Most of us live our lives in the city or the suburbs and have vague ideas about the rhythm of life lived by farmers and ranchers. We all benefit from their work when we go to the grocery store. We might actually know when it is strawberry season (prices are lower), but to understand the cycles and seasons gives us an appreciation for “real” life.
This is why Montessori classrooms put a major emphasis on botany and zoology – to introduce our children to the mystery and magic of springtime and harvest. Whether planting is done in pots or garden plots, to prepare the soil, to plant a seed, to water it, to watch it grow, to pull the weeds, to see it flower, to observe the fruit and to enjoy the harvest; it is a celebration of life.
What is the most important step in this botanical experiment? They are all important, but the critical step happens long before you start the process; you have to have the seed! Where does the seed come from? The seed comes from that part of the harvest that you didn’t consume or sell. It is not part of the harvest that you get to “enjoy.” You keep the very best seed, bury it, and then you work the soil so that it flourishes.
Your seed is your Montessori investment. Montessori education is expensive - sometimes even approaching college tuitions, and a question often asked is, “shouldn’t I be saving this money for prep school or college?” The best time to plant your educational seed is in the springtime of your child’s life. Now!
There are five seeds planted in a Montessori Preschool or Elementary that bloom in college.
The first is order. Order is a foundational need of the child - it even has its own sensitive period in the child’s development. When a child enters this sensitive period, he builds for himself the internal apparatus that will guide his future acquisition of knowledge and give him the ability to construct all the other areas of his life. In a Montessori classroom everything has its own special place. This is not only efficient but impacts the whole psychological nature of the child. Order (especially from within) brings calmness and focus, saves frazzled nerves and produces the environment (both physical and emotional) in which concentrated work can occur.
The second seed is initiative – learning to start on your own. Traditional schools spend twelve or thirteen years telling your child what to do, when to do it and how to do it. College is the first freedom from such constraints but it is hardly the time to begin to practice initiative that has been inactive and dormant.
The third seed planted in preschool is the seed of mastery – finishing what you start. In Montessori you don’t take an “F” and go on. You go back and work on it until you master it. It is a major lesson (and habit) not only for school but also for life.
The fourth seed is taking responsibility. In college there is no one looking over your shoulder (or to blame). You are the young adult expected to take responsibility for your actions. For thirteen years of traditional education someone else bore the burden of responsibility. College is not the place to begin especially when Montessori children welcome the responsibility so early and young.
The fifth seed is curiosity. This is not so much of a seed that is planted in preschool but a seed that is nurtured, encouraged and kept alive. Curiosity is the difference between a life of boredom and a life of fascination with the world around you. Curiosity helps you not to settle, it helps you to dream, it helps you to look beyond the next hill. Curiosity can help to not only make a living, but to make a life also.
These seeds are a gift you plant in your children’s life now that bloom in college, and for the rest of their lives. It is the best seed that you can give.
Original Author: Edward Fidellow
Strong Minds, Empowered Thinkers
Lefferts Gardens Montessori School supports the emergent learner. Both LGM and LGME provide environments and curricula that spark the imagination, support discovery and teach your children to organize their approach to learning and problem solving. Our child-centered approach and lesson plans are created to ensure mastery of concepts while accommodating different learning styles and each student’s individual pace.
Join us at one of our Open House sessions and learn about how our multi-aged student bodies (ages 2 through 3 years old, 3 through 5 years old, and 5 through 10 year olds) thrive in our intellectually challenging atmosphere of cooperative learning.
Lefferts Gardens Montessori Open House Sessions for 2018 - 2019
(General Public - Prospective Families) RSVP
Due to limited seating and space capacity, we ask that only adults attend the sessions.
October 7, 2017
10:00 A.M to 12:00 P.M.
(LGM Elementary - for families with children born in 2013, or current LGM Families)
To register, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lefferts Gardens Montessori Elementary School
559 Rogers Avenue
Each Open House will feature a curriculum presentation
by the Head Teacher/Director at 11:00 AM
1. Attend an Open House Session:
a. Learn about the Montessori Philosophy and Curriculum
b. School's mission and classroom tours
2. Schedule a School Visit:
a. Observe a classroom during Work Period
b. Meet with Admissions, while student applicants meet and work with a teacher
3. Acceptance letters will be released in February 2016, (date TBA), for all current LGM families.
4. Enrollment begins shortly after.
There are seven simple steps to becoming a Montessori parent. When we say simple we don’t mean that they are not challenging. It is a lot like the definition of bull riding. “The object is to keep the bull between you and the ground.” Simple – but challenging.
The first step to becoming a Montessori parent took place when you enrolled your child in a Montessori program. That in itself is a challenge. Most of us weren’t raised in a Montessori school. The whole concept is foreign and takes a bit of courage to step out of the norm and our comfort zone. We may have chosen the program because it wasn’t like our school experience (which is why we chose it.) Or we chose it because we saw something unique in a Montessori child we knew. Or we were just plain lucky and stumbled on to a Montessori school and were fascinated by what we saw. Even then we had to deal with the question, “If this is so great, how come the whole world isn’t lined up outside the door to enroll?” (This is the same question Montessorians keep wondering about too!) But you made a complex and challenging decision to become a Montessori parent. And here you are. So how do you get the best out of your decision? You go to step two.
You begin to understand the core philosophy of what Montessori is all about. Fortunately, you don’t have to become a Montessori teacher to be a good Montessori parent. (You don’t have to know how to manipulate all of those materials and you don’t have to keep fifteen children from climbing the walls.) The most significant Montessori concept is to respect the child. I can almost hear the wheels turning “Of course I respect my child, I love them very much that’s why I have them in Montessori, I want the best for them.” Of course you love them – but respect is different. Respecting the child is first, to respect the nature of children. Children are not mini adults waiting to be molded. They are like tadpoles and caterpillars that have their own form and function of life waiting to become what they are intended to be. We are often impatient for them to become because we don’t realize that childhood – with its curiosity, playfulness, messiness and all – is part of the process of them transforming themselves into the adults they will become. We have to respect that process – which doesn’t mean they always get to do what they want. One of the operative words in Dr. Montessori’s writing is the word “train”. We do need to train our children but we need to train ourselves “not to destroy that which is good” in the nature of our children. The second part of respect is to respect the personality of your child. Your child is not a blank slate. They are already imbued with the unique characteristics of who they are. The artistic bent is already there. The math bent is already formed. The leader, the follower, the giver, the taker, the extrovert, the introvert are already DNA’d into your child. Right or left handed, right or left brained are already formed.
So how do you cooperate with nature? You become an observer. That is the next step in becoming a Montessori parent – you train yourself to observe. What does your child gravitate to? What gives them great joy? What occupies them endlessly? These are all clues to who your child is becoming. You are fortunate that you have a trained helper in your child’s Montessori teacher. Your next parent conference should ask more than what has she done but who do you see her becoming. It is hard to cooperate with nature if you are not aware of the nature of your child.
Our third step is to become their champion. I know. I hear you say, “Of course, I’m their champion. I love them.” And so you do. But are their goals your goals? Translation: Do you have goals for them that do not take into account who they are. (There are many jock fathers who do not have jock sons.) Yes, you have many wonderful goals for them to be caring and loving, honest and faithful, upright, truthful, etc. – and these are worthy, significant and meaningful goals which they should attain to. But the expression of their lives – career, vocation, work – is best met and fulfilled according to their gifts. When your five year old says, “I want to be a fireman.” He may be reflecting the latest book or television program he’s seen. However, if you continue to ask the why questions, “Why do you think that would be a good job? Why do you think that you would enjoy that?” you may discover that your child is not drawn just to the excitement but to the fact of wanting to help people or he likes the aspect of being part of a team. All are important clues to his personality. Your child needs you to champion and encourage his personality (especially, if it is different than yours.)
The fourth step is to practice what they learn at school – grace and courtesy. Please and thank you, may I, excuse me, please forgive me and a host of other considerations practiced (and modeled) at home will go a long way to giving your child every advantage in life. People respond favorably to a child with great manners.
Fifth, practice independence. Independence is the ability to be self-governing and that comes from making choices, living with the consequences and having responsibilities. As often as possible give your children choices. “What do you want for breakfast, cereal or eggs?” “Do you want two spoonfuls of carrots or one?” (Don’t offer choices where there are no choices. “Do you want carrots? They say no and you serve them anyway.) Give your children chores they can accomplish – making their beds, putting dirty clothes in the laundry, dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Chores build responsibility; responsibility builds independence; independence builds confidence.
Sixth, give them the gift of time. Give them time to accomplish their chores. Give them time to be children. Give them time to breathe. Give them your time.
Seventh, practice humility. They have a lot to learn from you. What is easy for you as an adult is mystifying and beyond challenge for them. Let your words be seasoned with grace. Look for the good in what they do. Their motives are often pure; their actions imperfect. Yet, we have a lot to learn from them also. And when you are wrong (when, not if) practice the humility of saying, “Please forgive me.” It will not destroy your authority or their respect for you. It will teach them one of the great lessons of life – when you fail, whether it’s in a relationship, school, career or life – own the failure and start over again – to succeed another day.
Becoming a Montessori parent is to become the best parent you can be.
Edward Fidellow: www.crossmountainpress.com
Micaela Almeda is an experienced educator with more than 12 years experience in Early Childhood and Elementary education. She received her American Montessori Society credentials for Elementary I-II (ages 6-12) from the Princeton Center for Teacher Education. Most recently, Micaela served as the Head of the Upper Elementary Program and the Curriculum Specialist at a midtown Manhattan Montessori school, where she taught grades 3-7. She desiged the curricula for both the Lower and Upper Elementary programs, which incorporated the New York State Common Core Standards. In addition, she organized and led professional development workshops for teachers, coordinated enrichment programs for the school, including collaborating with local museums and other community-based organizations. With her marketing background, Micaela produced print-advertisements in Montessori Life magazine and various marketing brochures for the elementary program.
Prior to becoming an educator, Micaela served as a consultant and a graphic designer. After witnessing her son’s innate love of learning in a nurturing Montessori pre-school, she was drawn to the Montessori philosophy and became a chair member of the parent committee. As her knowledge and passion for the Montessori philosophy grew, she leveraged her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design and crafted Montessori learning materials, which she used to launch an Elementary Montessori program at her son’s school. To achieve this goal, Micaela simultaneously earned her Montessori Elementary credentials while pursuing her Masters degree in Graphic Communications Technology Management (with a specialization in Elementary curriculum).
Micaela was raised in Singapore in an international environment. She looks forward to leading LGME in its goal to provide a high-quality education to a diverse community of students in an interactive, dynamic and supportive environment.
Learn more about LGME
Many parents are attracted to Montessori because of its tremendous reputation for giving their children a great academic education. Parents are willing to spend impressive amounts of money to give their children this academic advantage. But as often as parents are impressed with Montessori excellence, they are a little bewildered that their children come home excited about mopping floors, doing dishes and washing tables. (This is what successful people hire others to do.) So there is a real disconnect between what you want, what you are paying for and what you think you are getting.
How then does Montessori get this academic reputation if all you are seeing for six months or a year is table washing and practical life? Montessori success is not built on its finished academic product but on its sure foundation. So what kind of academics comes from table washing? It is the foundation of what constitutes Montessori education which is built on an enduring set of scientific principles. The first is that you always begin with the concrete before moving on to the abstract. There is nothing more concrete in the child’s life than the exercises of practical life. Second, Montessori education begins with the development of all the senses before moving on to the intellectual. Rest assured your child will arrive. Third, Montessori starts with the control of the physical abilities as a precursor to control of intellectual capacity. Fourth, it builds physical discipline – being able to follow through and complete a project before embarking on intellectual discipline. Fifth, it significantly develops focus on details as a skill set to accomplish academic goals. There is a major difference between 2 + 3 and 2 X 3 – and it is only a minor detail. Sixth, table washing (and all of practical life) is not only a physical challenge for beginner learners but becomes an emotional and psychological building block in the development of confidence and self-esteem. Real confidence and self-esteem is not built on words such as “You did a good job” (whether you did or not) but is built on real achievement and mastery. For a three, four or five year old the process of successfully completing table washing or any other practical life exercise begins a pattern of success. It is a success that comes from beginning a project, working it step by step for as long as it takes until you come to the successful conclusion. This pattern becomes the model for the next stages of academic competence.
What practical life achieves in your child is first a feeling of “I can take care of myself” whether it is table washing or tying shoes. I am given a sense of security that I have some control over my environment and my place in it. Second, it teaches me how to follow steps to success. Third, it builds my confidence by having mastered some challenge which prepares me to tackle even more complex challenges. Fourth, it refines my senses and muscular control so I can effectively use all of the hands on materials in the Montessori classroom to advance my intellectual development.
Every sense, every motion, every action is focused to help me achieve academically. The academic success you hear about in Montessori is built on humble and less than impressive activities that are foundational to this amazing achievement that develops the whole child and prepares him or her for significant academic success.
Practical life is a portrait of the future!