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Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School1 day ago
Math and Early Childhood
By: Catherine McTamaney

The Math materials are an essential part of the Early Childhood classroom, designed to respond to what we understand about development at this age. Each lesson offers a single concept for the child to explore, presented concretely and elegantly, with self-correcting elements that allow the child to determine independently if they've finished the work. You see supports for the development of the child's mathematical mind across the classroom, in the same way that the physical environment contributed to this growth in the infant and toddler classrooms. Language is precise, materials are orderly and sequenced in a logical way. Concepts are consistent across their application in the classroom, whether the child is comparing dimensions in the Sensorial materials or pouring water into different sized vases in Practical Life. Habits of mind, like the patterns of the Base Ten number system, are integrated across the classroom, understanding that children learn through their engagements all day long and not just when they're in a formal "Math lesson."

And those formal Math lessons? They're the gold standard in Montessori for the order, precision and exactness of the classroom. Each concept is presented specifically, in a lesson the child can explore independently, emphasizing that math isn't some abstract monster that people don't like or aren't good at, but that we are all mathematical thinkers learning a universal language that helps us to understand and act upon our environment every day.

In Early Childhood, the Math materials begin with specific lessons on numerals and parallel lessons on quantity. A child learns the shape and names of numbers separate from their early explorations with the quantities those numbers represent, then combines those early experiences into lessons that match numeral and quantity. No concept is left to chance: early lessons include everything from the concept of "zero" to determining odds and evens. These initial lessons in Math, which often follow the same structures of the Sensorial materials with which the child has been able to explore earlier, often move quickly for children, a reflection of the child's sensitivity to order, to language and to precision at this age. After those foundational experiences with concepts of 1-10, the child moves to explorations with the decimal system, then to the quirky names of numbers between 11 and 19, and then to the exploration of how we can manipulate the interaction of these ideas once we know how to describe them.

Similarly, a child learns place-value through concrete experiences with series of tens, mastering the idea that, in a Base Ten system, each new collection (units, tens, hundreds, thousands, and so on) is just a set of ten of the previous collection. Once those initial concepts are mastered, Montessori classrooms attract children's excitement about working with very large numbers by introducing the operations through hands-on, full-body lessons. Two or three children may work together to lay out forty-five units, forty-five tens bars, forty-five hundred squares, and forty-five thousand cubes, labeling each set from 1 to 9000. You may see children using those same concrete materials to practice multiplying and dividing four digit numbers. Because we know children love experiences that let them use their whole bodies, because we know they love using large numbers and working with purpose, the materials are designed to allow just that. Instead of seeing children hunched over practice worksheets and rote-memorization, you'll see them moving around the classroom, with their peers, exploring the relationships of number and quantity and learning to master them.

Remember: the development between 3 and 6 is highlighted by a motivation to name, classify, order and sequence the world around the child. Understanding math gives children a sense of agency and influence in that world. That motivation raises the expectation for us as teachers and parents: children are listening carefully, learning from every interaction with the world around them. When we present logical, orderly, and precise experiences with that world, we support the child's confidence that they are safe here, that they have influence. When we give them accurate experiences with the foundational concepts of math, we offer them language to describe their world and the understanding to control it. When we do these things through beautiful, elegant, wonder-filled materials, we remind the child that math is also beautiful, elegant and wonder-filled, and inspire their curiosity and their love of learning.
Come visit us at clms.org to learn more!
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School2 days ago
“Joy is the evidence of inner growth.”
Maria Montessori
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School3 days ago
How to help the “After-School Crash!”
By: The Guidepost Team

As children settle into a new school year, many families experience tough afternoons after a long day at school. Children need to decompress after their day just like us! But when a parent picks up their child or sees him after a work day, it's instinctive to ask 20 questions: “How was your day? What did you do? Did you talk to any friends? What were their names? What work did you choose? Did you go outside? Did you eat your lunch? Tell me everything!”
Consider these rules of engagement instead:
Acknowledge. Just like it’s expected for us to feel tired after work, it’s expected for our children to feel tired after school. Putting this into words for your child can be a huge boost. If he starts whining in the car ride home, kindly help your child identify with, “You worked hard today, and you were around a lot of people. It’s okay if you feel you need to rest right now, and I will help you do that as soon as we get home.”
Be available. Afternoon pickups might be a big new shift in your routine, and if there is going to be a crash in the form of a tantrum, it will likely happen as you pull into your driveway. Instead of rushing to get your kids in the house and rushing to make snacks, adjust your schedule in a way that allows you to be present for your child's transition from school to home. Unlike active engagement, availability simply sends a message to our children that we are here for them, but that we also respect whatever space they might need.
Don’t expect connection, model it. If we want our children to be open with us about their days, then we need to be open about our days, too. On your car ride home, share what you did today, and further normalize this by sharing more at dinner. This shift can be seen as much more respectful because it sends the message that, "I am not entitled to my child telling me things just because I’m the adult." Instead, it builds communication between us as something that is reciprocated.
Release the expectation for them to always “be on.” We expect a lot of our children, sometimes unfairly in these early years where we are so eager to nurture their independence. But if we don’t always feel like moving quickly in the morning or cleaning the house at the end of each work day, why should we expect our children to always be on it in similar ways? There will be times they don’t want to pick up their toys or help with prepping dinner when prompted, and it won’t be because of a lack of order or discipline, but a valid need to recharge. It’s nice to take strides in independence, but it’s also nice to honor where they may still want our help.
Come visit us at clms.org to learn more about us!
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School is with Andy Reinhard and Kimberlin Reinhard.4 days ago
Montessori and the work environment:
By: Bobby George

Montessori is one of those things that often needs to be seen to be believed. This is why Montessori schools typically recommend that prospective families set up a time to observe the classroom in action.

For many of us, especially those who attended a more traditional educational background, the concepts displayed in a Montessori classroom may seem foreign.

How is it possible that children can coexist in a mixed-age classroom, work independently, functional socially and without conflict, while following their interests and excelling on their own terms?

Similarly, it is often helpful not to compare and contrast Montessori to traditional education - that can be misleading - but rather, to highlight what makes Montessori exceptional.

How to do this? By showcasing Montessori itself.

One of the ways is to exhibit the principles in other contexts - taking Montessori concepts and applying them to more familiar circumstances. Let’s take your typical modern workplace.

Recently, there have been a number of efforts to try to incorporate the lessons of Montessori and apply them to business practices. Perhaps the most famous is Google, the founders of which credit Montessori to much of their success. Former VP at Google Marissa Mayer famously said, “You can't understand Google unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.”

There are three concepts from Montessori that readily serve as useful guides in this thought experiment.

Prepared Environment

The first is the prepared environment, a concept Montessori pioneered that emphasizes the importance of the environment in setting up students for success. With the right conditions, Montessori believed that children are naturally inspired to learn. If the environment is carefully and thoughtfully prepared, it is created in such a way as to optimize for learning.

How is this exhibited in the workforce? Well, start-ups are a perfect example of creating the types of environments most conducive to exceptional productivity. Well-known examples include open floor plans with sunlight and plants (which require care and thoughtfulness), easily accessible and interchangeable conference rooms and mutable spaces, as well as some of the more luxurious amenities, such as culinary offerings, quiet spaces to concentrate, gyms, etc.

Uninterrupted Work Cycle

The second is the uninterrupted work cycle. Montessori believed that to cultivate concentration - to truly allow children to explore their interests - we must protect their ability to engage in deep and meaningful work for an extended period of time. For many of us, this idea comes as a great relief. How many times were we finally fully immersed in the throws of a math problem when the bell rang and it was time to put away our work and turn to geography or history?

While this may not be a practicality many of our work spaces afford, it does pose an interesting thought experiment. What if we could spend a certain period of each day completely uninterrupted and focused on the task at hand? Imagine not having to interrupt your work with a meeting? What types of productivity would you achieve? Montessori affords all of this, helping to inspire students to be flexible, create independence, and develop a sense of order.

Let’s take what Montessori terms “gatherings.” Instead of having predetermined times to meet, these occurrences happen spontaneously, in the moment, and are conditioned by needs. Instead, so often in the workplace, we look at our calendar, realize that we have an upcoming meeting, and our mind is instantly taken out of the space of concentration. Montessori says of concentration, “Once you interfere, a child’s interest finishes, and the enchantment is broken. It is as though he says, ‘I was with myself inside. But you called me, and so it is finished.’ ” The same is true for concentration in the workplace.

Collaboration

The third Montessori principle to share is the concept of collaboration. In highly competitive work environments, where competition is often envisioned as a necessary component to growth, Montessori offers an interesting and often highly discounted perspective.

The greatest form of competition, for Montessori, is not learning how to compete against your peers, it’s learning how to compete against one’s self. It’s not about performing well on a test to outperform any perceived competition. Rather, it’s about pushing yourself in new directions.

One of the ways Montessori creates these types of conditions is by implementing a mixed-age learning environment where a student is not limited by age or ability. Instead, they are inspired and motivated by their peers, learning how to challenge themselves in a prepared environment that allows for uninterrupted work and the opportunity to collaborate.

Picturing a traditional educational framework, where everyone is working on the same thing at the same time, does this sound like your work environment? Is everyone the same age, working on the same tasks? Or, is there a mixed-age setting where everyone is working together to achieve a set of goals?

Next time you walk around your office, turn to your calendar or collaborate with a coworker on an exciting new project, consider Montessori as a precursor to a new type of thinking - not only about education, but also productivity in the workplace. While Montessori undoubtedly has much to offer children by way of independence, confidence, and social wherewithal, it also has so much to offer the broader and ever-changing world.

We hope these short examples help provide further context into what makes Montessori so unique.
Come visit us at clms.org to learn more!
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School5 days ago
Childhood For Sale: Cheap!
By: Catherine McTamaney

If you've been exposed to any media at all this week, you've probably seen advertisements for deals and discounts enticing you to get the mall this weekend (or sooner!) for "door busting deals," or go online RIGHT NOW to take advantage of short windows of bargain pricing. We are hyped into a sense of urgent action. Shop now. Shop now! Shop NOW! SHOP NOW!

Whoa.

Slow down.

Before you rush out to the mall today, stop and take stock of the messages you may be sending to your children when you do. Your children may be hollering for the latest game or toy that's been marketed to them, but it's not what they need or, truly, what they want most. Your children want your eye contact and your attention. They want to spend time with you, engaged in "fun, adventurous play." They don't want to be monetized. They want to be connected.

We understand that our children are inundated with commercial messages, from the media, from entertainment, from walking down the street and seeing the window displays. And most of us agree that the commercialization is not helpful: it makes our children demand products that may not be healthy or appropriate for them, it leads to endless arguments and disappointments between parents and their children, it influences our bank accounts and clutters our homes, and it drives us, individually and collectively, to measure ourselves based on our stuff instead of our character. It's a lot to counteract as a parent, but it's not impossible.

Our children are watching us, closely. If we want to decrease the influence of marketers on our families and our homes, we need to take intentional action to protect ourselves.

- Audit your child's exposure to commercialism and branding, and adjust it. Look around your home and think about your schedule. How much of what your child plays with is connected to particular characters or brands? How much time does your child spend exposed to those branding efforts? Can you carve out space for family experiences that don't include those products? Be careful with how you explain it to your child. Avoid language that makes the branded play more attractive. So, welcome your child to open play by saying things like, "I'm so happy that we're going to be able to meet our friends at the park this afternoon," or "Our whole family is going to get to go on a hike together!" instead of "You've spent too much time on that screen. Turn it off."
- Audit your child's screen time and create a plan for how you'll decrease it. Remember, the American Academy of Pediatricts recommends no screen time at all for children under the age of 2 (including your smartphones and iPads,) no more than an hour a day for children between 2 and 5 years old, and careful, child-centered parameters for children 6 and older. Create spaces in your home that are screen-free and model it for your children in your screen use. Put away the phones during mealtimes. If you have a TV, enclose it in a cabinet with doors so it's not always visible, or keep it in a separate space from the areas in which your children regularly play. Let screen use be an occasional experience for children rather than a part of their daily entertainment. Avoid using screens as babysitters: bring out the crayons, books or Lego for your children to entertain themselves if you're not able to give them your attention. If you find that you rely on screens when you're running errands with your child, think about ways to include them in the errand or, if that's not possible, offer simple, low cost manipulatives that can keep their focus while you check out at the grocery store or finish your transactions at the bank. A small bag of pipe cleaners can go a long way in occupying your child during chaotic, adult-focused errands.
- Choose commercial-free gifts for your child and for others. Your child will delight in his or her own set of kitchen tools and a recipe book of meals you can make together. Instead of that new computer game, compile a camping backpack for your child and schedule a time to camp or hike together. Choose events and outings you can do together rather than products that will be discarded when the next-best-thing comes along. Look for retailers that don't market to children, and select beautifully crafted products that capture your child's attention and imagination.
- This weekend: STAY HOME. Teach your children about reducing waste and valuing our consumption by creating delicious meals together from your leftovers. Teach your children the card games your grandparents taught you. Have a thankfulness hunt, asking your child to find something wooden for which he or she is grateful, something red, something breathing. Make a pillow fort together and spend some time reading by flashlight under the blankets. Paint gratitude stones and go for a walk in your neighborhood hiding them for others to find. The screens and the computers and the beeps and buzzing and battery-driven activities will be there when you get back.

Take this time this irreplaceable, precious time, to be present with your children. That's the best gift they'll ever receive.
Come visit us at clms.org to learn more!
Crystal Lake Montessori School
Crystal Lake Montessori School6 days ago
Modeling Gratitude in the Third Plane: 12-18
By: Catherine McTamaney

If you believe what you see on TV, you might think that adolescents are selfish, narcissistic, and judgmental of adults, their siblings, their communities... basically anything around them. While adolescence certainly does come with windows of chaos and conflict, we shouldn’t presume that young people are either incapable of gratitude or inattentive to the many things around them for which they are thankful. Instead of presuming them to be ingrates, offer them opportunities to articulate in meaningful ways the gratitude they do, in fact, feel.

Of course, this comes first by modeling in ourself. Steer clear of conflict for conflict’s sake with your teen, and instead aim for your role to be one of quiet observation. You can offer feedback, but you can’t force young people to value the same things you do. Instead, this is a time to respect their need to differentiate themselves from you and to help them navigate that process in a way which builds more bridges than burns them.

If you want your teen to listen better, for example, you need to model being a good listener yourself. If you want them to be more respectful, you need to model respectfulness yourself. And if you want them to be more grateful, you need first to model gratitude.

Engage your teen in defining for themselves regular practices of gratitude. Knowing that learners of this age may question the knowledge and authority of adults, offer them the data that describes the benefits, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and beyond to people for whom thankfulness is a daily practice. Ask them to identify the routines they may be open to trying out, and just as you would with children in the second plane, circle back regularly to check in and see how it’s going.

Appreciating that learners at this age are aware of and interested in social justice, enlist your teen in regular, weekly or, at the very least, monthly, family service activities. Be careful not to use these opportunities to berate your child or belittle them for “how much better they have it.” Rather, establish a norm of service as something you do simply because it’s the right thing to do. Then create opportunities for conversation afterwards about what your family experienced together. If you present service as a didactic tool to force your child to appreciate the things they have, you may be surprised to elicit exactly the opposite reaction. But if you engage in service with your teen, modeling reflection during your shared discussions before and afterwards, you are more likely to evoke an awareness of privilege that your teen might otherwise be resistant to acknowledge.

Finally, while you should not give up on the expectation of formal expressions of thankfulness to the people who regularly help your team to thrive, like teachers, supports staff, and others, you should let your teen decide for themselves how they would most like to convey that gratitude. One young person’s authentic expression of thankfulness may be a thank-you note. Another’s may be a task or act of kindness. Another may chose to pay it forward. Alerting your teen to the need for these expressions, but letting them determine the ones that are most meaningful to them will help to establish these practices as habits instead of have-tos.

Remember, presume the best. Like most of us as adults, teens don’t want to be told how or what to feel. But they are acutely aware of the people around them, including the times when those people make their lives better. Let go of your heavy hand, and instead, walk alongside your teen as they establish practices on which they will rely on years to come.
If you would like to learn more, please visit us at clms.org!

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Crystal Lake Montessori School

3013 S. Country Club Rd

Woodstock, IL 60098

(815) 338-0013