Twin Parks Montessori Schools - Preschool Manhattan, Upper West Side, New York City (NYC)

Kathy’s Insights

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

Kathy’s Insights

Montessori Life

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The phrase Montessori Life has many meanings for me. One is the way that families incorporate Montessori into their homes. This can be developed by placing children’s belongings on organized low shelves, having healthy self-serve snacks available and creating activities children can do independently. Montessori Life also refers to how Montessori teachers approach their work with children by carefully preparing their classroom environments, teaching with respect, joy and wonder.

In addition, Montessori Life is the award-winning magazine of the American Montessori Society. It is filled with articles and helpful information for teachers and parents. This spring’s issue has one of Twin Parks Montessori School’s students on the cover. The photograph was taken by John Roemer, classroom assistant.

I made the cover of Montessori Life!

I made the cover of Montessori Life!

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Assembly Required: Healthy Children

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This year the TEDxUNC talks featured Kathleen Gallagher‘s presentation on The Healthy Child.  It is an excellent talk about the history and research on developing healthy children. There is assembly required. Much of it can come from children being in high-quality early childcare programs like Twin Parks Montessori Schools’ classrooms. Here we help children develop their executive function skills like problem solving, delayed gratification, perseverance and empathy for others. We provide warm, nurturing environments for children to learn and grow.

Children need an abundance of love and care from many adults.  Of course, parents are a tremendous influence over the person the child will develop into. Parents are children’s first teachers and role models.  Language development is also extremely important. Parents should be a source of truth and information for the children to learn about their world, and about the values and traditions of their family. We have the instructions and tools, but overall, assembly is required in raising children.

Check out Kathleen’s talk!

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Exquisite Montessori Math Materials

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I did not understand that math formulas had a visual or concrete form as a high school student taking classes in algebra and trigonometry. I did have an ah-ha moment when  I was taking a Montessori Math class during training to become an Early Childhood teacher.

The Montessori Math materials evolve out of concepts taught with the Montessori Sensorial materials. Children learn to discriminate by size and form. The red rods are followed by the red and blue rods which teach the hierarchical property of quantity. One is part of two, one and two are part of three, etc. These perfect materials allow the smallest hands to feel the difference in quantity – the lessons incorporate movement. The ten rod is carried to the work mat,  held end to end in small hands and is a stretch for the young body.


Holding a 2 rod in two hands - imagine the stretch to do the same with the 10 rod

Holding a 2 rod in two hands – imagine the stretch to do the same with the 10 rod!

Red and Blue Rod layout for symbol and quantity.

Red and Blue Rod layout for symbol and quantity.

To me, the most exquisite of all the Montessori Math material is the Trinomial Cube. In high school, I could memorize the formula of (a+b)³. But I never had an image in my mind that the result would be a larger cube!  Our Early Childhood children ages 3-6 years work with a Trinomial Cube that is made up of cubes, rectangular prisms, each of which represent the components of the formulas’ answer. This material helps build a foundation for later mathematical instruction. When a Montessori educated child takes algebra and is introduced to the Trinomial Cube, I hope that s/he is reminded of the puzzle box of the same name that s/he worked with in preschool. The visual image will come to mind and the process of solving the equation will be understood.
Sorting the cubes and rectangular prisms of the Trinomial Cube.

Sorting the cubes and rectangular prisms of the Trinomial Cube.

images derivation_cube_of_a_binomial

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Creativity in Montessori Education

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Earlier this week, I served as a graduate committee member for a former Twin Parks Montessori School teacher who finished her doctorate at William and Mary College (Alkhudhair). The topic of the dissertation was early childhood approaches to the development of young children’s creativity. The study examined the beliefs, values and perceptions of early childhood teachers in Montessori and Reggio Emilia-inspired schools. We know that 21st century skills require higher-level cognitive skills and innovation because teachers are preparing children for future careers that haven’t even been invented yet.

A few years ago, as a representative of the American Montessori Society, I visited Beijing. I was impressed by the rapidly increasing number of Montessori schools educating young students in that metropolis - one of the largest and most complex on Earth. It was fascinating for me to see students performing the same math, practical life and sensorial lessons experienced by American Montessori school students. On the other hand, I witnessed some of the language and cultural activities in the classrooms unique to Chinese arts and culture. The intricate sewing especially impressed me. What is it about Montessori that is inspiring this prevalence I witnessed?

Montessori Child

Photo Credit: John Roemer

Montessori schools are rapidly opening in China to help promote creativity in education. Dr. Yong Zhao, a forerunner in global education from the University of Oregon, expressed to the audience at the 2011 AMS Annual conference in Chicago that there are many things “right” with American education and that China and other “Asian nations are actually reforming their systems to be more like their American counterparts.” Dr. Zhao stated, “No other country comes close to the U.S. when it comes to exports of intellectual property/knowledge (patents, royalties, copyrights, and licensing fees). Diversity of talents, creativity, entrepreneurship, and passion are what allow nations to thrive.” (Zhao, 2011)

Divergent thinking skills are considered to be at the heart of creativity and creative thinkers use both divergent and convergent thinking. Many of us have heard Sir Ken Robinson talk about the decline of divergent thinking in schools where students are taught to know one correct answer. “Divergent thinking isn’t a synonym, but is an essential capacity for creativity. It’s the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways to interpret a question, to think laterally, to think not just in linear or convergent ways, to see multiple answers, not one” (Robinson, 2009). The Montessori method encourages divergent thinking.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has similar thoughts on creativity. “It is easier to enhance creativity by changing conditions in the environment than by trying to make people think more creatively.  . . . a creative accomplishment is almost never the result of sudden insight, a light bulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work” (Csikszentmihalyi, p. 1). We know that many of the jobs that our students will be engaged in as adults have not yet been invented. As educators we must allow for and support creativity as we prepare our classroom environments.

If we examine the lives of some well-known creative individuals, perhaps we can better know how their learningenvironments influenced them. According to Marissa Mayer*, “You can’t understand Google unless you know that both Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were Montessori kids. To do something that makes sense, not because some authority figure told you. In a Montessori school you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so. This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, ‘Why should it be done like that?’ It is the way their brains were programmed early on” (Levy, p. 122).

The Google founders also provide this same Montessori-like environment for their employees. It is referred to as the 20 percent Work Plan. Just as it was crucial to Montessori that nothing a teacher does destroys a child’s creative innocence, Brin and Page felt that Google’s leaders should not annihilate an engineer’s impulse to change the world (Levy, p 124).

Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. “Most of the things that are interesting and important and human are the results of creativity.” (Csikszentmihalyi, p. 1) When people are engaged in creative activities, many feel they are living their lives more fully than at other times.


Photo Credit: John Roemer

Photo Credit: John Roemer

How does the Montessori method encourage creativity?

Montessori classrooms offer:

• Ground rules, and a framework that is built on values and honesty

• Include well trained teachers who are role models and know when to step in or stand back

• Opportunities for students to work cooperatively in groups and/or individually

• A place where mistakes are opportunities for learning to take place and possibility thinking is encouraged

• Schedules that allow for large blocks of uninterrupted work time for students to concentrate on their work and to make choices

• Observation and attention that allows us to prepare the environments with student’s interests in mind

• Respect for individuals, their choices and their work and fostering intrinsic motivation

• A balance between skill development and challenges

• A belief that all students can be successful

• Support and encouragement for students from all social, ethnic, economic and emotional backgrounds


The Montessori method offers many ways to encourage creativity in our classrooms. During uninterrupted work periods many students experience what Csikszentmihalyi refers to as “flow”. This is the state or feeling of well being when things are going very well, almost automatic, effortless and in a highly focused state of consciousness (Csikszentmihalyi, p. 110). Maria Montessori definitely understood the need for this same “flow” to happen in our prepared classrooms.

* Marissa Mayer is now the current president and CEO of Yahoo. Previously she was a long-time executive, and key spokesperson for Google, the first female hired at Google, and one of the first 20 Google employees.



Alkhudhair, D. (2015). Early childhood teachers’ approaches to the development of young children’s creativity. A dissertation presented to the faculty of the school of education at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. Unpublished.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York:   HarperCollins

Levy, S. (2011). In the plex: how Google thinks, works, and shapes our lives. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Robinson, K. (2009). Divergent thinking. Talk presented at Royal Society of the Arts. You Tube online:

Zhao, Y. (2011). Catching up or leading the way: American education in the age of globalization. Keynote address American Montessori Society Annual Conference, March 25, 2011.


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Children and Food: Picky Eaters or Budding Taste Buds?

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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!

Parents also were able to try some fun tools including the Spiralizer and Apple Machine.

Parents made and ate Green Spaghetti with pesto, Cabbage Cole Slaw, and Green Goddess dip. Take a look at this great list of resources provided by Eric and Jenna: List of Resources Picky Eaters.

Parents Learn to Make Green Spaghetti

Parents making Green Spaghetti

Parents Eating Green Spaghetti

Eating Green Spaghetti

Guest demonstrates a clever method for children to smash garlic. Simply place a can on top and press down!

Clever method for children to smash garlic – place a can on top and press down!


Green Spaghetti

The kids took on the challenge of making their own green spaghetti.

Eating Green Spaghetti

Eating Green Spaghetti

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The Talk with Your Child – When Should You Have it?

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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

Dr. Maxwell also recommends reading Peter Mayle’s book, Where Did I Come From? to your children.

How will you have “the talk” when the time comes?

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The Development of Executive Function Started With Montessori

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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!

On Thursday, March 12, 2015, Dr. Kathy Roemer and Dr. Janet Bagby will be presenting at the 2015 American Montessori Society’s Annual Conference. The focus of their presentation is Children’s Development of Executive Functions.

Please watch this video to learn more about Executive Function, and contact Twin Parks Montessori Schools for more information.

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Caring for Others Begins Early

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax Twin Parks Montessori Schools New York - PhilanthropyThis 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.

Establishing lasting 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. 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.).
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
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Play With Me and I’ll Be Smarter!

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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.

Dr. Lydia Soifer

Dr. Lydia Soifer

TwinParksParents PlaywMeSmarterParents-HO

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Just because you taught it, doesn’t mean they learned it. . .

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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!

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