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Cornerstone Monthly Highlights - December 2018
Posted On:
Monday, December 17, 2018
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Dear Families,

It’s hard to believe it is already mid-December and winter break is fast approaching!  It has been a fantastic fall at Cornerstone. I have enjoyed getting to know all of you, and especially your children.  The staff here is so dedicated to meeting the school’s mission of providing a high-quality Montessori education to the East Side community; it is an honor to work with them each day.  

I have had the pleasure of spending time this fall observing in the classrooms, as well as at lunch and recess.  All of Cornerstone’s children, from the toddlers to the 6th years in Upper Elementary, are so capable and thoughtful.  While we do not have formal observation times scheduled for the winter and spring, if you have not had the opportunity to observe your child’s classroom, I strongly encourage you to schedule a time with Zitlali.  30 minutes in a Montessori environment can be magical, as you see children discovering and connecting.

Here is a wonderful way to support Cornerstone as you shop online through Amazon. When you shop AmazonSmile and select Cornerstone Montessori Elementary School as your charity of choice, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Cornerstone Montessori Elementary School.  You can still use your Amazon Prime account with AmazonSmile. Bookmark the link and support us every time you shop.

I hope you all have a peaceful winter vacation and enjoy some extra time with your children.  I look forward to seeing you all on January 11, for our next Cornerstone Cafe, and to working with you and your families in 2019.



Toddler Community

 Dear parents, 

The toddler community guides would like to suggest a few tips to foster the development of independence in dressing. You can find more tips at

  1. Offer clothes that allow for independence: shirts that easily pull over her head, bottoms with an elastic waist, Velcro-style fastenings, and snap fastenings that she can do for herself.
  2. Make a few choices of your child's clothes accessible by hanging a low bar at child height for clothes on hangers. Provide a child-sized basket or hamper for dirty clothes.
  3. Provide a low mirror and a child-sized brush and comb for combing hair.


Children’s House 1

Independence is something that all Montessori environments hope to inspire in its community members. Every aspect of the Children’s House is designed to foster independence in even the youngest of its inhabitants. While we most often think of children working independently, there are endless opportunities to develop this asset. 


In Children’s House 1, the community is perhaps most independent during times of transition. Moments such as lunch set-up, clean-up, and end of the day care of environment are perfect opportunities for the individual independence of children to produce beautiful community moments, anchored in joy.


Children’s House 2

I love having a community of mixed aged children. The two year and a half year olds are eager to assist wherever necessary (confidently advocating for themselves: “I can do that”); the four year olds are eager to be role models and helpers for the younger children; the six year olds are seasoned children’s house members and carry the daily routine, making it easier for children to follow along. The combined effect is a harmonious flow of independent children.

One thing that supports our flow and our children’s sense of order, is having accessible tools for children to use to problem solve on their own. My favorite: the spill bucket- a lilac colored towel resting in a matching bucket. With 28 children dining together 2 ½ times a day, you better believe there are spills! But, if you have the tools necessary to take care of the mess, a spill is just a spill.

Beyond spills, we try to provide children with the tools they need to meet their needs. Simple food prep tools are great to involve children in satisfying their hunger. Egg slicers, apple cutters, vegetable peelers, crinkle cutters and juicers are a few tools to keep around the kitchen, along with of supply of accessible produce, so that children can have a role in regulating their hunger. 

It’s always fun to hear from parents about the tricks they’ve found to support their child’s independence at home. Please feel free to share with me the next time we chat if you’ve found something that works well at home. 





As the year progresses in Garden I am impressed as always with the work of the children and how amazing their capacity is for great work. It’s not a surprise, really, that elementary children are highly capable and will do great things when given the opportunity. Yet, when the beautifully executed project, the enormous math problem, or the perfectly articulated report is there in front of me I can’t help but be awed and inspired. And I know that it is not by my ability that these things are happening each day in our classroom. It is the work of the children, who are drawn to work and learning and will grow in all areas when obstacles are removed. The elementary child with resources, materials, and time is unstoppable and I am humbled to witness this magnificence. One of the most important roles of the Montessori adult is to foster independence and remove obstacles so that the child can flourish. Practically this means providing materials that the child can use and allowing time for her to explore her interests and skills. When the child’s work stems from her own interest it is always more interesting, beautiful, and well executed than when it is work that is thrust upon her. Perhaps you have noticed how fiercely independent the elementary child can be. This independence is the key to the child who finds his own passion and purpose. Of course, this is a process and the skills are learned a little at a time. The child chooses her own work in the classroom, receiving support when necessary. The child must gather all of the materials needed to execute her chosen work, and solve the problem when something is missing. He chooses how much time to dedicate to the work and whom he should work with. All of these small choices build upon each other day after day, preparing the child for bigger decisions and more responsibility. Today it is demonstrated in the beautiful classroom work, tomorrow we hope for it to be reflected in the larger community as these independent decision makers influence those around them.

Many thanks for your support and for sharing your precious children with me,




An important principal in Montessori education is fostering independence.  Everything, from our physical environment to our approach with lessons to the creation of classroom agreements, is a way to guide the children towards independence.  This relates very closely to our freedoms and responsibility. Children have the freedom to choose their work, to move around the room, and to communicate. With each of these freedoms comes responsibilities.  Children have responsibilities to themselves and their families, their classroom community, their school, and their greater society. I will end with a quote from Maria Montessori about this balance between the individual and the community and will also include some of the children’s writing about things they can do independently or their thoughts about independence.

 “One can speak of a true community only when each member of the group feels sufficiently free to be himself or herself, while simultaneously restricting his or her own freedom for the sake of adjustment to the group. It is in seeking an optimal solution to this tension between personal independence and dependence on the group that the social being is formed. Too much individual freedom leads to chaos, too much uniformity, imposed by adults, leads to impersonal conformity or to rebellion.”

-Mario Montessori, Education for Human Development

“My favorite work is the Wooden Hierarchy Material.” ~Evan 

“At a desk school, the teacher says you have to do all of this at this time and everyone does the same thing at the same time.  This is a Montessori school so we get to do different work at different times, we can choose our work, you don’t have to raise your hand to get what you need.”  ~Olive 

“I feel independent about writing and crocheting and yoga and finger knitting and coloring.” ~Aubrie



 This is a great point in the school year to reflect on the topic of independence in the Montessori classroom!  Each and every day I witness examples of the childrens' growing independence (and consequently, their confidence).  Here are two examples from the last week.

"Help me to do it by myself"  (Independence)

is an oft repeated Montessori slogan about the adult's responsibility and role in each child's development.  This plays out on a daily basis when a child comes to me, stuck on an element of their learning. As I begin to assist the child reason through the initial steps of their quandary, I'll get one of the following types of responses:  "Okay, I got this. You can go now.", "I'm starting to get this, but stay with me until I'm sure I've got it right." or "I still need more help before I'm ready to do this on my own." For many children, learning to ask for help when they need it, is actually their first step towards developing independence.  These daily interactions are examples of the kind of qualitative evaluation that we rely upon, rather than just using quantitative data to assess student progress. 

"I know how and where to find the resources and tools that I need"  (Orientation)

Students are also growing in their independence as they become more familiar with the many learning tools and resources that are available. The simplest, most basic daily activities can often provide huge opportunities for the development of independence (and problem-solving, teamwork and more.)  Recently the center, rotor, axis "thingy" to our classroom tape dispenser disappeared (probably got thrown away by accident). One student decided that she was going to figure out how to find a solution to our problem. She enlisted the help of another student and together they devised a new rotor/axis using a modified, jumbo paperclip, which has worked quite well!



In some ways, independence in upper elementary is similar to that of younger children; for example, though the 9-12 year olds are capable dressers, they continue to work on self care in other ways, like hair combing and face washing, especially as their bodies start to mature. In the classroom, we support this physical independence in many ways, for example, by providing more complex kinds of practical life experience, like baking or cooking projects or designing your own experiments. 

A typical elementary type of independence is intellectual. I see this show up strongly in Marsh in the children’s sense of justice and quest for understanding. Upper elementary children are curious about the world and open to learning lots of new things. When a nine-year old passionately defends the right of everyone to have a fair amount of snack, plans a going-out (a self-directed, interest-driven, small-group field trip!), or get passionate about hurricane research, these are examples of intellectual independence. I often note how popular persuasive essays are in upper elementary; this type of writing so perfectly exemplifies their reasoning minds! They love to explain and defend their points, then try to anticipate what others might think and build a counter argument. It’s so exciting to watch their intellect grow as they develop their own opinions and reasoning. 


Montessori Center of Minnesota News

Last chance to register for fall workshop opportunities!

Finding Balance: A mindful approach to mental health, secondary trauma and self care
Saturday, January 12, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM 
Learn More About the Topic and Presenters: Visit the registration page

Montessori Observation and Record Keeping 
Saturday, January 19th, 2019 & Saturday, February 9, 2019
Learn More About the Topic and Presenters: Visit the registration page 

Have any questions or want to learn more? Call us! 651-298-1120

Want to earn a $100 gift card to Amazon? Refer a friend to one of our training courses! MCM is enrolling for both Primary (ages 3-6) training in Fall of 2019 and Elementary (ages 6-12) training starting in Summer of 2019. If someone you know is interested please visit our website at for more information.

*gift cards given when friend is accepted into course*

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