MMS publishes learning at home handbook
In the face of continuing school closures, Mountaineer Montessori School has created a toolkit for families thrust into homeschooling. “Together with Mountaineer Montessori: Share. Support. Thrive” is a road map for bringing education into the home. It includes practical advice for establishing a home learning environment, child development considerations, digital citizenship policies, and authentic, high-quality, curriculum–aligned Montessori activities to extend education beyond the classroom walls.
The toolkit was created by MMS faculty for parents of the 142 students ages 3-14 currently enrolled at the school, but the tips and strategies included can enhance learning at home for all children. Copies are available free of charge on the school website.
In addition to quality at-home academic lessons, the handbook places an emphasis on age-appropriate “practical life” activities that nurture intellectual, emotional and social development. These range from food preparation to tidying the home, from gardening to pet care.
Practical life activities provide a way for even the youngest children to contribute to family life. Inherent in these activities is the development of key executive functions: decision making, organization, problem-solving, impulse control, collaboration and communication. These skills form the foundation of a child’s academic learning. For example, sequencing is a pre-reading skill.
Practical life is engaging for children at all stages of development and tasks are designed according to their level of coordination and independence. Families can organize a job chart or list of family projects to help guide their children. Planning and gathering resources to complete the tasks is purposeful work. These ideas foster a sense of contribution, responsibility, shared experiences and satisfaction. As children get older, these activities lead naturally to volunteer experiences and beginnings of community work. For adolescents, many of these practical life experiences are the foundation of their sense of belonging and personal vision.
Follow the child
The new publication is grounded in one of the key tenets of Montessori education: follow the child.
“Over the past three weeks, we’ve all learned that Montessori schools never ‘close’ and experienced the Montessori way of education as an aid to life–much more than a building or even the beautiful manipulative materials found in the classroom,” says MMS Director Jennifer Carriger. “What really matters is meeting children as they are and where they are and providing the inspiration, support and guidance they need to develop to their fullest potential.”
The new handbook was created to support children and their families in this new learning dynamic.
Montessori teachers rise to the challenge
All educators are facing extraordinary challenges at this time, but perhaps nowhere more so than for Montessori teachers, who utilize hands on learning, responsive instruction,individually tailored lessons and custom materials rather than textbooks, worksheets and iPads.
MMS teachers, driven by passion and purpose, have met this challenge head on, creating an entirely new education system in a matter of days.
As Maria Montessori said, “Now, what really makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the educator into the higher consciousness of a mission.”
Learning is now happening with a variety of tools, depending on the age of the child. Lessons and customized activity plans for primary students are emailed to parents, supplemented by read aloud, sharing time, song and dance lessons, art projects, physical education and other activities presented on a private Facebook group.
Older students participate in class meetings via Zoom and Google Hangouts and receive appropriate lessons and assignments via email from their teachers. All MMS teachers hold virtual office hours and schedule one-on-one chats with parents and children.
The Middle School has a robust and now fully implemented online program using the full variety of technology tools to keep students engaged, challenged and on track to meet state curriculum standards to prepare them for transition to traditional high schools in our area.
MMS specialists continue their work via videos and online meetings. Music and art programs are hosted online and reading specialists continue individual lessons with students via Zoom.
One reading teacher is even working from her yurt in South Charleston.
“I teach Wilson Reading lessons, and like many of my colleagues, I’ve had the challenge of translating multi-sensory, interactive learning into a format that can be delivered remotely via Zoom,” says MMS Reading Specialist Lindy Hoeft. “It has been an opportunity to think outside the box of the way I normally teach, and while it doesn’t all translate, much of it does and my students continue to benefit from personalized support.
“Parents and students have been extremely patient, and it’s always exciting to see a student’s smiling face on my screen when we connect. While we may miss each other and our normal routine, the children seem pretty excited to engage with learning and technology in a different way.”
Feedback from parents has been supportive and positive
“If I could find one positive in all of this, it’s that, by providing lessons and videos for the kids to do at home, it has given the parents an opportunity to become more familiar with the Montessori curriculum,” said Lauren Winter, the parent of two MMS students. “It is almost like its own fully immersive parent education program. I thank everyone at MMS for all that they are doing during this time. It is very much appreciated by both the students and the parents.”
“Maria Montessori didn’t have a plan for learning during a pandemic, but there is a Montessori way to respond to every situation: look to the child,” says Carriger. “I am so proud of and inspired by our wonderful school community. Teachers, parents and children are working with ingenuity, grace and resilience, ever mindful of our greater shared purpose. I know we will all emerge from the current situation even stronger and united in our service to the child, our community and our world.