Nurturing Independence


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Last week, a parent shared the changes that he has seen in his young child’s behavior since beginning school in September. In particular, he has noticed her movement toward independence. One of Maria Montessori’s most quoted phrases is,”Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” Continue reading

Writing – Beyond Rules & Grammar Drills


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This quote comes from one of my favorite books, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Though it is a book about writing, it is compelling. Lamott is a great storyteller who has written both fiction and non-fiction. She is a writer who speaks freely about just how challenging writing can be.

Learning to write is one of the most difficult things we do. We first have to learn the physical act of writing and then move on to the craft of writing. As readers, we learn what we like to read and, as children, often do not connect the fact that the books we enjoy are indeed products of writing. Connecting the two disciplines can be challenging.

Continue reading

Reading Aloud


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screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-8-14-17-pmAs September has come to a close, so have our daily read alouds in the WMS Learning Commons. As you may know, the past month featured many WMS friends reading to the children each day. Our special guests included Board members, grandparents, parents, staff members and, yes, even dogs. The children enjoyed the great pleasure of singing a song to get started and hearing about favorite characters in literature. Each day was a little different – though the routine remained the same.

heather-siple-read-aloud-019Reading aloud is one of the most important things we can do for children. Read alouds offer the opportunity for children to experience books they may not be quite ready to take on by themselves. The characters come alive through the different voices, expressions and mannerisms that the reader brings to them. Children learn how a book “sounds.” Most of us can’t recall how we learned to read. What we know through research is that reading is multi-faceted. Children move from learning letter sounds to forming words by grouping letters together to eventually reading fluently rather than plodding along word by word.

Know that as you read that favorite book to your children one more time, they are gaining more than simply a familiar story. They are experiencing the joy of the written word, the beauty of illustrations that support the story, and the wonder of reading.

Rites of Passage


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south-mountain-mollyThroughout our lives, we have rites of passage that reflect movement from one stage to another. In our Upper Elementary classrooms, one of those milestones is the overnight trip that our students participate in each September. Each of their three years in the 9-12 Program, students travel to different locations to spend two days together outside the confines of Wilmington Montessori School. This year, the students set off for a camping experience at South Mountain YMCA Camp. They met the bus with their sleeping bags, luggage, flashlights and terrific excitement. It was time to leave their typical school days behind.

anand-rock-wallThe purpose of this trip is to solidify the community. Children navigate the low ropes challenges, try their hand at archery and climb a rock wall. They help set up before meals and clean up the dining hall when the meal is complete. They make sure their cabin is clean before they leave, and they lug all of their own belongings to and from their cabins and bus – there are no bellhops at camp. The students must work together to achieve success, sometimes leading while other times taking a backseat and allowing others to lead. They cheer each other on as they try new things.

When this class returns from the trip, they share a common experience and wonderful memories. They have learned more about each other, how to work together and how to bring out the best in each other. They have formed a more cohesive group, which is the foundation of the work they will be doing this year as they support each other as learners and friends.

The Power of Observation


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observing-blogObservation is a key component of Montessori education. As part of a Montessori teacher’s training, she is taught how to be a thoughtful observer. Teachers are given lessons on how to allow the space for observing students during the school day, and in those observations, much is revealed. Watching children go about their work, play, interactions and lessons helps a teacher more fully understand the students in her classroom. Through these regular periods of observation, teachers are able to determine which lessons need to be reinforced and the next steps in each child’s path of academic and social growth. Continue reading

More than an Athlete


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world-map-made-up-of-peopleAt the beginning of each school year, the Wilmington Montessori School staff has the opportunity to spend one day together. We are not setting up classrooms, ordering supplies or making name tags for the students who will soon appear. Instead, we are nurturing our community and sharing common experiences. This year, we spent part of that day learning more about cultural awareness and our sensitivity to those from cultures different from our own. It was nothing short of enlightening. Continue reading



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As another school year begins, one can’t help but think about why all of the people who work so hard to make schools places for children to grow and thrive do so. The work is challenging – the days often long. It is sometimes difficult to know if you have made a difference. Yet teachers, administrators and students everywhere eagerly anticipate the first day of school.

Years ago, I worked with women who did not have the opportunities our children have. They were marginalized due to a lack of choices and perhaps making some erroneous choices. Many of them lacked an education and did not graduate from high school. My coworkers and I worked to help them achieve that goal and move forward in their lives. This experience made me rethink school. What is the purpose of school? Why does it work so well for some and not others? What can be done to make a difference? Continue reading

Word Play


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BLOG - raining-cats-and-dogs1This week has been spent culling the collection of books in our school’s library. It is a challenging job, especially for people who love books. Each book has its merits – one harder to part with than the next. You can tell so much about our library by the books in the collection. Some draw us in more than others. One of the sections I loved looking at was the books that have word play as the theme. Among the dictionaries, thesauruses and other reference materials, one can also find idioms and books about alternate uses of language or words.

From children’s books about the character Amelia Bedelia who makes a sponge cake with a kitchen sponge or pitches a tent by throwing (or pitching) it in the woods, to the book for older children Eats, Shoots and Leaves about misplaced punctuation changing the meaning of a phrase, these books are a delight for those who love words. 

As children grow, they learn to speak, to read and to make meaning of language; as it become increasingly complex, mistakes are made. They repeat what they think they heard and what makes sense to them, only to have adults chuckle at their misunderstanding. Language takes a lifetime to develop. At WMS, we focus on language development from the earliest ages when toddlers are mimicking sounds, to rhyming words with primary and elementary students and laughing along with children as they begin to “get” words’ double meanings and play with words and their usage.

They’re all ears!

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What is a library?


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BookmobileWhen I was a child, Tuesday was my favorite day of the week. The Bookmobile came to our local shopping center.

For those of you who grew up in towns with libraries, you may not be familiar with a Bookmobile. It is essentially a library on wheels. Each week, we would visit the Bookmobile to return the books we had read and check out new ones. Adventures awaited on those shelves…from the mysteries of Nancy Drew to the books needed to do research for a school project, we counted on the Bookmobile and all it had to offer. When I was a child, libraries meant books. I loved books; therefore I loved libraries. Continue reading

Seymour Papert


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Seymour Papert, a co-founder of the MIT Media Lab passed away last week. His life was spent thinking about learning and how to make it accessible to everyone. Many of his contributions focused on the integration of technology and learning; he was a trailblazer. If you’ve not heard of him, please learn more. His work informs much of what we deem to be leading edge in our schools today: makerspaces, technology integration, teaching Scratch programming and more. He has left us with many writings and a great deal of inspiration. Montessori education focuses on helping children learn how to learn; learning is not stagnant. It is an ever-present goal for all of us. Thank you, Seymour Papert, for your inspiration and innovation.

“So the model that says learn while you’re at school, while you’re young, the skills that you will apply during your lifetime is no longer tenable. The skills that you can learn when you’re at school will not be applicable. They will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace and need them, except for one skill. The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn. It is the skill of being able not to give the right answer to questions about what you were taught in school, but to what you were taught in school. We need to produce people who know how to act when they’re faced with situations for which they were not specifically prepared.”
– Seymour Papert