Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Want your kids to tell you about their day? Instead of asking questions, try this.

By Sara Ackerman, Washington Post 

The recently begun school year brought with it the smell of fresh pencil shavings, the squeak of shoes on newly waxed linoleum and a new round of stonewalling to the question, “What did you do at school today?”
For generations, the most common answer to this question has been “Nothing,” followed closely by “I don’t know” and its cousin, “I don’t remember.”
When my daughter started preschool, I was desperate to know what she did all morning, but I couldn’t get any information out of her. Some experts recommend giving kids space and time to decompress before launching into questions. I tried that, but she still wasn’t forthcoming. Others advised me to make questions more specific, yet still open-ended. The Internet abounds with lists of quirky alternatives to “How was your day?” But when I asked my daughter who made her laugh or what games she played outside, I was met with sighs of irritation and emphatic replies of, “Stop asking me those fings!”
When school began this year, I tried a new approach at the dinner table. “Do you want to hear about my day?” I asked my daughter.
And on that day and every day since, she has never said “no.” So I tell her about meetings and photocopying, the jammed printer and how I lost and found my keys. I tell her about the games on the playground, the lessons I taught and how many kids asked to go to the nurse. I start with taking attendance in the morning and I end at dismissal. I am a teacher — at her school — although her class is on a separate campus.
Then, like she’s taking her turn in a game of Go Fish, my daughter tells me about her day. I learn what book she listened to at the library, that she changed from her rain boots to her sneakers by herself, and the cause of her brief venture into timeout. She tells me who was classroom helper and who she sat next to at snack time. She sings “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for me, crawling her fingers up the invisible water spout above her head. She leans in close. “Did you make letters in sand today?” she whispers. “I did that!”
Although being a teacher may make my days relatable to a child attending school, I think my daughter is most interested in unveiling the mystery of what I do when I’m not with her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a bus driver or a stay-at-home parent, because it’s not about the minutiae of the work. It’s about sharing what makes us laugh and what bores us, the mistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet. When I model this for my daughter, she is more willing to share the same with me.
Work is usually the last thing I want to talk about when I get home. I often think that a rundown of my day would be a bore to anyone, including me. Maybe my daughter finds listing all her cutting and pasting and cleaning up blocks equally tedious. But I delight in hearing the details of her day, just as she delights in mine.
Tonight at the dinner table, as my daughter inexpertly wielded her knife and fork and I started talking about tomorrow’s plans, she interrupted.
“Mom? Aren’t you going to tell me about your day?”

Sara Ackerman is a writer and a teacher.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Screen Time Dilemma

Colette B. Cross

How much screen time is too much?  In this day and age when screens are front and center in the day-to-day life of parents, children, schools, and communities in general, the question remains.  There is a field of thought that in order to keep up with the times, it is important for children to have access to all and everything there is to offer.   There is no doubt that young children are exposed to far more electronics/screens/video games, eBooks, etc., than ever before.  Parents know the magnetic draw and look to experts for advice.  The good thing is there are many articles and suggestions to support parents setting guidelines on this topic.  Paying attention to current research and setting family limits will help navigate this challenge.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), always vocal on its guidelines for our youngest ages, has recently changed its position on its recommendations for screen time for children. The Academy understands and recognizes the challenges that parents face with screens now appearing at every turn; the constant barrage adds to the dilemma. To read about the AAP’s current position on screen time, click on the link below to read an article published in the NY Times:

A Reconsideration completely of Children and Screen Time - The New York Times

In short keep in mind:


-  Media is just another environment

-  Role modeling is critical

-  We learn from each other

-  Content matters

-  Be mindful of “Educational Apps” - do your own research

 Co-engagement with your children counts

- Playtime is important

 Set limits and follow through with them.

For further reading, Google Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time and writer for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), who gives feedback on her recent findings on how electronic media affects young children.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Montessori Homework?

Homework is one of those hot-button topics with which parents and teachers typically have either a love or hate relationship. Those that believe homework is an essential task that children should learn at a young age have many valid points; it prepares children for higher grades, practice is essential to success. But studies are continuing to find little linking early homework to future success, and current best practices suggest not requiring more than five minutes of homework for each grade of school (first grade=5 minutes, fourth grade=20 minutes, etc.).

There is a type of “homework” though that Montessorians have found to be quite valuable to the development of children – home-work! If the goals of homework are to lay the foundation of future success, then having children help at home is a great way to teach them both personal and community responsibilities. For example, by having your child take charge of making his own lunch you give them not only the skills involved in the process (pouring, closing ziplock bags, making healthy choices) but it also teaches time-management skills, as there is a definite deadline for the work to be done.

By having regular home-work that your child is responsible for, you teach essential skills that make the transition to later school assignments at home easier.

Some of the home-work that children can be responsible for include:

Ages 2-3
·         Put toys away
·         Place dirty clothes in basket
·         Fold washcloths
·         Help set the table
·         Put away silverware
·         Get dressed with little help
·         Water plants
Ages 4-5
·         “Age 2-3” items
·         Feed pets
·         Wipe up spills
·         Help pack their lunch
·         Prepare snacks
·         Fold towels
·         Clean windows
·         Dusting
·         Help with recycling
Ages 6-9
·         “Age 4-5” items
·         Sweep up messes
·         Empty dishwasher
·         Match clean socks
·         Rake leaves
·         Make salad
·         Fetch items at the grocery store

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

#PEACEDAY – The United Nations’ International Day of Peace

If we are to teach real peace in this world... we shall have to begin with the children."
—Mahatma Gandhi

Each year on September 21, The Westmont Montessori School students, faculty and staff, honor the United Nations’ commemoration of International Day of Peace with song, art, readings, etc. as a means “to strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” 

What a lofty goal for one day!   Lofty it is, but if the September 21 Peace Day builds an awareness of peace and the classroom becomes the vehicle by which peace is elevated to the same importance as reading, writing and arithmetic, peace becomes less insurmountable.   We strive daily here at school, a microcosm of the world, to provide lessons and to role model peace as a means to provide the children with the tools to resolve conflict and to collaborate.

Today, the children will gather as a school to sing Light a Candle for Peace and Hello from All the Children of the World as a means to convey our love for one another.

For more information on the UN’s International Day of Peace, please visit: .

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Positive Parenting Tip

Colette B. Cross

Replace Don’t with…………………….
Some simple advice to keep in mind during day to day interactions with your child.
One of my favorite positive parenting expressions is, model the behavior you desire to see in your child.  This will come in handy when trying to rephrase your “don’t” to “no”.   To foster impulse control and create desired behavior, phrase sentences to create positive images in your child’s mind and positive interactions.  For example instead of saying “Don’t run,” try rephrasing your request and say: “Use walking feet.”  Instead of saying “Don’t hit,” or “Don’t throw,” try saying “Soft touches,” or “Gently touch your brother,” or “Let’s put the toy here.”  You can also try to model the desired behavior while saying the words.  You are now not only telling your child how to do something the right way, you are also showing, as well as teaching a solid skill. 
Paying close attention to the number of times you say, no or don’t will remind you to keep your redirection as positive as you can.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Library.

Social and Emotional Development. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Back to School Tips

Back to School Tips
Auris Vanderbilt

Is it really that time of the year again? The signs are all here…. Summer camp has come to a close, trucks are moving about spreading mulch, floors are polished, trees are trimmed and checked for safety, windows, siding, playground equipment, etc. have been power washed, the air is a just bit cooler, reminding us September is close, classrooms are shaping up, staff is finalizing paperwork, welcome cards to new and returning families are compiled, etc.  Yes, summer is quickly waning and preparations for the new school year are well underway to ensure a smooth transition.

No different than a school, families are planning and preparing for their own back to school, be it organizing calendars, shopping for new shoes and backpacks, haircuts, doctors’ appointments,  etc.  Here are some back to school tips that can help your child start school feeling happy and prepared:
  • Speak often and with excitement about school:  remind them how much (hopefully) you enjoyed school, drive-by the school a few times and reiterate, “This is your school!”
  • “Play Preschool” as a means to discuss the first day of school – meeting the teacher, making new friends, seeing the classroom and the jungle gym in the playground, etc.
  • Begin to re-introduce routines for bedtime hours, meals, bedtime stories, and naps.  
  • Prepare and practice a “goodbye” routine - a special hug, singing of a favorite song, a double kiss etc. Express how you will pick them up a short while later and give them that special hug, sing their favorite song, etc. once more.
  • Visit the school and meet the teacher –  introducing them to their environment and teachers will help alleviate some of the worries they may be feeling
  • Reassure children that feelings of excitement, sadness, and worry are normal.  Share a time you may have felt scared and excited.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to help your child adjust to a new sibling

How to Help Your Child Adjust To A New Sibling
Colette B. Cross

Parents are often surprised by the reactions of their children to a newborn when, before the arrival, everyone was equally as excited to welcome a new sibling.  Quite often, a child may react negatively when the new baby arrives. He might regress in his own behavior such as having frequent temper tantrums, regression in toilet training, using “baby talk”, and demanding more attention in various ways.  A child might tell his parents to send the baby back, or even try to hurt the baby. 

In all the excitement parents sometimes forget that everyone’s life changes with the arrival of a new baby, especially a young child.  A child often thinks he has been replaced somehow, and this can cause atypical behavior, emotions and outbursts.

Here are some tips to help parents help their child adjust.

  • ·         Allow your child to help with the care of the baby, but only if your child is interested.  For example, “would you like to help wash the baby?”  and show your child how he can gently use the wash cloth.
  • ·         Ask your child to help you make decisions for the baby, “Do you think the baby would like this blue bib or that green bib?”
  • ·         Watch the baby’s movements together and discuss what you see, “Oh look the baby is following you with his eyes, or he smiled when you clapped your hands.”  Your child will feel more involved this way.
  • ·         Read stories that have different scenarios of new baby arrivals, and ones that you think your child can relate to and understand.
  • ·         Validate your child’s feeling, be supportive and understanding, and try not to tell him to be impatient with his reactions or outbursts.
  • ·         Try to spend time alone with your child each day.  Remember your child might be thinking the new baby has replaced your attention and affection for him.
  • ·         Engage other family members to spend some special time with your child, grandparents, a favorite friend or relative.
  • ·         Most importantly, do not force your child to interact with his new sibling; children adjust and will come around on their own.

For further reading, google Baby Center Expert Advice