Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Creating a Montessori Home

By Melanie Thiesse

Although the Montessori Method of learning requires a specifically prepared environment and a whole community of learners, there are key principles that can be carried over to the home. 

Follow the child - Try to build on the interests that your child already has. Whether he is fascinated by dinosaurs or learning to climb the stairs, support and encourage those interests by providing safe and enriching opportunities to grow.

Give freedom to explore - Children learn best through exploration. The more opportunities they have to explore, the more they learn and develop. So let your toddler empty the Tupperware cupboard, take your preschooler on nature hikes, and allow your child to play, imagine, and create a world of their own in the backyard.

Emphasize practical life skills - As humans, we take great pride in our accomplishments. As children, those accomplishments include practical skills that were once challenging but with practice come with ease. Let your child help with dinner, sort laundry, and set the table. The pride they will feel will be well worth the extra time the tasks take to complete. 

Provide child-sized tools - Imagine trying to cook using utensils that are two or three times larger that typical: too large for your hands, too long and hard to balance. In order to promote success, try to provide your child with tools that are the right size for them. This can include utensils, cups, broom and dustpan, laundry basket, anything that your child uses to complete her tasks.

Demonstrate how to do activities - Even the simplest tasks that we may take for granted often require explanations to our children when learning to do them. So, while completing tasks for and with your child, tell them what you are doing. For example, if your child needs help zipping their coat, talk them through the steps while you do it. Talk about how you look for the bottom of the zipper sides, how the two pieces slide together, check to see if the one side is all the way at the bottom, and how you hold down one side of the coat while you pull the zipper up. There are so many learning opportunities all around us!

Create an orderly environment - Rather that the traditional toy box with toys piled on top of toys, provide small shelves for your child to keep their things. Have a place for each item and let your child help with their arrangement. If there are too many toys to fit on the shelves, put some things up and rotate them out.

My son, Nathan (now 16 years old), in his bedroom at age 2

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Young Leaders

It is a known fact that if you desire a behavior you role model it, and if you want to reinforce you own learning how better to do it than by teaching someone else.  According to Stephen Covey, (2006) you really do not know something until you can teach it. The third year in a Montessori classroom serves an important role in the development of the child be it a 3-6, 6-9 or 9-12 program, it completes the cycle and serves the specific plane of development for each child

We recently graduated our third year class; in Westmont’s case our Kindergarten class, the final year in our school. We saw clearly what an amazing leadership experience each child had in the areas of social, emotional, and cognitive development.  The foundation of the preceding years’ experiences culminated in community minded, disciplined, self-assured leaders.   No longer the younger members of the community, they reached the pinnacle.  What an honor to be entrusted with the responsibility to role model appropriate behavior, give lessons to peers and younger students, and understand the importance and impact of making good choices.  An opportunity to inspire, teach, take ownership and be admired by younger children should be a natural and regular occurrence.

Sending children on to new schools armed with leadership skills at such a young age is empowering, life lasting, and invaluable.


Covey, S. The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything. New York: Free Press 99. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Summer Memories

As the warm sun begins to warm our backs, we quickly harkened back to summers past.  Summers filled with childhood memories of sand, surf, carnivals, road trips, summer camp, backyard barbeques, catching fireflies, park playgrounds, stick ball, ice cream, etc.   With these cherished memories in hand, we try to re-create those same summer memories for our children, and then some.  
As we steadfastly forge ahead and plan for summer, be it at the shore, in our back yard, at summer camps, playing lawn games, family picnics, there will be the inevitable times a child will bemoan the long lazy days of summer while echoing “I’m bored.”  No fear!  Children need to experience and engage in that which is equally as important:  unstructured time.  It is at these times that children are challenged to explore and discover things on their own, which may lead them to build a fort in the backyard, make monsters out of cardboard boxes, organize playing ‘house’, set up a lemonade stand, etc. thereby creating their own favorite summer memories.
Summer IS a special time of year for you and your child and providing a balance between structured weeks of activities, interspersed with weeks that have less structure will make for some wonderful summer experiences.
Here’s wishing you a long summer filled with wonderful memories

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Submarine Parenting

Recently there was an article in the Boston Globe about the “new” phenomena of Submarine Parenting. I had to chuckle when reading it though because Montessorians have been Submarining for over 100 years!

The idea is that, unlike helicopter parenting, a submarine parent (or teacher) places children in situations that they are fairly confident the child can handle with success, even if the task is slightly outside of the child’s comfort zone, and then allows the child to try it on their own, only "popping up" to add guidance if necessary.

By guiding children in this way children develop self-confidence, learn that success is built from failures, and become resilient and accepting of life’s challenges.

We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself.”

Maria Montessori