Thursday, June 21, 2018

Words of Wisdom

For some additional insight:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Benefits of a Multi-age Classroom

Next week we will host a presentation for parents of our toddlers who will be moving up to our Early Childhood program in the fall.  One of the biggest differences their children will experience will be that of a multi-aged environment.
We see the tremendous benefits of this environment every day, and I thought sharing the highlights of these would be advantageous for all readers.
A multi-aged environment provides:

Natural Life Setting/Real World Preparation

Families are made up of different age groupings; it is natural for a classroom environment too.
Our classes function like a family unit.
Children learn to collaborate and solve problems together.
The real-world setting encompasses different ages, abilities and social expectations.
Children are prepared to function in the real world.

Experiential/Individualized Learning

By the nature of different ages and developmental skill sets, children are provided the opportunity to learn at their own pace.
Expectations are tailored to each child’s readiness and capabilities.
Comparisons are eliminated, and children develop pride in their own accomplishments.

Character Building Opportunities

Patience and tolerance are developed.  Older children learn to understand the needs of a younger child.
Older students developing leadership skills through role modeling.
Younger children look up to and admire their older classmates and aspire to be able to do as they do, which increases confidence.

Peer Teaching

Older students are given opportunities to teach younger children and solidify their own learning by so doing.
Younger students see that not only teachers can teach.

“The main thing is that the groups should contain different ages, because it has great influence on the cultural development of the child. This is obtained by the relations of the children among themselves. You cannot imagine how well a young child learns from an older child: how patient the older child is with the difficulties of the younger.”

Dr. Maria Montessori, The Child, Society and the World 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teachers, we celebrate you and thank you!

"much of the work you do (also) is about the intangible - it's about fostering that almost indescribable, and yet unmistakable, spark between you and your students."

John B. King Jr., Secretary of Education, US Department of Education

Thank you, Teachers
Teachers are keys
That unlock the student’s mind
You are guides who mold our mind.
You are one of a kind.

You are like a shepherd
Who guides the sheep
To the right path.

You, teachers, turn the pages
Of the great books.
You train us well
To reach great heights.

Thank you, teachers,
For all you have done.
In the group of many
You are one.

© Meghana Vincent
Published May 2017

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Montessori Outdoors

Now that the warm weather has arrived, children will be spending more time outdoors enjoying and learning in nature. There is so much to do outside! This week, we thought we'd share some activity ideas that went beyond playing on the playground.

  • collecting, playing, and making patterns with rocks
  • take a listening walk
  • write letters in the sand or dirt with sticks
  • arrange sticks to form letters
  • graph nature items found on a walk
  • use chalk to trace shadows at different times of the day
  • make a sun dial
  • make a musical instrument from objects found in nature
  • balance rocks or sticks to make a sculpture
  • planting and caring for a garden or flowers
  • outdoor yoga
  • nature scavenger hunt

There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving. 
                                                - Maria Montessori


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Lunch to Go

 As our Toddler teacher pointed out this week, more of our younger students are staying at school and eating lunch with their friends.  Many of our older children are with us all day and eat lunch every day.   Our focus during lunch is promoting independence and allowing children to take care of their own lunch needs, from unpacking their lunch box, to opening all their containers, to feeding themselves.  Often when packing lunches, we do not think about those things and may be more concerned with quantities and choices.  

At Westmont, we encourage the use of proper utensils and cloth napkins daily. For our younger “lunchers” they need more time, patience and practice to achieve self- sufficiency.  Practicing using utensils at home, as well as opening and closing containers will support greater independence in school. Using utensils and drinking from real glasses encourages proper oral motor development, and proper formation of sounds that are yet to emerge.  Did you know that there are some sounds that do not fully emerge until the age of 7?   As I sit with children for lunch, observe a lunch period, or visit our Kindergartners for lunch weekly, I see the level of independence increase with age, practice and expectation.

I am impressed by the great choices children have for lunch because, let’s face it, we know children can be picky eaters.  Many parents worry that their children are eating enough nutritious and tasty foods.  Quite often children like foods that are easy on the palate and they look for the same food repeatedly.  At lunch I sometimes hear children say, “I don’t like this,” and refuse to eat it.  It takes patience and strategy to get children to eat a wider range of nutritious food.  One of our nutrition speakers, who presented at the school, informed us that it can take over 20 tries/attempts of a new food for a child to add a new food to his list.  This takes a lot of patience on a parent’s part.

What can you do to support healthy eating habits?

  • Be a healthy eater role model; children learn what they see
  • Offer only choices that you trust and are comfortable serving
  • Watch for sugar content, it sneaks into many foods
  • Include children in food preparation and lunch packing; they will be empowered and more inclined to eat what they have prepared
  • Allow children to make choices from a healthy repertoire of food and snacks
  • Be wise about choices, broccoli or carrots as opposed to broccoli or cookies
  • Be patient

Personal recommendations from our toddler teacher:
I love this list to pick something from each category!

An idea you can look forward to, and possibly start incorporating relatively soon!

I find this pretty inspiring… this blog has a bunch of seasonal ideas!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Our Earth, Our Home

Making our planet greener and cleaner one child at a time!

The past few weeks have felt more like January, yet April is here, and we are filled with the hopes of warm sunshine, blooming flowers, chirping birds, and a knowledge that summer is right around the corner. What better way to springboard into Spring (finally!) than commemorating Earth Day this Sunday April 22 with your children.

Earth Day is observed world wide each year on April 22 to support a healthier and more sustainable treatment of our environment.  Its origin begins in the early ‘60s and specifically after the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

Here at The Westmont Montessori School we are highlighting Earth Day, by planting flowers, hatching chick, planting vegetable seeds, and of course playing outdoors.  At home try some of the following activities to help the children understand first hand how to keep the planet cleaner and greener.
  • Plant, Plant, and Plant some more:  Bring your children to a local nursery and pick a small tree or flowers that you can plant at home.  Explain to your children that trees and plants reduce the greenhouse gases and give us cleaner air.
  • Use both sides of paper when coloring. When children are working on art projects, like coloring, instruct them to use both sides of the paper. Explain to them that using the paper more than once will help save trees.
  • Conserve H20:   Running the water while we brush our teeth wastes a great deal of water.  Explain to your children that turning off the faucet when brushing helps conserve water.
  • Turn off the lights.  Lights, computers, and televisions use a lot of energy, and that energy is in short supply.  Ask your children to turn off the lights or TV when they are not in the room.
  • Reuse and Recycle. Involve the whole family when it comes to recycling and explain why it is important. Show them the different types of items that can be recycled and have them help separate trash from recyclables.
Some additional activities and a history on Earth Day may be found on the following website:

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Montessori Language Curriculum

Maria Montessori noticed the natural desire for children to learn and their ability to absorb languages, many times more than one, in the first six years of life. She found that when given a language-rich environment, children quickly developed the skills not just to speak languages, but also to read and write them. She also observed that children of this age were genuinely curious about language and loved to listen to the spoken work, which led to a rapidly increasing vocabulary and understanding of grammatical rules within the language. When given the materials to explore letters and the sounds that they made, children were eager to participate.

She discovered many skills that children must acquire before reading can take place, and developed materials to support that learning, found today throughout our Montessori classrooms. She also created three specialized materials with which children can discover reading and writing at this early age.

The first, the metal insets, are straight lined, and curved lined templates of shapes that children trace. This process strengthens the hand and pincer grasp, increases concentration, and teaches the hand the muscle movements necessary to create these different shapes.

Second, the sandpaper letters, provides the child an introduction to the sounds of letters but includes tactile sensation that not only teaches the correct way to form the letter when writing, but the additional sensory information helps form neuropathways in the brain that strengthen memory of the letter sound.

And the third essential material is the movable alphabet. The movable alphabet allows children to write, even before their hands may not be capable. Children can experiment with spelling words and can learn the spelling rules for rhyming objects by building the words with these movable letters.

We would love to share more about this exciting topic and invite you all to attend our Language Workshop on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 2:00 to discover more about the progression of lessons that lead to fluent reading and writing in the Montessori classroom, as well as ways you can support language growth in your child at home.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Daylight Savings Time 
How can you help your children get the sleep they need.

We all want to spring forward in more ways than one; especially with the weather we have been experiencing lately. Now that we have lost an hour we need to make sure our children get caught up and maintain good sleep habits.

Children often react to Daylight Savings Time by being crankier. Their routine is temporarily interrupted and they may not get as much sleep as they are used to, or may have more difficulty falling asleep.

Daylight saving time is no fun for anyone. That groggy, "I really don't want to get out of bed" feeling lingers for days after you set your clocks forward a hour, and can make any already sleep-deprived parent feel exhausted. But the loss of sleep can be even tougher on children. "Young children need more sleep and don't tolerate sleep deprivation as well as adults," explains Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., associate director of sleep medicine at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C. "The loss of just one hour can really affect a child's attention span, appetite, and overall mood."

Some tips from the experts to help with the transition:

  • Stick with your usual bedtime routine; do not deviate.  Keep the bath, the bedtime story, the snuggling, the lights off, all in the same order.
  • Dim the lights
  • Do not allow TV or video games close to bedtime, these activities wind children up, not settle them down.
  • Ask older children to engage in quiet activities during a younger child’s bedtime.  If they cannot hear what is going on, they will not think they are missing out on anything
  • Be a little more patient and sympathetic, the changes in children’s moods  during the transition are short term, but they bring frustration to everyone.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Innovator, Feminist, Idealist  #internationalwomensday 

Maria Montessori 

Maria Montessori, 1913 
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator, acclaimed for her educational method that builds on the way children naturally learn. 

She opened the first Montessori school—the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House—in Rome on January 6, 1907. Subsequently, she traveled the world and wrote extensively about her approach to education, attracting many devotees. There are now more than 22,000 Montessori schools in at least 110 countries worldwide. 

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870, in the provincial town of Chiaravalle, Italy. Her father was a financial manager for a state-run industry. Her mother was raised in a family that prized education. She was well-schooled and an avid reader—unusual for Italian women of that time. The same thirst for knowledge took root in young Maria, and she immersed herself in many fields of study before creating the educational method that bears her name. 

Beginning in her early childhood years, Maria grew up in Rome, a paradise of libraries, museums, and fine schools.

Breaking Barriers

Maria was a sterling student, confident, ambitious, and unwilling to be limited by traditional expectations for women. At age 13 she entered an all-boys technical institute to prepare for a career in engineering. 

In time, however, she changed her mind, deciding to become a doctor instead. She applied to the University of Rome’s medical program, but was rejected. Maria took additional courses to better prepare her for entrance to the medical school and persevered. With great effort she gained admittance, opening the door a bit wider for future women in the field. 

When she graduated from medical school in 1896, she was among Italy’s first female physicians.

Birth of a Movement

Maria’s early medical practice focused on psychiatry. She also developed an interest in education, attending classes on pedagogy and immersing herself in educational theory. Her studies led her to observe, and call into question, the prevailing methods of teaching children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The opportunity to improve on these methods came in 1900, when she was appointed 
co-director of a new training institute for special education teachers. Maria approached the task scientifically, carefully observing and experimenting to learn which teaching methods worked best. Many of the children made unexpected gains, and the program was proclaimed a success. 

In 1907 Maria accepted a new challenge to open a childcare center in a poor inner-city district. This became the first Casa dei Bambini, a quality learning environment for young children. The youngsters were unruly at first, but soon showed great interest in working with puzzles, learning to prepare meals, and manipulating materials that held lessons in math. She observed how they absorbed knowledge from their surroundings, essentially teaching themselves. 

Utilizing scientific observation and experience gained from her earlier work with young children, Maria designed learning materials and a classroom environment that fostered the children’s natural desire to learn. News of the school’s success soon spread through Italy and by 1910 Montessori schools were acclaimed worldwide. 

Innovator, Feminist, Idealist

In the years following, and for the rest of her life, Maria dedicated herself to advancing her child-centered approach to education. She lectured widely, wrote articles and books, and developed a program to prepare teachers in the Montessori Method. Through her efforts and the work of her followers, Montessori education was adopted worldwide. 

As a public figure, Maria also campaigned vigorously on behalf of women’s rights. She wrote and spoke frequently on the need for greater opportunities for women, and was recognized in Italy and beyond as a leading feminist voice. 

Maria Montessori pursued her ideals in turbulent times. Living through war and political upheaval inspired her to add peace education to the Montessori curriculum. But she could do little to avoid being ensnared in world events. Traveling in India in 1940 when hostilities between Italy and Great Britain broke out, she was forced to live in exile for the remainder of the war. There she took the opportunity to train teachers in her method. 

At war’s end she returned to Europe, spending her final years in Amsterdam. She died peacefully, in a friend’s garden, on May 6, 1952.
Courtesy of: and the Archives of the Association Montessori Internationale, Amsterdam, the Netherla

Friday, February 16, 2018

On the Topic of Praise

Below is a recent piece and resource link from our Toddler Teacher Danielle Casillo to her students’ parents on the topic of praise in a Montessori classroom.  See for yourself how much sense it makes to think about the words we use when responding to a child’s accomplishments.   Saying things like "good job" actually casts judgement on a child’s efforts.  Children are not looking for that kind of feedback, the self-satisfaction of doing something that interests or challenges them is reward enough.  When we label what a child is doing or has done, we take ownership away from the child. It should be about what they feel and think.  

“I wanted to share something on the topic of praise, and how to differentiate between meaningless praise and constructive acknowledgement.  You may have noticed in any of the classrooms at Westmont, you really won’t hear the phrase “good job!”  You WILL hear things like, “I love the way you carried your work so carefully,” or “you worked so hard to finish that!” 

Part of the Montessori philosophy is to develop children’s intrinsic motivation - when they are self-motivated and feel a personal sense of accomplishment when they have achieved something, rather than be externally motivated, which is basically working for a reward.  When we are externally motivated, we are driven to do things to receive a tangible reward at the end.  This isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but it can’t be the only way to be motivated.  Things are just things, while a personal sense of accomplishment is a far deeper and more lasting reward that also builds confidence”.

Parents can support the development of self-esteem and confidence by a simple choice of words, like, “You did it.”  This allows for self-reflection on the child’s part adding to a sense of accomplishment and pride to help them accept new challenges with confidence.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Real Reason Students Shouldn’t Sit In Class

03/31/2017 12:24 am ET Updated Mar 31, 2017
Laura Flores Shaw, Contributor
writer, speaker, gadfly

Montessori student age 6

A recent article in the New York Times discussed why children should be given opportunities for movement during class. I wholeheartedly agree with this proposition – but not for the reasons stated.
Movement is far more important than a means to enable children to attentively sit for long periods of time.
Educators (and parents) need to understand that the need for movement goes beyond the value of aerobic exercise as cognitive and motor development are intertwined.[1] Children with learning disabilities often have poor gross motor skills.[2] And children with developmental coordination disorder and undiagnosed motor difficulties (including manual dexterity) score lower on measures of executive functioning skills (working memory, inhibition, task switching, planning, and verbal fluency)[3] – skills necessary not only for academic achievement but also for life.
This relationship between movement and higher-level thinking, or executive functions, makes sense given what we now know about how the brain operates: subcortical brain regions involved in movement (the basal ganglia and cerebellum) communicate reciprocally with higher, cortical regions.[4] This view of brain functioning is different from the traditional paradigm in which the top of the brain (cortical) dominated the rest of the brain (subcortical).
For years it was assumed that thought only occurs within the higher, cortical regions, particularly the prefrontal cortex. Thus, the prefrontal cortex was tasked to direct the rest of the brain – especially those primitive subcortical regions. Essentially, thought, even within neuroscience, was disconnected from the movement of the body. But what the data now show is that those cortical regions are simply part of the circuitry for higher-level thinking, and that circuitry includes the subcortical regions. As Stanford neurologist Josef Parvizi states, the data suggest that “the so-called ‘higher’ functions of the brain might in fact depend on signals from subcortical to cortical structures rather than the other way around” (p. 358).[4] Neuroscience now recognizes that thought is not disembodied as movement and cognition are closely intertwined.
This current understanding of how the brain operates is important for educators to know for two reasons: 1) because children are not born with well-developed motor systems, and 2) because some of the subcortical regions (particularly the cerebellum) continue to develop during adolescence just as the prefrontal cortex does. For these two reasons, educators – who should be designing school from a developmental rather than efficiency[5] perspective – need to create learning environments in which children of all ages have constant opportunities to engage in a wide variety of gross and fine motor movements throughout the day. Doing so not only builds the circuits for executive functioning, but also gives students a large repertoire of mastered automatic movements they can perform without thinking, freeing up their attention for more creative thinking and problem-solving. After all, it’s difficult to create an award-winning poem or plan out your steps for your research project if your attention is focused on the actual movements of writing (or even typing).
Thankfully, there is one educator who understood the interrelationship of movement and cognition (though she wasn’t aware of the circuitry described above). Maria Montessori created classrooms that are essentially motor (and sensory) training grounds. She said:
When mental development is under discussion, there are many who say, “How does movement come into it? We are talking about the mind.” And when we think of intellectual activity, we always imagine people sitting still, motionless. But mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it. It is vital that educational theory and practice should become informed by this idea (pgs. 141-142).[6]
From birth through adolescence, Montessori students of all ages are practicing and perfecting a huge variety of movements while learning content knowledge in mathematics, history, English, science, arts, etc. Movement in a Montessori environment is an integrated part of the method’s highly complex system. It is not used in order to help children learn as they sit. It’s how the children learn.
Maybe it’s how they should learn in conventional schools, too.
1. Diamond, A. (2000). Close interrelation of motor development and cognitive development and of the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex. Child Development, 71, 44-56. ; Koziol, L. F., & Budding, D. E. (2009). Subcortical structures and cognition: Implications for neuropsychological assessment. New York, NY: Springer; Koziol, L. F., Budding, D. E., & Chidekel, D. (2012). From movement to thought: executive function, embodied cognition, and the cerebellum. The Cerebellum, 11(2), 505-525.
2. Westendorp, M., Hartman, E., Houwen, S., Smith, J., & Visscher, C. (2011). The relationship between gross motor skills and academic achievement in children with learning disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(6), 2773-2779. doi:
3. Leonard, H. C., Bernardi, M., Hill, E. L., & Henry, L. A. (2015). Executive functioning, motor difficulties, and developmental coordination disorder. Developmental Neuropsychology, 40(4), 201-215. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2014.997933
4. Parvizi, J. (2009). Corticocentric myopia: Old bias in new cognitive sciences. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(8), 354-359. doi:
5. Callahan, R. E. (1962). Education and the cult of efficiency: A study of the social forces that have shaped the administration of the public schools. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
6. Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind (1st ed.). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Montessori Math

By: Melanie Thiesse

This week Westmont presented a workshop for parents called, "The Marvels of Montessori Math" in which I outlined the progression of our math curriculum. For those of you who could not attend, I thought I would outline the presentation, sharing the highlights of the math that takes place everyday in every classroom at Westmont.
Math work begins (and continues) with the use of our Sensorial materials. These materials, many of them in sets of 10 (the base of our numbering system) and in heights, widths, and weights increasing in perfect mathematical symmetry, help the child to build discriminatory abilities. When you think about both math and reading, a keen awareness of subtle difference if very important if you are going to be able to tell the difference between an S and a 5.  

Preschool children are often taught to count, but the important skill for math preparation is being able to understand that a numeric symbol represents a given quantity. We have numerous materials in our classes for children to practice counting and sorting numbers and matching them to their numeral.

 Once children have a solid understanding of the numbers and quantities 0-9, they have concrete manipulatives to learn numbers in the teens. This concept, requiring the understanding of ten and unit place value, is easily taught using materials that are already familiar with the children. 
Learning numbers 10-99 is also done with manipulatives, allowing the children to "fetch" different quantities with beads and building their numeral to match.
One of the more difficult tasks when learning to count larger numbers is the decade transitions, counting to 100 and remembering which number comes after 59 is a challenging task for a preschooler or kindergarten student. Our materials for that process include the 100 board where children can not only lay out numbered tiles in order from 1-100, but they can learn about patterns in numbers by laying out only the 10's, the 5's or even the 3's. Discovering the patterns these numbers create of the 100 board can be an exciting task!
Getting the first lesson on the Bead Chains is a rite of passage in the Early Childhood classes! The bead chains are linked together bars of the squares or cubes of a given number. For example, the "Short 5 Chain" contains 5 bead bars of 5 beads each, for a total of 25 beads. The children will use this chain to count and at the end of each bar of 5, they will find and place the preprinted ticket with that numeral on it - When finished, finding 5, 10, 15, 20, 25. The amazing this about this activity is the ability for the child to begin counting again at the number where he last left off. So if he last counted 15, then searched for the corresponding ticket, found it, and placed it at the 15th bead, then he would then need to start counting at 16 up to 20. This is a difficult concept to master and one that will serve the child well when adding numbers together. Not to mention that it's a great introduction to skip counting!

One of the all-time-favorites in our Early Childhood classes is the Golden Bead Material used to create the Decimal Layout. With these manipulatives, a child can create the quantity and numeral for any number from 1-9999! 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Kindergarten - A Montessori Experience

As we prepare for our Kindergarten Information Session we would like to share a video from The American Montessori Society which explains why The Kindergarten Year in a Montessori School completes an important cycle.

Join us on Saturday January 20 (snow date January 27) for an up close and personal presentation on Westmont’s Kindergarten program.  Meet alum students, alum parents and faculty as we guide you through an experience that you will not want your child to miss.  Child care available at no charge.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Snowy Fun With Your Children

Just because the snowy season is underway it does not mean that outdoor fun has to stop. Although some days may be too cold for outside play, on days when bundling up is possible there are lots of fun things to do and explore outside, and the snow can make it that much more fun! Here are some great ideas to keep your young ones learning and developing during the snowy weather.
  1. Make a bird feeder and hang it near a window so you can watch the birds that visit in the warmth of your house.
  2. Use sand castle toys to play in the snow.
  3. Make a maze in the snow by walking in the shape of a path, pushing the snow down as you walk.
  4. Create a snow road for playing with cars on. Or use toy construction trucks to plow and move snow around.
  5. Bring a bucket of snow indoors to play with on a sand or water table or even in the bathtub.
  6. Don't stop with a snowman, build snow animals, too! 
  7. Blow bubbles in cold air below 32 degrees and see what happens.

For more ideas, browse through these great sites: