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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School18 hours ago
The Montessori difference…

"Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities." Maria Montessori
Montessori education builds a child’s capability to become a fulfilled and productive adult able to contribute to the world—at home, at work, and in their community. Maria Montessori’s observation of human development from birth to adulthood led to an education approach that supports children’s natural development, providing the skills and support to reach their full potential in life. With a strong emotional, behavioural, and moral foundation, children become motivated, active, and independent learners who are prepared for the real world.

The Montessori approach provides children with enduring intellectual capabilities, achieved through the framework of social and emotional learning.
Montessori develops the whole child. Academics and knowledge-building are key qualities of Montessori, as is the ability to think creatively and understand the needs of others. When these fundamental skills are fostered early in life, children gain the capability to problem solve, persevere, and interact well with others in any circumstance.

Montessori teachers guide children through discovery.
Montessori teachers are experts in child development, guiding children to learn independently and reach their unique potential. Children have the freedom to engage in their own learning experience and the Montessori teacher is there to support the child throughout this process.

A unique and engaging learning environment.
Unlike traditional classrooms, Montessori learning environments are designed to fit the specific needs of each child’s stage of development. Learning is all about the activity and independence of the child to find out what they need at each particular moment.

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School2 days ago
The Importance of Why, Why, Why?…

By: Flora McCormick, LCPC

Watching the wonder of a child is enchanting. Witnessing a child’s curiosities can be captivating. Hearing the multitude of questions a three-year-old can come up with in one car ride can be, well, exhausting.
Are you interested in harnessing more of that feel-good energy and letting go of “because I said so” responses?
“Why?” is a vitally important question. Understanding the motives for the questions children ask, and knowing what to say in return, is incredibly valuable. Read on for three important reasons behind the questions children ask, and ideas for how to respond.

Three Reasons Behind “Why?”
Three main categories appear and reappear as the purposes behind a child’s questions: 1) to gain attention, 2) to overcome a fear, and 3) to create understanding.

Gain Attention Questions
Here’s the scene: it’s a weekday evening, and you are preparing dinner in your kitchen while your child plays nearby. You are focused on the task at hand: preparing a healthy meal for your family in a timely manner. You are trying a new recipe that is bound to please everyone this time around, (fingers crossed!) but your unfamiliarity with the recipe is keeping you quite preoccupied. Wanting to be present for your child, you keep stopping to answer your child’s questions. This is causing the meal-making process that should have taken about an hour seem like it’s dragging on into eternity.
In the meantime, your own mind starts asking questions: “Why are these questions coming now? How does your child come up with so many different iterations? When will they stop?”
Take a breath. Really. Yes, you, the reader. Even if your child isn’t currently peppering you with questions, it’s a good habit to be able to take a deep breath whenever you need to pause for a moment. Let it out. Okay. Let’s continue…
In that moment you stopped to take a breath, with some practice, you can also learn to identify where these questions are likely coming from. Once their desires have been met satisfactorily, the child will very likely stop asking questions, and both of you can experience a bit more ease with your individual tasks.

Let’s face it: a sense of control over a situation is pretty empowering for most people, and children are no exception! This, combined with the reality that young children aren’t in charge very often sometimes leads a child to find ways to manipulate the situation in order to gain the attention of the adult.

In this particular situation, the child notices you are preoccupied with another task. If their attention is not caught up in something just as captivating, they are likely going to want your attention to refocus on them. Children love direct interaction with you! Asking questions to gain attention often happens when you are at the supermarket, fixing dinner, on your phone, driving in your car, or at bedtime, whenever your attention is easily divided.

Respond to Gaining Attention

Regardless of the question at hand, the desire for attention needs to be addressed. So, whether your child has asked why the sky is blue or why the dinosaurs died, it is important that you connect with them directly.
Rather than answering while continuing to add ingredients to your jambalaya, find a place where you can stop, get down on their level, and answer their question. Then, either let them know that you need to focus on your task, and will stop to check in with them again soon, or better yet, invite them to join you!

If you feel you need to continue on your own, make sure you stop yourself along the way to check in with your child. Perhaps set a timer or stop every quarter hour. Your ability to pause what you are doing and initiate contact with your child will allow them to see that they don’t need to control the situation, because you are reliable in your relationship.

If you can involve your child in what you are doing, that’s even better! Teach them how to peel shrimp and dip them in the batter! The time you put in teaching them how to participate in what you are doing allows for more connection, less desire for the child to manipulate the situation, an opportunity for learning, and eventually you’ll even have reliable help!

Overcome Fear Questions

Have you ever noticed that in a new situation your child can seem to come up with an infinite number of questions? Here’s an example: It’s the first day of horse-riding lessons. Your child has been begging to learn to ride a horse for what seems like their entire life. It’s finally time. Your child has helped you pick out boots and a helmet, and they have been talking to their stuffed horses for weeks about this new opportunity. The excitement is palpable.
Fast forward to the car ride to the stables. From the moment you get in the car and for the next fifteen minutes your child is non-stop firing questions at you. Because they have your (mostly) undivided attention, you are doing your best to answer each question.

They keep coming:

“why do I need to wear a helmet?”

“why do my boots have big heels?”

“why can’t you come up on the horse with me?”

“what happens if the horse doesn’t want me to ride it?”

“why are horses so big?”

Next, the questions become repetitive.
Remember that breath we talked about earlier? Take another one now. Make it deep, and give yourself a moment to let your brain clear.
With an extra moment to think and a big gulp of air to help clear your mind, you can identify a category for these questions. You realize that your child is embarking upon a new adventure, and perhaps with this new territory comes some anxiety about the unknown. Soon, you remember questions also happened before a new school year, doctor appointments, and birthday parties, too.

Respond to Overcoming Fear

Once you’ve identified the questions as fear-based, it’s important to make sure you connect and encourage. The answers may help them to feel better about the upcoming situation, and, again, what they really need is connection.

When you arrive at the stables, take a few moments to look your child in the eyes. Pick them up or give them a hug. Reassure them you are there to support them and keep them safe.

Once you two can enter into the situation together, and they have received physical and verbal reminders that you are there, and you believe in them, their questions will likely dissipate.

Create Understanding Questions

Here’s the last situation: Your child is having a playdate, and throughout the two-hour period has come to tattle on another child more times than you can count. You have intervened, ignored, and pleaded with your child to stop telling you about every interaction. Before you know it, here they come back with more to share. You have heard that the other child “won’t take turns,” “isn’t using their words,” and “took the toy away from me,” multiple times each. You’re tempted never to host another playdate again.

You find yourself taking a deep breath to clear your mind. In doing so, you realize that your child hasn’t been asking you questions directly. Upon listening carefully, you realize that the “why” is more implied than spoken, but it is still very much present.
Your child has been telling you about the other child’s actions, because they want to understand the other child’s behavior. Why won’t their friend take turns? Why aren’t they using their words to solve a problem? Why did they take that toy from me? And, are these things okay?

In situations like playdates, on the playground, or at school, when being told about another’s behavior, most often, a child is trying to define for themselves if the behavior is acceptable or not, and they are coming to you for support in how to respond. And, children don’t hold their comments simply to other children! Sometime, when an adult cuts in line or doesn’t pick up the piece of trash that missed the garbage can, your child might question you about the adult’s behavior, too!

Respond to Creating Understanding

When children tell you about another’s behavior, listen. Really listen. Then, try to decipher the underlying question. Children are trying to learn about the world they live in and the rules they are asked to abide by. Their desire for consistency, repetition, and structure makes sense, because many experiences are new to them, and they are seeking rationale to orient their lives.

In the same way that we take time to explain the intricacies of the world at large to children, we also need to take the time to rationalize why we expect the behaviors we do. Why do we ask them to keep their hands to themselves? So that no one gets hurt. Why do we ask them to use their words? So that we can better understand them. Why do we ask them to share? So that others can enjoy a turn, too. Asking them to behave in a specific way, and expecting them to be okay with other people’s behaviors is impractical unless we can give reasons for the actions.

Adults are often quick to dismiss a child commenting on other behaviors. It occurs so often that it easily can feel like nagging. These observations, however, are healthy and necessary for their growth. The more patient and interested we can be during these brief periods, the more the children benefit. Every time you dismiss a child telling you about another’s behavior, you dismiss a social learning opportunity.

Why, Why, Why?

Whatever the reason (or however many times) a child asks questions, over and over, they are asking for connection, to us and to their world. Use their questions as a moment to develop relationship, and even consider asking their opinion before answering them. You do not need to have all of the answers.

The next time your child starts asking questions, allow yourself to pause for a moment or two. See if you can define what is behind their question. Give yourself and your child the time to connect, to be heard, and to learn together.

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School3 days ago
Your Guide to a School Year Started Off Right…

It’s that time of the year again. Over the course of the summer, and even with the best of intentions, some of our routines tend to dissolve and give way to relaxation and adventures. Which is great!

The school year is creeping closer, however. Now is the perfect time to consider what your family will do to prepare for the transition back.

Unless this is your child’s first year heading to school, you’ve probably been through and considered all this before, but it’s always nice to have a little refresher. Read on for our tips to make the start of the school year as smooth as possible for everyone.

Perhaps the most important bit to consider, your child’s sleep schedule is critical to their success. There are three elements to focus on: how much sleep your child needs, when that sleep should take place, and the quality of sleep.

So just how much sleep does your child need? It depends on the individual, but age plays an important role. Here are the AAP's recommendations on how much sleep children should get within each 24 hour period. (Times include naps.)

4 months - 1 year
12 - 16 hours
1 - 2 years
11 - 14 hours
3 - 5 years
10 - 13 hours
6 - 12 years
9 - 12 hours
13 - 18 years
8 - 10 hours

Once you know how much sleep your child should be getting, and what amount works best for them, figuring out bedtime is as simple as counting back, considering factors like when you need to leave in the morning and how long it takes to get ready.

Is their desired bedtime nowhere near their current bedtime? Take the transition slowly. Start by having them go to sleep just 15 minutes earlier, then another 15 minutes earlier every few days until you reach your goal.

As for quality of sleep? That’s all about creating a relaxing environment. A darker, cool room works best, and establishing a regular and soothing bedtime routine will help them drift off to dreamland easier. Keep the routine the same each night, whether that includes a warm bath, reading, or even using a little lavender-scented spray.

We touched on this above, but creating a regular schedule is really important. When children know what to expect, they are much better equipped to take on the day. There will certainly be moments and days when routines are interrupted, but if we prioritize them most of the time, children benefit greatly.

Every family is different, but consider what you want your morning to look like. Some questions that will help guide you in creating a schedule:
● What time should you leave the house to arrive comfortably at school/work?
● What tasks could be done ahead of time (perhaps the night before) to alleviate the morning rush?
● What is your child able to do independently, and what will they need help with?

The same basic concept goes for evening routines as well. As we mentioned in the section on sleep, a focus on calming rituals prepares your child’s mind and body for a restful night of sleep. If the steps remain the same night after night, bedtime will only become easier as the weeks pass by.

It is totally normal for children (and even adolescents) to experience big emotions as back-to-school approaches. They may feel excited, anxious, apprehensive about being apart from you, as well as a wide range of other thoughts and feelings.

If your child feels distraught at all, it can be really hard for parents to see. For some of us, the natural reaction is to do whatever we can to minimize the concerns and help them move on. The very best thing we can do, however, is to acknowledge their feelings. When you notice behavior that is reflective of emotional tension, ask them how they’re feeling. If they’re very young, help them name their emotions. Acknowledge that these are normal ways to feel.

Validation is key here. Should we ease their fears a bit by talking about what to expect and addressing their concerns? Of course! But those talks may not erase their worries, and that’s okay. Let them know you recognize their emotions and that it’s okay to feel however they feel.

Parents can experience overwhelming emotions at this time, too. You may surprise yourself! If you’ve been able to spend extra time with your child all summer long, the thought of so much time apart can be hard (or not). Perhaps your child is starting in a new class or is beginning their final year and it has you thinking about how quickly they are growing up. Think of it as a great way to model what to do in the face of challenging feelings.

Even with careful planning and the best of intentions, nothing ever goes quite as planned, especially when it comes to our children. Maybe the first day of school is creeping closer and you’re still struggling to get the kids into bed before 9:00. Maybe your eight-year-old is super nervous about starting at a new school. Maybe it’s a challenge to balance your own work schedule with morning drop-off.

Whatever you do, expect the unexpected. Know that we are here to support the children and families in our community. The first couple of weeks at school may be bumpy, they may be smooth, or (most likely) they’ll be somewhere in between. We hope you and your child are looking forward to the start of a new year, and we can’t wait to see you all again!

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School4 days ago
How is Montessori Different?

The Real Difference

The formation of children's fundamental capacities is hugely important during the first years of life - not just academic learning but the ability to concentrate, persevere and think for themselves as well as the ability to interact well with others. Children who have been given the right kind of support during these formative years grow into adults who are self-motivated and love learning, can think flexibly and creatively and who are not only conscious of the needs of others but actively foster harmony as they go through life.

Traditional versus Montessori

In traditional education adults decide what children need to learn and the ability to retain and reproduce information is used as a measure of academic success. The teacher is the active giver of information and children are passive receivers.

In the Montessori approach it is all about the activity of the child. The teacher takes on a different role, that is, to provide the right kind of circumstances so that children can be guided to find what they need from what is on offer. Children then become active learners and are able to reach their own unique potential because they are learning at their own pace and rhythm focussing on their own particular developmental needs at that moment.

The Montessori approach provides:
An environment that serves the particular needs of each child's stage of development
An adult who understands child development and acts as a guide to help children find their own natural path
Freedom for children to engage in their own development according to their own particular developmental timeline.

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School5 days ago
I Did It All By Myself…

By: Pamela Personette, M.Ed

Is there anything more rewarding than being able to care for one's own self? Help your child on the path to independence with home activities that support similar self-care "lessons" in the Montessori classroom. A little planning and a lot of patience will go far!

The most important (and the hardest!) part? Allow plenty of time for learning and practice, so your child can master new skills without pressure from the clock (and you can get to the office on time).

Maria Montessori tells us in The Discovery of the Child, "If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence...We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, dress and undress, to wash themselves...All this is part of an education for independence."

"Care of Self" activities children can do at home

Dressing & undressing
Washing hands
Cleaning one's shoes
Nose blowing
Buttoning, Velcro®-ing, snapping, zipping, tying, lacing, and buckling
Brushing one's hair & teeth
First things first: dressing & undressing

Good morning! Time to get dressed!
Let children choose their clothing. Give them two options—the red dress or the blue dress. This is much easier than opening the closet door and saying, "What would you like to wear today?" Make sure the clothing is easy for children to put on by themselves. For younger children, skip the belts, buckles, and buttons. Opt for easy-on/easy-off clothing. Remember, children will have to use the bathroom at school so make it as easy as possible for them and avoid accidents.

It's cold outside! How to put on a coat or sweater.
Teach your child the "up and over" method. Place the child's coat on the floor with the collar near the child's feet. The child bends down, places his arms in the arms of the coat, lifts the coat up and over his head, and voila! He's wearing his coat. See a child putting on a jacket this way.

"I did it myself!" Children love this activity and repeat it on their own. Off they run with a great sense of accomplishment, even if the coat is upside down. I still smile when I remember hoods flopping around like dinosaur tails as the children play! You can always give another lesson later. Let your child revel in the accomplishment of getting the coat on first!

P.S. Do you have a photo of your children all dressed up all by themselves? Share your pics with other parents on Facebook!

Time to change clothes! How to set up a child's dressing area.
Help your child become independent by installing hooks where he can easily hang up and retrieve his clothing. Install low rods in the closet making it easy to reach hangers. Set up shelves that are low, making it easy to reach clothing (This works for toys, sports equipment, and other activities too). Place baskets on the low shelves. They are wonderful for storing different types of clothing. Label each basket: one for hats, one for scarves, one for mittens, and so on.

Time to clean up! How to have fun with laundry.
Do you get resistance when you tell your child, "You need to put your clothes away!"? Make a game out of it, instead!
Adult: "Hmm...Where is your green t-shirt? I can't find it."
Child: "Here it is! I'll put it away!"

Try these invitations and your child will find putting clothes away as much fun as taking them out!

"Where do we keep our hats? Can you put your striped hat in the basket?"
"Where's the magenta scarf? Show me the scarf basket."
"Let's count the socks on the floor as we pick them up and put them in the basket!"
"Do you see your woolen sweater?"
"How many hangers do we need?"
"Where do we put our dirty clothes?"
Step-by-step activities for children at home

Children take great pride in keeping their belongings beautiful. They love tidying, sweeping, dusting, and all kinds of clean-up activities. Maria Montessori noticed that step-by-step activities appeal to children's sense of order, as well as support their success.

Parents can make learning easy and successful for children with a Montessori-style presentation. Break any activity into simple steps. Try it yourself first, then demonstrate the steps for your child, slowly and deliberately. Children will watch like little eagles! Use the examples below to get started and watch their skills blossom!

It's time for dinner... Let's wash our hands!

Invite your child to choose a bar of soap. Give two choices.
Show your child how to apply soap to the back of the hands, as well as the palms.
Demonstrate how to rub hands together. Don't forget to wash in between your fingers!
If you sing "Happy Birthday" twice, you'll get rid of all the germs!
For added fun, use a stop watch, timer, or the minute hand on your watch or clock to time.
Dry well, getting rid of any remaining germs.
Add interest for older children: Include a nail brush and hand lotion!
My, these shoes are dirty... Let's clean them up!
You can create a shoe cleaning activity at home your child will love! Who knows? Children may even offer to clean shoes for the entire family — satisfying results and helping out the family are wonderful ways to develop self-esteem and independence.

Place a child-size dustpan and brush outside your front door.
Place a small chair or stool next to the dustpan and brush.
Show children how to sit down and brush dirt off their shoes before entering the house.
Demonstrate how to use the brush and dustpan to collect dirt.
Show children where to place the dirt (a wastebasket or return to nature).
Do try this at home! More "Care of Self" Activities

Children always have the sniffles, no matter what time of year it is. Maria Montessori showed children how to care for their little noses when she demonstrated using a handkerchief to blow her own nose.

Dr. Montessori discreetly took out her handkerchief, blew her nose ever so quietly, and put the handkerchief away. The children were so delighted with her demonstration they spontaneously applauded! Who'd think that blowing your nose would make such an impact!

You can teach your child Montessori's three-step nose-blowing technique. Also, find a handy spot at home for a box of tissues and a waste basket. Your child will take a tissue and blow his nose whenever needed. You can also teach your child how to cough into his elbow. Let him know that this will prevent spreading germs to his friends.

Managing clothing closures.
The Montessori Dressing Frames used in the classroom teach children how to master buttoning, Velcro-ing, snapping, zipping, tying, lacing, and buckling. Parents can help by giving children daily opportunities to practice with their own clothing and shoes at home.

Focus on one activity at a time. Start with mastering buttoning and work your way up to buckling, which is the hardest. Set aside a good amount of time when you can work together to perfect these skills. Attempt this as you're running off to soccer practice? Not so good.

Good grooming is important at any age.
A child-size brush is perfect for teaching children how to take care of their own hair. Brush hair before school, after kite-flying, or before a special event. Whatever the occasion, allowing enough time is the key to success.

It's never too early for good oral hygiene.
Young children are capable of brushing their own teeth. Keep your child's tooth brush and toothpaste in a special place in the bathroom. Establish a tooth-brushing routine. Brush after meals, after snacks, and before bedtime. Your child will establish a lifelong habit.

Foster your child's quest for independence.

Increase your child's confidence.

Help build self-esteem.

All it takes is a little planning, plenty of time, and lots of patience. Before you know it, you'll hear your child's joyful voice say, "I did it myself!"

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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School6 days ago
Each Child is Unique
"Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times."

By: Jane M. Jacobs, M.A.

Girl playing a game with her father looking at a shelf of parenting books in the bookstore recently made me wonder how parents today decide how to raise their children. One could become The Confident Parent or listen to The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer while trying to remember that Baby Knows Best. But how do you know what's best? Is there a right or wrong?

For the first-time parent, it helps to have in place a basic philosophy about personal values, because the entrance of a child into a family is life-changing. Parents naturally become quickly devoted to the safety of their offspring and develop a strong desire to do the right thing. The learning curve is huge—no matter how many books we read!

Doing Our Best
We want to do what's best, in the best possible way, so that our child will be the best. But what does "the best" even mean? How does one measure good, better, or best? It's reassuring to know that your child is resilient, and that having your heart in the right place and your feet on the ground will make you a "good enough parent" as defined by pediatrician and psychologist D.W. Winnicott. Good enough parents do not strive to be perfect parents and do not expect perfection from their children.

My best might differ from your best, and the result may be the same or better or simply different. Can I ever be certain of the variables at play? How can I know that my approach is right for anyone other than myself and my child? How can I reconcile my beliefs with another's? My parenting style with my second child was very different from how I parented my first—is that because of me, my child, or both?

A Lifetime of Comparisons
How much does it matter if your child is the shortest or tallest in the classroom? Does it really matter if he reads at age four or six, so long as he learns to read and comprehend? We seem to compare constantly. Rarely does a parent turn a blind eye to what "the Jones' kid" is doing. It's easy to believe our parenting skills are at fault when our children are less than perfect, and we worry that our children will fall behind if we allow them to naturally progress without prodding.

Comparisons are regularly thrust upon parents and children alike. Be aware of the effects, both positive and negative. The pediatrician might say that your child is in the 89th percentile in height, but only in the 45th in weight at the well-baby check-up. You beam with pride at the first number. The second number, however, makes you question if you are feeding your baby adequately. Are those numbers significant if your child is healthy?

Loving and Respecting the Unique
Consider how our children differ from one another, and enable them to be individuals. This approach does not mean we are "hands-off" parents, but rather that we want our children to learn and grow at their own pace and develop their talents and personalities naturally. Dr. Montessori discovered that multi-age classes fit the needs of children so they can learn when they are ready, without pressure or comparisons. Every child is unique.

We need to let go of predicting future careers for our offspring. Not everyone needs to attend an ivy league school. Children naturally learn, grow, and develop when they're exposed to a relatively free and enriching environment, negating the need for tutors and special classes for preschool and elementary children. After-school programs need not offer more enrichment—they can simply be fun.

Let Children Be Children
Maria Montessori's philosophy by no means negates the importance of early childhood learning. Are we following our child's unique developmental path, or projecting our concerns about the present job market onto the unknown future? What we know for sure is that things will change and we want our children to be able to adapt. With this in mind, children must develop their unique strengths.

We can help by understanding basic child development markers. Young children learn through their senses and by moving and manipulating objects. More didactic, conscious learning begins around age three or four, and abstract thinking develops even later still. Just because your five-year-old really likes baseball or seems to have a good musical sense is no reason to train him now for a future career. Time will tell and your child will lead the way.

Let's slow down and let our children become themselves. In the process, we parents can just be who we are, too—parents who are learning as we go.

"A lot of parents will do anything for their kids except let them be themselves."
—Banksy, anonymous street artist

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Crystal Lake Montessori School

3013 S. Country Club Rd

Woodstock, IL 60098

(815) 338-0013