Last night at the Chamber of Commerce's Small Business dinner I was honored to receive, on behalf of the entire OGMS community, a SILVER BEAUTIFICATION AWARD. The Chamber presents these a couple of times a year to businesses in three categories; PUBLIC, PRIVATE, and SPECIAL. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was pretty giddy for Oak Grove to be recognized among these highly visible Carrollton organizations......GREENWAY received for the PRIVATE sector, the GREENBELT took PUBLIC, and we, of course, were "SPECIAL." While I've always considered what we have going here, especially in terms of physical aesthetics, pretty special, it is downright encouraging to have someone unrelated think so. Thank you to everyone who supports the effort involved in providing beautiful outdoor environments, beautiful gardens, beautiful classrooms, beautiful materials, and beautiful spirits to surround the children of Oak Grove.
There are always extenuating circumstances, but generally speaking, our goal for every child at Oak Grove is to have had a thorough workout during their school day; physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively.....so that after school, they can just "be" with their family, sharing in relaxed conversation, riding bikes, or sinking in a comfy couch with no agenda.
"So much of what children need to learn involves not only the culture of a family, but the enrichment of sports participation and music lessons. We don’t let our kids do much during the week because of the need for ample homework time. And I can’t help but wonder how much they miss out on because of it.
If the school day were lengthened and kids got the kind of individual instruction that extra time could provide, it would eliminate the need for frustrating evenings spent at the kitchen table Googling third grade math concepts and listening to a whiny, tired kid who’s had enough. There has to be a better way, and maybe this school district has found it."
Read the full article
It's some years away, but never too early to begin preparing yourself for the years your direct influence and control, in your child's life, comes to a close. Is it possible, to set the stage NOW, for your three year old, increasing the odds he develops healthy life skills? You betcha!
When things don't go your way, how do you respond? Do you lash out, become critical, pout? What is your go-to reaction? This might be a good way to evaluate how you're preparing your child to respond in similar scenarios of opposition, rejection, failure, isolation, and discrimination. In varying degrees, these realities intersect with your child's day as well.
As parents, if we are constantly orchestrating, constructing, and sculpting the landscape so that our little ones don't have to be uncomfortable, hurt, or even treated unfairly, what are we preparing them for? You got it....a cycle. Of course we want our children to be even "better prepared" than we were. Regardless of an ideal childhood, adolescence, or young adult experience, it's only natural to want MORE for our babies.
Life happens, people will disappoint, things will be inconvenient, complicated, or even poorly organized and executed. How can we use these moments to model and explore the impact, feelings, and consequences alongside our child in order to equip them for thriving without us? These 'moments' are what our work at OGMS is all about. Yes, we want the three R's to be well imbedded, all set to take on the next level of complexity, but more importantly, we believe a big chunk of time must be invested in the 'moment'.....whatever that moment might be. Opportunities to increase the health and awareness of our social and emotional capacities are never ending....for 18 month olds or 53 year olds. Every day opportunities are bulldozed over like little pebbles on a path to some critical destination. At Oak Grove, we are relentless about slowing, downshifting, redirecting, so that we might recognize, notice, reflect, or perhaps, learn something from our interactions. Good, bad or ugly, every cause/effect engagement with our environments and the people and objects within them are painting a new stroke inside our emotional frame. Guiding, or letting the pieces fall where they might, is the challenge of daily decision making for the educators at OGMS, it's your work as OGMS parents as well. We are each working and hoping for the best possible outcomes. Outcomes that one day will influence the way our children respond to the celebrations, rejections, conflicts, and inconveniences of life.
I hope you'll enjoy this read about the season of college acceptance, soon to come for many of you!
At first it seems a little out there, but read on, they've got some really good points in how they apply Montessori principles to this new "toy." One of my priorities, as we continuously attempt to remain "authentic" in our practice of the Montessori philosophy here at OGMS, is evaluating how any activity might facilitate greater independent thinking and decision making.... all while assuming responsibility for the results of such. It can be a fine, faint line, but this is just too cool to not consider. So, decide for yourself, is it Montessori enough? http://www.zdnet.com/article/zuckerberg-sister-backs-wooden-robot/#comments-245832d6-ecc7-46e3-b69f-043e4e780991
p.s. Make sure you click through to the Kickstarter page as well....which shares more specific Montessori correlations through the product descriptions.
An interesting article for your reading pleasure!
Just in case you are new to the scene and aren't sure what we are talking about when we say, EMPTY BOWLS, here are a few more details. Over the years, Oak Grove students have supported this annual fundraiser for Carroll County's Soup Kitchen, by making clay bowls with a local artisan. While not guaranteed to find and purchase your own child's, the chance to go home with a special bowl has always been incentive enough to support a great cause that helps meet a need of local residents.
Aside from our routine bowl making contribution, this year, OGMS is GIVING in a couple of new ways. Not only will there be one-of-a-kind bowls from about 60 unique OGMS kiddos (Primary and Elementary), we'll also be donating soup and elbow grease! Collaborating through class ingredient donations, elementary students will stir up a pot of liquid deliciousness (under the careful guidance of Chef Janine) for the special day. I assure you, it will be hard not to pick this one from the line-up on February 28th.
Aligning with the school's value of "service to others,' we are not only encouraging our elementary students and their families to volunteer the day of the event, but all members of the OGMS community. For this day, we have committed to helping in the area of table maintenance. So, if you would like to lend a hand for 30-minutes or so, you would assist in replenishing bread baskets on tables, throw away "left-behinds" ..... trash, and most importantly, spread good cheer. To ensure we can fulfill our obligation, we'd love to have a headcount of our volunteers. Please list your family name on the Shutterfly OGMS Community Page .... oh, and wear an Oak Grove t-shirt...... pretty please!
Still can't quite picture it? You show up at the County Ag Center between the hours of 11:00-2:00 on Sunday, February 28th planning to eat lunch. Pay $15 per meal and pick out one precious ceramic bowl (per $15 meal) from an ENORMOUS, mind boggling line-up. There are literally tables FULL of bowls of all shapes, sizes, and designs. Not only will choosing a bowl be a challenge, but choosing a soup to lunch on will be too. Don't worry about finding the largest one there, the soup is proportioned in disposable containers and served through a cafeteria style process. Our local restaurants and civic organizations always provide a diverse selection for all tastes. By the way, bread, water, and entertainment are included with the meal. Other drinks sold separately.
Melanie Drew from Blue Heron Art Studio spent several days working with our Primary and Elementary students embellishing clay bowls for the event. While unexpected, she has generously offered to "retain" these particular bowls from going in to the main "pot" and will gladly let you choose your child's (unless they were absent that day) the day of the event. Just seek her out, she'll have them sorted by class (P1, P2, LE).
(shhhhhh) Here's a sneak peek!
Parents, prospective and enrolled, invariably, at some point in the commitment process, approach the topic of class size. In fact, I'd have to say this is one of the top three questions we get asked with any family considering enrolling a Primary age child at Oak Grove. It seems we have all been influenced or conditioned to consider the implications of adult to child ratios and the potential negative outcomes large ratios imply. Feeling like a broken record (...mp3), I decided it was a good time to put this conversation in writing. Not only is it soon to be pre-registration for OGMS families, but we spent the past five months explaining the disparity in the two sizes of our Primary classrooms.
Eleven years ago when designing the school, I didn't have enough experience to value the spacial needs of the Montessori environments. As a result, the classroom footprint was decreased from those left behind at Blackstock. Fast forward after a decade of squeezing in and out of Primary classrooms, we now have our first, perfectly-suited classroom space to grow an authentic, Montessori Primary community. By removing a dividing wall last summer, our Primary Two classroom is spacious enough to increase the roster to the recommended (by Maria) size of 25-35 students. Yep, that's right, a minimum of 25 students is what is considered for a well functioning 3-6 Primary class. When you try to translate these stats to a traditional style classroom one's hair stands on end, so don't do that. Instead, let's look at the variables that support a large class size in Montessori.
Contrary to traditional programs, Montessori students are seldom presented materials or skills as a whole class. The few times the multi-age group of 25 or more are gathered together as one usually involves singing, dancing, story time, or another brief teachable moment. The meat of the Montessori curriculum is presented one-on-one, or in small groups of 2-5 students.
Diversity in learning partners increases with class size. Age, maturation, learning styles, temperaments, personalities, as well as strengths or talents, even the youngest child's unique attributes are recognized and honored in the Montessori community. As an integral component of the Montessori method, receiving lessons, having work checked, and eventually working with a partner are all emphasized as community and individual goals at every level. We already know how peer influence works, so I'll just add that learning from a peer is waaaaaay cooler and results in more impressionable outcomes than the isolated adult to child experience. Yes, child to child instruction occasionally goes south. When it turns into more socializing than productivity, or more critiquing than helpful, the keen eye of the teacher moves in to "guide" the situation. Mind you, there is a time and place for these experiences to be most effective, and not all children are ready to be in the "educator" role at the same time. Having a larger pool to select this role from increases the odds of more frequent and successful peer teaching experiences.
Emphasis of social development and wellness is a fundamental tenet of the Montessori philosophy. The components that go into becoming a "community" of learners result from the opportunities to exchange and interact throughout the day in a variety of contexts. From quietly checking a younger child's rhyming work, to setting the table for lunch, children are practicing patience, communication, tolerance, and compromise. In classes where the three-year age span is well balanced, these interactions are more varied and represent more "real world" experiences.
No parent really enjoys nagging, do they? The Montessori Foundation publishes Tomorrow Child, which included this quick read. Maybe it will provide some fresh insight.
I wanted to say thank you again to the families and friends that supported our annual scholarship drive (Private Tax Credit Program) by diverting some of their Georgia tax liability to OGMS. Last year's pledges resulted in reaching our $30K goal, only to be super disappointed when a "governmental glitch" in the approval process brought that number tumbling to $19K. Beyond that initial hit, the figure was then reduced when a few of our approved donors (pledges) weren't paid in on time..... bringing us to a little over $13K as a final 2015 scholarship amount.
When this year's initiative (for 2016) rolled around, it only made sense to set the goal, once again, at $30K, hoping our final, bottom line number, would fall somewhere above 2015's $13K. At the end of our campaign on December 4th we had, again, reached our goal of $30K. For weeks, I've held my breath, awaiting the approval process, which began on January 1st., to come to a close. While final DOR reports, reflecting this year's prorated amounts, are yet to be published, our SSO (Student Scholarship Organization) Apogee is confident this year's final figures will be an improvement from 2015. As we wait, some donors, maybe even you, have received their approval letter with their final prorated contribution amount in the mail. Based on these DOR letters, one couple who pledged the max of $2,500 received an approved amount at $2,100, (an improvement over their 2015 amount of $1,400, for the same pledge amount). As one might imagine, there is no clear formula for these prorated amounts, at least not published. For now, we'll sit patiently awaiting final tallies by APOGEE as they attempt to decipher the formulas and procedural language of the DOR. When I have more to report, I will pass it on to you. In the meantime, thank you. Thank you for the support that this money provides to Oak Grove families who's child(ren) receive a great opportunity to be positively influenced another year, as a part of this beautiful OGMS community.
Over the years evaluative tools have come and gone. Finding a successful process for sharing observations, expectations, and perspective with each of my co-workers has been a challenge at best. Time and again I've created, tested, tried, edited, and eventually trashed one assessment template after another. Creating a user-friendly system that truly addresses and reflects OGM's values and principles hasn't been easy work, but FINALLY I've found success. It's important to me to not just be able to say we have a process for this and that, but to ensure each process we create be truly purposeful and effective in helping someone grow (preferably, lots of someones). Providing continuous and relevant feedback also keeps us all as closely aligned with the school's goals, as well as my expectations. And if you've ever driven a car, you understand the importance of alignment. In addition to the many informal observations I make in each classroom throughout the year, I also make several formal ones. Here's a look at the tool, that I am feeling very confident in, that I use to share feedback with my people. Maybe it will help shed some light on my priorities as a School Head. Light that helps everyone align.
As a mom of three Montessori alum and serving as Head of School, here at Oak Grove, my brain often feels like I-285, traveling in rush-hour traffic, in search of an open ramp. Perhaps some of what exits will find it's way to you and be helpful, or, in the least, informative. Enjoy!