February Newsletter

New this semester, tour refreshers with Jim!

Do you remember the tour you had before you signed up at MCH? Probably not too much of it. You might remember a feeling you had or answers to some of your questions, but likely you don't remember many of the details about Montessori philosophy or the particulars about MCH that Jim shared with you on that day. If you would like to refresh this information and ask more questions--also a good time to learn more about Extended Day (Montessori Kindergarten), please contact Jim to set up a tour time. Bring your questions and we'll have a cup of coffee for you! We have a hidden agenda here in wanting you to be more informed...parents talking to others, is our best advertising.

Feel free to contact us at director@madisonmontessori.org!

Jim's Ramblings...

By now, hopefully, you have noticed the applications for Interim Week, summer, and next school year in your mailbox. We hope that having these options will help you in your planning. Let us know if you have any questions.

Of course, this is also enrollment time for prospective families. While giving tours of the school, I am reminded of just how great the Montessori philosophy/curriculum is and how fortunate we all are to have such dedicated staff implementing it. When I explain to parents what they are seeing, I am reminded of the notion that teaching is the final step in learning. I see this regularly when the oldest children at school have the youngest ones under their wings. I see that the environment is collaborative and not competitive, as the class celebrates when a child completes a challenging project. I see that the philosophy is always respectful and cognizant of each child’s independence, autonomy, and developmental level. Within the child focused and autonomous environment, children learn that they are making choices and that those choices have consequences. Some consequences are desirable and some not. Given the chance to reflect on them, in a non-judgmental environment, children learn to make choices they are happy with. One point that was made to us by our children’s’ teachers, after they aged out of MCH, was that the breadth of knowledge they accrued in their short lives really informed their literacy. That knowledge was gained here at MCH. In an age in which children are perhaps inappropriately pushed to develop math and reading skills before they are ready, isn’t it nice to know that there is a school with a philosophy and curriculum that meets children where they are at and encourages their development as they are ready to develop? An environment in which they are excited to discover new things and love to learn? I truly feel that this is an ideal environment.

Of course, we hope that each and every one of our great families will be back next year to be a part of this wonderful school but we understand that people move away and job situations change. Know that having your child here for even just a year can be very beneficial to him/her. Imagine what another year or two will do. While we are not always comfortable tooting our own horns, we really do not advertise and count on our alumni and current families to do that for us. Let the horns be heard far and wide.

Classroom Updates

Toddler Classroom

We’ve been continuing with our weekly cooking projects and recently have made vegetable soup, breadsticks and muffins. Our toddlers continue to be very enthusiastic about all aspects of these projects--while they are refining motor skills, exploring with their senses and working together. We would encourage you to have your child participate with cooking/food prep at home—please see the photo below for examples of child-safe choppers.

During February we explored many Valentine’s themed activities and art materials—with more opportunities to work on fine motor skills. We celebrated Asian New Year by exploring traditional Korean costumes, Korean songs, Korean children’s toys (see photo) and Korean food. Kimberly showed us an adult costume (hanbok) and children had an opportunity to try on children’s costumes. We tasted “Kimbob” made with rice, seaweed and vegetables. Ask your child about the “Apple Face” song.

This month we welcomed new classmate, Noah and a Practicum Student from Madison College, Kaha—she will be with us on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for about 10 weeks.

Downstairs West Preschool

We have had a chilly February, with a few indoor days. On those days, Caitlin either sets up an indoor obstacle course, or puts on some music and leads the children through gross motor exercises, such as jumping jacks, running in place, hopping, and push-ups - usually followed by more calm stretching. We're hoping to see spring soon!

We've been talking about science recently at our group times. We've discussed that everything in our world is made out of matter, and that this matter can take various forms. On our earth, we usually experience matter as a solid, liquid, or a gas. Whatever form that matter is in, it always takes up space, and it always has mass. Many children were not sure that a gas could take up space, or have mass, so we've been doing some group time experiments to prove this concept.

A small group of children in our classroom decided to make valentine's for all of the toddlers, so after collecting the 11 valentines in a basket, we took a trip to visit the toddlers and to deliver the valentines. This trip was a good excuse to review a few grace and courtesy lessons, such as walking politely through the school, using the railing, and delivering a gift.

We've noticed that a few families have been repeatedly taking home the laundry on Fridays. We don't want the laundry to be too big a burden for any one family, so if you haven't had a chance to sign up, please consider taking the laundry home for the weekend.

Something you might have noticed on our classroom door... Caitlin is having a baby! She is due in August. She and her husband are extremely excited to join the league of parents.

Downstairs East Preschool

Hello from Derek and Luz’s class, So far this month, the children have enjoyed learning about the different classes of animals. Our focus has been on North American woodland mammals, however we also like to compare different classes of animals as well. The most common classes of animals we talk about are mammals, reptiles and amphibians. However, we have also looked into some of the less known classes of animals, such as crustacea, insects, protozoa and more. One song we like to sing is called "the mammal song”, perhaps you’ve heard it. It’s a repeat after me song that goes like this:

It’s got a hard backbone / hair on it’s skin / nurses from it’s mother / and it’s warm within A cat is a mammal but a snake is not, you can tell a mammal by the kinds of things it’s got. repeat from beginning but choose different animals.

One idea is that we make a new song about a different class of animal. We haven’t gotten too far on that one though. One album that many of the children have been listening to is by, They Might Be Giants. It is called Science is Real. It’s a great album that the children learn a lot from. In fact, some of them have been teaching me about another state of matter, plasma.

Recently, we have talked about Leap Year and how many days until spring. We made a chart which we are counting down the days. We have also been reestablishing the rules of the classroom. Especially how to get the teachers or a friends’ attention without interrupting. We simply put our hand on the person’s shoulder and wait till they are ready to talk to us.

Upstairs Preschool

Valentine's Day was lovely. We sang and played "a-tisket, a-tasket" as a group. Then we paired the children up on rugs so that they could look at their Valentines. From there, we washed up for a treat of yogurt and strawberries. Thank you to JaYoung (Celine's mom) for volunteering to help us! Also, thank you to Li Li (Melinda's mom). She came to teach the children about Chinese New Year. She talked about the traditions with a book and brought in items, including a lantern and good-luck sign. Parents are always welcome as volunteers in our classroom - please let us know if you have an idea. Or you could just come in and read to a small group during work time.

During group, we are currently reading books by William Steig. Titles include Brave Irene and Pete's a Pizza.

Lyrics to "a-tisket, a-tasket":

A-tisket, a-tasket,
a green and yellow basket,
I wrote a letter to my love,
and on the way I dropped it.

Extended Day Classroom

In conjunction with Chinese New Year, Alison presented the story of how different animals were assigned years in the zodiac. She let the children taste kumquats and showed some children's clothing.

We have been watching a dvd, "Big Bird Goes To China" in conjunction with Chinese New Year.

We also have been exploring the characteristics of the three states of matter, solid, liquid and gas, by doing experiments and discussion. Some children have made charts that sort pictures into the three states. Below is a rap we have learned about matter.

The stuff of life is matter
Here's some scientific chatter
I m gonna give it to you nice and straight
When it comes to matter there are all three states
There is solid or liquid or gas
Oh year there is solid or liquid or gas.

At this level we are studying the three states of matter that the children can understand, although there are several more I am told.

Phyllis is exploring the artist, Degas, with the children.

Please sign up for a conference in early March. The sign up sheet is above the white board outside of the room. If these times don't work for you, send an email or see me to set up another time.

Afternoon Program Updates

Last week we celebrated the beginning of the Lunar New Year. Melinda's mom, Li Li, shared about the traditional Chinese New Year clothing, food, and rituals and gave each of the children a red envelope that are traditionally filled with money to wish you good luck and prosperity. Daniel's mom and toddler teacher Kimberly shared with us about Korean New Year by sharing traditional girls and boys clothing and games and helping us make and taste tofu pack stuffed with rice.

This week, we are wrapping up our journey through the food, culture, and traditions of Turkey by making and tasting Simit with the children.

On our next journey Around the World we will be learning about New Zealand! Ginger's family, Bowen's mom Camille, and ANP teacher Katie have all spent time in New Zealand and will be sharing about their travels and New Zealand traditions and culture.

Ideas for Independence

Maria Montessori wrote in her book The Absorbent Mind, “the child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence.” In our Montessori environment, something we focus on is honoring that development need by creating opportunities for the children to become independent. In that vein, here are some ideas that you could try to help us in that effort:

  • Try to let your child walk in and out of school.
  • Allow your child (as much as possible) to put on their own shoes, coat, backpack, etc. It takes longer, but demonstrating your belief in your child's ability to complete these tasks builds their own self-confidence.
  • Create a good-bye routine that you repeat each day with your child at drop-off, which allows your child to separate from you more easily - this predictability helps him/her to transition into the next part of his/her day.

City Accreditation Update

MCH is currently working on our annual City Accreditation. This is a voluntary program that was developed by the City of Madison in the 1970's--Mayor Paul Soglin--when he was Mayor the first time around, was instrumental in getting this program running. MCH was one of the first childcare centers to participate and we have been continuously accredited since the late 1970's. This is an annual process for us, and since we have very stable classrooms with low staff turnover we are completing self-accreditation this year--by reviewing city standards and documents from previous observations by our City Specialists. The following information about the program is from the City of Madison website:

The main goal of the Madison Child Care Program is to support and promote high quality child care and early education for children and families in the City of Madison.

To accomplish this, the City established a voluntary Accreditation process based on a set of quality standards. The Standards are designed to promote the optimal development of the child. These Standards go far beyond the mandatory licensing regulations that enforce basic requirements to protect the health and safety of children.

AMS Conference

On Friday, March 11th we will be closed for the AMS (American Montessori Society) national convention in Chicago. We are so pleased that our MCH Board approved the use of funds to take our staff members there for a day of Montessori workshops, keynote speakers and networking with Montessorians from across the country.

American Montessori Society 2016 Annual Conference Trailer

Winner of the Montessori Madmen "Montessori Elevator Speech Contest"!

Hey parents and board members... do you have your elevator speech ready for the next time somebody asks you "What is Montessori, anyways?"
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