinders, and watch as it tumbles to the floor, because I know that it will only take a few seconds for their older friends to rush over and help clean up the work. These opportunities are so precious to our older students, and play a large role in their growth and development.

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Angeline Stoll Lillard describes the Montessori multi-age setting this way, “Montessori encourages learning from peers in part by using three-year age groupings. This ensures that as children move through the classroom they will be exposed to older and younger peers, facilitating both imitative learning and peer tutoring… Dr. Montessori was quite clear about the need for this mix of ages.” (Montessori: The Schience Behind the Genius)

In conclusion, many parents look at a multi-age classroom and ask, “How does one teacher take care of so many students with such an age difference?”. The answer is simple…she doesn’t. The only way this is possible is with the help and participation from the older students. They know their expectations and roles in the community, and take on the role of being a leader, guiding and teaching their younger peers. Montessori is beautiful in this way; the children work together in a harmonious and peaceful learning environment, helping one another to achieve their full learning potential.

Fire Truck Visit: National Fire Prevention Week

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We had a surprise visit from the Fire Truck last Friday, during the conclusion of National Fire Prevention Week. Our young friends had the opportunity to sit inside the firetruck, and discover the many tools, buttons and sounds that a firetruck makes. Fun Fact: did you know that a fire truck holds over 500 gallons of water?! That’s amazing!
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We learned not be afraid of fire-fighters when they come to rescue us in a house fire. Even though they wear a big mask, and their air tank is loud, they’re there to help us!

If we see a fire, we always call 9-1-1. And of course, our friends had fun practicing the “stop, drop, roll” tactic whenever our clothes catch on fire.
Fire Truck_2We listened and waited patiently as the firemen explained the process of putting out a house fire, and the many tools they use in order to efficiently complete the job.Fire Truck_1Fire Truck_3Even the littlest of our friends enjoyed a sneak peak at the fire truck during their morning stroll outside.

It’s important to always be prepared in the event there is a house fire that requires emergency evacuation. For tips on how to incorporate fire safety and prevention in your home, visit the links below:

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire
http://www.nsc.org/safety_home/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Pages/Fire.aspx

Special thanks to the City of Plano Fire Department for taking the time to visit our school and educate our students on fire safety and prevention!

ANYTHING IN YOUR BAG TODAY?

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Today I did my math and science.
I toasted bread, halved and quartered, counted, measured, and used my eyes, ears and hands.
I added and subtracted on the way.
I used magnets, blocks and memory tray.
I learned about a rainbow and how to weigh.
So please don’t say –

“ANYTHING IN YOUR BAG TODAY?”

You see, I’m sharing as I play, to learn to listen and speak clearly when I talk.
To wait my turn and when inside to walk.
To put my words into a phrase, to find my name and write it down.
To do it with a smile and not to frown, to put my pasting brush away.
So please don’t say –

“ANYTHING IN YOUR BAG TODAY?”

I learned about a snail and a worm.
Remembered how to take my turn.
Helped a friend when he was stuck.
Learned that water runs off a duck.
Looked at words from left to right.
Agreed to differ, not to fight.
So please don’t say –

“DID YOU ONLY PLAY TODAY?”

Yes, I played the whole day through.
I played to learn the things I do,
I speak a problem, find a clue and work out for myself just what to do.
My teachers set the scene, and stay near-by to help me when I really try.
They are there to pose the problems, and to help me think.
I hope they will keep me floating and never let me sink. All of this is in my head and not in my bag.
It makes me sad to hear you say –

“HAVEN’T YOU DONE ANYTHING TODAY?”

When you attended your meeting today and do your work I will remember not to say to you –

“WHAT DID YOU DO?”

– author unknown

Taken from the blog of a Montessori school (Sweetwater Bay Montessori Preschool)

Less is More – The Beauty in the Simplicity of a Prepared Montessori Environment

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

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Whether it’s at school or at home, the way you prepare your learning environment is the most important influence on how your child will learn. If it’s an environment well equipped with all the tools they need, including supplies to replenish the ones that are used, then surely they will succeed. If it’s an environment that has clutter, over-stimulating toys, “busy” colors on the wall, items that haven’t been restocked, etc, then you can more than likely expect the same learning experience for your child. The prepared environment is key to their academic success. Especially during their first 6 years of life (and after), a thoroughly prepared environment promotes organization, concentration, order, and an opportunity for the child to capitalize on their spontaneous sensitive periods of development.

Beauty. Simplicity. Order.

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Simple and aesthetically pleasing, the leaf polishing work includes basic, clean and organized materials to help the child focus on the task at hand. Clutter, or too many items on the tray, confuse and frustrate the child, blocking their creative energy.

The most precious gift we can give our children is the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, by fostering an environment prepared to meet each of their learning needs. Children appreciate beauty and organization. The desire for beauty in the environment is not a luxury, it is a need for the child; a way for them to connect to the environment. Dr. Maria Montessori’s works were created with the intention of doing just that; to create materials so that they are beautiful and enticing to the child. She believed that objects should be fragile and beautiful. Children then learn to respect their surroundings by the way that they carry themselves, careful to not knock over or damage the objects around them. These things are precious and beautiful to the child; they are to be respected. Preparing your learning environment is an art, by implementing a layout that requires thought and careful movement from your little ones. Each item should serve a developmental purpose of some sort.

Beauty refreshes the tired spirit.

A classroom well-lit from natural light promotes beauty. Studies have shown that children who work in classrooms that have large, open windows are more successful than those who are kept in classrooms with no windows for the greater part of their academic career. Incorporating sunlight and nature as part of your child’s learning experience greatly enhances their spirit!

The child’s sense of order is extremely essential in their overall success. Unless you’ve had the proper child development training, one often does not consider this factor as an important step in their learning process. Order is key. In order for a child to comfortably and confidently grow, they need to know that the learning material will always be in order and ready for them to use. Order gives the child a means of orienting themselves to their environment. Just as we expect everything to be where we last put it, children work much better if they know exactly where everything is, and that it will be in the same place every day. When a child finds himself in a beautiful, ordered environment, he will work to keep it that way.

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The cloth washing work is always available to the children, complete with all of the necessary tools needed to complete the task. An apron symbolizes that the child is doing important work, while keeping their clothes dry. The mitt is used for wiping up access water spills. The child is able to complete this work successfully because the guide has gently prepared all of the items in advance.

The beauty in Montessori is that it focuses on simplicity and order. Everything in the classroom environment, down to the finest detail, is prepared well in advance with the intention that it will be used to enhance a specific aspect of the child’s development. When preparing your classroom or home learning environment, take the time to quietly sit in silence for a few moments. How do you feel? Is the room inviting, comfortable, soothing? Are there interesting works that will capture the child’s attention? Is each work and activity prepared so that the child does not need to rely on you for help if they run out of something? Is there sufficient table and floor space for working? Try to look at the room from the child’s perspective, and prepare it in such a way that they can work with little to no assistance from the adult.