From the May 2017 issue

Six Ways to Give Your Child an Academic Edge at Home

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Princes William and Harry and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs – these are just a few of the famous alums from Montessori schools. And it’s no wonder …

The Montessori education philosophy encourages children to learn on their own or in groups through creative play. Of course teachers guide the process, but the idea is that kids learn differently and at different paces, so when you foster hands-on, independent learning, you unleash their full potential.

The Detroit Publish Schools Community District has tapped into this renowned learning method by offering a rare opportunity for parents to send their children to a free Montessori program. Parents can hear more about the benefits of a Montessori education and get tips on how to implement Montessori strategies at home at a free seminar on Thursday, May 25. Click here to get more information and register. Before the event, we talked to the featured speaker, Christina Lowry, the principle consultant at Montessori-Now to get a preview of some strategies. Here are a few:

1. Give Your Child Chores: Children want to feel they are an integral part of the family. By giving them a job, they have an added sense of purpose and responsibility. In Montessori schools, children are assigned jobs to maintain the classroom as well. “Children love to contribute and be engaged in meaningful work,” says Lowry. “Even the youngest students are taught from the start to clean up after an activity and get it ready for the next person. They develop this sense of responsibility and independence because they know that they can do it and that builds self confidence. It really helps to build a sense of group cohesion in the classroom, but at home it helps them feel like they have a meaningful role to play and that they are just as important as anyone else.”

2. Take Your Child to The Library: If your child is sees a butterfly outside and shows interest in it, indulge them and help them learn more. Montessori emphasizes the importance of catering to the child’s interests. “Find a book about butterflies. Learn about different kinds. Help them identify the one that they saw. Find out where they go when it gets cold. Explore what butterflies are native to Michigan. You can use their interests to help them develop important learning skills,” says Lowry.

3. Turn Off The Screens: Computers, cell phones, tablets and TVs are a distraction for both you and your child. By turning them off, you can engage in activities with your child and better learn what their strengths and challenges are, so you can support them more effectively. The Montessori philosophy aims to cater to each child’s strengths and weaknesses to ensure a firm understanding of a topic before moving on. “We learn better and faster when we are interested in what we are learning or doing,” says Lowry. “To learn where your child is struggling or excelling, you have to engage with them. Talk with them and really listen to what they are saying.”

4. Read Together: Let your child pick the book and then engage with them. Ask questions about it and listen to their feedback. “It’s all about interaction,” says Lowry. “I had a child with a learning disability who was in our elementary program. He couldn’t read and had no desire to ever work with numbers. He had no interest in anything pertaining to anything that would be considered academic, but after observing him we learned that his one interest in life was the Titanic. He loved when anyone would read to him about it, and he knew a great deal about it because of all the books that were read to him. We used that as his learning topic and were able to teach him reading and math based on it. He had to solve story problems that were based on the ship, and because he was motivated by his interest, he learned. It’s a child-centered program that does have a set curriculum and learning objectives, but the child guides us on how to get there,” says Lowry.

5. Play Outside: Let your child take the lead and explore the world around them. Encourage their curiosity and help them find new interests in their surroundings. “Listening to your child and sharing in activities together helps you better understand them. It gives you a foundation to build on,” says Lowry. “Observing the child is crucial to developing an academic plan in Montessori.”

6. Work With The Teacher: It’s important to communicate and work with you child’s teacher, regardless of the teaching methods being used. Look at your child’s teacher as a partner in bringing out the best in your child and finding their learning style and sparking interests and the pursuit of knowledge. “Together you can discuss ways of supporting your child in the home,” says Lowry.

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