News


Second Week Under Continuation Learning Plans

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

Today marked the beginning of our second week with our Continuation of Learning plans! First and foremost, I want to express all of our gratitude for the work you parents are doing at home. We are a school whose pedagogy is based on concrete experiences, with scaffolding to help all learners develop their independence on their own developmentally appropriate timelines. In normal times, we have classroom systems and expectations to aid us towards these goals. However, these are not normal times, and much of the time management support needed will be tended to by you, the parents at home. We understand this challenge, and please know from our view – you’re all doing beautifully.

I have seen pictures and heard stories of small nooks taken over by children, schedules rewritten by older siblings, and lovely messes where work has clearly taken place!  Many of you are even offering lessons  to other parents, connecting about ways to help each other navigate these times, and being amazing community leaders and collaborators! Others of you are trying to make the weekly classroom schedules work for your homes and personal schedules, while also managing the need to work from home and support your child in this new, but temporary, period of distance learning. Whatever your lives look like at home, I hope each and everyone of you knows that you are handling this as best you can, and that our teachers are happy to be with you on the journey of making it work. It will look different for different families, yet we will all get through this together. This is not an easy task, and we definitely understand the challenge of navigating and supporting such work with young people! If you’re struggling to support your child’s expectations for school or schedule, just know it is alright to simply do what you can.

Remembering who we are and what we value is so important during this time. As our name implies, we are a ‘house of peace,’ though our current circumstances suggest that we’re like a village of condos, apartments, yurts, and houses who function in and work towards peace! While that doesn’t roll off the tongue, this ‘village of peace’ is what I hope you’re experiencing from your households. To this end, I ask for your help with a challenge…

Every one of you is doing your part to make this work. What your spaces look like at home is perfect for you and your child. We are in this together, and in order to act with solidarity, I’m hoping that you could each send us a picture of your child’s workspace at home. This picture could include schedules, desks, coffee tables, whiteboards, an epic pencil-sharpening area, or just your kitchen table! No children are required, just materials and space. The objective of this picture is to show how you’ve made space for Casa di Mir in your home. We know it takes a lot to make this successful, and the work you’ve done should be celebrated! You’ve welcomed our groups of online learners, schedules, and Zoom meetings into your homes, and that clearly has an impact. Please take a picture and send it in- (sgresham@casadimir.org).

In order to help share information and answer some questions, I will be hosting Community Level Meetings throughout this week. Please find the dates, times, and links in our Weekly Announcements from today. I hope to see you there!

While our teachers are the best people to ask specific classroom questions, please know that I encourage you to reach out to me with ANY question, if you’re needing help. Either I can help you, or I can direct your question to the right person. Please don’t hesitate!

Please feel free to reach out and ask questions, and if I don’t see you in our Community Meetings, I’ll see many of you on Friday for our Materials Exchange!

Take care, Tyler Bourcier Head of School

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First Week Under Continuation of Learning Plans

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

Welcome to the first full week of operating under our Continuation of Learning plans. Let me shout from the rooftops to all of you parents, “We see you working hard to make this successful! We hear your challenges with space, devices, and time at home! We hear your need for a vacation!”

Learning happens everywhere, so when you feel stressed about this moment, I would encourage you to relook at your laundry, for example. As one of our parents said, “You could fold together with your child, and choose the best sock for a sock puppet play!” One of our biggest hopes is that you help to engage their curiosity, celebrate learning, and help them to create calm during this time.

While this week will include a lot of troubleshooting as we bring everyone on board with our classroom plans, please keep a few general things in mind.

  1. Catch moments where success is found or joy is experienced! Record them for reflection and laughter at a later time with your children.
  2. Give yourself plenty of patience in navigating logistics this week.
  3. Communicate (you or your children) frequently with teachers, and ask questions.
  4. Be kind to yourselves. This moment requires flexibility, constant adaptation, and patience. Like Elsa is known to say, it’s ok to, “Let it go!”

Our community continues to show our colors during this emergency, and it brings me such joy! I have seen people offer tech help, watched many classes be offered to everyone, and caught glimpses of the great projects that students are doing at home! Keep those stories and pictures coming, and please send them to your child’s teachers directly. As you envision building on our community connection during this virtual period, please send your ideas my way. My sincerest gratitude goes to each of you!

An update on our Continuation of Learning plans:

Communications-

We’ll be sending out Weekly Announcements, as usual. Every Monday, these will be sent out, and they will contain general school information. If you’re not receiving this on Mondays, please reach out ASAP to sgresham@casadimir.org to let her know. We are not holding public office hours at our campuses, but please know that our administration is operating fully, just more remotely. We’re doing our part to stay distant and flatten the curve.

Additionally, every Friday, we’ll be sending out Weekly Friday Updates to each classroom’s families. These Updates will contain information about the past week, and specific needs and schedules for the upcoming week. The format of which we’re sharing our schedules/links via these updates may change in upcoming weeks, and many of you have offered ideas on how to do this differently. Your feedback continues to be helpful as we navigate this together.

Technology-

With so many people moving to on-line platforms right now, we’re in good company while we work through logistical challenges! Here are several tips to make your remote-lesson experience more successful using Zoom.

  • Multi-page galleries- there may be times where a child can’t be heard, due to a larger group. Consider helping them to type a question into the chat box.
  • Light source- the ideal is for a light source to be in front of a child, behind the computer’s camera, so that there isn’t a glare. Try to keep bright lights away from behind the child when using Zoom.
  • Volume- it may help each child to understand how to read the volume meter of their personal mic. That way they can be aware of their own voice level.

Also, Zoom has a lot of functions that we’re not utilizing right now. While we’ve considered the option to record lessons, so we can offer them to families who weren’t able to attend, there are challenges with this. Please know that until otherwise shared, we are not recording lessons, and that we’re expecting that you don’t either. Thank you for understanding and following this directive.

Please feel free to reach out and ask questions. We are in this together, and we are here for you.

Take care, Tyler Bourcier Head of School

Casa di Mir Montessori

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Continuation of Learning Plans Implementation

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

Our faculty have taken Monday and Tuesday to collect our thoughts and materials in order to implement our Continuation of Learning plans. The information for each program level will be sent out to the appropriate families following this communication, and will contain specifics about these plans for each level. This information is to give you clarity on how we, as Casa di Mir Montessori, will continue to support learning at home, maintain a schedule, and sustain clear and accurate communication about our school and community status. As this is unchartered territory, please be aware that the moment requires flexibility and consistent reassessment.

Keeping that in mind, this is how our school community will operate during our shift into our Continuation of Learning plans:

Office and Administrator Support:

We are no longer holding static office hours, but we’re happy to support. Our staff are continuing to work, so please email the appropriate administrator directly, and we’ll respond promptly. Email is ideal, as leaving a message on our phone-systems may delay a response.

Health and Safety:

Any person entering the school, including staff, is required to enter from the front door, and will be asked to sign in at the Front Office. This is to ensure we’re doing our part to monitor our risk factors. You are welcome to let us know of your need, stop by and pick-up items. School closures can be effective in ‘flattening the curve’ which allows our community to more successfully manage the illness and its spread. However, closures are most effective if we all choose to adhere to social distancing guidelines as best we can. To this end, we hope our families immediately limit their personal interactions and social gatherings, as defined by our government and scientific officials. If you are a) experiencing flu-like symptoms, or b) you have a household family member who has tested positive for COVID-19, we expect that you will communicate directly with kschuler@casadimir.org. This again is to help monitor our risk factors.  Many of you have already been doing this, including your travel information. Thank you for helping us stay aware and on top of this! Fortunately, we have still not had any reported cases of students or family members testing positive at this time.

Schoolwide Communications:

On Mondays, we will be sending out our weekly communication with updates on the health and safety of our community. This is simply continuing our Weekly Announcement routine!

In addition to these status updates, we look forward to also sharing the many positive stories and acts that have already taken place in our community. As mentioned, this is a time to act thoughtfully and responsibly. In hearing from many of you and watching what is being offered and done on social media

platforms, such as our Parent-2-Parent Facebook page, I’m struck with gratitude. Please send any and all ideas regarding what our school community can do to support within and outside our family population to sgresham@casadimir.org.

Continuation of Learning Plans:

This letter is coming to you as a part of a series, and what follows in your email will give you guidance for your child to continue learning at home. As a Montessori school, we have put creative thought into solving the challenge of supporting both parents and students, in a way that aligns with our mission, and also is sustainable during a dynamic time. Within this packet, you will find various methods and expectations for our plans. Most of our approaches rely on your home having access to the internet and a device. If you need support finding such technology, please reach out to tbourcier@casadimir.org directly.

With regard to technology, we realize this will be something of a challenge to work through at this time. Shortly, you will be receiving schedules, ideas, and meeting times that we hope you can support your child to follow, and I want you to know this…

Give your family and this system time to settle in. Do what you can, and build on each step. It could be that both parents are at home, both are needing devices to work, and now your two children are being asked to use devices at the same time to attend different meetings! As teachers, we will be happy to work with each of you where you are, and with what you’re able to manage.

While each program level will look fairly different, based on the developmental needs of children, you can expect each level’s work to include-

  1. Suggested scheduling
  2. Communication plans between students and teachers
  3. One-on-one interactions between child and teacher
  4. Systems of accountability
  5. Peer group opportunities
  6. Opportunities for lessons
  7. Additional resources for further studies
  8. Weekly Classroom Newsletters sent out on Fri.

Please feel free to reach out and ask questions. I continue to hold gratitude for our strong community, and how we’re pulling together to make this period as successful as possible.

Take care, Tyler Bourcier Head of School

Casa di Mir Montessori

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Learning from Mistakes: A Critical Life Skill

Anne NguyenLet’s face it, making mistakes is not fun.  Owning mistakes is even harder.  It isn’t surprising that kids, like adults, want to be seen as competent.  They don’t want to feel embarrassed, and they definitely don’t want to disappoint important adults in their life.  The truth is that mistakes are uncomfortable!  So, when children do make mistakes, they sometimes deny it in an attempt to stave off that discomfort.  They might try to shift the blame, or lie, in order to avoid getting “in trouble” – and to evade unwelcome consequences.  This is a prime opportunity to support their learning and development.

We live in a society that puts a lot of pressure on children, especially here in Silicon Valley.  In some ways, they’re expected to do it all:  be hard-working students, get good grades, earn high scores on tests, and get into good colleges (preferably with scholarships).  They’re expected to start businesses, find internships and give back to the community.  On top of this, many children also participate in non-academic pastimes – like soccer, ballet, robotics, music, and gymnastics – either by choice or by parent directive.  These high expectations can lead to kids feeling like they have to be perfect.  And if you’re supposed to be perfect, it can be difficult to admit mistakes.

Some mistakes that happen at school are related to learning or work.  These kinds of mistakes are generally easier to navigate.  If a child makes a mistake in their work (e.g. incorrect computation, a misspelled word, incorrectly identifying the parts of a volcano) it’s a matter of identifying the source of the mistake and correcting it.  In an instance like this, there is no other person involved, so no interpersonal problem-solving is required. However, there are children who can be very hard on themselves when they make mistakes.  Again, this is the time to help children see that mistakes are the BEST part of learning because they help us grow!

Mistakes that happen in social situations, which are inevitable when children interact, are generally more complex and challenging.  But they are also opportunities.  In this realm, when we help children own their mistakes, we’re helping them to hone important problem-solving skills.  When a conflict occurs, we guide children to reflect on and process what happened.  We help them look at the situation through observations, rather than judgement, in an effort to remain objective.  It can be helpful to consider the feelings and needs of those involved, before thinking about how best to move forward.  We want kids to know that mistakes are OK!  It’s how you respond that’s important.

Owning the mistake is often the hardest part, and it can actually bring some relief.  Understanding the why behind the mistake is also important.  Once those things have been figured out – and this can be a process – the child is encouraged to decide how to try and make amends.  Children (and many adults) tend to quickly leap to, “I’m sorry.”  But an empty or forced sorry is meaningless, and kids know it – so that is a trap to be avoided.  It can be helpful to think about the situation from the perspective of the other person or people involved.  What is it that they might want?  What will make it better for them?  How can trust be rebuilt?

When children gain practice in owning their mistakes and solving problems, whether in the academic or social realm, they begin to develop trust in their own abilities.  And, when children feel more confident in their ability to handle mistakes, and they understand that mistakes are OK, they tend to be more willing to take risks.

Parents can sometimes get in the way of this learning unintentionally.  Ever run home to get your child’s Friday Folder, backpack, lunch, jacket, etc.?  It’s completely natural to want to support, nurture and protect your child.  It’s instinctual.  Sometimes, this instinct drives parents to solve problems for their child, rather than supporting the child to work through the problem.  Another common tendency is for parents to shield their child from the natural consequences of a mistake.  These actions can take away the opportunity for learning and growth.

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life – so how can you support?  When your child makes a mistake, try to approach it as an opportunity.  Provide guidance in processing what happened, if needed.  When your child owns a mistake, acknowledge their honesty and courage.  Allow them to experience consequences (within the bounds of safety), and encourage their efforts to make things right.  And finally, model taking responsibility for your own mistakes.  Modeling is a powerful teacher.

Anne Nguyen, Director of Admissions

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I Interrupt Your Normal Programming for…

The first time I ever worked in an elementary school was as a Kindergarten class intern within the public schools in Washington state. Over that year, I was asked to take on more responsibilities from the Lead Teacher, so I’d slowly grow more comfortable with the increased expectations of guiding and supervising a classroom of students. There were ample reasons to love the experience: joyful children, supportive faculty, and the space to ask questions and experiment with ideas.

Every day, around 9:30, the entire class would transition to “reading time,” which the students seemed to enjoy. Well, most of the students enjoyed the time, save one. For this story, we’ll call him Tucker! A few minutes before 9:30, the bell would ring for a transition that the teacher had planned. Over the weeks, Tucker had developed a pattern of coming to school, participating in Circle, and then immediately heading to the block area where he would create elaborate cities and buildings. These structures were magnificent and his friends would often collaborate with him, resulting in even more extensive civilizations. Tucker soon learned that this bell meant that he needed to put away his work, and join everyone else in the same activity- reading.

The pattern was soon set for Tucker to hear the bell and reliably become very upset that he had to put away his work to make space for the next thing.  Prior to the bell, Tucker was in “the zone,” “concentrating,” “self-regulating,” or anyone of many terms used to describe an individual who is humming along with their work. This bell told Tucker that his work was not as important as the schedule and that the needs of the teacher and group out-ranked his sense of order. The transitions did not go well.  Eventually, Tucker would join his peers in reading, but he wasn’t too keen on investing his focus in reading after such an emotional experience. The interruption of Tucker’s work, as well as its message, sticks with me as a meaningful lesson.

Not much later in life, I became an assistant in a Montessori classroom.  This kind of general interruption did not occur, and more to the point – breaking a child’s concentration was frowned upon. It was there that I found a new direction to head in the world of education, one that increasingly supported and honored the child as a critical and dynamic part of their own education. With a major goal of helping children to develop and strengthen their ability to concentrate, a tenet of Montessori’s philosophy was to never interrupt a focused child. To honor that focus is to honor the internal work of the child. There are few more powerful messages that we can stress to our children, no matter the age- putting energy and attention into work is valuable, and each of us has the right to direct and follow this energy.

At Casa, I’m grateful that we honor each child’s intention and work. Like a family, we are a community of individuals, which suggests a need for flexibility and compromise at times. However, the importance behind allowing work cycles to be completed, and attention to naturally shift is still a critical piece of what creates our ambiance.  This patience and understanding is yet another building block to how Peace Education is modeled and implemented at Casa di Mir.  At this point, Tucker is old enough to have conversations with his own children about cleaning up for transitions. Unbeknownst to Tucker, he taught a lesson that I’ve carried for 20 years. As educators, it is part of our perspective to keep this sensitivity for interruptions in mind as we operate through the school day. No matter the role you play with children, the power of allowing children to complete their work before moving on is easy to witness, as it usually results in smoother transitions and an increased willingness. Who doesn’t want that? Plus, your patience may result in an even more amazing civilization (in blocks or otherwise)!

Tyler Bourcier Head of School

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Casa di Mir Students Raise $7.2K to End Youth Homelessness

NEWS RELEASE

Contact: Diane Dunning

Casa di Mir Montessori School Students Raise $7.2K to End Youth Homelessness

CAMPBELL, CA, May 22, 2018 – Casa di Mir Montessori School preschool through 8th grade students recently held a jog-a-thon fundraiser at the Campbell Community Center track and raised $7,200 for StandUp for Kids–Silicon Valley, a non-profit organization that works to end local youth homelessness.

In a ceremony on Friday, May 18, the school gave a check for the amount to StandUp for Kids–Silicon Valley director of program support, Jeannette Weedermann.

Each year, students select a local charity to support through the jog-a-thon. To raise the funds, they secure monetary commitments from individual donors for each lap they complete. This year, they walked, jogged and ran 2,064 laps, or 516 miles.

Wanda Whitehead, Casa di Mir founder and head of school, said, “The students really made a difference for the organization and the people they serve.”

The annual fundraiser was part of Casa di Mir’s peace education curriculum, which daily teaches students peaceful conflict resolution and empathy as it builds character. Established in 1989, Casa di Mir offers authentic Montessori programs for preschool through 8th grade students. Casa di Mir is a small, independent, 501c(3) non-profit  school (tax I.D. #77-0280511) located in Campbell, CA. It serves 156 students. For more information, visit www.casadimir.org.

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StandUp for Kids-Silicon Valley representatives cheered on Casa’s preschool through middle school students who completed lap after lap to help end youth homelessness.

 

The annual jog-a-thon is among a number of community support activities Casa di Mir students participate in as part of the school’s peace education curriculum.

 

Casa students completed 2,064 laps at the CCC track and raised $7,200 for StandUp for Kids-Silicon Valley. They presented a check to the organization May 18.

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Encouraging Independence in Children

The journey that a child takes towards independence is a huge part of a Montessori education. Much of the material in the Montessori classroom calls for independent work; and we Montessorians often say, “Never do for a child what he can do for himself.” It’s helpful to continually ask yourself, “Could my child do this?” If the answer is yes, then let them.

Another way to foster independent thinking is this: instead of asking your child to do something (“Please put your coat away”), you ask them a question that prompts the action. For instance, “Is there something you forgot to do when you came inside?” Let them be the one to think of the necessary task.

A child who is encouraged to be independent will usually be confident and self-assured. This is a good thing, but it means accepting that this kind of child will likely have strong opinions and ideas. When you encourage independence, you need to be ready to handle the consequences of it.

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Leadership Changes Coming to Casa June 11

Casa di Mir leadership will change on June 11, 2018. Wanda Whitehead, founder and long-time head of school, will transition into the role of Director of Education and continue her work as Music Teacher. Dr. Jeff Beedy will step in as Interim Head of School.

To learn more about the transition:

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The Developing Child and Our Wonderful Montessori Classrooms

By Wanda Whitehead

The Montessori classroom is a fertile ground in which children can meet their developmental needs, and thus grow in leaps and bounds academically, socially, emotionally and physically. Our Primary and Elementary classrooms reflect the developmental stages of the child that Montessori identified from her thousands of observations of children. I’d like to address these first two stages or planes of growth according to Montessori.

 

The First Plane of Development

The first plane in the child’s development is from birth to age six. “The overriding goal of this period is the development of the self as an individual being. This goal gives the child an egocentric focus.”[1]  There is a tendency for adults to see this self-centered focus and judge the child as selfish. We must avoid judging the child as if he or she was an adult. From the child’s point of view, the self-centeredness is practical. The child must be busy at the monumental task of finishing his neurological development. Sensorial exploration and hand-brain activities are two ways that the child changes the physiology of the brain through his interaction with the environment.

During each plane of development the child goes through periods of concentration on specific capacities. These time frames are called Sensitive Periods. The Sensitive Periods for this first plane are for walking, talking (development of language), sense of culture, movement, will, independence and mental attributes like the discovery of order in the environment, attention to precision, and interest in minute objects.

Montessori observed that children at this stage “possess a capacity for absorbing the surrounding environment merely by being in it.”[2]  From birth to three, we see this capacity as the unconscious “absorbent mind.” From 3-6 years of age, we see a child’s ability to apply and use these sensorial impressions to order, categorize and classify objects in her world. Through this 6-year process of absorbing the environment, the child brings into being her own reasoning mind.

Understanding these aspects about the child of 3-6 years, we provide a rich flow of activities for kinesthetic and sensorial work. All practical life activities fulfill the needs for both self-care and the development of perceptual-motor coordination, that hand-brain work that helps brain development. The sensorial shelves are filled with activities that allow a child to hone their sensorial impressions making visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory comparisons and contrasts. As acquisition of language is what this age child is all about, the language work included on the shelves is perfectly timed to this learning. With tactile introductions to sounds of letters, the learning begins through the senses and develops with the child through the use of the moveable alphabet for word building to pencil and paperwork.

The Kinder year in the three-year cycle is a very important year, one of tremendous realization of skills and maturity. Having had the full three years in a Montessori environment, it is a delight to see each Kinder child at this pinnacle of success applying self-care, order/classification, sensorial, language skills to their daily lives as she stands on the cusp of the second plane of development, ages 6-12 years. The children can reflect on how they have grown from that uncertain first year in the classroom to one of confidence, leadership, and “can do” spirit. Being able to experience all the social levels (novice, follower, leader) of the classroom helps the child to understand the complexities of the larger world. They are prepared to meet their next phase of growth with confidence and accept new challenges with a smile.

 

The Second Plane

Montessori’s second plane of development encompasses the elementary years. While there are degrees of difference between the Lower and Upper Elementary classrooms, the key sensitivities for learning are the same for 6-12 year olds. “Montessori observed startling changes in children beginning at approximately age six indicating both a new goal and a new direction in their development. The children’s focus shifts from individual formation to development as social beings and the direction of their explorations of the world tends to the abstract rather than the concrete. All children’s behavioral tendencies serve these new purposes.”[3] We observe both physical and intellectual changes that allow the child to explore those sensitivities.

The proportions of their bodies, the loss of “baby” teeth for permanent teeth, their muscular strength and stamina all point to their entry into this second plane of development. Observing the child’s intellectual curiosity, mental organization of information, and ease in absorbing knowledge lead Montessori to call this stage, the Intellectual Period. “All other factors… sink into insignificance beside the importance of feeding the hungry intelligence and opening vast fields of knowledge to eager exploration.”[4]

Unlike most curriculums designed for this stage of development, our Montessori curriculum opens up the universe to elementary children beginning first with the all-encompassing view of the formation of the universe and the development of life on Earth. “Human consciousness comes into the world as a flaming ball of imagination.”[5] By relying on his acute imagination, the child can hold the greater picture of the universe, the planet, the evolution of life and becomes “enthused to his inner most core.”[6] Studies are then motivated by the insatiable curiosity and the sheer joy of learning. As children develop during these years, they pursue topics of greater specificity, expanding their knowledge base from the bigger view of life to details.

Also unlike many classrooms, our Montessori elementary classrooms provide opportunities to develop as social beings. Learning is done in collaboration and cooperation as well as individually. Social learning is addressed as new situations or challenges arise. Lessons and opportunities in Compassionate Communication, conflict resolution, and modeling virtues are part of everyday life. We know that children learn best when they experience safety and trust in their environment.

As with the kinder child, the 6th year student who has completed their full 6-year cycle of the elementary Montessori program, stands at the pinnacle of this phase of development and peers into the next plane of development (12-18 years) with a sense of confidence, a tremendous ability to learn, and to be a leader.

 

 

[1] Lillard, Paula Polk. Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from

Birth to Adulthood. Schoken Books, New York, 1996.

[2] Ibid, p.37.

[3] Lillard, Paula Polk. Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from

Birth to Adulthood. Schoken Books, New York, 1996.

[4] Montessori, Maria. To Educate the Human Potential. Kalakshetra Publications, India,

1948.

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

 

About the author: Wanda Whitehead is Casa di Mir Montessori School founder and Director of Education, and former head of school (1989-2018).

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Montessori Leads the Way

By Wanda Whitehead

Montessori schools have always emphasized intellectual development, creativity, social-emotional well being and an education that follows the immense curiosity of the child.

As education is being reinvented around us and public schools are implementing the Common Core Standards, Montessori Education remains a beacon for all. Because Montessori education is founded in an enlightened understanding of the development of the child from birth to adulthood, it has employed since its beginnings all the elements of a best practices education in the 21st century.

Common Core Standards and their implementation are a response to a period of time where the public schools had been obsessed with measurement, evaluation, and rewards or punishments. During the “No Child Left Behind” directive, the educational system had left behind aspects of intellectual and social/emotional development of the child while being totally driven to subject memorization. The child had not been educated as a whole being.

This past commitment to black and white assessment meant a focus on memorization and rote learning, both of which utilize only small portions of the brain. This has left the higher order thinking skills and executive functioning skills of the developing brain underutilized. The Common Core Standards are directed at the development of reasoning, critical thinking, articulation of thinking, logic, and decision-making. They are noble goals. It will take much time and effort by enlightened educators to till this type of learning back into the soil of conventional education and to break down the structures rooted in place over the past two decades. We can welcome this Common Core Standards push toward improving conventional education.

So, here stands Montessori Education with over 100 years of experience in providing a developmentally inspired education for kids around the world. Montessori schools have always emphasized intellectual development, creativity, social-emotional well being and an education that follows the immense curiosity of the child. The curriculums from birth to adulthood include nurturing reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving and autonomy within which the executive function skills develop. From the earliest classroom experiences children are encouraged to take a lead in their learning and given the respect of beings with tremendous potential to become contributors in life.

Teachers are guides and models for the child’s own drive to grow and become. The Montessori programs are built on a well-developed pedagogy of child development which perfectly matches the knowledge we now have of the development of the brain. While tools have changed over the centuries, the growth and development of the child and the human brain has changed very little. The core skills for 21st century life remain the cherished Montessori principles of respect, independence, curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, critical thinking/reasoning, self-awareness, strong communication skills, conflict resolution, development of all senses, and care for community.

So what does Montessori Education do that continues to make it a leading pedagogy in the 21st century and able to be an example of what is desired in the implementation of the Common Core Standards?

  • It prepares children to take care of their needs and pursue their own interests. The conscious development of independence begins at age three. Daily activities help students develop critical thinking and give them practice in choice-making throughout their early school years. Learning is student-directed from the first day the child takes a Practical Life activity from the shelf to making her own lesson plans each day and choosing her focus of study for research projects. So we graduate self-reliant students.
  • Students are shown respect and listened to for their thoughts and feelings. A child who is listened to and understood learns to value himself and others. So we graduate self-aware students who can listen to and empathize with others.
  • Montessori materials empower children to teach themselves and figure things out, so we graduate confident learners, proud of their own thinking processes.
  • Multi-age classrooms allow for community and the experience of leadership, so we graduate children who cooperate and lead.
  • Our integrated curriculum encompasses the interrelationship of all things we know and enables children to see their place in the world, so we graduate world citizens who will work toward social justice and a sustainable future through positive choices they make in life.
  • Our lessons capture imagination and inspire learning, so we graduate students who love learning and can inspire others.
  • Expressions of learning can be demonstrated through multi-media presentations, art, drama, written work, and other creative ventures. So we graduate students who can think creatively.

The benefits of an education at Casa di Mir, with its emphasis on authentic Montessori pedagogy, are evident and long lasting.

 

About the author: Wanda Whitehead is Casa di Mir Montessori School founder and Director of Education, and former head of school (1989-2018).

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