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Freedom within Limits

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“The liberty of the child ought to have as its limits the collective interest of the community in which he moves; its form is expressed in what we call manners and good behaviour. It is our duty then to protect the child from doing anything which may offend or hurt others. But as regards all else, every action that has a useful purpose, whatever it may be and in whatever forms it shows itself, ought not only to be permitted, but it ought to be kept under observation, that is the essential point.”  Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child

 

As a new school we often show parents around who are intrigued by the serene nature of our classrooms. This often leads on to questions about behaviour management and how we set boundaries.

I decided to write this post to address how Montessori deals with behaviour. As a parent and educator it is a topic that I often reflect and revisit frequently. I hope this post can give an insight in to the Montessori approach to dealing with young children who often have very big emotions!

The first thing to note, is that when Montessori spoke of discipline, she focused on the inner discipline of the child. The term isn’t really used in the traditional sense, i.e. as a way to correct behaviour.

So how does discipline work?  Well, let’s start by thinking about the aim of traditional discipline (I am thinking of naughty steps and time out). Is the aim to punish?

I think this is where the problem lies, surely the aim should be to teach the child?

If we used the concept of teaching, putting a child in a time out teaches them very little. In fact the one thing it does teach, is that when we are upset with somebody we send them away. I think we can all agree that really isn’t creating a productive way of dealing with conflict!

There are a number of myths about Montessori education. One is that Montessori education is too structured and controlled. Another is that children are allowed to do whatever they want. Instead, Montessori education embodies an important concept. The concept of freedom within limits. So who defines these limits? Well, as an educator, it is the teachers and at home it is the parents.

Montessori introduced three set limits upon which a classrooms ground rules are based. These limits are; respect for oneself, respect for others and respect for your environment.

In the first place, respect for oneself refers to teaching children how to work safely and productively in the Montessori classroom. Children are free to choose their activities, provided that they have been shown a presentation of the activity, and know how to use the materials respectfully to avoid self-harm.

Furthermore, respect for others incorporates social skills and good behaviour. Children can choose to work independently or in small groups; however, they must be invited to work with another child, and must not interfere with another child’s work. All children must show respect for others within their classroom community.

Finally, respect for the environment relates to the proper care for everything within the Montessori classroom. This includes the proper use of the Montessori materials, packing away, and taking care of all things living and non-living within the environment.

So now we all know how this works in a classroom, how does this translate to home?

It’s a good question, and one I often ask myself when dealing with the extreme emotions of my two year old. How can I, as a parent, create and manage these limits at home?

I was having a very interesting conversation with our head teacher Cindy on this very topic. She explained it in a way that made absolute sense to me.

If a child is acting in a way that you are unsure of whether you need to intervene ask yourself a very simple question. “Is their behaviour effecting another’s freedom?”

So for example if they are enthusiastically playing with their marble run (read banging it against the wall!) Is that harming anybody?

Well actually no, but their actions are stopping others enjoying the freedom to use that material, as it may break.  My five year old would not have been happy to have come home to find it broken!

As well as preventing his older brother from enjoying the marble run, my two year old is disrespecting his environment. In this scenario, as a parent, I need to intervene as his actions are impinging on another’s freedom.

So, what does that intervention look like? Well, we are aiming to teach and not discipline so it would be showing my son the correct way to use the marble run.

If he continues to disrespect the material after being shown I would let him know that he is not ready for that particular activity and place it back on the shelf. I could then introduce another suitable activity.

If the marble run is damaged (this is quite often the case), there is no punishment, no chastising or time outs. Rather a Montessori approach would allow the child to appreciate the natural consequence. For the above example, they would be asked to help to fix the material etc.

To summarise I would say freedom is allowed and encouraged as long as it is within acceptable limits. Those limits are defined as above, and set by the teachers or parents. If the child struggles to keep within a limit, a natural consequence and not a punishment should be applied.

I know as a parent it is often difficult to react calmly in the midst of a tantrum. I hope this post helps you to be more reflective of the limits that we set our children.

Please comment below if there are any more topics that you would like me to write about. I am off to rescue our marble run…

 

Until the next time,

Rozey

Montessori and Special Educational Needs

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I have had quite a few questions recently regarding children with Special Educational Needs and how Montessori fits in. I thought I would write down my thoughts about how a Montessori education can specifically impact a child with SEN.

Firstly let me start by saying Maria Montessori’s whole philosophy began during her work with children of differing SEN needs. She made observations on how the children interacted with their environment, teachers and resources and from there the Montessori Philosophy was born.

For me, she was a pioneer who’s work proved that an education is so much more then achieving milestones at a pre determined age. She looked beyond that and championed that all children are unique. She believed that their individual learning styles should be respected.

It all sounds good in theory but how did she suggest we achieve this? Perhaps one reason that the Montessori method has proven so successful among children with Special Educational Needs is the pacing.  Children are encouraged to move ahead at their own pace. They take up a new activity only when they are comfortable that they have learned enough from the previous activity. The pace of learning is decided by the child, children stay motivated and build positive self-esteem.

Another technique that is highly supportive for children with SEN is the degree of personal attention children receive. Montessori teachers are not stationed at the front room on an imposing desk. Rather, they move throughout the room observing and assessing each individual child.

Vertical groupings , so that 2 and 4 year old work together allow children to feel at ease. There is no pressure to compete or feeling of being “left behind”. Montessori truly values a child’s ability to develop at their own pace.

There never has been or will be a “one cap fits all” approach to education that works. For me that is the beauty of being part of the human race. All so unique but still fundamentally the same in many ways.

Montessori embraces not only our differences but also the unique ability of every child to progress in a way that suits them.

 

Rozey

 

p.s Here is a great blog post for anybody interested in some further reading on the subject.

 

Montessori-Inspired Special Needs Support

 

 

Why a Montessori Nursery in Fishponds, Bristol?

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“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”
Maria Montessori

 

I have come to realise that as a parent, once you go Montessori, there really is no going back!

One of the things that I love best about Bristol is that there is a passionate ,alternative parenting network.  Although I am not of the fan  of the word ‘alternative’ to describe Montessori, in comparison to the schooling method in this country, it sums it up. Montessori is so far removed from the current schooling system. As a parent and educator I am pleased that East Bristol will finally have a Montessori pre school available.

 

My son started at an amazing Montessori nursery over 3 years ago and having visited a number of other settings, this place really stood out. It was organised purely for the child and you could tell that the child’s need for independence was catered for. So we started sending our son there. The only snag being,it was a 5o minute round trip on a good day with no traffic. Crazy? Possibly, but like I said, once you go Montessori, nothing else will do! So yes our son attended and thrived in this amazing setting and it got me thinking. Why are there no Montessori settings on my side of town? Surely there are other parents who live in fishponds who would like a Montessori nursery.

 

So that’s exactly what I did! A dream, three years in the making and Rozey Days Montessori School Bristol was born. It has taken three years of effort, lots of patience and hard work by my husband and now accountant ( Thank you Asem). It really is a dream come true. We have had many ups and downs trying to find the right building. I am constantly reminding myself that dreams never come easy. If they did, everybody would be making them a reality.

 

Here we are three years later and the school is about to open. Nervous? Yes. Terrified? A little! Mainly though I am proud to be able to bring Montessori to my community. Fishponds and East Bristol deserve access to an education system which has quite frankly changed my perspective on child development.

If you are like me a parent, dismayed at the current schooling system, come and pay us a visit. Rozey Days Montessori School Bristol may just be the type of setting you are looking for. Once we are up and running, my next dream is to open a Montessori primary school.  However as my husband would quite rightly say “let’s not run before we can walk!” So for now I am pleased and proud to offer you all; Rozey Days Montessori School in Bristol.

Rozey

Spanish at Rozey Days Montessori School Bristol

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Hola! My name is Paula and I will be the Spanish teacher at Rozey Days Montessori School. I am very excited to embark on this new adventure.

Why an additional Language?

In an increasingly globalised and interconnected world with cosmopolitan and diverse cities like Bristol, we believe that children, especially in the first few years of their lives, are best placed to absorb and acquire languages in a natural, organic way.

Maria Montessori discovered that very young children have a special sensitivity to language which enables them to absorb them effortlessly and naturally in the first 6 years of life. During this sensitive period for language, children are most interested in learning the names for everything around them and as they expand their vocabulary, they are feeding their inclination to learn and develop.

Thus, there is a great opportunity for children to learn and understand a second, and even a third, language simultaneously at this stage which may seem surprising to many adults who find learning foreign languages quite a struggle.

There are two ways in which language is usually taught in Montessori schools: the first one consists of exploratory classes which last for a short period of time. Although children may well learn to communicate through this method in a second language, they don’t usually attain fluency. The second type of language program is immersion whereby the nursery or school setting is fully bilingual with activities being conducted in both languages. Children exposed to this method tend to become bilingual, developing greater mental flexibility and cultural awareness.

Research shows that early bilingualism offers many life-long advantages such as fostering creativity and problem-solving, aiding memory, stronger academic skills and overall improved mental health in later life. This is why I am so pleased that in Bristol we will now have a Montessori school which offers spanish.

How does it work?

Daily repetition of common words and phrases in Spanish with an emphasis on songs, poems, stories, movements and everyday tasks allow the children to become familiarised with the foreign language and to naturally understand the meaning of the words by associating them with the actions or objects that they are attached to.

Children learn language at different speeds and levels. As a teacher or “directress”, my role will be to observe each child and tailor activities to their individual needs and interests. Each child should be free to progress at his or her own pace so that they can grow as individuals with confidence and a love of learning. Immersion means that the Spanish language will be present at all times, in a real-life context rather than out of textbook pages. Therefore, the language will be acquired through interactive experience, much in the same way as the native language has been since birth.

Language is inevitably tied to culture and the classroom will provide the children with a rich environment for language and cultural experiences. The Spanish language, the second most-widely spoken language in the world after Chinese, offers a valuable opportunity to incorporate customs, traditions and experiences from a vast range of countries and cultures in Spain, Latin America and the United States of America.

The children will learn about foods, songs, celebrations and customs by recreating them and being active participants in these experiences using the Spanish language as a key to open and explore their environment and the world.

I look forward to helping the children discover the fascinating world of Spanish and to encourage and guide them along the journey working closely with each one of them and their families. I will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have about the Spanish  program at Rozey Days Montessori School Bristol.

Muchas gracias!

Miss Paula

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punished by rewards – Short term praise, long term consequences.

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“I had been subject to the delusion of one of the most absurd procedures of ordinary education. Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments…And I was astonished when I learned that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts”.

Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child, pg 59

As parents we tend to use expressions such as “good boy” or “good girl” naturally. And why not? Our children deserve to know that they are valued.

 

I know that before embracing the world of Montessori I was keen to use praise whenever I could. Surely that is what positive parenting is all about? A day rarely went by without me telling my child that he was the next Einstein… ( He was far more concerned with being an authentic T-rex).

 

Maybe you are not one to over praise. How about using rewards to encourage your child? I know I have been guilty of offering pudding if one more bite of carrot is consumed (actually when it comes to the battle of the carrot in our house I would practically offer my son anything he wanted, but that’s a post for another time!)

 

Praising our children whenever possible to build their self-confidence and focusing them to achieve their full potential comes as second nature to most parents and educators alike.

 

Maria Montessori did not agree with any of the above. In fact she went one step further by debunking the myth that rewards lead to progress and achievement. She believed that by rewarding children for ‘good behaviour’, we are actually doing more harm than good.

 

So for example, using a reward system in a school setting is fairly commonplace today. Children from as young as 4 years of age are given gold stars for ‘good work’. Some schools even go as far as to offer colour coding system.

 

A public wall of shame, if you like.

 

Red being reserved for a child who has been in trouble, green for a good child and amber for a child who is somewhere in between.

 

Can you imagine if we had such a system for adults? In your working day how often would you be on red and how would this make you feel about yourself?

 

But I digress.

 

This system of reward according to the Montessori philosophy is fundamentally flawed for a few key reasons.

 

The main one being that children should gain a sense of satisfaction from the learning experience rather than via the lure of an external reward. Imagine, if a child learnt to appreciate history simply because it was intriguing, would he or she not do far better than someone who is simply vying for accolades? Would the knowledge of the bygone era not prove more useful to the child who is learning about it because he wants to? Surely we want our children to get an education that touches their very souls. Difficult to achieve if we are using golden stars to measure their self-worth.

 

Do not get me wrong. Praise and encouragement in Montessori is important. But it always is specific, has a context and is never used as a competitive measure. You are likely to see reward in a Montessori classroom in the subtle smile of a teacher. Or you may hear verbal praise such as “You really worked hard on that activity”. Praise tends to be for encouragement and is not used to entice children to behave in a certain way.

 

A golden star or sticker may make a child feel good momentarily. However equipping them with the ability to achieve their potential, is a skill that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

 

Grace and Courtesy- Reclaiming the Importance of Manners. A Montessori Perspective

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So in the child, besides the vital impulse to create himself, and to become perfect, there must yet another purpose, a duty to fulfil in harmony, something he has to do in the service of a united whole. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, pg 57.

We had some guests over yesterday evening.

It was late so our four year old son Raif, greeted them, exchanged a few pleasantries and went up to bed. After putting Raif to sleep with his favourite story The Smartest Giant in Town (more about this book later), I came downstairs ready to unwind from mum duties and to enjoy some much needed adult conversation.

One of our guests started to talk about parenthood and some of its challenges. Not yet a parent himself, he was intrigued about our relationship with Raif and he asked both my husband and I an interesting question. The question he asked was:  “what one value have you consciously focused on instilling in Raif?”

I have never been asked this before, so it took a while for me to think it through. I initially thought it was an impossible question to answer. Parenting is such an ongoing and evolving process. To try and pin it down to one defining value, to me seemed over simplistic.

I sat pondering many of the qualities I love about Raif. Is it empathy? Maybe it’s being fearlessly honest and always caring for others. Just as I was mulling over these potential answers, my husband came out with “good manners”.

It definitely wouldn’t have been my first answer.

Yes, Raif is well mannered but there is so much more to him then just saying please and thank you. I immediately thought that my husband had been unjust to both Raif and our parenting! I was about to interject and say “no, no I would say kindness” but I stopped myself and listened to my husband explain.

He went on to say that teaching our son to have manners led him to be empathetic, sensitive and able to understand things from others’ point of view (not always!).

It got me thinking, and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed. Notions of the word “manners” often conjure up strict obedience and listening, doing as you are told or facing punishment.

This is why I had wanted to object in the first place, as that is nothing like the environment that we nurture. It made me realise that actually manners means so much more than that. It promotes empathy so that children learn the effects kind words can have on one another. It creates a natural desire within the child to understand and accept others and, most importantly, teaches them to understand that we should all have the right to be heard, understood and respected.

I wonder what the world would look like if mainstream schooling started a grace and courtesy curriculum at the pre-school /reception stage. I believe it would be hugely different!

 

The Montessori curriculum covers grace and courtesy between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. It is at this age that they are in a sensitive period for these things, and so it is crucial that both as educator and parents we introduce and model this behaviour.

 

So how do we define “grace and courtesy” in the Montessori classroom? The best definition I’ve seen is that grace and courtesy should promote harmony in every level of human existence, large and small:

 

At a small level:

  • Within each person.
  • In relationships.
  • Within families.

At a larger level:

  • In the community.
  • Throughout the world.

 

Early lessons of grace and courtesy develop positive interpersonal skills that will serve children throughout their lives. Demonstrations of Practical Life activities involving it are designed to nurture a child’s natural qualities, and their inherent desire to contribute to the peaceful order of their environment.

What do you do to promote grace and courtesy in your home? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Rozey

 

P.S I wanted to quickly mention The Smartest Giant in Town

This is one of my favourite bedtime stories to read with Raif and is all about kindness and the power of helping others. It’s a beautiful story which is suitable for any child age three and above. The link below will take you to where you can purchase online but it might be worth going to a bookshop and choosing it off the shelf. It would be a great opportunity to discuss kindness and its importance. Enjoy 🙂

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Smartest-Giant-Town-Julia-Donaldson/dp/0333963962;