Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Grace and Courtesy for Life

Colette B. Cross

Dr. Maria Montessori said, “ A child who becomes a master of his acts through repeated exercises of grace and courtesy and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.”

At the core of Montessori education is the emphasis on Grace and Courtesy.   Children are immersed in this Practical Life curriculum from the moment they enter the classroom.  All children are treated with dignity and respect.  Lessons in grace and courtesy are role modeled and presented daily.   Children who practice and live by these lessons develop critical life skills and healthy societal values that enable them to recognize social cues, respond to, and interact with others appropriately.  They  learn to understand that they have responsibilities to others and are setting themselves up to develop  a social conscience.  This graciousness and courteousness paves the way for community development, teamwork, and peaceful living.
Lessons are simple, life lasting, and include, but are not limited to:

  •  Greeting others by name
  •  Saying please and thank you
  •  Introducing a family member or friend
  •  Waiting one’s turn
  •  Cleaning up after oneself
  •  Setting a table
  •  Listening to the words of others
  •  Asking to join an activity
  •   How to decline an invitation graciously
  •  Showing a younger friend how to do something
  •  Helping without being asked
  •  Respecting personal space  Using words to problem solve
  •   Respecting belongings, self, and others
  •  Being responsible for the environment/taking care of pets and plants

These lessons are easy to role model and implement.  Home and school can work hand in hand to develop ethical individuals who will support a graceful and courteous world.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Celebrate the Power of Reading 

Reading aloud with young children — whether in the classroom, at home, or in the community — builds literacy and language skills and provides positive reading experiences that instill a love of reading. 

Celebrate with Westmont next Thursday, October 19 with #ReadfortheRecord! #ReadConnectSucceed, as we read Liz Wong's QUACKERS, as part of the world’s largest shared reading experience.

Jumpstart’s Read for the Record® (RFTR) is a national campaign that was launched over a decade ago to address the educational inequities that leave too many children unprepared for kindergarten. On Thursday, October 19, 2017, millions of children and adults will gather to learn, laugh, and read this year’s campaign book, Quackers by Liz Wong, as part of the world’s largest shared reading experience.

Read for the Record inspires adults to read with children, spurs policymakers and organizations to take action towards transformative change in early education, and puts books in the hands of more children across the country.

For more information please visit: 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Nut-Free Snacks for Lunch or Birthday Celebrations

Sometimes coming up with nutritious and nut-free food choices for our children can seem like an impossible mission, but there are actually many great choices! Here are a few recipes for snacks that would be great to share for birthday celebrations or to put in your child's lunch box.

Fully-Loaded Snack Bars

And if you are looking for just some basic items to put into your child's lunch beyond fruit and sandwiches, here are some things that you may not have thought of to include:

Nut-Free Spreads/Dips
  • Plain hummus
  • Sunflower Seed Spread
  • Guacamole
  • Soy Nut Butter

  • Fresh vegetables (carrots, celery, broccoli florets, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes)
  • Fresh Fruits (apples, oranges, banana, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, pear, kiwi, blueberries, etc.)
  • Applesauce cup or pouch
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Mandarin orange fruit cup
  • Raisins
  • Dried Fruit

  • Cheese (stick, cube, round, slice)
  • Yogurt (watch out for granola or cookies on top that may contain nuts)
  • Pudding cup

  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers (Wheat Thins, Saltines, plain Triscuits)
  • Rice cakes
  • Goldfish/Cheddar bunnies
  • Sunchips
  • Potato chips
  • Popcorn
  • Tortilla chips
  • Pita chips
  • Pirate’s Booty

  • Teddy Grahams
  • Graham Crackers
  • Nilla wafers
  • Fruit leather
  • Fruit snacks 
  • Fig Newtons
  • Jello cup

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

5 Clever Hacks to Simplify Any Family's Morning Routine

Getting the family out the door on time every morning is no small feat. Seemingly simple tasks like getting dressed, packing backpacks and making breakfast can quickly turn into chaos. Before you know it, you're running late and the kids haven't even eaten as you dash to the car.
Stop dreading the stressful start to the day and start taking control of your mornings. A few simple tips and tricks will turn the morning craze into smooth sailing. Plus, when you have a stress-free start, the rest of the day just seems to go better.

Select a week's worth of clothes Sunday night.
Instead of choosing outfits the night prior, supersize your time-saving efforts by doing this task just once on Sunday night. Involve kids in selecting their clothes for the week so they feel empowered in their choices. Then hang entire outfits in the closet or stack in one drawer dedicated to weekday wear. When mornings come, kids know exactly where to find the day's duds. Bonus: you don't have to worry about midweek laundry.

Create a routine, and set alarms.
Create a morning routine and stick to it. For example, kids wake at 7 a.m., eat breakfast at 7:15 a.m., get dressed and ready at 7:30 a.m., then out the door by 8 a.m. And if the kids need to share a bathroom, set a daily bathroom schedule with alarms to keep kids on track and avoid arguments in the morning.

Get ready before waking up the kids.
Trying to ready yourself for the day while helping the kids is a recipe for disaster. This is why waking before the rest of the family really makes mornings happier. Try getting up 30 minutes before the kids so you have time to get ready and enjoy a cup of coffee. You'll be fully awake, much happier and can focus on helping the kids stay on-task.

Create morning rules.
Just like you don't let kids eat dessert before dinner to ensure they eat well, set rules for the morning to keep things moving. For example, no TV until all morning tasks are completed. For teens, smartphones and other mobile devices must remain on the kitchen table until they are ready to go.

 Sundays = meal prep.
Make a week's worth of sandwiches or other lunches on Sunday and put them in the freezer. This way lunch items are ready to go and the sandwiches will be thawed and ready to eat by lunchtime. For breakfast, make it easy for kids by setting out shelf-stable items they can make themselves. New Jif(R) Peanut Butter and Naturally Flavored Cinnamon Spread keeps mornings interesting. Set out a jar by a loaf of bread and kids can quickly make a tasty sandwich they'll devour. Learn more at

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

7 key phrases Montessori teachers use and why we should use them, too

Montessori can be hard to sum up in just a few words—it is a philosophy on education and child development that runs deep. It’s a way of seeing the world. I think one of the easiest ways to get an idea for what Montessori means is to listen to the language that Montessori teachers use.
Montessori teachers use language that respects the child and provides consistent expectations. Words are chosen carefully to encourage children to be independent, intrinsically motivated critical thinkers.
Here are seven common phrases you’d probably hear in any Montessori classroom, and how to incorporate them into your home life.

1. “I saw you working hard.”
The focus on process over product is a key tenet of Montessori. We avoid telling the children “good work” or “your work is beautiful” and instead comment on how they concentrated for a long time, or how they wrote so carefully and their work could be easily read by anyone.
Praising your child’s hard work, rather than his results, helps instill a growth mindset where he believes he can improve through his own efforts.
Instead of telling your child, “You’re a good boy,” tell him “I noticed you being kind to your little brother yesterday when you shared your truck.” This shows him you see his good behavior, without placing judgments on him. Instead of telling him, “You’re such a good artist,” try, “I noticed you kept working on your picture until you got it just how you wanted it.”

2. “What do you think about your work?”
In Montessori, the child is his own teacher. The teachers are there as guides to give him lessons and help him but he discovers things for himself through the carefully prepared environment and materials.
Self-analysis is a big part of that discovery.
When your child asks you, “Do you like my picture?” try asking her about it instead of just saying you love it. Ask her what she thinks about it, how she decided what colors to use, and what her favorite part is. Help her start to evaluate her work for herself, rather than looking for your approval.

3. “Where could you look for that?”
Independence is another key value in any Montessori classroom or home. Our goal as teachers is to help the children do things for themselves. So while it’s sometimes easier to simply answer a child’s question about where something is or how to do something, we often answer questions with another question such as, “Where could you look for that?” or “Which friend could you ask for help?”
If your son loses his shoe and you see it peeking out from under the bed, try asking leading questions, rather than just handing it to him.
“Where were you when you took your shoes off? Have you checked your room?” This may take a little more time, but it will be worth it when he starts taking more initiative and coming to you less.

4. “Which part would you like my help with?”
In a Montessori classroom, children are responsible for many things, including taking care of their environment. Children often take great pride in this responsibility, spending time arranging flowers to put on tables, watering the garden, and happily washing the windows and tables.
Sometimes though, a job is just too big and overwhelming. In these cases, we ask the child how we can help. We don’t want to swoop in and “save the day,” sending the message that the child is not capable, but we also don’t want to leave the child overwhelmed.
For example: If your child is tired, but needs to put her Legos away before bed, all of those pieces can be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing though. Try “which color would you like me to put away” or “I’ll put away the yellow pieces and you put away the blue” to show that you’re in it together.

5. “In our class, we ….” (Or at home— “In our home, we…”)
This little phrase is used to remind the children of any number of classroom rules and desired behaviors. Phrasing reminders as objective statements about how the community works, rather than barking commands, is much more likely to elicit cooperation from a child.
“In our class, we sit while we eat” is less likely to incite a power struggle than “Sit down.”
Like all of us, children want to be a part of the community, and we simply remind them of how the community works.
If you have a rule about walking in the house, instead of “stop running,” try saying “we walk inside our house” and see if you get fewer arguments.

6. “Don’t disturb him, he’s concentrating.”
Protecting children’s concentration is a fundamental part of the Montessori philosophy. Montessori classes give children big blocks of uninterrupted work time, usually three hours. This allows children to develop deep concentration, without being disturbed because the schedule says it’s time to move on to learning something else.
It can be tempting to compliment a child who is working beautifully, but sometimes even making eye contact is enough to break their concentration.
Next time you walk by your child while he’s focused on drawing a picture or building a tower, try just walking by instead of telling him how great it is. You can make a mental note and tell him later that you noticed him concentrating so hard on his creation.

7. “Follow the Child.”
This last one is an important one. It’s something Montessori teachers say to each other and to parents—not to the child. We often remind each other to “follow the child,” to trust that each child is on his or her own internal developmental timeline, that he is doing something for a reason.
This reminds us to search for the reason behind the behavior. It reminds us that not all children will be walking by one or reading by four—they haven’t read the books and couldn’t care less about the milestones they are “supposed to” reach.
Following the child means remembering that each child is unique and has his own individual needs, passions, and gifts, and he should be taught and guided accordingly.
If you can’t get your child interested in reading, try watching what he does love—if he loves being silly, it may be that a joke book is what piques his interest, not the children’s classic you had in mind. Remembering to “follow your child” can help you see him in a different way and work with him instead of against him.
One of beautiful things about Montessori is that it is so much more than a type of education—it is a way of seeing and being with children. Even if your child does not go to Montessori school, you can easily bring the ideas into your home and watch your child’s independence and concentration grow.

Christina is a Montessori teacher for 3-6 year olds, certified by the American Montessori Society. She currently stays home to take care of her son, James. She lives in Austin, Texas, and writes a blog,, chronicling her journey through motherhood the Montessori way.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Back to School/The Importance of Sleep

It is hard to believe that summer is over, where did it go? Our children are used to long sunny days, beach outings, family gatherings and late nights which naturally impact bedtime schedules. Now that school is back in session it is important to focus on reestablishing a solid sleep routine for our children.  School requires energy and focus which an adequate sleep schedule will support.  In an article published by the following are highlighted to help parents understand the importance of Sleep.
Did you know?

  • Sleep promotes growth
  • Sleep helps the heart
  • Sleep affects weight
  • Sleep helps beat germs
  • Sleep reduces injury risk
  • Sleep increases attention span
  • Sleep boosts learning

Let’s make sure our children get enough sleep and are as rested as much as possible to get through their days.  To help achieve the above, the article suggests  Building a Better Bedtime by adapting the following as early as possible.

Encourage self-soothing
            Try not to let your infant fall asleep while eating, and put her to bed when she's   still awake. By 3 months, you should slow your response time when she wakes up crying at night. By 6 months, when most babies typically sleep through the night, consider giving up the monitor if your room isn't very far away. Or you can turn the volume down. You'll be less tempted to rush to your fussing baby, and    she'll be more likely to drift back to sleep on her own.
Create a solid routine
            Children should have a consistent bedtime ritual by 3 months that lasts no more than 30 to 40 minutes, bath included, says Dr. Mindell. And for kids up to age 10, make sure bedtime is before 9 p.m. "Children who go to bed after 9 p.m. take longer to fall asleep, wake more often at night, and get less sleep overall," she  says. Dr. Durmer also suggests sticking with the usual bedtime sounds, like recorded ocean waves or a fan, and favorite sleep-time objects, such as a special blanket or pillow.
Set the stage for Sleep
            Try to maintain the same temperature and level of light in your child's room, even when on vacation, says Dr. Durmer. Shut off screens too, because research is mounting about the light generated by computers and tablets: Just two hours of screen time right before bed is enough to lower levels of melatonin -- a chemical that occurs naturally at night and signals sleep to the body -- by 22 percent. Ditch devices after dinner.
Add another bedtime story
             You already know reading to kids helps them learn, but hearing storybooks is a    great way for kids to head off to dreamland. "Of all activities, reading printed books appears to be most relaxing," says Michael Gradisar, a clinical psychologist at Flinders University, in Adelaide, Australia.
Run a sleep audit
            It makes sense to periodically measure your child's sleep time, especially if you're seeing trouble signs. (Alas, you'll need to do it the old-fashioned way: Wearable trackers can make mistakes with anyone, but they're especially   inaccurate on kids, who move around more in all stages of sleep. A study found     that one such device underestimated kids' sleep by an average of 109 minutes.)

Sweet dreams and here’s to a restful healthy school year for our children!

To read the article in its entirety click on the link below

Thursday, August 31, 2017

On Hurricane Harvey

Contact: Carla Hofland, Director of Member Services
Phone: 212-358-1250 x302
American Montessori Society
116 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003-2163

August 30, 2017

Dear Montessori Friends and Colleagues,

I am writing to express AMS’s deepest concern for everyone who has been impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Among the millions who have been affected are members of our Montessori community—schools, teacher education programs, teachers, support staff, families, and, of course, our children.

We are evaluating the situation to determine how we can be most helpful. However, until things stabilize, and the totality of the damages is determined, there are many unknowns.

Currently, my staff and I are in the process of reaching out to all of our member schools and teacher education programs in affected areas. Many of your will have received a phone call from us earlier in the week—others will be hearing from us very soon. If we are not able to reach you by phone, we will follow up with a personal email. Please respond, when you can, to let us know how you are and what your needs are.

Maria Montessori said, “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”

With this in mind, we know that many of you are thinking about how you can help.

Here are several resources you may find helpful:
·        Texas Monthly: information about donating to programs that serve people with special needs, and more
·        Dallas Morning News: how to register as a volunteer, provide supplies, and more
·        Archdiocese of New Orleans: Parish-based support…
·        Chron: food banks, donate money, support African-American businesses, help pets…
·        San Diego Tribune: volunteer, donate money…
·        USA Today: help a children’s hospital, donate money, volunteer…
·        CNN: donate blood, donate supplies, help with cleanup…

We will be continuing to monitor the situation and to assess how our community can best support those affected.

Carla Hofland
Director of Member Services
212-358-1250 x302