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Cornerstone Monthly Highlights - February 2019
Posted On:
Thursday, February 21, 2019
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Dear Families,

In this month’s newsletter, we are excited to share with you strategies for supporting conversations with your child about their day at school.  We know how frustrating it can be to ask your child how their day was and get a one-word response - how did they manage to do “nothing” for more than 7 hours?!  We assure you that your child probably had a very full day, with so many emotional experiences “ok” is the only word that they can find in the moment. We hope that you will now have tools to talk with your child successfully about what happened each day, regardless of age.

I can promise that there is lots to keep everyone busy in the coming month!  On Friday, March 1, please join us for a Cornerstone Cafe with Marsh guide Jess Goff.  This is a great opportunity to chat with Jess about the Upper Elementary experience. 

Also coming up is the Learning Fair, our Parent Partnership event on March 11 where children prepare lessons for the entire community.  More information can be found here. This event is closely followed by spring conferences.  Online signup information will be sent out shortly.  And on March 28, Alicia Sojourner will conclude the three-part series How to Speak WITH Your Child about Race and Racism.  Attendance at the first two workshops is not necessary to join us for the third.  Please click here  for more information.  

Our dental sealants program was a big success this year.  28 children participated, receiving 21 sealants. We are grateful to Community Dental Care for providing this service. 

We hope to see you at one or more of the many great events coming up at Cornerstone this month!  



Toddler Community

"I did it!" is one of the most rewarding and profound statements that can be heard coming from someone as young as one or two years old.  That child's joyful recognition of his/her own capabilities shows us his great capacity for learning at intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels.  A toddler that has not yet developed his ability to speak in full sentences yet, can still be observed by the adults: facial expressions of concentration, peacefulness, and sometimes eyes widening to the same discovery.  

Children (and adults) can be intrinsically motivated when given the opportunities for purposeful work and routines and consistency that allow them to feel physically and emotionally safe.  No over praising is required. A response to "I did it!" may simply be a loving smile, or if any words, "Yes, you did." A good read on the subject of praise and other rewards is Alfie Kohn's book, Punished by Rewards - The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes.  A lengthy preview of the book can be found on Amazon.

Every child attending the Toddler Community receives a daily note with details about their meals, toileting and any special event that happened that day. In addition, notes will request items that need to be brought from home to school. Notes are a good conversation starter to acknowledge what happened during your child’s school day. Toddlers can prepare their backpacks with the items they need at school and are always very happy to unpack them in the classroom.


Children’s House 1 and 2

A Montessori Children's House is a developmentally appropriate environment for children aged three to six. Children learn through play, through their hands, and through manipulating materials. Together, we refer to this as work. When Dr. Maria Montessori began studying children, she honored their way of interacting with their environment with the word "work" because it better described the child's process of developing herself. Your child is working on their development each day! Of course, we don't ask them, "so how was your development today?" so how can you talk to your child about their work?

CH Feb News 1


Much of the work your child engages with inside the children's house is not product oriented and therefore can't be brought home. They can't take home the discovery they made about length with the red rods or the clean dishes they washed independently after preparing a snack for themselves. When things do come home, it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and share in the child's work. A common and natural reaction is to praise the child on their work. What is more beneficial is a conversation around their work. As an alternative to praise, you may ask your child how they feel about their work. This promotes self-drive and validation. It also gives the child the chance to build their spoken language skills. You may also invite your child to discuss their work without making assumptions. For example, "Tell me about your picture. What have you created?" can open up a conversation. 

CH Feb News 2


Sometimes we hear from parents that children have a hard time remembering what they did during the day. This is natural as children are building their short term memory. 

If this is your experience sometimes, consider promoting your child with one of these questions:

  • What work are you excited about? What presentation are you looking forward to?
  • How were you a helper today?
  • Did something unexpected happen today? 

CH Feb News 3


Remember, that even as adults we don't always want to talk about our days when we leave work. Children are not so very different in this regard. A great way to experience the kinds of things your child could be engaging with each day is through observations. Our Children's Houses are a living community and are best understood through direct experience.


Lower Elementary - Pond and Garden

Lower elementary children are so much fun.  They are joyful and excited about everything!  Many of them are eager to earn your praise or encouragement as well.  This is something we try to be careful and conscious of in the classroom and as parents.   We choose our words carefully to help the children develop a growth mindset and self-motivation.   A growth mindset is a belief that intelligence or talent can be developed with effort, learning, and persistence.  Alternatively, a fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence or abilities are inherent, you are either born with them or you are not.  Art can be a good example of this. If you have a fixed mindset, you think that some people are artists and some people are not, but with a growth mindset you believe that by practice and effort you can gain skills.  

In the Pond classroom, we had a grace and courtesy lesson about this when we noticed children making comments like, “oh you’re better at ____ then me” or “I’m not good at _____.”  When we hear comments like this, we respond with, “do you mean to say that she is well practiced with _____?” or “Do you mean to say that you would like to practice ______ more?”

When a child brings something to show you.  You can try and make observations about what you notice.  “Wow, you are beaming right now, you must feel proud of your work!”  Instead of telling children that they are smart or talented, we can say, “you must be working hard.”  This helps children make the connection between their efforts and the way they feel when they are done.  


Upper Elementary - Marsh and Forest 

Some Upper Elementary children have lots to share with parents about their school day, though many don't share much.  In fact, you might think that not much happens at all given what your child chooses to share about their day! If this is your experience, try asking more open-ended questions.  Open-ended questions require more than a one-word answer.

Here are some questions that children can easily answer with only one word:

  • How was school today?
  • How are you doing?
  • Did you have a good day?

Here are some examples of more open-ended questions to ask your child:

  • What lessons did you have today?
  • What was the best part of your day?  
  • What was the hardest part of your day?
  • What did you learn about today?
  • What work did you choose to do?
  • What was interesting for you?
  • Who did you work/play with?  (Follow on question: How did it go?)
  • What did you accomplish or make progress on?
  • Were there any conflicts? (Follow on questions: How did that make you feel?  Were you able to solve the problem?  If not: How could you resolve the problem?  What steps can you take?)
  • What did you feel good about today?

If you do get a one-word answer from your child, you can always follow it up with an open-ended question or request for more information, for example:

  • Why...?
  • Can you tell me more about this?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What can you do to solve/resolve this problem?
  • What do you need to do first/next?

One of the important goals/outcomes of these daily conversations with your child is their SELF-EMPOWERMENT!  That is, you--and we--want your child to develop: self-awareness, a sense of their own power and ability to affect change in themselves, their communities and their world.   You also want your child to develop the ability to solve problems and the ability to advocate for themselves/for what they need. These daily conversations with your child are an essential and vitally important part of their growth and development as human beings!  You are their first, and most important teachers and guides to life!! As teachers/guides, our role is to support you in your child's growth and development.


MCM Update

 MTCM Summer Course


CMES Board Update

The Cornerstone Montessori Elementary School Board continues to make progress in developing a strategic plan for the next few years.  The Board received valuable input from parents, family members, and staff at the three focus groups held earlier this month. Additional input is welcome - please forward any thoughts to Alyssa at  We expect to have a strategic plan completed by mid-summer.

Several times a year the Board hosts Discover Cornerstone, an opportunity for the broader community to visit the school and learn about our work.  If you know anyone who might be interested in attending our next event on March 7, please contact Loralee DiLorenzo at

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