Grateful for Our Community

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

Thanksgiving, for many, marks the start of our winter holiday celebrations- a very fun and festive time of year.  For me personally, I am reminded there is so much to be grateful for: family, friends, a roof overhead, good health… and more.

This year, in particular, has shown me a new depth of gratitude. I am incredibly grateful for the role you have played in keeping our community healthy. We have all done a tremendous amount to protect each other over the last months and for that I am especially grateful.

The health of our children, our teachers, and families is of the utmost importance to us and we are committed to keeping our doors open to provide in-person learning for the children for as long as we can. In order for this to happen, we need to approach the holidays very carefully, while keeping in mind state-mandated quarantine procedures and guidance from our local DPH. Because there is increased risk of exposure when traveling or hosting others from outside of your household, we are asking that to the extent possible, you avoid gathering and that you take every precaution if you must gather.

If you do travel outside the state for Thanksgiving, we ask that you follow the Travel Advisory for the State of Connecticut and the CDC Celebrating Thanksgiving Guidelines. 

If you are staying at home for an in-person gathering, we ask that you follow the State of Connecticut Holiday Guidance and the CDC Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings Guidelines. 

Here is an additional resource for your information: Optimal Testing Time + Quarantine

The best-case scenario for the holidays, and what we are strongly encouraging, is that every family only gathers with the people that live in their home, inviting distant relatives by Zoom or Facetime. If  you must travel or visit, please ask all parties to isolate for 14 days prior to gathering.

Thank you for trusting FWM to do what is in the best interest of our entire community. We can’t know who is vulnerable or who lives with vulnerable people, (senior citizens, and those with underlying medical conditions) so we must protect each other!

Thank you and I wish you a warm (though different) holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gina


MONTESSORI KINDERGARTEN

Children start their journey in a Montessori Primary classroom typically between the ages of almost three and three-and-a-half, and will remain in the same classroom for three (sometimes four) years and move from being the youngest to the oldest in their classroom community.

The younger children have been carefully watching the older children, asking for help from these ‘Big Kids’, not even knowing that one day they will be the ‘Big Kid’—the student asked to help a classmate, the student given big responsibilities like walking a friend down to the nurse’s office to get an ice pack or helping with zippers before recess, and becoming the ‘expert’ on almost every material in the classroom.

In a Montessori classroom, this happens if and when a child is ready. Right around the Kindergarten year we typically see that readiness:

  • A growing sense of grace and empathy
  • An increase in self-control
  • An awareness of and care for others
  • A child’s ability not only to know the right thing but to do the right thing

In Montessori we focus on each individual child, providing the right material at the right time, the appropriate opportunity to practice and grow a skill the child is demonstrating developmental readiness for. We will take our time or go ahead, at your child’s pace, always moving on from a place of mastery, so the child understands everything they’ve learned. The child’s last year in a Montessori classroom (the Kindergarten year) is the same; but what the child is ready for has grown.

As children in Kindergarten prepare for the next step–the Elementary years, our Primary program provides children Literacy lessons using Reading and Writing Workshop model.

Reading Workshop lessons promote fluency and provide time to nurture the love of reading. These lessons create a community of readers. Students get support from their peers and interact with one another to develop strong literacy skills. Reading Workshop is not just guided reading groups; it’s a sequence of mini lessons that helps achieve the literacy goals the teacher has for each student.

Writing is a daily activity. Writing Workshop lessons encourage children to write by focusing on the process. During the mini lesson, the teacher models what “good writers do” as she draws her picture and writes her words. For the youngest students, whose skills vary significantly, the goal is to elicit a story from a drawing, or allow the student to dictate a story from a drawing. We encourage the student to move from drawing to writing by guiding them to use what they’ve learned in our language lessons to sound out words.

These skills are fostered throughout a child’s entire time in a Montessori Primary classroom.  Then the skills are refined and solidified in that final Kindergarten year. Maria Montessori writes in the Absorbent Mind, that Montessori is an Education for Life.


Curriculum Goals for Toddlers? 

Yes, absolutely curriculum goals for Toddlers!

Imagine your 16-month old feeding herself with a spoon. Your 22-month-old joyfully picking out his clothes and dressing himself. Your almost 3-year-old helping his kid-brother put on his shoes. This is the power of Montessori.

Our Toddler program at FWM offers a curriculum that emerges from each child’s unique skills and interests. Our teachers are loving, nurturing, and rigorously trained in child development. They create peaceful, supportive, and safe environments for our youngest children. In these classrooms, a child’s natural desire for wonder, curiosity, exploration, and discovery comes alive.

What are curriculum goals for toddlers?

Emotional goals build on the child’s understanding of emotions. They learn to recognize different emotions, express wants and needs, and develop a sense of independence.

Social goals help our children begin the process of understanding and responding to social cues. We see them engage in parallel play and develop a concept of personal space. Our teachers help the children navigate finding words, and Practical Life lessons give the Toddlers an opportunity to be part of and care for their community. 

Cognitive goals work to strengthen the child’s attention span while teaching the routines of the classroom. Children learn to understand the environment. The children observe the people and things around them and apply the skills they have learned to new situations. 

Language goals facilitate the child exploring language and learning how to communicate. Children learn and use new vocabulary, they learn to develop and understand the give-and-take of communication (known as “serve and return” in child development).

Physical goals focus on gross and fine motor skills. We help children gain an understanding of body awareness and control. Activities in the indoor and outdoor environments help to develop coordination, balance, flexibility, and stamina.

Sensory Goals expose children to different types of sensorial experiences. Having tactile materials the child can touch, see, smell, taste, and hear helps the child relate to their environment and the world around them. 

“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping.” ~Dr. Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child, from Simone Davies, The Montessori Toddler: A Parent’s Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being


Halloween Safety Tips and Calendar Reminders 

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

As with many other events this year, Halloween is going to be different for our kids. The recent resurgence in Connecticut is especially troubling. Monday saw 2047 new cases reported, the second highest day of reported infections, only 62 cases behind the high of 2019 reported at the peak of the pandemic on April 22nd.

What can we do to help the children celebrate Halloween safely?

This is a chance for you and your family to get creative and invent new traditions! It’s also a good opportunity to model flexibility, a positive spirit, and the importance of protecting ourselves and others. The choices we make today can have an effect beyond our own families. Finding safe ways to celebrate can create marvelous memories. Here are some ideas:

Spooky Movie Night

Celebrate Halloween with an at-home movie night. For added fun, dress up as your favorite character.

Halloween Treats

Make some fun Halloween treats as a family. Make homemade pizza and decorate it with toppings in the shape of a jack-o’-lantern, or make clementine pumpkins — peel the clementine and put a thin slice of celery on top to look like a stem!

 A Family Scavenger “Haunt” (Hunt)

Setting up a scavenger hunt for Halloween treats inside your home or out in the backyard can be a fun alternative.

Trick-or-treating may be discouraged or cancelled in your area this year. If trick-or-treating is still “on” in your neighborhood, please avoid large groups or kids crowding together on doorsteps. Also, remind children not to reach into communal bowls filled with candy.

If you do choose to trick-or-treat, we ask that you follow the guidelines from Connecticut for the continued health and safety of our school community. 

Our ability to protect our school’s health is only as strong as our weakest link. 

Thank you,

Gina

Reminders:

Virtual Parent Teacher Conferences -Thursday October 29th – No School

Professional Development Day for Teachers -Friday October 30th – No School

Halloween Drive Through Parade – Friday October 30th – Cancelled due to impending weather

Due to the short week, the teachers will not be sending new blog posts on Friday.

Happy Halloween to everyone!


How We Montessori in Upper Elementary

The Upper Elementary classroom at FWM offers students in 4th and 5th grades a customized learning environment.

What do we mean by that?

The UE program is designed to have a smaller class size with a 1:15 teacher-student ratio. This allows for countless opportunities for individualized attention to each student’s unique learning needs and encourages self-paced learning.

In Montessori, the Upper Elementary Classroom is an extension of the students’ own world. The emotional aspects of being an elementary aged student play a fundamental role in the child’s development and in their day to day time in school. We help our students understand how to work, how to fit in, and how to be part of a community in a positive and productive way. At this level, we do not avoid addressing difficulties or issues; instead, we work through them. Our community meetings are an example of this. Led by the fifth year students and supervised by the classroom teacher, the whole class works together to solve problems and discuss issues as they arise in the classroom. Everyone has a voice in making the UE environment a better place to learn and grow together. 

The Montessori Upper Elementary program encourages students to have a strong sense of connection to all of humanity. Our students develop an appreciation of the contributions of their ancestors and of the diverse cultures and countries around the world. They are working to become well prepared to be contributing global citizens. Our goal is for each student to reach their fullest potential in all areas, so they can move forward with confidence in who they are and in their individual abilities.


A Day in the Life- Lower Elementary 

Our Lower Elementary program is a beautiful community to observe. Just like all the other Montessori levels, Lower Elementary is based on the belief that children learn best through movement and work with their hands. Lower Elementary provides academic, social, and emotional support to help each child reach their full potential.

If you could watch from a window here is what you would see:

The classroom is a happy community of learners. Multi-age groupings of children ages 6 – 9 in which children can collaborate and socialize. These varied-age relationships strengthen the entire community.

Our students are focused. The children take joy in their work. 

What are the children doing during their morning work cycle? Children work on assignments from all academic areas, they confer, they create, they prepare, and they invent, explore, and experiment. Sometimes you will see a student curled up with a book or sitting in a moment of reflection in a peaceful corner.

What are the teachers doing during the morning work cycle? The teachers circulate through the room observing the students, making notes about their progress and are available to offer support. The LE teacher is always prepared to introduce a new lesson or new material, to each and every student as appropriate. What sets Montessori apart from other elementary school programs is the individually-paced curriculum that challenges students academically and protects their well-being while nurturing their sense of self.

Montessori children have more input into how they are taught, and more control over how they learn than children in traditional school settings. Each child’s learning style and preferences are respected and supported. The Practical Life lessons taught in Lower Elementary are lessons that teach responsibility and they are incorporated into the daily routine. For example, the Student Work Plan is a Practical Life learning tool that teaches students how to thoughtfully plan and approach their work choices each day. Learning to use a work plan supports organization and time management skills.

In our Lower Elementary Montessori program, our young students acquire the foundational skills they need for success in school, and in life.

 


A Look Into Middle School

Dear Parents,

At FWM the middle-level grades are organized around the specific developmental needs of early adolescence in a way that celebrates the tenets of who we are as a Montessori school. Our middle schoolers define questions or problems that they see as important: Black Lives Matter, the 2020 Election, Stem-Cell Research, Social Justice Concerns. Their teachers help guide them to craft a skill-based, content-rich response. The response may include gathering and analyzing information (everything from a quick internet search, to interviewing an expert). Their teachers help guide them as they decide to take action (everything from sharing results informally with classmates, to writing a poem, to hosting a debate, to spearheading a method for community-wide public awareness—The 8th Year Podcast). In this way the students’ education develops as they engage in purposeful learning around topics and issues that have meaning for them.

What does that look like?

Our students work effectively and respectfully with others who have different ideas or experiences. They speak and act with fairness, kindness, and compassion. They are given space for critical reflection and honest conversation in our school community.  

Thank you to our Middle School teachers for creating “the space” in each of your classrooms through trust, validation, and diplomacy. Trust is essential. Adolescents by nature are skeptical beings and despise phoniness.  Our middle school students see their teachers as people they can count on to keep promises, listen with full attention, and be accountable for more than the subject matter they teach. They see their teachers as people able to impart insights and wisdom about life. Validation- teachers find ways to validate each student everyday, celebrating their gifts. Diplomacy—as we all know, a day with adolescents is rarely smooth sailing. It helps when the adults understand and model being sensitive to others’ opinions, beliefs, ideas, and feelings. Diplomacy and tact are always the answer. 

“The whole life of the adolescent should be organized in such a way that will allow him or her, when the time comes, to make a triumphal entry into the life of society, not entering it debilitated, isolated or humiliated, but with head high, sure of himself or herself. Success in life depends on self-confidence born of a true knowledge of one’s capacities.”  ~Dr. Maria Montessori

 


Where Literacy Begins

Dear Parents,

Reading and writing can be easily taken for granted by adults who have mastered the skills. From a child’s point of view these tasks may seem insurmountable. Literacy is a complex and integrative process. Literacy involves the association of symbols with sounds, sounds with words, and words with ideas. The best part of my job is when I get to spend time in all of the classrooms here at Fraser Woods. Each and every time I am reminded of the phrase “in Montessori, we follow the child”. This week, while I visited a Primary classroom, I was fortunate to witness the wonder of one of our four-year-old children reading a book for the very first time, completely independently. He was sitting with his teacher, confident and resolute in his task. His teacher was there to listen and to guide. The quiet love and respect that exuded from the teacher was all the child needed to apply the strategies she had taught him to be able to decode the word, blend the sounds, and read the story. You could see that the child’s sense of accomplishment was truly a moment of joy for this young learner.

 

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.”

― Maria Montessori