What is the meaning of Spring?

Spring's arrival

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.” ~ Doug Larson

For most, Spring means rebirth and hope. Everyday I watch Mayor De Blasio and Governor Cuomo’s report about the state of New York City and our tristate region. In this time of Covid-19, there are many bleak, dark days. As Cuomo said this morning, when times are troubled we see the good, the bad, and the ugly come out in people. People’s true essence comes out when situations become difficult. People react to stressful times in a variety of ways. Some people will disappoint you and hurt you. Some people will surprise you with their ability to be so generous in their outpouring of love and hope.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots up and make new trees.” ~ Amelia Carhart

When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes. At Twin Parks Montessori School, we understand that families are isolated and parents are not only working from home but they are overseeing the education of their children. We are here to help. We are offering families video conferencing, lessons, stories, songs, enrichment and other ways to keep the community of classrooms together. From a social-emotional view, children need to know that their friends and their teachers are safe and ok. Being primarily visual learners, it is important that they “see” their class community. Even if they react to seeing their classroom in small squares on the computer by running away or becoming over excited. This is part of the new normal for children.

TPMS teachers quickly learned how to present materials and circle time in a format that many had never used before. The teacher’s and administrator’s willingness to provide unique learning experiences for the children on their campus made me very proud to be a part of TPMS teams. Teachers are to be commended for their love for their classroom children and the importance, thought, and time they spent to learn from mistakes and make the next face-time experience better than the one before.

 TPMS teachers are offering hope and possibility for children.

Spring's arrival
Signs of Spring in Central Park

 

 

Raising Bilingual Children Part II

Multilingual Family

What is the parents’ role in raising bilingual children? The parents set the goals for the children and must remain as the organizers of the plan to make sure the goals are met. The question parenting partners have to agree on are the extend of the bilingual strengths. Do we want our child to be academically literate and be able to work and live in two or more languages? That will require 80% exposure to the second language.

Parents have to have a plan with goals

  1. Academic literacy goals live and work in the languages requires 80% exposure and use
  2. Basic literacy read and write but not academic requires at least 50% exposure and use
  3. Communicate with family and friends and play in the second language requires 30% of exposure and use
  4. Minimum of 20% is required to talk to grandparents in their native language
  5. Start the plan with the oldest, language learning between siblings is very helpful
  • Keep in Mind that:
  • Young children’s exposure to a second language benefit and can sound like a native speaker (without an accent)
  • Goals can change, they are not written in stone
  • If you move when when children are young it is ok
  • Be consistent for at least the first 4 years of your child’s life
  • Talk about why it is important to your family
  • Who speaks what and why?
  • Be confident and advocate for your child.
  • Make it fun so they continue with language development when they leave you

Plan:

  • When will you use the home language? At meal time?
  • If one parent is not as strong, as long as they try, it is beneficial
  • By Topic? School work or family time?
  • By Place? Kitchen – Italian only, or Technology zone Dad’s language only

Language Priorities for learning

  • language of family
  • language of the school
  • language of the community
  • other languages

What is the parents’ job?

  1. Learn about raising a bilingual child
  2. Set goals
  3. Plan for goals
  4. Talk to your children about the goals
  5. Talk to key people
  6. Know how to get help: Tutors or nanny, child care, family members, extra curricular activities www.multilingualfamily.org
  7. Go on vacation in a place that speaks the language that you are learning

Raising Bilingual Children Part I

Raising Bilingual Children

Twin Parks Montessori Schools has many bilingual and trilingual families. As part of our Coffee Chat series, Dr. Anne Colantuoni and I did a presentation on Raising Bilingual Children. We both had an interest and enjoyed researching the topic. This blog post will be one of two in a series to give more information. First I wanted to present some facts gathered from research.

  • Bilingualism is a process, not a product. To be totally bilingual takes 9 years
  • Each child is different in their ability to learn multiple languages, some take longer
  • Home language is spoken in the home since birth (and before)
  • You have to be a talker to teach a language
  • The child’s dominate language is the one they play in and self-talk in
  • Bilingualism happens naturally when the community is bilingual
  • 1st language before the age of 1, not necessarily spoken in the home
  • Must have a personal connection – TV and iPad programs are not as successful as person to person
  • The third or additional languages should be introduced between 4 and 7 years of age
  • they will not develop either well
  • Make sure they are strong in 2 languages before adding a third
  • The dominate language can change over time depending on circumstances
  • Children are not sponges. After 1 year of not hearing a second language, they become language learners just like the rest of us
  • Under 6 years of age, children do not complain about a second language
  • Around 6 years of age, children may complain about the extra work
  • Children migrate to the language of their school setting
  • Learning another language is very positive for cognitive, linguistics, educational and social development
  • Bilingual and trilingual children demonstrate more empathy in social situations
  • Multilingual children can find meaning in other languages and other cultures
  • Reading books that are print-rich in a second language, while asking questions and making predictions increases children’s capacity to learn
  • The quality of their home language will help develop a second language in school
  • Never stop using home language at home – if you drop home language at home when they go to school
  • If there is a different alphabet system like Russian or Chinese it takes longer to read and write
  • Teachers need to know about the languages spoken at home
Raising Bilingual Children
Highly recommended book on Raising Bilingual Children

 

How Sensory Learning Assists Math Skills

Everything we learn comes first through our senses.  Babies are able to discriminate the sound of their parent’s voice, the shape of their family’s faces, the smell of milk, and the touch of skin. This is the beginning of a child’s learning about the world.

So much of what is taught in school, especially in math is rote learning, abstract, and many students have little idea of how to put their skills to use in everyday life. How does Math make sense? Montessori education works with concrete educational materials first and later introduces abstract concepts once the understanding of the process has been internalized. For instance, in the Sensorial Area we have materials called the Red Rods. The Red Rods are 10 graduated rods, each 10 centimeters longer than the one before. Three-year-old children learn to carry these rods with two hands, one rod at a time to a work rug. As their small arms stretch to carry the last rod that is 100 centimeters long (one meter), they learn the terms short and long, longer, longest as they compare and contrast the 10 rods. This is the very beginning of measurement and base 10 system.

Teachers initiate games to help the child internalize the material. Like having the child close their eyes and the teacher takes one rod away, while closing the gap between rods. The child learns to discriminate the length of rods to know which one is missing.

The corresponding material in the Math Area is the Red and Blue Rods. These rods are identical in size to the Red Rods; however, every 10 centimeters they are painted red or blue, alternating to distinguish their segments. The children are familiar with arranging longest to shortest in a red rod. They count each segment. This material helps them visualize the concept of quantity first and the numeral second – concrete to abstract. By putting a hand around each segment as they count, they are getting the knowledge that counting is moving from left to right and is the numbers are getting bigger.

Later, in a follow up lesson they can put the corresponding numeral card next to the rod. In addition to nomenclature, the students learn about hierarchical inclusion. One is part of two; two is part of three, etc. They can also learn about addition. If I put the one-rod and the two-rod next to each other, they are the same length as the three-rod. They are able to explore similar relationships with all of the rods.

Similarly, the Spindle Boxes provide a way for children to count the correct number of spindles to go into a box with the number indicated. The boxes are labeled 0 to 9. The child picks up each spindle with one hand and transfers it to the other hand, and then into the box, the number grows. One spindle is easy for a small hand to manage. Holding nine spindles in one hand gives a sensory experience of less and more. It is difficult for a small hand to hold them all. Again, this material teaches a very concrete lesson of quantity getting larger. No spindles are put into the box labeled “0”. At a very young age, children are taught that “0” is the empty set.

If the child has counted correctly, there will not be any spindles left over. If there are left overs or not enough, somewhere a mistake has been made. The additional benefit of Montessori materials is the control of error. No person has to tell the child a mistake has been made, the child discovers the mistake and can recount. Part of Montessori’s genius was in the well thought out design of materials and the built-in control of error that allows children to learn from their mistakes.

All of the carefully designed activities that Montessori teachers put on the shelves for children to discover, enjoy and learn have elements of sensory inspiration. The pouring work with jingle bells in the Practical Life area teaches fine motor skills, preparation for pouring dry and wet materials, and makes an enjoyable tingling sound when the bells fall into the dish.

Each material is sequenced on the shelf to move from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. Materials are sequenced from left to right to help eyes move in that direction – for preparation of reading. Teachers get to know exactly where each child is in the sequence of materials to make sure that there are activities that are comfortable because the child worked with or mastered the activity before. There are also activities that provide challenge to stretch the learning and imagination going forward.

“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.” ~ Maria Montessori

A New School Year – Are You Ready?

Preparing for the first days of school

Do you know people who over-commit their time and energy? Sure you do. I just have to look in the mirror! You probably can’t imagine how the Baby Boomers organized their 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 at Twin Parks Montessori Schools we all have to make adjustments in our sleep and active schedules. Also, take care in making promises you may not be able to keep.

Prepare 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 your child wants to know more. Always leave extra time to get ready so everyone is not rushed. 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.

Preparing for the first days of school

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 breakfastincluding parents. Also, carry small healthy snacks and bottled water along with you.

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. Some parents work on getting back on a school schedule for meals, rest and bedtime a few weeks before the school year begins.

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. After all, your greatest gift to your child is you – your time and your undivided attention.

Be proactive– read emails that come from your children’s schools to know what to expect the first days of school. There will be shortened schedules with new children phasing in to school slowly. Infant and toddlers will have a home visit. Mention the teachers’ names in conversation. Look for a picture of the teaching team to come before the first day of school. If this is the first time your child is attending, come to the Separation workshop on September 4th at 9:00 at our Riverside campus (202 Riverside Drive). And most of all attend the Parent Orientation to your child’s classroom on September 5th. You will meet the teachers and other parents. This is the perfect opportunity to build relationships within your child’s school community.

Goodbyes are Hard For All of Us

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Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. Dr. Suess

 

One of the many indicators that the school year is almost finished is the Twin Parks Montessori School’s end of the school year picnics. Parents and children get together with their teachers and administrators to end the year with a whole school event. We all talk about how quickly the school year has passed. The picnic marks the end of another happy year together, learning and growing together.

Around this time, parents ask “why is my child regressing and misbehaving?” Teachers wonder why others around them are short on patience. Administration wonder why paper work is taking longer to complete. Even though we are all looking forward to summer, it means change –  in routines, in people we see on a daily basis, and expectations. Young children have a limited sense of telling time and they depend on the predictability of the school day events to assist them. That  schedule is usually gone when the school year ends and it is worrisome and confusing for our children.

You see the change in behavior at home and we see it at school. Children who are going on to elementary school become despondent at the realization that their preschool days are over and they won’t be returning to their beloved school. For many, this is the only away-from-home environment they have experienced.

Remember that most of our children operate in the moment. Adults plan months ahead. Parents are already planning on the next school year all of which can cause anxiety in children. Children are not always comfortable saying goodbye or with expressing their feelings of loss. Younger children do not know how long the goodbye will last. They are attached to their teachers and school friends and will miss them very much.

Teachers are notorious for trying to cram in so many new activities, field trips and special events that they forget to take care of themselves. They have a classroom of feeling beings in their care to be aware of and comfort. We need to remember to check on teachers’ emotions and experiences at the end of the school year.

It is best to keep our parent feelings inside even though the loss is big for us, too. Instead of talking about the next year – so far in the future, talk about one thing you will do over the summer. Keep future school plans simple and talk of them not too often. Check on each other, adults as well as children to make sure everyone is ok. We will all miss each other when the school year ends.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

Winnie the Pooh

Grandparents’ Day at School

blackgrandparents

One of my favorite days of the year is when Grandparents come to visit. This past Thursday and Friday, all of Twin Parks Montessori School classrooms opened their doors and welcomed Grandparents in to visit. If a child did not have a grandparent, he/she could invite a special friend.

“Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends — and hardly ever our own grown children.”  ~Ruth Goode

What I love most is that Grandparents love unconditionally. It does not matter if the child sings or not, or if the child completes work or a craft, or if he just wants to sit on a lap. Grandparents are happy to be in the classroom where their grandchild learns each day.

There are reasons why Grandparents are comfortable, easier to confide in and are able to demonstrate to their grandchildren.

  1.  We get more mellow as we age (although there are those who become bitter), we are less uptight. Our expectations are less frustrating and disappointing. We are able to see the world as it is, and we are less likely to get upset by behaviors children exhibit.
  2. Grandparent is delightful – not difficult as parenting can be. Grandparents have patience.
  3. Grandparents go to great lengths to facilitate bonding with grandchildren. Perhaps there is some spoiling involved. Grandparents can give extravagant gifts and baked good or favorite meals or outing.
  4. Some Grandparents may consider grandchildren as a chance to “do it over”. Grandparents are wiser now and with less stress in their own lives.

Whatever the reason, Grandparents are special. After all, Grandparents are like parents with a lot of frosting on top!

Are Children Suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder?

My generation grew up in a time when the children were sent outside to play. “Come in when I call you” or (horrors!) “when it gets dark”. Those were our instructions. We wandered to the fields and woods near our home. We learned to navigate the landscape, build forts, stay away from mean kids, and negotiate our desires with our neighborhood friends. We really did not understand how lucky we were. 

There was also a time in the 70s where we were trying to get “back to nature”. Grow food, make yogurt, and raise chickens. For some it was a comedy of errors for others it was a joyful time of independence and health.

Today, parents need to plan when outdoor time is going to happen. Children can’t go down 10 floors in the elevator to an outdoor space alone. Parents or caregivers must accompany them to the designated outdoor space to play and be surrounded by nature. We are fortunate to have Central Park and Riverside Park so close to Twin Parks Montessori Schools.

The benefits of spending time in nature are both physical and mental for children and adults. It puts us all in a better frame of mind. It reduces stress, depression and mental fatigue. Gross motor skills are greatly increased as well as flexibility of movement. Unstructured time in nature is best. Children learn how to take appropriate risks in life by spending unstructured time in nature.

Spending time outdoors is a great way to limit screen time. It is so much healthier to be outdoors looking at beauty and listening to nature, rather than remaining inside in front of the television or a computer screen. Plus the time spent with you on a walk while you are pointing out flora and fauna will increase vocabulary for young children.

Additional benefits include allowing children to have freedom which is vanishing in so many other situations. It improves confidence in children who suffer from low self-esteem allowing them to have peace and self-control.

Perhaps the best benefit is that your children will have a relationship with nature. One that will last a life time. Nature will be important and worth preserving for the future generations. It warms my heart and mind to see children defending wildlife, rainforests, and coral reefs. Children learn about ecosystems and what pollution does to the environment. They will help save the planet for future generations!

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” Richard Louv

 

 

How do you measure success?

During Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, I attended a Montessori conference for school leaders. Our quest speaker was Sam Chaltain. Sam is a partner at 180 Studio. He is committed to life-long learning and changing the story of education. Sam was a classroom teacher and has written several books about American Schools. During our time together, we reflected on our Montessori practices, our schools, and how we measure success. We often think about the success of our students and how they progress in their executive function skills and their accomplishments according to our set of measureable outcomes. We measure success in our enrollment rates and teachers’ longivity with our school. We measure our success with parent participation and sharing their happiness with others. How do you measure success? Watch this video that Sam shared with us last weekend.

How does Working Memory Influence Learning?

where-are-memories-stored-brain-diagram

Our ability to work with information or 0ur working memory influences everything that we do. Working memory is our ability to store information temporarily while our brain is busy with a different task. We use our working memory to learn language, solve problems, and complete countless other tasks. Our capacity for working memory is limited and if we break our attention or overload the memory system, we can lose some of the information stored there.

There are three types of memory. Working, short-term and long-term memory all play important roles in remembering, learning and creating. Without memory human progress would not exist. Short-term memory differs from long term in two major ways. Short term memories do not last long and there is limited capacity to store information there. Long term, however can store vast amounts of information and is permanent. Short-term memory is stored in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and once it is consolidated (often during sleep) it is carried to the hippocampus. This transfer takes place with repetition and review. The more something is repeated, the more connections the brain makes and the pathways become stronger.

Working memory allows children to keep more than one direction in their mind to carry out the task. It also helps to remember steps needed to solve a problem or an equation. It allows children to keep some information in mind while processing other information. We use it to remember telephone numbers or PINs, calculating a bill, retrieve an unfamiliar name of a new person we just met and measuring and combining ingredients.

There are limits to working memory including: getting distracted, trying to hold too much information at one time, and how difficult the task and directions are. We each have our own personal limit and capacity. Capacity increases with age and decreases when there is brain trauma or disease.

Children with difficulty with working memory need help to reduce the load. Teachers and parents can help by recognizing the signs or difficulty with maintaining ideas or instructions, conducting an audit of the working memory load, and by repeating and emphasizing important information. Visual charts, personalized dictionaries and memory cards can help by outsourcing memory requirements. Students also need to self-advocate by taking notes, asking for help, staying organized and putting information into long-term memory.

There are things to do at home and at school to help your child strengthen working memory skills.

1. Work on visualization skills.

  • Encourage your child to create a picture in his mind of what he’s just read or heard. For example, if you’ve told him to set the table for five people, ask him to come up with a mental picture of what the table should look like. Then have him draw that picture. As he gets better at visualizing, he can describe the image to you instead of needing to draw it.
  • Present problems vertically. Use graph paper so students can organize rows and columns for a math problem. For older children, the use of calculators takes some strain off of the working memory.

2. Have your child teach you or work with others in teams.

  • Being able to explain how to do something involves making sense of information and mentally filing it. If your child is learning a skill, like how to dribble a basketball, ask him to teach it to you. Teachers do something similar by pairing up students in class. This lets them start working with the information right away rather than waiting to be called on.

3. Suggest games that use visual memory.

  • There are lots of matching games that can help your child work on visual memory. You can also do things like give your child a magazine page and ask him to circle all instances of the word the or the letter a in one minute. You can also turn license plates into a game. Take turns reciting the letters and numbers on a license plate and then saying them backwards, too.

4. Play cards.

  • Simple card games like Crazy Eights, Uno, Go Fish and War can improve working memory in two ways. Your child has to keep the rules of the game in mind. But he also has to remember what cards he has and which ones other people have played.

5. Encourage active reading.

  • There’s a reason highlighters and sticky notes are so popular! Jotting down notes and underlining or highlighting text can help students keep the information in mind long enough to answer questions about it. Talking out loud and asking questions about the reading material can also help with this. Active reading strategies can help with forming long-term memories too.

6. Chunk information into smaller bites.

  • Ever wonder why phone numbers and social security numbers have hyphens in them? Because it’s easier to remember a few small groups of numbers than it is to remember one long string of numbers. Keep this in mind when you need to give your child multi-step directions. Write them down or give them one at a time. You can also use graphic organizers to help break writing assignments into smaller pieces.

7. Make it multisensory.

  • Processing information in as many ways as possible can help with working memory and long-term memory. Write tasks down so your child can look at them. Say them out loud so your child can hear them. Toss a ball back and forth while you discuss the tasks your child needs to complete. Using multisensory strategies can help your child keep information in mind long enough to use it.

8. Help make connections.

  • Help your child form associations that connect the different details he’s trying to remember. Grab your child’s interest with fun mnemonics like Roy G. Biv. (Thinking about this name can help students remember the order of the colors in the rainbow.) Finding ways to connect information helps with forming and retrieving long-term memory. It also helps with working memory, which is what we use to hold and compare new and old memories.
  • Memory-boosting tricks and games are just some of the ways to help your child with executive functioning issues. If your child continues to have significant difficulties with working memory, it might be a good idea to get an evaluation for possible attention issues. You may also want to explore tips from experts on topics like getting organized and managing attention.