Twin Parks Montessori - Largest Accredited Montessori Program in Manhattan

Kathy’s Insights

Insights on the Montessori method and Early Childhood Education from Dr. Kathy Roemer

Your Gifted Child: Why Montessori May Be The Answer

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All children are gifted and unique in so many ways.

Each individual shares a part of themselves with the world a little differently than everyone else. A more formal definition of giftedness is children who give evidence of high-performance capabilities in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership or specific academic fields who require services not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities. Sometimes a child’s mind develops at a more rapid rate than their physical growth. The estimated number of gifted children is between 6 and 10% or 3-5 million students.

Traditional, general education schools make accommodations in the regular classroom like advanced projects and studies, pull out advanced group sessions, acceleration or grade advancement. Grade advancement is difficult because social-emotional development is not always advancing at the same rate as academic abilities. How does the Montessori method address these gifted students?

Montessori early childhood classrooms are multi-aged and contain a range of curriculum materials from 2.5 years to 7 years of age.

Students can enter the classroom and with an assessment by teachers, advance at their own pace. If a student excels in verbal and language arts abilities he can progress through all of the letter/sound recognition, blending, creating words with the movable alphabet and be reading within a short time.

Teachers rely on a students’ ability rather than age or grade for placement.

Children who are interested in numbers and math can advance rapidly through 1-10, teens, tens and thousands using golden bead materials. Students learn about cubing by using a variety of prisms, some square some rectangular inside cube-shaped boxes. One is called the Binomial Cube and the other is the Trinomial Cube. These prisms ard put together to form the solution to (a+b)2 and (a+b+c)3. When I was a high school algebra student, I had to learn the Binomial Cube and the Trinomial Cube formula. I did not know that each of the cubes squared or cubed made a larger cube – did you? I didn’t visualize math formulas. Montessori math materials define a solid foundation for later abstraction.

Binomial and Trinomial Cubes

Binomial and Trinomial Cubes

The Montessori Math materials are mathematically perfect in construction with attributes that enable students to make comparisons between materials. Mathematics is sensorial, seeing a thousand golden beads in a cube, feeling its weight, comparing it to one unit bead or a ten bar or a hundred square gives a firm foundation of number relationships and quantity. (Can you tell that I adore the Montessori Math material?)

Every area of the classroom has advanced materials.

The youngest children in the classroom can experience the materials sensorily without learning the concept. When they are ready for more advanced experiences the teachers can present specific lessons to the children. In addition, there remains the joy in discovery to see that the pink tower cubes are the same size and shape as some of the elements of the binomial and trinomial cube. That the geometric solid shapes can be seen in features within the classroom.

We remember 10% of what we read

20% of what we hear

30% of what we see

50% of what we see and hear

70% of what we discuss with others

80% of what we personally experience

95% or what we teach others

– Edgar Dale

In a multi-aged classroom where older children are role models for younger children and older children help to teach younger students – they do retain an exponential amount of information.

Authentic experiences also increase the amount of information retained. For instance, if a child learns how to tie a bow by using a dressing frame, she will be able to tie her own and other’s shoes. A child who serves snack, one napkin and cup for each child will understand one to one correspondence. Children who learn to take care of and respect the classroom will take care of their belongings at home.

Montessori classrooms are safe spaces where mistakes are opportunities for learning to take place.

Children experiment, make their own choices and plan their morning work cycles. Children also set their own learning goals. I worked with a 4-year-old student who loved Geography. He set a personal goal to learn every country in the world. He worked one continent at a time. He made his own set of continent maps with countries labeled with colored pencils. They were beautiful works of art. Once he accomplished the countries, he started on the capitals. It was his own personal independent project based on his interests.

Montessori classrooms have large blocks of uninterrupted work time.

What this means is that children do not change classrooms or have specialty teachers teaching during this prime learning time. Teachers do organize one-on-one time and direction and small group lessons. This allows students the time to work through various tasks and responsibilities at their own pace. It is vitally important for building concentration, coordination, independence, and order. Executive function skills of problem-solving, perseverance, working memory, mental flexibility and self-control all need time to develop.

The Montessori method of education meets the needs of all types of learners. Gifted learners excel in a Montessori classroom!

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The Treasures We Take With Us

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We know that parents are the greatest influence in a child’s life. Teachers run a close second.

Research has shown that teachers who have high expectations, who teach with respect and love have a long lasting impact beyond social and academic influences. Teachers are role models who inspire and encourage children to strive for greatness, live up to full potential and see the best in themselves. Teachers can change children’s lives.

What children learn in these early years are the building blocks and scaffolding of the moral beings they will become as adults. We are proud that we shared these milestones with so many families.

This time of year is always bittersweet for teachers and school administrators. We are excited about finishing another year, and anticipating our summer plans. And we are sad to say goodbye. Our goodbyes are many: to children who are aging up and going onto elementary school; goodbye to children leaving our classroom for another; goodbye to team members who are moving onto another school or job opportunity; and, goodbye to families leaving New York City.

We hold many treasures in our hearts and minds. The smiles and happy faces of children who have grown and learned so much during their time with us and their families who have given us their trust in the care of their child. I have a special place where I keep the handmade cards and artwork that children have given me. Each classroom has a memory book of the children for children to enjoy in years to come.

We treasure so many little things, too. When a child says our name for the first time. When a child exclaims, “I did it!” We treasure the laughter. When an assistant understands that Montessori really works. When a parent recognizes and thanks us for our work.

We thank you for sharing a wonderful year!

One of our best-kept secrets is that working with young children helps keep us young in body, mind, and spirit. ~ Kathy Roemer

Twin Parks Montessori School

Twin Parks Montessori School

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How to Teach Children Patience

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Many parents experience a whining child or a child throwing a tantrum. These are not pleasant experiences for the parents or for the children. One of the main reasons for these responses to a situation is that children have not learned how to “wait”.

Adults do a lot of waiting in doctor’s offices, in line at the grocery store, for the train, or recently for me on jury duty. As an adult, we have many ways to keep occupied while we are waiting. Besides using our ever-present technology, we read books and magazines, knit, play Solitaire, or think. How do we teach children how to occupy themselves in times when they have to wait?

If you have read books by Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, or Pamela Druckerman’s book on French parenting, Bringing Up Bebe, you will know that some of our American issues are related to lack of affordable child care help and public assistance for new parents. However, the way America handles maternity leave, daycare and public education are topics for another essay and won’t help you when your child is pulling on your clothing to get your attention when you are just trying to finish your coffee before it gets cold. Whew!

Children do need to learn expectations, family and home ground rules, and  how to be respectful and appropriate. This requires Face-To-Face Interactions with adults to learn how to do and be. For instance if a child is throwing books off of a shelf, this is a perfect time for an adult to demonstrate how to put them back in place – and that activity is fun, too. Instruction has to be firm but with love. Children who are given only love without expectations and limits become the whining, obnoxious little people who embarrass and harass adults. Spending time to teach and practice skills with children when they are young sets the stage for thoughtful, peaceful responses to life’s stressful moments.

Cooking teaches patience!

Children can be taught to have patience and the key is that it takes Parental Time to Teach and for the children, Time To Practice. And children need to understand what it means to “wait”. You have plenty of daily examples, for instance, “when I am talking on the telephone or to someone else” or “when we are at a doctor’s office”, or “when we are waiting for a train”. Parents have to be present in these moments in time to teach the concept of waiting. Parents can give examples of what they do while waiting, hum or sing a song, read or look at magazine, observe your surroundings and play I Spy, count objects, etc. And parents will have to practice these techniques with their children until they can do it alone – the key is that they can do it alone.

One of the observations that I and other Montessori educators make is that often adults underestimate the potential of young children. If adults expect children to operate at the top of their intelligence, respect possibilities and plan and allow for more time, many skills are attainable. Some of adult pitfalls to avoid include: nagging, rushing and sarcasm. None of these tactics work with young children. Modeling patience, using reflective listening, timers, teaching coping skills and doing activities that require patience with your child are golden. Cooking together is a perfect example of an activity that requires being organized, following directions and waiting. Try baking a cake together!

Bake a Cake!

Bake a Cake!

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Homework for Young Children

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This essay won’t be about the school work children bring home from school, instead it will focus on the kind of work children can do at home.

Doing chores is a tradition in many families. The benefits include learning about responsibility, being independent, increasing confidence, making a contribution, the feeling of adding value to your family. Chores also give children the message that these tasks need to be completed for the household to run smoothly. Young children naturally want to be a part of the family and help.

Sometimes we wait too long to introduce them because we don’t think children are ready.What are age appropriate chores for young children?  As Infant and Toddler Guru, Dr. Virginia Varga told me, “Toddlers can do anything you prepare them for”. Young children learn by doing! There are many wonderful ways children can help. Look at this graph for ideas when choosing chores for young children.

Age appropriate chores

Age appropriate chores

A relaxed approach is best so chores are not a struggle. Role modeling the activity will be necessary to get started. And perhaps a “I’ll do one and you do one” turn taking activity will help facilitate rhythm of the work.

Chores were a part of my life as a young child with 4 siblings. I remember my first chore was to clean the leaves of all of our houseplants. Later, I folded clothes, dried the pots and pans (my oldest sister always washed the dishes), cleaned the bathroom and my bedroom. My favorite thing to do was help my mother with the cooking. My husband grew up on a farm in Texas. He was always helping his dad with chores that included fixing and making things out of those items you don’t throw away cause you may need them some day. As a teenager, he could rebuild engines of all types of vehicles, take care of the livestock, prepare the fields on a tractor, repair fences, etc. He has often remarked that he enjoyed tinkering with machines with his father.

Practical Life in a Montessori Classroom

In our Montessori classrooms, children take care of their own belongings and classroom materials. They water the plants, take care of classroom pets, straighten the books in the library, bus their table after lunch and snack and sweep and mop the floor after spills, sort and fold towels, put away dishes. Many of these activities are located in the the Practical Life area of the classroom. All of these activities translate into work at home.

Perfection will not happen every time or even consistently. Encouragement for effort and completion of a task goes a long way to help children repeat the task. Job charts can work well as a reminder. Money should not be attached to chores. Money does not mean that much for young children and can be a de-motivator as the child ages. For teenagers, allowances can be earned for going above and beyond the established chores.

Siblings helping with laundry.

Siblings helping with laundry.

Children who do chores learn responsibility and learn important life skills that will help them throughout their lives. It is not too late to start a plan now!

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Kathy’s Insights