pdxMC Journal February 2017

From the Captain

In honor of the month of love, I have been doing some reflection on the many ways I love our school. Firstly, I love the teachers and staff. In our school, there are thirty second hugs happening at any moment. There are big smiles as we pass one another in the halls, break room, office or kitchen. There is laughter during team meetings, on the playground, in the classroom. There is an underlying positivity and culture of helpfulness that is the beating heart of our school; my own heart swells with love as I reflect on the individual and collective talents and contributions of every person who works at pdxMC. Secondly I love the parents. You are incredible. You met the unprecedented interruptions of our schedule with profound grace. You show up to our parent events, volunteer to support our program, and join us for lunch. You create the most precious humans and entrust them to us. I see how hard you work, I recognize your contributions, and I thank you for supporting Montessori education and world peace. Finally, I love the children. They make it so easy, with their enthusiastic hugs and sincere stories. I love them for teaching me how to be a better person and teacher. I am reminded multiple times daily of how much I love our school, and how fortunate I am to be surrounded by love.

Like most Montessorians, something else I love is brain science. When Steven Hughes, a pediatric neuropsychiatrist took an interest in Montessori education and how it aligns with optimal brain development in young children Montessorians worldwide rejoiced. Finally we had someone who would bridge the gap between research and Montessori pedagogy. While it is affirming to know that our practice aligns with positive academic outcomes it is critical to recognize the value and importance of our social curriculum as well. While we are confident that our curriculum supports academic outcomes, it’s essential to provide children opportunities to develop empathy, compassion, resilience, and confidence. We consider the Montessori classroom a place that is friendly with error. This doesn’t just apply to the didactic materials but also to the development of important soft skills, like empathy and compassion. We must expect that young children, on their path to self perfection, will often falter.

It can sometimes be disarming for parents and teachers to witness unfriendly or hurting behaviors between children. We may worry their behavior is an unwelcome reflection of our parenting or teaching. In order to create a safe space for mistakes and true opportunities for learning, it is important to release this judgment and in doing so we model the empathy and compassion we find valuable. When we are in relationship with others, it is a given that there will be missteps; we may hurt one another. In this mistake, there is an opportunity for learning and growth. When we shift our perspective, it may be easier to help a child correct their mistake and come to authentic compassion. Janet Lansbury has some suggestions that could be helpful.

May the spirit of love and friendship move you.

Important Dates

February 17: School in session - all students welcome. Four day/week students please attend.

February 20: No school: President's Day

Next Parent Resource Talk March 14 5:30 - 7:30

Topic to be discussed is 'What's Next? Life after Montessori preschool'. All parents welcome. Even if your child is a toddler, this is a great time to learn about all the choices and options. We will discuss the powerful Montessori kindergarten curriculum.

Mercedes will be out of the country March 17 - 24th

I have been invited to present a course in Observation and Classroom Management as part of an infant-toddler credential course for the Montessori Training Center of Vietnam in Hanoi. This is an honor and I am excited for this unique opportunity to travel and learn about Vietnamese culture. I will be working with about thirty adult learners who seek a Western style Montessori training and certification. Strong teacher formation is essential to delivering an authentic Montessori curriculum; this is a true opportunity to spread our mission of peace and the pdxMC method globally! In my absence, Ben and Amanda will be in charge and will handle any emergent administrative issues. Kathryn will handle any emergent classroom issues.

Interim Care available for Spring Break - March 27 - 31

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Outerwear May Need Update

Just a reminder that your children's cold weather gear might need an update.

  • We layer: Please make sure your child's cold weather gear is large enough to fit a layer underneath. Inspect the zipper or fasteners and make sure that they are in good working order. Please make sure that your child's jacket/outerwear has easily accessible pockets - cold hands love pockets!
  • Gear gets worn out: Examine rain pants for holes, weak seams, and rain boots for cracking (otherwise they step in a puddle and the water comes right through.) If your child's rain pants are getting tight and can’t fit over the top of their boots then every time they splash in a puddle it will fill their boots with water.
  • Covered heads are warm heads: Please make sure they have a snug fitting warm hat that doesn't interfere with their vision and that they are comfortable wearing.
  • Outerwear stays at school. We have a limited volume of extra rain pants, jackets and boots. Occasionally outerwear goes home on the weekend and your child may have to borrow clothes to go outside. This isn't ideal and should be avoided if possible.
  • Ask your child: When it comes to cold weather gear and rain gear comfort is an issue. If they are uncomfortable in any of their gear they will struggle to remove it regardless of the cold or rain. Having comfortable functional gear is key to enjoying outside time. Ask your child about their outdoor gear, you might find out there is an easy solution to make sure they stay warm and comfortable.
  • Thank you for helping us help your child experience the wonders of nature in all weather conditions.

News from the Meadow

Mitra Hasan, Lisa Gilliland, and Ardha Schuller

I hope everyone was able to find some joy during our many snow days. It sure was great to see the babies and all of their acquired skills.

Our young friends Nolan and Garrett have moved on to the Creekside toddler community. We now have 2 new little humans that are part of our community. We welcome Jack and his folks Jennifer and Geoff and Roman and his folks Angela and Mike. They are busy observing all of the shenanigans that occur in The Meadow.

The babies are busy hiding things, stealing each other’s food, wiping mucus on our shoulders and unfolding our newly folded laundry. We love them so much, they bring so much humor and wonder to our days. Each of them have such a unique personality but one thing we all have in common is a love of laughter.

I want to thank you all again for trusting us to care for your dear little ones. Together, in our collaboration, we are planting the seeds of love, empathy, peaceful language, community, humor and social responsibility. As our little humans become bigger humans they will spread these seeds and continue the work of making our world a better place.

May your days be full of all that is groovy and great.

Mitra, Lisa and Ardha

News from Creek Side Toddler Community

Mercedes Castle, Kathryn Figliomeni, KayLyn 'KK' Abeyta, Veronika Kazakof

What a January! I think that we’re all quite happy to welcome February and settle in to the more normal winter weather of fifty degrees and raining. Max turned 2 this month and we celebrated with pineapple! This month we are introducing language cards, images, and books as part of our celebration of Black History month. We welcome suggestions and input into ways to celebrate the contributions of people of color, not just in February, but throughout the year.

I will be out of the country March 17 - 24th. I will be in Hanoi, Vietnam. I have been invited to present an Observation and Classroom Management Course as part of an Infant-Toddler Montessori Credential. It is very exciting! In my absence, you can contact Kathryn/KK/Veronika at creekside@pdxmc.org. Kathryn will be your point person for emergent issues and Ben and Amanda will be in charge of administrative issues. I’ll have access to email and non-urgent matters can be directed to me in my absence. Let me know if you have any questions.

Zoe Mulherin will be joining our community this month. Please welcome her and her parents Kristin and Anthony who have recently moved to Portland from England!

Cal Burrell is moving to the Forest Side Casa this month! We will miss our oldest friend, who has been a pal and a mentor to all. One of the profound benefits of the Montessori classroom is the age range of the children; they are reflective of the age range in a family. These benefits have been confirmed through research; classrooms that support a diversity in ability do a better job at meeting the needs of all learners - regardless of their age. Development often follows a predictable arc, but ability is not always aligned with age. Open age classrooms allow for children to progress according to ability; true mastery of skill is often reached when the student literally becomes the teacher. We see this in our classroom (and hopefully you see it in the photos) when an older child offers a solution to a younger one who is having difficulty, or models an appropriate behavior. The older children remind the youngers about rules and expectations; they can be great models at the lunch table especially. Dr. Montessori hypothesized that children are born into the world immediately seeking orientation; without knowledge about how to be a person of our place and time we are lost. The primary human need is to feel like we belong. Children look to older children and adults to show them what it means to be a child in our community. Through these interactions, it is not only the youngest child who benefits. The older child also benefits, gaining skills and confidence. Where else but a Montessori toddler classroom can someone be a leader at two or three years old? It is a privilege to guide these experiences; as always thank you for trusting us with your sweet children.

News from Mountain Side Toddler Community

Andy Orenstein, Eve Chavez, and Diana Powers

Greetings Mountain Side Families,

Wow. It has been some winter so far. For a while it didn’t seem like the snow would ever melt. I am glad that there was still some snow on the playground for the children to enjoy, when we finally returned back to school. A few snowmen were created… and immediately toppled. I am always impressed by how tough these Oregonian kiddos are. There was very little complaining about the cold, and most of that was from the teachers. Mostly the children were fascinated and enthralled by how a very familiar environment had been transformed into an unfamiliar winter wonderland. Our plum tree was toppled by the snow, and Ben transformed it into a cool climbing structure and unique playground feature. As a result of the tree falling, there was a lot of moss and lichen everywhere. Some children helped me to scavenge a bucket full for us to to explore in a variety of ways. We explored it visually, tactilely, and creatively by making art with it. Recently February has seen some unseasonably warm sunny days, and hopefully this year is no exception.

This month we have 2 birthdays, 3 if you count me (Andy). Wyatt and I share the same birthday, and two days later it will be Olive’s birthday. Wyatt will turn 3, Olive will be 2, and I will be for-cough cough ahem.

We will be welcoming Leela and her parents Katie and Reed to our community. Please give them a warm Mountain Side welcome and introduce yourself. We will also be welcoming Danielle’s sister Gabrielle (Gabi) to Mountain Side and her parents Christen and Justin.

Let’s have a great February!

Mountain Side Toddler Community

Andy, Eve, Diana

News from Garden Side Casa

Megan Gerry, Alison Bingham, May Ham

How wonderful it feels to be back together again with all of you! For the first time in many months we are back to a full classroom of twenty five children and we are ready to take on the new year with enthusiasm.

At the end of January, we took a break from Antarctica to celebrate the Chinese New Year, making dragons and lanterns and learning all about this major Asian holiday. Our cultural interests now turn to South America. Alison introduced a burlap tapestry table covered in a South American bird theme that the children are enjoying decorating. We will immerse ourselves in the animals of the Amazon rain forest as well as the Galapagos Islands. This continent is rich in cultures and wildlife and we look forward to exploring it all in the classroom.

May is hard at work on a provocation around the phases of the moon. She also introduced the children to an exploration of color mixing using primary colors. It is such a pleasure to have so much attention given to our art curriculum and I truly appreciate all the effort both May and Alison have put into it. Your children’s days are brighter for it.

A huge thank you goes out to Kate Nichols (mom to Oscar in Forest Side) for taking the time to problem solve our broken light table. She discovered the chord was an issue and generously replaced if for us so this great material can again be used in the classroom. The children are thrilled to have it back and we look forward to lots of new work centered around light and color.

News from Forest Side Casa

Sue Ann Brevig, Dena Pak, Abryl Shinn-Amaro

The children loved the opportunity to play in the snow and ice when we all returned to school. They were sliding down the hill and busting up the ice. They were amazed that our plum tree had fallen and that other branches were down. We talked a lot about the power of nature and weather. Once it all melted, they were convinced that winter was over.

We have been studying Antarctica in the classroom. The children are learning a lot about penguins and how they survive in such harsh conditions and care for their young.

Indigo Camblin celebrated his 5th birthday in January! Adam Milford and Eloise Nathan will also be celebrating their 5th birthdays in February! It has become a tradition in our classroom for the birthday child to make banana muffins in the morning to share with the group after lunch. The children love this opportunity to bake for their friends and really take pride in creating this delicious treat.

We wish a fond farewell to Elle Sinton and her family. They will be missed! We look forward to Cal Burrell joining our classroom this month! He’s moving up from the Creekside Toddler Community. Please welcome him and his parents Leslie and Seth. His older brothers Micah and Jasper are recent alumni. We also look forward to Wyatt Taylor joining us from the Mountainside Toddler Community. His parents are Erin and Martin. Please give them all a warm welcome!

Resources for Parents, Caregivers and Teachers

Parent Talk Re-Cap

We had a great turnout for our conversation about siblings. Starting with reflections about our own birth order and experience as a sibling was a powerful way to frame the talk. Tammy facilitated understanding of building authentic relationships, and gave some practical advise about how parents can see themselves as guides in their children's relationships as opposed to referee or judge, jury, and enforcer. There are some great handouts attached to the email.

Check out Faith Collins, a Waldorf early child educator (and aunt to two of our students). Her website has a lot of helpful articles – and if there would be any desire to book her for a guest lecture, we would be happy to host her! She has a book coming out soon on creating nurturing parenting relationships – Joyful Toddlers & Preschoolers: Melt Away Defiance and Strengthen Your Relationship. While Waldorff and Montessori diverge in their pedagogies, they are similar in philosophy which is founded in the deep respect for young children and their process of self construction.

Lessons from Finland

Education in Finland gets a lot of attention because of their consistently strong outcomes as based on the the annual PISA academic assessment of seventeen year-olds. Something to note is that Finland is a country that considers equity a paramount value and education is thought to be an inalienable right of all citizens. Like in Montessori education, Kindergarten in Finland is considered to be part of early childhood. This article offers insight into the importance of play and self-direction in early childhood education, and makes a great case for that capstone Kindergarten year in Montessori preschool.

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