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The Benefits of Independent Learning

If you have a child, chances are the word “independent” causes some concern. With all the trouble children can get into, leaving them alone can be a daunting idea. However, in the right circumstances and with a watchful eye and guiding hand, independence can be a blessing for your child.

child_learning

Standard classrooms involve a teacher in front of a group of children going over the curriculum assigned to them. Whether they like it or not, your child must understand the information in the way it is provided. Montessori classrooms, on the other hand, allow your child tons of ways they can approach the lessons. Instead of a single lesson taught to the class, children can safely roam through the learning materials provided in their classroom under the watchful eye of their teacher. This way they can benefit from having a say in their learning, and reap the benefits of their independence.

Independent learning:

Boosts Confidence – When children are encouraged to learn independently, they take greater pride in their work. Because it is their choice to learn and they are progressing, they will be more confident in their abilities to learn as well. Don’t be surprised if your child comes running to you to tell you what they learned today!

Enables Exploration & Elicits Interest in Learning – Children have vastly different interests from each other, and the only way for them to find a topic that resonates with them is through exploration. Montessori classrooms contain many different learning materials, which will allow your child to find something they like. Once they do, they will be motivated to continue learning and grasp the concepts better because they are interested in the subject.

Allows for Collaborative Learning – A huge part of Montessori classrooms is their emphasis on social learning. By encouraging children to communicate rather than sit quietly and listen, children can share their knowledge and learn from other students. This allows them to form greater connections with the information because they are hearing, seeing, and speaking it.

Children can be hard to control, but you’d be surprised how far a little independence goes when it comes to their education. Boosted confidence, an interest in learning, and developing social skills are all great benefits that will stick with your child as they progress through school. Independent learning is a great way to ensure your child receives the best opportunities to learn and helps keep their development as well-rounded as possible.

December 19th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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The beauty of Montessori materials

 

Maria Montessori had a view that education should prepare children for all aspects of life. She believed that each child is unique and must be free to learn at his or her own pace. To support her theory further, Dr. Montessori designed several materials and techniques that are an integral part of the Montessori prepared environment. Each set of materials focuses on concepts that compliment the curriculum.

Visit the prepared classrooms of Montessori Kids Universe Sugarland and you will see several different sets of materials on low shelves. This is because Maria Montessori emphasized giving children ‘freedom within limits.” The materials are easily accessible and children are free to choose one according to their interest. Once the students are finished with their material, they are encouraged to put everything back on shelves before moving on to the next activity.

The greatest advantage of the Montessori materials is that they are “self-correcting,” which means that students will notice their errors and don’t need adult supervision to rectify their mistakes. This improves their problem solving skills and makes them more confident and content with their accomplishments.

Parents who are new to Montessori often find it hard to understand the importance of these materials. To help you out, here is a list of some of the most popular Montessori materials and how they are used in the prepared environment.

  1. Moveable Alphabet

Montessori doesn’t teach the alphabet in the traditional way. Instead of A, B, C, the children are taught the phonetic sounds of these letters. Once they are familiar with the sounds, they are transitioned to the moveable alphabet that allows them to recognize the letters they are used to hearing. The main purpose of the moveable alphabet is not to teach children how to read, but to prepare them for writing.

  1. The Golden Beads

The Golden Bead material is included in the mathematical curriculum and introduces the children to the decimal system. Initially, children around the age of four use the golden beads as an introduction to counting. As the child progresses, the same set of material allows them to perform sums of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

  1. The Pink Tower

The Pink Tower may look like an ordinary set of blocks to any person who is not familiar with the Montessori curriculum. However, it is one of the most recognized Montessori materials and teaches children a variety of skills including coordination and dimension. Most importantly, the tower is self-correcting since the child is immediately able to grasp his or her mistakes when the tower is completely built.

  1. Brown stairs

Similar to the Pink Tower, the Brown Stairs is another sensorial material that teaches children the different dimensions. As the name suggests, the children use the blocks to build “stairs” starting from the broadest to the narrowest. This allows them to further enhance their learning of sizes and shape.

  1. The world map

The World Map puzzle instills geography knowledge and skills. The cutouts of different continents teach children the name of seven continents as well as the names of their countries, their capital cities, and their demographic location on the globe.

  1. The Checkerboard

An advanced mathematic material, the Checkerboard helps children learn multiplication. The checkerboard material contains colorful beads and a large painted board. However, unlike the traditional methods that force children to memorize the multiplications table, the Checkerboard teaches abstract mathematical skills that allow them to calculate large numbers without counting.

  1. Practical Life Materials

As discussed in previous blogs, Montessori emphasizes practical life skills that help children in their daily routine and make them more independent and resilient in the future.  The practical life materials are a norm in Montessori classrooms and include the basics such as broom, dustpan, mop, and duster. Each item is child-sized so the children can conveniently access the items without asking for adult’s assistance. Children are also assigned duties during the school hours such as cleaning the shelves, watering the plants, and giving food to the class pet. This makes the children more responsible and instills them with a sense of pride for their contribution.

 

Montessori materials, while seemingly simple, can be used in a complex manner and through every stage of a preschooler’s development. More importantly, the materials develop a love of learning, advanced critical thinking skills, and the ability to problem-solve, even at this young age.

 

December 7th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Montessori and Children with Learning Disabilities

Is Montessori effective for children with learning disabilities?

Today’s classrooms are comprised of children who benefit from differentiated learning. Some children have learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, or dysphasia. Montessori schools can be quite beneficial for special needs students because they encourage them to work at their own pace.

Montessori_student

The Montessori Method promotes the belief that children learn best by doing. Montessori does not implement a one-size-fits-all curriculum, which aids students of different learning styles. The creator of the Montessori Method, Dr. Maria Montessori, worked with children with learning disabilities. In fact, the Montessori Method was initially inspired by students with special needs. It embraces the unique qualities within each child. Each student determines their own learning pace while staying motivated throughout the process.

With the Montessori Method, learning occurs through active pursuit of experiences. Students are encouraged to progress at their own speed. They begin a new activity once they are comfortable with what they have learned from the previous activity. They can work alone, with a partner, or within a group, remaining with a specific learning activity as long as they want and progressing onto the next one when ready.

Additionally, children receive an abundance of personal attention from instructors…an effective technique for individuals with learning disabilities. Instead of sitting at the front of the classroom, Montessori teachers move around the room observing and assessing each student while providing needed support.

Another positive outcome is that children with learning disabilities often discover that the multi-sensory, interactive setting created within the Montessori environment can be stimulating, resulting in the ideal venue for learning. In addition, many special needs children benefit from witnessing other children acting in what is perceived as normal and appropriate behavior.

Because the pace of learning is typically established by the children, they tend to stay motivated and feel better about school. Most special needs students also benefit from the increased personal attention, a trademark of Montessori schools.

So, is Montessori effective for children with special needs? We say…absolutely! Montessori is intended to help all children reach their potential at their own unique pace. The Montessori classroom is a community where children learn from each other and everyone contributes without feeling ahead or behind in relation to classmates.

December 6th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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The Montessori Mat at Work

A few years ago while scouring for a Montessori for my son, I had the chance to visit several primary classrooms. Apart from the well-organized and attractive classroom environment, I was impressed with the different sets of materials that were being used effortlessly by the children. Another feature that appealed to me was the use of work mats. Although there were quite a few child-sized tables and chairs in the classroom, many children were utilizing the small mats for their individual activities.

At that time, I thought they were given to the children to minimize mess and make cleanup easy. However, I was wrong and cleaning had nothing to do with it. In fact, the lightweight work mats hold significant importance in the Montessori prepared environment.

The Montessori work mat is used to reinforce the primary principle of the Montessori prepared environment – freedom within limits. The mat defines a child’s personal space while other students are taught to respect the classmate’s work and privacy. The mat is considered a child’s sacred space and no one can interrupt the child unless they are willing to interact. Other children make sure to walk around the mat carefully and only join a classmate when given permission.

Another advantage of a Montessori mat is that the children can come back to their activity if they have to leave their work for any reason. For example, a child takes a bathroom break or has snack time. They can leave their belongings on the mat and return to find their work in the same place, undisturbed.

Each activity in a Montessori classroom starts with the mat. Children are trained to first unroll a mat on their desired space after which they can select an activity. Once they have completed their activity, each child rolls back his or her mat, being careful about keeping the edges even, and puts it along with the others in a basket. This not only teaches children order but also improves their practical life skills to help children become more independent and adaptable to society.

At Montessori Kids Sugarland, the work mats are the foundation of everything the children will learn. Visit us and see how the mats are integrated in every activity to create the perfect work space for each child.

November 16th, 2017

Posted In: About MKU, Montessori Education

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Implementing Montessori Practices at Home

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Parents of young children are jumping on the Montessori craze and it’s easy to see why. Incorporating Montessori practices at home to further establish the education they receive at their respective Montessori schools is quite easy.

What is Montessori?
Simply stated, a Montessori education encourages children to learn using their senses. The goal is to nurture a life-long love of learning. Children work self-sufficiently, focusing on one task at a time. In turn, they become motivated and tend to explore further into a topic that interests them.
So, how do you implement the Montessori Method at home? Try these tips to get your home Montessori practices started.

Stress Courtesy
One of the most important steps in Montessori is teaching your child how to conduct themselves politely and properly. This ideal is stressed heavily within their Montessori curriculum, so it’s a good idea to implement it at home, as well.

Facilitate Real-Life Skills
The Montessori Method teaches students to take care of themselves and to help others, in hopes that they eventually view themselves as esteemed members of society.

At home, young children can care for pets, like giving the family dog his evening bowl of water or sitting with Mom as she folds laundry and matching up socks by color, thereby enhancing confidence and increasing self-worth.

Encourage Concentration
Effective learning requires focus and concentration skills. You can help develop these skills by noting what interests your child and then providing the materials for her to further explore it as she pleases. For example, if your child seems interested in fish, a new goldfish to help care for along with a picture book about fish may further pique her fascination.

Nurture Inner Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is key to student learning. Montessori teachers put emphasis on nurturing each student’s individual sense of accomplishment versus using traditional extrinsic rewards. By communicating encouragement and appreciation for your child’s behavior, you are cultivating an inner motivation that she will value throughout her life.

Learn to Let Your Child Self-Correct
As a parent, you may have certain guidelines you would like your child to abide by in your home. For example, you may want to instill in your child that he should pick up his toys and return them to the proper area when finished playing with them. But after suggesting this to your child several times, he still forgets to put his toys away.

Perhaps he’s not ready. Let it go, relax, and re-introduce the concept the next day. It may take repeated requests before your child positively responds.

Remember, the motivation to complete tasks correctly is derived from an internal drive to learn, not from external consequences and rewards. Try being an unseen spectator and allow the improvement to naturally occur.

November 15th, 2017

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How to Get Young Children Back on Track After a Natural Disaster

Students Natural Disaster

Hurricanes, like the recent life-threatening Harvey and Irma, can cause tremendous turmoil in people’s lives. It can take months or even a year or more for family members, especially children, to feel that life is back to normal.

The psychological bearing of a storm differs between people based on factors such as age, prior experiences with natural disasters, and the amount of stress that already exists prior to the storm. The effects of natural disasters on children can vary based on the extent of the disaster, maturity, age, and personality. They can also differ based on the way the parents handle the disaster and work toward restoring normal life for the family. It’s important for parents to talk with children and respond to their needs to facilitate coping and recovery mechanisms.

Read on for ways to restore order and calm to your children’s lives in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Talk it Out

Talk with your children about what they were feeling during the storm. It’s common for children to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, or anxiety following a disaster. They may even have difficulty focusing in school. Talking through a crisis can help reconnect with your children and can give them a positive means of expressing their fears. Furthermore, it enables parents to identify children who may need additional help dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster so they can seek assistance from professionals or school administrators.

Restructure Routines

The most important thing you can do for your children is get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Routines instill a sense of safety in children and ensure that everything is okay. Everyone, even adults, draws strength and refuge from a structured daily routine, so it’s important to start practicing bed time, dinner time, going to church, etc., even if you are staying in a hotel or with extended family. Children respond to these rituals by feeling safe and secure, regardless of the stressful changes taking place around them

Help is Available

Keep in mind that as a parent, you can’t be expected to guess how your child is feeling. It’s best just to ask them. If children assert that they are fine and seem to be functioning well, take it at face value. However, if you or your children need additional help coping with the aftermath of a natural disaster, you may want to consider the following resources:

National Association of School Psychologists

Red Cross Disaster Relief

Coping with Disaster | FEMA.gov

October 25th, 2017

Posted In: About MKU, Montessori Education

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The unique Montessori classroom

A Montessori classroom is a child’s second home. In fact, it serves as the child’s first step into the new world. As the child slowly makes this transition, it is essential that he is provided with an environment that not only makes the shift easy but also facilitates learning to the maximum.

According to the Montessori Method, a Montessori classroom should be planned and equipped in such a way that children adapt easily to the environment without compromising their learning process.We are all familiar with the setting of the traditional classroom where young students are provided adult-sized furniture while the shelves and cupboards are placed so high that the child is always in need of an adult’s assistance. Additionally, in a traditional classroom, children are usually confined to their desks while the teacher dictates the same lesson to the whole class.

However, Maria Montessori was contrary to the traditional learning environment and believed that, “The child, making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future.” Her desire was to provide the children with a learning space where they had the freedom to explore, learn, and experience at their own pace and desire. This led her to create the Montessori Method which focuses on shaping the child as a whole being while making the learning process pleasant by equipping the classrooms with a variety of different materials.

The focus of the Montessori prepared environment remains on the six basic principles – Freedom, Structure and Order, Beauty, Nature and Reality, Social Environment, and Intellectual Environment. Here is a brief description about each of the principles and why they hold importance in the child’s learning and developmental process.

 Freedom

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

-Maria Montessori

The prime principle of the Montessori prepared environment is freedom. Just imagine how you would feel if you had to take assistance for the smallest task or were limited to the same task daily without any challenges. Our children are the same way. They have the potential that we, as parents, oftentimes ignore.

The Montessori Method is based on the belief that children who are given freedom can learn with their own natural instinct. The prepared environment of the classroom allows children to choose the activity according to their own preference and pace while enhancing social interaction amongst peers.

Structure and Order

Parents of preschoolers will agree that a temper tantrum can be expected whenever their child’s routine is disrupted. This is because children between the ages of one and five pass through a sensitive stage. Montessori believed that during this phase, children should experience order, consistency, and familiarity in their environment. Since children of this age have limited verbal skills, any disorientation can create chaos which can be avoided by having a consistent schedule and ground rules.

The Montessori method meets the child’s need for order by providing a space that is organized and structured according to their needs. Materials are in the same place every day while lessons and activities are conducted at the same time. The school day ends with children placing all the materials and their completed work in the given space. This sense of order enhances children’s understanding of the world and allows them to organize their time and space efficiently.

Beauty

Visit the MKU classroom and at first glance you will notice how well-organized the environment is. Everything is beautifully displayed while the classrooms are neat, uncluttered, and orderly. Maria Montessori emphasized the aesthetic appeal of the Montessori classroom and always encouraged teachers to decorate classrooms in such a way that learners come eagerly to learn and work. The environment should reflect peace and tranquility while the arrangement should always be well-maintained.

Nature and Reality

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 60 minutes of unstructured free play daily is essential for the child’s physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, studies show that children are spending less time outdoors than they were 20 years ago. However, Dr. Montessori agreed with the benefits of outside play and always emphasized that educators should take children outside as much as possible. Children don’t like to sit inside, and keeping them confined in one room can make them cranky and sluggish. Giving them outside time daily enhances their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

Social environment

In Montessori classrooms, children are grouped with different ages. This structure allows children to share and work cooperatively while enhancing empathy and respect towards each other. Multi-aged classrooms allow older children to develop leadership qualities and younger ones to learn to return the favor in the coming years by being in the same spot as the elders.

Intellectual environment

The last but the most important principle is the Intellectual environment. The Montessori Method claims that children develop a love of lifelong learning when they take responsibility for themselves and their education. The intellectual environment moves students from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. Each Montessori material can be used in multiple ways to enhance learning, whether it be through language, sensorial, life skills, math, culture, or art.

When all the principles of the Montessori prepared environment are combined, the child develops independence, focus, adaptability, self-confidence, self-discipline, and patience. The freedom to fully learn not only helps the child succeed in academic endeavors but also in practical, everyday life.

October 24th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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The Internet as a Learning Tool

internet_learning

The Internet is home to boundless amounts of information. With just a few seconds of your time and a Google search, you can have answers to nearly any question you can ask. For children, the number of questions is even more sizable, making the possibilities for learning even more plentiful.

While the Montessori hands-on approach has been proven to be effective for children’s development, it’s not always possible to replicate the same ideas at home. Materials can be expensive and setting up an environment like a Montessori classroom can be difficult. Fortunately, the Internet can act as a learning aid to children that, in combination with hands-on learning, can lead to endless exploration.

The Internet and Montessori Classrooms
Although the Internet is a great aid for continuing learning at home, it does not have a place in many Montessori classrooms. Montessori classrooms focus on concrete interaction with objects and learning materials. Teachers encourage hands-on learning and deriving meaning from physical objects which is not possible with the Internet. This allows the content to appeal to the senses, forming more meaningful connections for the child and leading to a greater understanding.

Why the Internet is a Useful Learning Tool for Children

  • Unlimited Learning Possibilities – Given the depth of the Internet, there are unlimited topics, subjects, and content for children to read and gain an interest in while learning.
  • Teaches Problem Solving & Computer Skills – Computers become more and more important to education every day, and working with computers can lead to better computer and problem-solving abilities because the Internet encourages abstract thought, a staple in problem solving.
  • Boosts Confidence – When children browse the Internet, they are exploring on their own (with supervision, of course). This leads to confidence boosts because they are learning independently.
  • Refines Coordination – The act of moving a mouse with your hand and seeing it move on a screen helps develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

How to Facilitate Learning at Home with the Internet

  • Treat It as an Extension of Physical Materials – The Internet allows for access to educational material of all grade levels without the need to replace old learning materials. Use educational software to further lessons from the curriculum.
  • Encourage Exploration of Interests – Expose your child to a wide array of topics and if they show interest in some, allow them to research the topics further themselves.
  • Work with your Child to Develop Cooperative Skills – Browsing with your child helps to build social and problem-solving skills, as well as form more meaningful connections with the information.

While a hands-on focus to learning is important to a child’s development, it can be magnified when supplemented with the boundless information hosted online. The Internet allows for exposure to tons of topics and teaches valuable skills that your children will use for the rest of their lives. Taking advantage of the Internet will allow you to set the best foundation possible, one that will inspire an interest in learning for years to come.

October 5th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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The role of the Montessori teacher

Most of us have a fixed mindset of a teacher’s role in a classroom. She stands in front of the room and dictates material while the children listen intently. The students, regardless of their pace and interest, are required to follow the lessons according to the teacher’s academic plan.

Although this method of learning has been practiced effectively for centuries, Dr. Maria Montessori had a different theory. She believed that the teacher, student, and the environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher with activities and materials according to the child’s learning abilities and interest. The students make use of the environment and develop various skills while taking guidance and support from the teachers when needed.

Her belief is that the focus should remain on the children’s learning and not on the teachers’ teaching. This is why Montessori teachers are not the center of attention in the classroom. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to spot the teacher in a Montessori classroom as she often steps back,allowing the children to learn from their own discoveries and draw conclusions. Rather than giving children answers to the many questions they ask in one day, the Montessori teacher asks them how they would solve the problem while actively engaging children in the learning process and enhancing critical thinking skills.

A prepared environment

Montessori teachers provide activities based on six areas of learning: practical life activities, sensorial activities, numeracy, literacy, understanding of the world, and creative abilities. The children are given the freedom within limits to choose the activity according to their interests and abilities.They are allowed to spend as much time as they need on one activity, and while the Montessori teacher will not interfere in their working, she will be readily available to guide them as needed.  By following this approach, children of Montessori become more confident about their ability to understand what they are learning. This also limits the necessity of coercion, which often increases feelings of stress and inferiority in children.

A Model, Mentor, and a Guide

In a traditional classroom, the teachers present the lesson to a large group of students who are expected to listen and take in all the information provided. However, in a Montessori environment, the teachers work with only one or two students at a time while the learning material is provided on the basis of children’s interest.

If a child is not interested or making an incorrect association, the Montessori teacher does not force the child to learn. Instead, she gives the child time to clear the air and continues the topic another day. The Montessori system believes that pushing a child to learn will only make them frustrated while allowing them to learn at their own pace with patience will empower them to learn more.

Observe students

The most important role of a Montessori teacher is of an observer. The Montessori teacher makes careful observations of each student while they work. The teacher does not interfere or disrupt the students while they work, nor do they give out punishment or rewards.This allows the teacher to understand when a child has mastered a specific skill or concept, thus moving them on to an advanced curriculum. Progress notes are shared frequently with parents and caregivers.

We at Montessori Kids Sugarland believe that children are full of curiosity. By giving them an environment to learn with freedom, they can grow up to be intelligent, independent, responsible, and contributing members of society.

As Maria Montessori would say,

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say: The children are now working as if I did not exist.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 3rd, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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Practical life skills at home

Today, let’s take a look behind the scenes in the classroom to give you some ideas for Montessori-style activities you can recreate at home. Montessori teachers refer to them as “practical life activities”

Practical life activities in the classroom

As the name suggests, practical life activities focus on skills children use on a daily basis. Children observe these activities in their own environment and gain knowledge through the practice of daily duties.

Some typical activities that are implemented in most Montessori classrooms include:

  •    Peeling and cutting bananas
  •    Squeezing orange juice
  •    Washing dishes
  •    Pouring water
  •    Watering flowers
  •    Caring for self by washing hands, brushing hair, etc.
  •    Cleaning up after playtime

Ideas for the home environment

It’s quite easy to incorporate any of the above activities at home for your child. Simply remember to keep child-sized objects ready for handling various tasks. For example, if your child is helping you butter toast, have a small amount of butter ready on a separate plate.

Other ways you can incorporate life skills at home are:

  •    Helping with laundry – taking clothes out of the washing machine, adding soap, sorting, and folding
  •     Getting dressed and undressing with little help
  •     Helping set up meals such as pouring milk and cereal, washing vegetables and fruits, setting the table, and cleaning up
  •    Getting ready for visitors – preparing beds, setting a flower arrangement, hanging towels, cleaning up toys
  •    Taking trips to the supermarket and helping in loading and unloading of grocery items
  •    Helping with baking and cooking

When applying practical life skills at home, always remember:

  •    To provide child-sized tools easily managed by small hands. For example, a child-sized mop for cleaning up, travel-sized bottles of dishwashing liquid, and even small gardening tools.
  •    Focus on the process and never on the results. Children take time to master the practical life skills and their end result may not look perfect. But they are learning and after they master the skills, you will have a lifelong helper at home.

Don’t allow your children to sit in front of the TV or play iPads while you perform various tasks around the house. Instead, encourage them to join you and help out. Children love to stay involved with their parents and with some simple activities, they can gain life skills at the same time.

Remember that the main reason we at Montessori Kids Universe teach practical life skills is that we value children and the contribution they can make to the family, and later, the world. We believe they are capable of doing so much more than what the media tells us. They can handle breakables if they’re taught how. They can take responsibility for themselves if we teach them how. In other words, they can learn, if we give them the room to grow.

 

September 20th, 2017

Posted In: Tips

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