Upper El’s Week of Adventure

In the beautiful month of May, the Upper Elementary class takes an exciting trip to Maryland and stays four nights at Echo Hill Outdoor School (E.H.O.S.) to extend their outdoor and environmental studies, and of course to have fun! The fifth and fourth grade class stays at the E.H.O.S. campground while the sixth grade class often takes a daring and adventurous boat trip.

Although it is a place to learn, we have fun outside our regular activities: hayrides, meeting new friends from other schools, bonfires, roasting marshmallows, etc. Other things we learned about this week is that if you chew a lifesaver with your mouth open, you can see sparks! A big part of Echo Hill is the delicious food served buffet style daily, however if you don’t finish your food because you put too much on your plate, it goes into the “slop” bucket (S.L.O.P. stands for Stuff Left On Plate). The slop is weighed at the end of the meal, and added up after our last meal before leaving. The least amount of slop the better. The three schools in attendance one week accumulated 70 lbs of slop. We still have a lot to learn about wasting food!

During our extra time in between lessons, you can head down to the beach and canoe, beach hike, wade, or sit and talk, or if the beach isn’t appealing, you can wander, play ball on the ball courts, or stay on the tent side and shower or read. We met old friends and new ones and had lots of fun. The tents weren’t luxurious, but that made it more fun. The bug nets kept out the bugs so they didn’t crawl on you in the middle of the night.

To end our amazing journey at Echo Hill we walked down to the Merick Hall and had a Stick Ceremony. The Stick Ceremony is where one by one a classmate takes a stick, says what they loved about Echo Hill and what they will miss, and throws the stick into the fire. This was a very sentimental part of the trip. One fifth grader said, “It was my favorite part of the trip because we played games and everyone had fun!” Another fifth grader said, “I liked that we could throw sticks into the fire so a little part of us would always be there.”

Each class was fun and unique, and we learned many things. It was a week worth attending!

Compiled by Upper Elementary students

Recommended reading for parents:

  • How to Help Kids With Sleepover Anxiety by Beth Arky of the Child Mind Institute, viewed May 13 2019, [https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-kids-with-sleepover-anxiety/]
  • Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help Children Grow, by Michael Thompson
  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv
  • The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life In a Virtual Age, by Richard Louv

Embryology in Lower El

Hi, I’m Mahee and I’m going to tell you how Lower Elementary takes care of chicks and learns about embryology. You have to keep the eggs in an incubator, which keeps them at 100 degrees. You have to turn the eggs at morning, lunch, and afternoon, for the first 4 days. After they hatch, you have to leave them in the incubator for 24 hours to let their feathers dry. Then, you can move them into a brooder box. You have to have a heat lamp in the brooder box to keep them warm. You must provide them with food (corn meal) and water. We keep the chicks for five days before they return to the farm.

Baby chicks in Lower El

Problem Solving

Samuel Beckett once noted, “You’re on earth. There’s no cure for that.”

As educators we constantly work to help students develop problem solving skills. The freedom and responsibility as well as the social nature of the Montessori elementary classroom allows students to practice these skills on a daily basis. The children recognize that problem solving is a necessary life skill and understand that while at school, they always have the right and the responsibility to take steps to solve problems of all natures.

A spilled drink is taken care of with a towel and a mop, while interpersonal conflict is solved through conversation – many times it is discovered that a simple miscommunication is to blame! Class meetings serve to empower the children to notice and solve problems which affect the classroom community as a whole. The students meet to offer comments and possible solutions regarding the issue at hand.

The Elementary age child is building a life for himself outside of his family and home as he becomes increasingly independent. This means that while we as adults can offer support, we must allow the child the freedom to work towards solving his or her own problems.

The following article offers useful tips for what you as a parent can do to equip your children with the tools they will need to be successful problem solvers:

Problem solving blog

Solving Those Mealtime Blues

We have such high expectations for mealtimes! The ideal of a freshly prepared, hot, delicious and nutritious meal as a happy family sitting around a well-appointed and beautifully set table lingers in the back of our minds. The reality is a rushed and hectic breakfast or dinner that is microwaved and quickly handed off to hungry children as we struggle to feed their bodies and meet some of the emotional and physical needs they present to us as they clamor for our attention in their hungry and tired state after a long day at school. Add after school activities, late day meetings, travel schedules, illness . . . and the stress of a calm mealtime routine seems impossible!!

We are lucky to have time at school to present a calm lunch time for your children. We hope a few of our simple strategies will help you replace hectic for happier mealtimes.

Enlist your child’s help

Setting the table with a placemat and napkin for each person is a great start to making breakfast or dinner a more pleasant experience. Removing a paper napkin to the trash, or better yet a cloth napkin to the laundry, is part of the child’s after meal cleanup. Next, add the job of floor sweeping under each chair after dinner using a small whisk broom.


The goal is to meet the emotional needs of your child so that sitting down to actually eat is more pleasant. Your child wants to be with you. Giving him/her a job nearby your food prep meets that goal. In an effort to preserve real time connections with your child, please keep technology out of your mealtime experience.

Have a seat

Insist that all family members sit down together for the duration of the meal. Literally sit in a chair!! Everyone. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Your child sits for 30-45 minutes at lunch time at school. They are capable of great conversation and a calm, enjoyable few minutes with you. In the classroom, we often pick a topic for conversation at lunch, such as “What’s your favorite animal?” or “If you could travel far away, how would you get there?”. Pick a topic for the day, and take turns sharing your ideas. Listening is as important a skill as speaking is for children.

We hope these tidbits of success from our Children’s House school day can transfer to your homes and solve some of those mealtime woes! Good luck and keep us posted!

Mrs. Bakshi
Mrs. Janeczko
Mrs. Kelly

CH Meal blog
Children's House Meal Blog
Children's House Meal Blog
Children's House Meal blog
CH Meal blog1 (1)

10 Things

10 Things to do at home to support your child’s growth in self-discipline

  • Prepare your child’s environment with furniture and equipment that are her size. For example, when she wants to wash carrots or strawberries, she can sit on a chair by a table that are her size and use small kitchen tools that fit her hands. Show her clear ways to do tasks such as dusting a shelf, sweeping, washing socks, wiping the table after a meal, folding up and putting away clothes, setting the table, and more.
  • Let her learn from her own mistakes. She will not work as you work, quickly and efficiently. If she is learning how to use a mop, there may be soap and water on the floor when she is finished. The process is far more important to her inner growth than having clean floors. Help her to clean up by sharing the task with her rather than stepping in and doing it for her.
  • Use household items and toys for their intended purpose. If you child throws her shape-sorting toy, say, “Be gentle with your toys.” Young children sometimes throw on a whim, but it doesn’t mean they are destructive. If she throws the toy again, redirect her by saying, “Come outside and let’s throw the ball.”
  • When appropriate, offer real choices. Choices should be simple, such as peanut butter or cheese on her sandwich or buying red or green apples. Too many choices are overwhelming; a handful of choices a day are enough at this age.
  • Speak to her positively and sincerely. Your child will thrive with positive statements but does not need to be showered with empty praise. Instead of saying, “You’re such a good helper”, say, “Thank you for setting the table.” Instead of ordering, “Get off the table”, lift her off the table and say, “Feet on the floor.”
  • Do not feel the need to reward your child for doing what you want her to do. For children, the reward is in the work itself. Adults may consider “work” something we must do, but for children their work is their play.
  • Keep consistent routines. Children need regular sleep times, regular meals, time with family members, and opportunities to expend energy and play outside. When her days are predictable she knows better what to expect.
  • Set limits that work for your family, and make sure that everyone applies them. When you give in to your child’s demands, it is difficult for her to understand what is expected of her.
  • Evaluate each situation before reacting. If your child has lost control, ask yourself if she is hungry, tired, frustrated, or overstimulated. Each situation calls for a different response.
  • Realize that punishment doesn’t work. Punishment has limited value, as it causes the child to focus on what not to do rather than on what to do. Additionally, it often makes a small problem bigger. Young children can often remember the punishment, but may not connect the punishment to the behavior that triggered it.
Children cooking
Boy sweeping
Girl painting
Girl polishing

How is Montessori Different?

The Real Difference:

The formation of children’s fundamental capacities is hugely important during the first years of life – not just academic learning but the ability to concentrate, persevere and think for themselves as well as the ability to interact well with others. Children who have been given the right kind of support during these formative years grow into adults who are self-motivated and love learning, can think flexibly and creatively and who are not only conscious of the needs of others but actively foster harmony as they go through life.

Traditional Versus Montessori:

In traditional education adults decide what children need to learn and the ability to retain and reproduce information is used as a measure of academic success. The teacher is the active giver of information and children are passive receivers. In the Montessori approach it is all about the activity of the child. The teacher takes on a different role, that is, to provide the right kind of circumstances so that children can be guided to find what they need from what is on offer. Children then become active learners and are able to reach their own unique potential because they are learning at their own pace and rhythm focussing on their own particular developmental needs at that moment.

The Montessori approach provides:

  • An environment that serves the particular needs of each child’s stage of development
  • An adult who understands child development and acts as a guide to help children find their own natural path
  • Freedom for children to engage in their own development according to their own particular developmental timeline

Source: Aid to Life, aidtolife.org.

Positive Discipline

Blog: Positive Discipline Workshop

Positive disciplineThanks to generous support from the TMS Annual Fund, I was able to attend a two-day workshop last month in New York City on Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom. It was held at the Westside Montessori School and led by renowned facilitator, Chip DeLorenzo, along with other Montessorians around the country. We had the opportunity to participate in many discussion-based sessions from which I gained valuable knowledge and insight about effective teaching tools. These tools help build responsibility, independence, motivation and empathy within classroom communities. I would like to share some of these with our TMS community (notes from the workshop have been used).

Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs (20th century psychiatrists and educators) who believed that children could become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their community. Positive Discipline teaches adults to use both kindness and firmness that is neither punitive nor permissive.

Children who feel secure and trustworthy can learn to cooperate rather than be manipulative, especially when they know they can trust adults who mean what they say and who follow-through with respect.

Adults often use consequences to control or punish, which can be one reason why children see consequences as punishment. Appropriate follow-through is an effective and alternative way to avoid this dilemma. With younger children, non-verbal follow-through is more effective. This tool works best with repeated behaviors.

Steps for Follow-Through

  1. Find a time when you and the child can give the matter your full attention.
  2. Have a friendly discussion and share information about what is going on for both the parent/teacher and the child regarding the problem.
  3. Make a decision (with the child, if appropriate) about what you will do in the future.
  4. When the issue arises again, the parent/teacher simply follows through with a brief statement of fact, such as, “We had an agreement,” or “It’s time to go inside.”

Suggestions for Effective Follow-Through

  1. Agreed-upon solutions or consequences should be logical, respectful and helpful long-term.
  2. When appropriate, be specific about deadlines and consequences.
  3. Keep comments very concise. (“I notice you didn’t_______. Would you please do that now.”)
  4. In response to objections ask, “What was our agreement?”
  5. In response to further objections, be quiet and use nonverbal communication to follow through: point to the item that needs to be picked up; smile knowingly; take the child kindly by hand and lead them to/away from the issue.
  6. When the child concedes to the agreement, express honest appreciation. (“Thank you for keeping our agreement.”)

Traps that Defeat Follow-Through

  1. Wanting children or teens to have the same priorities as adults.
  2. Getting into judgements and criticism instead of sticking to the issue.
  3. Not getting agreements in advance (including specified time deadlines when applicable, for instance).
  4. Discussing the issue right after it happens. (The positive solution: Find a time to relax, and then discuss it with your child in order to come to an agreement.)

Follow-through simply means acting upon what you said, without lecturing, using constant reminders (nagging) or punishment. By using this tool, in a kind and firm manner, parents/teachers find it possible to meet the needs of the situation while maintaining dignity and respect for all concerned.

Acting, rather than talking, helps students understand that for every opportunity or freedom they have, there is a degree of responsibility attached. For example, a child has the opportunity to play with a toy or work with a material respectfully. If the child’s behavior is disrespectful then he/she should lose the privilege to use the toy or the material. This agreement is only effective if the consequence is enforced with kind and firm follow-through. The child will have another opportunity to use the toy or the material again upon demonstrating responsible behavior needed to use it with respect.

For reading materials on Positive Discipline, please contact Mrs Sutapa Bakshi, TMS Children’s House Guide.

Power Struggles

It happens a lot at parent-teacher conferences. We are discussing the social and emotional development of a child at school, and a parent asks in despair, “Why does he listen at school and never listens at home? Why is it always a struggle?”

Oh, yes! The infamous power struggle!Power Struggle

First, we want for the parents to understand the developmental importance of a power struggle. A feeling of power is important to us all as a basic social and emotional need. Until the age of two the child has a little sense of self. In the child’s world the child and the parent are one. By the end of the second year, he begins to develop the concept of self as separate from a parent. Now a child learns how to make decisions for himself, exerting his power and will on people and situations, getting their own way, declaring ownership and authority.

And so the battle of wills begins that lasts throughout the childhood and into the teen years. The parents feel overpowered, overwhelmed, angry and determined to change their child’s behavior, that they perceive as “negative, frustrating, stubborn, headstrong and rebellious”. But you can turn these trying times into a rewarding growth period for both a parent and a child. Instead of viewing this kind of behavior as “bad”, look at it as a healthy sign of child’s development. Instead of trying to overpower your child, let’s try to empower him instead.

So, what exactly can you do? Happy you asked!

When your child misbehaves, decide how you are going to react. And this reaction should be the same every time. Every single time! Be calm, kind, but firm. Do not escalate your emotional response! You must respond like a broken record over and over again.

Side step the conflict (choose your battles). Your child doesn’t want to get out of the car. “Well, you can get out of the car by yourself or I will carry you.” Child’s response, “I want you to carry me upside down.” Fine! Carry him upside down! By side stepping the conflict, you are sending the message that you are not going to fight your child, but at the same time you are not giving in either.

Choices, not orders! When giving your child choices, you must make sure all choices are acceptable to you. Do not give your child a choice of sitting quietly at a restaurant or leaving, if you have no intention to do so. Choices should not include punishment as an alternative. And make sure they are not too narrow that the child senses no freedom at all.

You can find a useful way for your child to feel more powerful. Let’s say he doesn’t want to put his dishes away after dinner. Make him the “boss” of all dishes. He will then make sure everyone in the family cleans up after themselves.

Positive Discipline

Remember, the child’s need to gain control is a natural developmental stage.

These are just a few suggestions to help you. For further information, we strongly recommend the book, Positive Discipline, by Dr Jane Nelsen. This is also available as an audiobook.

What happens in the fall?

In the vegetable garden, the tasks of the day are fun and great educational experiences for the children! In the woods, explorations take us from one end to the other, comparing the size of the stream and the direction of the flowing water to other locations. We discovered that two streams join together . . . who knew? If Sustainable Science is inside, the lesson might be exploring with nature items in Mrs Baumgarten’s collection, or making a contour map of the school and stream. Join us in our findings!

Dottie's fall blog
Fall science blog

We planted some cool weather seeds, and watched the radishes grow. The spinach and lettuce did not make it. Next time, maybe!

Dottie's fall blog
Fall science blog

Children are involved in all aspects of the garden work. First we removed weeds and planted a few seeds in September. At that time we also harvested tomatoes, green beans, zinnia, marigold flowers, and sage. Sage was able to dry in several classrooms.

Dottie's fall blog
Fall science blog

In the garden, Lower Elementary record some of their tasks and observations.

Dottie's fall blog

There is always the joy of finding bugs, or amazingly, a salamander and a toad! Millipedes, sow bugs (isopods, pill bugs, rolly-pollies), earthworms, grubs and garden spiders are regular finds, which the children enjoy. We can hold the sow bugs but, of course, not the spiders.

Fall science blog
Fall science blog

Here’s the toad!

Dottie's fall blog

Flowers need bees to make new seeds!

Fall science blog

As the fall progressed, the task in the garden changed to prepare the garden for winter. The wonderful compost provides nutrition for the garden, so we emptied the compost bin, sifted the compost and added it to the garden. Some of the sections we topped with shredded leaves from Mr. Bob, and some of the sections we planted with “winter crops” of oats and peas, which will not make edible seeds, but will be turned into the soil as fertilizer in the spring.

Fall science blog
Fall science blog

When the Sustainable Science Vegetable Garden was prepped enough for the fall, we headed into the woods. The first walk was to get the lay of the land: where is the stream? Which areas are higher elevation and lower elevation? We are always observing the changes in the seasons, and always looking for evidence of animals large and small. On occasion, the walk to the woods takes us past Mr Bob as he works. These children are wondering what he is up to! Mr Bob can be seen here lining up small brush and leaves for mowing over them and adding to the compost pile.

Fall science blog
Fall science blog

The Township is putting a lot of work into Pine Run Park! There is a whole section that had invasive species removed and native species of trees planted and protected. Deer eat the smaller native trees, so the new trees need to be protected with a fence. We don’t usually see deer, but we do find deer scat!

Fall science blog

Food for Thought

The importance of nutrition in the development of the young child cannot be understated. It is essential that during this rapid period of growth in bodies and minds, the young child receives a well balanced diet of carbohydrates, both simple and complex, fats, proteins, water, minerals, vitamins and enzymes for optimal health.

Just as important, in these early years are the positive attitudes of the adults nurturing the young child as a social being. As soon as the infant is aware of how others around him are eating, there is an intense interest and desire to imitate this new way of receiving food. This is best supported by offering finger foods and opportunities for the use of utensils by the child, in collaboration with feeding, in a social setting. This acceptance of one of the child’s first attempts toward independence sets the stage for lifelong attitudes about food, family, respect and gratitude.

In the Toddler Community, we offer Food as an Occasion of Education. The children are eager to participate in the preparation of our snack foods and all the activities that prepare the room for our small meal together. Washing, peeling, chopping fruits and vegetables, mixing, rolling, cutting dough for biscuits or grating and spooning cheese onto tortillas are all carried out by the children on a daily basis.

The work area is set up with care so the children may be as independent as possible in their execution. A small cutting board, peeler and a basin for the peels to go into, a chopping tool and a serving bowl provide just what is needed to prepare cucumbers for our snack.

Clean up of the area is another aspect of great interest to the children. Wiping a table with a small sponge or practicing the hand skills for sweeping into a dustpan and carrying it level to the receptacle provide an immense feeling of accomplishment. If nothing makes it to the destination, there is an opportunity for repetition to sweep again. There are always dishes that need to be washed after we work in the kitchen. This is another relaxing but sequence oriented task, that helps a child work with a process to accomplish a goal; dishes are scrubbed, rinsed, and placed in the drainer.

Tables need to be moved together and set with a complete place setting for all the children. These are tasks that require cooperation, collaboration and completion! The younger children are often guided by their more capable peers and little by little, everyone has a spoon, fork, plate, cup and a folded napkin.

The fresh foods that are provided by our generous families offer a variety of healthy, seasonally available fruits and vegetables with a variety of smells, tastes, textures and techniques for preparing. What fun to open a pomegranate and gently coax the arils out into a bowl of water, or scoop the seeds and membranes from inside the pumpkin shell, to enjoy the pumpkin after it bakes. Foods that a child may be unfamiliar with and at first are declined, may be tried as it becomes apparent that others at the table are enjoying them.

As we come together at the tables for our ritual song of thanks and snuffing of the candle, the children are part of a caring community offering nourishment to one another through their foods and their deeds.

There is a precious twinkle in the eyes of a two year old who has been asked, “Will you please help me in the kitchen?”

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and special moments together as your family prepares for a wonderful meal.

Toddler blog
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddler blog

“My child is only 3.” “No, your child is already 3.”

“My child is only 3 (or 4, 5, 6 . . .)!

“No, your child is already 3 (or 4, 5, 6 . . .)!”

“What an odd name for the blog,” one might think. Yes, but let me explain.

Often, there is a discrepancy between how the parents see their child and how we, the Children’s House Guides, view him. Sorry, not just him, but rather a capable, independent child. We frequently hear: My child can’t do this, my child is only . . . (you fill in the blank). And then we tell the parents about what it is their child does at school and behold: surprise, disbelief, awe and PRIDE!!

A young child is able to do a multitude of tasks independently when given the tools and the environment to do so. A three-year-old should be able to get dressed by himself, wash his face and hands, brush his teeth, get a snack and a drink, and much more. In Children’s House, the children prepare their food, set tables, bake, dust, sweep, wash mirrors and windows, polish silver, do laundry, and steadily grow in their self-confidence and independence. And if they can do it at school, then they can do it at home.

Of course, it takes planning ahead and setting up appropriate accommodations for your child.

For example, set up a small pitcher with water and glasses on a low shelf in the kitchen. Fruit, crackers and such could be placed in a low cabinet, so that the child can prepare his own snack. A stepstool in the kitchen will allow him to help you with cooking, and a stepstool in the bathroom can assist your child in washing up and brushing his teeth independently.

Clothes should be easy to put on and take off. Shoes with velcro closures are helpful for self-dressing. A five year old should be learning how to tie his shoelaces. To make it easier for a child to choose what to wear, group his clothes into sets. Of course, a clothes hamper helps establish a habit of putting dirty clothes away and not on the floor.

Our job as parents and teachers is to guide our children to independence. Step by step, day by day, we help our children develop the skills of everyday life and take on more responsibility until they can stand firmly on their own feet. Unfortunately, it is so much easier and faster to do it ourselves or hire someone, than to teach our children how to do it for themselves. But if we don’t teach skills, how can we expect our children to act with responsibility when needed or when opportunity presents itself?

Maria Montessori said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” So next time your child is “taking forever” trying to zipper his coat, close your eyes, take a deep breath in and breathe out, in and out . . . and watch your child develop confidence to persevere through your patient example.

Slicing apples
Biscuit making
Slicing grapes
Flower arranging