Thursday, September 27, 2007

Importance of Mats and Floor Work

Look at pictures of any Montessori classroom around the world and you will see children working on mats on the floor as well as at child-sized tables. The mats provide children with a delineated work space of their own where they can work and even leave work over the course of a day or days as they learn to work on larger and more complex projects.

Floor work is also practical. Children enjoy being able to move and interact with equipment. For example, when children use the Red Rods they spend most of their time walking to get the rods, carrying the rods to the mat, moving the rods around, and carrying them back to the shelf. Once you see how delighted your three or four year old is doing this exercise, everything will make much more sense!

Set up your Montessori classroom or home area with small rectangular mats the size of a yoga mat. The material for the mats should be carpet or rug -- anything that has a non-sticky texture and lends itself to being rolled and unrolled.

Questions? Send them in so we can share them with everyone!

A Well-Rounded Montessori Curriculum

An ideal curriculum for children under six provides a good balance between physical activities and projects that require sitting down and working.

For those of you have have not seen our earlier post from "The Montessori Method," here is the link Montessori Schedule.

Here are some tips for home and school:
  1. Include three to four physical activity times per day. These activities can include group games, outdoor play, and anything else that lets children run and be active.
  2. Make available equipment and instruction for all areas of classroom education including language, art, math, practical life, sensorial, geography, foreign language, music, and nature (botany, biology, zoology). Children will not usually develop at the same speed in all areas.
  3. Focus on material that involves touching, manipulation, fine and/or gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.
  4. Create child-sized equipment, shelves, and quiet areas for work. Present a new exercise several times a week in general.
  5. Leave your child alone to work. Avoid the temptation to go and "check on him or her" unless your child asks your for assistance or wants to show you what he or she is doing. A lot of parents and teachers meddle out of habit, not necessity.
    1. In teacher training, we observe other trainees and comment, critique, and use feedback to develop teaching skills. You can do this at home by video taping your classroom area and watching yourself at the end of the day. Or ask a friend or older child to watch you and take notes. Try to learn how to step back and observe yourself, too! It can be pretty tough to do, but it is a great way to learn.
    2. Young children can focus on projects for a very long time. Let them do it! Even if you would prefer to steer your child away from drawing and towards a reading activity, stop yourself from doing it.
    3. Look at your child's schedule and work activities over a one week or one month period. Your child doesn't necessarily need a balanced work day on a 24 hour basis. If you look at a longer period, you can introduce new activities in the areas in which you want your child to spend more time. For example, if you want your child to do more math, instead of talking about it, make a note to yourself to introduce a new and appealing math activity the next morning.
    4. No talk about "bad at math" or "not good at reading" or anything else. Your child is too young to have preferences, anyhow. If a subject is not appealing, you can probably fix it by changing or improving your presentation. If you hit a subject area that you are not comfortable presenting (e.g. you are a tone deaf math professor and you want to teach your child to play the recorder), enlist a friend, hire a tutor, or buy an instructional DVD! You can share the lesson with your child and learn together, too!

Remember that areas of the curriculum such as personal care (bathing, tooth brushing, etc) area equally as important for development as math and reading, even if they seem less exciting!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

New York Times Article "Some Food Additives Raise Hyperactivity, Study Finds"

This article by Elisabeth Rosenthal in the Sept 6th online edition of the New York Times is particularly interesting as it discusses the link between food additives and hyperactivity in children. Particularly parents whose children already have problems, it seems sensible to just weed out foods with additives such as preservatives and artificial coloring.

"The new research, which was financed by Britain’s Food Standards Agency and published online by the British medical journal The Lancet, presents regulators with a number of issues: Should foods containing preservatives and artificial colors carry warning labels? Should some additives be prohibited entirely? Should school cafeterias remove foods with additives?

After all, the researchers note that overactivity makes learning more difficult for children.

“A mix of additives commonly found in children’s foods increases the mean level of hyperactivity,” wrote the researchers, led by Jim Stevenson, a professor of psychology at the University of Southampton. “The finding lends strong support for the case that food additives exacerbate hyperactive behaviors (inattention, impulsivity and overactivity) at least into middle childhood.”

In response to the study, the Food Standards Agency advised parents to monitor their children’s activity and, if they noted a marked change with food containing additives, to adjust their diets accordingly, eliminating artificial colors and preservatives."

Check out this quote (bear in mind that psychopharmacology is the study of how drugs can modify behavior -- e.g. dose your child with ritalin if they are hyperactive.)

“Even if it shows some increase in hyperactivity, is it clinically significant and does it impact the child’s life?” said Dr. Thomas Spencer, a specialist in Pediatric Psychopharmacology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Is it powerful enough that you want to ostracize your kid? It is very socially impacting if children can’t eat the things that their friends do.”

If your child can't turn down a Twinkie in elementary school due to peer pressure, it's time to start working on dealing with peer pressure!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Foreign Language: Mandarin Chinese for Children

Children under six can pick up foreign languages with an amazing ease!

Take advantage of our work with Mandarin Chinese language teaching materials to pick up some beginning books and DVDs.

Popping Pandas blog has more details and an interesting video clip for the numbers from 1 to 10, 100, and 1000.