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Kathy’s Insights

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

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

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I was first introduced to Dr. Andrew Solomon in March 2014 when he was a keynote presenter at the American Montessori Society annual conference. It is not often that a speaker talks for over an hour without a teleprompter or notes. Dr. Solomon and his story telling style of sharing family challenges mesmerized me. He brought tears to our eyes, smiles to our faces, and to our feet for a standing ovation when he finished.

I heard Dr. Solomon speak again on November 1, 2016 as part of a Parent League Speaker series hosted by Trinity School in NYC. His book, Far From the Tree, tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also their profound love and meaning in doing so. He draws on 40,000 pages of interviews and with more than 300 families. Dr. Solomon’s research began with an assignment to write about the Deaf Culture. This started his journey in researching families with extreme challenges: dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple disabilities, children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape and who are transgender. One of his discoveries is that it is diversity that unites us all. Challenges within families are universal as are the struggles towards compassion and the triumphs of love. Solomon began a journey to accepting his own identity, which resulted in becoming a parent himself.

I highly recommend Far From the Tree. And I look forward to Dr. Solomon’s new book, Far and Away, essays about places undergoing seismic shifts – political, cultural and spiritual.

Watch the trailer from Far From the Tree by Dr. Andrew Solomon below:

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From a Family of Educators: One Teachers’ Story

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Here is another addition to my series of teacher interviews. Xixi Deng came to Twin Parks Montessori School during the 2015-16 school year. She completed her early childhood Montessori certification and is now a teacher at our Riverside campus. Xixi’s story is fascinating!

Xixi demonstrating an art project

Xixi demonstrating an art project

Where did your journey begin? 

I was born in the city of Nanning, Guangxi province in southern China but grew up in Hainan Island – the ‘Hawaii’ of China.  I originally moved to the US in 2012 and lived with my aunt who resides in Atlanta. I moved to New York in 2013, where I live today with my husband who is a film producer, activist and Internet entrepreneur.

What influenced you to become a Montessori teacher?

My earliest and fondest memories are of being with young children. When I was 2 years old, my mother and aunt started their own pre-kindergarten schools in China. Back then, some of the children would actually live at the school during the week and I would share a room with them at night; up to 10 of us, including some teachers, crammed into small but cozy rooms. Then in 2001, when I was 13, my mom and aunt were the first to introduce early childhood Montessori teaching methods to Hainan Island. Growing up I was immersed in every aspect of the school and I simply loved teaching and taking care of the children.

Being from a family of educators (my grandparents were elementary school teachers as well), I knew early on that I was destined to follow this path that is the teaching profession. While I ended up graduating from Tianjin University of Commerce with a major in Computer Science and Technology in 2011, my heart drew me back to Montessori studies here in the US, where I completed the AMS early-childhood teacher program at Westside Montessori School in June this year. I am so blessed to be able to work as a Montessori teacher here at the Riverside Montessori School. Young children are so pure of heart and have such an absorbent mind that it is truly a privilege to be able to help them flourish based on their unique talents and interests. Following my calling and passion is why I’ve become a Montessori teacher!

Xixi with a student and the World Puzzle Map

Who were your childhood heroes?

My childhood heroes were my extended family who looked after me – my grandparents and aunts and uncles who taught me about life and the importance of being kind to others. My father passed away suddenly when I was about 1 year old and my mother ended up needing to work in another city to make a living. I saw her infrequently but later on I realized how difficult it must’ve been for her and the heroic sacrifices she had to make given the circumstances.

Who do you consider your role models?

Throughout my adolescence I have always looked up to wise and kind teachers.  And of course Dr. Maria Montessori is no exception! Her lifelong dedication and pioneering work with regards to early childhood development is, and will continue to be, a source of great inspiration.

Do you find working with Early Childhood children rewarding? Why?

Yes! Working with young children is such a joy! They truly bring a smile to my face with their bubbly innocence. After completing my Montessori teacher education program training at Westside Montessori School, I can better apply what I have learned to my daily teaching. Giving children the appropriate guidance and helping them in their daily learning has been so gratifying. At the same time, seeing them literally grow up right before your eyes where they become independent and happy children, is most pleasing and satisfying for me.

What do you hope to share with your students?

I believe during the early childhood development phase, the most important thing we can impart on children is the cultivation of their sense of right or wrong. As an old Chinese saying goes, “one can see how his adulthood could be when he is still 3 years old, and how his old age could be when he is 7 years old.” My understanding is the critical years of early childhood should be focused on cultivating a child’s character, which will affect them for the rest of their lives. I hope that through my guidance I can not only inspire the children in my class to develop a love of learning, but also give them a good moral cultivation environment – one filled with kindness, compassion, honesty, patience and tolerance!

Anything else you would like to share?

I truly hope more and more people will learn about the Montessori Way. Let’s all work together to help spread the word!

Thank you, Xixi, for sharing your enlightening story! You have inspired me as well!

Xixi on a walk to Riverside Park with her class

Xixi on a walk to Riverside Park with her class

Xixi with a student and numerals and counters. "Is this odd or even?"

Xixi with a student and numerals and counters. “Is this odd or even?”

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New Year’s Resolutions

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Do people make New Year’s Resolutions anymore? Weight loss has been on the list of most popular resolutions, along with going back to school, getting a better job, and making a difference for someone or something else. Throughout the year we make appointments, set goals and do our best to correct our imperfections. There is something to be said about starting fresh during a new year.

Sometimes our resolutions are not realistic and most are broken by the end of March. One resolution that may be easier to continue is to spend more time parenting. Regular conversations with your children can go a long way to figuring out what they are thinking or curious about. Looking away from electronic devices and sharing a story on the subway ride is time well spent. A little time goes a long way. Adding 5 minutes to what you do now without trying to teach, correct or criticize will help develop a long lasting relationship with your children.

Creating and keeping resolutions can be a family affair. We can help keep each other accountable to our goals. A list of everyone’s goals can be hung in a prominent place as a reminder. Preschool age children can set realistic goals of cleaning up belongings more regularly, brushing teeth longer, being kind to siblings or work on listening and helping skills.

I was inspired to write this message after watching the video below. Please take a few minutes to see the message that a 4-year-old and her dad created.

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Ten Reasons to Choose Montessori Education

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  1. It has been a successful education model for over 100 years. The first Montessori children’s house was started in 1907 and the philosophy has spread to all continents and translated into many languages. Montessori is an international method of teaching and learning.
  2. Montessori is a philosophy meant for life. By promoting independence at a young age, children have the freedom to choose and develop into lifelong learners.
  3. There is a focus on learner outcomes including executive function skills such as: 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. There are beautiful, thoughtful, educational manipulative materials. Children learn through their senses first, and then with their hands and minds. Materials and lessons progress from the concrete to the abstract.
  5. Students are encouraged to focus on peace within themselves, with each other, in the classrooms, and in the world at large. When conflicts happen, children learn to process them and are able to problem solve by using appropriate verbal skills.
  6. The lessons in Practical Life allow children to do daily chores and learn to take care of themselves and their belongings. This produces long-lasting confidence.
  7. The global awareness and cosmic curriculum exposes children to the universe, community and their place in the world.
  8. Curiosity is encouraged and children learn to ask hard questions. They are encouraged to find their own answers and teachers and students often learn together. Children are joyful in Montessori education classrooms
  9. Children learn individually at their own pace in a non-competitive environment and are celebrated for who they are and what they have achieved.
  10. Parents are the child’s primary teachers. Montessori provides encouragement for the families to build systems based on respect, courtesy, and mutual responsibilities.

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Kathy’s Insights