Monday, March 13, 2017

STEM Activities for Middle School Children

Science, technology, engineering, and math are the major components of a middle school STEM curriculum. The idea is that students need to have more emphasis on these subject areas to make them more competitive in today’s increasingly technological society. Because a STEM curriculum often revolves around hands-on activities, these subjects are especially well-suited for the Montessori learning method. The kind of projects that may be restricted to science fairs in public education become daily experiments for individuals and teams in the Montessori learning environment.

Build a Sundial

Building a sundial introduces children to a different kind of clock. Since the only materials needed for a sundial are a stick, some markers, and a small space open to the sunlight, this project provides a great deal of educational opportunity without much, if any, expense. Among the lessons to be learned from a sundial are:
·        Affects of seasons on daylight hours
·        Understanding time segments
·        Sunlight variations based on geographic location

Variations on Volcanoes

Building a volcano is a popular and simple project that teaches children about earth processes, chemistry, and object modeling. The basic design uses a clay, paper-mâché, or other “volcanic” peak, and the eruptions can be created using combinations of household chemicals. There are a variety of ways to build an experimental volcano, each with its own unique properties to be discovered.

Experimenting with Water Filtration

Allowing children to work with different types of materials to create a water filter teaches them about the density and porousness of material, the importance of clean water, and the importance of natural filtration systems such as ponds and swamps. Basic filters can be designed with a plastic bottle, some moss, and ditch water, which makes an excellent jumping off point to learn about larger systems, reverse osmosis, and particle filtration.

Understanding the Block and Tackle

The invention of the block and tackle transformed the way people work by allowing them to accomplish more with less energy expenditure. Because pulleys are such an important part mechanical engineering and technology, experimenting and understanding the principles is vital to a well-rounded education. As part of an educational foray into horsepower and work potential, the block and tackle will give middle schoolers a fun and informative insight. Other important and basic tools in this category include the inclined plane and levers.

In Montessori learning, students are encouraged to investigate cause and effect, which in turn enables them to master the basic principles of the physical world. Everything from building sandcastles to designing a working soapbox racer are more than just fun activities - they are teaching children how science, engineering and technology, all of which are shaped by mathematics, make their world a more comfortable place to live in a way that is engaging and exciting.  

Middle school students at the Montessori School of Flagstaff Cedar Campus learn about STEM through activities in their daily curriculum.  This introduces students to wide variety of ways STEM is incorporated into their lives and could serve as inspiration for furthering their education in these fields once they have completed high school.  Call us today to see the difference of the Montessori curriculum.

How a Child Centric Model Works in Preschool

The child centric model is recognizing and making sure your child is first before anyone else. Any person who works with children from the nursery nurse, play worker, preschool teacher, or anyone directly in charge of a young child has a tremendous responsibility. It is their job to make sure each child they work with is safe. A child centric model is when your child is able to connect and communicate with the people working with them with an approach that makes it beneficial for them to learn.

How a Child Centric Model Works in Preschool

In the Montessori preschool environment, your child's individual needs will benefit along with the others. Each child is recognized as a unique person who will respond differently to certain approaches. Using the right approach for each child is important so their chances of success can increase. Children strive for respect and want their views to be heard, and they desire to attain a stable relationship with adults. This approach is the child centric model and what your child will benefit from in the Montessori preschool.

Definition of a Child Centric Model

The idea behind the child centric model is to allow your child to develop social qualities instead of just having them gather provided and general information. Your child is allowed to control his or her own learning. The teacher will support this learning, but your child will determine the direction and follow their natural curiosity, passion, and interests.

Choosing their own Interests

In the Montessori classroom, your child will be encouraged to pick different activities that interest them. Teachers do not choose what your child will explore. This independence helps your child think for themselves. The benefit of their choices is they can work independently and display their potential. Teachers will guide, but not decide for your child. Your child will investigate their world as the teacher observes their growth. When it is determined your child has mastered the material out for display, new material will be introduced so there is continued growth in knowledge.

Active Learning

Active learning is an approach to your child's education that looks to meet their needs on all levels. The social, physical, emotional, and cognitive levels are taken into consideration as the child centric model is implemented to track your child's progress. The active learning approach ensures your child stays mentally and physically active. They will be encouraged to use their whole body and all of their senses to learn about their world through exploration.

Play Time is Work

It may appear as though your child is only playing; in the child centric model, play time is work. During this period, your child will be questioning, testing, and planning experiments to construct. They will build on their knowledge of what they learn about objects, events, ideas, and people.

The child centric model implemented in the Montessori preschool will help your child become more independent, confident, and responsible.  At the Montessori School in Newark, our teachers focus on the child as a whole, fostering their learning and independence while allowing them to choose and explore items on their own.  To see the child centric model in action, contact us today and spend a day in our preschool classroom.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Taking Your Child to the Zoo? Read Our Tips for Every Age

The zoo provides a place of wonder for young children and adults. Going to the zoo can be a fun family outing at any age. Along with hours of enjoyment, a trip to the zoo is a learning experience. Viewing animals and their habitats provide inspiration for continuous learning.

Planning the Outing

Regardless of the age of your children, you should do a little research prior to going to the zoo. For your convenience, almost every zoo has a website. If you cannot find the website, you should take the time to call your local zoo to ask important questions. Planning your zoo outing will help make the day more fun. You should review the following:
  • Hours of operation
  • Price of admission
  • Exhibits of interest
  • Picnic area availability
  • Rules regarding food and beverages
  • Guidelines for strollers or wagons

Tips for a Fun Adventure to the Zoo

As a parent, grandparent or caregiver, you know the necessary essentials to bring to the zoo. Packing snacks, water, sunscreen, and hats are only a small portion of the needed supplies for a comfortable zoo trip. Remember smaller children may need extra diapers, wipes, bottles and a change of clothing to get through the zoo.

As you begin your day out the zoo, keep in mind to be patient. Allow your children the extra time to explore all of the senses. Do not forget to bring a camera. You will want to remember the experience.

Under a Year

At this stage in development, the trip to the zoo is more about the parents, caregivers, or grandparents. Many adults just want a day trip. Spending time with other mothers and fathers is a great way to build a lasting network. Enjoy the different sites and sounds of the zoo outing.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

Children who are two to four years old are curious about the world around them. Going to the zoo at this stage in development is a great way to introduce the animal world to children.
  • Point out the different animals
  • Use proper names
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Allow your child to touch and feel within the guidelines of the zoo
  • Visit the children’s area or petting zoo
  • Remember to simply play - almost every zoo has an animal inspired play area

School Age

At this stage of development, children thrive for more knowledge based on personal interests. A trip to the zoo provides a way to expand existing knowledge. Many zoos offer specific programs for children over the age of five. Enrolling your child in an hourly or day program is a perfect way to continue hands-on learning.
  • Watch presentations about the animals
  • Use guided tour options to allow your school-aged child to ask specific questions from a professional
  • Ask and discuss the animals, habitats, and programs

Continue to build upon your child’s personal interests with books and other educational materials relating to the zoo. Encourage older children to write about the experience in a journal. Create a scrapbook for a lasting memento of your trip to the zoo. 

In Montessori education, nature-based learning is incorporated into the daily curriculum. This includes teaching about animals, their traits, and their unique habitats.  Contact us today at Day Star Montessori and see how using nature-based learning is beneficial for your child.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What to Consider in a Montessori Elementary School

Making the decision to move from public schools to Montessori education requires careful consideration. For many parents, the fundamentals of Montessori learning are a mystery, while others have a lifetime of misconceptions that have to be overcome. When looking at a potential Montessori educator, here are a few things to ask about and be aware of.

Number of Students in Classrooms

Montessori classrooms are kept small for a reason. Allowing the instructor to dedicate more time to each student is the primary advantage. Each instructor is thoroughly trained in all of the subjects they will be teaching, which allows children to spend more time with a single instructor and less of their educational moving between classes. And since the classrooms have mixed ages, younger children are able to learn from older ones to build social skills and educational goals.

Self-Focused Education

The misconception that children have complete control over the learning process sounds intimidating, but it is not a correct picture of Montessori learning.  Children are encouraged to develop their own schedules, but class time is still divided into blocks, albeit longer ones, which give each child more time to spend on subjects and projects.  The environment is self-directed, but still follows a well-rounded curriculum. 

Montessori Curriculums

Montessori educators are not specialized in the way that public school teachers are. The subject matter being taught is nearly identical to public schools, such as math, language arts, history, and art. The difference is that Montessori education uses an integrated approach that ties the different subjects together. For example, learning about Egyptian pyramids ties to geometry, art, and other subjects. The integration of different subjects into a single process is fundamental to the Montessori process.

Gifted and Special Learning Needs

From the Montessori perspective, all children are gifted, but each in their own way. The Montessori environment allows children to expand on subjects that come more easily or spend a bit more time on the ones that are giving them a challenge. Having mixed ages in the classroom is especially helpful for gifted and special needs children because the older kids provide additional guidance and assistance.

Standardized Testing

Standardized educational tests are a requirement for all educators, including Montessori schools and homeschooling. These tests are used to determine both the educational level of students and the success of the institution. While Montessori children take the same tests, they are taught the materials in a different way that focuses more on integrated skills than rote memorization.

How Well Do Montessori Students Compare?

For years, the comparison between Montessori and traditional education was a difficult call to make. As research has progressed over the years, it has become apparent that Montessori students tend to learn as well or even better than traditional education students, including higher math skills and more complex vocabulary and writing skills.

At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus, our students enjoy mixed-age classrooms where they can work together and learn from their older peers.  The self-directed environment allows students to explore on their own, while still being guided by the teacher.  To see the Montessori difference firsthand, call our school today and schedule a tour.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Instilling Confidence from 1 to 6 Years of Age

Every parent wants to raise a confident child. The question is, in today's world of ever-increasing media exposure, how do parents and teachers successfully instill confidence in children?

The Montessori approach is a powerful antidote to the negative consequences of much of the challenges facing children and families today. Here are a few of the ways the program instills confidence in young children.


Your child's education isn't only important for his or her knowledge and capability. Learning to do things for oneself, from dressing oneself and potty training at an early age to educational projects as a child approaches school age, helps kids to feel more confident in themselves. That's why an early education program is so important for your child's growth, even as early as a year or two old.


The Montessori program is centered around the goal of fostering independence in children, which in turn promotes confidence. The work cycle allows children to pursue self-directed learning within some structure, helping children stay focused and on task while encouraging creativity and free thinking. This combination of hands-on learning and freedom of exploration, ultimately ending with the successful achievement of their goals, helps children to feel good about their accomplishments -- a basic building block of confidence.

Peer Teaching

Another hallmark of the Montessori program is the way it encourages older, more experienced children to teach and support the younger, less experienced kids. Traditionally, Montessori programs had mixed-age groupings that gave the older kids plenty of opportunities to help the younger ones learn new skills; however, even in modern classrooms where the children are often closer in age, the self-directed work environment still encourages the more capable kids to help those less experienced. The experience of children helping one another encourage confidence in both the teacher, who practices and demonstrates his or her competence, but also the child who is being helped by a peer to learn a new skill.


Children thrive not only when they succeed, but especially when they succeed at something they want to do. Their joy at getting a gold star on a routine worksheet may be fleeting, but when they achieve something they did by choice and were genuinely interested in, they gain a much greater sense of accomplishment. The Montessori method, with its extended work cycle and self-directed learning, gives children opportunities to make choices about what and how they learn, ultimately providing many more opportunities for building true confidence.

Confidence is a valuable trait that helps our children navigate school, peer relationships, and the world around them. For more information about how our program helps instill confidence in our young students, contact Day Star Montessori today for a tour of our Montessori school.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Toddler Turmoil: Terrible Threes or Frightening Fours?

The toddler years are an exciting time for parents and their kids, but they can also be some of the most challenging times as well. Children who are three or four often go through frustrating phases in their lives that can test the patience of even the most tolerant parent. However, knowing proactive, positive ways to reach your child during these difficult times will make life a lot easier for both of you.

A few tips that help:

  • Minimizing the yelling
  • Understanding what's going on
  • Know how to redirect
  • Set clear, simple boundaries
  • Don't fear timeouts
  • Be consistent with your child

Don't Yell So Much

Even though yelling seems like a good way to let out frustration, it is less likely to bring out better behavior. Too much yelling and other harsh measures can have a negative impact on how your child's brain develops. Taking a minute to calm down before disciplining your child can work wonders.

Understand What's Going On

If you're attuned to your child's needs, you can likely guess what may be going on at any given time. Understand why your child is acting out can help you take steps to resolve the problem. In many cases, better awareness helps you prevent problems before they start.

Redirect Your Child in Creative Ways

Redirecting a child in a positive way can help eliminate a lot of bad behavior. Try reading to a child who is whining or get a child who is being pushy or grabbing to do some physical activity. Redirection always needs to be done in a loving way.

Know How to Set Boundaries

All children need boundaries, but they need to be simple for better retention. Remind your child of these "house rules" every day. Make sure you praise your child when he or she sticks to the rules. Understand that this is an age where your child is likely to test out how much they can get away with.

Sometimes Everyone Needs a Timeout

A timeout, possibly one minute for each year, can distract your child from bad behavior and give them time to think. If the bad behavior focuses on a specific toy, consider giving your child a timeout from using the toy. Make sure your child has access to the toilet and doesn't have access to toys or games.

Consistency is Key

Make sure you address bad behavior consistently if you don't want it to continue. Don't expect your child to follow the rules one day and let them off the next. Above all, use positive methods to correct bad behavior.

At Mission Valley Montessori, our teachers work with children starting at the toddler phase. They continue throughout their elementary years, learning through play-based activities that are self-guided and self-directed.  To learn how to help your toddler through this challenging phase, contact us today to see the positive impact Montessori education can have on your child.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What Expenses You Can Deduct for Preschool

Getting the best tax return means finding deductions that you are eligible for. For parents of preschoolers, there are school-specific deductions available if you know where to look. In most cases, you will be required to complete an itemized tax return; additional forms or worksheets may be required. IRS Publication 503 contains a lot of useful information.

Federal Deductions

For the IRS Child Care Deduction, you will need to show your eligibility and file the necessary forms. To begin with, you cannot claim the deduction if you file Form 1040EZ. You must use either Form 1040 or Form 1040NR. If you are married, you must file a joint return for this credit. There are some other rules and forms which must be considered, including:

·        Child Qualification - Children under the age of 13 qualify for child care deductions.
·        School or Care Provider Information - Form W-10 contains important identification information. You need the school name, EIN number, and an invoice. If your child attends a home-based preschool, the care provider’s Social Security number and a Form W-4 should be used instead.
·        Proof of Earnings - For most families, filing a Form W-2 for each wage earner is required. If you belong to a faith which is opposed to Social Security, a Form 4029 is used to show your earnings.
·        Form 2441 - This form is where most of the care provider information will be collected.

State Deductions

If you live in a state with a state income tax, you may be eligible for deductions at the state level. Regulations and requirements for state deductions varies from one location to another. To find out whether you can file for a deduction in your state, contact your state’s tax agency.

School Oriented Donations

Purchasing sports uniforms for your child alone are not deductible, but making a donation to the school to help cover the cost of uniforms for all team members may be. You can also claim a deduction for other donations, including the cost of items used in the preschool classroom such as crayons, paper towels, and equipment. When documented properly, even cash donations made to the school can be deducted.

Using a Flexible Savings Account

Unfortunately, you cannot claim a tax deduction for preschool if your child’s tuition was paid in full or part through an FSA. Because of the nature of FSAs, the money is already tax-free, and therefore does not qualify for an additional deduction.

Preschool expenses must be claimed as a childcare expense rather than a tuition fee. Federal law does not provide deductions or exemptions for tuitions, but child care costs are covered in order to assist families of single parents or where both parents hold full-time jobs. If you have a home-based occupation, talk with an accountant to find out how your deductions may be affected.

Montessori School in Newark offers premium Montessori Education to children ages 2 to 6.  Our teachers highlight the values of a Montessori Education each day - self-discipline, self-motivation, independence, and instilling a love of learning in children.  Contact us today to learn about the Montessori difference and take a tour of our preschool!