October is always an exciting month for young children. Autumn is usually in full swing here in Pennsylvania and the children are looking forward to Halloween and Trick or Treat night. October is an exciting month for teachers because we generally begin to see more and more of what we in the Montessori world call normalization. Yes, normalization is kind of a funny sounding word. What we mean by it is that the children have come to understand the routine of the classroom, they are able to find their own activities without a great deal of adult guidance and they are working with purpose. We begin to see the big four: order, concentration, coordination and independence in most of the children.

How is this achieved? For the youngest of our students (in my current classroom my students range in age from not quite three to five years old) we try to focus their lessons in the practical life area of the classroom. This is an area that is not typically seen in non-Montessori preschools. The practical life area of the classroom encompasses fine motor activities, care of the environment, care of self, art, sewing, and cooking. This month our activities are pumpkin colored or fall themed. We are learning to weave using orange ribbon, our spooning and pouring works have small pumpkins and candy corn buttons to catch the interest of the young child. The art shelf is full of painting, drawing and gluing supplies which are always in full use.

Why are these type of activities so important for the youngest child? Practical life activities assist the student in gaining fine motor coordination and muscle readiness for writing, they focus the child’s attention and to help build concentration. A child who can carry a tray with a glass pitcher, pour the water into a small container and then carry the tray back to the shelf has mastery over herself indeed. The self pride and independence we begin to see will carry over into other areas of the child’s young life and will have great impact on her future abilities.

How can you help your child at home? Ask him to help you as you work around the house. Children love to help set the table or help make a part of the meal. Put a small pitcher of water in the refrigerator and some cups in a space she can reach so she can be independent in getting her own drink. Give her child sized tools to clean up when she spills – small towels, a broom and a dustpan make learning to clean up much more enjoyable. Don’t expect too much. Children have short attention spans and will not be able to perform tasks perfectly or to adult standards. No worries! If you work side by side with your child and give gentle guidance you will be amazed at what he can accomplish and how independent he can be.

As we enjoy the cooler weather and look forward to Trick or Treat costumes and candy I hope you are also seeing some positive changes in your children. I am definitely seeing it in my Montessori classroom.

September in the Montessori Classroom

Welcome to the September edition of my ‘A Year in a Montessori Classroom’ series. I plan on posting once a month about my classroom and what we are learning. My hope is to help you learn a little about how a Montessori preschool and Kindergarten are unique among early learning classrooms.

September is a time of transition for us all. Some of our students are starting school for the very first time, some are coming from other schools and some are returning to the same classroom but as an older student. For all of us, we have had summer break and we need to get back to our routines.

The first thing to know (and love, in my humble opinion) about a Montessori classroom is that about 2/3 of the students are not new to the classroom. They have already spent one or two years in the classroom. This means they know the routine, they understand the rules and they are comfortable with the teacher. It also means the teacher (me, in this case!) knows most of his or her students very well.

Why is this important or noteworthy?

Having this level of knowledge and comfort with returning students helps eliminate time spent getting to know students and planning for their educational progress. I am able to start on day one understanding how my students work, what their passions involve, how they struggle, what kind of learner they are, etc. It is only a small number of students I need to get to know from the ground up.

For the students who are returning, they are ready to be helpers for the younger students. I find the 2nd year students to be the best helpers. They are SO PROUD about their knowledge and growth (and that they are no longer the youngest in the room) that they are tremendously happy to show the younger students how to do things in the classroom. What amazing learning for all the students from day one!

The youngest students are often happier when a child close to their own age takes them under his/her wing than if it was the teacher. As the teacher, it is amazingly helpful to have an army of young educators giving comfort and guidance to the newest members of our community. This is an amazing level of growth and self confidence that can’t be found in many other educational philosophies.

Well, I’ve just spent most of my post on just one little aspect of the September classroom. It’s an important one, though. A few other things we do include learning things like the procedure for having snack, looking for your classroom job and doing it every day, learning how to clean a spill, push in a chair and roll a floor mat. Another important thing we learn at the beginning of the year (and practice all year long) is how to resolve conflict with a peer. That is a whole separate blog post so stay tuned.

If you are interested in more about my Montessori classroom (I teach at the New School of Lancaster – www.newschool.net), follow me on Instagram (@montessori_nurture). I will posting about our learning throughout September.

Finally, I’ve made a little YouTube video with a couple of the songs we sing in September. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll try to upload our songs each month if I am able. I hope you enjoy the songs and also learning a little about my Montessori classroom.

In a just over a week I will begin a new school year with my students, ages 3-6. I teach at one of the two Montessori schools in my town (The New School of Lancaster). A very long time ago I was a parent to two young boys and was faced with the challenge of deciding where to send them to preschool. I was a stay-at-home mom and thus didn’t need a full day program for my children which gave me more options from which to choose. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or just the opposite! At the time, I was not a Montessori trained teacher and didn’t know much about the differences in school options. I really just took into consideration cost and location. I wish now I had known more about the differences in school educational philosophy. In order to help others with this type of decision I will be posting for a full year about the Montessori classroom.

I hope you will join me in this look inside the classroom. You may or may not have the option of choosing a Montessori school for your children but perhaps by seeing what it is we do and why what we do is so important during the first years of a child’s life you can look for similar ideas as you search for a school. You may also decide to implement a few things you read about at home. Please leave a comment if you have specific questions or topics you’d like to see covered. I look forward sharing this year long journey with you.