Soft Skills, by Peter Davidson, Montessori Blog

I had an interesting conversation with a prospective parent recently who teaches at a local college. She shared that she and her colleagues are constantly discussing “how underprepared kids are for college in terms of ‘soft skills.’” By soft skills she meant skills other than the purely academic — the personal qualities, habits and attitudes that make someone a successful college student and, by extension, a good boss or employee later in life. She had just come from an observation in toddlers and primary and was surprised to have seen that in Montessori, “starting in toddlers students develop the self-motivation, independence, and follow-through that many college students lack!” In other words, beginning at these very young ages, Montessori children are already developing the soft skills that will benefit them so greatly later in life.

It was a pretty astute observation for a prospective parent seeing Montessori for the first time, and it got me thinking. When I talk to parents, I often describe a Montessori learning material, like the binomial cube, detective adjective game, or golden beads, that leads to the acquisition of academic or “hard skills.” Obviously, hard skills are important, but soft skills are equally so. Continue reading

Photo of the Day: Memorization

PuzzleWhile 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: USA

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!

DSC_0706Friends gather around the American and World Peace Flag to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
DSC_0714DSC_0709DSC_0701DSC_0702DSC_0723DSC_0725We colored pictures of significant landmarks in America.DSC_0736DSC_0728We made special hats, adorned with stars and stripes.DSC_0687DSC_0682DSC_0697Some of our older friends drew state flags from memory, using only a study book as a guide. The focus on detail is so amazing!DSC_0693DSC_0698A pin-pricking of the United States of America. A lot of concentration and focus went into making sure each line was carefully poked out.DSC_0731One 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!

DSC_0705Happy Independence Day!

An Inside Look Into Toilet Learning the “Montessori” Way

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.

Splash Day Fun!

What better way to welcome the new season of summer, than to celebrate with a fun Splash Day!

Our friends enjoyed a variety of water activities including a large inflatable water slide, water tables, sprinklers, and other toys to explore and have fun with. This is how we beat the heat at HBMH!

13450900_10210149349318441_4624945170151046772_n13419258_10210149342038259_5306491952902645986_n13466032_10210149353718551_1031454906364183395_n Continue reading

Summer Camp at HBMH: Gardening

“Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry
We kicked off summer camp with an exciting and hands-on gardening theme, which of course, went successfully!
Over the past few weeks, we have been studying gardening. Our Apple classroom conducted a lima bean experiment to see how the bean sprouts and grows. Try it at home to see how big your bean will sprout!
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We also pin-pricked various flower patterns, placing them on our wall-garden.
DSC_0380 We’ve also been participating in plenty of garden care through watering the soil and harvesting the fresh vegetables and herbs.
DSC_0471DSC_0469DSC_0478DSC_0473DSC_0489Our students officially have green thumbs!
Next week’s summer camp theme “United States of America”, is sure to be just as exciting!
Happy Gardening!

Teaching Children Empathy, By Jessica Lahey, the New York Times

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.

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Credit Jessica Lahey

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

The Beauty of a Child’s Imagination

The child’s imagination is a beautiful thing.

A few days ago, I was able to witness spontaneous creativity at its best. A few friends chose quiet rug works while the rest of the children were sleeping (hence the dark lighting in the photos below). They chose familiar works that had been practiced so many times before.

The first chose to work with the brown stairs. She fashioned the prisms in a way to imitate an art easel. She took the smallest prism and used it as a “paint brush”. The largest, as her canvas. I have to point out the satisfied look of achievement when she finished her masterpiece, and sat back to observe.13254477_10209963074981699_4247165993987414362_n13255945_10209963077101752_8728604753358836456_n

The other child I observed chose the knobless cylinders as her work this afternoon. I’ve seen her manipulate this work in many different ways, mastering all of its variations. I believe in this particular set of photos, she was pretending the cylinders were little people. The boxes represented their house. She showed such great concentration and enjoyment as she worked. 13256106_10209963076661741_2458312059209810681_nDSC_072813263669_10209963077661766_3575737498091857058_n

Our older 5 and 6 year olds enjoy working with familiar works…as if they’re revisiting something known rather than discovering something unknown. To witness such pure joy and satisfaction is truly amazing. When you let a child’s creativity flourish, letting their imagination lead the way, the end result is very rewarding.

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

self regulation

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:

Click to access Self-Regulation_Florez_OnlineJuly2011.pdf