Montessori Schools of Fremont

Providing premium Montessori education since 1974

Special Needs Children and the Montessori Environment — September 29, 2017

Special Needs Children and the Montessori Environment

Montessori education is a different approach to teaching children. It has shown to be successful with all kids, but has a special significance for children who have special needs. From the materials used to the method employed in the classroom, the Montessori environment is innovative and inclusive, putting a focus on children and encouraging them to enjoy learning and classroom activities.

The Origins of Montessori

Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori Method, began her career working with special needs children and those labeled by the society of the time as handicapped or even unteachable. She discovered that these children, far from being impossible to teach, were able to perform much better when their education was paired with their individual interests. Later, when the first Montessori schools began to open, Maria’s Montessori method became a cornerstone of the educational process, including the arrangement of the classroom, the materials used, and fostering the relationship between children and their instructors.

Classroom Layout and Materials

The Montessori classroom is designed around the children. To begin with, everything is built and arranged to fit child-sized bodies, including the desks and tables, pictures on the walls, and other furniture. Next, interest centers are spaced around classroom, each containing a different assortment of activities and educational tools designed for specific subjects or interests. This allows children to spend more time at learning centers they are comfortable with and slowly move to new and different interests centers as they progress.

Engagement is Crucial

Keeping special needs students involved in a positive and informative way is the critical aspect of the Montessori classroom. With the Montessori method, special needs children are engaged and empowered. They are encouraged to explore ideas and form classroom interactions in ways that traditional classrooms are not prepared for. The result is a child, whether they have special needs or not, that considers himself an important and productive part of the classroom.

Special Needs and Inclusive Environments

Because the prepared Montessori environment provides a consistent framework, it is appealing to children affected by autism and other attention-deficit conditions. It works exceptionally well, for example, with children who are autistic because those children are resistant to – or even rebellious against – change. Montessori allows them to experience regularity in daily activities and gives each child the reassurance that the entire environment is friendly and comfortable.

From classroom design to innovative tools and a child-focused teaching process, Montessori schools have great promise in helping special needs children learn. Even the smaller class sizes mean that educators are able to spend more time with each child, which helps special needs children learn and grow.

The teachers and staff at Day Star Montessori School see each child as their own unique person and are ready to support students of varying abilities.  The Montessori method encourages inclusion and self-guided learning, which works well for children with special needs.  To learn how our school embraces every student, contact us today to schedule a tour.

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Reinforcing the Montessori Method at Home — September 21, 2017

Reinforcing the Montessori Method at Home

Many parents find the child-centered approach of the Montessori method works best for their child in school. Montessori isn’t just for school, though! Whether you’re interested in trying out the Montessori approach with your child, getting your child ready for Montessori school, or just using your methods at home to reinforce the teachings of your child’s Montessori classroom, the principles of Montessori can easily be adjusted to fit your home life.

Foster Independence

Independence is one of the hallmarks of a Montessori classroom. Children are encouraged to do almost everything for themselves, from cleaning up toys and spills, to choosing their own activities.

It may require you to reorganize your child’s closet or make changes to your schedule, but you can encourage similar levels of independence at home. For instance, your child can:

  • Choose his own clothes and get dressed
  • Get ready for the day or get ready for bed
  • Clean up toys, spills, etc.
  • Help with cooking projects

Use Child-Sized Furniture and Accessible Storage

If you walk into a Montessori classroom, you’ll immediately notice that all of the furniture is child-sized, and all of the art supplies, manipulatives, and toys are stored where they are easily accessible to the children, helping children be more independent by removing size-related limitations.

You can help your child be more independent at home too by buying things that are just their size, such as:

  • Table and chairs
  • Supply shelves and storage bins
  • Art supplies, such as scissors
  • Kitchen gadgets and utensils, such as scoops and pitchers

Create a Work Area at Home

In a Montessori classroom, children have what is called the prepared environment,” where they have everything they need to do their work, from books to art supplies to manipulatives. You can bring home this same principle by creating a work area in a corner of your child’s room, the playroom, your office, or even a dedicated art room.

Here are a few things your child’s work area should include:

  • Child-sized table and chairs
  • Supplies such as pencils, crayons, markers, paper, etc.
  • Child-sized equipment such as scissors and glue
  • Books
  • Manipulatives

Follow the Child

Finally, another one of the most important principles of Montessori is the idea of following the child. This means that instruction is child-centered: The teacher may choose the topics, but children decide how they want to explore them, based on their own interests and talents.

Obviously you can’t always “follow the child” at home, but you can set aside specific blocks of time when your child gets to choose what they want to do. Have outings where your child gets to choose where to go and what to do. When outings aren’t possible, let your child engage in free play.

Bringing Montessori Home

Montessori school works wonders for a lot of kids, but there’s no reason the advantages of the method have to be limited to school. With some minor changes, your child can benefit from the greater freedom and confidence at home too.  The teachers at the Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus will work with you to make small changes at home, which will assist in reinforcing the Montessori method your child is experiencing while at school.  Contact us today to set up an appointment and learn more about the Montessori method.

Incorporating Activities into Quiet Time — September 7, 2017

Incorporating Activities into Quiet Time

Quiet time is essential for younger children during the day, but that doesn’t mean it has to be devoid of fun. Quieter activities can be just as stimulating as other activities. They provide a chance for children as young as toddler age to fine-tune their motor skills.

Spooning Objects into Containers

Even though this might seem like a very simplistic activity, it helps children develop their fine motor skills and learn to identify shapes, colors, and individual objects. The exercise involves using a spoon to transfer objects from one container into another. Children will need to pay close attention to make sure they move all the objects into the right places. One fun twist on this activity is encouraging children to sort items for later use in a craft activity.

Finding Animals with a Flashlight

A box filled with replica animals and lavendar or other greenery gives kids stimulation in more than one way. Besides searching through the greenery to find specific animals, which is exciting enough, you can also add to the fun by turning the lights out. Having to look in the dark to find the animals helps increase hand/eye coordination. Providing kids with books about the animals they found in the box will help encourage them to learn more.

Felt Board Stories

For many children, the most fun part of storytelling is crafting their own stories. Kids who love stories and taking the lead in making up their own are very likely to become avid readers and writers. With felt objects that children can attach to a board, they can put together a story they’ll be glad to tell everyone else about. You can encourage children to tell each other about their stories during sharing time.

Craft Sticks

Most people think of craft sticks being used for projects, but they are also useful for children for counting, as well as to create letters or shapes if they have Velcro attached. Choose from craft sticks in multiple bright colors or allow kids to paint them their favorite colors. Once they are ready to use, you can be sure that they will be a favorite.

Quiet activities are just as educational and entertaining for children as activities that involve a lot of talking. They serve the purpose of not disturbing other children who might be napping, as well as appealing to kids who do better in a quieter setting. These activities could easily become a child’s favorites.

At Mission Valley Montessori, our teachers incorporate a variety of hands-on activities throughout the day, including those that are more active and those that are more appropriate for quiet time.  Contact us today and schedule a tour to see the Montessori Method first hand.

Typical Day for a Child at a Montessori Elementary School — August 30, 2017

Typical Day for a Child at a Montessori Elementary School

Montessori elementary school programs are a little different than traditional grade school, with how the day is organized. If you’ve ever wondered what the typical day is like for a Montessori student, here’s a quick summary of how Maria Montessori’s vision plays out in a real-life classroom.

Arrival and Group

Just like with any elementary school, in a Montessori program, the teachers generally request that students be dropped off by a certain time. This is especially important in a Montessori classroom, however, where the children’s focus is so integral to their learning during the three-hour work period. A relaxed arrival, followed by an energizing group period to start the day, gives children the chance to settle in, greet their friends, and get excited about the day of learning that’s ahead of them.

The Work Period

The three-hour work period is one of the hallmarks of the Montessori method. This extended study period allows children to learn independently, teaching them not only the subject at hand, but also the life skills of how to learn and how to motivate oneself. This, ultimately, is why it’s important to get drop-off and socialization out of the way before buckling down: so that children can focus on the work at hand.

When left to learn independently during the Montessori work period, most children start out easy, progressing to more difficult tasks as their focus deepens. Roughly halfway through the work period, what Maria Montessori termed “false fatigue” occurs, where students get a little restless before buckling down one more time. After this period of false fatigue is when students usually do their best work.

There are several aspects of the work period that are vital for any Montessori program:

  • Independent learning. In a Montessori program, the curriculum may be chosen by the teacher, but children decide for themselves what and how they want to learn.
  • Research-based learning. Research is central to a program that emphasizes history and science. Early on, first graders get their first tastes of research-based studies, which will become more central to the curriculum by third grade.
  • Mentoring. The Montessori method also emphasizes classrooms in which the older, more experienced students mentor and assist the younger, less experienced students. This teaches self-confidence and helps children learn to support one another.

“Going Out” Time

In addition to the work period and the prepared environment of the Montessori classroom, “going out” trips are an important part of the student’s day, as they provide context for the research. “Going out” experiences allow students to learn from the world around them as well as from their studies.

Seeing is Believing

A student’s day in a Montessori elementary school is so rich and varied that it’s difficult to capture all of it here.  You’re invited to visit our classrooms and tour our school here are the Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus.  We enjoy showing students and parents how a Montessori school differs from a traditional school.

What is the Teacher’s Role in a Montessori Classroom? — August 28, 2017

What is the Teacher’s Role in a Montessori Classroom?

Preschool and kindergarten teachers may not be associated with rigorous academic curricula, but they actually play some of the most significant roles in your child’s life. The first six years are a crucial time period for developing minds and bodies, and your child deserves an educator who understands their needs and keeps them stimulated and engaged as they prepare for the rest of their lives. They also deserve academic challenges that reflect their current abilities, regardless of age.

So the question remains – what role does a teacher play in a Montessori classroom? Like every other part of the Montessori education, your child’s relationship with their teacher will be completely unique as teachers help each student in different ways. Here are some of the roles you can expect a teacher to play in a Montessori class.

Calm, Helpful Guide

The Montessori teacher isn’t actually a teacher in the traditional sense of the word. Rather than holding all the authority and teaching subjects to their students, Montessori teachers actually work with students, guiding them from one activity to the next and allowing them to explore the subjects they love. A Montessori teacher will nurture a child’s unique strengths and talents, respect them, and give them space and resources to work at their pace. Ultimately, the goal is to help students develop a sense of independence and embrace the benefits of learning and being productive.

Observer of Behavior & Development

As young children continue to grow, their behaviors and skills evolve, and their personalities begin to form. Teachers witness this development in real-time, consistently seeing, observing, and keeping track of each child’s growth. They are trained to follow a life philosophy, not just a specific teaching method, so they know which changes and milestones to expect, how and when to keep families informed, and why it’s so important to spend one-on-one time with each student. Your child’s teacher will be focused on their wellbeing and observant of any gradual or sudden changes that occur.

Role Model

Just as five- and six-year-old Montessori students become role models to their younger classmates, Montessori teachers serve as consistent role models for all their students. Each Montessori teacher is well aware that their words and actions leave a lasting impression on young minds. As they demonstrate new subjects and guide students through hands-on lessons, they are also constantly teaching their class how to behave. Teachers treat children with respect and kindness, expecting the same from them in return, and they are enthusiastic about learning and tackling new challenges. Of course, they also provide real-time examples of life skills like organizing, cleaning, following a schedule, and more.

At Day Star Montessori, we help young minds develop during their formative first six years. Every teacher is committed to nurturing their students’ unique needs and giving them skills for elementary school and beyond. Schedule a visit today to learn more about the roles our teachers play in every student’s life, from toddlers who need enriching daytime care to six-year-olds entering kindergarten.

Important Qualities to look for in your Child’s Preschool Teacher — August 22, 2017

Important Qualities to look for in your Child’s Preschool Teacher

Children spend a substantial amount of their waking hours in preschool, perhaps half or even more depending on the length of their day. With this much influence, not just any preschool teacher will do. Here are a few qualities that make a preschool teacher worthy of the enormous trust you’re placing in them.

  • Passion: First and foremost, a preschool teacher needs to have passion for what they do. Without it, the teacher would find it difficult to approach every day with the unique blend of love, patience, flexibility, and fortitude that makes them so beloved.
  • Education and/or experience: There is no hard and fast rule here as to what combination of education and experience makes a preschool teacher great, but it’s important that they have a solid understanding of child development, combined with the practical day-to-day knowledge of running a classroom.
  • Patience: Any parent knows the level of patience needed to deal with just one preschooler, let alone an entire classroom full of them! The preschool teacher should demonstrate lots of patience when dealing with their class, even on the most unruly days.
  • Flexibility: This goes along with patience. A flexible teacher understands that not every day is going to go according to plan. Sometimes the children’s needs demand a different sort of day than what the teacher has in mind, and it requires flexibility to be able to change plans on the fly. Your child’s teacher should demonstrate spontaneity and a sensitivity to the needs of the children.
  • Creativity: A great preschool teacher needs creativity, not only in planning fun activities that will appeal to preschoolers, but also for problem solving in difficult situations. Ideally, teachers will have unique approaches to teaching or working with challenging students in their classroom.
  • Communicative: Good communication is expected of most adults, but especially of a preschool teacher. Effective teachers need to be able to communicate not only with the children in their care, but also with the other teachers as well as with the adults in the child’s life. It is important for the teacher to be well-spoken and respected by their coworkers and students’ parents.
  • Nurturing: Last but not least, you’ll want a teacher who is loving with their students. Do they comfort children who’ve hurt themselves? Do they reassure kids who are upset, and help them to find a solution? An excellent preschool teacher will demonstrate empathy, respect, and kindness in their interactions with children as well as adults.

Take a moment to think of the best teacher you ever had as a kid. Chances are, they probably exhibited some, if not all, of these qualities, and as a result you still remember them years later. Looking for a preschool teacher with these qualities will give your preschooler the experience of a teacher he or she will love just as much as you loved your favorite teacher, years ago.

Mission Valley Montessori offers programs for children ages 18 months to 6 years. Our teachers enjoy meeting with current and prospective families, showing them the value of a Montessori Education.  Our teachers treat each child as an individual and guide them through the learning process.  Contact us today to meet with our teachers and tour our school.

Hands-On Activities to Teach your Child about Birds — July 28, 2017

Hands-On Activities to Teach your Child about Birds

Birds are all around us, all the time. From common birds such as blackbirds, sparrows, and pigeons, to less common (or less likely to be seen) birds such as owls, hawks, and eagles, our world is filled with birds.

Their prominence in the world around us makes learning about birds fun for all ages. Here are a few ideas for fun, hands-on activities you can use to teach your child about birds.

  • Make a bird-watching book. Have your child help you research the birds that can be found in your area, print out pictures, and make a bird-watching book by pasting the pictures into a notebook with space to write beside each. Then go bird-watching together! With your child’s help, write down when and where you found each bird, and any other interesting details you noticed.
  • Build a birdhouse. Discuss the purpose of a bird’s nest (safety, laying eggs, and raising young), and how different types of birds build their nests. Then help your child to build a birdhouse that could house a nest and keep its occupants safe from the weather. This could be anything from a milk carton birdhouse to a wooden kit you buy at the store. Once the birdhouse is done, hang it in the garden with some birdseed inside and see if any birds come to visit your bird B&B!
  • Make a bird feeder. A bird feeder is easy to make with nothing more than a pine cone, some peanut butter, and birdseed. Help your child pick out a large pine cone that will work well for this project. Tie a string to the stem of the pine cone — do this now so you don’t have to do it once the pine cone is all gooey! Then show your child how to smear peanut butter on the pine cone, covering the entire thing, and roll it in the birdseed. Hang the bird feeder in the garden for the birds to enjoy, and encourage your child to watch from the window for hungry winged visitors.
  • Learn about bird anatomy (with show and tell). For an activity that is a little more science-based, talk about bird anatomy with your child. Feel free to buy books, visit the library, or do research on the Internet with your child, too. Talk about different shapes of beaks, wings, and feet, and what purposes each serve for that bird. Also discuss types of feathers and their purposes; you can use real feathers to show the differences. Haven’t seen any feathers on your walks lately? You can get them at craft stores, from bird-owning friends, or even from a down jacket or pillow.

Children love to learn about the world around them, and birds are just one part of that world. If you want your child’s school to encourage this love of learning, you’ve come to the right place! Take a tour of the Montessori program at Mission Valley Montessori today to see how our curriculum is designed to support and develop your child’s natural curiosity through hands-on learning.