Wheaton Montessori News
Mrs. Mayhugh recently hosted a CommuniTEA, a monthly event in which teachers and staff present a topic for discussion with parents. For this meeting, Suzanna Mayhugh addressed your “Frequently Asked Questions,” or “FAQs.” We’re sharing Suzanna’s notes from the CommuniTEA. Last week we shared your questions about day-to-day logistics at school. This week’s portion covers school holidays and classroom celebrations.
All classroom celebrations (birthdays, Halloween parties, Winter parties, and Valentine’s Day parties) are for students only. Parents are asked to help supply many of the needed items. Each teacher holds their party during the “best” moment of the day for each particular classroom, depending on work floor and activity within the class.
“How do you celebrate birthdays?” “Do we need to send in a treat?”
Every child’s birthday is acknowledged at Wheaton Montessori School – whether it falls on a weekend, over a school vacation, or is shared by several classmates. Birthdays are celebrated differently depending on whether the student is in Primary, Elementary, or the Adolescent Community.
Primary: We celebrate every child, even if they don’t bring in a treat! Some children really like to bring a treat to share. Others are totally satisfied in the classroom traditions and a happy to celebrate with their friends without bringing a treat from home. Either way, students are celebrated on “their” day. In Primary classrooms, the students sing “Happy Birthday” or “The Earth Goes Around the Sun,” a birthday song in many Montessori classrooms. My favorite birthday tradition is when the students gather around the birthday child to tell he or she what they love or appreciate about him or her. These small humans care deeply and express BIG emotions about their classmates. It’s a beautiful tradition that always makes me realize just how well known each child is by his or her friends.
Elementary: My favorite part of the Primary celebration – when the children are told what their friends value about them – is memorialized in a “Birthday Book” when students are in the elementary community. Every elementary student and teacher writes a short letter to the birthday celebrant that wishes them well and includes a compliment. It’s then compiled and bound for presentation on the child’s birthday. Compiling the birthday book is a coveted job in the classroom. The student is also invited to pick a new book out of the “Birthday Book Box,” a large box filled with titles for the student to select and take home.
Adolescent Community: In the Adolescent Community, teachers follow the adolescent mind set to help the student feel recognized and celebrated. At this age, students tend to not like to be singled out from their peers – for good or bad! We’ve seen adolescents individualize their days by bringing in a treat, cooking a special lunch, etc. But typically it’s another day in their lives that they just want to be with their friends and part of a group. Dr. Bilezikian notes that any treats or announcements are typically last minute, like a shock-and-awe campaign immediately followed by a retreat back into the comfort of the group. (For example, a student exclaiming “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!” upon arrival, then immediately withdrawing back into the group and asking that no one “make a big deal out of it.” This is a tough age!)
“What is the Halloween Parade?” “Are parents invited for the parade?” “How many pieces of candy should I bring?”
Halloween at Wheaton Montessori School kicks of with a costume parade throughout the playground at 9:00 a.m. Parents, grandparents, and neighbors are encouraged to come for the parade!
Please send students to school in costume. Some students bring a change of clothes for afterwards; costumes can be a bit cumbersome when you’re trying to get your work done later in the day. This is the ONLY day that your child should be in a costume at school! Yes, it’s super cute to see them in costume. But it does derail the entire day for the rest of the classroom on any day other than Halloween.
Please note: The parade waits for no mom. It starts very, very, very promptly at 9:00 a.m. The students are READY to go and it’s nearly impossible to ask them to wait!
You don’t need to send a bag with your child. Leading up to the parade, students will decorate a bag in the classroom to carry during the parade to collect candy. If you’d like to hand out candy (or stickers, erasers, etc.), you can, but it’s not necessary! If you’d like, count on about 180 to 200 pieces to hand out – one for each student.
Speaking of candy: The candy bag is stapled at the top and set aside until dismissal so that parents can sort through it if desired or put it away for rationing. (Or to be sure that all of the Milk Duds and Snickers are safely tucked away for the adults in the household.)
Classroom Halloween Parties: Students in Primary and Elementary always have “Bobbing for Ghosties,” (students try to catch a powdered sugar donut hanging from a string. Hilarity ensues.) Also involved in the day o’ treats: caramel apples sundaes and candy-corn bingo, dance parties, and more.
Adolescent Students put a great deal of effort into creating “The Haunted Hallway,” a spooky (and fun) experience for Elementary students to participate in if desired. Primary students do not participate in the Haunted Hallway.
Grandparents’ Day at Wheaton Montessori School is always the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Please tell your guests now to mark their calendars! Invitations to grandparents or special guests will be made in late October/early November.
On the Monday prior to Thanksgiving at 11:00 a.m., we have an all-school rehearsal. Parents: this is your moment. This is when you get to see the performance. Parents, siblings, cousins, etc. are not included in Tuesdays event; it’s just for your child’s invited special guest.
Grandparents Day itself is on Tuesday, officially beginning around 9:30. This is our “Super Bowl,” friends. Grandparents begin arriving early to get a good seat. Students are allowed to be dismissed with grandparents if we have written permission from you to do so.
What if your child doesn’t have grandparents that can attend? YOUR STUDENT SHOULD COME TO SCHOOL THAT DAY ANYWAY! The students practice their performances with their classmates for months. It’s really important for the to experience the performance and be a part of the culmination of their hard work. There are always “extra” grandparents and guests milling about that need someone to talk to. In our experience, sharing is really hard for grandparents – while one “set” gets to visit with a student, many times the other “set” takes another student under their wing. Suzanna says, “My mom will take on your child as her own and be ecstatic to hear about his or her work. And she’s one of many that are delighted to be a part of the day for ALL students, not just their own grandchild!”
“What is the Holiday Bazaar?” “We don’t celebrate (insert religious holiday here). Will my child still participate?”
The Holiday Bazaar gives our students the experience of gift giving: planning who to shop for, thinking about a gift that would be meaningful for a loved one, shopping and handling money, and finally presenting their gifts to a loved one. We try hard not to specify a particular holiday, just the idea of gift giving to someone we value. Students have a chance to shop independently while thinking about their loved one’s interests and hobbies. Each gift costs $1 and students are able to shop for up to 6 people. Younger students will have help wrapping and shopping from volunteers.
We ask the students to focus on the idea of gift-giving and celebrating a loved one. We love this tradition as a means for our students to be able to think about giving – and be able to give to the people they love.
This is NOT a fundraiser and we rely on volunteers and donations to help set up the store. Detailed information and forms will come home after Grandparents’ Day.
Please note: We do not allow for students to shop for school friends! This creates quite a nest of drama if one school friend is given a gift, but not others.
On the last day of class before Winter Break, we take a moment away from our work for some seasonal festiveness.
Primary and Elementary celebrate with Hot Cocoa Parties.
Junior High: Typically celebrates with an off-site holiday party at Dr. Bilezikian’s house. They learn from their teachers how to model “appropriate levity and celebration” during a holiday party – useful information for work parties later in life! They order a special meal and many years watch a movie together.
Valentine’s Day – Students bring Valentines to “deliver” to a large classroom mailbox in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. Many families will hand-make their valentines. If you plan on doing that, START EARLY. Like right now would be great. (We kid. We kid.) However, to keep the activity fun for all involved, it’s best to have a simple design and spread out the work over several days (or weeks!), maybe doing a handful of Valentines at a time.
At school, parents needed to help sort the notes into bags, which the students make at school. There’s no need to send a collection bag or box.
The bags are sent home with child to go through with family. We do not open the bags at school.