Easing Separation Anxiety

Easing Separation Anxiety

Beginning a new school year is a time of excitement and uncertainty for many new children. For some, it is their first time being away from home for a stretch of time. It is common for students (and parents) to experience feelings of anxiety, which is perfectly normal. These feelings are often caused by a fear of the unknown, as the child has no point of reference to draw upon when they are faced with a new environment or experience.

Separation anxiety can also be attributed to a child’s stage of development. Separation anxiety is a normal part of development, and most common for children aged eight months to two years; however, it can affect children of all ages.The first day of preschool, in a new room or class, can bring on a reoccurrence of separation anxiety in children who were previously settled. It takes time for young children to build relationships and establish a sense of trust with their new educators, so that they come to understand that their new environment is a safe and happy place. This is not uncommon, and is likely to settle once a new routine and relationships have been established.

 

           

 

Below you will find a number of strategies published by the Montessori Academy to help Montessori parents settle their children into preschool. Remember separation anxiety is a phase, it is perfectly normal, and will pass in time.

Positive Behaviors and Attitudes

Modeling positive behaviors and attitudes plays an important role in the success of the first day of school, and the weeks thereafter. Keep discussions about school positive, and focus on things that your child is likely to enjoy. Children pick up on parent’s feelings, behaviors, and emotions, and are likely to emulate them if you are feeling upset or uncertain.

Morning Routines

Establish a positive and happy morning routine for preschool days. For children over two, this may include encouraging your child to pack their own school bag or sing a happy ‘school day’ themed song. Always give yourself plenty of time to get ready and arrive on time. Feeling late or rushed can cause children to feel additional anxiety.

Acknowledge your Child’s Feelings

It is important to accept that your child’s unhappiness at being separated from you is real, very normal, and temporary. Reinforce that you understand that leaving your child makes them unhappy, but that it is important that you leave, and they will have a good time. Avoid offering your child bribes for good behavior or not crying as this is only a temporary solution. Learning to cope with sadness is an important part of your child’s development and learning about emotions.

Positive and Prompt Goodbyes

When you drop your child off, don’t linger outside the classroom or stay for “just one more minute.” As a parent, the best thing you can do is give your child a hug and a kiss as they get out of the car, let them know you love them, and reassure them that you will be back soon. It is important for your child that you do not delay the inevitable.

Establish a Goodbye Routine

Montessori parents who establish a consistent goodbye routine typically have better luck with successful goodbyes. Take a special moment with your child to say goodbye, and do it the same way, every day. This may be as simple as a kiss and a cuddle, giving your child a thumbs up, or establishing a ‘secret’ hand shake. A special goodbye is a great way for your child to start their day feeling happy and reassured.

Encourage Friendships

Make a point of getting to know your child’s friends or play mates at preschool, and encourage class-mate friendships outside of school. These friendships will help make your child’s transition to the new Montessori environment easier.

Pick Up Routines

It is important to be punctual when picking up your child. It easy to lose track of time, but no matter who is picking your child up, always be on time. If you are late, it can cause your child to feel more anxiety, and makes drop off the next time much harder.

Positive Daily Reflections

On the way home, establish a routine where you talk to your child about their school day. Focus on the positive aspects of their day, such as their favorite activity, or playing with their best friend. By consistently reinforcing the positive aspects of their school day, your child will learn that their new environment is a fun and happy place, and their feelings of anxiety will decrease over time.

 

Grace & Courtesy is All About Respect

Grace & Courtesy is All About Respect

“A child who becomes a master of his acts through repeated exercises [of grace and courtesy]…is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

Have you ever entered a Montessori classroom and noticed that the children are naturally respectful of each other and often helpful? An older child may help a younger child zip his jacket zipper. A child might accidentally spill beans on the floor and two children stop what they are doing to help her clean up. Two students having a disagreement decide to go over to the peace table to work it out. These are manifestations of tGrace and Courtesy in the Montessori classroom, which is built upon 1) treating the child with respect, 2) teaching the child to respect herself, 3) teaching the child to treat others with respect, and 4) teaching the child to treat her environment with respect. Grace and Courtesy remains a focus at every level of Montessori education.

When we respect a young learner’s dignity by teaching the basic rules of etiquette, it fills a need in them. Dr. Montessori once taught a small group of children how to politely blow their noses; she explained every step in detail and showed them how to do it quietly and respectfully. After this presentation, the children erupted into spontaneous applause. They were delighted to know how to do something, that to adults would seem so basic. However, to these young learners, their teacher had shown them something they were longing to know how to do.

What does this look like in our classrooms? Treating the child with respect means that we speak to the children with soft voices and at eye level. We give the children freedom to choose their work and decide where they want to work. Yet the guidelines and limits of the environment are understood by all. For example, a lesson should be put back where it came from before moving on to something new. Children are free to choose their work, but are not free to disturb the work of others. We call this “freedom with responsibility.”

        

There are specific Grace and Courtesy lessons that demonstrate how to respect and care for oneself, such as blowing one’s nose, washing hands, getting in and out of a chair, putting on shoes, hanging up or putting on a jacket, etc.

     

Lessons on respecting others include how to greet a visitor, walking around a rug, how to ask for help, using soft voices, inviting others to work, how to solve a conflict with a classmate, etc.

       

Lessons on respecting the environment include carrying and rolling up a rug, setting the table, how to take materials off of shelves, washing a plant, washing a table or mirror, etc. We are working daily on cultivating a sense of gratitude and nurturing wonder.

One of the main goals of a Montessori education is to prepare students to be contributing and valued members of society. This starts with lessons of Grace and Courtesy, which are key to modeling peace, learning how to act in social situations, showing respect for each other. These are tools our children will use their entire lives!

 

2019 Carseat Safety Guidelines

2019 Carseat Safety Guidelines

2019 Carseat Safety Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently changed their safety recommendations to remove the age limit on rear-facing car seats. They now suggest keeping children rear-facing until they reach the highest weight and height allowed by the manufacturer of the seat. You can read a full overview of the guidelines at this link or read the summary below.

The AAP recommends:

  • Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing well beyond the age of 2.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits for their seats. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
  • When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old.
  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
  • All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

Winter Clothing Recommendations:
Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. In a car crash, fluffy padding immediately flattens out from the force, leaving extra space under the harness. A child can then slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat. 
Instead, use a coat or blanket over the straps. You can add a blanket over the top of the harness straps or put your child’s winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps) after he or she is buckled up.

You can read more Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP here.

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.

 

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.”

January Enrichment Update – PE

Physical Education


Liz Hamilton, Physical Education Enrichment Guide

Children’s House
This winter, Children’s House PE has been focused on understanding “pathways.” Classes have been structured by stations with a different task at each one. Students are learning different types of paths (zig zag, curved, over/under, around, through) while using different body parts and equipment (hula hoops, scooters, dots) to navigate from point a to point b. Students have also been introduced to tossing, bouncing, and catching (using scarves, bean bags, basketballs). We will continue developing gross and fine motor skills as we proceed into the rest of the school year.

Lower Elementary
Lower Elementary has recently begun a jump rope unit. Students have been introduced to proper technique as well as the benefits of jumping rope. Students are given a worksheet with a list of different kinds of jumps. If they can consistently execute the jumps, they move on to the next worksheet with new and more challenging jumps. At the end of the unit, students will design and perform their own jump rope routine.

This unit has been both physically and mentally challenging for the majority of students. Timing and rhythm are still developing in students at this age and it is very easy for them to get frustrated and discouraged. I stress the importance of patience, resilience, and maintaining positivity. Jumping rope takes practice. This unit has been good for their mental and physical toughness.

Upper Elementary
Upper Elementary started a strength and conditioning unit at the start of the new year. Students are learning about the muscular system, body weight exercises, and the primary and secondary muscles that are engaged relative to each exercise. Each class I emphasize that we have the ability to exercise anywhere, anytime, with little to no equipment. Students are also learning a variety of small-space aerobic exercises. By the end up the unit, they will have the vocabulary and skills to form their own workout circuit. The idea is that they have the tools to be their own personal trainers!

Adolescent Community
The Adolescents have recently started a badminton unit in PE. Our first class involved a variety of lead-up games that helped them understand positioning and movement on the court as well as hand eye coordination. As we continue the unit, students will learn the rules and scoring system, proper technique, and net set up and break down. We will spend the last few classes playing the game and perhaps have a round robin tournament.