How A Simple Morning Handshake, Can Impact Your Young Child’s Day.

Consider, for a moment, the start of each school day to be a new beginning. Each morning is a clean slate. Each action you choose can potentially have a powerful and meaningful impact on the day.

Punctuality is a good place to begin; it opens up endless avenues for growth and learning.

When a child consistently arrives at school on time, she/he benefits from the following opportunities:

  • To be greeted by the teacher with a handshake and a few words.  This simple ritual and personal contact offers the safe and caring transfer of the child from parent to teacher, opening up the opportunity to form attachments and develop new relationships.
  • To socialize with peers in the cubby area at arrival time. The sharing of stories from home and the weekend builds communication skills and fosters friendships.
  • To get ready by her/himself, including removing and hanging up outdoor clothes and putting on indoor shoes. The children offer each other help and teach their skills in zipping, buttoning, lacing, etc. The independence and cooperation shared as a group empowers the children.
  • To transition successfully from home to the classroom environment. Children possess great empathy and are able to console one another on a direct personal level. It might be a simple gesture of one child offering a kind word to another child who is sad, or an invitation by an older child to work with a new student.
  • To concentrate and focus on the work with the materials. Children who enter the classroom alongside their peers are more likely to engage and interact in a calm and natural manner, more at ease and confident with their school activities.

Each new day at a Montessori school begins with a ritual unique to the educational method:

The teacher sits on her stool at the school door and greets each child with a handshake, eye contact and a few words. It is a brief exchange of pleasantries during which the teacher might ask a question about the child’s weekend, or pay a compliment on a new haircut. The children gradually transition from the cubby area to the classroom and begin their day by choosing their first work.

To the casual observer, the morning greeting between teacher and child can appear a mere formality. For the educator, there is another important objective: To collect the child. The goal is to make a connection in a friendly way by attracting the child’s eyes, evoking a smile, and, if possible, eliciting a nod. This is the first step in bridging the separation from family. There can now be a transfer of relationship from the parent to the teacher. The child can begin to trust and feel safe in a new environment.

In Hold On to Your Kids, Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté discuss the importance of the attachment ritual. They refer to it as the “collecting dance,” a name borrowed from the ancient dance of many cultures that is used to connect people with those they care about. Today, it has become necessary to take this intuitive process to a conscious level as the need for engaging children’s primitive attachment instincts becomes critical in our modern society.

A primary natural instinct of human survival for humans, both young and old, is to resist and be wary of someone who is a stranger to them. A small and vulnerable child will therefore not engage in the learning process until she experiences feelings of emotional and physical security. It becomes imperative then, that an environment of trust, respect, balance and equality is established.

For the Montessori educator, the morning greeting and handshake is an important first step toward this fostering of a safe and secure relationship with her student.  This is when the learning process can begin to take place.

Order and routine is at the foundation of the Montessori program

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving I suggested to my family that we skip the pumpkin pie this year and make something different for dessert. Our pear tree was heavily laden and I couldn’t resist the temptation to bake a pear crumble. Well, the idea was met with groans and disappointed faces. Apparently, I was told, it is a family tradition to bake pumpkin pie and it just wouldn’t be the same without it!

It is a common practice for families to pass down rituals from generation to generation. Some are based in religion; others are treasured cultural customs.

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How Independence builds self-worth, motivation, and competence

In the Montessori classroom, independence is an integral part of the day-to-day program. Each morning the cubby area hums with activity as the children get ready for school. It takes practice and persistence to get in and out of coats and shoes. Often a five-year-old, who is ready in a flash, will linger and chat and help a new three-year-old classmate tug at a zipper that won’t go up. In the rush to catch up to friends, the floor might be left with boots and bags strewn about, but it isn’t long before one of the four-year-olds notices and puts everything in order.

Theirs is a classroom that is designed to invite children to take ownership and interest in its use, care and maintenance. Child-sized tables, chairs, shelves and learning materials all promote and stimulate independence. Small hands feel at ease and able to manipulate tools that are made just the right size. It is fun to sweep with the small broom and dustpan – so much fun that sometimes spills happen just for the pure pleasure. Continue reading

What is the 3 year cycle? – Montessori Preschool


“One of the most urgent endeavors to be undertaken on behalf of the reconstruction of society is the reconstruction of education. It must be brought about by giving…children the environment that is adapted to their [nature].”- Maria Montessori

The core framework of the Montessori pedagogy consists of four planes of development: 0-6, 6-12, 12-18, 18-24. From birth to age 6 the infant is forming the child, and from ages 6 to 12 this person consolidates; then from ages 12 to 18 the child is forming the adult, and from ages 18 to 24 this person consolidates. Each plane is divided into two three-year periods, often referred to as 3 year cycles of activity. Continue reading

Bringing Nature Indoors

In the Montessori program children have the opportunity to learn about the physical world, including the language and classification of plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth. The noFrog-Project-003menclature cards and booklets in the cultural area of the classroom illustrate and name the various parts of the tree, leaf, flower, snail and so forth.

The work with the nomenclature cards involves matching the illustrations with corresponding labels to learn the names of the parts.  For example, the parts of the snail cards depict: Shell, foot, mouth, tentacles, eyespots. Each part is isolated in colour to draw attention to that particular part. Continue reading

Children are Natural Artists

children-are-natural-artists-pic-1-four-seasons-montessoriGiven paper and a few crayons, the young child finds satisfaction and joy in the creative process, expressing herself with an ease envied by the adult who does not considers themself an artist. For the adult, their work is directed to the end product and is often limited by self-imposed ideas about quality and perfection. The child, on the other hand, is focused only on the process, free from judgment.

Observe the three-year old who will sit for long periods of time swirling various colours around and around the page making abstract shapes. The five-year old might paint a picture of her family, their elongated figures with oversized-heads and arms standing under purple clouds and a large yellow sun. Both are pleased.

The child’s artwork is complete when an inner level of development has been reached. Almost without any outward sign, the little artist puts down her crayon or paintbrush and walks away. She is done. She might even forget the picture on the table, or drop it en route to her next activity; she might give the picture away to a friend. There is no attachment to the end product. If there is, it is likely because the child has been requested by an adult to do a painting for them. Continue reading

What does “Normalization” really mean

four-seasons-montessori-normalizationThe first 4 to 6 weeks are usually a period of transition during which the children become familiar with the routine of getting to school on time and accustomed to the pace and expectations of the school day. Their ability to cope will look different at each age. At any point during this time it is common for a child who appears to have settled in comfortably to suddenly express feelings of resistance to going to school. This is a phenomenon teachers often refer to as ‘the end of the honeymoon period’. Continue reading