Montessori schools observe holidays differently than many of us have experienced in traditional schools. The following information is reposted from the McDowell Montessori School Newsletter in Milwaukee, Wis., with slight changes.
Every teacher, and parent, has undoubtedly noticed the effect of holidays on children. This is especially true during our longest holiday season, which begins at the end of October and can last into January. The children often show increased signs of excitement and distractibility during these months that can affect their learning during the school day. Although holidays can be fun and exciting for children and families, it is important for us to help students keep perspective and focus on the expectations for them at school during these times.
We make all efforts to keep a consistent routine for the students at Mata Montessori School throughout the school year to support their focus and learning. We do not ignore the cultural holidays at school, but we have the students focus on the historical aspects of each cultural celebration, learning about the diversity of celebrations in our community.
Here are some things that we focus upon in school during the holiday season:
1. Keep things as usual in the classroom. Do not decorate the room with elaborate decorations, which can distract the students from their learning.
2. Have some low-key holiday activities that relate to the history of the holiday one to two weeks before the holiday break, but no sooner. The long build-up of anticipation can be too much for the children.
3. Discuss with the children how holidays were celebrated in times past and how people in other countries celebrate the holiday season.
4. Read stories to the children that describe the diversity of our culture and how a variety of holidays are celebrated in our country.
5. Have children share their own family traditions.
6. Invite parents in to share artifacts and information about family celebrations with the children.
7. Discuss with children how the holiday season is traditionally a time for helping the needy in their community.
8. Help older children realize what influence advertising can have by suggesting that they count how many different toys are advertised during one hour of television time (great graphing project!).
**Reminder: When choosing snacks to bring to celebrations, including Celebration of Life and Winter Celebration, please refer to Dallas ISD’s guide to smart snacks, the smart snack calculator and the nut-free safe snacking guidelines.
Mata has a cultural committee that guides how we, as a school, observe holidays. Montessori traditionally is multicultural, encouraging children to understand and respect the beliefs and practices of other children of the world. The committee looks at all holidays, not only in America but also other parts of the world, and provides suggestions for integrating them into the classroom curriculum. Rather than just a party, Montessori classrooms observe the historical and geographic significance of holidays. Parents interested in joining the committee should contact their teacher or room parent.