Among Maria Montessori’s many works was a book called Education and Peace, which points out some of the underlying subtleties of the Montessori method. Foremost in classroom discipline is the maintenance of the individual’s right to work in a peaceful environment. Social values are emphasized with grace and courtesy lessons which are interwoven into activities in every class from, “Would you care for a carrot?” to “May I watch you work?” and “Welcome to our class. Would you like some tea?” The children are supplied with appropriate words and options to use instead of expressing their feelings by grabbing, hitting or pushing. The teacher remains removed from interactions as much as possible to allow the children to solve problems on their own, but is always ready to step in when needed.
In Biology one of the first things we talk about are the characteristics of living things which include being sensitive and having feelings. We emphasize that each child’s work is important in its own right, and encourage artwork that does not all look the same. When playing we avoid games where there are winners and losers, or good guys and bad guys. Games are played for the enjoyment and cooperation of all.
When entering the Elementary class the children have a sense of confidence in themselves and respect for all others, including the plants, animals, children and adults they work harmoniously with each day. Their awareness of the world is expanding by leaps and bounds and though they are no longer as self-centered as they were at two, they still need guidance with increasingly complex relationships. The Early Childhood “circle time” is replaced by the Elementary “class meeting” where problems and concerns are discussed with little or no assistance from an adult. The Elementary child is given increasingly more control of the daily routine, class rules and his own academic and social progress.
Dr. Montessori’s idea was to encourage individual growth, self-esteem, and communication skills and to eliminate violence and competition. If children can learn to work out problems with words and to value themselves without being judged by others, they may grow into adults who will have no need for wars.
Weeding out the tendency toward violence comes down to the smallest things we do in our lives every day. War toys are an obvious problem. One theory is that children need to work out their fascination with these objects, so why not let them play with toy guns before they can get their hands on real ones? Another theory is that if we forbid our children to use offensive language, then why can’t we forbid offensive toys? We have found that children want to know the mechanics and physics involved in shooting but can do so very well with water pumps, squirt guns, bubble or Nerf guns.
Other suggestions for working toward a more peaceful childhood
Try rearranging game rules so that everybody wins and nobody loses.
Screen television shows and movies to cut out as many of the violent, good guys vs. bad guys, formats as possible. Talk about these shows. Are the evil characters real? How could the problems be solved in more peaceful ways? How much TV does your child need to watch, anyway? Duna and Bruce’s family lived happily without TV for almost 20 years. The children enjoyed renting videos on weekends, and the rest of the time found plenty to do.
Monitor your choice of words at home. Instead of “Who can be first to brush their teeth?”, how about “Who can brush their teeth before I count to 50?” Then count slowly so even the youngest is done by 49 9/10ths.
Be a good role model. If you spank your children, how can they understand that it is not necessary to hit? If you yell or shame them they may very well do the same to their own children one day. Many times negative behavior will disappear with lots of positive reinforcement and loving physical contact. When a 4-year-old is acting out for attention, try holding him while reading a good long book or watching a movie. Even adolescents still need lots of hugs and reminders of how much we love them. If you need help with positive discipline, feel free to ask your child’s teacher for suggestions. We recommend that every parent read the following books: How to Talk so Kids will Listen by Faber and Mazlish, Positive Discipline by Nelsen and Montessori Parenting by McFarland.
Montessori is more than an educational philosophy, it is a social movement. Dr. Montessori developed her philosophy during the world wars. She saw that if we can teach our children to be aware of the smallest living things, solve problems with words, share limited resources, respect and appreciate human diversity and to be caring adults and nurturing parents, perhaps we’ll never have to watch our grandchildren march off to war.
El Nido News – Parent/Infant Class
In February the topic for discussion is the Four Planes of Development including awareness of science and cultures. Babies are little scientists and experiment with everything they can grasp. Find out how you can broaden their cultural awareness and prepare your discipline strategies. It’s not too late to join the class. If you know someone who is expecting or has a baby between 0 and 18 months old invite them to contact firstname.lastname@example.org about trying the class Fridays 8:30 – 11:30am.
Toddler Time – News from the Sunflowers and Tadpoles Classes
We are half way through the school year and it’s a good time to review discipline practices. As children grow they periodically test boundaries. If the boundaries are enforced consistently the testing period should be over more quickly each time. We want to respect the spirit of the child, and offer choices whenever possible, but our lives cannot always move at a toddler’s pace. Limit the choices to two and make them both choices that are productive. For instance, when it is time to pick up big sister from soccer practice, “Do you want to come now or do you want to play longer?” will not elicit as productive a response as “Do you want to hop to the car or do you want a piggy back ride?” A toddler can choose which clothes he wants to wear, but unsuitable choices should be put away so that whatever he chooses will be an appropriate (if not a well-matched) outfit. Toddlers love their independence and would much prefer to do most things on their own. At school when a small child does not want to put an activity away the teacher will say, “Do you want to do that by yourself or do you want me to help you?” “Helping” means encircling the child from behind with your arms, taking her hands in yours and carrying the items slowly and carefully across the room together. Children seldom need help more than once and when they see that this will be the choice each time, things are put away and they quickly fall into the habit of picking up after themselves.
At home, if your child has just a few toys available at a time on a low shelf, picking up should be an easy task. A toddler does not need all of the blocks out at once. Choose an assortment, place them in an easy to carry basket and put the rest away. Notice in our classrooms that toddlers make great use of just three or four crayons and a few sheets of blank paper cut into 1/4ths, just 4 or 5 books on the library shelf, a fist-sized lump of play dough kept in a small airtight container, and two or three puzzles at a time. Keep the choices simple and few, be consistent with your follow up and give your child plenty of time to prepare for a transition, such as leaving the house or picking up before bed. You can count on your child testing your limits from time to time but the more consistent you are, the more quickly these testing periods will end. And your happy, independent toddler will be back at your side again.
Remember that you are always welcome to schedule an observation of a class or a home visit during which our faculty is happy to consult with you on creating a Montessori home environment for your child.
We will host a simple class celebration of Valentine’s Day including a special snack, craft, song, story and finishing with a Valentine Dance. We’ll do a simple and optional valentine exchange in class. If you’d like your child to participate, please bring 20 valentines, not addressed to anyone specific – just “from Johnny” will do. Please send in valentines for the Sunflowers and Tadpoles Classes on Thursday the 12th. We encourage you to get out an assortment of collage materials such as paper, crayons, stickers and glue sticks and involve the family in making valentines. Make a few for the grandparents and cousins, too! Please, no candy or nuts!
Early Childhood Calendar
News from the Cottonwood, Rainbow and Turquoise Classes
Monday – Music
In January we looked at different types of cameras and how they work, studied art by Ansel Adams and other photographers and we took some photos of our own. We hope to leave the impression that the possibilities are endless as we move from the world of art into music. In February we’ll learn about rhythm, instruments and the musical scale. If you know someone who is a musician this is a great month to invite them to visit our classes.
Tuesday – Time
We begin the study of time by looking at many kinds of clocks. This is a good time to get an easy to read analog clock (with hands) for your child’s bedroom. Make sure it has all of the numbers, the marks, and a second hand. Most children are 6 or 7 before they can tell time accurately, but even a small child will be able to recognize that, for instance, bedtime is when the hour hand points to 7. If you have a broken clock that we can dissect, please send it in to class!
Wednesday – Geography
In February we’ll study Asia. This unit will culminate in our traditional “Asian Celebration”, a party during regular class time on February 25th. Look for sign-ups by classroom doors for needed items including a cook to come and stir-fry in class! We invite children and helpers to dress up in their Asian best and enjoy a cultural immersion experience.
Thursday – Literature
We completed our review of Eric Carle’s work with interpretations of his art. We’ve enjoyed our annual “Eric Carle Film Festival” with a look at his work and how he makes his pictures and stories. In February we will learn about rhyming and poetry. If you have a beloved book of poems, this is a good month to share it with the class.
Friday – Biology
We completed our study of fishes by examining a specimen in class and making fish prints. Next come amphibians. We have some little aquatic frogs in each class as well as a few fire-bellied toads. If you have a frog, newt or salamander you could loan us, please let us know.
Thursday, February 12th will be a “Party Day” , 9:30 until noon. Please note this differs from the date on the Holidays and Events calendar. This is the last of our three EC “party days” for the year aimed at making the most of the opportunity for a productive celebration at the Early Childhood level. Class for all Early Childhood students will begin at 9:30 a.m. on this day. There are sign-ups for the parties by the classroom doors. Each student should bring enough valentines for the whole class plus teachers and a few extras – plan to bring 25. We encourage you to round up paper, paint, scissors, glitter, ribbon and stickers so your child can create something special. But be sure to start right away so your child can make a few valentines every day instead of trying to pound out 25 at once. Another fun choice is the family assembly line where everyone sits down together and creates enough valentines for classmates, grandparents, cousins and neighbors. Please do not label valentines with specific names to ease the delivery process. Remember, no candy or nuts!
Lower Elementary Lowdown – Moose Tracks Class News
Monday – History
In February we will be studying the US Presidents. How many can you name?
Tuesday – Geography
Our study of Asia will introduce students to the geographical and cultural features of this huge continent. We will focus on the food, art and cultures of various countries of Asia culminating in a cultural immersion celebration, Asian Celebration, on February 25th. Students are invited to dress up in their Far Eastern best for this festival of the orient.
Wednesday – Fine Arts
As the ski program finishes we’ll review our sketching progress and examine the work of classical artists.
Thursday – Zoology
The Elementary Class will take a look at amphibians this month. If you have a specimen to share, please let us know!
Friday – Field Trips
We will hold our annual Valentine’s Day Dance on Friday February 13th in the afternoon. We ask students to dress up in their best for the event where we will exchange valentines, practice our best etiquette and bust a move or two. Students should plan to bring 20 valentines, which we encourage students to make themselves. A supply of paper, collage materials, glue and scissors makes for a great family project and the results can be sent out to grandparents, too! A class list is provided below if they would like to personalize them. Please check our sign-up for party needs. Remember, no candy or nuts!!!
Moose Tracks: Allie, Avery, Gabi, Greta, Ian, Jack H, Jack S, Joe, Liam, Lily, Max, Oliver, Peyton, Ryder, Sawyer, Tarver, Lori, Leti and Michelle.
Our work in putting on last June’s Children’s Fair comes to fruition as we stop in to places like Kimball Art Center and the Park City Library to make donations of the funds we collected from working so hard in the park that day. We also make a point of volunteering our labor at each place just in case the work of selling tickets and running games is a foggy memory. As we help prepare for this year’s Fair (by designing artwork for advertising, distributing fliers and doing tv and radio promotions) we take pleasure in making the donations knowing that our hands worked for the money and the organization will put it to obvious use in buying art supplies at the Kimball, food for the animals at Furburbia or new books at the library. Sometime in May we’ll sit down together as a class and review the organizations we have supported this year and the help our money has provided. Then, as a class we’ll make up a new budget for next year’s donations. In this way elementary students are involved in every facet of their Children’s Planet Fund all year long, making a concrete exercise of the abstract idea of fundraising for a better world.
Thank you to the many parents who continue to make our field trips possible and more fun by coming along!