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Cornerstone Monthly Highlights - September 2019 - English
Posted On:
Monday, September 30, 2019
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Dear Families,

Welcome to another year at Cornerstone!  It has been so fun to see the children rejoicing in their work and happy to be back among friends.  It’s been an eventful few weeks, with a remarkable International Day of Peace celebration, presentations to parents at Cornerstone Café, and all the joy that comes with being in school once more.  

We are looking forward to a wonderful fall. Conferences are coming up, and we will have opportunities for classroom observation towards the end of October. Our Parent Partnerships will be slightly rearranged – the always popular Children Teach Parents event will take place October 21, while our conversation about Social Relationships at all ages will be rescheduled for November 18.  Thank you for your flexibility with this switch.  We hope that this change will give you an understanding of the work your child does in advance of your conversation with your child’s guide later in the week.

Each year we focus on a different topic to center our professional development around.  This year, we are so excited to dive deeply into the topic of equity.  We began the year with a consultation from Sun Yung Shin, a local author and educator, discussing literacy through an equity lens.  During the MEA weekend, October 17-18, we will take a full two days to consider all aspects of our program, from classroom curriculum to hiring policies. These sessions, under the guidance of Dr. Val Wise, will lead to an equity statement for the Cornerstone schools and a renewed commitment to serving every family and every child with integrity and justice.  We look forward to sharing the outcomes of this work with you.

In this newsletter, our guides will give you a glimpse into the first weeks of school.  Liesl Taylor, our Director of Elementary Pedagogy, has also contributed her thoughts on the “settling in” period that takes place in the first 6-8 weeks of a Montessori school year.  Please enjoy the pictures and words, and as ever, please be in touch about how we can support you and your child.

Happy Fall!
Alyssa

 

Children’s Houses 1 & 2

September is always an exciting time in the Children’s House. As some children return, and others join for the first time, we love to take this time to build and strengthen our social communities.  In Children’s House we support children in making individual work choices all day long. Yet sometimes, the work they choose isn’t a material on the shelf. We find this especially true in the beginning of the year when so much of the children's work is getting to know their new community and learn how to be together in their communal space. 

Sept News 1 

We have been spending a lot of time outside, practicing social graces, and establishing routines. Molly loves jump roping with children outside; it’s been exciting to introduce new challenges like running in while the rope is already swinging. Children are often interested in touching each other’s hair; we practice the social grace of asking “may I touch your hair?” before reaching for someone’s locks. A signal we use to help children know that it is time to begin moving cots is when we raise the blinds in the Children’s House. 

Sept News 2

During our work cycle we have been enjoying a variety of work in all areas, as children begin to discover their interests. We look forward to guiding your children over the coming weeks and sharing all the great work at conferences on October 24th and 25th. 

 

Lower Elementary – Garden

We are off to a fantastic start here in the Garden classroom! The children have been eagerly jumping into a large variety of work. Already the children are exploring the universe, researching many animals, completing huge math equations, expanding their writing and grammar prowess, and learning about our beautiful planet. We are focusing our energy on how to choose challenging and productive work so that we can build our brains and learn as much as we possibly can each and every day.

The class veterans have been welcoming and supportive of all the new children and I have been a very proud teacher seeing the positive mentoring relationships blooming. It has been so fun to get to know this new class and to work together to build classroom agreements, preparing for the year ahead. We are a conscientious group, and this little community is one that is shaping up to be supportive, respectful, friendly, and warm. I come to school each day knowing that smiles, hugs, and love will be given freely. 

An exciting addition to the classroom this year is Spikey, the bearded dragon. Spikey is getting used to the commotion of a busy classroom and providing entertainment in how he eats all his vegetables and suns himself on his heat rock. He is a very observant fellow and is looking forward to being cared for, held, and bathed by the loving Garden children. 

We look forward to many adventures in our beautiful Garden environment!

Sara

Sept News 3

Lower Elementary - Pond        

The year is underway and the Pond children are hard at work learning and exploring their environment. We are working hard to remind the children of works they were learning last year as well as introducing them to new materials and concepts. While there are many lessons taking place throughout the day, a very large part of our focus is on helping the children to choose thoughtful and responsible works as they move throughout their day. As our environment is a fluid space that encourages movement and discussion the children are being trained to navigate their space.

Sept News 4

In our classroom the children are encouraged to choose their works within certain boundaries.  All of the children are given lessons in each subject area and asked to continue that work with various follow ups that encourage practice. As the children navigate through their day they are asked to make a choice on what the next area of interest they have is. If a child is having trouble making a responsible choice the adult will step in and help the child to make an appropriate choice. Currently we are doing lots of work to guide the children toward responsible decision making and modeling the behavior that we expect from the children.

Sept News 5

The works we are largely exploring are rooted in exploration. In math we are learning how forming numbers and identifying number categories relates to our Montessori materials and how to correctly manipulate those materials while drawing our attention to care and neatness. In geometry we are learning the concept of congruence and similarity, learning types of lines and angles and establishing the foundation for later more complex work. We are beginning our work with botany and learning how the leaf and roots work to support the plant. Grammar has also been an area of interest and the children are learning their parts of speech and practicing those parts in short sentences. In Geography we are identifying continents, states, capitals, and landmarks from around the world and creating maps to represent this. In history we are exploring the formation of the Earth and the coming of life to our planet, setting the stage for more exploration in history.

-Kes’ava

 

Upper Elementary – Marsh and Forest 

We are so busy getting the year started in Forest and Marsh! September is always a time of renewal, and it’s so exciting to be meeting new members of the community and establishing our work and environments.  

We always spend time revisiting the important freedoms of a Montessori classroom: freedom to move, freedom to communicate, and freedom to choose. Along with those freedoms come responsibilities and we check in many times a day to ensure that children and adults are holding ourselves to that balance. We want to be able to work in classrooms that hold the energy and hum of focused work, that allow for all to concentrate, and where children are building the skills they need to be independent and inspired. In the beginning of the year, this may mean more stops to refocus, more practice with volume, more attention to how we move; we are again getting used to being in a room with 30 or more people!

Sept News 7

And of course, we work. Work is why we are here together and what brings us joy and satisfaction. We get back to the materials we love and get refreshers on concepts that have faded. We come to lessons and at the end record our thinking in lesson books.  We are excited about big work – PEACE, the beginning of the universe and our solar system, the coming of life, research on the layers of the earth and volcanoes, states of matter, human achievement, persuasive essays and elaborate stories. Our conversations about choice and freedom include times for us to think about balance, variety, and challenge too. 

As Upper Elementary Lead Guides, specialist teachers, and support staff, we are also busy assessing children's needs so that we are able to provide the "just right" individualized lessons and supports for your child's continued social, emotional and academic growth. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing children with us.

Sept News 6

 

Establishing Environments for Deep Concentration

One of the most wonderful aspects of Montessori environments is that guides and a majority of the children start each year already knowing each other! Children are familiar with systems and routines, classroom culture and expectations. There is a shared sense of history; we can laugh about, ‘remember the time when?’, and refer to past experiences to support the group in increasingly stronger choices in work, behavior and building their community. Children new to the community are so very quickly pulled-in and oriented, in large part by their peers. 

I have spent many hours observing already this year and it is a joy to share with you the news of the warm, fun, peaceful (if not quiet), and rich environments developing for your children to spend their days in. Children share special handshakes with each other and with adults; they are enjoying team building activities and look to peer mentor groups for guidance; a child reads to the therapy dog and doesn’t forget to show the picture; there is a jazzy ‘coffee shop mix’ playing quietly in a room coming alive with the purposeful business of getting the day started; a Native American flute is being played to bring peace to the children’s work; children are talking about what ‘respectful’ looks like and learning that everyone’s story and voice is important here; children are practicing moving with purpose. Of course this is challenging work for every child – for every environment – and yet with each year ‘settling in’ comes sooner. 

It is in a community that is safe, respectful and predictable, and with high expectations from a warm and responsive guide, that children can engage in truly rigorous and productive academics. Children can be held to the highest standards of work in elementary - to do the hardest, biggest work of their childhoods – work they are developmentally and brilliantly equipped to do. 

Our big work as adults this year is to pursue, with great intention, the establishment of a stronger work ethic – community-wide and in each of your beautiful children. This doesn’t happen to the exclusion of ‘love of work’ and work ‘bringing us joy’! Instead, the harder a child is working, the more appropriate the challenge in building skill, and the longer the period of concentration, the deeper the joy and satisfaction a child feels from work. Children having these experiences quickly come to love their workA child new to Cornerstone stopped in to visit the dog today. She said, hugging herself tightly, “I got the Checkerboard! I love it…” Perhaps Dr. Montessori observed something similar when she wrote:

“The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

Liesl Taylor
Director of Elementary Pedagogy

                                                                     

Upcoming Events

Mark your calendars!  

Cornerstone Café – October 11

In-Service Days (School Closed) – October 17-18

Parent Partnership – October 21

Fall Conferences (School Closed) – October 24-25 

 

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