At the beginning of every year I always wonder what the coming months will bring for 'my' toddlers. Having my own children at home I know all too well the saying 'the days are long but the years are short.'
Some of our toddlers are alumni from last year and will be moving on to Primary as they become ready.
Others are just starting their Montessori 'career'
The beauty of the mixed age classroom (15 months - 3 years for toddlers) in Montessori is that each child is recognized for her individual capabilities - not her capabilities measured against a statewide curriculum. The younger children observe and learn from the older ones and the older ones relish being able to take on the role of leader among their peers. The older children also develop a sense of what it means to care for and help others by helping their friends in class.
As we all know, toddlers have a strong desire to be independent, but at the same time they need our love, attention, and understanding. They are constantly watching us and as a parent, YOU are your child's first and most important teacher. When you make a mistake do you beat yourself up - 'I can't believe I did that/that was so stupid/I can't do anything right' or pick yourself up and try again - 'That was so frustrating. Next time I'll make sure I have my wallet before I go to the grocery store.'
A friendly attitude towards mistakes allows your child the freedom to explore - not only the physical environment but also intellectually. If a child is afraid of making a mistake, often he will not even try. Dr. Montessori said 'teach by teaching, not by correcting.'
To me as a teacher, this means I look at a situation beforehand and think about what pointers I might need to give the child. Instead of handing AC a heavy bucket full of water --------->
I first gave her a lesson on how to carry a bucket. Then she was able to experience success when she got it right on her own the first time. It is a small but powerful difference from handing her the bucket, waiting for it to spill, and then correcting her.
While we try to preempt mistakes in the classroom by showing children how to do things independently, inevitably water will spill, paint will get on the wall, someone will push instead of saying 'excuse me'....the list can go on and on....
We take these mistakes and look at them as opportunities for growth. How many times does a baby push up before he can crawl, fall before he can walk. babble before he can talk? The same theory applies for social, emotional, and intellectual development.
During the first few day of school I took these pictures with the hope that in May we will all look back and see the enormous growth that has taken place in a few short months. Growth that occurs in so many ways - including through making mistakes.
So even though the days can be long and try even the most patient among us, remember these moments are fleeting and try to teach the lesson now, in young childhood, that it's ok to make a mistake. It's how we learn. Here's to a great year of learning and growing!
This year, we have extended the Primary day to include eating lunch together. It has been wonderful to have the chance to share a meal together as part of our day. We've also enjoyed the chance to work for a complete uninterrupted three hour work cycle, just as Dr. Montessori suggested.
Each child has brought in their own napkin and napkin ring, and we provided place-cards, glass plates, cups and real silverware. You may be wondering why we offered breakable dishes to children who range in age from 2 1/2 to 5. Part of the reason comes from a level of trust that we have in the children. They tend to use the dishes with greater care and respect as a result. It adds an element of beauty to our lunches that we would not have if we used only plastic plates, cups and utensils (we love how environmentally friendly we are as well).
If something happens to break (and things do), we are able to help the children learn to clean it up without it becoming a big deal. Usually, other children quickly jump to the aid of the child who has broken a dish, and offer a broom, dustpan and brush to aid in the clean-up process. The same process happens if someone spills water or part of their lunch.
To set up lunch, most of my oldest children share in doing the jobs by doing a range of tasks, such as setting out the table cloths, placing cloth napkins with place-cards, silverware, glass cups and pitchers of water. The children also make our set-up more beautiful by adding flower arrangements made by the other children and special candles. During lunch, we enjoy listening to classical music and lately our favorites have included Mozart and Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Eating together has offered a wonderful opportunity for practicing our Grace and Courtesy lessons. We offer these lessons to the child at a neutral time -- ideally prior to the actual need and in a short (three to five minute) small group lesson. Through Grace and Courtesy lessons, the child is learning different ways to interact with one another more peacefully and can apply this knowledge to situations outside of school. Some of our Grace and Courtesy lessons include learning how to pass by a tight space, asking for help, offering help, introducing oneself, walking up to someone to have a conversation (instead of talking across the room) and offering comfort to someone who is not feeling well. And some of our Grace and Courtesy lessons for lunch have begun with learning to place our napkins in our laps while we eat, waiting until everyone is ready before starting to eat and asking to be excused when finished.
We are an AMI accredited Montessori school growing daily in spirit & intellect!