This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and we here at Midland Montessori have some of the greatest teachers in all the world!  They put their heart and soul into teaching these children and making sure the school is succeeding. We appreciate all their work and dedication.  

The following article is one that I read while writing my thesis paper and I think it is appropriate today.  The greatest impact on a child's learning is their teacher. If your kids are having a great experience here at MMS and learning a lot and having fun, their teacher is responsible for that.  Our teachers have been supporting this school through good times and bad and have truly shown us the importance of teamwork and encouraging one another.  Show your Teachers your support and appreciation this week!

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Being apart of the Montessori community across the nation allows us to hear encouraging stories like this one I received from a Montessori school in California. Enjoy!

"From Creeping to Leaping the Kindergarten Year – A Montessori Parent’s Perspective

As April approached during our daughter's last year before Kindergarten, my husband and I began the same process many Montessori preschool parents engage in every Spring: making the decision about where she would go for Kindergarten.  We loved the Montessori preschool, and had really seen our daughter thrive there for the past two years.  And we knew the mantra about kids in the program 'leaping'

in their learning during their third year.  On the other hand, when we moved to Redding, we researched potential schools for our kids, and chose our house based upon where we intended them to attend school - a wonderful charter school that really seemed to cater to our daughter's personality and to specific curricular offerings that were important to me and my husband.

When we thought about our daughter's progress at Montessori in particular, we discussed how much progress she had already made - we were amazed by her burgeoning math skills, her beginning writing, her ability to select work and focus...we thought perhaps the 'third year leap' was something she was already experiencing.  She had been so prolific and learned so many new and diverse things, how much more could she grow in the following year?

We decided to go through the lottery process at the charter school and make a decision later, if we were successful in securing her a spot.

As it turned out, we were not successful.  I was surprised at what a relief that was!  We were please that she could continue to hone her skills and talents in her own time, according to when she was ready, both in terms of interest and development.  We appreciated that she would be able to develop more ability to concentrate on her work over ever longer periods of time, and that she would learn to be responsible for progressing through her own education - that she would learn that her rewards (learning new information, skills, etc.) would be a direct result of the effort she decided to invest.

Fast forwarding to the beginning of her Kindergarten year at Shady Oaks, my husband and I were blown away at the changes we observed in her.  We thought she had been 'leaping' in her learning the year before - she hadn't even begun!!  She went from writing her name and the names of a few items around to developing whole sentences, and then stories, in a matter of a couple of months.  From reading a handful of words in beginning reader books and signs around town, she suddenly (within a period of a few weeks) moved on to reading whole stories by herself - and within a couple of months, again, she progressed to books several levels above what we have expected from a traditional 1st grader!  She's moved from adding single digits together to delving into large addition, subtraction, and multiplication - we're not even sure what work she's doing in the classroom that relates to this (she doesn't tell us a whole lot about what she does); it just comes up at the dinner table or while we're baking together.  And, being a Kindergartner this year, she is really getting the opportunity to explore her leadership skills.  It's been wonderful to watch her give lessons to the 'new friends' in the classroom, or hear about things the younger children are working on that she can sit near and watch, while she does her own work, and help with if they're struggling with something.  A great side-benefit to that, she's become extraordinarily helpful in the same way with her little brother at home as well.

In November of her Kindergarten year, we received a phone call from the charter school that there was an opening for her for immediate placement.  My husband and I struggled with the thought at that point.  We were really starting to see our daughter leap at Montessori, and we knew how much we and she both valued her self- direction, independence in learning, and the benefits of the multi-age classroom.  Still, we had been invested in the idea of this charter school, and it was difficult to just let go of that.  We decided to observe the classroom she would be placed to make the best-informed decision we could.

That morning, we talked to our daughter briefly about the task before us.  We wanted to know what her thoughts and opinions about this were and let her know we valued her input, though we were careful to explain that this was a decision that we were ultimately going to be making based on our assessment of the options.  She asked what some of the differences would be.  We talked about the whole class doing the same work at the same time.  We explained that she would be required to stay in her seat, and raise her hand if she wanted to ask a question or needed to get up for a drink or to go to the bathroom.

She looked at us like we had sprouted horns.

What if I want to do reading and someone else wants to do writing?

Well, that's not how other classrooms work - you'll have to read when the class is reading, and write when the class is writing.  What if I'm not done reading and it's time to write?  You'll have to save your place in what you're reading and come back to it next time, or maybe do it on your own after school.  What if I haven't had the lesson the class is working on yet?  Well, everyone gets the same lesson all together at the same time, so when it's time to work, everyone's had the lesson for that work.  And I can't get up to go to the bathroom without raising my hand and asking?  That's right - but they'll let you go, we promise!

The more we talked it over, the more ludicrous it seemed to us also, given the environment that Montessori provides.  Still, we went to our observation with open minds.  The children seemed happy enough.  The teacher was kind and engaging.  They were working on a math set while we were there, counting sides of a hexagon, drawing the shape repeatedly in columns on a worksheet, coloring it yellow (the hexagon tanagrams they used were all yellow), and writing six in the next column showing the number of sides for each hexagon they drew.  About five minutes after we got there, the teacher stopped that lesson and had the class move to a story rug to work on some reading comprehension.  This consisted of her holding up flashcards with common words (cat, hat, it, I, we, can, etc.) for the kids to say in unison three times, then the next card three times, and so on.  This lasted another 10 minutes, maybe, before they moved back to their desks for a new lesson.

The teacher had explained to us that the children needed a break from the math exercise, because they really couldn't concentrate on it for more than about 15 or 20 minutes at a time.  This was the beginning of the end for us.  We knew from our experience at Montessori, our daughter (and many others children in our classroom) had no problem working on a project for long periods of time, because they chose work they wanted to do and were interested in.  They didn't have to stop working because other students (who weren't really interested in the work at hand) got restless.

In fact, this classroom's whole day was scheduled out in 30-minute increments (or less) for various subjects.  Then they lost about 4-5 minutes each time they moved from one lesson to the next as they waited for the entire class to simultaneously finish one project, move, and settle in to the next.  While this allowed the children to move a little between tasks, it seems strange, having the Montessori experience to relate to, that kids who need to move aren't allowed until it is time for the whole class to do so.  And that kids that might not be ready to finish the task at hand are required to because others are, or the schedule says it's time.

We made our decision as we walked out the classroom door from our observation that this was simply not an environment that was best for our daughter.  She was clearly thriving with the Montessori method, and we didn't see anything that seemed it would provide her with a greater educational benefit.  We were happy to have the opportunity to make this decision ourselves, and know now that it really is the best choice for our family.  It means we will be driving out to Middle Creek Montessori twice a day every school day for nearly the next decade, between our two children.  (The charter school is less than a mile from our house - an easy walking or biking distance.)  Still, the opportunity this affords them is clearly worth it for us.

On a side note, my husband and I come from the polar opposite ends of the public education spectrum: one of us easily excelled in that environment, and the other struggled to make it through.  We're both intelligent, curious individuals who love to read and have taken many opportunities to further our education outside school.  But the system we grew up with, and which seems to have gone to further extremes, catered to good test-takers who don't necessarily "learn" the information as much as memorize it for quick regurgitation on tests, while punishing those who do not test well by grading them on how they take the test, rather than how well they actually know the subject matter.  Both of us have seen how the Montessori method would have made a world of difference for our own educations - for one providing a more engaging, less punitive environment that actually promotes learning, and for the other an environment that promotes actual and intentional learning, rather than simple memorization of facts without actually connecting the facts with long-term knowledge that builds upon itself.  I relish the opportunity for our children to be in control of their education; to explore and learn because it's something that they want to know, rather than something they will need to know for a test; to know that their learning, and not some arbitrary test, is both an objective in itself and a door to their future."

While I was studying in grad school I was able to participate in a project to promote early literacy in the Springfield, MO community. This was a great experience for me to be able to present workshops and talk to children, families, and teachers about the importance of early literacy. There is a misconception out there that says children do not and cannot learn to read and write until they reach Kindergarten, or even first grade. We here at Midland Montessori, know that to be false. We have 3 and 4 year old children who are reading chapter books, we have infants and toddlers who have already learned how to properly hold a pencil in preparation for writing. With the help of our brilliantly designed Montessori materials and partnering with parents to encourage reading to their children at home we have seen and will continue to see great success by our young children. 

During this month we celebrate books and the importance of reading with your children to promote literacy and language skills. Here is a short article that speaks to this.

You can also check out the Literacy Council of Midland County for more information and resources.  

In honor of Montessori week, here is a video from that describes one of our Montessori works. Hope you enjoy! 
What is Montessori?
                Maria Montessori was born in 1870. Her life would include many obstacles, insights, and triumphs. The focal point of our interest is her educational style and observations of children.

                Dr. Montessori devised what is the Montessori Method. Following are some key points of this method and some inspiring beliefs Dr. Montessori held.

                One aim of the Montessori classroom is to develop, in their own natural rhythm, children who are physically and mentally independent, self-confident and self-controlled, able to manage the requirements of daily life with grace, ease and effectiveness.

                In order to achieve the aim of this method, we hold true that all growth must come from a voluntary action of the child themself. To encourage this voluntary action, the child is free to choose in a non-competitive classroom, stimulated by other children, older and younger, guided individually by the teachers, and proceeding to each aspect of the program at their own pace. The children work together or alone, on mats on the floor or at tables, and may move around the room freely as long as they respect the activities of others and the materials in the classroom.

                The teacher is responsible to prepare the environment of the classroom, and then remain in the background – not the focus of the classroom as in standard educational environments. Montessori teachers guide each child in the use of materials, which are self-corrective, then leave the child to practice and perfect their understanding of the lesson themself.  The teacher is aware that each child is an individual, respecting their abilities and independent progress.

                The Montessori classroom is a child-sized environment with chairs, tables and shelves, all in appropriate size. It is a unique feature of the “prepared environment” that every object in the classroom has a specific place and purpose.

                Maria Montessori emphasized that the hand is the chief teacher of the child. The Montessori classroom is a boundless environment for hands-on activity for the child, thus implementing this belief and encouraging self-education, exploration and learning. Hands-on materials, used in this classroom for learning, are the major focus of Montessori education. The emphasis is on the process, not the product. The child may not be showing a piece of paper as proof of learning, but observation in the classroom of a child at work with Montessori materials is all the proof needed to understand that the child is indeed learning and developing countless valuable skills.

                                                                                                                                                By: Grace Gotfryd
The Chinese New Year was celebrated in style at Midland Montessori School as visitors from the Tri City Chinese Association (TCCA) came to show the children Chinese decorations, teach us about the history and the traditions of the Chinese New Year, as well as let the children try on typical Chinese New Year costumes.  The children enjoyed learning about the Chinese New Year and we want to say a big THANK YOU to the TCCA for visiting our school. 

Take some time to look through some of our pictures from this event!

The Holiday rush has passed and now we are (hopefully) taking time to relax and to spend time together as a family.  It is important that we show our children that while this life can be busy we will always find time for the truly important things; like family. In an age where ipads are the new rattles and cell phones are the new baby blankets, the value of family time still remains. In a study titled “The Influences of Family Leisure Patters on Perceptions of Family Functioning” (Ramon B. Zabriskie, and Bryan P. McCormick, Family Relations 50, No. 3) they talk about how spending quality time with your children helps develop a sense of belonging and promotes your child’s healthy emotional development. This is also associated with developing a strong emotional bond within the family.  Take some time to just relax and enjoy each other.

At Midland Montessori School we believe in the power of family and we also believe in the power of quality time. Spending time together as a family is a gift that should be treasured. We are all guilty at times of taking our loves ones for granted but let’s treasure the time now. It is inevitable in Michigan that the snow will come…and possibly soon…so let’s use that as an opportunity to have some fun as a family. Go sledding, build a snowman, make snow angels, have a snowball fight, make memories!  My family likes to go ice skating and drink hot chocolate. What will your family do?