Let’s chat about getting your little ones ready for PRESCHOOL!!
Parents!! This can be a very exciting time as you get ready to leave your tiny human with teachers you hopefully know and trust for a better part of their waking hours. But, no worries!! My job is not only help you feel more comfortable in that separation process but also re-affirm that your child is READY and so excited to be learning in a new environment. So, what can you do to ensure they will be headed off into the sunset armed with the skills they need to be successful? Let me break it down for you.
First, rest assured that there are no two kiddos at the same exact developmental stage entering preschool. This is one of the wonderful characteristics of Montessori; the teachers recognize this and celebrate it! Some of what I am going to suggest your child has surpassed with flying colors and others, your child hasn’t quite reached yet. It is ok. This is simply a guideline for what you can reinforce independence and a fluid transition at home to help. Lets’ get started.
Words. Encourage your child to use her words and use words as much as you can with her. Surround her in a sea of words anywhere and everywhere you go. READ, READ, READ. Explain things, talk through everything, ask questions and invite your child to ask questions. If she is hurt and crying, acknowledge she is in pain but stop, and again, encourage her to stay calm and use her words; “Are you hurt?” “Can you tell me with your words what happened?” “Where are you hurt?” “What would you like me to do to help you?” If your child was offended by a sibling or friend and happens to be crying or throwing a fit, ask her to calm her body and use her words so we can help her work this out. Using her words will prepare her not only for the world but also for the preschool classroom, aiding her in her social interactions and relationships.
Potty Training. Many schools require that the child enrolling is fully potty trained first. Our school does not but it is incredibly helpful to have them well on their way to toilet independence. If your child is standing and walking, begin to change them standing up and in the bathroom. This exposes them to the bathroom, that this is where toileting takes place, and that we no longer treat them as a baby and lay them down to change. Standing begins the process of. Have your child take their own pants/shorts/skirt off on her own, allowing time to do so and encourage her to put it back on, teaching along the way, as this is a bit more difficult. I would also suggest starting pull-ups to teach the skill of pulling on and off the pull-up in prep for use of underwear. Once she is cleaned up, offer the use of the toilet. Many times she will just go through the motions of sitting, using toilet paper and flushing and that is ok! This process is quick for some children and others take a significant amount of time. Just be patient and continue staying consistent and positive.
Clothing and Shoes. I would suggest having a low rack in your child’s room where she can select her own clothing and dress herself each morning before coming in to school. This reinforces self-confidence and independence. Please be sure you are sending your child to school in shoes that they have success with on their own. This means they can put their shoes on and off alone. It does NOT mean they will always be on the correct feet. If you find your child has put their shoes on the wrong feet, simply ask her (after praising for their hard work,) if her shoes feel comfortable. If she respond, “yes,” leave them alone. She did it herself and her shoes should not bother us. She will be fine and will learn as time goes on. I promise. It will be more destructive to criticize her efforts in correcting and making it known that what she just tried at, wasn’t good enough, tearing away at her little spirit. If it isn’t going to hurt her or another child, leave it be. It is a tough thing to let your child be enough in their efforts. Just trust me and know that allowing your child to be independent in these skills will build confidence and self-esteem that will aid her greatly in life. Let her do it.
Eating and drinking. This is difficult, but LOSE the bibs and highchairs when you can. We will not be putting bibs on your child. We will not be allowing sippy cups. They will not be sitting in highchairs. They will however, be sitting in child-sized chairs and at child-sized tables. They will not be using bibs and will be making messes and will need a change of clothes and there will be additional laundry. Sorry. Please just trust that THIS is a huge part of our curriculum! ABC’s and 123’s are important, but we want to ensure your little humans are functional, capable, and contributing in their own ways. The children will be drinking out of small cups, not sippy cups with lids. So, the sooner you can introduce a cup at home, the better off they will be in drinking successfully within the classroom.
Extra Skills. Some additional ways to assist your child in their journey to independence would be to allow her to serve herself snack, using dishes that are at her own height and are child-friendly. Let her help around the house. Explain what you are doing to clean and involve her. Give her jobs to help as you prepare meals. Let her know she is a vital, contributing, member of your family and that her presence is important. Give her jobs that make her feel needed and teach independence. Simplify her room and toy room to help her understand how and where things go back. Let her know it is her job to clean up and keep the house looking beautiful when she are finished playing.
After being in the Montessori environment as an educator but even more so as an adult student for the last 10 years, I have grown to have a deep gratitude and sense of respect for the classroom, the students and the materials that make Montessori what it is. Today, I am going to share with you what has made Montessori different for my students, my family, and me. [AdSense-A] There is an essence about Montessori that sometimes, at first glance, it is difficult to really get a pulse on. It takes observation and a slower pace to be present and recognize. When you first enter the classroom, you may notice children moving freely throughout, which may look unstructured and chaotic. As you take time to notice, you will see children choosing works off the shelf as they please and as their minds whisper to their little bodies, subconsciously, prompting them to learn as individually as their all were designed. The Head Teacher will be doing one of two things, either working one on one or in small groups giving lessons or standing inconspicuously to the side or low to the ground taking observation notes on what each student is choosing, who they are working with, what works they have mastered, what works they may need another presentation with and taking note on what children seem to have entered various sensitive periods. The observation notes drive the lessons the Head Teacher gives, creating an incredibly individualized curriculum. The Head Teachers take the needed time during class, to slow down, reducing the urge to be the center of attention and the imparter of knowledge, to being more a facilitator of learning within a carefully prepared, rich environment, developmentally appropriate for all students within her classroom. The initial thought that the classroom may have a chaotic undertone may subside as you begin to see the underlying ground rules that the children are abiding by; using rugs on the floor for their works, or mats on the tables, both which define their personal space while working. The children use the peace rose to resolve their conflicts. They are using quiet, speaking voices and there is a working noise throughout the classroom. Walking feet are used rather than unsafe, running feet. Children are still children, there will still be a runner here or there, an outburst of noise, use of unkind hands or otherwise, but what the teachers have learned to do is hesitate a minute before stepping in to allow the other children a chance in the classroom to try to maintain control and order and defend their environment, persuading their friends to be successful participants and take responsibility for their own actions. The Montessori classroom is a safe place to make mistakes. It is a model for life. We aim to provide a rich space to learn, grow, develop and struggle, safely. The goal is to also educate the parents so the children can carry on at home with the same expectations and learning opportunities. As this goal is achieved, the essence of Montessori has carry over and the child has a fluid, consistent way to live and develop. [AdSense-A]
This work is the 45 Layout from the Decimal Shelf in the Math area. The children have been so intrigued by the work. Friends, young and older, are all pitching in to learn and work side by side. It is beautiful and the children have developed such a respect for the work and their friends who are successful with in the classroom. The energy is tangible and it is so exciting to observe.
You would be AMAZED at the sweet friendships that are formed within our classroom, within a safe, peace-promoting, respectful environment. The Montessori classroom is one that is carefully prepared and led by teachers who act as guides rather than the center of attention. The Head Teacher sets the tone, models the desired behavior, and communicates expectations through her own example. As the children become acclimated to the environment as a new friend, they are nurtured, helped along, and befriended naturally by the other peers in the class. They are driven impulsively and intrinsically simply out of love. The environment that is created at the school allows the children to receive and show love. As a result, they feel love. Once you can remove the rigid boundaries and expectations for children to do and learn as others, and they begin to feel how safe it is to be themselves. Many people who observe in the classroom for the first time are amazed at the level of respect, joy, and learning that takes place due to the love that exists within the classroom. Come and see for yourself!
When I am out and about, I get asked often what Montessori is or what the difference is. People who have heard of the method usually don’t know much about it and are happy to learn. Then there are those that have never even heard of Montessori. I love knowing I am their first encounter and am always on guard, armed with talking points. This post will offer some suggested “talking points.”
Montessori is a method, an approach, an educational style, but also a way of life by all who embrace it.
Aims of Montessori education:
Children who are physically and mentally independent, self confident and self-controlled, able to manage the worldly, daily demands of life with grace, ease and efficiency.
The classroom is non-competitive and stimulated by other children and guided by the adults.
Children move themselves toward learning.
Children work together or alone at their own pace using rugs on the floor or mats on the tables (to define personal space) and may move freely throughout the environment.
The Head teacher is acutely aware of each child individually and their progress and through observation is able to lead lessons based on what is observed making for a very individualized education.
The teacher prepares the environment, directs the activity, offers the child stimulations, but it is the child who learns, motivated by the work itself.
The hand is the chief teacher for the child and knowing this, the classroom provides hands-on experiences, exploration and learning.
The process is emphasized, not the product, therefore, a child may not produce papers to take home as proof of learning. It is through observation that one can witness the remarkable success and progress a child achieves within the Montessori environment.
A Montessori classroom is multi-aged, including a 3-year range of children.
Montessori introduces the child to the joy of learning at an early age.
Patterns of concentration, dedication, thoroughness, established in early childhood, produces a confident, competent learner in later years.
I hope these “talking points” can help you with your conversations about Montessori!