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From the Desk of Jennifer Potokar, Director

Looking Beneath the Surface
          One thing I began noticing since joining the Weinacker Montessori School community is the way children take their time doing work and the way children pay attention to detail and ask questions if they do not understand. I have learned, as a parent, through observing the Montessori classroom that I need to take more time teaching my child to look beneath the surface.  Instead of rushing our children through an event or a walk through the park, we should be aware of the time they need to take in everything around them.  It’s important for children to have enough time to ask questions about how the flowers grow, or what the bees are doing with the flowers.  In the Montessori classroom, children are given a 3 hour work period to ensure they each have the proper amount of time to explore materials and work through the process of the materials.
          Too often we find ourselves not taking the proper time to answer questions for our children. If we take ten extra minutes each day to really observe our children and answer their questions, we will get to see beneath the surface. Teachers in the Montessori classroom take time each day to just sit and observe the children in their environment. In doing this, teachers are able to read the real child, and the child is given ample time to find meaning in his or her work. I personally have done this with my children at home. When they are engaged in an activity, I stop doing dishes and I observe what they are doing and learning.  I get to know them by observing them. You may learn something new about them, or see a skill you did not know they had accomplished. I learned through watching my son play with a toy drill that he wanted to learn how to build things like his daddy. I did not push him for information, I simply observed him and he came to me to share this information.  Try this at home.  Try taking ten minutes each day to observe your children and get to know them. 

From the Desk of Amanda McCarthy, Director

          One of the most common questions that parents ask me is how can I make our home more like the classroom?  Having once been a new Montessori parent myself, I can totally relate.  My oldest children were in a traditional preschool in Virginia until they were almost 2 & 3.  I taught in the 3 year old class for years.  I loved that school and the curriculum.   When we moved here and I began touring preschools, I just couldn’t find the right fit.  One day while out running errands, I decided to check into Montessori.  I didn’t know much about it, but the location was convenient.  After my tour I couldn’t wait to enroll my children.  I can remember observing in my 3 year old’s classroom on his first day.  During the work period, another child took him by the hand and led him to the Practical Life section.  Together they made toast, sliced an orange, and made fresh orange juice.  That moment was life changing for me.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that he was capable of doing something like that.  As the day went on, I saw more and more examples of how Montessori fosters independence in young children.   I began to make changes in our own home by placing items frequently used by my children on lower shelves.  I also began to let them explore and experiment with making their own snacks. 
          There are so many things that we, as parents, can do in our home to make it feel more like the classroom and promote independence in our children.  The link below provides some excellent ideas!
“The role of the adult is to respect what the child can do for himself.”  Aline D. Wolf


From the Desk of DeEtta Brown, Director

"Nothing”                    
                We’ve all heard it time and time again. After spending most of the day away from our child, after feeling guilty for shipping them off for eight hours, after paying a nice chunk of change for their education, what are the responses we get when we ask our little ones what they did all day?
 “I played outside.” Or “I ate snack.”
Or the most dreaded answer of all……
“Nothing.”
                I am here to assure you that your child indeed did lots of “something” of value and that there is no need to panic.  
                Many children have trouble recalling specific parts of their day and often need a little prompting. Instead of asking “what did you do today?”, try getting specific with your questions. For example:
                “What math lessons did you have today?”
                “Which friends did you work with in language?
                “What work were you proud of today?”
                “How did you use water today?”
Asking specific, yet open ended questions helps jog the memories of our little ones and helps us feel better about how they are spending their time.
                Another tip for getting your children to talk? Make their hands busy! Children often find it easier to concentrate on their words when their hands are in motion. Maria Montessori eloquently stated that “The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." (The Absorbent Mind, p. 25)
                Have your child help you fold the laundry, wash the potatoes or pull weeds from the garden. These activities keep their bodies in one place but keep their hands moving. More often than not, a child will start opening up and answering questions with ease. This type of conversation with a child is more natural than a one on one, eye contact filled conversation and allows the child to just talk without feeling any pressure.
                Don’t get too bogged down with what your child ISN’T saying and try to create an environment that makes him comfortable enough to open up and share his day with you. Next thing you know, you may be searching for a blog on how to tame your little chatterbox.
Peace, Love and Montessori!

From the Desk of Cheryl Marrison............

               
We will miss you Cindy Hoobler-Brouillette.
          Last Saturday April 18, 2015 a kind, courageous, inspirational, and thoughtful loving soul left us.  Cindy Hoobler-Brouillette was a teacher, a mentor, and a friend to her co-workers. In the classroom she was one of the most nurturing and patient teachers I’ve had the pleasure to observe.
          Cindy began working at Weinacker’s in the Fall of 2006 at our Midtown location.  She completed her NAMC  (North American Montessori Center) Infant  and Toddler training in 2007. Her love of Montessori lead her to become an officer in the Montessori Educators of Alabama so she could further her work in educating others about the benefits of the ”Montessori Method”.
          In Spring of 2010 Cindy moved to our Lake Forest location as the Lead Toddler Teacher .  She remained at Lake Forest until spring of 2011 when she returned to Midtown as the Lead Toddler Teacher.  Her enthusiasm and love of teaching young children carried her on to complete her AMS (American Montessori Society) training. Cindy became an AMS certified Montessori teacher in 2012. In 2014, with the closing of our Midtown school Cindy moved to our Tillman’s Corner location as the Lead Toddler Teacher and then as the Assistant Director when she could no longer teach.  As her condition began taking a greater toll on her, she moved from the Assistant Director’s position to one of consultant.  She brought some wonderful ideas to light in her role of making our classrooms more home-like and inviting.
          Cindy was a great inspiration to everyone she touched.  She was always upbeat and courageous even when the news could not have been any worse.  The children she taught were truly blessed to have been guided by such a wonderful woman.  She will be fondly remembered by all of us at Weinacker’s. I know that her love light will shine as brightly in heaven as it did here on earth.
image-228789-Cindy.jpg?1429635544333
Her passing is a great loss to us all. We love you Cindy.



From the Desk of Jennifer Potokar, Director


                 Being a mom who has had my children in traditional education for over 5 years, I was very nervous about starting them in a Montessori classroom. I was under the impression that my children would not get a lot of play time in and that they would need to expel all of their energy at the end of the day. I could not have been more wrong about my understanding of Montessori work.
                My children have grown into positive, self directed, happy, focused and respectful little people. They are more aware of choices that they can make throughout the day, they are happy to be doing work and learning the process of something that focusing on completing something and moving on. Here are just a few of the characteristics I have grown to know and love about a Montessori Education.
Self – chosen and self – directed .......
In a Montessori classroom children are free to choose what they would like to learn and how long they would like to practice. The teacher will not tell them where they need to go or what they need to be doing. Teachers will ‘follow the child’ assisting with how to use the work instead of directing them to do something specific.
Children focus on process not outcome......
Children are not told to use or do anything they do not want to in the classroom. There are no work sheets or pre made projects. This idea allows children to focus on the process of a work that they have chosen. A child may choose to do a work over and over because they like the process or want to practice the process, not because the task is incomplete or completed.
Replacing pretend play with Real Life......
This concept does not mean children do not get to use his or her imagination. It simply means we do not read fairy tales and pretend to be Ninja Turtles. We offer children the chance to learn about real life events that happened at different times, real heroic men and women, and the opportunity to become strong and independent people. They will use real fruits and vegetables for food prep instead of plastic, and they will help clean up tables and learn to serve themselves snack and lunch. They are free to use their imaginations to envision real life events, act out real life events and imagine what those times were like.
Active, alert, non stressed frame of mind......
Children in a Montessori environment are free to choose his or her own work at any point in time during the work period. This freedom helps children focus on the process of completing a task because they do not need to worry about the outcome of the task. With children able to experience this type of environment they are less likely to have fear of failure. When children are not worried about having a wrong outcome they are able to work with a stress free mind. To children, they view their work as meaningful play and with that lack of a stressful mind they are able to enjoy the process and take what they have learned back into the home environment as well. If a child is told to complete a specific task it may cause them stress while worrying about the outcome of completing the task. We want children to learn in a comfortable environment.


From the Desk of Cheryl Marrison

I’ll call this “Helpful Information” and hopefully you will agree………………………………………
Recently I’ve spoken with many new and potential families and the one thing they have in common seems to be a thirst for information on what we “do” in our schools that is different from others. So, I decided to do some research online to come up with some really helpful sites and articles for our families.  Here are some of the results:
I recommend this DVD to anyone who is interested in learning more about the history of the Montessori “method” of teaching.  It is a great introduction for those who are interested in learning some of the differences between Montessori and traditional education.
This website gives an abundance of information on how to step into Montessori at home.   You will find resources here to begin reinforcing what your child is learning in our classrooms.
This is a catalog that every parent should find useful when looking for materials to use with your child.  They have a great assortment of child sized objects and tools. They also carry some wonderful books and  helpful teaching materials.  I have ordered items from this site for my grandchildren and have been completely satisfied.
Often you will hear your Director speak about the benefit of enrolling your child in one of our five day programs instead of one for two or three days a week. I wanted to share an article that I read about routines with you.  I think that this article gives great insight for our recommendation.
 The Importance of Routine for Children
Rituals and routines provide children with security and a sense of safety. Their understanding of what comes next allows for them to prepare. Change is difficult and transitions can present challenges. By developing a routine, children know what to expect and this reduces the stress on everyone and makes for a much calmer transition.
The consistency provided by the five day a week program helps children (and parents) develop a routine and begins to help children develop a mastery of self. Throughout the course of their young lives children are presented with any number of changes that are beyond their control. Infants and toddlers are confronted with giving up breastfeeding, bottles, cribs, to name a few. They are placed in new environments surrounded by new people. All of these erode their sense of security. Predictability allows for children to develop self-discipline, to take control of their own activities and gives them the confidence to tackle new challenges. Being around the same adults and same classmates on a consistent basis helps them develop true relationships quicker and aids in their social development. Children often display signs of stress when presented with the challenge of missing a classroom event such as birthday celebration or a special lesson on a day when they were not in class. It is more difficult for children attending school on a partial week schedule to grasp concepts and often takes them longer to show academic growth.
Children from homes where belongings are not properly put away have a difficult time understanding that life can run more smoothly if things are organized a little. In a Montessori learning environment, children are exposed to neat and orderly classrooms. They learn to care for their classroom, respect their classmates, and to properly use the learning materials. The order of the Montessori classroom allows for children to focus and concentrate on their work without worry. Children learn to prepare a work space and meticulously note the materials needed to complete their task. Because each child cares for their environment and carefully stores the learning materials when their work is done, there is no worry of a missing puzzle piece or broken materials.

The importance of establishing routines or family rituals can have an even greater impact as children grow older. Something as mundane as a family game night every Thursday has the potential to provide families with a venue for family discussions in a safe environment. Even in the most difficult of times of adolescence, children can look forward to these predetermined events.


Six Benefits of Using Routines with Your Kids
By: Dr. Laura Markham
1. Routines eliminate power struggles because you aren't bossing them around.  This activity (brushing teeth, napping, turning off the TV to come to dinner) is just what we do at this time of day.  The parent stops being the bad guy, and nagging is greatly reduced.

2. Routines help kids cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone.  We all know what comes next, we get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels pushed around.

3.  Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities.  Over time, kids learn to brush their teeth, pack their backpacks, etc., without constant reminders.  Kids love being in charge of themselves. This feeling increases their sense of mastery and competence.  Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be oppositional.

4. Kids learn the concept of "looking forward" to things they enjoy, which is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule.  He may want to go to the playground now, but he can learn that we always go to the playground in the afternoon, and he can look forward to it then.

5. Regular routines help kids get on a schedule, so that they fall asleep more easily at night.

6. Schedules help parents maintain consistency in expectations. If everything is a fight, parents end up settling: more TV, skip brushing teeth for tonight, etc.  With a routine, parents are more likely to stick to healthy expectations for everyone in the family, because that's just the way we do things in our household.  The result: a family with healthy habits, where everything runs more smoothly!



Spring is right around the corner!

Well, another Mardi Gras celebration has come and gone.  I hope that everyone had the opportunity to enjoy a parade.
As we head into spring we have some exciting things that we are working on at the schools.  We are having our Sweetheart Dinners with the families at each school this month.  Hillcrest had theirs on the 12th and University and Lake Forest are having theirs on the 19th.  
In March we would like to have all of our families join us at University enjoying their Chili Cook-off on the 14th.  There will be games and fun and great food for all. If you have a great chili recipe you should join in the competition.  
April will start out with an egg hunt at all of the schools on the 2nd. Please come and enjoy watching the children find their treasures. Later in the month we will have wonderful opportunities at each of our locations for you to experience Montessori .  Even if you attended the last one that we had, I’m certain that you will experience something new. The “Discovery Journey” is a hands-on look at the Montessori curriculum offered at our schools, moving from Toddler through the Pre-school learning community.  The schedule is:  University – April 16th, Hillcrest – April 21st, Lake Forest – April 23rd.  
Visit the event calendar to keep up with what we are planning throughout the year.  Please don’t hesitate to send me suggestions for events or activities that you would enjoy attending.  

From the Desk of Cheryl Marrison…..

Hello everyone and Happy New Year. I hope that everybody had an enjoyable holiday season.
As I look back on 2014 I am reminded of how blessed I am with the opportunity to work with our Directors, teaching, and support staff. I am sure that you will agree with me when I say THEY ARE WONDERFUL.
For 2015 we want to incorporate more community and social events into our program. Does anyone have any suggestions for community events within your child’s classroom? As a school we are always looking for ways to get the children involved in social activities. Perhaps some of you parents would like to help with planning and preparation. If so, please let your school’s Director know. They are always looking for parent participation.
Please take a look at the “Events” section of our website to see what is already planned for your school. Don’t be shy, we love parent input. If there is something that you think would be engaging and fun please let us know.
One of my other personal goals for 2015 is to help transform areas in our classrooms into having a more home-like atmosphere. I want to add some things such as child sized couches for our reading areas and perhaps some pole lamps. Suggestions for this are also VERY welcome.
Let’s all work together and make 2015 an AWESOME year for the children.



“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.” ~ Maria Montessori

Way to Go University! 

There are no greater memories than memories of Christmas time as a child (and now, really).  When I begin to think about Christmas as a child, I can almost transform back and smell the sweet smelling homemade cookies, the glistening ornaments, the mountains of gifts on Christmas morning---I have some great memories and will eternally cherish each one sacredly.

What a great time of year to implement some Montessori in your home, if you have not yet. No matter what holiday you and your celebrate....just apply it accordingly.  Here are some ideas!

1.  Let your little ones help decorate!  I have the fondest memories of my and all my siblings decorating our Christmas tree!  We loved it!  And everyday while we still had the tree standing, we took such pride in our hard work.

2.  If you bake, let your little ones help with kitchen duties!  While I am not the greatest baker, my mom always included us in making yummy personalized goodies for our teachers, babysitters, and neighbors!  We had a blast!

3.  Teach your little ones the value in the season.  The holiday season is not all about gifts and receiving the biggest and the brightest ---it is a season about love, gratitude, and peace.  Donate to a charity, spend time with your elderly neighbors, volunteer at a homeless kitchen and in turn, help your children learn the true meaning of this much anticipated season.

Until next time,

Meg

The Silent Journey


Hey everyone!  It has been an amazing and exhilarating couple of weeks at Weinacker's!  As I sit down at my desk this morning, I am engulfed with such sweet memories over the last couple of weeks.  It is such an honor to have the opportunity to work with such great teachers, children, families, administration!

Despite all the wonderful things we had going on at all of our schools my favorite was the one that we had last night at our Hillcrest school, The Silent Journey with Amy Henderson. If you have never heard of Montessori's Silent Journey or sometimes it is referred to as Montessori Journey or Montessori Experience; this is a time for parents to come into their child's Montessori environment and silently become engaged with the world around them.  The reason for this experience to be done silently is to activate all of one's senses to the best of their ability and fully engage in the presence.   The Silent Journey is meant to help parents gain a better understanding of the Montessori process and their child's developmental journey.  Everything about this experience is so beautiful and profound to me.  I believe that this experience truly helps build the bond between parent and child.  I highly recommend that if you ever get the opportunity to take part in a Silent Journey  do not pass it up!  A special thank you to all that attended, it was lovely sharing that experience with all of you.

It has been such a great couple of weeks for all of us at Weinacker's, I hope you all have also had a great couple of weeks too.  We are entering into a somewhat crazy time of the year, the holiday season, and it is easy for all of us to get wrapped up in the to-do lists, parties, and everything else in our day to day lives--I encourage everyone to take a minute and reflect on lucky we are and try to enjoy the precious time we have with all our friends and family.  Life is short, enjoy every second of it.


Until next time,

Megan


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