Iis montessori right for your child e book 071516

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IS MONTESSORI RIGHT FOR YOUR CHILD?

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


TABLE OF C ONTENTS

1.

2.

A Commonsense Guide to Choosing a Montessori School Warning: Your Child May Not Be Ready for School

3.

The 6 Reasons Montessori Will Work For Your Child

4.

The Shocking Truth About Montessori Teachers

5.

What Louis Vuitton Can Teach You About Montessori

6.

Montessori? Waldorf? Play-­‐Based Education? Don’t Decide Until You Read This!

7.

What Your Child Will Really Get Out of Montessori

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


CHAPTER ONE A Commonsense Guide to Choosing a Montessori School You can ask 100 teachers, parents, and students “What is Montessori?” and receive 100 different answers. The truth is that Montessori can mean something different to each person. When I’m asked, I explain that Montessori is a foundation for all lifelong learning. When you have a strong foundation, the framework is secure. “What makes your school so different than the other schools in the area?” Nationwide, Montessori is a top choice for families seeking an alternative education to a traditional school setting. The more you discover about Montessori, the harder it can be to choose a school. The Sad Truth About Montessori It’s tricky to know just what constitutes an authentic Montessori program. There is no copyright or legal protection of the term “Montessori.” That means anyone can open a school and call it “Montessori” without implementing an authentic program. You will read why this is the case later in the book. Why is this important? A true Montessori program has highly trained teachers, specific learning materials, and a carefully planned curriculum that will help your child: • Reach their full academic and personal potential through an individualized education; • Learn to take initiative (at all ages); • Develop creativity, critical thinking, communication skills, and collaboration skills; • Practice personal responsibility; • And most importantly, develop a lifelong joy, love, and excitement for learning. Do you want these outcomes for your child? If so, you will need to find an authentic Montessori program.

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


7 Traits of an Authentic Montessori School 1. Teacher Training True Montessori schools have teachers who have been trained by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) or the American Montessori Society (AMS). Ask about teachers’ diplomas to verify their training. 2. Teacher Tenure Ask how long teachers have been at the school and about their depth of experience. 3. Length of Class Time Authentic Montessori programs have a 3-­‐hour uninterrupted work session each morning and a second in the afternoon for non-­‐nappers. During this 3-­‐hour work period, your child will receive lessons from his teacher and is never interrupted to join all-­‐class exercises over his own self-­‐ chosen activities. 4. Individualized Curriculum A true Montessori program supports the individual development of your child. This is very different from a one-­‐size-­‐fits-­‐all curriculum that suggests all children are ready to do the same thing at the same time because they are a particular age. In an authentic Montessori classroom the curriculum conforms to your child instead of your child having to conform to the curriculum. As one of our teachers shared with parents during a recent back-­‐to-­‐school night, “I teach how your child learns. She doesn’t need to learn how I teach.” 5. Calm and Peaceful Classrooms Supporting All Kinds of Learners “Is it always this quiet here?” is a question we often receive from campus visitors. A quality Montessori classroom will appear to be calm and peaceful. You will see many children deep in concentration as they work on an activity to master it. Other children are moving in the classroom as they choose an activity before they sit down to work. The movement in the classroom is respectful and purposeful. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


6. A Beautiful Classroom Environment You will see an exquisitely prepared classroom environment with materials laid out by subject on long, low shelves. The materials will be clean, beautiful, and captivating to the child. You will see varied materials made of wood, glass, and natural fibers. There will be real activities for your child to use small knives to slice apples, miniature graters to shred cheese, flour, salt, sugar, yeast, and water to make and bake bread, glass vases and fresh flowers to practice flower arranging, polish and small applicators to shine brass, silver, wood, and mirrors. You will see handmade reading materials -­‐ never textbooks. You will see the most amazing mathematics materials that concretize concepts to facilitate understanding in learning instead of worksheets or workbooks. Lastly, you will see the full complement of Montessori materials that will allow your child to learn academic subjects in language, mathematics, science, culture, and music. 7. Multi-­‐Age Classrooms Authentic Montessori classrooms group children together into 3-­‐year age spans. This means that children in a Primary class will be 2 ½-­‐3-­‐years old, 4, and 5 turning 6. A bona-­‐fide Montessori school will ALWAYS have kindergarten included in this age grouping with 3 and 4-­‐year-­‐old children and will never separate kindergarten children into a different class. The reason? Older children model respectful behaviors and advanced work that younger children will eventually one day experience. Younger children certainly benefit from this mentoring and the older children, irrespective of personality, are afforded an opportunity to lead by example on a daily basis, not simply when they are the oldest children in a building. How to Use This Information Knowledge is power. Now that you are have this information, be proactive and ask educated questions when researching schools for your child. The bottom line: if you want your child to receive the amazing benefits of Montessori, you must be a discerning parent! Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


CHAPTER TWO WARNING: YOUR CHILD MAY NOT BE READY FOR SCHOOL (But He is Ready For Montessori) Not sure if your child is ready for school? Perhaps you’re staying home with him and can’t bear the thought of sending him off into the world as of yet. After all, “He’ll be going to school forever once he starts kindergarten.” Perhaps, you work and have a nanny to care for your child. You think, “He’s happy and safe here at home.” Perhaps you send your child to a small in-­‐home daycare. You think, “There are plenty of years ahead for learning; I want him to play and enjoy childhood for as long as possible before I send him off to school.” Will Your Child Love to Learn? Look at any young child and you will see that she is curious to explore her world and learn. If your young child’s natural curiosity is supported and not thwarted, he will grow into a young adult who is passionate about the world around him.

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


Would you say that the same curiosity and discernment drives an adolescent child? Not always. Somewhere along the way, often when a child enters conventional school at any age, her natural love for learning can start to fade. It doesn’t have to be that way. Montessori programs are designed to support your child’s developmental needs the first time they walk into the classroom and every day thereafter. There is an educational system with a primary goal of fostering a lifetime love of learning. It’s called Montessori. The Zen of a Montessori Classroom Beautiful classrooms await your child in a Montessori school. Each is arranged to provide experiences that entice and excite children between the ages of 12-­‐36 months in the Toddler community, 2 ½-­‐6 year-­‐old in the Primary classrooms, and 6-­‐12 year olds in Elementary. As he responds to these specially prepared environments, he develops his natural interests, passions, and a desire to learn it all. We encourage your child’s natural curiosity by providing a myriad of manipulative materials showcased on low, open shelves. Your child’s teacher is highly trained to observe your child’s interest and readiness for various subjects. She will offer your child lessons and he will then choose his own follow up work during the work period. His teacher continuously observes his interests, progress, and guides him to learn through individual and small group lessons, not whole classroom activities. A Once-­‐in-­‐a-­‐Lifetime Opportunity for Your Child The optimum time to enroll your child in a Montessori school is 3 years of age or younger. Why? All children between the ages of birth and 6 have a universal once-­‐in-­‐a-­‐lifetime-­‐ability to simply absorb from their environment…like a sponge soaks up water. They joyfully and effortlessly learn. Dr. Maria Montessori referred to this phenomenon as a child’s “absorbent mind.” Think about your child’s language acquisition. You didn’t teach your child to speak your language. He simply absorbed the language by listening to you. Young children, unlike adults, can effortlessly learn multiple languages precisely because of their absorbent minds during this stage of life. Your young child loves the sound games we play in order to train his ear to isolate the sounds used to learn to read. He can’t get enough of tracing sandpaper letters because his fingertips are so sensitive to touch. His desire to play with sounds and to touch and trace letters begins to fade, as he gets older. Can your child succeed in a Montessori school at a later age? Of course! However, it is easier and more natural to embrace your child’s innate desire to learn when your child is three or younger. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


There is Only One Thing Left To Do Your child is ready to begin a Montessori program anytime after they are walking! Even at this young age, your child will learn joyfully. He will be guided by his absorbent mind and his powerful sensitive periods develop deep and lasting relationships with other children in the classroom community. Mark his start date on your calendar now and begin touring Montessori schools to find the program that is right for your family.

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


CHAPTER THREE THE 6 REASONS MONTESSORI W ILL WORK FOR YOUR CHILD Perhaps you have a friend with a child in a Montessori program. Maybe you have heard about Montessori at a local playgroup, on the soccer sidelines, or favorite coffee shop. Or maybe you just stumbled across Montessori online.

It all sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? An environment that fosters a deep love for learning; teachers trained to meet the needs of each individual child; and a classroom community that provides an opportunity for all children to develop independence.

But, in the back of your head, a nagging question remains:

“Will Montessori really work for my child?”

You Are Not Alone It’s a common question that most parents ask when researching Montessori education.

The reality is that most of us never had an opportunity to attend an authentic Montessori school when we were young. Many of the experiences in a Montessori classroom are the complete opposite of our own experiences in school. So, it’s completely understandable to question the efficacy of something so different for your own child!

There are an infinite number of reasons why Montessori will work for your child. Let’s talk about significant reasons why your child will thrive:

1. Your Child Will Learn by Doing Your child will be exposed to hundreds of specially designed materials that invite hands-­‐on exploration. She will choose what she wants to explore, creating strong neural pathways that contribute to the construction of a strong brain.

2. Your Child Will Learn From, and Teach, Others Have you ever heard the expression, “The best way to learn something is to teach it?” This happens every day in a Montessori classroom because children are grouped in 3-­‐year age spans.

Younger children observe older children working with, for example, “Bead Bar Multiplication Layout”. They look up to and admire these older children who are doing all these incredible things: they want to emulate them and are motivated to learn to be just like them. Just ask yourself, “How much faster did your younger child learn to use the toilet because they wanted to be just like their older brother or sister?” Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


3. The Curriculum Adapts to Your Child Most conventional early childhood programs assume that all children, born within a year of each other, are capable of learning and doing the same thing at the same time. As we all know, that simply isn’t true. Many bright children are bored, and others, who need more time to learn, are often left behind when we teach to the whole class at the same time. We recognize that your child has his own unique timetable for development and will learn different parts of the curriculum when he is ready. We teach to the individual needs of your child, not to the entire class or to a large group of children. 4. Beautiful Classrooms Inspire Your Child To Learn Montessori classrooms are beautiful and inviting. Materials call out to your child “Come touch me! Come explore!” From the water pitchers and toilets in the toddler classroom to the sinks to the tables, to the beginning materials, to the advanced materials…all are miniaturized and made to fit perfectly into the hands of your young child. Everything supports your child’s developing independence and helps him gain confidence in himself and his abilities.

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


5. The Teacher Really Knows Your Child “Follow the child” is the mantra uttered by all well-­‐trained Montessori teachers. They are trained to observe and to support each individual child. They take the time to get to know your child’s strengths, challenges, and interests. They plan lessons for your child based on their observations of him. Your child will be a member of the same classroom community for three years, which takes the teacher/student relationship to a whole-­‐new level. It affords the teacher the opportunity to know him deeply, intimately, and well. He will feel seen, heard, and appreciated for who he is. 6. Your Child Will Be In Good Company Many of the most successful, creative, and entrepreneurial people in our modern society are former Montessori students. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google Co-­‐ Julia Child Founders) William Wright (The Sims creator) Jeff Bezos (Amazon Founder) Anne Hathaway Steph Curry (NBA Player) Chelsea Clinton Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Beyonce Knowles (Former First Lady) Peter Drucker Sean “P. Diddy” Combs (business guru and lecturer) Princes William and Harry Gabriel Garcia Marquez Berry Brazelton (pediatrician and author) (Nobel Prize-­‐winning novelist) How Research Is Proving that Montessori Works Still need proof? How about some hard data: Research provides irrefutable evidence that the Montessori method of education is powerfully effective in educating young children. Studies conducted at the Universities of Virginia and Wisconsin demonstrated that Montessori kindergarten students outperform peers attending traditional public schools. These studies show that Montessori children form clear concepts from using the hands-­‐on manipulative materials they find in their classrooms. When children are developmentally ready and when they get to choose materials that match their individual timetable of development, their learning takes off! They become enthusiastic, confident, joyful learners. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


You Have to See It To Believe It Your child deserves the very best! Enrolling your child in a Montessori Toddler, primary, or Elementary program gives her the opportunity to be seen as a unique individual; she will be receiving a tailor-­‐made education designed especially for her. What are you waiting for? Go and observe in a Montessori program today and give your child the gift that will last a lifetime.

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


CHAPTER FOUR THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT MONTESSORI TEACHERS

Who do you want your child’s first teacher to be? Next to you, your child’s first teacher will have the greatest impact on his overall development.

A good teacher will inspire him to explore, challenge him when needed, and instill a love for learning. She will compliment the work that you do at home as a parent.

Why Finding a Good Teacher is Hard Unfortunately, most early childhood programs lack an experienced and highly educated teaching staff.

Often preschool teachers don’t stay on the job for very long. The minimal educational requirements and low salaries often lead to high turnover. Well-­‐intentioned people with potential to be great teachers often use the job as a temporary position while they work toward something more permanent.

And don’t let the name “Montessori” fool you, either. It isn’t a legally protected term, so anyone can open up a program and claim to be a Montessori school. There are Montessori schools that don’t have teachers who are any more qualified than average preschools.

How Montessori Teachers Are Different They are bona-­‐fide experts in child development: Association Montessori International (AMI) is graduate-­‐level training. It is a one-­‐year rigorous training that is demanding and intense. Teachers in training attend lectures and practice teaching sessions 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 9 months. There is homework on weeknights and weekends. Written and oral exams are taken, countless hours of observation and student training are needed. Candidates create curriculum albums for future classroom reference.

They are then examined by an international group of teacher-­‐trainers before being granted a diploma. With three additional courses in administration, teachers are eligible for their master’s degree in education. Every year after, AMI accredited teachers attend AMI continuing education conferences.

They respect your child’s individuality: In a Montessori class, the teacher is seen as a guide. She is trained to observe your child and introduce her to developmentally appropriate materials. She knows the scope and breadth of the Montessori curriculum and presents the right lessons to your child at the right time. She will not move your child on to the next lesson, grade, or classroom until she is ready. Nor will she ever hold your child back. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


They are patient: They do not praise, reward, punish or point out mistakes. Rather, mistakes are viewed as “learning opportunities”. If your child continues to make errors, she will re-­‐present that lesson with a special emphasis on the parts he doesn’t understand. They create inspiring classroom environments: Our teachers ensure the full complement of Montessori materials in the classroom supports the diverse learning going on in the class. The materials must be spotlessly clean and in good repair. That means pencils are sharpened, no pieces to an activity are missing, and paper is present to accompany a particular activity. It means that fresh flowers are available for arranging and that all of the decimal math materials are where they need to be. The Montessori environment is inviting and ready for use so that your child has everything he needs when he is ready to learn. What this Means for Your Child This means that your child is that the most important factor in your child’s success-­‐ his teacher-­‐ will be well trained and prepared to meet his needs if you chose our school. So, what are you waiting for? Schedule a tour to see our school in action!

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


CHAPTER FIVE What Louis Vuitton Can Teach You About Montessori I know that you have seen them.

You know, those knock off handbags that you see someone selling on the street or in bargain stores? They look so good at first glance. They have the same colors, the same pattern and overall design as the designer bag. And, they are selling for a fraction of the price!

It’s tempting, isn’t it?

You also know, however, that the purchasing the knock off comes with compromises. Looking closely, you can see that the leather is thin, the color is inconsistent and the stitching is of poor quality. Many of these bags fall apart soon after purchase and quickly become unusable.

The Lesson to Learn The purpose of this article isn’t to convince you to buy a designer handbag! Rather, it’s an analogy to use as you learn about Montessori education. You see, just like Louis Vuitton bags, Montessori inspired schools are rampant in the United States. If you don’t know the difference, you could easily enroll your child in a program unlike the one you think you are. Unlike the bag, however, the consequences could be more serious.

Are All Montessori Schools the Same? Maria Montessori, who was an Italian physician and scientist, developed her method of education in painstaking detail. Her success was phenomenal! People from all corners of the world began to hear about her work, and they were curious to come and see these schools for themselves. To say that Maria Montessori was an overnight sensation is an understatement.

Later in her career, Dr. Montessori realized people were altering and changing parts of her work. She went to court to obtain a copyright on her name and method; a judge denied her request, stating, “Your name and your work have been out in the public domain too long and used by too many for you to be able to make a copyright claim on it now.”

It’s a shame that Maria Montessori failed to protect her intellectual property as it resulted in some very regrettable outcomes:

1. It Diluted Her Work The name “Montessori” has been diluted, because there is no copyright to protect it, especially in the United States. Anyone can open a school and call it a Montessori school. People often hear good things about genuine Montessori schools and very different things about those who try to imitate it. You have to do your homework to get the real thing. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


2. “Montessori” Training Quality Varies A lack of legal protection of the name means that anyone can open a Montessori teacher-­‐training center. They can add to or ignore the research-­‐based methodology and pass it off as it were the real thing. Teachers coming out of these programs are not qualified to teach to lead an authentic Montessori classroom. 3. Montessori “Inspired” Schools Montessori “inspired” schools have sprouted up because anyone can attach the Montessori name to a school and ride the coattails. In the United States, there are more knock-­‐offs than there are real Montessori schools. Authentic Montessori programs are expensive and time consuming to operate. Our teachers must have a specific Montessori credential from an accredited training center. Our classroom materials are made to Dr. Montessori’s exact specifications and approved by our accrediting body. We routinely work with Montessori consultants from across the world to hone our craft. We invest the time and resources to do this because we have witnessed the amazing benefits that an authentic Montessori program will have for your child. Montessori inspired schools proliferate because parents sometimes don’t understand the difference. Unfortunately, most parents don’t realize this until after they have enrolled their child. How to Find an Authentic Montessori Program So, where does this leave you? If you are specifically researching Montessori education for your child, you should look to find an authentic program in your area. You may want to refer to the first chapter, “A Common Sense Guide to Choosing a Montessori School” for some specific things to look for in your search. And, you are always welcome to tour our school, even if you don’t plan to enroll. Beyond working with the children in our program, educating the general public about the amazing things that happen in an authentic Montessori classroom is what we love to do!

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


CHAPTER SIX Montessori? Waldorf? Play Based? What Is The Difference? It can be a bit overwhelming, right? Everyone has an opinion. Your best friend from college, members of your book club, your neighbor, your running partner -­‐ it seems that everyone has an opinion on the best preschool program for your child. And, once you look online... forget about it! “Experts” from across the world are ready to chime in with a solution for you. The unfortunate reality is that there are so many options for early childhood education that many parents avoid the research process and choose a program for the wrong reasons like the distance from home or because the teacher seemed really nice. Don’t make that mistake. Your child’s first exposure to education will be in the program that you choose. It’s best to gather some basic information about your options and use it to make the right decision.

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


Only You Know The Answer Choosing an early childhood program for your child is a personal decision. No one knows your child as well as you – his strengths, challenges, personality and temperament should all factor into your decision. Despite the best of intentions, the woman who recommended ABC preschool doesn’t know your child well enough to make a qualified recommendation.

“I want something that provides my child with structure and learning opportunities but doesn’t limit his exploration. He is an easygoing, happy child, cautious with new things, one to observe before participating. He’s also got a strong sense of order, is extraordinarily verbal, and loves music, dance, and imaginative play. I want him to be well prepared for school but I don’t want to stifle his chances to just be a kid. Oh, and I want him to engage with the outdoors and natural activity, even if he isn’t the first one to jump in the mud!”

Just like her, I’m sure you see your child from all angles and struggle with finding one program that will fit all of her needs.

How We Can Help You Most parents tend to research three major methods of early childhood education: Montessori, Waldorf and Play Based. Here’s a snapshot of all three.

MONTESSORI Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and scientist who devoted 60 years of her life to studying children. Montessori education encompasses 3 basic tenants:

1. All children develop in their own unique way, not in a strict linear progression. 2. Children develop through interaction with their environment. 3. Children develop best when they are allowed to pursue their interests.

• Dr. Montessori created classrooms that supported children’s developmental needs by giving them extraordinarily rich learning environments filled with carefully designed materials to make abstract concepts understandable. She demonstrated respect for each child’s unique developmental timetable, presenting new concepts to a child when he was most interested and capable of learning them. And, within those rich classroom environments, she trained her teachers to serve and follow the child. As a result, children are presented a lesson, then given the opportunity to choose their related work.

Two powerful intrinsic forces guide children from the ages of birth to 6 years: an absorbent mind and sensitive periods. 1. The absorbent mind allows children to simply absorb from their environment effortlessly and easily. What the young child hears, sees, and experiences will indelibly be imprinted on his brain. The child does not have to apply himself to learn anything -­‐ he simply absorbs impressions and information from the environment. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


This happens in our Primary classrooms quite frequently. For example, a younger child watching an older one working on a map will learn the language (names) of the countries before he is given the lesson!

2. Young children are guided by sensitive periods -­‐ powerful, time-­‐sensitive phases of profound interest to learn. These windows of opportunity start closing at 4 and by 6 years of age, they are forever gone.

• How many times have you heard a child, or your child, say, “I do it!” It could have been when they were getting dressed, wanting to cut their own food, shovel the snow, or rake the leaves. In Montessori schools work is the child’s play. A century ago, Dr. Montessori discovered that children will almost always abandon pretend toys when they are offered “real things” to do. Instead of pretending to cook, Montessori students of all ages cut apples, they bake bread from scratch and wash and dry the dirty dishes, and they make flower arrangements from flowers they pick from our gardens. They relish doing what they see adults doing in their environment and take pride in being independent. • Children learn at their own pace in a Montessori classroom. The focus is on reaching the individual potential of each child. A child moves through the curriculum at her own rate and she is taken to the next concept when she has demonstrated that she has a solid understanding of prior concepts. • Teachers in Montessori classrooms serve as guides for the children. They act as the link between the child and the rich learning materials found in these classrooms. Instead of teaching to an entire class or to groups, teachers guide the individual child, observing her carefully to make sure she is ready for the lesson and that it is a match for what she is interested in learning. • Classrooms contain groupings of children in three-­‐year age spans. These are collaborative learning environments with student mentors. Older children serve as role models for the younger children, showing great compassion and kindness toward their younger friends. Their work with the more advanced materials excites and interests the younger ones who want to emulate and be like their older friends. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


Students don’t need to wait to be in fifth, eighth, or 12th grade to be leaders. Being the oldest in a classroom affords the opportunity to develop strong leadership skills. • We hear all of the time about the importance of the student/teacher relationship; teacher to student ratios; and that we want our teachers to truly know our children. In Montessori, children stay in the same classrooms for 3 years, which promotes a close relationship between teacher and child. • Montessori is a holistic approach to educating the child – it is seen as an aid to life. A child’s development of independence is of paramount importance. The more a child can do for himself, the more he will look to the future with the confidence that he is competent and capable. Character education is also of deep importance in the Montessori philosophy. Children receive many lessons in the social graces that ease human interactions. In the living classroom, children are supported in developing strong social skills. WALDORF Like Montessori, Waldorf cares about and educates “the whole child.” They want every child to reach her individual potential, to be excited about learning and the world around her, to care about and treat her fellow human beings with respect. Like Montessori, Waldorf takes a developmental approach to education. Waldorf sees the development of the child divided roughly into three stages (birth to 7, 7-­‐14, and 14-­‐18). Waldorf education is designed around the simple idea that children have within them three fundamental forces impelling them toward physical, emotional, and mental activity; the head, heart, and hands. There are characteristics and needs that accompany each stage, and teachers are trained to bring appropriate learning content to each of these stages and forces in order to support and nourish healthy growth. • Waldorf classrooms are beautifully designed. Well-­‐crafted toys made of wood and silk are designed to stimulate fantasy and pretend play. • The Waldorf preschool-­‐kindergarten program places an emphasis on fantasy and imagination as well as storytelling, rhyming, movement games, and play. Another major focus is on play as it helps to develop thoughtfulness, rapt attention, and develops emotional maturity through social interaction. Their early childhood education programs are experiential (hands-­‐on-­‐involvement) and sensory-­‐based. Practical activities are provided for the children to be able to imitate what they see the adults around them doing, like baking, and gardening. Music, art and story telling are large components of the program. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


• When a child shows an interest in reading letters (first or second grade) the Waldorf approach to reading and writing is taught in a multi-­‐sensory way, using both visual images and the physical experience of the letter through walking and clay or beeswax modeling. The goal is to engage the whole child and make learning to read meaningful and memorable. • Waldorf educators take a particularly strong stand against the use of television and all electronics, because they don’t believe that they support children’s developmental needs. They, instead, want to protect the young child in that first stage of development by keeping him away from the realities of the world until he is developmentally capable of handling those realities. Because Waldorf education focuses on the whole child this flows into the home life as well. Being actively engaged at home through imaginative play, dinner with family, outside play, and helping with household chores would replace any time spent with television and electronics. Unlike Montessori, Waldorf education is a registered trademark name that allows for complete control over its governance and teacher-­‐training programs. Teachers go through an extensive and thorough training in Waldorf philosophy and practices before they can work with children. PLAY-­‐BASED PROGRAMS The theory surrounding play-­‐based programs is that children learn best when they’re having fun, and “fun” is defined as playing. They believe that work-­‐based, rigid approaches to learning actually turn a child off to leaning and that these do not provide children with positive attitudes and skills necessary to succeed as future learners. • Play-­‐based theory uses children’s “play” as the vehicle for developing social skills, imagination, creativity, inner motivation and motor skills. They believe play promotes imagination and creativity and that long un-­‐interrupted periods of play fosters concentration by allowing the child to get deeply involved in an activity. This is seen as the child taking responsibility for her own learning. Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


• The role of the adult in play-­‐based preschool programs is to guide and extend children’s play experiences. They try to figure out what it is the child is learning and then work to support and extend that learning by adding more materials and asking questions or joining in on their play. • There doesn’t seem to be an over-­‐arching theoretical framework to play-­‐based programs in the same way that there are with Waldorf and Montessori. Different theorists add to “the pot” in defining play-­‐based thinking. Some proponents value completely free, unstructured play time while others believe in structured experiences that the adult creates and enrichment opportunities carried out by specialists (yoga, music or Spanish instruction). How to Use This Information Whatever philosophical framework you embrace, remember what matters most is the people who will be with your child. Take your time and go observe in a number of settings so that you begin to get a good feeling of what resonates with you. Ask to see the credentials of any teacher you are considering for your child, this is especially true if you are considering Montessori or a play-­‐based preschool, which may have less oversight from an official governing body.

Boulder, Colorado

www.mountainshadows.org


CHAPTER SEVEN What your Child Will Really G et Out of Montessori Is all of this research really worth it? Why should you spend the time, effort, and money on an authentic Montessori program for your child? Wouldn’t it be easier to just find a good, basic preschool? For most parents, the question remains: “What will my child really get out of attending a Montessori school?” Why Your Background Matters Most parents didn’t attend Montessori schools when they were children. This isn’t a problem, of course. You turned out just fine. Know that as you consider early education options for your child however, your own educational experiences can make the decision a bit difficult. Boulder, Colorado

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At first glance, Montessori classrooms don’t look familiar to most people. There are no rows of desks, no black or whiteboards and no teaching to the entire class. Parents are often intrigued by the peaceful, calm environment and the hum of activity with young children choosing their own activities and concentrating deeply for long periods of time. Montessori is so different, however, from traditional programs that it’s natural to leave a bit perplexed. I mean, what is really going on here? How Preschools Have It So Easy I’ll admit it: I am a bit envious that most preschools don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining what they do to parents. The goal of the program is clear, to prepare children for a traditional kindergarten program. In a traditional school, your child will need basic academic skills, so they focus on “pre-­‐reading and pre-­‐math” with workbooks, flash cards and memorization. Think ABC and 1-­‐2-­‐3, and multiplication tables. In a traditional school your child will have activities where everyone does at the same thing at the same time. In a traditional school your child will need to learn how to pay attention to one teacher lecturing to the group. Think about long circle times with one teacher talking to all the children together. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, of course. Rather, in a Montessori classroom we are able to give your child individual attention to support his growth, the attention which we believe he deserves much more. That is why we educate socially, emotionally, physically, and academically – focusing on all aspects of him as a human being.

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How Montessori is Different: Education for life. Rather than just preparing your child for the next step in school, we seek to support his academic, social, emotional, and intellectual development. We want him to be successful at life in the future, not just in kindergarten. Take a second to imagine your child 20 years from now. What skills will he need to be successful in college, his chosen profession and in life in general? Here is a primer. He will need to: • Know how to regulate his behavior • Control his impulses • Learn to plan and strategize • Hone the ability to problem solve • Learn to be flexible and course-­‐correct when necessary • Learn to take initiative • Be responsible • Engage in depth-­‐based thinking requiring long periods of concentration • Work collaboratively with peers on projects Boulder, Colorado

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Researchers who study the traits of successful adults coined the term for these skills: “executive functions”. These executive function skills, that are so important to life’s success, must be continually developed, day in and day out, or else they will not materialize. They result from the way an activity is done and the time spent doing it by pushing oneself to do better and better. The Link Between Montessori and Executive Functions Research comparing children attending inner-­‐city Montessori schools with those attending traditional schools was conducted by University of Virginia professor, Dr. Angeline Lillard, and was published in the prestigious journal, Science, in September 2006. The result? Montessori students rated higher on “executive function skills” that include skills like selective attention, self-­‐control, problem solving, reasoning, and not getting into trouble. On behavioral and social tests 5-­‐year-­‐old Montessori children scored higher than their peers from conventional schools, showing that they had a greater sense of fairness and justice; out on the playground, they were more likely to engage more in emotionally positive play with their peers and less in rough housing. And, yes, your child will still be ready academically for elementary, middle, and high school, whether in Montessori or any other program. The same study found that among the 5-­‐year olds who were studied, Montessori children were better prepared to enter first grade with stronger reading and math skills than children in traditional schools. 21st Century Skills: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity Bringing together members of the business, education, and policy leaders to jump-­‐start a national conversation on the importance of 21st century skills for K-­‐12 students was launched in 2002. Since then, the term has weaved its way into national conferences, board meetings, faculty meetings and the overall education landscape. While nine skills are identified as being essential, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has identified the 4C’s: Critical thinking and problem solving; Communication, Collaboration; Creativity; and innovation as equally important as core academic subjects to position children for 21st century readiness. Boulder, Colorado

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How are these skills supported in a Montessori classroom? Critical Thinking and Problem Solving • Hands on discovery experimentation • Exploration and understanding are emphasized in the Montessori classroom. Children are given time to think through and absorb what has been presented. • Repetition allows children to achieve mastery. • Tools are given that allow children to answer their own questions.

Collaboration • Collaborative teacher and student engagement to create meaning and connections among disciplines. Boulder, Colorado

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Children work in a mixed-­‐age classroom community. Group work is encouraged and supported. Cultural studies and global awareness are built in to the curriculum. Children have opportunities to conceive of an idea then motivate and organize a group of their peers to bring it to fruition. • Grace and courtesy lessons are practiced daily. • • • •

Communication • Classroom environments are rich in language. • Children have many opportunities to communicate with adults and with each other. They have continuous contact with their peers during their work. • In Elementary, school children share their work daily through oral presentations. Creativity • • • • •

Children have the freedom to follow their interests. The arts are integrated into the curriculum. The imagination is engaged with stories, charts, and timelines in Elementary classes. The children’s work is driven by their questions. Children have the tools and the freedom to create innovative work.

University of Minnesota Medical School Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Stephen Hughes affirms, “Maria Montessori essentially got everything right. I think it’s becoming clearer that what Montessori is offering is a wide scope development of a human person and their consciousness. “ The Choice Is Yours Is Montessori worth it? You decide. You, as the parent, are charged with raising your child in the best way you see fit. What do you value? What kind of person do you want your child to become? There are a multitude of options available to you. Think carefully and choose well! Boulder, Colorado

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THE NEXT STEP

An Invitation to You Please accept our invitation to visit Mountain Shadows for a personal tour; you will see how a community of like-­‐minded people can create an amazing educational environment for your child!

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