Casa II News

Dear Casa 2 Parents, 

January was a relatively quiet month (although it was full of birthday celebrations!), and it was nice to return after winter break and be able to enjoy our time together.  The children have been working exceptionally well and are making great work choices!  We’ve observed so much growth this past month, both within each child and within the dynamics of the classroom!  Things pick up a bit in February and we have some very exciting events to look forward to this month!

Welcome, Ethan!
Please help me in welcoming Ethan and his parents to JMS… and to Minnesota!  We hope you are enjoying your first winter with us!  Ethan is in his kindergarten year and comes to us with previous Montessori experiences.  Please take time to introduce yourself as you wait for pickup each day!

Valentine’s Day and Pajama Day
A note went out in last week’s newsletter, but in case you missed it I will give you the information again!  On Friday, February 12th, we will be celebrating Valentine’s Day in Casa 2.  You are invited to help your child decorate a box or bag to collect their Valentines, and bring it to school on the 11th or 12th of February.  The children are invited to make homemade cards or can give store-bought ones.  If you would like to send small party favors, we request that you refrain from sending candy to school.  If your child can read their classmates names, we encourage them to personalize each one with each child’s name.  If your child is not yet reading independently, we encourage you to help your child write their name on each card, but to leave the “TO” space blank.  This is because the children enjoy handing out their Valentines cards independently!  There are 20 children, including your child, in Casa 2 this year!  Katya sent out an updated class list earlier this week for your convenience.

We will spend our Valentine’s Day together discussing ways to show appreciation for one another and celebrating the many friendships within our community.  This day will also be Pajama Day in Casa 2… so feel free to send your child in PJs!  

“Jazz for JMS” fundraising event
For those of you who are new to our school this year, Jazz for JMS is our annual fundraising event… and you DO NOT want to miss it!  On Saturday, February 27th, please join us for a night of live jazz music, delicious Italian food, a silent auction, games, socializing with staff and parents, and much more!  This adults-only event is a great time to connect with parents of your child’s friends at JMS!  We encourage you to bring friends, family members, grandparents, neighbors… anyone who you think would love to support your child’s education!  Please visit the JMS website or talk with Katya for more information on getting your tickets for this great event!

Each year, the children in each casa help to create unique, beautiful works of art.  These one-of-a-kind pieces will be included in the silent auction on the 27th!  The first item is a lamp, titled “We Live in Peace,” with a special lampshade painted by the children in Casa 2.  The second item this year, (which the children are very excited about), is a unique teapot which is being personalized by each child within the casa.  The children love making tea together each day, and this is an item that one child will get to cherish for many, many years to come!  Stay tuned for photos of this gorgeous piece… it is filled with important life lessons!  It’s all the “buzz” around the classroom this week! 

Spring Conferences
Spring conferences are just around the corner!  Watch for the sign-up to come out next week!  We are closed Friday, March 4th for a full day of conferences and I will be at school during the evening of Tuesday, March 15th for a second option if the 4th doesn’t work for you.  If you would prefer a phone conference, please email me and we will set up a time to discuss your child’s progress over the phone.  If you cannot make it on one of the posted dates, I strongly encourage you to contact me so we can set up another date for a phone conference!  I look forward to visiting with all of you in the upcoming weeks!

Do we use a Montessori curriculum?
With conferences quickly approaching, you might be wondering, “Does the Montessori method use a specific ‘curriculum?’”  That’s a great question! The answer is no, at least not in the traditional sense of what you might think a curriculum is.  We teach the same basic skills as traditional schools, and cover the same subject areas (language, math, science, geography, music, art, etc.).  Rather than teaching them independent from one another, our approach is to teach them all simultaneously, so children can see the interrelatedness of all things.  This approach allows children to become fully immersed in topics which are interesting to them, and allows them to spend as much time in one area as necessary to fulfill their curiosity.  It is this approach toward education that builds self-motivation and a deep appreciation for lifelong learning.  Presentations are given to each child when he or she has demonstrated competence in various areas and show signs that they are ready for the next challenge.  Our curriculum is not as linear as a traditional curriculum because it varies with each individual child based on their readiness for each new presentation.

You might have noticed that Montessori schools do not give letter grades as an assessment tool.  There is much research that shows the negative effect that external rewards (grades) have on personal efforts and achievements in both children and adults.  The Montessori approach nurtures self-motivation, self-sufficiency and self-assessment.  The teacher in the classroom observes each student’s progress very closely and prepares presentations for each child when they show signs of readiness to move onto something more intellectually challenging.  We continuously look for signs of emotional growth and independence and plan your child’s presentations accordingly.  The teacher is always available to give guidance and support, but doesn’t force a child to work with certain materials.  We get to know each child’s interests and capabilities, as well as their levels of confidence as they take on each new challenge.  Rather than giving a typical “report card” with letter grades, we send home our observations on conference forms, including:

1.    Work habits
2.    Social and emotional development
3.    Practical life
4.    Sensorial
5.    Language
6.    Mathematics

Please take time to read through the forms, which you will receive a few days prior to your child’s conference.  Bring any questions you have with you so we can discuss them together!

Parent Education
In each newsletter, I try to write a little bit about Montessori philosophy and give a few tips on things you can try at home.  I choose these topics based off conversations that I’ve had with parents.  If you have any questions about the Montessori philosophy, about changes you’ve observed in your child, about the Montessori approach to academics, or how to handle difficult situations, please use our mailbox outside Casa 2!  You can leave me an anonymous note with your question and I will address it in an upcoming newsletter!

On the Calendar    
Friday, February 12th        Valentine’s Day celebration and Pajama Day
Monday, February 15th    No School: President’s Day
Saturday, February 27th    Jazz for JMS fundraising event
Friday, March 4th        No School: Spring Conferences
Tuesday, March 15th         Regular school hours; Spring Conferences in evening

“Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
-    John F. Kennedy

Thank you all for sticking by us during times of adjustment here at JMS.  We’ve certainly experienced a lot of change during the past year, but we are confident that we are headed in the right direction for a successful future!  The staff is feeling great and we are excited for the upcoming months at JMS!  We appreciate all of the love and support that we’ve received from each of you this year!  It is because of you and your children that we have all remained focused and committed throughout these past few months!  We’ve got some great months ahead to look forward to!  Have a great weekend!

Taryn & Mind