Insights on the Montessori method and Early Childhood Education from Dr. Kathy Roemer
Dr. Kathy Roemer is Executive Director of Twin Parks Montessori Schools in New York City, which include Park West Montessori, Riverside Montessori, and the newest, Central Park Montessori. Dr. Roemer has 28 years of experience as a Montessori teacher, director, consultant and past President of the American Montessori Society Board of Directors (AMS).
Learn more about Kathy here.
On a rainy Wednesday night, Twin Parks Parents participated in a workshop about helping children develop a positive outlook on food. Eric Luongo and Jenna Tomiello, both experienced farmers and educators, presented “Picky Eaters or Budding Taste Buds?” Parents learned about foods that are important for healthy growth, portion sizes, and that it takes some children 15 to 20 times of tasting before they like a particular food. The important act is that they try!
Dr. Sharon Maxwell spoke to a group of Montessori directors at the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools about protecting our children from learning about sex, emotional intimacy, and sexuality from the school bus and playground. Dr. Maxwell, a clinical psychologist for 20 years, has written several articles and a book on sex education.
A couple of points she made that impressed me are:
- always be a source of truth for your child
- have the talk sooner than you think your child is ready, and use words and terms that are developmentally appropriate
- encourage your child to self reflect as much as possible to help develop self-awareness so children are not as influenced by others for their future self image
Early in the Montessori movement, Maria Montessori identified several essential abilities that young children need to develop to be a successful human beings. Among these are independence, concentration, self-regulation, delayed-gratification, intrinsic motivation, memory and order. These developmental milestones are a part of the day-to-day Montessori curriculum and are fostered through the respect and role models of the teachers, as well as a focus on creating a community that practices grace and courtesy.
You cannot measure the mastery of these skills by administering ‘norm’ referenced standardized tests. Montessori teachers are trained to use scientific observation to discern what lessons children are ready to be introduced to, which ones they should be encouraged to practice and those lessons that are mastered or internalized into the everyday life of the child. For several decades, the benefits of a Montessori education were difficult to explain in a culture so dependent on test scores.
Recent theorists of human growth and development have coined the term Executive Function to describe the cognitive control and supervisory attention system that includes working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving and planning and execution. All of those essential elements of a Montessori education are now part of mainstream education and highly regarded for success in school, in college and in the work force. Now is the time for the Montessori Method to shine because we have been developing executive function skills for more than 100 years!
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss, The LoraxThis year, families at all three of our Twin Parks Montessori School campuses will raise money for a New York City group called Charity Water. This organization was chosen for the relatability of its cause to young children. Charity Water offers opportunities for young children to learn about physical and living resources and how they affect people’s quality of life. Many things we take for granted are explained through examples and stories. Feedback from parents reiterates the children’s understanding of the concepts and how they can help create change for others. These are great examples of philanthropy at work. Philanthropy is a big word to pronounce and may seem like a challenging concept to share with children. It is the gift of you that you give to others and can take the form of simple acts of kindness, cleaning a neighborhood park, or giving money to an organization. Philanthropy programs for young people provide authentic, positive opportunities for children to develop skills and knowledge that will make them better students. Teaching children to be active now will have a lasting effect on their citizenship in our global community. Research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana/Purdue Universities has shown that talking to children about charitable giving has a greater impact on children’s giving than role modeling alone. Parents who talk about their own passions and philanthropic giving to their young children are helping to create a lifelong habit. In addition, children learn other executive functioning skills such as organization, communication, teamwork, collaboration and problem-solving skills. Children receive a boost in self-esteem when they perform selfless tasks. This begins the development and growth of empathy. With your help we can teach your children about empathy, caring and how to make the world around them a better, brighter place for all. Please join us in our philanthropic projects this Spring.
“Establishinglasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.” - Maria Montessori
Kelly Hayes from the Young Philanthropists Foundation offers several tips for teaching philanthropy to children.
Here are her top 10 tips:
Find their spark. Help your child find the cause that really gets them going through discussions, articles, books, music, movies, etc. Be prepared and supportive for the possibility that your child does not share your own philanthropic interest areas.
Research before you give. Once your child has chosen a cause, help them research different organizations that address the related issue. You are not just looking for ways to help, you are teaching your child to check out the legitimacy of the organization(s) they are interested in supporting.
The 3 Ss: spend, save, share. Discuss with your child how they’ll divvy up their monthly allowance, birthday, or holiday money into spending, savings, and sharing jars.
Make a virtual or in-person visit. Contact an organization you’re interested in for a tour. You may become even more passionate, or decide that organization is not for you. If site visits are not available, ask about virtual tours. If that is not an option, find a way to concretely represent the charity of choice in your home. It could be a drawing, photos, collage, sign, etc.
Research root causes. Being a philanthropist means researching the deeper causes of a problem and trying to find solutions. For instance, if your child has a classmate with cancer, research the treatments and development of possible cures.
Look for the biggest impact. When you find an organization where giving time or money will make the biggest impact, your child will to want to do more!
You set the example. Kids learn by example so share your own experiences with philanthropy. Talk to your child about where and why you give, and take them with you to volunteer, if possible. If it is not possible for them to volunteer with you, talk about your volunteer experience with them, share photos, etc.
The 3 Ts: time, talent, treasure. Talk about the ways kids can give their time, (helping a neighbor, volunteering), their talent (a student great with computers helping his teachers), or their treasure, (money, gently loved stuffed animal donations, used clothing, etc.).
Engage your friends. Sharing is caring, especially when it’s sharing information about a cause with friends and getting them interested in supporting your charity of choice!
Have fun! Keep it positive! Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s commitment to reinforce the good feeling of giving. Finding the right cause and way to give results in your child is important to it being a positive experience. A young philanthropist who is having fun while giving back will keep on giving for years to come.
Dr. Lydia Soifer presented a talk with parents at Twin Parks Montessori Schools on January 13, 2015. Dr. Soifer’s focus on the benefits of play was enlightening. For instance, she spoke about the importance of parents joining in a child’s play at the level that the child is playing. Adults should not try to change the play or direct it, but rather observe and participate in the activity as the child plays. In addition, there are many executive function benefits from various types of children’s play.
Please listen along with the audio recording (starting at 4:25) while you follow the PowerPoint notes.
One of the opening quote shared by Dr. Lydia Soifer in her 2014 Wonderplay conference was.
Language is the essential condition of knowing, the process by which experience becomes knowledge. M.A.K. Halliday, 1993
Dr. Soifer a language and cognition specialist who works with parents and schools on the development of the whole child, individually and in group, presented at Twin Parks Montessori Schools. Watch this video on language development. Coming soon. . . audio of Dr. Soifer’s talk, Play with me, it will make me smarter!
Earlier this week I was standing at the bus stop by our school and I observed one of our toddlers. He ran down the stroller ramp, stopped at the bottom, and threw his arms in the air. His expression was priceless-a smile spreading from ear to ear. It was evident that he was proud of his accomplishment and was demonstrating the universal body language of “victory.” His dad was not far behind and when I expressed my joy at witnessing the obvious pleasure, he told me that his son naturally uses the “starfish pose.” “What is that?” The informed dad shared this video with me. Watch it to learn more about our natural body language and how small adjustments can influence our self- confidence.
One of the greatest strengths of a Montessori program is the opportunities for children to learn how to be a productive member of a thriving community. Social emotional learning is the “process through which adults and children acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
This is a commonly asked question when children are learning to be independent and self sufficient. Students in Montessori classrooms often change from outdoor to inside shoes throughout the day. This practice helps them to develop their self-care skills which is a major concept in a Montessori environment. When teachers notice that a child has put shoes on the wrong feet, he/she will not correct the mistake and deflate the new sense of accomplishment. Although not perfect, it is a huge task for a 2-6 year old child. Allowing children to learn first hand from their mistakes and with adult time and patience shoes will soon be on the correct feet.
In the meantime, you can get a big sticker and cut it in half. Put one half in each shoe. Show your child that when they are aligned to go on the correct feet, the stickers will join to make a whole.