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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School14 hours ago
By: Aubrey Hargis

As Montessori teachers and parents...

1. We follow the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952). She was a medical doctor, a teacher, a philosopher, and an anthropologist. Her progressive view of children was way beyond her time, and her writing is still very relevant today. Interested in reading some of her work yourself? You should! Try The Secret of Childhood for starters. Read more about her life and take the Montessori challenge for fun.

2. We understand that children of different ages have different needs and abilities. We study child development theory (for example, sensitive periods) and make sure that our classrooms and homes have developmentally appropriate activities and expectations. When something new is discovered about the growing brain, we are taking notes, ready to back it up with our educational practice. (More often than not, the research simply confirms the Montessori method!)

3. We observe our children. The child has so much to teach us about learning. By watching closely, we can modify our lessons and materials to best suit the child's interests and growth. We try to anticipate what the child will need next and make sure that this experience is available for when the child is ready to explore the subject or skill. We call this "following the child".

4. We believe that the environment itself is the best teacher, and we prepare it like a mama bird would craft a proper nest for her babies. Rather than dictating what a child should learn and when, we design the classroom or home to fit the needs of the child, rich experiences balanced by beauty and order. This takes a great amount of effort, but we are rewarded when a child enters and is inspired to learn. In a typical Montessori classroom, you would see objects in baskets, trays, or boxes arranged on a shelf attractively. Each work contains a purposeful work that is designed to teach a specific concept. (Pssst: We don't randomly select concepts to teach, remember? We base them on our observations of the child.)

5. We model grace and courtesy (good manners), treating our children as we wish ourselves to be treated. We use calm voices when teaching and speak with respect in regard to the children's feelings. We carry ourselves with poise and handle objects with care. We believe that the children are acutely observing us even when we aren't aware of it, and they will mimic our behaviors and attitudes. We know that humans aren't perfect, but we really try to bring out the best in ourselves.

6. We recognize that children are unique individuals who are not likely to master the exact same concepts or have the same interests at the same time. We celebrate this uniqueness and allow each child to develop at his or her pace. We believe that learning is a natural process that develops spontaneously. When we place our trust in the child, we are often surprised at the immense amount of learning that takes place through the child's interaction with his or her world.

7. We do not use rewards and punishments to force children to comply with rules or to combat ill behavior. We believe that each child is on the way to developing self discipline and that the rewards should be intrinsic (within oneself) rather than externally imposed. When a child misbehaves, we first examine the reasons why the child is exhibiting those behaviors (hungry? tired? overstimulated? testing boundaries?) and then we contemplate whether a change in the prepared environment would help or if we need to teach certain problem-solving skills to prevent another occurrence. Never do we use shame or humiliation. We try to help the child understand appropriate behavior in a social context in a gentle, firm manner.

8. We believe that children learn best when they are free to move their bodies throughout the day. Children have physical rights. They should not be constrained to desks. They should be allowed to move around in their environment, visit the bathroom as often as they like, and work in a variety of sitting or standing positions. We want to teach our children to respect their bodies and control their movements, and by allowing this freedom, we feel that this helps the growing brain learn more effectively. We encourage this independence, but also teach respect for others. No one's freedom should infringe upon another's right to concentrate.

9. We believe that the materials a child works with (one could just as easily call them "toys") should be carefully chosen to support the current developmental stage. With few exceptions, natural materials are preferred, and the works themselves should be arranged attractively on the shelf. Concrete experiences are always offered first and abstract thinking presented later, when the child has a firm grasp on the concept. Maria Montessori herself developed and sanctioned specific materials for learning that are considered classic and essential to a Montessori classroom. You might want to take a look at the pink tower, the moveable alphabet, or the golden beads. Oh, and yes, we call it work and not play. Really it's just semantics, so don't let it bother you.

10. To Montessori teachers, presenting a lesson to a child is an art form. For example, for the 3-6 age child, we captivate the child's attention by talking very little during the lesson and instead making our movements slow and deliberate. This allows the child to focus on our actions and remember the little details that may be forgotten if we were speaking at the same time. One of the classic Montessori lesson techniques you might want to investigate is called The Three Period Lesson.

11. We believe that education can change the world for the better. We are advocates for peace. The children themselves represent a "bright, new hope for mankind". We feel that the work we do as educators, guiding children toward self reliance and compassion, is incredibly important in the grand scheme of future life on Earth. How our children are treated as babies is going to impact our entire civilization when they are all grown up and making decisions that affect others. We are humbled by the great possibilities that exist within the tiniest of humans, and we respect their inner wisdom.

Still confused? It's okay. Montessori philosophy is as vast and deep as the ocean. Start by going to the beach. Feel the wind on your cheeks and listen to the waves crash. It's okay that you don't get it all at once. Then pick something to study. Starfish. Dolphins. Jellyfish. It doesn't matter what you begin with because the animals inside the ocean are interdependent. As you do your research, you will begin to understand the power of the entire system.
Welcome to Montessori!

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School2 days ago
By: Kari Ewert-Krocker

Maria Montessori knew--and history and neuroscience have proven--that Scientific Pedagogy based on knowledge of the basic developmental traits of ALL human beings would change the lives of children for the better. Dozens of bloggers and scientists would confirm this! There’s no question that Montessori is good for children.

But what if I told you that it has inherent and wonderful value for adults, too? That these changes that you make--to your home, to your lifestyle, to the way you raise your children--could have inherent value for YOU, too! That’s right! Montessori: it’s not just for children.

“Little By Little, It Changes People.”

When Maria Montessori started planning for Directresses to lead the Casa Dei Bambini, there was a whole piece of her pedagogy that was based around the transformation of the adult. She believed that the adult must deeply examine who they are, remove and root out their own prejudices, and focus on seeing the child for who they truly are.

She believed her teachers should be scientists and saints! While her standards for adults were high, I ultimately believe they came from a hopeful place: one that believed that any person could elevate themselves to serve the child in the highest regard. I love this quote from her:

“At first the teacher will say, ‘I have seen the child as she ought to be, and found her better than I could have ever supposed.’ This is what it means to understand infancy. It is not enough to know that this child is called Jamie, that her father is a carpenter; the teacher must know and experience in her daily life the secret of childhood. Through this she arrives not only at a deeper knowledge but at a new kind of love which does not become attached to the individual person, but to that which lies in the hidden darkness of this secret. When the children show her their real natures, she understands perhaps for the first time, what love really is. And this revelation transforms her also. It is a thing that touches the heart, and little by little it changes people.”
-Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind (p.282)

Practicing What You Preach

People say that it takes an adult doing something 30 times in a row to build it into a new habit. This has been so apparent to me in my life as a Montessorian! I would not say that, pre-teaching and parenting, I was the most observant or mindful--especially of myself and my own feelings.

But this funny thing happened to me: the more I observed the children and became mindful of their needs, the more I observed myself, and became mindful of my own! The ability to sit in silence and discomfort and JUST WATCH AND WAIT for them instilled the same in me!

Similarly: if I was responsible for modeling for children the maintenance of the environment, for the modeling of care of others, for the modeling of how to handle hard meant I had to practice them! By myself, and with the children. Each time I practiced, I internalized those skills a little bit more. Yes, the children were learning!!! But so, importantly, am I.

Mistakes Are How We Grow

It’s easy sometimes though, I know, to miss all that self-learning when we are ALSO making so many mistakes. Error is a part of human existence--and everyone does it. But not everyone is given the same opportunity to be friendly with their error. Friendliness with error, an important facet of Montessori education, is simply the understanding that making mistakes is how we come to understand the right way to do something.

It’s why Maria Montessori so valued self-correcting materials, and emphasized the importance of letting children experiment with the materials as much as they needed to make their own discoveries. I know I tell children all the time: it’s okay to make mistakes! And if I really and truly believe it to be true for them...that means it must be true for me, too. I muster forgiveness for myself. I try to see the chances to learn and grow.

The World Is Full Of Wonder And Discovery

When you spend every day looking at the world through the eyes of a young child, it becomes impossible to ignore WONDER. The delight of reading a word for the first time, unexpectedly. The first taste of sour, bitter, sweet, salty. The knowledge that we are just one of many planets in one of many galaxies that soars through the vast expanse of space. These may lose their luster to us as we grow, but each time a child makes a new discovery, we are welcome to BEHOLD and bask in that wonder.

And speaking of discovery? In encouraging our children to learn about those things that interest them, those things that they are driven to learn, I hope we all remember that anything we want to learn more about is WORTHY OF OUR TIME and worth learning. The learning never has to stop--and what we learn doesn’t need to be dictated by what our children NEED or what our job REQUIRES. We can learn FOR US. For the pleasure of learning.

I’m so grateful for Montessori for my children. But also? I’m grateful for it for ME 💗

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School3 days ago
Independent Play with Babies and Young Toddlers...
By: The Kavanaugh Report

Independence. It's an important Montessori concept to understand, and one that I've talked about many times before. In her book, The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori said, "The child's development follows a path of successive stages of independence...We have to help the child to act, will and think for himself." Having said that, I don't think that Dr. Montessori meant that *bam* children should be independent completely from the moment they are born in all areas of their lives. Each child is on a path towards that ultimate goal. But, as parents we can support that path from infancy.

When it comes to playing alone, sometimes that can be a struggle for children, especially young ones. I know that it has been for some of my children. So I know that when it comes to independent play for babies and toddlers I need to keep my own expectations in check. We aren't looking for long stretches of time where our kids are playing alone, but just to give them some time to practice here and there. Here are some tips to keep in mind to encourage independent play with babies and young toddlers.


Make it part of your routine from your baby's earliest days. Don't feel guilty setting your baby down for a moment or two and walking away to accomplish something else.
Resist the urge to intervene when your child is concentrating - protect that concentration. This includes times when you are sitting and playing with your baby.
Provide lots of really great connection time, when you both feel like you've time together, it's easier for you to step back some too
Start with just a few moments and work up to longer stretches. We aren't talking about minutes here, at first it may only be 30-45 seconds. Build that capacity for independence over time.
Observe your baby often to make sure the materials available meet their needs.

Young Toddlers

Little toddlers are very similar to babies in that they want and need a lot of your attention! Remember they are in the sensitive period for language, and feel seriously called to be near you and all the words you're using. But there are things you can do to encourage independent play and exploration:
Let your toddler explore their materials, don't feel like you need to interject to "show" or "teach" them the right way to use something. Let them feel like they don't need to turn to you to make sure they are playing correctly,
Slowly distance yourself when playing. Sit a little bit back from your child, or leave the room after a few minutes. Just giving some space.
Create an environment where you feel comfortable allowing your child to be alone.
Don't force it or sneak away if your child is upset, look for times when they are calm, comfortable, and engaged.
Busy yourself in the same room as your child - read a book, clean up, do another project.

Older Toddlers

Older toddlers may have more capacity for independent play than younger ones. But, if you're new to the idea, it will take some time for them to get there.
Again, protect concentration, if you see your child using a material, let them be! This includes non-toys, and practical life work. Unless they are being destructive, or are in danger, let it go.
Make yourself busy - invite them to participate in practical tasks but if they are unwilling to join, no worries, just let them busy themselves
Create opportunities in your environment that allow them feel confident doing things for themselves - like prepping a snack on their own
Resist the urge to take over your child's pretend play by adding too much detail on your own. When you're playing together, follow your child's lead.

Again, I think it's most important to remember to keep your own expectations in check when looking for independent play. Prepare your environment, step back, and allow for concentration. But, even with all that, you may only see glimpses of independent play for a long time. Eventually, your child will get there if you allow them to follow their own path!

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School4 days ago
Learning to Lose....
By: The Kavanaugh Report

Learning to lose is a part of being an adult. Or at least, I hope it is. But, for children it an be a very difficult skill to learn. Losing a game, a race, or a challenge can be deeply disappointing, sparking anger and outrage in small children. For a time, these large reactions can be avoided if you skip games or ensure that your child wins. However, these tricks are short lived and guiding your child through a loss is a much better life skill.

In our house we just had to upgrade to a second game cabinet we love games so much! Games are not something we avoid because losing is hard, but games are another amazing learning opportunity for our children. Here are a few tips on how to teach your children how to lose.

Cooperative Games

Especially for children under 6, stick to cooperative games. In these games, there isn't one winner or loser. Either the game is not about winning or losing at all or you're playing against the game. You are learning to work as a team. Therefore, when you lose, you lose together. This takes the pressure off any individual child. In my experience, it has helped to make loses easier for them to process and less of a traumatic experience. Without those huge reactions, they tend to be more willing to try again, and approach with a sense of determination - instead of anger.

As children approach the second plane of development (around age 6) they may be able to handle more non-cooperative win/lose games. I have followed the lead of my children here to determine when they are ready. We still play cooperative games in the second plane but no exclusively.

Model Graciously Losing

Now, there are very few children's games that I can't win every single time. But, what fun is that for my children? So I do lose on purpose when we play. The goal of this really isn't just to allow my children to win, but to model how to lose. Obviously, I'm not distraught if I lose a game of Dr. Eureka but I can still model as if I am disappointed. I talk it out as if I am. "Oh, I really wanted to win. That's disappointing. I'll try again next time." I don't stick to a specific script but try to make it sound genuine. I take deep breaths, I say "good game." All of the things I want my children to see and say next time they find that they have lost.
Grace and Courtesy

While modeling in the moment is helpful, it's not always the greatest teacher. Especially for older children who no longer have an absorbent mind, a little more direct teaching might be helpful as they learn to lose. A grace and courtesy lesson on what to say, how to say it, and some tools to use when they are disappointed can be helpful. A grace and courtesy lesson should happen at a neutral time and can be a fun game itself.

Guide Through A Loss

Despite all of this, children can still become upset when they lose. Help to guide them through it. Don't make the experience worse by using phrases like "sore loser" or "cry baby" or some other disrespectful phrase. Instead acknowledge their feelings, comfort them, help them through the emotions. It's not teaching them to throw a fit every time they lose, but it's show them that you'll be there no matter what emotion they are feeling. And you'll keep working on handling loss better in the future. These moments are not a time for teaching, but a time of compassion and empathy.

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School5 days ago
How we encourage young children to clean up a spill (or breakage) Montessori Style...

Do your children willingly and enthusiastically clean up spills and breakages at home or do they need a little prompting? To encourage our young children to clean up spills and breakages at home we start with good role modeling and continue will a lot of patience and a few child-size tools. We consider:

Good role modeling - clean up our own spills slowly and precisely if the child is observing.
Starting young - once the child can walk confidently, they can swat down and swipe up a spill, from around 18 months many children will be able to wipe up a small spill independently and can get a feeling of satisfaction from it.
Small, child accessible cleaning tools - it's really not about the 'stuff'. A small cloth is essential though. Make sure the child can reach it without any adult help. The child needs to know where the cleaning materials are and be able to independently reach them. Other cleaning tools to consider include;
spray bottle (with water and a little vinegar or essential oil) can help clean sticky spills.
dustpan and brush can help with broken plates or dishes.
a bucket that the child can fill can help with big spills.
cleaning mitt or small sponge can also help clean up.
a mop can also help with the bigger spills or cleaning generally.
Verbal prompts - if my child isn't cleaning up a spill I will give a verbal prompt, "I see you've spilled the milk, let's find a cloth and wipe this up".
Cleaning up together - if my child isn't interested in cleaning up I will suggest we clean up together "do you want to wipe or spray", "do you want to sweep or hold the dustpan?".
Reassessing the reason for the spills - if spills are happening frequently we need to assess the reasons, is the pitcher too full, is the child's glass too large, is the table too high for the child to see when the glass is full, does the child need more pouring practice?
Supporting and allow the child to have ownership over their own spaces - if a child has ownership over an area they are more likely to take pride in the cleanliness and order of that space and are more likely to clean any spills.
Development of practical life skills - children need practice to develop practical life skills like pouring, wiping, sweeping. These all require strength, coordination, and concentration. Mistakes or spills are a part of the process that we can, if possible, embrace. This is a learning process and children can learn a lot from spills and breakages.
Staying positive and embrace the cleanup - spills and breakages will happen, we can teach children to be resilient and clean up the spills without drama.

My experience is that toddlers and preschoolers really enjoy the cleaning up process. They love using spray bottles and getting out their little cleaning cloths. They can take pride in their work as cleaning up a spill is visible and tangible.

I'll often offer or suggest using the mop after a spill as all of my children have loved using a mop and it extends the cleaning up process and gets my floors super clean.

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School6 days ago
The Freedom to Interact (Or Not) in the First Plane: 3-6
By: Catherine McTamaney

If you imagine a traditional preschool, you might think about children sitting together at circle time, singing songs all together, listening to stories all together, playing games all together, or exploring the outdoors all together. Indeed, search for "preschool" in your search engine, and you'll find all sorts of choices of pictures of children in groups, happily grinning at the camera.

Montessori classrooms take a little different slant. Yes, you'll find time when children in the Early Childhood classrooms enjoy common activities, working together on small group lessons or sharing birthday celebrations on the ellipse. But more often, you'll observe children working largely independently. This is not from some prohibition around children socializing. Quite the opposite. We understand that the need to interact is an important one, as is the need not to. Rather than requiring group activity, we provide it as an option and support children in interpreting their own boundaries for when and with whom they want to socialize.

As a result, you'll see children observing each other's work, chatting comfortably across a table as they each engage in their own lessons, or choosing a friend or two to engage in a more elaborate material. You'll see children sharing snack together, or serving each other from individual portions of fruits, vegetables or other bites they've prepared. You'll see children with their heads bent over the same book or laughing together as they care for a classroom pet. But you'll also see children working independently, or choosing a quiet space from which to observe the classroom alone. You'll see children politely answering, "No, thank you," when invited to share a snack or enter a game. You'll see children absorbed in their own activities such that they seem blissfully unaware of the busy-ness of the classroom around them.

All of these children are welcome here.

Montessorians understand that children in the First Plane of development have both the need to interact with others and a need for support when they want to be alone. Our classrooms, then, encourage children to observe each other at work, but preserve a limit that protects children from being interrupted while they're working. We believe that a child's attention is a valuable developing skill, and we restrain ourselves and others from disturbing children when they're concentrating. Likewise, we offer lessons in grace and courtesy that model how to ask to participate, how to engage a friend in an activity, and how to decline politely. Even our few full group activities, like time at circle, often allow for children's choice to interact or not. A child might choose to stay at their work, or might choose to come to circle but not to volunteer to participate. By giving children the opportunity to interact when they opt to and protecting them when they opt not to, we help them to develop the ability to regulate these social spaces independently, simultaneously respecting that, just like adults, children need differing levels of social engagement and meaningful opportunities for those engagements to be valuable and fulfilling.

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Crystal Lake Montessori School

3013 S. Country Club Rd

Woodstock, IL 60098

(815) 338-0013