Music education is often thought of as an extracurricular activity with isolated educational objectives and outcomes. But within Montessori schools, even as early as Montessori preschool, music education is held in the same esteem as the other elements of the classroom curriculum.
Music as a learning tool
The founder of this unique method of education, Dr. Maria Montessori, held several key beliefs about children and their capacity to learn based on her years of experience and research as an educator. Montessori felt that children have an innate curiosity and the ability to self-educate that, given the right environment and guidance, develops into independence, confidence, and a love of learning. Montessori saw music as yet another valuable tool in cultivating these characteristics and the Montessori method of education sees the potential in every child to learn, create, and express themselves through music.
The benefits of music education
As any musician will tell you, music education integrates and reinforces many academic subject areas, including mathematics, anatomy, physics, history, anthropology, and even the study of languages. Additionally, there are the social-emotional skills which music education cultivates such as engaging in a creative process and working with a group to create a harmonious collective outcome. Unfortunately, many traditional schools choose not to or aren’t able to support a robust music education program and children are left to discover and refine their innate musical capabilities outside of the shared space of the classroom and on their own time, if they have the opportunity to do so at all.
The Montessori method and music education
Within Montessori elementary schools, music education is woven into the school day and is approached in the same way as the other subject areas. Children are encouraged to choose how they want to engage with music and teach themselves, learn from peers, and receive guidance from a music specialist (who is often someone other than their Montessori teacher). The curriculum focuses on music literacy, singing, movement, listening, and the playing of instruments. Ear training is introduced early on in the Montessori Primary program through the standard classroom tool Montessori bells. For children in the first stage of their music education they will learn in a group setting with their usual mixed-age peers, while students who have progressed in their music education will have opportunities for private lessons with practice time incorporated into their classroom schedule.
Children as young as infants are able to start picking up important math concepts that will follow them through life. Not only are early math concepts taught in Montessori daycare and preschool, but they can also easily be applied to daily household activities. Using a hands-on approach to education makes it easier for kids to pick up these skills, and it may surprise you how quickly your children take them to heart.
The ability to count usually precedes the ability to recognize numerals, beginning even before your child attends a Montessori daycare. Counting begins in infancy, typically with counting fingers or toes, and progresses to the ability to count other objects. Since the earliest counting process uses a predetermined group of items such as fingers, the concept of grouping and sets are included in the process by default. In its simplest form, the basic set is a hand containing 5 fingers.
You can begin teaching children to recognize numerals even before they are able to talk. By the time they are in preschool, most children will have a good idea what the numerals for 2 and 3 look like, and will probably be ready to pick basic numbers from 1 to 9 out of a group of numerals.
More and Less
As children learn to identify their numerals they will also be able to pick up concepts such as more and less even if they aren’t yet able to count the number of items in a set. A group of three toy trucks is more than 1 toy truck, for example, and taking one of the truck out of the set means there are less than there were. This type of association is a good introduction to simple addition and subtraction, and an excellent way for children to compare sets of similar items.
After mastering the basic math concepts, children are ready to start exploring the complexities of math such as adding and subtracting items, dividing a set into equal parts (and recognizing when there is a remainder), and even learning the rudiments of multiplication by adding sets together. Introducing these concepts begins in your Montessori preschool and kindergarten, but the basic concepts they need for learning them starts within days or weeks of being born.
Attending Montessori preschool is an excellent head start, but the best way to help your children is to take a proactive role in their education. Giving him the opportunity t get outside and get his hands dirty is more than educational, it also has health benefits for his mind and body.
Provide the Right Environment
Your Montessori preschool makes good use of outdoor time, and so should you. Providing kids with a safe and interesting outside space encourages healthy activities like running, stretching and grasping. A lawn, for example, is filled with discoveries for the young mind but it must be free of trash, debris, and sharp objects. With supervision, cleaning up the lawn can be the activity they need and also gives them a sense of purpose-- and accomplishment as well.
Play Based Learning
Giving your child a small gardening space is an excellent incentive. Planting seeds and nurturing plants as they grow is both educational and builds self-esteem as children watch the result their activities grow, blossom and produce edible results. Gardening for children can be as simple as a pot or two filled with soil or as complex as a miniature vegetable garden with several different types of plants like squash, beans, and watermelon.
Even infants can benefit from time outdoors. Spread a blanket in the yard or at the beach and allow your baby to crawl about and discover new things. Keep in mind that little children are new to every experience and eager to try new things. Research indicates that our brains are naturally inclined for outdoor activity, so provide ample opportunity for it to take place. Physical activity is the primary goal and exploration is the bait which encourages it.
By giving young children the chance to explore and investigate, you encourage them to broaden their horizons, take on new roles and responsibilities, and learn about a myriad of things in their own way and at their own pace. Outside activity is fundamental to the human body and mind, so make it a practice to offer outdoor stimuli which boosts his personal potential.
A child’s formative years are the most important educational years of his life, and attending kindergarten at a Montessori elementary school is considered to be an essential part of the learning cycle. The American Montessori Society points out that children are constantly being observed and assessed in the classroom, and teachers use those observations to provide intuitive individual guidance which helps children learn more and develop essential social and real-world skills.
The 3-Year Cycle
Children who attend Montessori elementary school will stay in the same classroom from the time they are 3 until they are 6 years of age. This is known as the 3-year cycle, culminating in their kindergarten year when earlier lessons solidify into more complex education and exploration. This is the year that children are expected to put their earlier lessons and experiences into action and take on a more concerted role as responsible young members of the school and community.
Children Blossom in Kindergarten
Kindergarten is an explosive year for child development and is a critical step in Montessori education. This is the year that students become the critical thinkers and problem solvers the gentle lessons of previous years have prepared them for. In the prepared environment, materials which were once used as playful and exciting games become tools for learning directly about their world, their abilities, and their community. All of their efforts take on a new focus and their holistic education begins to take a definitive shape.
Self Development and Interaction
In kindergarten, children will learn to apply themselves in new ways, becoming more decisive and exhibiting self-control. They will develop more pronounced social skills and explore new ways to interact with their classmates, their student guides, and with the world at large. They will discover how to deal with setbacks and explore new ways to apply themselves to the projects they undertake.
Montessori kindergarten is one of the most important years for young students. That is the age when children become more self-aware and develop the skills necessary for applying themselves to many different facets of their education, from language and fine motor control to math and personal interaction.
At the heart of the Montessori philosophy is respect for the child, which has profound implications for the way children are taught in a classroom. In a Montessori Pre-school, this translates into the understanding and support of children’s developmental stages, versatile curriculum throughout their elementary school career, and a more hands-off role for the teachers, all of which encourage children to learn at their own pace.
Support of developmental stages
In Dr. Maria Montessori’s research and experience in education, she developed* the concept of developmental planes, a timeframe in which children are more apt to adopt certain behaviors and learn specific skills. Instead of thinking of development as linear and universal, Montessori’s concept of developmental planes posits that the path to mastery and access to the next plane is particular to each child, and supporting that child in their path is the most natural and effective way for them to learn. She observed that these stages of development span several years and for this reason, Montessori schools are organized into mixed-age groups that share the same developmental plane. Children have the opportunity to explore in the same classroom for three years, allowing them to pursue their interests and develop their skills at their own pace.
The three Montessori elementary school programs are the primary (3-6 year olds), lower (6-9 year olds), and upper (9-12 year olds) programs. Each program offers a different approach to curriculum, but all offer flexibility and diverse ways to approach the topics. In the primary program curriculum, children acquire knowledge through exploration and hands-on practice in practical life skills, sensorial, math, language, and cultural studies. For the lower program curriculum, children are introduced to the Five Great Lessons: the story of the universe, the timeline of life, the story of language, the story of numbers, and the timeline of civilization. As children move into the upper program curriculum, they will focus on research projects and group work of their choosing that deepens their knowledge and understanding of the subjects they’ve explored in the previous programs, letting their innate curiosity and love of learning guide the way.
Teachers as observers
Lastly and importantly, Montessori teachers are positioned in the classroom as observers and guides. Due to the intentional design of the prepared environment and the emphasis on self-directed learning, teachers do not have to uniformly govern a classroom full of children with diverse interest, skills, and needs. Instead they can observe the child as they explore, question, and engage subjects and encourage them to own their learning process, while offering support and their presence as a resource.
During Spring Break, keep your Montessori primary school child engaged with exciting activities that encourage learning. Just as we use play-based learning in the Montessori classroom, you can use the same process for educational activities throughout the year at home.
Learning about and making music is part of the prepared environment at your Montessori primary school, and critical to healthy childhood development. The youngest ones will enjoy simple instruments such as banging on a couple of old pots, and the older children can explore the cultures where instruments were developed or the differences between various string or percussion instruments. If you have more than one child, let them make their own instruments and put on a home symphony.
Basic Weather Station
Putting together a simple weather station is an inexpensive way to become an amateur scientist. Your daughter will need a rain gauge, a thermometer, and a weather vane but the weather vane can be as simple as a pinwheel. In addition to learning the science of meteorology, keeping a journal teaches responsibility and writing as part of the project. As she gets older you can add more complex instruments, but keep it simple while starting out.
Almost any educational activity is going to provide an opportunity to learn about math. She has to measure the rain in the gauge. He needs to understand the importance of timing in music. Even the smallest children can begin learning to count blocks or cars and the rudiments of adding or subtracting items in specific sets. From cookie recipes to counting down the minutes until time to leave for the park, math is a critical part of so many of the things we enjoy in life.
Getting It Write
Like math, reading and writing skills are vital, and it is never too soon to start. Infants and preschoolers are ready to start arranging letters into the words for their favorite things. Play “word of the day” games which involve to spell a new word and then using it in the course of the daily routine, or practice spelling object names around the house.
Everything we do is an opportunity to learn. From counting fingers and toes to discovering how to spell words, the learning process should be fun and absorbing. Investigate different ways to integrate play-based learning in everything you do, including educational spring break activities.
Keeping organized and on track can be difficult for children attending Montessori primary school. From cleaning their rooms to remembering to put necessary items in their book bags, Montessori primary school students learn organization through daily activity.
Attending Montessori elementary school is the perfect time for students to begin learning about organization. One way to help is to separate different tasks and projects, working on them in a priority-based manner. By giving her one thing at a time to be completed, she is able to devote her attention to getting the job done and visualize her progress along the way. When there are multiple tasks to complete, separate them into specific folders or bins, and split the workload up to prevent becoming overwhelmed.
Write it Down
Try writing down the tasks in progress. Not only will this provide her with a way to remember what she is supposed to be working on, but the act of writing down notes is also often beneficial in committing things to memory. Even things like keeping her room tidier will improve if she has a checklist of things that need to be done so that she concentrate on each step of the process.
Follow a Routine
Repeating tasks during similar time periods each day can help with organization. When she learns that she needs to put her toys away after brushing her teeth, the pattern will become a normal process which helps her be more organized. Coupled with separating tasks and writing down the things she needs to accomplish, her day will quickly become organized and follow a regular progression.
Sticking to regular tasks can be helpful, but take care to leave the schedule open to interpretation and change. It won’t be possible to the same thing at the same time every day, but there can be tasks assigned to Monday and Wednesday that are not part of the Tuesday and Thursday routine. Effective scheduling can improve her organization by making it a facet of the normal course of events.
The tax season is upon us and a common question at Montessori preschools is whether preschool expenses can be used as a deduction. The question will have a different answer for many parents than it did in previous years, and some households will discover that they are no longer eligible for the tax credit they used in their 2018 filing.
Who Qualifies for the Tax Credit
In order to qualify for the tax credit, you must have reportable earned income. This applies to single parents as well as couples. In the case of couples, both parents are required to have reportable income. If either parent was able to work but did not, then the tax credit will not be available to you.
Childcare Tax Credit
Between 2019 and 2025, sweeping changes to the tax code are going into effect, including changes to how the child and dependent tax credit can be applied. While it is not a deduction, the tax credit can be applied to qualifying households and may cover up to $3000 of costs for one child or as much as $6000 for two or more children. Attending school or being unable to work may qualify in some cases.
Childcare Not Education
The IRS is very specific about what the tax credit is meant for, specifically to allow one or both parents to be employed and earn taxable income. The credit is not intended to pay preschool educational expenses, but to assist in child care costs while applicable parents work. Parents who are not employed while their children attend preschool are not allowed to claim any childcare expenses during periods of unemployment.
Employment is the Key
Once available for parents who were seeking employment, the new tax code is only for those who have earned income. If you were seeking employment while your child attended preschool but did not have any taxable income as defined by the Internal Revenue Service, you cannot use the credit.
Please study the changes in the U.S. tax code carefully. Many of the changes going into effect over the coming years will have an impact on what you can claim, including the costs associated with your child’s preschool attendance. Consult a professional accountant or tax service with any questions or concerns you may have before filing this year’s returns.
Breathing techniques work well for children and adults as well and have the power to reduce the effects of stressful situations. At the Montessori School of Pleasanton, we incorporate breathing techniques as a way of helping our elementary students get control of their emotions and deal with anxiety and unpleasant situations.
Pretend that you are holding a handful of fresh flowers in your hand. Inhale deeply and imagine the scent. Exhale slowly, and think about the smell of the flowers. Repeat this process a few times. This method is great for elementary children because it gives them something to focus on while using controlled breathing, which takes their mind off the causes of stress or anxiety.
Feathers and Ribbons
Choose a feather or short piece of ribbon and hold it in front of your face. Breathe in deeply and then exhale slowly, watching the way your breath moves the surface of the item you are holding. Make a game of this technique, where the goal is to breathe on the item with only slight movements of the item you are holding. This exercise works well and helps children see the results of controlled breathing as it affects the surface of an object.
Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of five. Exhale slowly, making a quiet humming or buzzing sound as you do so. Repeat as necessary to calm down. It may help to close your eyes and pretend that you are alone in a field of flowers. This breathing exercise works well for elementary children because it incorporates a type of play into the process and gives them an activity to go along with the breathing technique.
Lie down and breathe deeply and slowly. Feel the air filling your lungs and expanding your chest. Hold each breathe for a few seconds before exhaling, and exhale as much as possible before taking the next deep breath. Research has shown that this is an excellent way to offset the “fight or flight” syndrome related to high anxiety.
Breathing techniques play a central role in yoga and other self-control routines as well as a way to regain a normal rhythm after heavy exercise. If you would like more information about ways to help your children remain in control of their emotions, talk with one of the student guides at the Montessori School of Pleasanton.
Cultural diversity is fundamental to life in the United States, and the African American contribution to history is extensive and impressive. We encourage you to help your preschooler learn about it at home during Black History Month as well.
Prominent Black Americans
From Harriet Tubman to Barrack Obama, the history of our nation is laced with African Americans who have risen above challenges of their times to achieve great things. Create storybooks with your children that tell the stories of some of these famous people, and explain to them how those people had to face many obstacles in order to do the things they did.
It is important for children to understand the difficulties black Americans have had, and how those problems have changed our society. Teach your children how accepting the differences of others is vital to living in a free and prosperous country. The great achievements of black Americans are even more important because of what they had to endure to in order to accomplish their amazing feats.
Black Culture Activities
From soul food to making African replicas, there are many activities to illustrate the cultural uniqueness of African Americans. Your children will enjoy doing cultural crafts, and they are certain to discover new taste sensations when they cook the foods of African cultures. Even music such as jazz, the blues, and hip-hop have roots in African American culture.
African American Contributions
From the corn planter to the piano, African Americans have been making life better for everyone for hundreds of years. Spend a day learning about the inventions of these people and how they have changed everything about the world we live. For a real-world example, consider the bicycle frame, an African American invention that every kid loves to use.
Black history month is an excellent opportunity to teach children about the roots of cultural diversity in America. There is a lot more to discover than can be covered in the classroom at our campus, but we would be happy to offer you suggestions on how to add to the ground we are able to cover. For more information on using hands-on activities to teach your children about Black History Month, contact the Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus today.