Today’s post is by Lucy from Follow that Child. Lucy has been kind enough to answer some questions I have had since my 4 year old started in a Montessori Children’s House, just recently.
About Lucy; Hi my name is Lucy and I am an educator at a beautiful Montessori Children’s House in Brisbane, Australia. The group of 22 children, aged 3 and 4, move freely between two rooms. The Practical Life and Cultural areas are in my room. There is also the morning tea table, the fish to feed and the toileting facilities, so there is a lot going on, but by carefully planning the environment and the activities, we work with a gentle humm most days.
Olivia from Everyday Begins New has asked me to write a follow up to my blog post Ideas for a happy Kindergarten drop off (Olivia’s daughter does not attend the Children’s House that I work at). Olivia has prepared her daughter well for her time at the Children’s House and she is interested in how she can support her at home during the transition period.
Q1. My daughter is 4 years of age and has started in a Montessori Children’s House. I was wondering what I should be doing at home to best support her now she is at school most days during the week (half day Mon-Fri).
Children starting Kindergarten will most likely be emotionally and mentally exhausted. Keep your before and after kindy activities unstructured and low key until they have adjusted. Maybe a play in the park or garden will suite them, or just time at home.
They will be experiencing lots of new sensations and some intentional teaching at kindy along with their spontaneous exploration, discovery. Unless they ask to practice writing their name for example, do less intentional teaching at home and just enjoy your time together.
Continue to allow your child to build their independence by doing things for herself and building her Practical Life skills such as helping in the kitchen and around the home and working in the garden.
‘My daughter’s transition into the classroom for the first time was a positive one and she has been very excited to go to school each day since. This was her first week of school. I have been advised though that there will be times when the initial excitement of going to school for the first time wears off, their may be tears, feelings of anxiety or dread or refusal of going to school’.
Q2. Do you have any suggestions on how to cope/respond during these times?
Although children enjoy their time at kindy with their friends and educators they have a strong bond with family and home. As they realise kindy is happening regularly and not just when they want to go they may feel the conflict of separation. This is where you need to be consistent and clear with your child. If they sense your hesitation it makes it difficult for them to be confident and continue to develop their sense of belonging in the wider community.
Make an effort to build relationships with others and share this with your child. “I spoke to John’s mummy today, we found out that we both like playing tennis”. Show your child you understand that she is taking the same steps to make friends too.
Allow your child to develop their independence by carrying their bag on their back and walking to kindy.
Arrive at kindy with plenty of time for your child to independently unpack.
Let your child know that you are working too and they are not missing out on anything. Share the things that you hope to achieve that day e.g. I need to go to the post office and pay some bills, clean the car.
Don’t hang around at drop off, say your goodbye’s and go.
Blend the two environments they are not mutually exclusive:
Go for walks and collect leaves to take to kindy to use with the Montessori leaf cabinet or give to the Educators so they can set up a leaf rubbing activity. Collect seed pods so they can be made into a transferring activity.
The children will be building up a portfolio at kindy. They will also be bringing work home. Take the time to look through their work and listen if they want to tell you about it. Have a special place to keep kindy work.
Some children may wish to display their work. You could have a simple frame (or a pinboard, the fridge or a scrapbook) and change the artwork regularly. Involve your child in the process. Some children may not want to display their work and that is OK too. It may just mean that they have finished the work, learnt from it and that is the end of it for them.
Embrace some of the behaviour expectations, known as Grace and Courtesy in the Montessori environment at home.
Walk inside (and run outside like crazy out on the grass!).
The children pack away their work as they finish.
When a child is asked to do something the expectation is that they respond first time. Make sure you have their attention. Use their name at the beginning of your request. “Lucy, please sit down”. If they don’t respond say just their name to get their attention. If they still don’t do what you have asked them to do, help them to do it…but don’t do it for them!
If you are speaking to someone and your child interrupts ask your child to wait until you have finished. (Try to keep them waiting a very short time at first and then extend this as they mature e.g. “Excuse me Mr Smith I can see John has something very important to tell me.”) Then say “Thank you for waiting, John. How can I help you?”
Help your child to form a question. Instead of “I’m hungry” they can say “Can I have morning tea now please?” Instead of “I can’t do this” they can say “Can you help me please?”
Q3. Is there anything else you would like parents to know whose children have just started school?
If you are considering teaching your child in addition to their time at kindy please speak to the educators first. For example the children need to write their name in lower case not capitals!
Attend any parent education sessions or social occasions you can. You get to meet the educators, meet other parents and step into your children’s world. At our orientation evening recently I invited the parents to take a moment to sit on the floor and view the environment as their children do.
There are so many wonderful materials and activities and through these the children develop socially and emotionally as well as cognitively. Sometimes the social and emotional development will need to be developed before the learning can begin. Children who are ready at 3 can really benefit from having two years at kindy.
There is a reason for everything. The teachers spend a lot of time preparing the environment so expectations such as walking inside help the children to slow down, focus, avoid accidents and to be more purposeful and respectful.
The educators are interested in what the children have to show us, we are child focused rather than teacher focused after all! However we don’t clap/gasp/cheer at every achievement. Sometimes a smile or a thumbs up or “Do you feel happy with your work?” can be very satisfying to the child. Alternatively try: “I can see you have put a lot of work into that”, “What are you doing with that now?” “Tell me what is happening in your picture?” “I can see how you have mixed the colours to make a new colour.” “You have cut very carefully along this line. Would you like to try this work now?” Children can see through empty praise and it encourages them not to do their best.
Be the parent. Instead of “What would you like for dinner tonight?” offer two positive choices, for example “Would you like curly or straight pasta for dinner tonight?” “Would you like to wear the red shorts or the blue dress today?”. This allows the child to exercise their choice while you remain the parent. You make the decisions. You are the consistent, follow through, and provide the boundaries which allow your child to feel safe. This creates an environment where they can explore, discover and develop their sense of wellbeing and belonging to their full potential.
I would like to thank Lucy from Follow that Child for taking the time to answer my questions. She really went above and beyond and I really appreciate this. Her answers to my questions have really been helpful. It’s wonderful to connect with other mums and Montessori educators. Please if you have the time, take a look at Lucy’s blog.