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Monday Message- Learning Together Blog

How to Separate

May 17, 2018
By Jennifer Heness

As we approach the end of our school year (LT concludes next week, last session is Thursday, May 24th) I wanted to share something that may be useful in the future. 

Learning Together is unique in that there’s no separation from the child and adult partner. That’s been comforting for many. However, eventually, children will begin preschool or encounter new social and learning experiences on their own. Nearly all children and parents experience some type of separation anxiety, especially at the start of a school year. Having a routine and a plan can help. Here are a few other tips: (save this come September)

Explain what's happening. Talk to your child in a calm, cheerful manner: "I'm going to leave, but I'm coming back." "Remember when you had so much fun with ____? You're going to see him/her today." "I have to go to work now, but I will see you after lunch." (For example)

Model resilience. Even if you're feeling anxious yourself, you want to remain as calm as possible. You don't want to communicate to your child that he/she can't handle this. Try saying things like, "I know you might be upset and that's okay. But you're also going to have fun," or give specifics like, "You're going to go to school today. You'll have art and music and then I'll see you afterwards."

Tell the truth. You want your child to trust what you say. Avoid saying you're going to the bathroom if you're really leaving for a few hours. Don't sneak out, but make the goodbye quick. Prolonging it only makes it more stressful for both of you, and often the child calms down a few minutes after you leave. So be short, sweet, honest, and nurturing -- then go.

Get rid of the guilt. Most separation anxiety is perfectly normal and eases on its own. When my son says, “But I will miss you,” I reply with “I will miss you too. We miss people that we love and it’s a good thing to have that kind of love.”  I try to acknowledge his feelings but still keep it positive.

Attached is an article I share often with parents. Give it a read for more tips.


- Jen

Monday Message- Play

May 08, 2018
By Jennifer Heness

Maria Montessori called play the work of the child. She recognized the importance and productivity of play in a child’s development. “Such experience is not just play, it is work he/she must do in order to grow up,” Montessori said.

Play is important to healthy brain development. Its through play that young children interact with much around them. It allows them to use their creativity, develop their imagination, social skills, as well as physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities. 

Play prompts new skills. Montessori believed, “The hands are the instrument of intelligence.” This recognizes the importance of having various items to touch and explore. Manipulating objects stimulates a child’s hand-eye coordination and strengthens their fingers for fine motor control. Play encourages lots of gross motor development, too, in learning how to control the body in making big movements, such as jumping, climbing, running, dancing, etc. 

Play is social. Studies have proven that playing with other children is critical for the development of language and social skills. Playing with others involves communicating and figuring out the give and take of “how” to play together. 

Play promotes intellectual development with problem solving skills, especially memory, matching, classifying, and making associations. 

In a Montessori classroom of youngsters, the line between work and play can be blurred. Different types of play occur when children do “their work”, from manipulative, to problem solving, to sensory play, to exploratory, to creative expression, there’s much to gain from all of it. 

Next time you see children playing, try to observe what it is they are actually doing. Are they acting something out with role play? Using their senses and figuring out how something feels or sounds? Are they examining the mechanics of how something works? Exploring cause and effect, what happens when ____? Or, are they working on their social skills? Play is their work and their work can be playful.

See you this week, Jen 

Monday Message- routines, goals, announcements

April 10, 2018
By Jennifer Heness

Hello Learning Together friends,

I hope your weekend was wonderful. Each week you can expect an email from me to touch on a topic. If you ever have specific questions, please let me know. 

Some of the values promoted in a Montessori classroom are the freedom of choice, respect of the individual child, as well as routine and order. As you saw for yourself, there is a lot to explore in the classroom. The goal for week 1 was simply for the children to be comfortable and to notice the variety of materials available. It was nice to see both occur. As we move forward, routines will emerge.

Young children crave predictability. It allows them to feel safe. When they know what to expect, and what's expected of them, they are more likely to cooperate, enjoy themselves, and thrive. Following regular routines is a great way to give toddlers a sense of security, as well as reasonable responsibilities. Things like carrying trays, washing hands, returning materials, and what to do when the bell rings, will all become routine in time. At school and at home, routines help things run smoothly. In the classroom we'll work on a few goals through establishing routines. 

Creating a little community of friends is certainly one of our goals. We will work on this by socializing, exploring together, and greeting each other in a morning circle. Singing each other's names, clapping together, talking and listening to each other, sharing a snack together, playing side by side, are all activities where we can model good manners and practice developing social skills. Friendships naturally occur in warm communities.

Another goal is to begin to establish a work cycle, which helps ensure a peaceful and productive morning. We will work towards this by guiding the children to do one activity at a time; to choose a material, explore it, and then return it back to its spot on the shelf before moving on to the next thing. With practice this becomes routine. Toddlers naturally want to touch, explore, and then be on the move. However, guiding them to follow through with a few simple steps sets the stage to handle more complex activities later and promotes their independence. 

This can translate to home as well, for example, putting a toy away when finished, putting shoes where they belong, or clothes in the laundry basket, etc. Little hands can handle little responsibilities. In terms of routines, it's great to talk about what comes next throughout the day, and follow a regular sequence of events for morning and evening routines. Doing so helps children understand their schedule and eventually take charge of their own tasks. 

I am happy to talk more about this, or any questions or comments you may have this week. Looking forward to it, Jen

Tuesday Message

February 07, 2018
By Jennifer Heness

Hello Learning Together friends,

Well, when the Eagles win the Super Bowl, your Monday Message goes out on Tuesday. 

As I sat down to write yesterday, I kept thinking about one word - resilience. Obviously because of the win, but also because I kept hearing that theme in everyone's commentary after the game. Nick Foles said it perfectly, "Don't be afraid to fail. I wouldn't be here if I hadn't failed a million times." Of course I can't help but relate this to teaching and parenting. 

One of the most important lessons we can teach our children is how to handle failure, mistakes, disappointment, etc. It REALLY matters. It's character building and an important lesson because it's absolutely inevitable. Everyone makes mistakes. No one can nail it all the time, not even the pros. I often remind my oldest son that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Did he quit? Nope. He went on to become a legend at doing exactly what he was once deemed not very good at…Resilience. 

We can all agree this is important, but how do we teach resilience to children? We show them. Effort, perseverance and determination are practiced regularly in a Montessori setting in several ways. (Much of this can translate to home as well.)

The environment - 

The classroom is a safe place to make mistakes. They're actually expected. Often a child learns more from a mistake than when things go well. This is particularly true for young children who are in the process of gaining control over themselves. Things spill, break, and fall over. No big deal. Those instances become lessons on how to clean up or fix it. Zippers and buckles get stuck, snaps and shoes can be tricky. Those instances become lessons on practice and perseverance. The Montessori environment is designed for children to be independent, and with that comes the expectation that mistakes happen as part of the learning process. 

The way a mistake is handled is huge at this age. When we accept them and turn them into teachable moments, we foster resilience. If a child drops a plate and it breaks, we simply say, "Let's go get the dustpan and clean it up." We teach by showing, not necessarily by correcting. By taking a positive approach we show that we understand it was not intended and more importantly, this is how to handle it and move forward. This approach encourages children to keep trying, keep practicing, and keep attempting new things; whereas a negative reaction actually deters them from trying out of fear of a mistake. When children are afraid to make mistakes, they become afraid to try new or challenging things. 

The materials - 

Montessori materials are designed to be self-correcting. Working with self-correcting materials helps children recognize, correct, and learn from their mistakes. Having a "control of error" in the materials encourages children to own their learning and not rely on adult judgment. It also boosts independence, self-esteem and motivation. Rather than being reluctant to try something new and fear not knowing how to do it, children feel free to take risks, knowing they can figure it out. 

This control of error is visible in many materials - practical life trays include sponges and small dust pans for a reason. Many sensorial materials, such as the Cylinder Blocks, Brown Stair, and Pink Tower etc, just do not ‘fit’ if they are built incorrectly. Many matching, sorting and 'go-together' materials rely on one-to-one correspondence to check the work. Mistakes are visually obvious and correctable without much intervention. Once they are shown how to use something, they are free to work with it and figure it out on their own. 

As children learn to read, write, and do more advanced work, the control of error may be answer keys, visual guides or working with a partner. By allowing them to self-correct and learn from mistakes, we teach them that the purpose of work is not just about getting the answers right all the time. It is about the process of learning to learn. 

The role model - 

As an adult around children, we model it. We keep in mind that children pay more attention to what we do than what we say. We admit when don't know the answer to something and we show them how to look it up. We model how to communicate, handle conflicts, make peace with friends, and apologize if needed. We address things diplomatically. We talk things through and encourage children to consider what could be done differently. When slip-ups or challenges arise, we treat them like a lesson. 

When your child has a setback, some good questions to keep in mind to talk them through it: 

⁃ What can be done differently?

⁃ What did you learn from that mistake? 

⁃ How can you adjust and try again? 

Remember, mistakes are the portals of discovery. If interested, check out "Mindset" by Carol Dweck. There are a few chapters specifically on parenting that compliment Montessori and have really influenced my approach towards my own children. 

As always, feel free to bring up any questions or comments. And, YAY Eagles!! 

⁃ Jen 
Learning Together

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