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Children learn through play. As such, the importance of the role of play in the life of a child is paramount. Even more so is the integral role that outdoor play in a natural environment plays in the life of a developing child.

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West Side Montessori values the outdoor learning environment. Our natural playgrounds allow for open-ended, multi-age, sensorial play. Children are able to explore and experience nature by watching birds and bugs in their natural habitat. They also have opportunities to take part in planting, nurturing and harvesting living things.

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Our natural playgrounds also offer a setting that encourages children to utilize their imagination. When children engage in play in a natural playground setting they are provided the opportunity to engage in collaborative play. Providing children the opportunity to play outdoors gives them the ability to engage their whole body in their play as they explore. Additionally, they do not have limitations on noise or activity when playing outdoors.

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Come experience West Side Montessori’s natural playgrounds during our FREE summer playdates!

Come

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Consistency leads to success. Children thrive with routines. They’re some of our favorite words. While children are still creating self-discipline and an inner sense of order, it’s up to us to keep things consistent and follow a routine, to help children along the path.

But what about when things don’t work? What then?

Oh, it’s so hard. What any of us wouldn’t give to know that things turn out, what’s going to help a child over a hurdle and be successful with this next step.

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It’s a balance, as so many things are. This isn’t a cop out. We all wish we had The Answer, all the answers, all the time. But even Maria Montessori called her work with children an experiment. We can set up conditions for success, but they’re children, not computers, and it’s parenting and guiding, not coding, and they have the right to choose to follow their own will, not the requirement of adherence to our will. We can’t always predict what’s going to happen.

We are consistent and we follow a routine. There are ups and downs, easier days and more learning full days, but are things moving in the right direction? Are we moving toward success and independence?

We don’t continue with something when it’s not working. We observe. What are the children showing us? What do they need? Time, modeling, a change?

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Consistency and routines help a child toward success; that doesn’t mean every day is going to be seamless and easy, that doesn’t mean the routine will never change. Sometimes the routine needs to change. The children will show us what they need. Sometimes things don’t work. Sometimes we set up the conditions for success — the modeling, the resources, the time, the patience, the assistance — and it still just doesn’t work.

We don’t keep at it. We look at what’s working, what isn’t. It’s not the children’s fault, it’s our opportunity. The highest consistency is our own, looking for what we can do to help the children more effectively.

Consistency and routine don’t mean sticking to what doesn’t work. It means consistently looking for what will work and sticking with it until it doesn’t, and then trying again.

Source: Baan Dek

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

I dream of a day when Montessori will be available to every family who wishes to send their children to a Montessori school. I dream of a day when we will have a Montessori High School at WSM. I have a lot of dreams, interests, and aspirations – I’d have to live ten lifetimes to fit them all in. My greatest accomplishment is raising four amazing people – Aaron, Robert, Parker, and Kevin. They bring me joy and make me proud every day.

Q: What do you love about Montessori?

We keep the love of learning alive in our students.

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Q: What is your favorite area in the classroom and why?

I love our small group collaboration area in my language arts room. It allows our middle school students to work cooperatively. They have access to large and small white boards, laptops, a beautiful view of our grounds, and many seating choices to meet their needs.

Q: What would you tell a prospective family about West Side?

In middle school we do a lot of work and have a lot of fun. We love our students and strive to inspire them each day as much as they inspire us. 

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Q: What first appealed to you about Montessori?

The work ethic of the students and teachers appealed to me. Students were truly intrinsically motivated. Students were treated with grace and courtesy. As a result, the relationships between students and teachers was different compared to any other school I’d attended or observed.

Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?

Every Montessorian I meet inspires me. Going through Montessori training is a transformative experience. I can’t get enough of working with my amazing peers.

Q: Why did you choose to teach/work here?

West Side is a family. I’ve truly loved every teacher I’ve worked with, every teacher who has taught my own children, and all of my students and their parents. We have the best people in the world at our school.

Q: What motivated you to go into teaching/working at a school?

My oldest son started kindergarten at our local public school and I thought – we as a society need to do better; I can do better. I’ve always believed if I’m not part of the solution I am part of the problem. I wanted to improve education for my son and all children. So, I became a teacher.

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Q: What’s the most important life lesson you’d like to share with your students?

Be yourself. I am myself 100 percent of the time with my students. We should all celebrate who we are. We are all worthy of love. We are all amazing individuals. We all have something good to offer.

Q; How do students inspire/motivate you?

My students’ excitement for reading, writing, and community service inspires me to create meaningful work for them and to provide opportunities for them to change the world around them for the better. I truly believe our students will change the world because they’ve changed my life.

 

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” is a song written by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller in 1955 for a children’s choir. Today, children and adults world-wide embrace and perform the song in many contexts. Its message is universal; each individual has the power to create peace and harmony within him or herself.

Modeling peaceful behavior for children, listening deeply, discussing fairly, demonstrating empathy are possible when parents are able to step outside their own fears and prejudices and put themselves in the other’s shoes. It is the only effective way to teach peace. Children know instinctively when parents’ directives to “be nice” are not in sync with argumentative, closed-minded behavior observed in the adults around them. Instead, they internalize conflict as the way to approach life.

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When parents openly discuss age-appropriate issues and options they respect their children’s intelligence and encourage their thoughtful behavior. And, equally important, when parents admit their mistakes to children it demonstrates that we all fail at perfection although we strive to be good people.

In the end, emerging young adults choose to accept or reject their parents’ values and beliefs. The most powerful tool parents can give their children in today’s confrontational and polarized world is the confidence to trust their own judgement, make good decisions, and build healthy relationships.

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(Middle School students organized a moment of silence to honor the lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.)

Our children are our hope for the future. They will be hopeful, empowered to create a more peaceful world if we demonstrate it is possible in our own lives. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Head of School,

Lynn Fisher

THE MONTESSORI MIXED-AGE CLASSROOMS!

When families are introduced to Montessori, one of the aspects that is often the most surprising, is the mixed-age classrooms.

It can be rather dramatic to see a big six-year-old, working alongside a three-year-old. To even hear, “this is a classroom for children from two-and-a-half to six,” takes a minute to process. In Elementary classrooms there might be children six to nine, or nine to twelve, or even six to twelve! What different capacities and interests these children have. What different materials and developments these children are undertaking.

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So, why are they in the same classroom?

There are a few reasons we absolutely love having children of varying ages working and learning together.

 The children care for one another. With different ages and abilities, the children are always looking out for one another. The older children have the opportunity to care for the younger children; trying out initiative and patience, practicing zippers and tying bows, solidifying new and previously mastered knowledge. Younger children shine bright when they receive help from an older child, knowing even they can wash a dish, wipe a spill, help carry a table.

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The children learn from one another. Younger children admire older children so much. Older children feel a sense of responsibility and pride when helping younger children. There’s lovely conversation being modeled, new vocabulary being introduced, careful syntax being practiced. Younger children may not be ready for “million” or for “verb” they do benefit from this language being used around them. When they are ready for this work, it comes with a beautiful emotional connection when they remember that magical big kid who did this work when he was “little.” Older children seeing a classmate unable to complete his work are reminded that they, too, were unable to finish that work, the work they’re now the expert at, and they offer kind assistance.

The children are preparing for life. How often do we actually only work with colleagues our own age? Apart from the first twelve years of school, and even then it’s limited, our lives are enriched by diverse ages, backgrounds, interests, and aptitudes. We’re learning and teaching at every age. In a family, a child might have fallen into a specific role; only child, oldest, youngest. Being in a mixed- age classroom is an opportunity to try on different roles.

Adapted from Baan Dek