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Children`s House 2 Updates and Highlights

February 2019 Highlights  

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?

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. 

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? 

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.

January 2019 Highlights  

Children have a unique capability to learn language during their first six years of life; language will never be absorbed so effortlessly after this sensitive period. In the Children’s House, we emphasize spoken language activities to give children lots of opportunities to build their vocabulary and socialize with other children. A few ways we encourage spoken language in the Children’s House are through card games, oral storytelling, and cultural folders (which spark conversation about ideas from around the world).  

Another important way we help children develop social language is through grace and courtesy lessons. Grace and courtesy lessons help show the child how to be in the world. The lessons give very clear and specific language around ordinary social interactions a child could experience every day. For example, how to greet an observer in the classroom, how to offer help, and how to let someone know they’ve hurt your feelings. Through these lessons, children are able to practice using the phrases before the moment they need them. Then, when a child finds themselves in a particular situation they are confident in themselves because they know what to say and how to handle the interaction. They’ve had the practice and built the foundation.

As guides, we have to remember that our daily interactions with children and other adults in the room are unintentional grace and courtesy lessons. If I am consistent in how I offer help and respond to children, the children will in turn begin to mirror my language and my responses. One delightful way I’ve experienced children mirroring my behavior is in observing the way they support one another. Sometimes the smallest child presents herself as a seasoned parent in the way she comes to the aid of a friend. For example, one child helped stop the tears of another by saying: “Oh, I see you have a butterfly on your shirt. I like butterflies. Remember when we played butterfly bingo?”. I couldn’t have done it better myself. 

December 2018 Highlights  

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. 

November 2018 Highlights  

In the Children’s House, there are many iconic Montessori materials: the pink tower, the moveable alphabet, golden beads. It is a joy to think deeply about your children and plan which materials will captivate their interests. While these materials are often showcased as the true Montessori experience I am captivated by the children’s developing community and their abilities to be active members in caring for our community. Recently, a child noticed that there was paint left on the locker room walls from someone’s easel painting. Without asking an adult, the child went to the kitchen, got a caddy with a spray bottle, cloth and scrub brush and went to work to clean the walls. A new ritual in our classroom is what the children call “laundry factory”. In the morning one big work our community collaborates on is folding the tablecloths, napkins and other linens from the day before. The children have developed their own manner of completing this work; they call it a “laundry factory”. Equipped with chowkis (floor tables) they assemble a team of folders, passers, stackers, and deliverers. 

October 2018 Highlights  

Children’s House Two has been going outside in rain or shine this month and we are very happy to be able to continue experiencing the outdoors no matter the weather. In the last week, we’ve gone outside to do a listening activity (listening with our eyes closed and naming the sounds we hear), taking turns sharing dance moves and then teaching our friends, and taking shelter under the play structure to tell a collective story while it rained. I love seizing the moment and feeling like our children’s house community is prepared for small adventures throughout the day.

As the season continues to move from cold and wet, to colder and frozen, please make sure your child is coming to school with the appropriate weather gear to go outside. Consider keeping a checklist by the door so your child can also be accountable for remembering: hat, mittens/gloves, scarf, boots, coat. Support your child in checking in the car before they leave to make sure any items shed during the ride are not forgotten. If it feels easier, please feel free to leave a set of (labeled!) hat, glove, scarf, snow pant, boots at school so that you know that no matter what the morning brings, your child will have appropriate clothing to go outside in during the day. 

September 2018 Highlights  

Children’s House Two has welcomed seven new children into our community since September started and it feels great to be back to a full children’s house. You may have noticed, or heard, that we have a new morning routine: from 8:30-9 we are outside! It’s a great way to start the day, and we love getting to be outside as one children’s house community. The monkey bars continue to be a source of great joy and triumph as children push themselves through new challenges (i.e. skipping bars). Inside, I’ve been delighted to see how many children are quietly concentrating with materials. Some of the best moments have been watching children help each other. This past week, as one child struggled to put away a puzzle map of the United States and asked for help, another child bounded down from the reading corner exclaiming, “I can help! Because I can do that now.” Another example that made me smile was when a child, working on writing and illustrating a picture, asked another child to help them identify the correct sandpaper letter for the sound they were trying to write (in cursive!). It is always our goal to help children see themselves as leaders who are able to support one another. I look forward to seeing this growth in the coming year.