Introducing your Family to the Idea of Independence

Introducing your Family to the Idea of Independence

“Never help a child at a task which he feels can succeed.” -Dr. Maria Montessori

If you are lucky, your family members – especially those proud grandparents! – are excited and eager to learn more about your child’s Montessori journey. While we can’t expect our extended family to completely rearrange their homes or lifestyles, there are some simple ways that they can support your child in building independence.

Simple ways for family members to help your child’s growing independence

Allow the child to make decisions with limited choices
You can allow a child opportunities to make decisions without giving up all control. Consider offering two choices – both of which you are happy with. “Would you like a grilled cheese sandwich or chicken noodle soup for lunch?”

Allow the child to do things for herself
It is the natural instinct of a loving family member to make life “easier” for a child. But when we take away opportunities to overcome worthy challenges, we inhibit them from learning new skills and building self-esteem. For example, it may take much longer for a young child to zip up her own coat, but when time allows, give her the opportunity to try. If she begins to get frustrated, provide the minimal amount of help needed (such as holding the bottom of the coat to create tension, while the child pulls up the zipper).

Prepare the environment for independence 
Allowing a child to do things for herself may require some support. Consider providing a stool at the bathroom sink so the child can reach the faucet to wash her hands. Consider putting out a small pitcher of water and a small glass so she can help herself when she is thirsty. If dishes, napkins, and silverware are placed in a lower cabinet, the child can help set the table for a meal.

Involve the child in activities of daily life
Not every visit with Grandma and Grandpa needs to involve a trip to the zoo. Children want to do what you do! Invite them to join you peeling vegetables, feeding pets, watering the flowers, etc. You may need to provide child-size tools for some of these activities, such as a small watering can or acrylic knife, so that your child can participate fully.

Create order in the environment
Instead of piling toys in a basket, consider setting up a small open bookshelf where only a few toys are accessible. This helps the child make independent choices and give more focused attention to the chosen activity. (Toys can be rotated in and out to keep the child’s interest.) A minimal, organized toy area will also help the child clean up independently because there is a clear place for everything.

Be careful of praise
Dr. Montessori found that praise can inhibit children from gaining independence because they begin to rely on the judgement of others. As an alternative, encouragement can be empowering. So instead of “Good job!” “Good girl,” or “You are so smart,” you can try, “You did it!” “Thank you for your help,” or “I can tell you worked really hard on this.”

How to help family members get on board

Model rather than preach!
Most family members won’t appreciate being given a list of rules about how to behave around your child. But you can provide a powerful example by modeling these approaches in front of your family.

Gentle reminders
Feel free to give family members gentle reminders, such as “Please don’t help him; he can do it himself” You can also make it clear what the child is capable of, such as “Lila likes to choose her own clothing. She can get dressed herself but she might need help if her arms get stuck. Please don’t worry if she puts things on the wrong way.”

Provide resources
If a family member seems receptive, you might share an article with a brief introduction to Montessori at Home, such as this one. For those who wish to know more, a nice introductory book is How to Raise an Amazing Kid the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin. Though not all of it will apply to extended family, it’s a quick read with lots of beautiful photos that provides a nice overview of Montessori for families. If you would like to help family members find child-size tools or suggest gifts that would be appreciated, you can give them a copy of the For Small Hands catalog or share a link to their website. You may also consider creating an Amazon wish list.

“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” -Dr. Maria Montessori

With a little help from family, we can create even more consistency between school and home and provide more opportunities for the child to build independence.


Staffing Update for 2019-20

Staffing Update for 2019-20

As we look ahead to the 2019-20 school year, we congratulate those members of our staff taking on new roles at Greenspring! We must also say goodbye to some dear friends and excitedly welcome some new members to our team. We are looking forward to a wonderful year!

Staff Taking on New Roles

Beven Barnhart

Beven Barnhart

Lead Guide in the Lower Elementary Redbuds Classroom

Beven Barnhart is taking over as the Lead Guide in the Redbuds classroom this fall. Beven has a BA in Fine Arts from Salisbury University. He completes his AMI Elementary Montessori training through Montessori Northwest this summer and will return the following summer to take his final exams. Beven has been a beloved member of our staff since 2017 and we are thrilled to see him take on this new role as a lead guide.

Shweta Santosh

Shweta Santosh

Lead Guide in the Children's House Red Spruce Classroom

Shweta Santosh will be the Lead Guide for our new Children’s House classroom. Shweta has been with Greenspring since 2017 as an assistant and a Montessori intern in the Dogwoods classroom. Shweta has a Masters in Education from the University of Madras in India and her AMS Montessori credential from the Maryland Center for Montessori Studies. Shweta is a Greenspring parent of two – one in Lower Elementary and one in our Adolescent Community.

Sonia Sabarikanth

Sonia Sabarikanth

Lead Guide in the Children's House Tulip Poplar Classroom

Sonia Sabarikanth is taking over as the Lead Guide in the Tulip Poplars classroom this fall. Sonia stepped in to assist in the classroom earlier this year, and she has had a powerful, positive effect on the classroom. We are thrilled to be able to provide a seamless transition for the students in the Tulip Poplar classroom. Sonia has a BA from the University of Delhi in India and her AMI Primary Certification from The Montessori Teacher Training Center of Northern California. Sonia is a Greenspring parent of two – one in Upper Elementary and one in our Adolescent Community.

Fond Farewells

Sandra Decombel

Sandra Decombel

Toddler Dual Language Assistant in the Scarlet Oaks Classroom

Sandra Decombel, our Spanish Dual Langauge Toddler Assistant, and Jamie Bartels, Lead Guide for the Tulip Poplars classroom, will be moving overseas with their children this summer. After losing their home to a fire last spring, they have decided to return to Belgium, Señora Sandra’s home country. We will miss Sandra and Jamie, as well as their two children!

Jamie Bartels

Jamie Bartels

Lead Guide in the Children's House Tulip Poplar Classroom

Sandra Decombel, our Spanish Dual Langauge Toddler Assistant, and Jamie Bartels, Lead Guide for the Tulip Poplars classroom, will be moving overseas with their children this summer. After losing their home to a fire last spring, they have decided to return to Belgium, Señora Sandra’s home country. We will miss Sandra and Jamie, as well as their two children!

Sarah Prunier Law

Sarah Prunier Law

Lead Guide for the Lower Elementary Redbuds Classroom

Sarah Prunier-Law, Lead Guide for the Redbuds classroom, will be moving on to new adventures. We wish her all the best and will also miss her two children!

Madison Tralka

Madison Tralka

Toddler Assistant in the Honeylocust Classroom

Madison Tralka, a Toddler Assistant, is graduating from Towson with a Bachelor’s degree this summer and starting her career. Congratulations, Madison!

Lee Lanou

Lee Lanou

Director of Training | Director of Children's House

Lee Lanou, our Director of Training and Children’s House, has been offered a very exciting opportunity as Director of Montessori Education with a dynamic company where she will be overseeing dozens of Montessori schools across the country. She will also be starting up new training centers on the west and east coasts. We will miss Lee but are delighted that she will be helping to bring Montessori to even larger communities of people.

Krista DeWitt

Krista DeWitt

Assistant Director of the Business Office

Krista Dewitt, our Assistant Director of the Business Office, has been with Greenspring for seven years. She is retiring this summer and looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren. We will miss her dearly and wish her all the best!

Warm Welcomes

Sarah Weiskopf

Sarah Weiskopf

Co-Guide in the Upper Elementary Ginkgo Classroom

Sarah Weiskopf will join our team as a co-guide for the Upper Elementary community in the fall. Sarah has a BA in Gender Studies with a Minor in Religion from Skidmore College. She taught English and worked as an Elementary Assistant at the International Montessori School of Prague for two years. Sarah receives her Elementary Montessori teaching credential and Masters Degree from the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University this summer. Sarah has traveled extensively (Czech Republic, Australia, Amsterdam!) and looks forward to sharing her experiences with the students.

Jamie Jeffries

Jamie Jeffries

Technology Support Specialist

Jamie Jeffries will be our new Technology Support Specialist. Jamie has a Bachelors degree in Industrial Technology and Education from Virginia State University and he is working on his Masters in Cloud Computing Architecture from the University of Maryland. Jamie will be an Enrichment Guide working with Elementary students in the Media Lab and working closely with the Guides to support students with the digital skills needed for presentations and research projects. Jamie will also be handling the school’s various technical support needs.

We are still in the process of hiring a few additional staff members. We will announce those new staff members as soon as they are on board!

To learn more about our growing team, please visit our Faculty and Staff page.

January Enrichment Update – Spanish

Spanish Enrichment 

Sandra Decombel                                      Marcela Daley                                              Martha Chaux
Toddler Dual Language Assistant            Spanish Enrichment Guide (CH, EL, AC)      Lower El Dual Language Assistant
Toddler Spanish Support Guide               Dual Language Support Specialist (CH)      Dual Language Support

Older Toddlers (Non Dual-Language classrooms, Sra. Sandra)
Short Spanish language lessons given weekly in the Older Toddler communities provide the young children exposure to the Spanish language while at the same time supporting the Montessori method used in the classroom. We start and end the lessons with a short song during which we replicate the grace and courtesy of the classroom. By modeling greetings and farewells, the children are learning the customary way to interact with people in a respectfully and appropriately in our society.

Once everyone has been properly greeted and acknowledged, we explore some everyday objects. Just as in the language lessons of the classroom, we select a collection of objects with which the children have had extensive experience. We use this selection in a modified three period lesson: first providing the name and the object to the child, and then providing the name and the child provides the object. These lessons not only expose the children to the names of objects in Spanish, but they also continue the work of classification and conceptualization of the world around them. In time, the child will move beyond the world of the concrete towards abstract thought.

We also sing simple Spanish songs with gestures. These give the children a cultural aspect of the Spanish language. They also expose the children to rhythms and distinct musical phrasing, while at the same time developing their understanding of letter sounds and word composition. Children are drawn to repeat the songs and thus develop a sense of the phonology of the Spanish language.

Older Toddlers (Dual-Language classroom, Sra. Sandra)

In our Older Toddler Dual Language classroom both languages come together in service of the child, providing cultural expansion where possible. The language section of the classroom, which is one of the two main foci of Toddler Communities, is offered in both languages. The children are acquainted with Spanish words from their everyday environment and are encouraged to share their own world with the classroom by bringing pictures and familiar real objects from home.

Spanish is also used in daily interactions, giving the children experience being addressed in a different language. The children hear how to greet, ask for assistance, use proper table manners, etc. in Spanish. With time, the child’s ears become receptive to Spanish as a spoken language, even if comprehension might not always be present. Some children might even start to use some Spanish words spontaneously in appropriate situations.

Finally, through music, we open the children’s world to Hispanic culture little by little. We sing songs together and recite poems. The children also receive lessons in music appreciation, exploring the sounds of different instruments and listen to compositions of famous Hispanic composers.

Children’s House (Non Dual-Language classrooms, Sra. Marcela)

In the Children’s House we continue practicing how to be patient and wait to be invited to join the circle. It seems like the children understand more now when the lesson is just for the third years.

Practicing how to greet one each other with expressions like hola, ¿como estas?, and buenos días has become a routine and it is common to hear the children greeting me all the time (not just in the classroom) with some of these expressions.

We are singing the Buenos dias song, including the morning, afternoon and night (días, tardes y noches), and some feelings like feeling good, happy, sad, and tired (bien, felíz, triste, cansado o cansada) and some cards are presented to illustrate the time of the day that the song is referring to.

Singing continues being an important part of our circle. Some of the songs are, Hola, para ti y para mi (Hello for you and for me), Coco en la Cueva (Coco in the cave), El sapito (Little frog), la ronda de los Conejos (The rabbit song).

Children’s House (Dual Language classrooms, Sra. Marcela)

These months the children have been working on expanding their Spanish vocabulary with words that have just one vowel sound at the time. And we are working right now with modes of transportation.

A few of the third years have finished all their vowels sounds and their combination and they have started to work with the sounds “ll” and “rr.” The students have been also working with opposites, such as grande and pequeño (big and small), and grueso and Delgado (thick and thin).

We are singing the Buenos dias song, including the morning, afternoon and night (días, tardes y noches), and some feelings like feeling good, happy, sad, and tired (bien, felíz, triste, cansado o cansada) and some cards are presented to illustrate the time of the day that the song is referring to.

We have read different books related to what the children have been practicing. Some of the books are Percebe esta aburrido, El transporte, Mi Atlas Larousse de los animales (with emphasis on South America’s animals), and some poems and fables from Rafael Pombo.

Singing continues being an important part of our circle. Some of the songs are, Hola, para ti y para mi (Hello for you and for me), Coco en la Cueva (Coco in the cave), El sapito (Little frog), la ronda de los Conejos (The rabbit song).

Lower Elementary (Non Dual-Language classroom, Sra. Marcela)

During Spanish Enrichment, the students continue working following acted instructions in Spanish. The sky is the limit. They are understanding when asked to open the door, close the door, bring the pencil, and give the book to a peer… It is just amazing!

In the morning, during the work cycle, small groups have been working on getting more and more comfortable with the different letter sounds and working on how to split words in syllables and how similar it can be to English or French.

Lower Elementary (Dual-Language classroom, Sra. Martha)

The Elementary dual-language students use Spanish in everyday classroom conversation. They practice greetings and taking leave with expressions such as Buenos dias (good morning) Como estas? (How are you?) Bien y tu? (Good and you?), among others. Students also understand basic instructions such as Levantate (stand up), Sientate (sit down), Vamos afuera (let’s go out), etc. They make requests with expressions such as puedo tener un papel? (Can I have a paper?) and Puedo estar en La Mesa de Espanol? (May I join the Spanish table?). They also practice exchanging personal information with expressions such as Cual es tu comida favorita? (What is your favorite food?) and Que te gusta hacer despues de la Escuala? (What do you like to do after School?). Spontaneous conversations in Spanish about likes and dislikes, routines, and daily activities are happening on a regular basis during lessons and lunch time.

Students work on research projects in Spanish on topics such as transportation and parts of the body. They also incorporate Spanish into their mathematics work by counting (and skip counting) in Spanish. Students are greatly enjoying reading Spanish, especially when reading to the little ones in Children House classrooms. The students are making wonderful progress!

Upper Elementary (Sra. Marcela)

The main goal at this level is to have the students being able to participate in conversations where they can create sentences while, at the same time, being able to ask and answer a variety of questions.

During this time of the year, the students have started to work on a project. Some of them have chosen a coffee shop (and they are really interested on the story of coffee as well as the different ways of brewing coffee and why they are so different), others, have chosen a music shop or a pet shop.

Adolescent Community (Sra. Marcela) 

I love how each one of my group lessons with the AC ends in a mini community meeting. I never thought that the work on “La Mejor Familia del Mundo” based on the book with the same name by Susana Lopez will become such an interesting project. The project consists on Identifying the members of the family that they want to describe. Using positive adjectives, they have to list 3 physical and 3 personality characteristics of each one of the family members chosen and include themselves. Express what makes each one of the members of your family the best one on his/her/its role? And then, put together a video, poster, graph, book, or cartoon to present the “Best family in the world.”
Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

Dr. Angeline Lillard, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, has been studying Montessori’s methods for more than two decades. Dr. Lillard asserts that traditional American schooling is in constant crisis because it is based on two poor models for children’s learning: the school as a factory and the child as a blank slate. As an alternative, Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female physician in Italy, devised a very different method of educating children, based on her observations of how they naturally learn. Though Dr. Montessori developed her methodology over 100 years ago, Dr. Lillard shows that science has finally caught up with her groundbreaking work.

                                1st edition                                                    3rd edition, now available

In her book Montessori: The Science behind the Genius, Dr. Lillard presents scientific studies that show how children learn best, makes clear why many traditional practices come up short, and explains why Montessori methods work. One such study is “Montessori Education Provides Better Outcomes Than Traditional Methods,” published in the September 29, 2006 issue of the journal Science. Among the findings were that 5-year-old Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children. They also tested better on “executive function,” the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success. Montessori children also displayed better abilities on the social and behavioral tests, demonstrating a greater sense of justice and fairness. And on the playground they were much more likely to engage in emotionally positive play with peers, and less likely to engage in rough play. You can read the full article reporting on this study here.

Dr. Lillard presents the research concerning eight insights that are foundational to Montessori education and describes how each of these insights is applied in the Montessori classroom. These insights are:

  • Movement and Cognition – movement and cognition are closely entwined, and movement can enhance thinking and learning;
  • Choice – learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives;
  • Interest – people learn better when they are interested in what they are learning;
  • Extrinsic Rewards are Avoided – tying extrinsic rewards to an activity, like gold starts for reading or money for high grades for tests, negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn;
  • Learning with and from Peers – collaborative arrangements can be very conductive to learning;
  • Learning in Context – learning situated in meaningful contexts is often deeper and richer than learning in abstract contexts;
  • Teacher Ways and Child Ways – particular forms of adult interaction (such as “freedom with responsibility”) are associated with more optimal child outcomes;
  • Order in Environment and Mind – order in the environment helps children build internal order of the mind.

In reading this book, parents and teachers alike will develop a clear understanding of what happens in a Montessori classroom and, more importantly, why it happens and why it works. A third edition of this groundbreaking work is now available!

January Enrichment Update – Music

Music Enrichment

Joelle Arnhold, Music Enrichment Guide

Lower Elementary

This semester will be divided into two sections, a Boomwhacker session and a Melodica session. The Redbuds will begin with boomwhackers, while the Mulberries do melodicas, and then switch mid-semester. We hope to end each session with a 5-10 minute performance for Children’s House classrooms. The repertoire will eventually settle around each class’ particular interests and strengths, but I will aim to include some nursery rhyme or folk song which Children’s House will recognize.

For each session, the core competencies emphasized are: pulse, rhythm, pitch audiation.  The Boomwhacker session develops these competencies in an ensemble setting (an additional competency of teamwork), and the Melodica session will focus on solo playing (an additional competency of individual performance accountability).

Upper Elementary

This semester UE will write their own songs. One group plans to write one class song, and the other has voted to write songs in small groups of 2-3 people. To prepare this project, we will spend some time listening to and discussing a combination of western art and pop music. The learning outcomes of this preliminary song study will be:

1) obtain technical vocabulary to name standard song forms (strophic, vs different variations of binary or ternary forms);
2) gain exposure to the concept of ‘text painting’ (reflecting the narrative of the words in the music) and how different composers do this.
Other musical activities and exercises will support these two outcomes, for example, we will spend time on keyboards to learn about intervals, and what makes a ‘sad’ or ‘happy’ sound.  Currently, we are gaining note-reading fluency in treble clef, while learning about musical ‘codes’ and ‘mottos’; small groups of notes which have special extra-musical meaning (ex. B-A-C-H [in German B-natural is H] in Bach’s final Art of Fugue).

Adolescent Community

During the first five weeks of this semester, the Adolescents are preparing a short boomwhacker recital program which we will share with the Pickersgill Retirement Community on February 6th.  The program includes a minimalistic pentatonic piece called “Drum Crazy,” an arrangement of the Bob Marley piece “Three Little Birds,” and “Pop Goes the Weasel,” which will include an interactive component in which the residence will also participate.  Boomwhackers require a lot of individual accountability, as well as teamwork and patience, as each musician is in control of only two or three pitches of each phrase.