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The Montessori Holiday Guide

December 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Montessori holiday guideNow that we’re in the holiday season, it’s time to start thinking about ways to enjoy this special– but challenging– time with your children.

 
While most of the holiday commercialism runs counter to many of our families’ principles, it can seem nearly impossible to shield our children from the excesses of the season.

 

I wish you all the best in the weeks ahead and encourage you to keep in mind the insights we’ve learned from Montessori– chiefly these: children crave authentic, child-scaled activities including hands-on work like puzzles, cooking and crafts; they love creative play and movement; children hunger for books rich with language and images;  they live for making music and quiet moments, routine, family and togetherness most of all.

 

Enjoy this special time with your family!

Regards, John DeMarchi

MOOCs, Books and Friends

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

reading togetherHave you ever taken an online course?  I am willing to try one someday.  But I worry that it would be a lonely expereince. I like being around people to inspire me, to help me refine my ideas, and to offer counter arguments and reality checks.  When Thomas Friedman wrote about exciting new initiatives to bring higher education around the world through massive open online courses (MOOCs) in an article in Sunday’s NYTimes, I wondered if these courses are better than free libraries that offer the same knowledge in a cloth binding.

One of my favorite education writers, Alfie Cohen says in his book The Schools our Children Deserve, “Any number of theorists have argued that learning at its root is a social rather than solitary act. Some have even suggested that the very idea of intelligence is best applied to what goes on among people rather than what happens in each person’s head.”  That is why it is so important to develop classroom cultures where children work to help each other learn.  For us, the fundamental dynamic is support of one another, not competition.  There is such overwhelming evidence that teachers who coerce students are the least successful.

Its nice to work among people who inspire me to understand how, when and why the best kind of learning happens.  We had a wonderful faculty meeting this afternoon. Thank you, Evergreen teachers.

Winter Bulletin Board

January 15, 2013 1 comment
Winter Bulletin Board

Cora Michael creates a Winter Bulletin Board

Cheers to Cora Michael and our wonderful new bulletin board.  Our Primary hallway is bright and cheery– perfect for these cold and rainy Washington winter days.

Cora’s creations are more than just about color and form.  They highlight textures, 3-D materials and mixed media.  Yes, those are real scarves! And the marshmallows are styrofoam peanuts!

Giving Thanks for Reading

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

readersThis time last year, I wrote a post that imagined a world where shoppers wait in line for doorbusting sales for children’s books just the way they do for televisions and crock pots in our world.   Yes, it’s a fantasy. And I lamented the loss of Silver Spring’s Borders Bookstore makes it infinitely more difficult to buy books here.  Where would these doorbusting shoppers even line up?

Fortunately, since then I have come across three wonderful blogs that showcase great picture books for readers of any age.  And all the books they review are available online.  For those of us who plan to sleep in on Friday, these authors give us something to look forward to at home.

First, the Turtle and Robot blog is written by Jennifer Lavonier, a twenty-year veteran of the picture book industry.  She has worked as a book buyer in New York City’s Books of Wonder Bookshop and as the personal assistant to Maurice Sendak.  Her posts are erudite and thoughtful.

Second, Bookworm Bear is a terrific blog dedicated to reviewing children’s books.  Who is Bookworm Bear?  In her own words, she is “mama bear to a family of enthusiastic readers, seeker of good books for children, one who loves to wander in libraries and bookstores, one who nurtures – and celebrates – imagination and creativity.”

Third, Amy Dixon is the author of A Million Words blog. She is also a picture book author, mother and runner.  Amy’s tone is friendly and conversational. Her site regularly publishes humorous and poignant reviews of new and classic picture books.

Have a great Thanksgiving!  Happy Reading!

Let me know if you know other great sites to find books, too.

Teacher Recommendations (and a great blog)

September 7, 2012 2 comments

Teacher Recommended Books

How do you find a great book?  For most people, personal recommendations work best.  A friend’s suggestion carries even more weight for me than a flattering review in a newspaper.  This year at Evergreen School, our teachers are helping to spread the word about some of their favorite picture books on our new ‘Teacher Recommended Books’ board.

We started working on it at our opening faculty meeting and it is still a work in progress.  As an ice-breaker, each teacher wrote the name of their favorite children’s picture book on a slip of paper.  I read the name of each book and the group tried to guess who selected each one.  No one was surprised that Mrs. Conn selected Caps for Sale or that Mrs. Liotta selected Old Sadie and the Christmas Bear.  But we were well surprised to learn of Mrs. Basturescu’s love for The Napping House, Mrs. Hatziyannis’s affection for The Giving Tree and Mrs. John’s for Leo the Late Bloomer.

While working on the project, I came across a wonderful picture book blog called A Million Words written by Amy Dixon.  Amy is the author of Marathon Mouse and has reviewed too many picture books on her site to count. And she mixes her reviews with posts about her other passions including writing, running and parenting. Below are excerpts from her reviews of two of our teachers’ favorites.

Caps for SaleCaps for Sale (Written and Illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina, 1938. Review by Amy Dixon and favorite by Mrs. Conn)

This has got to be one of the most well-loved books on our bookshelf. Surprising, considering it breaks one of the major picture book writing rules, which is that the main character should never be an adult. But guess what, folks, there isn’t a child to be seen anywhere in this book! But there are monkeys. Oh, the monkeys! Now be warned, you will have to explain to the children you read it to exactly what a peddler is. And you will have to convince them that although yes, they do have 50 cents in their piggy-bank, that no, it will no longer buy them a gray, brown, blue, red, or even a checked cap.

The Napping HouseThe Napping House (Written and illustrated by  Don and Audry Wood, 1984.  Review by Amy Dixon and favorite by Mrs. Basturescu)

Naps are funny things. As children, we felt naps were a sort of punishment. You want me to stop constructing this fort out of the entire contents of your linen closet so that I can go lay down in a dark room? Because it’s good for me? What did I ever do to you? As adults, there’s not a day that goes by that we think couldn’t be made better by the addition of a nap. Not one. But it isn’t until we have our own children that we discover the true power of the nap. A nap can mean the difference between arches-back-so-you-can’t-buckle-him-in-and-you-get-kicked-in-the-face-while-trying-to-WWF-him-into-the-carseat child, and the sits-sweetly-in-the-shopping-cart-and-charms-the-pants-off-the-entire-world child. A nap can mean the difference between a day where you actually get to write, or exercise, or clean (don’t you dare clean during the precious nap hours!) or, I don’t know…EAT REAL FOOD…and a day where you serve toast and applesauce for dinner. Naps are magical. So you can’t argue with the appeal of a book called, THE NAPPING HOUSE. And you won’t blame me when I tell you that I want to live there.

Please share your favorites with us in the comment box below.

After Vacation, Seeing Old Friends

Reading Together

Reading Together

Why is it so much fun for Evergreen children to come back to school after spring break?  The thrill of seeing old friends is as strong for three year olds as it for adults. Happiness is directly tied to our relationships in life.  There is nothing like being surrounded by loved ones, as we saw on Esteemed Elders’ Day.

In her best-selling book, Raising Happiness, Christine Carter writes about raising joyful children and creating happy adults.  Her book has been cited by experts as an authoritative guide to parenting.  Carter writes, “What is the key to happiness?  …our relationships with other people matter more than anything else.  Very happy people have stronger social relationships than less happy people…. Truly, our happiness and our relationships are so closely linked that they can practically be equated.”

We all recognize that it can be hard to raise children in the culture of affluence in Montgomery County. That’s why my favorite section of the book is about gratitude vs. entitlement. It takes concentrated effort and strategic planning to get children into the habit of practicing gratitude—especially when you consider that the average American child receives seventy toys per year! (p.68)

In addition, Carter’s book covers all the topics that are useful to parents: entitlement vs. gratitude, how to give praise, handling conflict, teaching optimism, the roots of materialism in children, and more.  In addition to her book, Carter even offers classes to parents and helps to organize discussion groups.  You can learn more on her website. http://www.raisinghappiness.com/

Calling all Readers!

January 9, 2012 3 comments
Reading Buddies

Reading Buddies

Complete the phrase: Reading is __________.  Here are some possible answers: reading is a gift; reading is a process; reading is a pleasure; reading is power; reading is freedom. Reading is the key to success.

At Evergreen School, it is all of the above.  When our kindergarten and elementary classes join for their Reading Buddies program on Friday afternoons, older students start by reading their favorite picture book aloud to younger ones.  Then the younger ones take a turn.  The more experienced readers are thrilled to share their stories. The beginners delight in sounding out words with an encouraging, dutiful partner.  And everyone, young and old, learns that reading is satisfying and social.

If you have not read aloud to someone recently, now is a good time.  As  the National Commission on Reading reported in its study, Becoming a Nation of Readers,  “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” The commission indicated that reading aloud is essential to reading success, and classroom reading “should continue throughout the grades.”

Let us know what reading is to you.  Please leave a comment below.  Then go read!

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