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Kathy’s Insights

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

What Message Will Your Children Hear?

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One of my areas of interest is learning about the differences in the generations of workers in the United States. School settings are particularly fascinating to me because there can be three or four generations of people working together. From an administrator’s perspective, it is important to know how people receive and give information and how to best communicate with our community of teachers. I also want to know the characteristics that are generally socially inherent within the groups.

My parents’ generation was referred to as the Silent Generation. They were born during the Great Depression and WWII. They are also called the “Lucky Few” because they became the first generation smaller than the one before. They experienced the most stable intact parental families in US history. The home environment was predominately paternalistic and children were raised to respect authority. One of the messages they heard from parents, religious affiliations and educational institutions was “because it is the right thing to do.”

Each generation compares themselves to the next generation. And surprisingly they think the new generation is the “me” generation. Even Boomers like myself were once the “me” generation. Those of us in our 50s through 70s today, born 1946 to 64, were the first group to be raised in a permissive paradigm of parenting. We tend to be rebellious (at least during our college days) and had no parental reservations about screen time! We may not have had computers but we sure had TV. My husband’s first words were, “New, Blue Cheer” —an advertisement for laundry detergent! We were the first generation really studied and marketed to. We surpassed previous generations with an increase in the number of people who attended college. Baby boomers are the generation with more workaholics and this may be attributed to one of the messages we heard in our formative years— “good things come to those who work hard.”

Generation X, born 1965-80, are in their 30s and 40s today. This group came of age with two-income families and more women in the workforce. They are the first “latch key kids.” And they were the first generation to grow up with computers. They are generally independent, and they enjoy freedom and responsibility in their work. One of the messages Gen X heard while growing up was “good things come to those who figure it out.”

Once thought to be the Peter Pan generation, the Millennials, born in the ‘80s and mid ‘90s, are holding manager level positions and rising rapidly. What I admire about Millennials is that many seek purposeful work. Many are supporters of gay rights and are environmentally conscious. Raised in diverse family combinations and in a permissive parenting mode, Millennials had more opportunities growing up. Many participated in sports and other team groups. They had parents and coaches helping them develop their best selves. One of the messages Millennials heard was “good things come to everyone.”

Generations-Healthcare

Now we have Generation Z or Homeland Generation, born sometime in the early 2000s. One aspect of this generation is the wide use of and comfort with the Internet from a very young age. Their parents could be Gen X or Millennials. Some think that they will be the first generation not to believe in the American Dream. Their childhood years included the September 11th terrorist attacks and the economic recession of 2008. They have seen parents and older siblings struggle in the workforce. They have concerns about student debt, a shrinking middle class and increased stress in families. They are loyal and cautious. Is their message “be alert and help change the world?”

What about the next generation – perhaps named Generation Alpha? At this point, social analysts are still busy profiling Gen Z members. The children born after 2010 have already seen aggressive turmoil in various parts of the world and at home during the 2016 Presidential election. They will see India and China be the center of gravity. They will definitely have mobile devices integrated into their lives and will be transferring thoughts within seconds. Perhaps they will hear “people with grit make it in the world.

What Generation am I?

What Generation am I?

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Parents: The Importance of Being You

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The characteristics associated with being a great parent, like all important tasks, goes through cycles. In the 50s when the outside world was perceived as a safer place, children were permitted to play outdoors without direct adult supervision. Parents set the limits and children were free to discover activities on their own. Parents were free to do other things while children entertained themselves.

Today, many parents are watchful and vigilant when children are playing outside. Parents plan after school activities, playdates, and family time with the children’s interests, or “what’s good for the children” in the forefront. Many parents’ worlds are overwhelmingly focused on the daily lives of their children.

In 2009, Lenore Skenazy wrote a book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. In 2012 Skenazy offered parents an opportunity for children to play alone outside in Central Park for a fee. Does this horrify you or sound like a good idea?

Think for a moment about what parents need. Most often their days are focused on work and children. This is not a bad thing, it is actually quite selfless and demonstrates that parents take their responsibilities seriously. However, it is critical that parents take time for themselves to renew, refresh and recreate. Parents need to be healthy, rested and interesting people, it is then that they can be their best selves for their children.

What is it that you really enjoy doing: reading, writing, running, painting, boating, knitting, woodworking, or volunteering? Many hobbies help to relieve the stress buildup of everyday life. Parenting partners also need to have regularly scheduled personal time together without children. Date nights and afternoon outings help keep adult relationships healthy and interesting. Children need to observe their parents enjoying themselves, too. That is what will model the future adult that parents are raising.

Creating these opportunities can be challenging for single parents. Forming a babysitting co-op can help with time for yourself at a low cost. Finding like-minded adults at your children’s schools will lead to adult friendships as well as those for children.

Maintaining time to do what you enjoy and talking about it with children shows a side of you that is passionate and interesting. Your dinner table conversations will be livelier, when you answer the question, “What did you do today?”  You will also role model the essence of being an individual. Keeping ourselves in balance keeps our worlds in balance. Remember the importance of being you!

For more debate about Free-Range Parenting watch the video below:


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Are you a Lifelong Learner?

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Admittedly, sometimes, I fall into a passive, visual trap. There are so many interesting, historical or fantasy series on public and commercial television that it is easy to fall into a visual mind habit. I can justify it to myself by working hard during the day and “deserving” a stress-free evening. The background noise also helps me feel like I have company. No matter how I try to justify it – am I gaining any knowledge from the programming and am I using my free time wisely?

It’s the time of year when we ask teachers to self-reflect on their practices and think about their personal professional development goals. Montessori education values the development of lifelong learners – and how we role model that goal for our students. I was thinking about the professional development that Twin Parks Montessori Teachers participate in throughout the year. We have many health and safety classes with face-to-face and online options. We also offer curriculum and child development options. Our goal is to provide opportunities to facilitate lifelong learning.

Here is what I have learned about different generations and being a life-long learner:

  • Not long ago, I attended a 70th birthday party for my friend, Eddie. I was told to wear my dancing shoes. I did and I was honored to dance with Eddie’s 94-year-old aunt. Yes, 94 years young and she had some smooth moves. In conversation, I learned that Eddie is learning Kung Fu and Tai Chi as a way to be in tune with himself and the world.
  • Recently, I was catching up with one of my former employers, Patty. It was inspiring to listen to a member of the Silent Generation (born during the Great Depression and WWII). Patty has been retired for 20 years from the education field, but immediately became a travel consultant – a second career in her 60s. Patty lives a full life dating, traveling, enjoying dinner and movies, and going out with friends. She also leads a support group for single women. She told me about a book her group is reading. It is called The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully.
  • I also learned about the Quest program at City College of NYC comprised of retirees who teach classes to one another from computer technology, philosophy, and the arts. It is a peer-to-peer adult education community. Surely these individuals are lifelong learners.

Baby Boomers (born 1946 – mid-1960s), like me, always heard that “good things come to those who work hard.” Of all of the generations, there are more workaholics in this group than any other. One way Baby Boomers can avoid work burnout is to make a commitment to be lifelong learners. Boomers should consider opportunities to participate in classes that are non-work related.

Most of the teachers at Twin Parks Montessori Schools are members of Generation X (born mid-1960s to early 1980s) or Millennials (born early 1980s to 2000s). Research shows that both groups are fairly optimistic about the future and use multimedia to stay connected. Opportunities for learning is at their fingertips. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, work-life balance and opportunities to progress are among leading factors for millennials who are evaluating job opportunities. They appreciate professional development and collaborative work environments. Good to know!

Learning doesn’t end at the end of a college degree or when a certificate is earned. Learning helps you feel relevant, engaged and vital for a very long time!

Learning for a Lifetime

Learning for a Lifetime

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Lessons for Your Younger Self

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If you could go back in time and have a conversation with your younger self, what would be the one lesson you would share?

Would it be:

  • To spend time thinking about what you value most – what is important to you?
  • Be more optimistic?
  • Learn to play a musical instrument or a second language?
  • Learn from your mistakes, rather than consider them points of failure?
  • Be more empathetic?
  • Be kinder?
  • Be more honest?
  • Be more loving?

When you make your list, you will see the lessons that you will want to share with your children while they are still young. The first magical decade of a child’s life is when they develop their personality, their sense of justice and moral compass, and begin to mold into the kind of person they will become as adults.

Now is the time to start teaching these lessons!

Learning to play a musical instrument

Learning to play a musical instrument

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Kathy’s Insights