March 30, 2020
Email Number VI
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
On this first official day of starting your Montessori “homeschool” experiences, we are impressed and heartened by the anecdotes, photos and ingenuity you and your children are sharing with us! What an incredible group you are. Please continue to check the website for more ideas and resources. The Directors began calling you today, and will continue to support you in the weeks to come.
As you may be aware, social distancing is now recommended through April 30th on a national level. In the best interest of our community, Forest Bluff will adhere to these guidelines by remaining closed for the month of April, and we will update you as the guidelines evolve. This month will be a time to develop a new routine in your children’s lives; we are here to help you make it positive in every way possible, and to support you with any challenges that arise.
Please do not hesitate to call the school office at 847-295-8338, or reach out to your individual teachers at their Google phone numbers with questions. Let us know how we can best help you and your children. As your children’s needs evolve over the days and weeks, we will adjust and respond, just as we do in the classrooms with the children growing and changing all the time. The Montessori approach is based on adaptability, encouraging resilience, level-headed problem solving and forming inner equilibrium. The children in our lives, and we as adults alongside them, are now called to dig a little deeper into this approach, and we believe it can help us through these weeks, as a community.
Our goal at Forest Bluff is to continue to be a source of guidance, inspiration, and comfort for your family. Thank you for sharing your lives with us and navigating these months, together.
The Forest Bluff Directors
Note: For community news and inspiration from one other’s homeschooling experiences, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram, (User Name: forestbluffschool) and share with us and with each other how your children are doing.
Email Number V:
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
Starting tomorrow, Monday, March 30th, your children’s teachers will begin calling you* to give you individualized education plans for your Montessori-style “homeschooling.” We will provide information and support to keep your children learning in their own homes through these phone conversations, and with the homeschool ideas and reflections we will be posting on our website under the FBS Families tab. Although it is not the same as being with their teachers and the materials in the prepared environments of their classrooms, your children will gain some new abilities and develop further while they are home, too. Please do not stress about this time out of school; your children are far more independent about learning new things than many children have been taught to be, and they can do a lot of exploring, creating, reflecting and practicing when following their interests and self-motivation. It is this spirit of living in a constant quest to learn, no matter where you are or what day it is, that Montessori fosters and which you can promote, as well.
Just remember that in most schools, much of the day is spent in transitions and there is little time for independent study and reflection. In Montessori, children are used to working for longer periods and without constant direction. To mimic their Montessori days, make it a goal to have three hours of quiet work time each morning, and allow the rest of the day to be practical life, exercise, play, relaxation or family time. You can arrange these afternoon activities to happen while you are continuing your own work. If you can do this, you have the perfect “home school” going.
*Each Director has set up a temporary phone number (with a 224 area code) to be used specifically for this period of school closure. Should you miss the call, you can call back on that number and leave a voice message with your availability. Teachers will get around to every family, and you might choose a certain day of each week to touch base so that calls can be evenly spaced. Their new phone number allows each Director to work from home, many of them with their own families to care for, just for these unusual weeks. They are all so eager to hear about your children since they last saw them! We encourage you to write down your questions and the information teachers give you during your phone calls, and they will do the same.
Here are some general things to consider:
#1: Montessori children watch an adult do something, then they are allowed to try it on their own and repeat it at will. Provide some choices, interact to show your child something or inspire an interest, and then leave them to explore on their own. That “work period” when they are on their own is when they dive in to concentrate and learn. This means that the teacher does not sit next to your child at school all morning, giving her full attention to them for hours, and neither should you. Help each child get started on something for about five minutes, then get busy either alongside them or in another part of a room of your home so that they have the feeling of independence from you. While you are “working,” they are working. If they finish something, they may need you to help them get a new activity started or have a variety of choices set up so they do not need to interrupt you. Your goal, just like a Montessori teacher in a classroom, is to add very few new “lessons” a week to their menu, and only as they need them. Less is more! Concentration, connection with an activity, and independence are the goals. Your children may come up with many ideas for themselves and create work to do. This whole approach nurtures innovation and work ethic in your family.
#2: Montessori children are used to monitoring their own performances, not being judged or critiqued by an adult. So, refrain from judging the work they bring to you or on what you see. You can ask them what they think of it, or make a remark like, “You worked really hard on that!” or “I can see that you enjoyed that work,” or “It looks like you’re feeling good about what you did.” Or you can simply smile reassuringly when they show you something or you see what they created. That is actually the best! This allows your child to own his or her own process and this fuels more activity.
#3: Montessori children need a work space in your home and a set period of time when everyone is quietly working, including the adults. Lay out options and choices, and remove distractions, (such as beeping phones, screens or pets). This space can be the same each day, with two or three activity choices added every few days. Children can repeat things they enjoy, and work with something as long as they choose. We recommend making this time roughly 8:30-11:30 a.m. every day. This gives ample time to clean up from breakfast, change into daytime clothes, and afterwards to clean up all of the work space and prepare lunch together.
Please go to our website and look for “Homeschool” volumes by level and “Reflections on Homeschooling” under the FBS Families tab. This is where we are uploading activities, suggestions for routines, and further resources for each age group. These will expand as time goes on. Please keep in mind that this content is meant to be used as reference during your conversations with your teachers. They will promote individual plans and goals for each child, which will look different for each, just like it is in the classroom. Your teachers will utilize these lists in their conversations with you, and can filter and direct you towards the ideas they think will work best for your children.
Meanwhile, you can use those documents like a “menu” to choose from. You may want to print some out to reference, peruse ones for different age levels, or change the activities slightly to match your family and children’s stages of development. Just don’t “over think” it! Remember that the entire country is in this boat together at the same time, and those doing on-line learning classes and homeschooling programs are not necessarily getting more or less than your children. It’s just different. Your primary goal is to continue a love for learning and learning about anything counts. Through that comes concentration, the necessary foundation for education and character!
Your children have an amazing intellectual structure from their Montessori experiences so far, and they are resilient and creative people. Spending time with you in their homes following their curiosity and tending to the practical elements of life is the most important gift you can give them at this time. Let our support and ideas inspire you, but do not worry that you need to do all of what we suggest. If you can do nothing else, just read aloud to them as much as you’re able. Prioritize your family’s health and emotional well-being, and do what you need to do. We are all looking forward to the day we can be with your children in the beautiful Montessori environments again. They are incredible people!
The Forest Bluff Directors
Email Number IV:
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
Here we are, in the middle of a spring break that does not look like anything you imagined when you planned it. Amidst the challenges and disappointments, there still are opportunities. These are opportunities for your children with connection, creativity and quiet concentration. There are many activities that we hope your family has some time to do, and perhaps you are looking for new ideas! Reminder: these are just ideas for you to take or leave as you desire, not expected or required in any way.
Before we dismissed the children for spring break, the teachers and many of the students came up with lists of suggested activities to do at home. Below, we have compiled many of them directly from the lists the children made themselves, which are all good for vacation time. We believe that all of these activities are beneficial for your children’s education in a holistic sense. Creativity, concentration, and processes provide a deep foundation for future intellect and work ethic. We will provide intellectually-oriented activities in our Monday, March 30th email as you settle into more of a “home school” mode after this initial week.
Consider reading all the lists for each age level: Younger children may be able to do some of the activities for older children, with greater support, and older children will be able to do the activities listed for younger children with greater independence and complexity. Especially in times of sensing anxiety, children of all ages need a sense of purpose and to be active with their bodies and minds…in fact, that helps us as adults, too.
For Infants and Children Under Age 3:
(See https://montikids.com/montessori/ for an abundance of activities you can do at home with your baby or toddler and simple advice like, “How to wash a baby’s hands.” Past Forest Bluff Directors, Margaret Jessen Kelley and Stacy Keane contribute to this website’s content, so we know it is a good source).
More ideas for the youngest children under age four will be given in an upcoming blog. Please look for that at forestbluffschool.org/blog
Young Children’s Community:
- Bake bread (http://lindseykubly.com/2017/04/crusty-no-knead-bread-recipe/ provides a recipe that is easy enough to make daily).
- Prepare food for meals together with a colander, potato scrubber, a cutting board, little bowls and a child-safe chopping knife as needed.
- Make meals using the crock pot or slow cooker.
- Wash a table, chair, floor; scrubbing or cleaning with soap, water, and a scrub brush.
- Children these ages love order and routines, rituals and lining things up in rows. Try to incorporate some of such actions of your own choosing, such as a daily pray or poem time, lighting candles for meals, creating a space for solace or arranging the shoes in closets. Young children soothe themselves and organize their ideas through such actions. (Primary aged children, do too)
- Go for a long walk and talk about all the sounds you hear…see if what you hear on your late afternoon walk are different or some of the same.
- Make cookies, bread, scones, cupcakes (freeze the extras).
- Help with breakfast, lunch, or dinner (each child can take a night of the week to help their parent).
- Clean or straighten a room or a section of a room.
- Sing songs alone and with others; Write down the verses or make up new verses.
- Write a little story and draw a picture. Younger children can dictate it to an older sibling or adult.
- Play “I Spy” in a room of your house or looking out a window.
- Clean the yard and garden to get ready for planting.
- If you can find a recording of a common Illinois bird, listen to it and go on a walk listening for that bird, or look in a guide book then go out to search for just three things.
- Go on a walk and notice the signs of the season.
- Sew or knit.
- Build paper airplanes and find out which design works best, record and rate them.
- Make a word search.
- Write a letter, note, or message to someone, maybe even someone in your house.
- Write a story, maybe from the perspective of your pet or an insect living in your house.
- Camp in a tent or inside your house in a fort you make.
- Use things in nature to build a fort or a miniature fort for a toad.
- Make up a new dance and show your family with an evening “show.”
- Memorize a poem and recite it to commence dinner.
- Make gifts for others and create a treasure hunt for them to find them.
- Practice a sport or skill.
- Origami, make friendship bracelets or make crafts.
- Do handwork: knitting, crocheting, sewing, needlepoint.
- Make up a card game, your own board game, or any kind of game.
- Bake; double or triple the recipe for an added challenge with fractions and math.
- Interview a family member and write up their answers.
- Make puppets and give a “show” for younger siblings.
- Listen to an audiobook.
- Create a code and speak that language with a family member for a whole day.
- Collect rocks and sticks to use for crafts, or to determine their types later with a guidebook.
- Build and do an obstacle course.
- Practice yoga or another form of physical exercise daily.
- Make a meal for the family to relieve parents. Choose a couple nights of the week, or do all the lunches for the week.
- Suggest the family eat dinner in different places, like by the fire pit one evening if you have one.
- Ask an adult whether you can tend a fire, the grill or the fireplace, somewhat supervised.
- Surprise your family with a picnic inside or outside.
- Make a spring reading list for yourself. Set a goal and a schedule to aim for.
- Teach your family a card game or start an evening board game to continue indefinitely.
- If it’s fun for your family, start some practical jokes for each other.
- Straighten up the garage or basement to prepare for spring, or learn how to tune your own bicycle.
- Each child can take a night to help prepare dinner
- Teach a family member a new skill (maybe Dad doesn’t know how to knit)
- Organize a room, closet, or drawer
- Clean out toy shelves and give donations to charity
- Board games, card games, puzzles (many can be simplified for younger children)
- Make scavenger hunts for each other (Ideas: Items you might find in the yard or woods, items from a list your child writes)
- Take a nap or lie down and listen to an audiobook
- Read, read, read (Children to themselves, adults to children, children to adults (only if they want to) and even adults can read aloud to adults)
- Play, play, play! (Research shows that this is extremely important for development; this time at home is an amazing chance to have enough time to really play.)
In the weeks ahead, please call the office if you need more ideas or you have specific questions about your child. We will share more blog posts and these emails will keep coming your way. For more information see our past emails on the School Communications page of our website (under the FBS Families tab), and read over past blogs as well. Your children’s individual teachers will call you in the weeks ahead. They look forward to checking in with you and your children to discuss some suggestions and work plans to keep learning.
This time is undeniably challenging. It may also make us stronger as parents, people, and a community. Thank you for adding your strength and generosity of spirit just by being yourselves! We are so heartened by some beautiful stories we are hearing from you about what your children are up to so far. Your children are the future!
The Forest Bluff School Directors
Forest Bluff Email Number III:
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
This coming Monday, March 23rd, we will send you an email with ideas for activities at home during spring break. These are just ideas! You get to pick and choose, or do none of them, it is up to you as a parent. We want to keep you feeling supported and connected to Forest Bluff School. In the meantime, I wanted to give you an idea of what is projected for the weeks following:
As Forest Bluff School responds to recommendations about re-opening our building and resuming classes, it now looks likely that we will be unable to return well into April. This could change, of course; so much is unknown. All school events, gatherings, conferences and meetings will be postponed until it is advised to resume. We will definitely keep you updated. Everyone here at Forest Bluff is so grateful to you for working with us and caring about the well-being of our whole community.
The Directors and I are preparing to give you “remote learning ideas” that are more intellectually-oriented, beginning the day we were supposed to return from spring break, Monday, March 30th. None of what we send you will be expected or required in any way. Our goal is to help you as much or as little as you need us. Because we encourage children to stay off screens for entertainment and do not endorse “educational programs/games” during these very important years of development, what we come up with is not going to look like many other schools who use on-line technology for learning.* As a Montessori school with children and parents who share a unique, developmentally-appropriate approach to learning, we will provide ideas for each age level each week (via these emails to you) for many things children can do to keep learning in their own homes. We are finding a way to make our Directors available to support you by phone for each week of this remote learning. We will communicate as much as needed to help everyone!
Our office will be closed now until March 30th, but if something urgent arises, please call us at 847-295-8338. Our wonderful Office Manager, Trish Reidy, will be checking voicemail so that you can reach us.
If you did not receive our blog from Wednesday, March 18th, please go to the Forest Bluff School blog page to re-subscribe so that you will get each article as it arrives. As always, our aim is to inform, support, and inspire you.
*Technology is very abstract for children of any age. But there is one positive way we suggest using it:
During this time of “social distancing,” Face Timing with extended family or close friends or sending “letters” via email, can give your children an important sense of connection if this period extends past a few weeks. If you do this, we encourage you to choose a set time and place each day where you are together as a family with the screen, supervising and guiding your children. This is an example of positive technology use during an unusual time!
Paula Lillard Preschlack
For the Forest Bluff Directors
Forest Bluff Email Number II
Getting Started: Realize that Boredom is the Breeding Ground for Creativity!
As we do what is called for in this period of time, including more possible school cancellations or extended home stays, take confidence in Maria Montessori’s observation that children are learning all the time from their interaction with the environments around them. Your homes, communities, natural settings, and family lives are all rich with information for children to soak up. Slowing down and taking the time to notice this is a silver lining here.
This may sound strange to some, but our first word of advice is not to worry about your children getting bored! Free time, when children are not told what to do and not entertained is the breeding ground for creativity; the more free time there is, the more children’s brains and hands begin to create, build, think through, solve and resolve. The less you think for them, the more they will start to think and do for themselves, at home.
Your family may find this to be initially unpleasant, uncomfortable, even unhappy. Just stick with it!You’ll be amazed at what happens when you remove directions and entertainment and allow your children to work through any boredom. It’ll be the birth of something new. Allow this time to be something your family can actually grow through.
As you see other schools sending home e-learning classes and homework assignments, please realize that your children are in a Montessori school, which means that for many hours every day, they are accustomed to directing themselves to interact with their environment and to find or create purposeful work to do. They learn from doing this work, whether at school or at home.
Parents need not worry that you should become schoolteachers for your children right now! You do not need to order Montessori materials (do not even think of doing that, please!) There are just three initial things to do this week:
A-Prepare your home environment for your children to do practical life/help with housework and meals, read/look at books, artwork and free self-directed play.
B-Set up a consistent daily routine for the whole family so that the days have some general structure.
C-Allow your children the space and time for reflection, creativity and concentration for a set period of time each day. We recommend at least 3 hours of uninterrupted time in the mornings. Begin this when you feel ready. It will apply for longer-term home stays, if this becomes necessary.
We will elaborate on these three guidelines with specific suggestions for each age group, in emails that we will send to you weekly! But first, just take a breath, realize that technically, you have days of “spring break” until March 29th, and give yourself and your children a chance to adjust to changes. Remember, most children are the ones who have great ideas for what they could be doing at home. If it helps them, brainstorm a list of ideas they can refer to. Your children are more likely to do things they think up for themselves, so while you have many things to think about and do for your families right now, let them make their own lists of ideas. The Directors and I will keep sending along more ideas if we have to extend our time out of school. In the meantime, take a moment to adjust your mindset if you need to, and be assured that your amazing Montessori children can handle this!
Coming up: Look for our next blog post on Wednesday, March 18th titled, Montessori School at Home.
Forest Bluff Email Number I:
Dear Forest Bluff Community,
This is the first of our emails to you as we navigate through this unusual period of time. As a collective group, the Directors and I will be sending you ideas for supporting your children at home, beginning this afternoon, Monday, March 16th! The Directors have been compiling suggestions of activities and things to explore and enjoy for your children’s learning. Be sure to also look at the school blog posts: there are already over 50 articles of ideas on parenting with a Montessori approach. This is a great time to re-read some of the ones that interest you most. If you have not already subscribed to the school’s blog, you can easily do so at: forestbluffschool.org/blog
Please forward these Forest Bluff School emails to anyone you think may benefit, and make sure we have your updated email addresses. We are checking the office voice mail throughout every weekday. Calling the office (847-295-8338) is always the best way to reach us. All Directors and staff are in touch with the office. Call with any question you have for any teacher, the Head of School, or our staff, and we are collecting those questions daily to respond through these publicrelations emails to all parents, or by calling you back personally on the phone. Decisions about when school will reopen or predictions of what may come next will depend on many factors and we will give you updates weekly; this is a period of many unknowns to weather together.
During this time of being separated from each other physically, we have strong needs to share with each other; as you use social media, the telephone, texting and emailing, understand that our goal at Forest Bluff School is to stay focused on the children’s well-being and needs for learning, so other information will be best sought and shared in other avenues. Any news you receive about the school are only valid if it comes directly from our office, website or this email address. We aim to keep Forest Bluff an inspirational and positive source for you!
From the past week, every one of our Directors has impressed me with their calm, clear thinking to create back-up plans and their eagerness to support Forest Bluff school families and children. Forest Bluff parents have been understanding, supportive, and willing to do their part for the well being of others. We are so grateful for this special community!
We are thinking about your families and children every day. We will continue to send you information, ideas and inspirations. The first of such emails will be sent to you as email Number II this afternoon!
Paula Lillard Preschlack
For the Forest Bluff School Directors