Kathy’s Insights

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

What is an Inclusive Community?

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slide_tapestry-program-cropped At Twin Parks Montessori Schools we are working to change the conversation from “diversity,” which is looking at differences, to “inclusion” and helping to make everyone feel a part of something larger – the Twin Parks Montessori School Community (TPMSC). We are preparing our students to be part of a global society. We are creating a safe space that is welcoming, supportive and safe for every unique individual within our school. This space will be safe for people regardless of color, ethnicity, gender or other unique abilities and characteristics.

“… Raising students to live in a bubble — a white bubble, a black bubble, a Latino bubble, whatever type of bubble you want to call it — is not to your benefit in a global society.” — Derrick Gay, New York Times

Our students make sense of their environments by sorting the objects, people and experiences in their world. For instance infants go through phases of stranger anxiety. They meet a new person who does not fit into family member, caregiver, or teacher category, and turn away or become upset. Toddlers and Early Childhood children sort by shape, color, texture, sound, taste and appearance. For example, children may sort their classmates by length of hair, gender, or by skin tone. Yes, they do see the differences. It is our job as adults to help them see the similarities of all human beings. We all have hair, we all have eyes, ears and noses. We are all fabulously unique and similar in so many ways. Children learn prejudice from prejudice, not from learning about human diversity (Sparks and Edwards, p.4) From the moment we are born we are inundated with messages, verbal and non-verbal about different types of people. Children learn about stereotypes without realizing it. Adults’ tone and behaviors help children to be inclusive in their interactions with others.


Children learn to be proud of themselves and their families, and to respect human differences. Many of our classrooms display pictures of students’ families. They are a reminder of loved ones and they offer comfort for children acclimating to a new school experience. It is important for children to see themselves and their families reflected in our school. TPMSC’ families are all unique just like our students. Some families have more than one child or an adopted child, some have one parent or two and they may be the same gender, some are multi-generational with grandparents in the home, some may have family members who have a physical difference or use a wheelchair.

Our social and emotional curriculum allows for children to express how they feel to one another. This can be as basic as “I don’t like that, please stop” or, “You hurt my feelings when. . . ” Our goal is for students to increasingly recognize unfairness, and have language to describe it and understand that it can be hurtful for themselves and others. Our teachers observe behaviors and listen to conversations to help facilitate learning new words to use and actions to take.

Our first steps began at the start of the year during a full day workshop with Derrick Gay. We collaborated with Derrick to better understand our own perceptions and deepened our commitment to having an inclusive and empathetic community. Self-reflection to deeply understand our own lives is crucial to assisting children in developing to their fullest potential.


Sparks, L.D. and Edwards, J.O. 2010. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

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Collaboration – Montessori Style!

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One form of collaboration is related to education. Collaboration happens when a group of students are working together to solve a problem, complete a task or create a product. We encourage collaboration in the Montessori classrooms at Twin Parks Montessori of NYC by having multi-aged groups, offering opportunities to explore and discover, to use their divergent and creative thinking,  to invite others to share work, inspiring children to talk during work time, and to consider other students as sources of knowledge.

Children collaborating with Montessori Sensorial materials.

Children collaborating with Montessori Sensorial materials.

The Montessori Movement is experiencing an historic thrust of collaboration. The Montessori Public Policy Initiative, supported by the Trust for Learning, hosted a retreat for Montessori leaders from the Association Montessori International/USA and the American Montessori Society, October 25-27, 2015 in Washington, D.C. This event was truly collaboration at the highest level of cognitive function to benefit children and Montessori education. I was honored to be included in this group of individuals and represented New York City and the state of New York.

Richard Ungerer, Executive Director of the American Montessori Society and Bonnie Beste, Executive Director of Association Montessori International/USA said the final words at the Montessori Public Policy Initiative Retreat in Washington, D.C. today. It was a historic event that brought educators and policy makers from 26 states together to address issues Montessori schools and teachers are grappling with. Everyone participated in fantastic networking and problem solving - all Montessorians working together.

Richard Ungerer, Executive Director of the American Montessori Society and Bonnie Beste, Executive Director of Association Montessori International/USA said the final words at the Montessori Public Policy Initiative Retreat in Washington, D.C. today. It was a historic event that brought educators and policy makers from 26 states together to address issues Montessori schools and teachers are grappling with. Everyone participated in fantastic networking and problem solving – all Montessorians working together.

Attendees from charter, private and public schools shared their states successes and areas that they need additional help. Topics discussed included: national trends in education policy, advancing Montessori in the face of changing trends, messaging and advocacy, teacher certification, and state action planning. We all gained incredible knowledge about next steps for our own states and promoting Montessori as a choice for all students. Added bonuses were the incredible networking and the opportunity to make new friends. This meeting of the Montessori minds was an exquisite example of the meaning of collaboration in a Montessori setting. The attendees’ focus on shared work was a joy to experience and I wish all of their students could have witnessed.

 Montessori is on the Rise! Montessori Rocks!

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Dealing with Death: When a Loved One Isn’t Coming Back

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I have a 55 gallon fish aquarium at Park West Montessori School. Many fish can live it in at one time. I have had my share of types of fish including  African Cichlids that were constantly reproducing, to community fish of Gouramis and Loaches. There is one lone survivor, a 6″ long Plecostomous, who survived a pH imbalance, multiple water changes and many different neighbors.


Many children and families gaze at the aquarium when they visit the school’s admissions office for the first time. Some children remember the fish and come back to visit them when they enroll. Each year a few children come to say hello to the fish when they arrive in the morning and say goodbye when they leave for the day – everyday they attend.

Children notice when a fish is missing. They ask, “where is the silly fish?”, “is it hiding”? What do we say when the fish has died and isn’t coming back?

Child development experts believe that it is good for children to have pets and learn about life cycles so they have some experience with death and dying on a smaller level before a human loved one dies.

Young children go through stages of understanding of learning when a love one is there, gone, and coming back. The term object permanence refers to the ability to know that objects and people continue to exist even though they can no longer be seen or heard. Babies and toddlers do not understand that when adults leave the room that they will return.

As children mature physically and cognitively, they learn to anticipate when a parent or care giver will return. They learn to predict the schedule of the day. Rest comes after lunch and then I go home after snack. Although early childhood aged children seem to have a better understanding about death and appear to take the news of Grammy’s death as a natural occurrence they are just beginning to understand what it means when someone is never coming back. Conversations will continue to occur long after the loved one dies. A child will ask a month later when Grammy is coming to visit, or ask to call her on the telephone.

Explaining about death is a difficult and daunting task that you hope you are prepared to do when the time comes so you are not caught like a “deer in headlights” and say the first thing that comes to mind. Here are a few things to consider when discussing death.

1.  Keep the language you use age-appropriate. Answer questions simply without a long explanation or cause of disease and death.

2. Be honest. Spinning a softer, more comfortable story may lead you further down the rabbit hole. Better to be brief and truthful.

3.  Never tell a child that some one who died is asleep. For some children this can cause fears of going to sleep themselves.

4.  Keep it true to your family’s values and beliefs.

5. Leave it open for discussion. Answer the questions as they occur including what other people may believe.


Books are a wonderful lead into life’s difficulties. Here are a few titles on the topic of death for 3-5 year old children:

• The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia

• The Two of Them by Aliki

• I Had a Friend Named Peter by Janice Cohn

• I Miss You by Pat Thomas

• The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst

• Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie De Paola

• Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker

• I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm

• Lifetimes: the beautiful way to explain death to children by Bryan Mellonie


Which leads me back to the aquarium and life under water. What is the lifespan of tropical fish? Will the Clown Loach who died be missed? Where did he go?


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Introducing Brené Brown – Shame and Vunerability

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Brené Brown is an American scholar, author and public speaker who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Within the last 15 years, Dr. Brown has been researching a range of topics including vulnerability, courage, worthiness, empathy and shame. Dr. Brown says that “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Her latest book, “Rising Strong:  The reckoning, the rumble and revolution” is available to read now.


As a keynote speaker at the 2012 American Montessori Society’s annual conference, Dr. Brown told the audience that Montessorians are committed to helping ground children in a deep sense of purpose. Montessori provides feelings of worthiness which is an essential train in our increasingly anxious word.

Listen to Dr. Brown talk about the courage to be vulnerable


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What does it take to help students become life long learners?

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board-812129_1280In Montessori schools we offer opportunities for students to develop life long learner skills in the following ways:

• Respect for all

• Choice in activity and work selections to develop interests and passions

• Opportunities to share and listen and ask questions

• Creating classrooms with a balance of challenge and caring

• Classrooms where mistakes are opportunities for learning

• Teachers who are guides and role models

• Multi-aged groups where students find their place naturally

• Uninterrupted blocks of work time

• Opportunities to collaborate with other students

• Reliance on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivators

• Encouragement for efforts and multiple attempts on the path to success

• Partnership with parents and understanding of the importance of family time

• A sense of humor

In the Mind/Shift article about teaching strategies it states that when educators make space for play, and passion, students develop purpose.

Watch Tony Wagner’s TED talk for more on helping students become life long learners!

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Transition from Summer to a New School Year – Are You Ready?

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Do you know people who over-commit their time and energy? Sure you do. I just have to look in the mirror! Can you remember how we organized our time before we had cell phones, laptops and iPads? Being busy has become a status symbol. As we make a change from summer and vacation to a new school year beginning we all have to make adjustments in our sleep and active schedules. On top of that, there are several holidays throughout the fall and winter that adds stress to our daily lives. I have already seen Halloween decorations in stores.


We could write a book about our experiences with our children and holidays. What is expected to be an exciting visit with extended family and might include shopping and gift giving often has unexpected results. Our children often behave out of character, and the adults wind up exhausted or suffering from migraines that can last from now until next year. (I think I will save the topic of holidays for another post!) Instead of trying to please everyone – including your children, now is the time to evaluate what worked last year and what you might consider changing.



back-to-school-parents-celebrate-vanPrepare your children for any upcoming event by talking about it beforehand, whether it is starting school, a shopping trip, a visit with friends, or travel out of town. Explanations can be brief with opportunities for your child to ask questions if s/he wants to know more. Your child may surprise you with feedback that lets you know what works for her/him. Review your expectations prior to social situations such as a dinner party. This will help children know the rules in advance. This can be as simple as letting them know they will be sitting at the table with others to eat and then will be able to play afterwards. Remind them to use their indoor voices and to be careful of breakable items. Always leave extra time to get ready so everyone is not rushed. Allowing for plenty of down time helps enormously. Be aware that constantly changing plans or making last minute decisions will increase the potential for stress. Also, take care in making promises you may not be able to keep.


Children crave routine and consistency. While a new routine is being established, it is important to be consistent with mealtimes and bedtimes as much as possible. Before leaving the house to go in the morning, make sure everyone has a substantial breakfast – including parents. Also, carry small healthy snacks and bottled water along with you.

Take breaks during the day before things get out of control. Expect young children to become cranky or display inappropriate behaviors occasionally. Remember that they have shorter attentions spans than you do and they tire easily. What happens if your child does start crying, running away from you, begins twirling or pulling, has accidents, or is not able to sleep? This maybe a good time to teach relaxation techniques – for you and your child. Sit down, take deep breaths, have a snack together, play with play-dough, draw a picture, or go to a quiet place and read a book together.


Slow down next week and spend time at home with your children. Rest and relaxation before a schedule change is paramount to a successful transition. We are all able to handle new things when our minds and bodies are well rested and nourished. Take walks with your family. Walk past your child’s school to see how long it takes.


Remember to Play! Build with blocks, have a tea party under a sheet-covered table, have a pajama party. Sing in the car, at home, or any time at all. Reading to your child and singing songs are two fantastic ways that you can promote early literacy. Take walks in the parks to find hidden nooks and crannies to play hide and go seek. These intimate times with your children will have lasting benefits and create memories that can carry on to the next generation.

Be proactive- if we are paying attention, we can redirect our children’s extra energy before a situation gets out of control. Sometimes the situation requires our thoughts and actions to be about our children rather than our own expectations. After all, your greatest gift to your child is you – your time and your undivided attention. Everything else is just trimmings.


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A Montessori School’s Community

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Education is enormously impacted by our global society and technology’s influence on the ways we communicate. These changes directly affect the learning that takes place in our schools.

Do you wonder what you can expect from a school’s community?

School communities include families who are returning and those that are new, teachers, staff and administration, caregivers, grandparents, and building maintenance crews. Everyone is contributing to provide a safe environment that is both educational and enjoyable for its members. Your family, the school, and the location of the school (urban, suburban, rural) are three major contexts in which children live and grow. These overlapping spheres of influence are important because they have a direct impact on children’s learning and development. One of Twin Parks Montessori School’s (TPMS) beliefs is that we form a partnership with parents during this journey of learning for children.

Our community shares common values: children are precious beings in our care; family time is important and protected; excellent education and expectations are vital; creativity, independence and intrinsic motivation are important life skills; and, we rely on one another to help our children experience success. The location of TPMS in New York City also provides a globally diverse experience for our community of learners of all ages.


We also strive to continue the work of Maria Montessori by following her tenants of respect for all, fostering independence, and enabling large blocks of uninterrupted work time for students to discover and learn. We have common goals of developing executive function skills with our students: planning, organizing, collaborating, remaining flexible, using memory, patience, persevering, and demonstrating empathy for others.

At TPMS, we strive for cordial, collegial and encouraging communication with parents. We use multiple tools for communicating news from the classrooms, articles on parenting and education and general announcements from the school administration. Each classroom has an email account and teachers are available during the day to make and receive telephone calls.

Parents are also invited to participate in a variety of parent education events at school. Our classroom orientations are an opportunity to learn more about your child’s classroom and meet the other parents who will share the year with you. Parents use our web-based Google calendars to sync with theirs as a reminder of these invaluable learning opportunities.

The first decade of life is the time when children are developing their personalities and moral compasses. At no other time is overall growth so pronounced and rapidly changing. Perhaps the most influential teachers are those that a child experiences during his/her first 10 years. These first teachers assist the child and his/her family as they negotiate their physical, behavioral, cognitive and social development. Your decision to enroll in a Montessori school enables your child to experience and excel in an environment tailored to his/her developmental needs with materials that will provide comfort and challenges.

The search for a vibrant school community must be on your checklist of essential ingredients for the education of your child. Your school community, its values and commitment to education are essential for the success of your child in joining the dynamic society in which they live.


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Starting School: Your First Separation from Your Child

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Adults have experienced many separations throughout their lives: from parents at the start of a new school year, or joining a child care group, our grandparents as they age, our siblings when they go off to college or start their own family, or losing beloved pets that we spent joyous hours playing with. Consciously or not, we carry the feelings that we experienced in our past to our current separations from our children when they start school for the first time. It is important that we do relay anxiety or hesitation when our children are entering the classroom, and here we’ll guide you through your first separation from your child.

Mothers and babies at school


“Phase-in” refers to the initial time period of transition for children as they begin to attend school. During this time children become familiar with the new environment, new people and new routines. The key to a successful phase-in process is that it’s done gradually. It may begin with you and your child spending an hour in the classroom and gradually work up to the full work cycle, lunch, rest and then the full day. Teacher will observe the children carefully to see what interests they have and remind them of the activity the next day. Building connections early is essential.

Toddlers at schoolDepending on the age of the child, the phase-in process will differ. Babies sense the warmth and caring emanating from other adults and feel content when their needs are met. Young toddlers are experiencing a new found sense of independence and are learning that they are not a physical part of their parents. Object permanence is a lesson that is not fully mastered at this age. Toddler do not have a sense of time to know their parent will come back after rest or at the end of the workday. Children who are in the 3-5-age range are eager to try new things, meet new friends and discover how things work. Their acclimation often takes a short amount of time.

Early Childhood

At Twin Parks Montessori School, we phase in children slowly and follow the child’s lead and comfort level. Parents are notified that phase in may take two weeks or longer. Teachers make home visits for babies and toddlers to become familiar with the physical space the child lives in. Attention is paid to noise level, feeding schedule, lighting in the room when the child sleeps. It is also helpful for the child to see the teachers for the first time in their own home with their parents and get the sense that teachers are friends.

For all children, returning and new, we email a picture of the teaching team. It helps to learn names and faces before school begins. One parent shared that they framed the teachers’ picture and each night the child said goodnight to teachers before going to sleep.Working with the Pink Tower


A few key tips for successful separation:

• Walk by the school before the school year starts so your child become familiar with the route and hears the words, “your school”.

• Schedule some down time before school begins, family time to be together taking walks, reading books, playing together will help ensure your child is well-rested and ready for a new beginning.

• Tell a personal, positive story about your experience in school.

• Be positive; your child can sense your own separation anxieties; if you’re enthusiastic,

your child will be too.

• Read books about school when you’re home.

• If your child cries, remain calm. Instead of saying, “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” or,

“There’s no reason to cry.” It’s best to address your child in a positive way: “It’s okay to be afraid. Your teachers will take care of you.”

• Never sneak out or “slip away.” Tell your child that you’re leaving the classroom. Be consistent and give one quick goodbye, each time you leave.

• When you leave, tell your child where you’re going, when you’ll be coming back, and what you’ll be doing. Please follow the teacher’s instructions on when to come back, when to leave, etc.

• Do not ask your child for permission to leave the classroom. For example, “Is it okay if I go now?” This can be confusing to your child. Be matter of fact instead.

• Please trust that we will comfort your child when you leave and that your child is in good hands.

You and your child are not alone in experiencing some trepidation. The first days of school are exciting and full of unknowns for everyone, children, parents, teachers, and administration. Teachers have told me they pick out their clothes the night before, have their bag all ready to go, and still they loose sleep thinking about the first day of school! You are in great company!


We love Twin Parks Montessori School!


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Childhood Traits That Predict Adult Success

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This morning I had a humorous conversation about childhood traits that predict adult success. Is it yearning to be someone you are not? Is it wishing your family had the financial ability to host a birthday party in a private jet? Is it wearing the name-brand clothing and sneakers? Or is it being able to delay gratification, finding joy in small things, reading for pleasure or being a good friend?

Over the past 10 years, more research has been conducted and written about the traits that predict adult success for a well-rounded, productive life. The term executive function has become the buzz word to describe the personal growth and development of a person from birth to late-twenties in terms of judgement, planning, organizing, using working memory and flexibility in thinking. This development happens in the frontal cortex and is added by the emotional centers of the brain.

Executive functions cover a variety of skills that allow one to organize behavior in a purposeful, coordinated manner and to reflect on or analyze the success of the strategies employed (Banich, 2004). Executive functions include processes such as goal selection, planning, monitoring, sequencing, and other supervisory processes which permit the individual to impose organization and structure upon his/or her environment (Foster, Black and Bronskill, 1997).

Maria Montessori understood child development and wrote about these important skills in 1912. She understood that environment influences “spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others.: Executive function skills are encouraged in a Montessori classroom where a love of order and work, concentration and the power to act from real choice exists and leads one to self mastery. “For it is from the completed cycle of an activity from methodical concentration, that the child develops equilibrium, elasticity, adaptability, and the resulting power to perform the higher actions, such as those which are termed acts of obedience.” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, 1914).

A longitudinal study, conducted by Pennsylvania State University that included 753 Kindergarten aged students followed into adulthood suggested that children’s emotional intelligence could set the stage for professional and interpersonal success throughout life. Montessori educators agree with these findings.

For additional suggestions of ways you can increase your child’s executive function capacity. Download Harvard University’s activities guide Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence.

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Ten Reasons to Choose Montessori Education

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  • 1. Successful education for over 100 years. The first Montessori children’s house was started in 1907 and the philosophy has spread to all continents and many languages. Montessori is an international method of teaching and learning.
  • 2. Montessori is a philosophy for life. Through promoting independence as a young age, children have freedom to choose and develop into life long learners. Children are joyful in Montessori classrooms.
  • 3. Focus on learner outcomes including executive function skills: working memory, planning, sequencing, delayed gratification, grit, organizing and other capabilities that enable a person to engage successfully in independent, purposive, self-serving behavior.
  • 4. Beautiful, thoughtful, educational manipulative materials. Children learn through their senses first and with their hands and minds. Materials and lessons move from concrete to abstract.
  • 5. Focus on Peace within yourself, with each other, in the classrooms and in the world at large. When conflict happens children learn to process with one another and are able to problem solve using appropriate verbal skills.
  • 6. Lessons in Practical Life that allow children to do daily chores and learn to take care of themselves and their belongings. This produces confidence that is long lasting.
  • 7. Global awareness and cosmic curriculum that exposes children to the universe, community and his place within the world in which they live.
  • 8. Curiosity is encouraged and children learn to ask hard questions. Children are encouraged to find their own answers and teachers and students often learn together.
  • 9. Learning individually at the children’s own pace in an non-competitive environment and they are celebrated for who they are and what they have achieved.
  • 10. Belief that parents are the child’s primary teachers. Provides encouragement for the families to build systems based on respect, courtesy and mutual responsibilities.

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Kathy’s Insights