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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School8 hours 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
Crystal Lake Montessori School1 day ago
Settling In: Hitting the Pace in Elementary
By: Catherine McTamaney

Elementary learners are old hat at school. They know the routines. They can remember events from year to year and they have the language to be able to describe complicated ideas more accurately than when they were younger. The early days of the year, then, are typically pretty straight-forward. If there are problems, the children identify them and they seek to resolve them sooner than later. So, while parents of children in the younger classes may still be dealing with transitional stresses at the beginning of the year, parents of Elementary children have a different experience.

After the first week or so of the new year, Elementary students are typically ready to hit their pace. There’s an anxiousness in the classroom… the children adopt the new routines fairly quickly and may have already absorbed new peers into the community as though they’ve been there for years. Meanwhile, teachers are gauging their academic readiness, bringing out new materials quickly and trying to build momentum for these learners.

But while learners at this age generally have the cognitive development to communicate their needs and their concerns with more ease, that doesn’t mean they have fewer of them. Indeed, the same capacity to think abstractly, remember and predict can mean that children spend a good deal of their time resolving what they’d hoped for or imagined with what happens when other people are involved. The social norms of the classroom become paramount, and you’re likely to hear far more at home about who is getting along with whom than you are about the academic work your child is choosing.

Make space for that. In these early days, children are establishing social norms in their classroom. Teachers will be involved and intentional about those norms, but the children still need time away from their peers to process what’s happening at school. As your child hits their pace in these first weeks of school, make sure to slow things down at home. They are expending most of their intellectual energy during the day at school… once they’re back at home, you might notice they are more tired or more cranky, hungrier or less patient than usual. Give them space for home to be a place they can breathe out, without lowering your expectations of their kindness or helpfulness around the house. If your child is unusually terse these days, assure them that you know they may be tired or out of sorts, and ask them what support they need to contribute to home life the way you’d like them to.

Then, be sure to make time for your Elementary children to talk without your own agenda. There’s a lot to make sense of as they learn about the preferences of new peers and they take on new authority in the classroom. Give them space with open-ended questions to talk (and they’re likely to want to talk a lot!) Put away your devices, make eye contact and ask them to tell you about how things are going at school. If they raise questions or concerns they have, ask them how they would like to try to resolve them, and ask them if they think they need any support from you or from their teacher to do so.

Remember that social “crises” in Elementary may be important to the children, but short-lived. Instead of reacting to a day’s story about a difficult encounter, turn the conversation back to your child’s ability to seek resolution. Even then, you might first start with your child, asking, “I notice that you seem to talk a lot about conflicts on the playground with ______. Is this something that’s developing into a pattern that you need support to undo, or do you think you two are just moving through a tricky patch?” Children this age need to talk about their social worlds, but they also need to be in charge of them. Look for patterns over many days before you raise an issue with your child’s teacher and, if you decide something should be raised with other adults at school, approach those conversations first as an opportunity to verify what you’ve heard rather than a demand for action. Your child’s teacher may have different information about an ongoing issue between the children.

Finally, remember that, in these early days of the school year, you are setting a precedent yourself for how your family will talk about their day when they’re home. If you want your children to be engaged, be sure you are, too. If you want them to make eye contact and develop the skills of attentive listeners, be sure you’re demonstrating that for them. The routines you develop now can last throughout the school year… make sure you’re investing in the ones you want to last.
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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School1 day ago
Montessori Middle School...
From Community to Society

The Montessori Middle School program is the culmination of the child’s experience as a Montessori student. It is designed to meet and serve the needs of children during this period of tremendous personal growth and change.

A Montessori Adolescent Program, for the 12-14 year olds, is built on the foundations of the elementary programs.

Students are expected to bring a high level of independence and self direction, a comfort with collaborative work, and a love of learning for learning’s sake. They treat each other with respect and are comfortable with the knowledge that each person has different strengths and challenges. The manipulative materials of the elementary level are less present, as adolescents have moved beyond their applications and are now solidly comfortable with the more adult learning techniques of reading, discussion, and application to a task.

It is designed to respond to the sensitivities of this age: personal dignity, social justice, and belonging.

The positive sense of belonging is nurtured through weekly council meetings run by the students, responsibilities that adequately match the capabilities of the adolescent, and through work that has a clear purpose. The adolescents work side-by-side with adults, to engage in the immediate needs of the community: chores of dishwashing and sweeping, weeding the garden, feeding the animals, doing volunteer work at the neighborhood pantry, writing letters to representatives, etc.
In response to their stronger need for belonging and a growing ability to collaborate within a large group, the adolescents have a schedule to the day and work within the same curriculum area at the same time. Each person is expected to contribute his best efforts to the topic or task at hand. Many off campus field trips are taken to give the students hands on life experiences.

Students continue to be agents of their own learning.

Montessori adolescents continue to learn without letter grades or gold stars. Conversations with the teachers and written remarks on papers compliment the most important barometer of success: the student’s own knowledge that he has put forth his best effort. The mixed-ages supports each student in applying himself in a unique way to a group experience. Longer blocks of time each day for subject areas such as Humanities, Occupations/Sciences, and Creative Expression allow enough time for each student to follow personal threads of interest without interruption.

The adolescent curriculum is “society” and relates to the needs of the particular community.

While traditional education often teaches facts that are isolated from life outside the classroom, the Montessori adolescent program offers lessons with practical applications that allow students to make improvements in that community. “What will I use this for?” is an often-asked question of the adolescent, as he is determined to use knowledge to DO something in the world. Projects such as monitoring the neighborhood watershed, building and maintaining a large garden, or baking bread, are real world opportunities for many lessons in science, language arts, and practical life skills. Students work as a group to find ways of making money, their first direct experiences of the economic connections in a society. The success of earning money for a job well-done is a strong source of validation for the adolescent’s skills and contributions.
Come visit us at and see our Middle School Program today!
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School2 days ago
What We Want For Our Children:
By: Virginia Lozuke

A couple of years ago I started approaching parent teacher conferences a little differently. Before I compiled all my observations, notes, recordkeeping, and pictures, I went back to my files and pulled out the original application that parents filled out prior to enrolling at our school.

The answers to those questions are incredibly revealing. Those answers are pure, untouched by the pressures of looming expectations of what kindergarten or first grade may bring. Those answers are beautiful and whole, and really perfect. They reveal a desire for a child that grows into a whole, loving, fulfilled, engaged adult that contributes to the world around them. They are long goals, and represent what will truly matter in 10 years, and 20, and 30.
But, parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Something happens, most often when a child is between four and five years old. World pressures push in and long goals are pushed aside for short-term “measurable” goals. Even some of the most enlightened and relaxed parents find themselves fretting over when their child will be reading the way another child is reading, and if they should do “more math at home.” We feel it too. It seems easier to write a report that states your child has mastered single digit addition than to narrate their amazing journey to better conflict resolution skills, but what about those long-term goals? Why are they suddenly not important?

The stuff that matters, the stuff that will enable your child to be life-long happy isn’t “masterable” at three and four, but, this is where that skill begins. We know you want a child who gets along with others, approaches new situations with confidence, sets boundaries for themselves, participates in their community, problem-solves, has a growth mindset and resilience, never stops learning and celebrates effort in themselves and others. We know you want a child that continues to be curious and creative and compassionate. This is what we work to enable. This is the environment and the culture we labor to create. This is the long game.

When I first became an early childhood teacher someone told me that children forget most of what happens before the age of five. I’m not sure about that. I am fairly certain that I have forgotten the Pythagorean theorem and the facts surrounding the War of 1812. I have not forgotten what it feels like to do something hard and finish it, to risk failure, or to be part of a community. These are the lasting lessons. This is what happens in our classroom daily. It isn’t mastered and set aside at four. It is a lifelong practice, and we have the privilege of guiding that practice right now.
Some of our students will be strong early readers. Some will be handling “second grade” math with ease in kindergarten. That is not our goal. Our goal, if we are doing our jobs as Montessori teachers to the best of our abilities, is to send our young learners off to their next experience with their curiosity and passion intact, with greater compassion for themselves and others, and with a life-long willingness to grow.

There will be those in your book club who will share that their child is reading chapter books at four. There will be folks at work that brag about their three year old doing long division. Your Facebook feed may be filled with “academic” achievements of other people’s children. And if you find yourself tempted to compare, remember your original rubric. Go pull out a copy of that application you filled out when you dreamed about sending them to a Montessori preschool and breathe a sigh of relief. Those dreams are already coming true.
Want to learn more? Visit us at!
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School3 days ago
“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
Maria Montessori
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School3 days ago

Color your world! The Montessori Color Tablets introduce color through matching activities.
The Color Tablets are an introduction to the world of color. A child gets the chance to match 2 tablets of the same color to each other, building their visual discrimination skills while exploring how colors relate to one another.

Physically, the tablets are rectangular pieces with wooden ‘handles’ on the sides. Additionally, there are three separate boxes in the Color Tablet material. The first box contains 6 tablets, 2 of each of the three primary colors; red, yellow, and blue. The second box adds the secondary colors, green, orange, and purple, as well as pink, grey, black, brown, and white. The third box builds upon the first two even further, adding 7 different gradients of 9 colors, with a total of 63 tablets.

The color tablets introduce color without the association of a physical object. Take, for example, a red apple. If red is always associated with an apple, what might a child think when they see a green apple? Is it an apple if it’s not red? For this reason, in the Montessori classroom, colors are presented in a concrete fashion. The only thing that is different is the color itself. We call this, “isolating one difficulty” at a time.

What a joy it is to observe children diving into the world of colors!
Schedule a tour today at and visit our beautiful classrooms full of color!

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Crystal Lake Montessori School

3013 S. Country Club Rd

Woodstock, IL 60098

(815) 338-0013