What Makes Montessori Schools Different from Traditional Education?

Imagine walking into a preschool classroom. Two students are finger painting at an easel in the corner, a group of five is actively creating a city out of colored blocks, and another small group is matching rhyming pictures. At the center of it all, a teacher bends down to meet the eyes of a little girl, “I noticed you were interested in the dominoes yesterday. Can I show you a game I know?” 

Sound like a traditional preschool classroom? Not so much. Typically, one or two teachers lead the students in whole-group instruction with some designated “play time” throughout the day. The Montessori Method differs from a traditional preschool framework to provide each student with an individual educational experience. In addition, the method fosters an inner drive and responsibility to learn. montessori school rockville, md

History of Montessori Education

Italian educator, Maria Montessori, developed this philosophy of education on the premise that play is a child’s primary objective. She believed learning should happen naturally through play. The ultimate goal is for each child to become a motivated, curious, and stimulated learner. Here are some of the key differences between traditional preschool and Montessori preschool.

  • Self-Directed: Children are encouraged to choose their path of learning, based on their individual interests and natural talents. Whether your child is interested in dinosaurs or puzzles, he will be able to explore deeply.
  • Carefully Designed Environment: While the Montessori Method emphasizes choice, that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Preschool centers are carefully designed so that children have a variety of options. However, teachers carefully select age-appropriate activities to teach specific skills.
  • Playful: The Montessori classroom ensures children learn and discover without ever knowing they are at “school.” For example, a child building a city of out blocks is learning cooperation, developing fine motor skills, and improving spatial awareness.
  • Hands-On: It’s rare to find a 3-year-old that wants to sit still and gain knowledge by listening to a teacher. While it’s important for preschoolers to learn to follow directions and routines, they learn best by doing. 
  • Independence: The Montessori Method strives to develop and increase independence in each child. Preschoolers learn to clean up after themselves, fix simple snacks, and plan and execute their own learning time. Sound overwhelming? It’s not because the learning environment is set up in a way that promotes this development naturally.
  • Concrete to Abstract Learning: The human brain is wired to learn sequentially. Children form knowledge first by exploring concrete details, facts, and objects. As the learning progresses, children are able to apply the concrete skills and knowledge to more abstract concepts. The Montessori preschool classroom supports and encourages this type of development.

Are Montessori Schools a Good Choice?

Kindergarten ProgramAs you consider this next important step in your child’s development, recognize the benefits a Montessori preschool offers. Your child will experience a calm, supportive educational environment where they are valued as a learner and a person. Think of the big picture. This type of introduction to schooling promotes independence, self-worth, and responsibility. Not only are those skills important throughout childhood, they continue to be mandatory elements of success in life.

Tour Our Rockville, MD Preschool Today

At Norbeck Montessori, we strive to provide a welcoming, educational environment where children can learn and thrive. Come see our preschool and kindergarten students in action and see the difference a Montessori education makes!

Schedule a tour of our Rockville preschool today!

Caretakers vs. Caring: Meaningful Difference

You love and care for your children. You would give your last breath to save their life. You work hard, only wanting to provide the very best for them, both financially and emotionally. You lose sleep worrying about them, sacrifice self-luxuries in order to buy for them, you work – often exhausted day and night all to make sure they are safe and happy.  Yes. You love your children.

We, as parents do all of this because we care for our children. But caring implies a healthy, balanced outlook on parenting. Often we cross the line, as parents, between being a caring parent and caretaker. These two words may have very similar meanings. However there is a fundamental difference: A caring parent is someone who looks after a child who needs attention and support whereas a caretaker is someone who is employed to take care of a thing, place, or person. In a nutshell, caretaking is rooted in our own insecurity and a need to be in control, while caring (caregiver) is a healthy expression of kindness and love. The difference is slight yet very meaningful.

While you do all that you can to protect your child and raise them well, you do not lose sight of the simple fact that some things are beyond your control. On any given day, we as parents face scraped knees, a friend who has hurt their feelings, and other childhood incidents.

A caring parent will roll with the punches realizing that as painful as some of these experiences are they are also learning opportunities that can enrich your child’s appreciation for what’s really important and precious in life. A caring parent will give sympathy, understanding, support, and a Popsicle. A caring parent will not rush out late at night to find a beta fish that looks just like the old beta, so his or her child doesn’t have to feel the pain of knowing that “Star” has passed on!

That parent rushing out late at night is going above-and-beyond- the-call-of-duty – by over caring. This is not a healthy, well-balanced way of parenting. It implies that you will go to great lengths to  protect your child from life, keeping him or her in a happy protective bubble.  Which side of the list below do you see yourself in?

Caretakers vs. Caring Behaviors:

  • Caretakers worry. Are you the only parent on the merry-go-round? Are you blocking your child from playing with others? You might be hovering behind your toddler, ready to protect them from scraps, bumps, or a potential playground bully.

  • Caretakers think they know what's best, planning, organizing their child’s every move, every detail of their day.

  • Caretakers acts as if every incident is an affront to him or her.

  • Caring parents are on the sidelines, encouraging children to make new friends, and get a little messy. Children build resilience by exploring life freely within boundaries.

  • Caring parents provide options in order for the child to gain decision-making skills.

  • Caring parents help and encourage their children to work through their challenges and learn from failure. It is through trial and error that child learn and build confidence.

Maybe you recognize yourself in this list, your husband, best friend or a close family member.  Isn’t it amazing that when you become aware of caretaking behaviors how easy they are to see in yourself and others?

It is important to realize that caretaking parenting is unhealthy. Your children are holding you hostage! Having a child does not define you, it is a part of you. Therefore, if something doesn’t go well for your child, it doesn’t mean you have failed as a parent. As we navigate through parenting, watch out for that blurred line. Of course, try to do your best for your children. However, you don’t want them to be afraid of failure for your sake than their own.

Remember what builds confidence in children is working hard at something and seeing that they accomplished something real – even if the failure was achieved first. Making an effort, persevering, coping and seeing the results builds confidence. So, praise your child’s efforts, manage difficulties, and allow children to learn that the occasional bruise, scrape, or even a broken arm, are all part of growing up.


Montessori Language Development

Language development is ingrained in everyday life and therefore encouraged in a Montessori classroom through freedom of conversation, self-expression, and communication between peers, children, and adults. The Montessori classroom is organized in such a way that all lessons lend themselves naturally towards the development of written and oral language and reading.

Norbeck Montessori encompasses all aspects of language arts as you would traditionally have in a classroom; reading, handwriting, spelling, grammar, creative writing, and oral presentation. Similar to Montessori Math, Language is a system of symbols and corresponding sounds which is a means of communication of ideas and feelings. When a child arrives at Norbeck Montessori, the child has already absorbed an understanding for the use of language. The Primary classroom at Norbeck Montessori has been curated with basic tools for language development.

Introduction to Handwriting

Handwriting is a process that requires much preparation because it combines manual dexterity and the ability to express thoughts with graphic symbols. Our children at Norbeck Montessori are preparing for writing through sound games, and Sandpaper Letters which help the children become aware that each sound has a symbol. With the Moveable Alphabet, children can put thought into symbols, “writing” their first single word. Daily practice of different strokes will refine the child’s hand movements and will continue to train the muscles.


Introduction to Reading

Some children will come to read in the “explosive period,” around 4 ½ years old. However, the child has been preparing for reading all along. Everything the child has been working on up to this point with Practical Life and Sensorial materials helps the child to read. Direct and indirect preparation play a significant role in a child’s joy of learning to read. Sandpaper Letters, the Moveable Alphabet, and playing Sound games help the child to connect the sound to the written symbol. When a child puts symbols and sounds together, they are able to find that a word has meaning. As the child practices this process, they will move into greater and greater ease of reading.

Introduction to Culture

Language is the bridge to culture; it is used as guidance and instruction. Names are given to activities along with their function and purpose to build the child’s vocabulary. Experiences in the arts, dance, music, life and physical sciences, history, and geography all help inform and crystallize language. Every cultural lesson has a sensorial base for the child, teaching the child to participate and contribute which helps them to become an active member of society.

Bring Language Learning Home

Many parents ask how they can bring language learning home. Well, this might be the easiest Montessori area to replicate. The next time you have a conversation with a baby, watch how the baby’s eyes focus on your mouth. Look closely as the baby watches the lips move; he looks at them most intently and tries to imitate the movements.
There is no better time for children to learn words than between 3 and 6 years of age. Children are sponges at this age!

  • Sing Songs with them from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Better yet, make up your own melodies and lyrics!
  • Read, read, and then read some more. Read poems, nursery rhymes, counting books, picture books, or folk tales. Don’t limit yourself to reading books! Written language is everywhere, the grocery store, the doctor’s office, menus in restaurants and highway signs!
  • Go ahead, use big words! Have you noticed that children love to try our big words like architecture or asparagus? Child are not only capable of learning big words and phrases but delighted to use them. So, don’t hold back!
  • Name what the children see, taste, smell, hear and feel. Help them connect the senses to words. When your child puckers their lips after tasting a lemon, provide the words that the child experienced. “Lemons taste very sour, don’t they?”

What is peace education?

Peace education is inherent in every level of the Montessori curriculum. Generally defined, peace education is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge, and developing attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, others and with the natural environment.

What’s that Hum?

When you visit a Montessori classroom, you may marvel at how they seem to have a “hum” to them. At Norbeck Montessori, the children are our classroom are joyful, relaxed, and happy. Children are encouraged to choose lessons and activities that they enjoy as long as it is age and level appropriate. As the children freely move about the classroom, they are interacting with their peers. The role of the teacher in our classrooms is to observe the children’s interests and needs of each child, make sure the children are engaged, connected children to the curated environment, and protect their work once they are immersed in concentration. The “hum” you experience in when visiting a Montessori classroom is the sound of purpose, satisfaction, and joy. We simply love it!

But this all doesn’t happen magically! It is our teachers and assistance that help protect children’s work by showing classmates how to watch a peer do their work, how to walk around a work rug, or how to interrupt politely. It is through ongoing Grace and Courtesy presentations that children gain the tools for peacefully resolving conflicts and ways to cultivate a peaceful and productive environment for engaged learning.

A Framework for Peace

Going hand-in-hand with Norbeck Montessori’s peace education is our Grace & Courtesy curriculum. Our children from our Transitional Two’s to Primary Preschool and Kindergarten program practice simple lessons. These lessons are based respect for others, self, and the environment. Below is a sample of elements related to our Peace Education.

A Sampling of Grace & Courtesy Lessons

  • How to walk around a students work rug
  • How to greet someone
  • How and when to say “excuse me”
  • How to ask for help from a teacher and/or friend
  • What to say if someone says “you’re not my friend”
  • How to tell someone how you are feeling; sad, happy, angry, or frustrated
  • How to watch someone do work
  • How to clean up your snack and or lunch
  • What to do if you’re really angry
  • How to agree to disagree
  • Encourage donating to Norbeck Montessori’s quarterly donation drives

How can parents continue teaching Peace Education at home?

Peace truly begins at home. The basics of peace are taught through a child’s’ day-to-day environment.

  1. Model empathy. We know that children are great imitators of our behavior. When children are surrounded by people who love them and respond to them with authentic empathy, they will respond this way to others.
  2. Model respect for all cultures and all people. Use The Golden Rule to guide you, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Dispel stereotyping by viewing each person as worthy of respect.
  3. Find peace in nature. Get outside, go for walks, or simply let them explore nature in their own way. Children often seek out a secret outdoor space, even if it’s a corner of the backyard. Respect their need for private exploration and inner reflection that nature inspires.
  4. Carve out time for creative free play. Children at any age need plenty of time for unstructured, self-directed play. Make-believe play reduces aggression and increased empathy in children. It is a time that children work through their feelings of fear and sadness, to find comfort, and to explore the world and develop relationships.
  5. Establish a “Family Foundation”. Create a “Piggy-Bank” for donations – a miniature family foundation. Encourage family and friends to add money to the bank. This is a wonderful way to introduce children to giving. When the time is right, choose a charity together, maybe one that has personal meaning for the family.

Support and encourage children to become involved with local needs and promote social change around the globe. Children benefit enormously from volunteering at animal shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, soup kitchens, and the like. Inspire children to learn about the world outside their own experiences through charities reaching abroad, show them how to make a positive impact on a global scale. One simple way is to encourage your child to create their own peace prayers, poems, and art, share it on social media with #JoinTogether.

The Benefits of Setting Limits

Summer Fun
Ahh, summer break, and if your house was anything like mine, some of the limits and boundaries had relaxed or went out the window altogether. I noticed it; I’m sure my son noticed it and certainly, my sanity or the lack thereof, noticed it. But, it was summer.

Limits and boundaries are healthy and essential for children in their emotional development and well-being. As parents, we tend to set limits around things that will keep our children safe and reflect our values. For example:

  • If eating meals as a family is important to you, then you are likely to set limits to ensure that your family shares meals together.
  • If your children spend lots of time watching television or playing on their devices and you don’t like it or value it, you are likely to set limits on screen time.
  • If you value your children getting plenty of sleep and being well rested, you are likely to set limits on bed time.

Having limits offers children a sense of security and comfort, and teaches them self-control. Limits also help guide children to develop other life skills such as delayed gratification and how to deal with frustration. Developing these skills within their daily lives, whether it be at home or their preschool or school, allows them to practice them and apply them in the community and relationships with friends.

Now that we are wrapping up the second week of September, and we all are vigorously trying to get back our “normal” schedule and family structure by reintroducing limits and boundaries, the question is “How do we set limits that work?”

  • Be practical. If the limits require too much “policing,” they will be a burden to enforce and ultimately won’t work.
  • Be consistent. Consider this example. If one day you allow your child as much screen time as they want because you need to get some work done, however, the next day you limit it, it’s hard for your child to take the limit seriously.
  • Use consequences. As you discuss limits with your children, have a conversation about the consequences. My experience has been that if consequences are known in advance, they tend to be more effective because the child knows what will happen should they choose to ignore the limits. The key to consequences, regardless of what the consequence is, is to be consistent in applying them.
  • Discuss limits and consequences as a family. Discuss why you are setting the limit and invite your children to provide input (if age appropriate). Invite your child to have input and help develop the limits and consequences if they do, they are more likely to buy into them and follow them.
  • Firm but kind. Your children will test the limits. Be firm yet kind, so your children learn to respect the limits and take them seriously.

Children who feel loved and valued by their parents will be more likely to accept correction and limits. Be ready to tell your child “no” quite often during this process. Take the time to explain why they can’t do something rather than just telling them no. For preschoolers, roll out the limits a few at a time. Your preschool child needs to be able to achieve success with following one limit before moving to another. If limits are new to your preschooler, pay attention to how the limits are affecting them. The importance of setting limits isn’t to crush their spirit. Be sure they know you love them which is why you have limits and boundaries that keep them safe and teaches them your family values.

First Aid Tips for Ticks

Tick summer campBoo-boos, and bug bites – oh my! This summer, keep your child safe in the great outdoors. Some experts have warned that 2017 could be a bad year for the disease-carrying ticks. However, before you forbid your child from going outside, and locking your windows and doors, it’s important to know that most tick bites are harmless and don’t need medical treatment.

Many folks are familiar with the tick-borne Lyme disease, but it’s the Powassan virus that is stirring up all the attention recently. This relatively uncommon disease, Powassan virus, can lead to serious neurological impairment and death if untreated. Approximately 1 in 15 people who contract the disease die from it. In the past decade, there have been 75 cases of Powassan reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At Norbeck, we are very aware of the dangers ticks can possess; which is why we take extra precautions on our playgrounds and with administering first aid. Not only do we make sure to steer the children clear of where ticks tend to ‘hide’- long grass & heavily wooded areas but we also take the extra step of having both our playgrounds treated for ticks by Infestation Control, a locally owned and operated pest control company. They use all natural “pet and children safe” products when treating the areas. When removing a tick, we always use tender loving care (and tweezers). We make sure to follow the proper procedures for extracting them and cleaning the area afterwards. We immediately notify the parents and advise them to contact their pediatrician as well.

What Symptoms to Look For

Bites from ticks found in Maryland may result in Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease. Symptoms for either can appear anywhere from 3-32 day following a bite. Symptoms may present as flu-like, making it difficult to detect.

Summer is a great time for children to enjoy different outdoor activities. Below are some resources to help keep them safe and healthy!

For parents:

CDC – Ticks (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/)
CDC – Powassan Virus (https://www.cdc.gov/powassan/)
CDC – Preventing Tick Bites (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html)
Tick Bites Fact Sheet (http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/tick-bites-sheet.html)
Tick Removal: A Step-by-Step Guide (http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/tick-removal.html?WT.ac=p-ra)

For kids:

CDC ID Ticks (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/tickID.html)
Hey! A Tick Bit Me! (http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/tick.html?WT.ac=p-ra)
What’ Lyme Disease (http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/lyme-disease.html?WT.ac=k-ra)

Teach and Honor This Memorial Day

2017 Memorial Day

Who doesn’t love a nice three-day weekend? For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the official beginning of summer; time for pools to open, barbecues with friends and playing in the surf. However, to military families, the meaning runs much deeper. Memorial Day is the day on which those who died in active military service are remembered. Teaching young children the meaning of this day can be difficult. It is important for children to understand why Memorial Day is a holiday and what it means to our country’s history and our military families.

There are several ways to explain and honor this holiday with your children. Spend time talking to them about what Memorial Day means to you, and share stories about friends and family members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

• Visit a local veteran’s cemetery
• Take cookies, books, or movies to a nearby veteran’s hospital
• Go to a Memorial Day parade
• Plan a scavenger hunt that helps them learn about the history of Memorial Day
• Find Memorial Day coloring pages, craft projects, word searches, quizzes and more
• Create a card or picture to be sent overseas to a soldier currently on active duty

Share with us the ways your family celebrates and honors Memorial Day.

When is the right time to start schooling?

toddler education

Increasingly high-quality early childhood education has been linked to having a positive influence on a child’s development and school readiness by providing valuable educational and social experiences. Recent research shows that 85% of a child’s brain develops in the first five years[1]. During this critical time, children learn to think, read, remember, listen, as well as, hone their social and emotional well-being. According to research conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research, children who enter school at an earlier age had somewhat higher levels of anti-social or worried behavior and found to have improved cognitive development[2].
The early childhood experiences, quality of education and attention that children receive during the first five years of their lives, sets them up for future success.

Studies have concluded that early childhood education:

  • Nurtures the natural curiosity, confidence, desire and enjoyment of learning.
  • Improved social skills for building relationships and working well with others.
  • Decreased or eliminates the need for special education instruction during subsequent school years.
  • Positively impacts brain structure, enhances attention span and stimulates and hones core cognitive skills for academic achievement.

Additionally, some researchers have concluded that young children enrolled in high-quality pre-school programs graduate from high school, are more likely to attend college, have fewer behavioral problems, and during their adolescent and young adult years, do not become involved with crime.

During these sensitive periods for learning (ages 2 – 6), children’s brains are like sponges; they are thirsty for knowledge. Which is why Norbeck Montessori specifically focuses on this critical time in a child’s educational development – the period when your child has the greatest ability to learn and absorbs specific skills. We recognize that children follow their own passion and learn at their own pace. Providing an environment that nurtures the whole child, is at the core of everything we do.

Montessori, a proven science-based educational approach:

  • Promotes a curriculum that focuses on your child’s individual strengths and interest.
  • Encourages children to explore their world with hands-on learning. The welcoming, structured environment of Montessori allow children to learn by doing, which provides a greater opportunity for retaining and loving what they learn.
  • Fosters personal drive, engagement, and excitement in the learning process through fun, engaging learning experiences.
  • Gives children the freedom to interact cooperatively and respectfully with other children in a multi-age classroom to help build confidence and self-esteem in working with others.

Love, support, security and engagement for the love of learning is woven into the fibers of the Montessori approach. When a child receives high-quality education and attention, there is no limit to the kind of compassion, creativity, and problem-solving that will result at the child grows. For over 40 years, Norbeck Montessori has been providing exceptional education and experiences during a child’s most formative years. We are truly grateful to the families who have entrusted us with their child’s future success and have witnessed the happiness that children can have for school and life.

[1] Voices for America’s Children and the Child and Family Policy Center. “Early Learning Left Out: Closing the Investment Gap for America’s Youngest Children, 2nd Edition” – April 2005
[2] W. Steven Barnett, PhD. “Child Care and Its Impact on Children 2–5 Years of Age Commenting: McCartney, Peisner-Feinberg, and Ahnert and Lamb” – February 2011

Teaching the Gift of Community

Community service projects strengthen our Norbeck Montessori school and help our students connect with our local community. At Norbeck Montessori, we guide our students to be socially responsible global citizens. By doing so, our children are caring and empathetic, capable of thinking beyond themselves. Montessori teachers know that community service projects help develop and educate the whole child. Students learn the joys of giving and develop a sense of compassion through real, practical life experiences.

Delivery for Comfort Cases

Recently, one of our students was sent 10 backpacks from his great aunt, with inspirational hashtags embroidered on them. Her intent was to have him deliver them to a local charity, Comfort Cases- one that is close to his heart and ours. Rather than just giving the bags, he and his family thought it would be even better if the bags could be delivered full! So, we ask others at school if they wanted to donate items for the backpack. Needless to say, the families of Norbeck Montessori stepped up the task. Each backpack received a blanket, pajamas, a coloring book, crayons, a book, a hygiene kit, and a cozy stuffed animal to greet them when open the bag. The results of the Norbeck Montessori community coming together in support of this wonderful charity was simply amazing!

Thank you to each of the families that were able to donate. Comfort Cases was very appreciative to receive such a wonderful donation.

About Comfort Cases:
Comfort Cases supports children entering the foster care system. They believe that every child has the right to a more humane experience in foster care, and it begins with providing them with a comfort case packed with essential items.

A Visit with Eaglebear

Norbeck Montessori welcomed Thomas Eaglebear, an Apache Native American for a unique presentation of traditional Native American storytelling, song, and dance. The children enjoyed the lively performance; the opportunity to touch his animal pelts and view cultural arts and crafts. A few of the children were volunteers to wear a bearskin coat, a fox shawl, and a wolf wrap. Although timid at first, they “warmed” up quickly!

Eaglebear began his presentation playing a Native American Flute, which in the Youtube video, you can hear how engaged the children were. He explained why he had two braids in his hair. Eaglebear shared that one strand of hair is weak, easy to break. When you weave them together in a braid, they become strong. He had shared several engaging songs and dances before he told a wonderful story about giving to those, people and aminals, that need it the most. The children enjoyed the entire experience, and Norbeck Montessori looks forward to having Eaglebear back again next year!

All of the pictures from the day are up on www.norbeckphotos.com!




About Thomas Eaglebear
Eaglebear leads the Eaglebear Native American Dancers, sharing interactive cultural presentations throughout the United States and internationally for 25 years. Comprised mainly of descendants of the Warm Springs Apache originally from New Mexico, although there are other native tribes and people represented in their community. Throughout the year, the family hosts at the cultural center in Gardner, Colorado. At various times, the dance troupe performs throughout the United States and internationally.