February Family Connection Newsletter

“Through concentration, important qualities of character develop. When the concentration passes, the child is inwardly satisfied, he becomes aware of his companions in whom he shows a lively and sympathetic interest.” -Maria Montessori

“Concentration is the Key” in this month’s Family Connection Newsletter. Concentration holds great importance in the Montessori philosophy. Montessorians believe that personality develops based on the ability to concentrate and that children’s social/emotional nature is established through control of their minds and bodies. Concentration allows children to explore and investigate their environment. How is concentration fostered in the Montessori classroom?

  • Didactic materials reinforce repetition, have clear steps, contain control of error, and are fascinating.
  • Practical life activities develop coordination and independence, encourage attention to detail, and develop concentration.
  • The classroom environment acts as a protector of the child’s concentration, allows deep engagement, allows long periods of uninterrupted work, and provides time for children to become completely engrossed in their work.
  • The teacher acts as a protector of the child’s focus and concentration and shows great respect for the child and their work.

This issue also addresses Montessori at home through lunch preparation, clean-up, and independence. In addition, you will learn about the importance of Care of the Environment at different developmental stages and the skills that are fostered by caring for the environment.

I hope you find this month’s Family Connection helpful and informative.

Warmly,

Karen Sankey
Director of Montessori Education


What is Positive Discipline?

Positive Discipline is a program developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen who wrote her first book Positive Discipline in 1981. Since then she has authored or co-authored others, from Positive Discipline for Preschoolers to Positive Discipline for Teenagers. 

From the start, she saw the like-mindedness of Positive Discipline with the Montessori approach. 

Chip DeLorenzo, a Montessorian, together with Jane Nelsen, co-authored Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom in 2021. This book frames Positive Discipline from a Montessori perspective. Specifically, the Montessori principles of respect and independence.

Research tells us that children are hardwired from the very beginning of infancy to connect with others, and children who feel a sense of connection to their community, family, and school are less likely to have issues with misbehavior. To be successful, contributing members of their community, children need to learn necessary social and life skills. 

Two weeks ago, Karen Sankey and I attended a two-day workshop —The Practitioner’s Class: Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom at Westside Montessori School and Teacher Education Program, in Manhattan.

We are very excited to share what we learned with our colleagues and with our parent community. 

You can look forward to an invitation to an evening event here at FWM where we will share how the Positive Discipline model helps us (parents and teachers) develop mutually respectful relationships with the children in our lives by employing kindness and firmness at the same time, without being punitive or permissive.

Looking forward to getting together!

Gina Tryforos

Assistant Head of School | Student Support Coordinator


January Family Connection Newsletter

“Since we have the means to guide the child, it is clear that the formation of man is in our hands. We have the possibility to form the citizen of the world and the study of the young child is fundamental to the peace and progress of humanity.” -Maria Montessori, Citizen of the World, p. 93

The focus of this month’s Family Connection newsletter is on Research in the Montessori Classroom. In Montessori, research starts at the early age of five years old and continues through eighth grade. Of course, research at the different levels varies, each year building upon the previous year’s experience.

At the kindergarten level, research focuses on animals and plants the children are learning about in class, with resources being our beautiful, teacher created, Montessori materials. Children at this level end the year with a big research project of an animal, working in MakerSpace and Art in addition to the classroom, to make a detailed diorama to show what they have learned about their chosen animal.

This research expands throughout the elementary years. Children at this level are still quite interested in researching animals and plants, but they begin to use books from our classroom library to find their information, in addition to our classroom materials. As they move along through their elementary years, students start to extend their research to topics in history and geography. Third through fifth grade students also learn to use online sources provided by our classroom guides when they aren’t able to find the needed information in books. The big project at this level is a two month long assignment which wraps up with Research Night in the spring. At this evening event, students present their research to parents and classmates. First and second year students present “research fair” style, describing their project to parents and guests as they circulate around the classroom. Starting in third grade, students stand up and give oral presentations to the classroom community, including parents and guests. Topics vary depending on the year and the curriculum, and the visual aids used during presentations become increasingly more complex as the children progress through their elementary years. Lower elementary students make posters and presentation boards and upper elementary students make slide presentations and three dimensional visuals.

Finally, at the middle school level, research continues with the topics becoming even more involved. In addition to presenting at their own Research Night in the winter, students at this level prepare Math Carnival and Science Fair research presentations, tying in skills from additional curriculum areas. Our middle school students wrap up their years at FWM with an Expert Project culminating in a lengthy research paper and presentation. They spend months researching a topic of their choice, finding and interviewing experts, and putting together a TED Talk-style presentation which they present on-stage to the community during our Expert Symposium in May. The result is a polished, professional presentation which the entire school community is invited and encouraged to attend.

Hoping you enjoy this month’s Family Connection!

Warmly,

Karen Sankey
Director of Montessori Education


“What did you do today?”

Parents have asked this question at the end of their child’s day for generations.

The answer is almost universally, “nothing.”

Why is this question such a tough one?

Here are some thoughts:

Everything children are doing in Montessori uniquely corresponds with their development. You don’t notice when your shoes fit perfectly, you notice when they pinch or hurt or give you blisters. 

Even when we’re working on something new in the classroom — unless it’s something big and dramatic you’ve been waiting your whole life for, like your very first picture story, or the bead chains or the checkerboard, or the quadratic equation — it is something typically aligned with what you need, in the here and now.

“What did you do today?” is a very big question for children and adults alike. 

If my husband asked me, “What did you do today?”  my response would be  something along the lines of, “…. Um (long silence while I try to remember this day, which seems like it happened about a week ago) ……I worked with children, sent some emails, had some teacher meetings…

What children do during the day doesn’t seem nearly as thrilling to them as it does to us. When parents and visitors observe children in the classrooms, the most common phrase we hear is: “I could watch all day.” What the children do and what they learn is so incredibly exciting for us to hear about and to them, it’s one more step in their development.

A great way to encourage children to talk about their day is to create a daily habit of talking about yours- the whole family. If it is just relaxing dinner table or car ride home conversations, there’s more of a chance stories will emerge.

An example would be telling a “Did You Know Story”: 

Did you know, this morning, I thought I packed my lunch box but I didn’t!  At lunch time,  I couldn’t find it anywhere! I had to eat the extra snacks I keep in my desk for my lunch. 

If you can’t remember a fun anecdote to share with your child, it’s not a big leap to imagine they’re having a tough time remembering parts of their day, too.

It’s natural to want to know how your most favorite person spent their day. It’s also natural to think that the way you spend your own day is pretty uneventful. Both those thoughts are true, whether you’re the parent or the child. 

As we have seen so many times, modeling is one of the best ways to teach. Like any new practice or habit, seeing results from your work is sometimes just enough to create a bit of momentum.

Spend time over the winter break establishing this new habit with your family and enjoy talking with your child!

Wishing you a happy holiday.

Gina Tryforos
Assistant Head of School & Student Support Coordinator


December Family Connection Newsletter

This month’s Family Connection Newsletter discusses a hallmark of Montessori Education – Grace and Courtesy. Children become sensitive to lessons on Grace and Courtesy from the age of two and a half. Teachers at each level of our school – toddler, primary, elementary, and middle school – approach these lessons differently and appropriately according to the age of their students.

As children enter into the sensitive period for absorbing grace and courtesy in toddler and primary, teachers present specific lessons in the classroom on careful use of materials, movement around the classroom, managing oneself, and appropriate behavior. Our classroom guides model treating each other and the children with respect and kindness at all times. During their elementary years, when friends naturally become a major focus for children, lessons in grace and courtesy focus on managing and developing relationships. At the upper elementary and middle school levels, students begin to focus on establishing a sense of their social self, and teachers at these levels encourage and facilitate self-governance, as well as care for the school community and larger community outside of school.

I hope you find this month’s newsletter useful and informative!

Wishing you holidays filled with peace, love, and joy,

Karen Sankey
Director of Montessori Education


Suggestions and Strategies for Stress-Free Evenings

Dear Fraser Woods Families,

There are many ways for families to establish an after school or evening routine, and those routines will look different depending upon the age of your child/children. 

After picking up at dismissal, there may be rush-hour traffic, hungry kids, and homework – either assigned by your child’s teacher or suggested/required by you, which make weeknights stressful for any parent or caregiver. Families with multiple children will notice this time is trickier to manage because each child has their own learning style. 

You can manage these chaotic periods with strategies that fit your family and make this time of day smoother. 

  1. Snack

Studies show that nutrition affects children’s behavior and may reduce or increase attention and focus. Too much sugar and/or artificial coloring, may make it more difficult for children to focus.

Have a healthy snack ready for your child. You can pack a small cooler filled with nutritious food and water every afternoon, so that the kids have something to eat while you are driving home or to after-school activities. You can also have a snack ready when your child walks in the door (whole-grain crackers with natural sun or nut butter and an apple; a slice of cold turkey or ham and an orange; or a banana, etc.)

  1. Establish Your Own Routine- in other words, do what works for your family

Creating routines that work with your child/children is important in managing evening chaos. Some families may find that their child’s emotions are heightened after a long school day. 

So experiment with your child’s schedule. Try doing homework at different times, or breaking it into small chunks. Another strategy is having someone (parent, older sibling, babysitter)  sit with them, reading a book or working on another quiet activity; it provides reassurance.

Make the routine clear by creating a chart or poster with your child of the things that need to be accomplished that day: feed the dog, go to soccer practice, finish homework, read for 20 minutes, etc. 

  1. Be Realistic

Some children can take a shower, brush their teeth, and get into pajamas in a half-hour, but others can’t.

Your expectations about what your child can do independently and which tasks need your support will help you with feeling frustrated.

Lauren Braswell, Ph.D., a clinical child psychologist, agrees that realistic expectations help the evening go smoother. “I see families struggle with what they can change and what they have to accept,” she says. If it takes your child longer to get through the evening chores or nightly homework, that’s just the way it is”.

  1. Physical Activity

For some children, it’s hard to tackle homework or chores immediately after school. One way to help your child focus is through exercise. 

“Evidence shows that 20 or 30 minutes of exercise-taking a walk, playing in the backyard, doing some jumping jacks-can help a child focus for about 45 minutes to an hour afterward,” says John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

  1. Sleep

A good night’s sleep is so important, yet many children have difficulty with sleep routines for a variety of different reasons (restless, overtired, night time fears, etc.).  

“Routines that may start with a warm bath, tooth-brushing, and some light stretching or calming breathing techniques, followed by reading a story, can help your child prepare their body and their mind for a good night’s rest.”

  1. Be Mindful of Your Words

When your priorities collide with your child’s, parents can feel overwhelmed. We want to avoid an edgy tone of voice or using harsh words. 

Instead of saying, “You seem distracted,” try “Let’s work on finding a way to focus,” or “I know homework isn’t fun, but we need to get it done. So let’s get focused.”

Instead of saying, “You’re making a mess,” or “You’re getting a little sloppy,” try “Could you use a hand?” or “How can I help you clean this up?”

Instead of saying, “There are no monsters in your closet, just go to bed,” try “Lots of kids have scary dreams. How do you want to get rid of the monsters?” or “How about I stay in the room for a while until you fall asleep?”

When pressure is getting the best of you, focus on your ultimate parenting goal. Says Dr. Lauren Braswell, Ph.D., a clinical child psychologist, “Teach your child to be self-sufficient and preserve a loving parent/child relationship at all costs.”

Gina Tryforos

Assistant Head of School & Student Support Coordinator


November Family Connection

This month’s Family Connection is about Cosmic Education. Maria Montessori created Cosmic Education to “give the child a vision of the whole universe…for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” As you will read in the article, Cosmic Education is “an all-inclusive curriculum that helps children recognize and appreciate the interconnectedness of all things. It provides a framework for them to understand the universe and their place within it, empowering them to better the world for future generations.”

This work manifests itself differently at different levels.

In our Toddler classrooms, children are working with items from nature: sea wool sponges, pumpkins, acorns, leaves, and pinecones.

In the Primary classrooms, children learn about the world through their continent studies. This month they are learning about North America.

At the Elementary level, students learn about the connectedness of living things through the “Great Lessons”. In Lower Elementary, students learned the first Great Lesson of the Coming of the Universe. In Upper Elementary, students are participating in an ongoing study of Human Evolution.

Children in Upper Elementary and Middle School learn to be socially responsible people and become passionate about global issues by taking care of others. Upper Elementary students do this through their volunteer work each month, making sandwiches and collecting supplies for people experiencing housing insecurity. They have also started a composting program at school, leading the way for environmentally responsible behavior. Our Middle School students participate in multiple volunteer experiences throughout the year: collecting donations for local animal shelters, running a Thanksgiving food drive, and collecting food and gifts for two local families’ holiday celebrations.

Thank you for being part of our community! I hope you enjoy this month’s Family Connection.

Karen Sankey
Director of Montessori Education


Parent-Teacher Conferences and Free Virtual Parent Education Event

As a teacher, one of the school events I always look forward to and really enjoy is Parent Teacher Conferences! I love hearing the stories that parents share about their children and truly appreciate the feedback that comes as a result of those conversations.

Occasionally, I get questions about how we measure progress in a Montessori environment. Is there “traditional assessment”?

This is a great question! 

In a Montessori classroom from Primary through Upper Elementary, teachers are continually assessing where each student is on their own individual path of learning. We are concerned about where each child is at a specific point in time and how they are progressing, at their own pace, in their own way to meet the educational benchmarks we have set out for them. Concrete numbers often fail to provide the best perspective on the quality of a child’s true learning.

Dr. Maria Montessori created a teaching methodology supported by instructive materials to help children build confidence and resilience to prepare them for their entire educational journey, not just the quiz or worksheet that is in front of them at a moment in time. I hope all of you enjoy your conference time with your child’s teacher.

Please enjoy this excerpt from Montessori Musings, a blog post written by Alex Chiu at The Montessori Children’s Academy Family of Schools and Services:

Parent/Teacher Conferences are a wonderful opportunity to learn about what a typical day at school is like for your child, develop stronger connections with your child’s teacher, and gain insights into your child’s development. By participating in these conferences, you are showing your child that you are interested in what happens at school. You also are modeling the importance of open communication, and you are building the bridge between home and school to promote your child’s success as a student.

For parents with children in school for the first time, we’ve gathered some information to help you prepare for your first Parent/Teacher Conference. For ‘veteran’ parents, these reminders may help you get the most out of your conferences this year.

At your conference, you can expect to learn about your child’s:

  1. Recent academic progress.
  2. Behavioral development as observed by the teacher since September.
  3. Social interactions and development in the classroom.
  4. Strengths and challenges within the classroom.

During the conference, you can help your child’s teacher learn more about your child by:

  1. Describing your child’s attitude towards school.
  2. Sharing anything that currently may be impacting your child’s academic or social progress (e.g., family illness, move to a new home, other family changes or potential stressors).
  3. Discussing what you see as your child’s strengths and challenges.
  4. Providing information about any special interests/activities your child has outside of school, so as to help your child’s teacher get to know a little more about your child.

What parents can do to prepare for and help facilitate a smooth conference:

  1. Bring a list of questions you may have or topics you would like to discuss, keeping in mind the time allotted for your conference. Prioritize your list.
  2. Ask your child if there is anything he or she would like to discuss with the teacher and share his or her comments with the teacher.
  3. Come prepared to listen and take notes.
  4. Ask to see samples of your child’s work or which Montessori materials he or she has been using.
  5. Ask what you can do at home to help your child with academic, social, and emotional development. Inquire if the teacher has any community references that may be helpful to your family.
  6. Be respectful of the time. If you have more questions than time allows for, do ask for a follow-up meeting at a later date. Communication with your child’s teacher can and should continue beyond the conference as needed.

REMINDER:

Montessori Schools of Connecticut (MSC) is pleased to present a free, virtual

Parent Education Event:Montessori at School & at Home

Thursday, October 27, 2022

7:00 pm

Please read the attached flyer: 

MSC Parent Education Event:Montessori at School & at Home

Zoom information for you convenience:

Montessori Schools of Connecticut is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Parent Education – Montessori at School and at Home

Time: Oct 27, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82397722187?pwd=RUUra2I5akZlbnZRZmxzYTR3dXBodz09

Meeting ID: 823 9772 2187

Passcode: 619448

Gina Tryforos

Assistant Head of School

Student Support Coordinator