It's a New School Year!

The 2016-2017 school year is off to a great start!! 

You may have noticed your children are more tired in the afternoon and evening.  This is to be expected as they now spend their days actively meeting new friends, trying out new work, and growing their independence.  It will be an exciting year for them!

It is also an exciting year for Webster Montessori School.  We will begin celebrating our 50th anniversary!  To start, we have updated our school logo to include recognition of this important milestone. We have a number of other exciting events being planned to help us celebrate our 50th anniversary.  You'll hear about these over the next year.

Another exciting project we are working on this year is our playground. We are thrilled to be working with Bears Playgrounds to design a new playground for the children. We will need to spend this year raising money to support this wonderful project. We plan to continue with our usual fundraising events including Dinners Out, Square 1 Art, and Gertrude Hawk Chocolates. 

There may be some additional fundraisers planned so that we can achieve our goal.  If things go according to plan, we expect to have the new playground in place in time for the Year End picnic.  You will see some details of this effort displayed in the school lobby shortly.

All in all, this is such an exciting time in the lives of your children and the school. Thanks for all of your support.

Just a Handshake?

It all started with a handshake; your Webster Montessori School experience.

We greeted you for a tour, welcomed you for a visit, and congratulated you upon your decision to enroll. Your children have started and ended each day with a handshake. In fact, Montessori children around the world shake hands.

But, what is a handshake? Did you know people have been shaking hands for thousands of years? Archaeological ruins and ancient texts show that handshaking was practiced in ancient Greece as far back as the 5th century BC. The handshake is thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon.

Did you know you would have to shake nearly 20,000 hands in one day to break a world record?  On August 31, 1987 Stephen Potter from St Albans shook 19,550 hands at the St Albans Carnival to take the World record for shaking most hands verified by the Guinness Book of records. The record has since been exceeded but has been retired from the book. Stephen Potter still holds the British and European record.

And, you’ll need to put in a lot of time to break the world record for longest handshake?  At 8pm on January 14, 2011 the latest attempt at the longest hand-shake commenced in New York Times Square and the existing record was smashed by semi-professional world record-breaker Alastair Galpin and Don Purdon from New Zealand and Nepalese brothers Rohit and Santosh Timilsina who agreed to share the new record after 33 hours and 3 minutes.

My search of the internet shows most cultures across the globe are hand-shakers. Some cultures prefer a firm grip; others a weak one. Some offer a short shake; others continue on and on. Some add in a kiss to the cheek and others include the hug-handshake by using the other hand too. The Boy Scouts shake with their left hands and other groups have developed secret handshakes to help identify one another. The handshake comes in many varieties. It’s global, like our own community here.

Our children understand the grace and courtesy associated with a handshake. They offer their right hand (mostly). They achieve a grip. They make eye contact. Some even smile. And, while this is most often seem as charming and cute coming from a two or three year old, a handshake is an important part of our culture.

Coming from a teenager or 20-something, a handshake is impressive. It should be expected, but these days it’s impressive. As adults, we utilize a handshake to greet those we know and those we are just meeting. It can signal the start of a relationship, the agreement of a deal, and the end of a meeting.

Certainly, around this building we shake a lot of hands. Has your child been here three years?  They have shaken hands nearly 2,000 times. I’d venture to guess many of us adults have not shaken hands that many times in three years. We have some expert hand shakers here.

Seriously, a handshake. It’s our custom and tradition. It started with a greeting. It became our daily welcome. And now, for some, it’s a goodbye.

May Reflections

It has been a great year for Webster Montessori School!  We have accomplished so many things including record setting enrollment, successful fundraising, and continued expansion of our program offerings.

None of this would be possible without the support of our entire school community.  From our amazing team of Directresses and staff always going above and beyond, to teams of parents who help with everything from Auctions to classroom projects, to our students who greet each day with fresh enthusiasm for learning.  

It’s not, however, all that surprising that we had a great year.  We are approaching 50 years of being a great school.  My own connection to Webster Montessori School began 15 years ago.  I have appreciated being a part of this school community as a parent and as a staff member.  Every year gets better.  Thanks for being a part of it with me!

Looking forward to the next great year!

Science Fair!

Every day I am reminded why Webster Montessori School is an amazing place.  I am reminded of the outstanding education our students are receiving.  I am reminded of the incredible learning that takes place.

This is especially evident during our annual Elementary Science Fair.  This year is no exception.  All of our Elementary students had the opportunity to conduct a science experiment and research.  They applied the scientific research process and carefully organized their results creating displays and summary boards.  I can’t say enough about the effort the children put forth, the leadership of their Directresses and Classroom Assistants, and the support of families.

I enjoyed touring the room during the event.  The children were so proud of their accomplishments.  There was a joy in discovery as siblings and friends found something new to learn.  The room was a buzz of activity.  Topics ranged from studies of the solar system and chemical reactions to experiments with gluten free cookie baking and invisible ink. 

I heard young children talking about viscosity and chromatography and osmosis.  I saw a Mendicno Motor and learned how to make glow in the dark jello.  I am certain there were many adults in the room that learned quite a bit from these young students.

Do I sound just a little proud?  You bet I am.  I’m proud of these children and this school.  We inspire children, we encourage questioning, we support exploration, we love learning.  That is what education is all about.

It's March Again!

It’s March and everything is growing. As the snow quickly melts, we see growth of spring flowers, tender grass, and the tiny beginnings of new leaves. As the weather gets warmer and warmer we get back out the shorts and t-shirts and quickly discover how much our children are growing.

And, as an organization we are overjoyed to consider the growth of Webster Montessori School. This school year found us with record setting enrollment. This growth means more and more families are finding us. More and more families recognize the benefits of a Montessori education for their children. And, most importantly, more and more children uncover the joy of discovery and learning.

As we begin to look at the next school year, it seems growth is a continued trend. Already our Toddler program is nearly full and we have only just started enrollment season. This growth means we are also considering new and better ways to use our building efficiently.

Plans are taking shape for a number of changes over the summer. We anticipate expanding our upstairs Elementary classroom to accommodate a growing number of students and students that are growing!

We are also planning to move our newest Toddler classroom across the hall to a larger space. This means construction of a new bathroom, kitchen area, and other room enhancements.

Not to complicate matters, but these changes mean finding new space for storage, administrative work, the library, and even things like extra boots, backpacks, and coats. I’m thrilled to have the challenges the growth of our school brings.

And I’m thrilled to play a part in the growth of your children.

Let’s enjoy every inch together!!

Beyond WMS

I started at Webster Montessori School (WMS) shortly before my third birthday and stayed through 5th grade. During 5th grade, I started looking at schools that I might go to once I graduated from WMS.

I knew that no matter where I went, it was going to be a lot different. McQuaid was one of the schools I was considering.

When I went to visit McQuaid, I immediately knew that was where I wanted to go. I had to take an entrance exam and when I was accepted, I was very happy.

My years at WMS made my transition to McQuaid easier because I had good organization, reasoning and problem solving skills. I also had learned to work with other students, which has been beneficial.  

At WMS, exploring why things are the way they are and how they are derived, instead of just memorizing key facts, has been invaluable.

After just one month at McQuaid, I received recognition as Student of the Month.  I know that I am well prepared for any challenges that lie ahead.

What's the Big Deal about Chores?

“Chores” isn’t a four letter word. Giving your child chores doesn’t mean you are using child labor.  It doesn’t mean you are a bad parent.  It doesn’t mean your children will think less of you.  It also doesn’t mean your work will get done any faster.

Chores are actually a very good idea.  And, if you’ve been around WMS for very long, I’m sure you’ve heard your Directress suggest your children start doing them.

What giving your child chores does mean is that you have taken a big step in supporting their development.  Children of all ages will benefit significantly from chores at home.  Chores provide a variety of positive outcomes.

-       Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance, according to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota.

-       Very importantly, children increase concentration and independence while doing chores.

-       Doing chores are a great way to build your child’s self-esteem which derived from accomplishments.

-       Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs, notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

-       Children want to be involved in your family life.  They want to feel useful.  They want a sense of belonging.  Given them chores gives them this.

There are many ways children can participate in chores at home and lists can easily be found on the internet or from your Directress.  The youngest children can help set the table, pick up toys and even fold small towels.  Older children can clear the table, empty trash, and sweep.  It’s not so much what the child does, but that each child has work to do at home.

Be patient and give your children some chores they can be successful with.  You will see significant benefits both in and out of the classroom.  Promise!

WMS - Growing Strong!

As we kick of the 2015-2016 school year it seems a great time to consider the Webster Montessori School community.  We have a lot to be proud of and many characteristics that may surprise you.

We are growing.  From one small classroom that opened in a church basement in 1967 to a newly expanded and renovated building we own and a record breaking 128 (and still climbing) students across 7 classrooms.

We are diverse.  We are a community of staff and families from all cultures.  From those born and raised in Webster or throughout New York State or other states in the US to those born across the world and that now call this area home.

We are committed.  Our families and staff appreciate a Webster Montessori School education.  From staff that started just a few weeks ago to staff that are celebrating 20 years with WMS to staff that have worked here and come back to work here again. From students that just enrolled this week to families that have had children enrolled in this school for over 12 years.

We span the generations.  From our youngest students that are only 18 months old and siblings just born over the summer to students in our oldest Elementary population. From staff who are working their way through college to staff who are celebrating the birth of grandchildren.

We believe in Montessori education.   From families who just learned of Montessori from friends to families that have sent generations to Montessori schools.  From staff who have been teaching a few years to staff that have been teaching for over 40 years. Our community is committed to engaging inquisitive minds.

What makes WMS unique?  It’s our history.  It’s our diversity.  It’s our dedication to Montessori.  It’s our community.  Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year!!  It’s going to be amazing!

Meet Jan Seeley, new Toddler Directress

I am very pleased to join the Webster Montessori staff in the opening of another toddler classroom! Ages 18 months to 3 years is a critical time for children to develop their "absorbent minds," moving from the preconscious state of learning in infancy to a more conscious state of learning at the toddler level. Their minds are still like sponges, absorbing anything and everything they are exposed to, including language(s), cultural practices, the way their environments are organized and knowledge gained from sensory stimuli. 

A prepared environment is crucial to this physical and intellectual development. Classical music, soft lighting, visual and auditory input, language of exact vocabulary, gentle touches and an ordered environment all play a part in the optimum development of the full person a child is to become.

Developing independence is crucial to a child's self-esteem. In the toddler environment we provide an extensive practical life curriculum where children develop large and fine muscle skills enabling them to dress themselves, learn toileting skills, prepare snack and care for others and the environment.  We also have an aesthetically pleasing sensorial curriculum where children develop their senses and learn especially through the tactile sense. We also offer pre-reading and pre-math exploration, as well as science and geography.

Montessori is unique in that it honors the spiritual embryo within each person who is born into the world. The spiritual embryo, like the physical embryo, embodies the full potential of who a child can become. This becomes manifest in a carefully prepared environment which calls forth this embryo. Even at the toddler level, we begin to see the unfolding of a personality and skills and talents unique to that little person! As toddlers pass through sensitive periods of development under the gentle guidance of informed adults, they begin to blossom into who they are created to be!

For forty years I have experienced the joy and awe of watching children who begin the Montessori program as toddlers and remain in Montessori through upper elementary and often middle school. They become the most peaceful, self-aware and knowledgeable students eager to help others and care for the environment at large! They win national spelling bees and represent the United States as ambassadors for world peace before they even enter adulthood!

As a seasoned directress, I encourage all newly enrolled families to consider a long-term future for your children at Webster Montessori School and I so look forward to growing with you and your children in the spirit of Dr. Maria Montessori!

Yours in the Heart of the Child,

Jan Seeley

Summer's End

I lost a week or two this summer and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  I can’t imagine how it disappeared, but I am certain a dozen or so of my treasured summer days just didn’t happen.  Somehow we went from the optimistic period of late June with weeks of warm sunny days and plenty of fun times ahead, to the middle of August and me wondering how this could have occurred.

Seriously, the stores are full of school supplies and letters are coming in the mail with schedules, forms, and meeting dates.  I’m left wondering how to finish out the remaining few weeks and squeeze every drop of relaxation and joy out of each day.

So, yesterday afternoon I took my kids to the playground.  I must set the stage for you.  My youngest is now 12 and my oldest will be a senior in high school.  They were not exactly thrilled when I pulled into the parking lot.  My son (who is a whisker of being taller than me) pointed out he was nearly two feet taller than any other kid there.  I insisted that since it was summer we were required to at least set foot on a playground.

And, I’m so glad we did.  It was fun to run around, swing on the swings, and see who could balance longest on the wiggly balance beam.  And my kids, in between squeals of laughter, thanked me for insisting they get out of the car to play.

So my message for today is to enjoy these last few weeks of summer.  What is still on your list of fun things to do?  Squeeze it in.  Relax.  Spend 15 minutes at the playground.  You will all be glad you did!!

Moving Up 2015

Last week we held our annual Moving Up ceremony!  How did time fly so quickly?  It seems we were just putting the finishing touches on mailbox labels, making copies of classroom papers, and waxing the floors anticipating the arrival of students.  Now here we are, packing up classroom papers, sending home extra clothes, and saying good bye to so many friends.

Each year time seems to go by faster and faster.  Perhaps as a society we are busier than ever.  We try to fit in more and more each day.  Our children go to school, attend activities like dance and karate, visit friends, play, do homework, and on and on.  As parents, the list of what needs to be accomplished each day is immense and, at many times, overwhelming.  All of this activity makes the days go by so quickly and the school year even faster.

The good news is, we made it!  It was fast, but it was a joy!  Moving Up was a day to celebrate each moment.  I’m so proud of these students!  They have all grown up so much!  I’m so proud of this school.  No matter what comes, we persevere.

While we reflect on all that Moving Up is about, I also want to share some advice from our teachers.

  • Read every day!  Seeking knowledge by reading will open the world to you.
  • Have fun!
  • Continue to be role models.
  • Make new friends.  Treat them with the kindness, respect, and love you learned here.

And one more piece of advice from me.  It doesn’t seem so long ago that I watched my own daughter move up.  I know there are others on our staff with the same memory and it seems like just yesterday.  And now, we are anticipating another graduation in only a year or two.  So, take a deep breath.  This is one milestone in a path of many to come.  But they come quickly.  So I want to suggest, take a deep breath and enjoy this moment. 

Children, parents, staff: what a joy this memory will be.

A Time to Celebrate!

We surely have had a beautiful spring!  This time of year brings a new celebration every week.  From the appearance of flowers and leaves on the trees to birds building nests, everything begins again. 

Even in our school, each week brings a celebration. We are enjoying classroom sing-a-longs and teas. We look forward to the school picnic and Moving Up. We are also celebrating the children’s accomplishments with completed projects and art.

As we finish up the school year, there is still time for you to observe in the classroom. This is a great way to see all your child has accomplished this year and to celebrate their growing independence as well as their love of learning.

As we close out the school year I would also like to say thank you to all our parent volunteers who have helped with school events, classroom projects, and the many, many things it takes to keep everything moving forward. Your time and dedication is much appreciated by us all!!

I look forward to celebrating with you over the next few weeks.

Standardized Testing for Montessori Schools

We are Webster Montessori School. We were founded in 1967 and have been affiliated by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) since then.  This is a wonderful accomplishment. 

AMI was founded by Maria Montessori and her son Mario to ensure her ideas were implemented consistently.  One part of our affiliation is to have an in-depth consultation every three years.  This means a Montessori “expert” comes to observe in our classrooms, meet with our staff, and provide feedback to us.

Our Primary consultation was just completed.  As we expected, the consultant found our program to meet all Montessori standards.  And not only do we meet their expectations, we exceed them.  She reported our rooms were well prepared, our teachers masters of their craft, and, most importantly, our students excited about their learning.  There is no better report to receive.

Is this the Montessori version of standardized testing?  I don’t really think so, but it is our evaluation.  And I am so proud to know that Webster Montessori School is a high quality program.  That we are still educating children the way Maria Montessori intended.  And, that we have honored the history and traditions of our school and continue to leave a legacy for children to come. 

Engaging Inquisitive Minds

Engaging Inquisitive Minds.  This tag line is now part of our new logo.  It’s one we developed a few years ago as part of our work in strategic planning.  It’s a little strange to realize that our adult effort in a very businesses-like office environment with flip charts, and laptops, and brainstorming resulted in a phrase that represents something so exciting and un-businesslike.

Our school is all about sharing the excitement of learning with young children.  We strive to provide activities that cause them to say “wow” and “I did it” and “I want to find out more”.  We provide an environment that encourages curiosity and supports exploration.

This is especially evident in our classrooms at this time of year.  From our Elementary students who recently hosted their Science Fair; with the results of their exploration and discovery.  To the Toddler classroom; where a young student recently pulled me to sit next to her and provided me with my own tiny tray and work just like hers. 

From oldest to youngest, our students are excited about learning and we are excited to be engaging their inquisitive minds.

3 Siblings, 1 School

Twelve years ago, I began my pre-school search for my oldest child Carly who was then 3 years old. Carly was already very social and ahead of the learning curve. I was looking for a school that would foster her interest in learning and not just serve as a social setting focused on playtime like traditional daycares and pre-schools. I found Webster Montessori.

WMS was sharing space with the Webster Recreation Department on Ebner Drive when we went for our interview. Although the school looked very ordinary from the outside, what I found on the inside was anything but ordinary. A nurturing environment focused on a systematic approach to learning, one that fosters independence and critical thinking, one that encourages children to work at their own pace. I knew immediately that we had found the perfect fit for our family.   

My daughter flourished at WMS. She loved school, was very enthusiastic about her work and was already reading midway through her first year … at age 3.  

Then WMS moved into the new school, our school was growing. 

Around the same time, my family was also growing, my son Nicholas was born. I was initially planning to keep Carly for just the Primary Program, however, when I saw how well she was doing academically I knew she needed to stay at WMS for Elementary. Nicholas turned 3 years old shortly after my daughter started the Elementary Program.

I was excited for Nicholas to go to WMS. Nicholas was quiet, curious and more laid back than Carly. However, at WMS Nicholas blossomed into a confident, outgoing, leader. Along came my third child, Sam.  Within a couple short years, Sam would also become part of the WMS community. Carly graduated from Elementary, Nicholas moved into Elementary and Sam started Primary all the same year.  

Sam is fun loving and creative and WMS has been able to foster his curiosity and creativity while keeping him focused on work. Although my children’s learning styles are very different, WMS has provided the ideal environment for each of them to grow into their own person and not only learn, but to thrive.   

This year marks another milestone; Nicholas will be graduating from WMS leaving Sam to continue the WMS legacy. I look at all our years at WMS as more than a quality education but an investment in my children’s future.

Holiday Traditions and More!

We are right in the middle of a season full of traditions. Things kicked off with Thanksgiving and its traditions of turkey and stuffing and taking time to be thankful. We moved quickly (too quickly) to holidays, celebrations, and traditions from various faiths. And, not to be forgotten, New Year’s has its own traditions of late night celebrations, resolutions, and football!

We are also in the midst of another tradition you don’t want to miss -- the tradition of a Montessori education. It was on January 6, 1907 that the first Montessori classroom was established in Rome. Since then, children all over the world have been growing and learning in classrooms that look remarkably similar. They have the same traditions of independent learning, following the child, and focus on growth. Today’s classrooms contain the same traditional Montessori educational work such as the pink tower, the moveable alphabet, and the decimal system.

In a society that seems to change educational approaches every few years (No Child Left Behind, Common Core, etc.), it is nice to know children at Webster Montessori School are benefiting from an approach that has been in place more than 100 years. This is an approach that has stood the test of time, benefited generations of children, and stands on a history of repeated successes. 

This is a tradition worth celebrating!

Wowza!

Wowza, it’s already November! That’s what I’ve been thinking lately. In fact, I even said something like that when visiting some of our Toddler friends during lunch.

"Wowza," I said. "Your lunch looks yummy." They sure thought that was funny; each tiny voice repeating wowza, wowza and giggling.

But seriously, I just can’t believe we are here already. Certainly, we have had a great few months. The children have all settled so nicely into the routines of the school. Our teachers report classrooms full of wonderful students who have beautifully adapted to the classroom and love to learn.

We have had a number of parent education events, social events, and fundraisers. We have a new website and have recently unveiled our new logo. The WMS community is busy!

Take a few minutes to connect with us. Visit our website often, like us on Facebook, attend an event, or schedule a classroom observation. If you thought the last few months flew by, imagine what the next few will be like. Wowza!

I'm grateful; so I give

It may seem counter-intuitive to you that I make a gift to Webster Montessori School when I also pay tuition.  It’s not that the cost of tuition has no financial impact– it does; especially for two kids, year after year.  It adds up.

But on the other side of the equation is something far greater – the opportunity for my children to be someplace wonderful.  

This school means more to me than I think any of the staff realize.  What started as a one-year emergency plan has grown into a three year commitment.  The school helped us through a difficult transition in our family.  Teachers listened to our concerns and watched our kids for signs of distress.  Office staff eased us through the routine.  Parents were friendly and welcoming.

I am grateful that Webster Montessori School is a place where my kids feel happy and secure.  I entrust them to the school each day without a single concern for their well-being.  I know they are in an environment where they are free to lose themselves in learning.

When I think of all I receive, it is evident that tuition is the least possible payment I can make.  So it is with gratitude that I make an annual gift to Webster Montessori School, because what they do for me is priceless.   

Acorn Poem

acorn.jpg

If you take an acorn, that’s fallen from its cup,

And plant it in the garden, and never dig it up,

The sun and rain will change it, into a great big tree,

With lots of acorns on it, some for you and some for me!

 

I love this short poem about fall but probably not for any reason you would expect.  Yes, it’s a charming little story and yes, one I’ve actually managed to retain in memory.  But mostly, I love this poem for what it means to my family.  Each of my three children learned it while students here at Webster Montessori School.

I’ll never forget when my oldest, who was probably three at the time, could be heard from her car seat in the back of the van, quietly reciting these words and acting out the motion of planting acorns.  I was shocked at how confidently she knew the words and even more surprised because I’d never heard the poem and certainly hadn’t taught it to her.  Truly, it was one of the first things she learned that I wasn’t somehow a part of.  I loved how proud she was of her accomplishment.  My other two children eventually learned the same poem in the same way and were also so proud to join in reciting it with their siblings.

Fast forward 10 years and this poem is, amazingly, still a part of our family.  Just last week as we sat down to dinner one of the kids admired my attempt at decorating for fall with a huge glass vase filled with acorns.  I was delighted when all three of them immediately and spontaneously began their recitation of this acorn poem. 

Webster Montessori School has given my children many things.  Not just a strong foundation for their future learning but skills, knowledge, and confidence.  And, most importantly, joyous memories including poems about acorns.  That is truly a gift to us.

In a Word. . . Abundance!

It wasn’t too long ago that I saw the morning forecast for Rochester.  Scrolling across my television screen was the prediction for “abundant sunshine”.  Wow, what a great day to look forward to.  And, I thought what a great word… abundant.  Frankly, this is not something I say in regular conversation.  Being an active user of Google, I sought to determine what that word was all about. 

It means to be plentiful and overflowing and profuse and bountiful.  I like it!  It caused me to think about what might be abundant in my life.  It was a pretty intriguing concept.

And, of course, I thought some about what might be abundant here at Webster Montessori School.  We are now a few weeks into the school year.  It has been my pleasure to meet so many new families and children and welcome back good friends.  I am happy to report we are a community with many things in abundance.

I have seen abundant joy on the faces of the children.  I have found abundant opportunity in each classroom.  I discovered there is abundant learning available to each child.  I appreciate abundant friendships being strengthened each day.  I predict a year of abundance in our community.

Yes, I like this word.  Join me in celebrating all we have!