Tuesday
Jul212015

The Virtues Project at CHMS

When you visit Children's House Montessori School (CHMS) of Reston you'll notice something that you won't see at every school. Our children are respectful, kind, courteous, helpful, and thoughtful to one another and to the teachers. We often have parents come to observe and notice how peacefully the children all work together during the work cycle, what good manners they have during lunch time, how cooperatively they play together during outdoor recess, and how respectfully they treat the teachers. We believe that in addition to having wonderful families as part of our community, the Virtues Project and the intentional teaching of virtues to the children has made a significant difference in our classrooms.

Several years ago, we invited Dara Feldman to come in and share the Virtues Project with us. This initiative includes the "practice of virtues in everyday life" in hopes of "sparking a global revolution of kindness, justice, and integrity." We thoroughly enjoyed working with Ms. Feldman and decided to implement the program in our school because we have seen first hand how "the Virtues Project empowers individuals to live more authentic meaningful lives, families to raise children of compassion and integrity, educators to create safe, caring, and high performing learning communities..."

We use Virtue Cards that include one word, one virtue for the day. The card lists the definitions, examples, and affirmations for the word. We start by reading them aloud first thing in the morning and we read it again during circle time to teach the children the vocabulary of virtues. We also use the words in everyday interactions to teach the children to use the words with one another. We host family education nights on the topic of the Virtues Project to help our families to understand and integrate the language and use of virtues in their own homes. Finally, we we find ways to integrate the themes into our curriculum as well.

We invite you use the virtues in your daily interactions and let us know what a difference it makes! 

Friday
Jul102015

Our Montessori Kindergarten Art Appreciation Program

One of the highlights of the kindergarten year here at CHMS in Reston is studying some of the great artists of the world.  The children truly love learning about art history and artists throughout the year. We have a entire hallway dedicated to their masterpieces, take a field trip to the National Gallery of Art to see the paintings first hand, and every May we host a Kindergarten Art Show for parents to view their children's accomplishments. It's during the Art Show that parents realize just how much time and effort their children put into their art work...

Each week throughout the school year, the children learn about the history of art. We start with a book called "The First Drawing" by Mordicai Gerstein and then we take a make believe field trip to the Lascaux Caves in France (a sight famous for Paleolithic cave paintings). The caves were discovered in the 1940s by young boys who were out exploring the area when one of their dogs fell into a hidden underground cave.  Our kindergarteners are always surprised to learn that one of the greatest discoveries in art history was made by chidlren.

We set up a room across the hallway from the classroom with posters of Cave Art, turn off all the lights (it has no windows so it's really dark), and take the kids on an adventure to see what we can discover. We bring along a flash light and gather together in the center of the room to "ooh" and "aah" over the amazing images we are finding on the walls of the "cave" we have stumbled upon. It's always a fun day, and a wonderful, hands-on introduction to art history that the children remember and talk about all year.

Next we learn about Functional Art, which is anything that serves a purpose and has been decorated. We show examples of items that are plain and compare them to ones that have been decorated - a wooden bowl vs. a carved wooden bowl, a plain white porcelin vase vs. one that has been elaborately painted and decorated. We look around the school for all types of examples to use: flower pots, clocks, trays, anything we can find. We ask the children to think about things in their homes that might be considered Functional Art. They are interested to learn that a long, long time ago, people started creating tools and items to help them in their daily lives (bowls, baskets, clothing, etc) and at some point along the way, they decided that making those items beautiful was also important. Between the Cave Art and the Functional Art we establish that humans have been creating art for a very long time and in many different ways and now WE, the kindergarten class, are a part of that history as well.

We then begin our study of the lives and works of famous artists - some of whom are Johannes Vermeer (Golden Age), Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt (Impressionism), Vincent Van Gogh (Post-Impressionism), and Pablo Picasso (Cubism). We use a series of books called "Getting to Know the Worlds Greatest Artists" by Mike Venezia. Each book is about an individual artist, with details of their lives, pictures of his or her most famous works, and a few cartoons sprinkled throughout to add a little kid-humor. The children love these stories and learn so much about the artists in a fun way. We introduce artists that have an interesting story that might capture their interest like Rousseau, who never had a single art lesson and never traveled anywhere, yet painted incredibly imaginative jungle scenes, and Pippin, who was injured in World War I and had to use his left hand to support his right hand when he painted. These little details stick with the children and really leave an impression. Monet is a regular favorite and seeing "The Japanese Footbridge" during our field trip is always a highlight for the children. We also share with the children a portfolio of post cards of the artists' work to further tell the story of the artists.

We spend a month on each artist learning about their style of art and what makes them unique.  We usually have three or four art projects where we try our hand at the artist's unique style. Several of them are group projects, like the large "murals" of the Japanese Foot Bridge by Claude Monet and Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. The rest are individual projects. We draw their attention to little things and think about how the artist was feeling or what they were thinking/doing when they decided to create their paintings. We use the "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artist" series of books as well as books by Laurence Anholt to get to know who these artists where in an effort to better understand some of the choices they made about their art and what might have happened in their lives to motivate them artistically in some way. We also demonstrate specific techniques each artist used to create their works. The children can reproduce the works at the easel, just like they see the artists do at the National Gallery of Art during our field trip. 

During our field trip in the spring, the children recognize and know the stories about many of the pieces that they see.  The museum tour is led by a docent, and the children each receive their own sketch book to use as they learn more about these paintings during our time there. 

The children gain a true appreciation for art throughout their kindergarten year, and we have as much fun with the studies as they do.  It is such a joy watching them so engaged and learning to love the world of art.

 

You can read about our kindergarten program on this blog post or on our website. Please contact us to learn more!

Thursday
Jul022015

Kindergarten at Children's House Montessori School

Kindergarten is a unique and wonderful experience for the children at CHMS. Earth Keeper activities, an annual Art Show, and three field trips that expand on our learning in the classrooms are just a few of the things that the children most look forward to in their kindergarten year.

The kindergarten children spend each morning in their own classroom working on advanced math and language materials to prepare them for the tough work ahead each afternoon when our two classrooms combine for kindergarten from 1:00-2:30.

Some of our lessons are designed to help our children learn to collaborate on a group project and work together toward a common goal, since much of the work they've done in preschool and pre-k was done independently or with one or two other children. Other lessons are accomplished individually with the goal of listening and following instructions to prepare them for their adventures as first graders. We also work each week to teach the children to pay attention to details, to lengthen their concentration, to focus on a task, to learn about cooperation, improve their fine motor skills, and teach them to strive to do their best.

For the kindergarten children, our afternoons are dedicated to more in-depth work in handwriting, story and poem writing, advanced math concepts, science and geography, Earth Keepers, sensorial, sewing, nature hikes, and art appreciation.

 

  • We do handwriting every day for 15 minutes at the beginning of class. Children are taught the proper way to form each lower case letter, and practice in their writing journal. We then move on to capital letters, numbers, 3 and 4 letter phonetic words, sight words, phonograms, sentence writing, punctuation, and spelling tests. 
  • In addition to the creative writing the children do in the mornings, kindergarten children do story and poem writing. They write acrostic poems about the seasons, Japanese haikus about nature, and stories about the three field trips we take each year. 
  • Special math lessons include money, time, temperature, graphing, fractions, and measurement. We track the weather throughout the year and in May we create a line graph, a bar graph, and a pie graph to compare the weather through the seasons, and count the money collected for our Global Outreach each year.
  • Science lessons include learning about vertebrate and invertebrate animals in zoology and trees, flowers and leaves in botany. We draw and name the fins of a fish, take a hike in our neighborhood to collect, rub, and label leaves, and take a listening nature hike to graph how many different species of birds we find, just to name a few. 
  • In geography, we study the seven continents, as well as cultures and biomes. Two of our favorite lessons are when we draw a South American rainforest complete with native flora and fauna, and paint an Ndebele village from Africa.  
  • Earth Keepers includes work in our gardens to create a natural habitat for the animals that visit, maintain our certified National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard habitat with food, water, shelter and a place to raise young. We take nature hikes in our deciduous forest to learn about and sketch nature - we sketch our woodland biome and label the parts of the biome - land, air, water, plants, animals, energy (sun). 
  • Sensorial activities include the manipulation of sensorial materials, comparing and contrasting shape, size, and color. Some of the activities we do include painting shades of a color from light to dark and creating patterns of circles of graded size from the knobless cylinder boxes. 
  • Sewing is a favorite activity in the classroom. The children learn the major stitches by sewing projects throughout the year.  They cross stitch initials on fabric, make a pouch of whip stitch and bead design,
    and make a creative critter with blanket stitch and button eyes. Stitches they learn include: running stitch, back stitch, whip stitch, cross stitch, and blanket stitch, plus bead and button sewing.   
  • In art appreciation, or the study of art history, we begin with cave art, functional art, and then study 8 famous artists such as Johannes Vermeer, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, and Pablo Picasso. Our focus is on the lives of the artists, learning what makes each artist special, experimenting with the techniques the artists used, and being able to recognize several of the most well known pieces from each artist. At the end of the year, the kindergarten children display their work during an Art Show.

We also enjoy three field trips each year.  Each field trip is intended to expand upon our classroom curriculum when we take the children out to experience what they have learned at the Montgomery County Recycling Center, George Mason University Center for the Arts to see a live play, and the National Gallery of Art to see paintings by the famous artists we have studied in art appreciation. 

Read more about our art appreciation focus and our kindergarten program

Monday
Jun222015

Summer Activities for the Montessori Child

It’s time for swimming, catching fireflies, and the family vacation that you’ve probably been planning for months!  It’s time to slow down a little, relax, and have some fun.  But learning never stops, so we put together a few ideas and Pinterest boards of things for you to do with your child(ren) this summer to help them return to school refreshed and ready to continue their learning adventure at Children's House. 
 
You don’t have to create elaborate crafts or activities or even do any formal education over the summer to help your child retain what they’ve learned and be excited and ready to return to our school in September. Simply focusing on a few things like reading (together and alone), encouraging their natural curiosity, and looking for opportunities to let them problem solve will teach them that learning is important and fun.  That will prepare them for our Montessori classroom in the fall.
  1. Read to your child and let him/her see you reading alone without interruption for a few minutes every day.  Simply taking a few minutes each day to show them that reading is important will help your child on his/her journey toward literacy.  Here are a few suggestions for making reading a fun priority this summer...
    • Make a cozy reading nook with your child, if you don’t have one already. This special cozy place could be indoors away from disruptions, or outside in your yard or a nearby park. You can have a special chair or blanket that is just for reading, a favorite cuddle toy, a reading lamp, a plant or something beautiful to look at, and give your child(ren) a few choices of books to read, changing the books every few days.  We have collected some great ideas on this Reading Nook Pinterest Board.
    • Read aloud, and do it often - Choose simple chapter books that have a few pictures and curl up for a few minutes each day to read aloud to your child. Reading chapter books allows your child to focus on listening to what fluent reading sounds like and he/she will be copying the way you read very soon. Chapter books also encourage children to use their imagination when they visualize the story in their minds.
    • Encourage quiet reading time in your cozy nook, during rest time, or outside under a tree before gets too hot each morning.  Choose a variety of picture books or children’s magazines and show your child how to do a picture walk through their reading material, using the pictures to create their own story.
    • Read a variety of materials in front of your child such as magazines, newspapers, and books, while he/she is reading quietly. Show your child that reading is important, enjoyable, and relaxing to you…they will do what they see you do.     
  2. Encourage curiosity because inquisitive children will grow to have a true love of learning. Almost all children are naturally curious, but their insatiable thirst for knowledge will almost completely diminish by third grade if we don't show them that it's important to us.  In the hustle/bustle of everyday life, we don't always take the time to value curiosity and nurture it, to pay attention to what our children are asking of us.  But it is one of the best things you can do for your child's education, now - and in the future.  Here are a few ways in which you can encourage curiosity:
    • Listen to their stories - really listen and talk to your child about what they are telling you.
    • Find out what is interesting to them and look for opportunities to help them learn more. 
    • Provide detailed  answers their questions.
    • Show them how to find information they are looking for on their own.
    • Take notice of things around you and ask thought provoking questions eg. "Look at that beautiful cardinal - Have you ever wondered why some are red and others are brown?" Don't tell them the answer, instead try saying something like "Me too - Let's look it up!"
    • Do simple science experiments together just to see what will happen - eg. "Do you think this penny will sink or float?" or "Let's see how long it will take an ice cube to melt in the sun vs. in the air conditioned house." Here is a Pinterest Board of Easy Science Experiments to help you get started.
    • Look at Google Earth together and talk about places that interest them. You can plan pretend vacations to that place to learn about what it's like there or play I Spy Famous Landmarks.
  3. Find ways to let your child(ren) problem solve.  Problem solving is a skill that will forever be useful, no matter how sophisticated technology may become.  Children who enjoy problem solving will do better in math and science, as well as have better decision-making skills.  Here are a few things to consider to promote problem solving this summer.
    • Go Geocaching together - Some of the caches are more family-friendly than others and even have prizes (or take one/leave one types of hides). We strongly recommend planning ahead for this activity if you've never done it before and choose an easy cache that your child will enjoy and that isn't frustratingly difficult for them to solve with a little help.  
    • Take a walk and let them guide you to a familiar place and home again. If they make a wrong turn, let them figure it out, as long as it's safe and you know how to get home, of course.
    • Follow directions to make something together - Help them read the directions and let them figure out how to put something together. If you don't have any projects that need constructing, you can find simple crafts in the dollar bin at Michael's or Target that have just a few steps with written instructions to help them learn to put follow directions. 
    • Bake together - Help your child(ren) read recipes and figure out how to make something - a snack, a treat, or even lunch or dinner!  If the recipe is too difficult, take a few minutes to rewrite it so that they understand and can follow it (then use the original to help guide YOU). Here are a few tips for baking with young children:
      • If your child is 3 years or younger, consider measuring the ingredients before you invite them to the activity and tehn put the already measured ingredients in individual small bowls to speed up the process.
      • If your child is 4-5 and a pre-reader, consider getting out only the measuring items and ingredients they will need and allow them to figure out the process and do the measuring while you read the recipe. Occasionally you can choose a cooking/baking activity that allows them to feel like they can do it on their own by creating a picture recipe for them to follow alone - some easy snacks may include celery and peanut butter (or cream cheese), a sandwich, instant pudding, or popcorn.
      • If your child can read, they would be thrilled if you pretended to be their assistant and let them do all of the reading and measuring.

 

Wednesday
Jun172015

Pajama Day! Hooray!!!

 

Pajama Day is one of the most anticipated days of the year for our students at Children's House Montessori School. It is also the very last day of school each year.  The children wear their pajamas to school and bring a blanket, stuffed animal, and a flashlight with them for the festivities. They "roast" marshmallows over the flashlight fire, get cozy cuddling with their stuffed animals on our blanket, and get creative with crafts.  The preschoolers are especially excited because they've never experienced it before, but the pre-ks and kindergarteners talk about it all year.  The pre-ks can't wait because they remember all the fun from last year.  And the kindergarten children know it's the last event of their time at CHMS and enjoy showing their friends how it's done.  The kindergarteners also receive their yearbooks at the end of the day and have an opportunity to let their friends sign them. 

 

Well, today was Pajama Day and the end of the school year celebration. We all had a blast!  Our theme was a beach party - so the children brought their beach towels and we enjoyed decorating beach supplies - sand buckets and awesome personalized cups.  For the pot luck, each family brought their favorite dish to share. This is always a favorite because we find new recipes we love and get to try new foods/dishes we may never have tried before. 

While we are always sad for the year to end, this is also one of our favorite days. It's a day to celebrate the hard work and all the friendships made by each of the kindergarten children who will be starting a new journey in 1st grade - to celebrate the pre-ks who are almost anxious for summer to be over already so they can being their adventure at Children's House as the big kids in the fall - to celebrate the preschoolers who just a few months ago came to us ready to being their Montessori experience and are now eager for more...soon they will be learning to read and will be able to help their new 3 year old friends who will be joining us in a few short months.

We hope you all have a safe and wonderful summer! For our famlies who are moving on, please keep in touch, send us pictures, and come to visit once in a while - we'll miss you all!