4 Ways Home and School Are Different

Think about the first things we do when we get home from work after a long day.

  • We kick our shoes off at the door.
  • We throw our bags down on the table or couch.
  • We breathe a deep sigh and think, finally I’m home and I can be myself.

Children feel this way when they get home from school too! They know they are back in a safe and loving environment that they can trust.

And alongside that trust can also come big emotions that have been pent up all day. Frustration, anxiety or even not feeling well can play a factor in how a child reacts when they get home.

In fact, it’s very typical that a child behaves one way at school but totally different at home. Here’s why.

  1. School is a highly structured environment. A child knows what happens and when. Home is a more relaxed place!
  2. There is a set of expectations at school that the entire class adheres to. A child knows that if they act a certain way, there could be repercussions from their teacher or classmates. A loving home environment is a bit more forgiving, and a child knows that you will love them no matter what.
  3. Both adults and children alike show their true emotions when in the safety of their own home. It’s natural that a child will act differently when they have the freedom to unwind and be themselves.
  4. Children are at school and adults are at work during the day when we have the most amount of energy. By the time we get home, we may be tired and hungry, and not show the same amount of patience or understanding we exhibit during the day.

Do you notice that your child behaves differently when at home versus at school or out in public? Consider the factors above and remember to be forgiving of yourself and your child at the end of a long day!

Are Manners Still Important?

Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori began teaching manners to children as a part of her classroom curriculum. She called them lessons in Grace and Courtesy.

Grace and Courtesy lessons are the glue that holds any community together. From holding a door for the teacher with her hands full to asking a friend if they need help, children began practicing manners from a young age.

Is it still important to teach children manners, 100 years after these lessons were first developed?

We think so. And so does pediatrician Perri Klass in his article for the New York Times, “Making Room for Miss Manners is a Parenting Basic.” He says:

“For a child, as for an adult, manners represent a strategy for getting along in life, but also a successful intellectual engagement with the business of being human.”

Manners are skills that allow children to get along with one another on the playground, but that also translate to getting along with colleagues in the workplace.

Manners make interacting with other humans enjoyable and rejuvenating.

How do you teach or model manners at home? Try these resources from Primary to get started with your own Grace and Courtesy lessons:

Leave a comment below with your methods for teaching manners!

Tips from Teachers: Transitions

Teachers are constantly working on improving moments of transition in the classroom: From parent drop-off to learning time, from lunch to play time, from play time to nap time.

These are times when one activity is ending and another is starting, and children tend to be a bit more high-energy because they are excited about the change of pace.

Here are a few ways teachers work to make these moments smooth and seamless:

  1. Speak calmly and move slowly. Children are very empathetic, so setting the tone is important.
  2. Establish a routine. From the first days, teachers do things in order so children feel secure in their knowledge of what happens next.
  3. Make small changes. If there are snags in the routine that need improving, teachers make small changes until they find the best method for that particular group of children.
  4. Try, try again. Patience is key during stressful moments of transition. It’s important to keep in mind that every day may not be perfect, but you keep trying.

Parents experience moments of transition at home as well! Children go from sleeping to awake, from home to school, from dinner to bedtime.

Give the time-tested methods above a try at home to improve your transition times. Soon you will move through the different activities in your day with ease and enthusiasm!

Clothes to Aid Toddler Independence

Learning to dress oneself is a key component of the Practical Life area of the Montessori classroom.

But zippers, buttons and snaps can be a huge struggle for a toddler!

Aid your toddler’s independence by choosing clothing they can (for the most part) get into and out off all by themselves. Don’t worry, tying double knots will come soon enough!

Pants with stretchy waistbands and loose ankles

It’s tempting to choose a pair of pants with a button and zipper, but for a child who is just learning to go to the bathroom, choose roomier pants instead.

We like these basics from Primary Kid’s Clothing (no affiliation): The Jogger – kid’s sizes – or the Baby Sweatpant -birth to 24 months.

Slip on Shoes

When a child wants to get outside to play, it can be frustrating to find an adult to help them put shoes on. Instead, look for shoes that support your child’s play, but that slip on and off easily.

We like Keens because they are sturdy and supportive but utilize velcro and stretchy material for toddler independence! Check out these Keens for kids.

The bigger, the better.

A rule of thumb for any clothing you find for you toddler is the bigger, the better. Not the size, but instead the features that your child will have to master to successfully dress themselves. For example, look for big buttons on sweaters, zippers with a big pull tap, or snaps that aren’t too sticky or difficult.

A toddler is extremely capable, and by using the ideas above, we know that your child will be dressing themselves in no time!

Help Your Child Learn Patience

So much of the learning your child does before age 6, or formal school age, is learning how to interact with other humans.

These learning moments of “What happens, when…” are grouped into Grace and Courtesy lessons in the Montessori classroom. They are essential to building a positive school community.

You can incorporate Grace and Courtesy lesson at home as well, and today we’d like to touch on a very important topic: How to ask and wait for help.

Even the most independent child needs help throughout the day. And it feels wonderful to help them! But learning to ask politely and then wait for help if it isn’t available immediately is an important skill that your child can practice from a young age.

Introduce the topic to your child through modeling. Make a point of asking your child for help using the language you’d like to teach them: “Would you help me please?”

Next, give your child gentle reminders of how to ask for help from others, like neighbors, grandparents or friends. “You can ask John for help. Do you remember how to ask?”

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, establish trust with your child by always following through. For example, if your child asks for help but you are unavailable at that moment, simply tell them so. “I can help you as soon as I’m finished changing your brother’s diaper.”

Then, be sure to follow up when you say you will. In this way your child will practice patience, but also trust that you won’t forget them if they wait patiently.

The first few times you ask your child to wait, there may be tears or tantrums. But working through these moments of frustration will teach your child how to act appropriately in a group, and these lessons will serve them for life.

Being the Center of Attention

Parties and family gatherings are an exciting and sometimes scary time for young children. They move from a calm home environment to a space where everyone wants to spend time with them.

Of course, all that attention isn’t meant to overwhelm your child! And there’s something you can do to get ready.

Before an event like birthday parties or holidays, prepare a little role play game to help your child be the center of attention with grace and poise.

Try these scenarios at your own home:

1. Knock on your front door with your child and ask another family member (older sibling or other parent) to pretend to be your host. Practice shaking hands or hugging and saying hello.
2. If you’re bringing a gift, practice handing it to your host saying, “This is for you.” It’s a great ice breaker!
3. As you enter the home, practice taking shoes off and hanging coats up, and explain to your child that this is what guests do at a party.
4. If your child would like to find a place to play or read a book quietly, practice asking your host, “May I use your bedroom?” or “Where can I play?”

By preparing in this way, your child will understand the ins and outs of social etiquette!

Every holiday or birthday party you attend will be a new learning experience, and your child will be ready to be a graceful and considerate guest.

The “I Don’t Want To” Blues

“I don’t want to go to school!”

We’ve heard it before, and we’ll hear it again. In fact, we sometimes may even think it ourselves in the form of, “I don’t want to go to work!”

Children and adults alike sometimes struggle to do the things we know we “should” do, dishes and laundry being great examples.

But when a child says, “I don’t want to go to school!” what might he or she mean?

  • It could mean that they’ve had a great weekend at home with mom and dad, and don’t understand why you now have to be parted.
  • It could mean that school is scary because it’s a new place with new faces and customs.
  • It could mean that they’re tired or hungry! Maybe they didn’t rest well the night before.

There are so many reasons a child might not want to go to school on a particular day. Here are a few ways to get through this hesitation in a positive, non-threatening way:

  • Look at the calendar together and speak about which days are school days and which days are stay-at-home days. Doing this regularly will help your child establish a solid routine and feel safe in the knowledge of what’s ahead.
  • Take an extra moment to sit quietly together. Let your child tell you exactly what it is that is bothering them, and give quiet reassurance that everything will be OK.
  • Help your child remember all of the things they like about school. Mention specific friends they like to play with, a special treat you put in their lunchbox, or the story they get to tell their favorite teacher upon arrival at school.
  • Walk them through the day, step-by-step. “First I will drop you off and we will have a hug and a kiss. Then you will go to school to be with your friends, and I will go to work. After that I will pick you up right here, and we will go home together to have dinner and playtime.”

Everyday is a new day, and by reacting calmly and assuredly, your child will soon cherish their dependable school routine.

When NOT to Help Your Child

Your child is capable of doing so many things for themselves. Of course, as a parent, you want to help your child when they are struggling or frustrated.

But for your child’s development, confidence and independence, it’s important to pause a few seconds before stepping in. Observe if your child is actually struggling, or just developing new skills.

Here are a few situations in which you might need to ‘sit on your hands’ rather than jumping in to help right away:

  1. Your child is working on zipping up their coat. They make a few attempts, don’t get it right away, and turn to you. Instead of zipping the whole thing up, get the zipper started, working slowly so your child can watch, and let them zip the coat to the top. Next time, perhaps ask your child, “Remember how I did it?” and guide them with words. Eventually, your child will no longer need you!
  2. Opening a container or lunchbox. Odds are, you’ve chosen a lunchbox that your child can manipulate by themselves. Of course, some are trickier than others, but let your child develop hand muscles and coordination by trying to open the container independently. If they need a hand, only open the very corner, and let your child pull the lid the rest of the way!
  3. Putting toys away. “I can’t do it!” might mean “I don’t want to do it.” We all run into these times in our lives, even as adults with a pile of dishes in front of us. If your child is claiming they aren’t capable of picking up a pile of legos, just ‘sit on your hands’ by being present for your child. “I’ll be right here while you pick up your toys.” or “Let’s do this together, because I understand that you’re tired after playing and might need some support.”

In other words, only give the help that is absolutely needed. Start to observe your child carefully. Do they need help, or do they want help, or have they become accustomed to help because it is always present?

“Normal” in the Montessori Classroom

Normalization is one of those Montessori terms that doesn’t have an obvious meaning.

In fact, if you were to have to guess at what it means, you might say a process of forcing children to conform or become ‘normal’, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Normalization, as Maria Montessori used it, describes observations she made about a child’s development.

She observed that if a child is allowed to work at their own pace in a classroom and with materials that had been prepared for them, the child found peace, contentment and satisfaction.

Through the process of normalization, a child also developed self-discipline and intrinsic motivation, two characteristics that can’t really be taught or enforced. That’s one reason Montessori thought of normalization as “the most important single result of our whole work.” (The Absorbent Mind)

A guide’s role in normalization is to make sure the classroom is prepared for children with materials to suit the needs of the group. One child might need gross motor practical life work to get them on their way towards normalization, while another child’s development might demand advanced math activities!

When a child’s developmental needs are met and normalization is achieved, you’ll witness an entire classroom working peacefully and contentedly!

5 Tips for Packing as a Family

Traveling as a family can be stressful. But with a little preparation, packing and getting ready for a weekend getaway can be fun and educational for young children.

Use the 5 tips below to ease your packing woes, and make sure to get everyone involved, even the youngest children!

Tip: Less is more.

Especially when packing for the whole family, it’s easy to get sucked into the “What if we need this” black hole. But really, packing just the right amount can help you feel at ease about having enough room in the car, save time when you get in and out of hotels, and make it less likely that you misplace or lose an important item. Go for less, and remember that if an emergency pops up you’re never too far from a corner store.

Tip: Let go of perfection.

Traveling gets messy. For adults and children! Remember that a crummy car can be vacuumed out when you get home, and in fact put that on your list of things the kids can help with. Be prepared in the car with easy to access garbage bags, and make sure your child knows where they are and how to use them. Gentle reminders never hurt either.

Tip: Pick Multi-Purpose.

Using one item for two purposes means saved space. When your cooler is empty from the trip TO your destination, use it to store recyclables that you want to take home. Can a car blanket double up as an extra layer under your sleeping bag in your tent? Lastly, think carefully about the size of backpacks/bags you bring along. Choose one that can double up for day trips when you reach your destination, whether it’s supplies for a day hike or a trip to the zoo.

Tip: Roll it up!

Rolling clothing is a great way to prevent wrinkles and see at a glance what exactly is in your bag. Best of all, it’s great fine motor control practice for children of all ages. Lay out the item on the floor, tuck in sleeves on shirts, and ask your child to roll the item up tight! If you pack a single layer of clothing this way, it’s easy to access specific items when you want them.

Tip: Let your child help you pack.

That’s how they learn! In addition to rolling clothing, your child can practice getting their own things ready for a trip. Speak together about what you’ll be doing, one step at a time. “We’ll be swimming. What do you need?” or  “We’ll be spending the night. What do you need for bed?”

Independence starts early, and you can help your child by providing this type of practice!