A Visit from a Former Student… and an Igloo??

When your school has been open for 16 years, visits from former students can be eye-opening. Those three year olds who joined us at circle time our first year are now college students!  We’ve seen friendships established at CHMS that continue to thrive many years later, and we receive holiday cards each December with updated family photos, which we proudly display in our office. It’s amazing to see children you nurtured as three, four, and five year olds turn into elementary children who stop by to sell cookies, teenagers who are driving, and young adults heading off to college!

Over the years we have had former students come back to CHMS to get volunteer hours for school, assist the teachers with our summer camp program, and to read to the current students. They love reconnecting with an environment that holds a special place in their hearts and we love reconnecting with them! It’s a win-win situation.

This past week, we had another visit from a former family, but this visit was unlike any other we have experienced! This visit included 397 plastic milk jugs and a structure called the “Jugloo” being built on our playground!

Creativity in Action

Carla Brown is a former CHMS parent who runs a blog and podcast called Trashmagination, which focus on the creative reuse of items that people usually throw away. Plastic milk jugs are one of Carla’s favorite materials to creatively reuse. Together with her husband, Bob Welland, her son (and former CHMS student) Russell, and his boy scout troop (1577), Carla designed and built an igloo structure made of milk jugs and zip ties. The Jugloo was entered in the 6th annual Maker Faire at George Mason University on June 2, 2019.

“The Faire showcases amazing collection of tech enthusiasts, engineers, woodworkers, metal workers, auto hackers, artists, teachers, and craftspeople from all over the DC Metro area and beyond. There are tons of hands on activities where you can learn how to make this stuff on your own!”  

Russell and his fellow scouts helped collect and clean the milk jugs, test out the construction process, and assembled the finished Jugloo at the Maker Faire. Russell also used the Jugloo as the focus for his “Passion Project” presentation at school. After all that effort, he didn’t want it to “go to waste” and so offered it to Children’s House for a day.  We’re so glad he did!!

Igloo Adventure

Russell, Carla, and Bob came by after hours and assembled the Jugloo on our deck. The next day, much to the children’s surprise, there was a Jugloo on our playground and it was a sight to see! It was big enough for several children to get in and the younger ones could actually stand up.  The children had a fabulous time trying it on for size!

We love that they had they opportunity to see creative reuse in action. We regularly use toilet paper rolls, applesauce and yogurt cups, shoe boxes, tissue boxes, and more in our annual craft events and for special projects at school. Ms. Karen recently helped the children make kazoos out of toilet paper rolls and wax paper and “guitars” out of yogurt cups and rubber bands! Reusing items can be fun – whether you’re climbing in them or making noise with them!

Thanks for sharing!

A HUGE thank you to Russell, Carla, and Bob for sharing the Jugloo with us! They took a couple of hours out of their day to transport the jugs and assemble the structure just so our students could play and experience a little Arctic adventure on the playground. We really appreciate your creativity and enthusiasm and look forward to following your future projects and creations!

For the complete story behind the Jugloo, be sure to visit the Trashmagination blog and listen to the podcast. For more creative ways to reuse milk jugs, check out Carla’s Pinterest board on the topic!

Visiting an Art Gallery with Children: Five tips to make it fun!

We love field-tripping with our kindergarteners! This past week saw our third and final field trip of the year, this time to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC. All year long the children learn about various artists, study their work, replicate some of their more well-known paintings, and then travel to the gallery to see some famous pieces for themselves.

We always have so many parent helpers for our field trips and this was no exception. It’s a great opportunity for our parents to connect one-on-one with their child and enjoy a fun experience together. Many parents later tell us that they were inspired to revisit the gallery or to explore other museums after sharing the gallery trip with their child! We love that! Yes! Get out there and explore!

We’ve been taking children the NGA for many years and there are a few suggestions we’d like to make to ensure that you and your family have a meaningful experience that is educational and fun! While we’re writing this with the National Gallery of Art in mind, you can apply these suggestions to any art gallery or museum.

Tip #1: Plan ahead – select an artist before you go

There are so many amazing artists to learn about! During our school year we focus on a different artist each month, including Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Horace Pippin, and Mary Cassatt. We read about them and learn about their lives, their struggles and successes, and what sets them apart in the world of art! You can read more about our art program here.

Prior to your visit, pick an artist! Connect with him or her through books and get to know a little about the man or woman behind the art. We have had great success with the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by author and illustrator, Mike Venezia. And Laurence Anholt’s collection of stories inspired by artists and their work is another great resource. There are so many wonderful books about artists out there! Read up on a few and get to know them before you step foot in the gallery. Get inspired by their stories and understand what motivated and inspired them. You’ll feel more connected to the art work and it will make for a more connected experience for your child.

Tip #2: Be prepared – check the gallery’s website and map

If there’s one thing that will put a damper on a fun outing, it’s tired feet! Plan your visit so you know where you’re going and which art pieces you’re looking for when you get there. Adults are generally fine with wandering around and taking their time, but children need to focus their energy and excitement on a specific goal. After you’ve seen what you came to see, there’ll be plenty of time to explore, so get the purpose of your visit out of the way early and leave room for spontaneity.

Prior to our field trip, we (the teachers) spend some time on the NGA’s website, making sure that we know where to find the paintings and pieces we’re looking for. We would never take our kindergarteners into the gallery without first knowing where we’re going! Did you know that paintings MOVE? From one year to the next a painting might be reassigned to a new space, added to a temporary collection, put in storage for cleaning, or lent out to another museum or gallery!

We were very disappointed this time around to learn that one of our favorite paintings, The Japanese Footbridge by Claude Monet, would not be on display during our visit! But, because we knew that going into the event, we could talk to the children ahead of time and temper their expectations. If your favorite painting is not on view, don’t stress! There are still plenty of amazing pieces of art to enjoy and now you have an excuse to go back at a later date.

Tip #3: Talk about your expectations for behavior before you go

Galleries have rules. “No touching” is a pretty big one and one that many young children struggle with, especially if their only prior experience has been children’s museums, which are designed for touch and exploration. We spend time before we go, talking with the children and setting our expectations for their behavior while inside the gallery:

  1. We walk — there is no running inside an art gallery. Period.
  2. We keep our hands behind our back or at our sides when we look at a piece of art – this one we actually practice ahead of time. Nothing puts a gallery guard on alert like a five year old with a pointed finger standing two feet away from a priceless Picasso!
  3. We show respect for other visitors to the gallery – everyone deserves to enjoy their visit! We make sure that the children know that there will be many people there and that we can be respectful by keeping our voices low, walking, and paying attention to others around us who might be trying to see the same paintings that we are.

Tip #4: Take time to reflect on what you see

Many people are intimidated by art. They don’t “get it” or think that they should feel something when they look at a painting or a sculpture and they’re afraid that they’re doing it wrong. Art appreciation is different for each person, but it all starts with questions, so take some time to ask questions and think about the different pieces you explore with your child. You might be surprised at their answers! You could say:

  • What is your favorite thing about this painting?
  • What do you think (the subject of the painting) was doing right before this painting takes place?
  • Look at that door – I wonder what’s behind that door.
  • She’s reading something! I wonder what she’s reading?
  • Her dress is so fancy! I wonder where she’s going?
  • What’s he doing? Why do you think he’s doing that?

Bring a small notebook or sketchpad and plan on taking a few short breaks from walking to sit down and let your child sketch what they see. Bring a few pencils or crayons (no markers — too much potential for mess) and monitor your child’s use of them to ensure they’re not drawing on the floor or benches. The guards at the National Gallery are great about letting visitors sketch and draw, but be mindful of other visitors and don’t block doorways or high traffic areas.

Tip #5: Keep it brief and leave time for spontaneity

Walking into the gallery with a plan (we’re going to go see the Monets and Cassatts first, then sketch, have lunch, and go to the gift shop) does several things:

  1. Gives your child a framework for how long this activity will last: Excitement will only take you so far! Walking through an art gallery tires out little legs and cranky kids make for cranky parents. So, keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
  2. Lets you know when it’s time to leave: End your visit on a high note with everyone’s energy, spirit of adventure, and good mood intact.
  3. Helps you avoid aimless wandering: Galleries, especially the NGA, are large! You’re not going to see everything, especially with a young child in tow, so be specific, get in, get out, and go back another time to see more.

Once you’ve seen what you came to see, if everyone is still in high spirits, be spontaneous! Take a look at the map and pick a room you didn’t go to yet and head over to see what’s there. Some of our favorite moments with children at the gallery have come from “I wonder what’s over there?” types of questions.

Get out there and explore the world of art! If you and your family head to an art gallery, tag us in your post @chmsreston, so we can see where you went! If you found this post helpful, comment and let us know and share it on social media. Happy adventuring!

Spring Gardening Begins!

Last Friday saw the start to our spring gardening sessions and it couldn’t have been better; what a perfect day for gardening!  It was a lovely warm day and the children were excited to get outside and start clearing out the last leftovers from winter.

Ms. Marierose and her gardening crew

Every spring the children spend time making our gardens on our playground look beautiful. Over the years we have come up with a plan that works well for several small groups of children and a parent volunteer or two assisting the teachers. Over the course of one morning, we are able to accomplish a lot and all of the children get a meaningful, hands-on experience! Over the next few weeks we will:

  • clean out the weeds and leaves from winter
  • loosen the soil and plant flowers provided by our families
  • cover the soil with mulch to hold in the moisture
  • fix up our animal “shelter areas” and clean food and water dishes
Getting ready to start: everyone find a pair of gloves!

Watering the garden is a daily activity now that the clematis and irises are in bloom.  The children have access to water during outdoor playtime and the love to fill a variety of watering cans and containers and take care of the plants.

Watering the plants is a favorite activity

Our playground is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a schoolyard habitat. This means we provide food, water, shelter, and a place for animals to raise their young on our playground. The children look forward to building places for lizards to bask in the sun, putting out yarn for birds to build their nests, and building hiding places for toads and chipmunks out of rocks and old flower pots. Worms that are found elsewhere on the playground are carefully placed  in the garden beds because we know how helpful worms are for the soil, and spiders and insects that make their way inside the building are caught carefully in a special “bug catcher” and released outside.

We keep our bird feeders close to the classroom windows and enjoy watching the visiting cardinals, black-capped chickadees, goldfinches, and hummingbirds. And, of course, the squirrels and chipmunks are also rather entertaining! We have even been lucky enough to spot deer just outside our fence and, believe it or not, are occasionally visited by red-tailed hawks and even a barred owl!

Scooping bird seed out of the storage bins

We are so fortunate to have our large natural playground to play on, and to learn so much about nature. Click here for more information on our Gardening Program and stay tuned for an update on our garden in the months to come!

Spring is Finally Here!

There’s no place like our playground in the spring! The children are so excited to finally be able to go outside WITHOUT COATS ON! We are outside almost every day during the winter, so being able to skip that step when the weather warms up is a big deal for them. And, for the teachers, too, if we’re being honest! 🙂

The birds are active, and, if we’re lucky, we can see nests being built and chicks being raised. The lizards wake up from their winter hibernation and can be spotted sunning themselves on the rocks in our gardens. A few years ago we even had a fawn spend some time right outside our playground gate while mom was just out of sight! The daffodils emerge and life and color returns to our beautiful play space here in Reston! We even had a visit from the Easter Bunny this year!

We will return to tending to our gardens right after Spring Break. The children will work on the classroom garden beds once a week, clearing out dead leaves, planting new flowers, taking care of the animals that visit our playground with fresh water and food, and topping it all off with a fresh layer of mulch. You can read more about our gardening program here.

What’s your family’s favorite springtime activity? Do you enjoy spending time in the garden?

Authentic Montessori in the Heart of Reston

There are so many choices available to parents of young children today! A seemingly endless list of daycares, preschools, Montessori schools, private kindergarten programs, and the list goes on and on… It can be overwhelming! You’re looking for any number of things: location, class size, a program that fits your needs, and you want a school that feels right as well!

At Children’s House Montessori School we check the boxes: we are conveniently located just minutes from Reston Town Center and the Reston-Wiehle Metro station. We have two classes for children ages three to six and each class has approximately twenty students with two or three teachers per class. We follow the Montessori Philosophy, meaning that we adhere to the belief that children learn from their peers and do best in a mixed-age peer grouping. We also believe that the classroom environment should be a dynamic space, filled with movement and stillness, conversation and concentration.

Children begin at the age of three and remain in the same class, with the same peers and teachers, for three years. A sense of “family” is quickly formed in this safe and nurturing environment. As children progress through the three-year cycle, younger children aspire to imitate the older ones in their work and play, while older children have the opportunity to teach their well-learned skills to the younger ones. The third year, the kindergarten year, brings together all that the children have learned in this unique cycle of learning. Click here to learn more about our kindergarten program.

Our dynamic learning environment addresses all your child’s developmental needs: social, emotional, cognitive, and physical. Children participate in “group time” activities each day, which foster a feeling of community and encourage cooperation. They receive individual instruction on the materials in the classroom throughout the extended work period. They spend time outside each day, and younger children spend part of their afternoon in peaceful rest. We create a non-competitive environment where children are always encouraged to do their best. Each child is measured only against his own progress. We encourage children to complete their activities rather than compete with others.

Schedule a tour with us and see what sets us apart!

Where the Love of Nature meets the Love of Learning

We love the outdoors and teaching the children all about nature throughout our curriculum and our environment. Our efforts to help children learn to love nature began with our gardening, hiking, and certified Schoolyard Habitat.  Over the past few years, we’ve thoughtfully created an outdoor environment where children can discover, relax, and learn through their interactions with the natural playscape features on our playground.

We have created spaces for the children to explore, dig, build, climb, be quiet and peaceful, and also care for the area where they play. The children love our playground. The benefits of natural spaces for play are numerous, including:

  • Children use their imagination more during play.
  • Children are more active during play when there are natural spaces to explore.
  • Because of the activities they choose to engage in, they tend to work on their fine motor skills during play in addition to the gross motor skills used on play equipment.

Weather-permitting, the children spend lots of time outdoors every day! We go outside before and after lunch and again in the later afternoon for the children who stay for our full-day program. When it snows, we put on snow gear and head outside, and when it’s raining, we’ve been known to get outdoors for a quick run through the drizzle to burn off some energy and get some fresh air!

We understand the importance of time outside, engaging with nature — it is something that we take seriously and have a lot of fun with!

The Hidden Gem of Reston

Northern Virginia – and especially Reston – has grown so rapidly over recent years! It can be hard to feel connected when we all live such busy lives. Having a small school community can be the bridge for many families who are looking to build relationships and establish connections with others in a similar stage of life. At Children’s House we have experienced the joy that comes with a small community of like-minded individuals. We are all here because we believe in the Montessori Philosophy and because we believe that childhood is a precious time of curiosity and exploration.

Our families enjoy being involved in the school and it is not uncommon for families to form lifelong friendships during the time that their children are in our care. Our families return year after year, child after child – many have trusted us with 3 or more children, have been with us for 5-8 years or more. Our teachers are dedicated, educated, experienced with children, and our lead teachers are Montessori trained.

Our family community is strong because we have wonderful families, of course, but we also believe in offering opportunities to spend time getting to know one another through events such as the Ice Cream Social, Parent Coffee, and family picnic at the beginning of each year, our fall and spring festivals, the eagerly awaited Parent Day, and an end-of-year picnic.

If you are looking for a small community of young families, you’ve found us! Schedule a tour with us today and see what sets CHMS apart from the other schools in the area. Come meet with us and you’ll see that we truly are the hidden gem of Reston!

Inspiring Young Artists since 2003

At CHMS we believe that all children are born artists! We first opened our doors in September of 2003 and we have been filling our hallways with art work ever since! Our art program allows even the littlest members of our community to explore and experiment. Throughout the school year we learn about different color groups (primary, secondary, complementary, etc) and offer the children a wide variety of techniques to explore. On any given day, you will find children painting at the easel, drawing at a table, gluing, cutting, experimenting with texture and shape, and reproducing the work of famous artists.

From the time our children join us at age three, they are exposed to the work of such artists as Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Horace Pippin, Henri Matisse, and Georgia O’Keeffe. We read about them, talk about them, and create art in their style. While the younger students might color a replication of “Sunflowers,” by van Gogh, the kindergarteners reproduce their own version of the famous painting with paint, markers, and even torn paper.

In our classrooms, art is a part of our daily life and the art shelves are changed out monthly to ensure that our budding artists always have fresh supplies on hand. The art area is one of the most popular spots in each classroom and we look forward to the various creations that each day brings!

Home Away From Home

We have been a proud member of the Reston community since 2003 and have welcomed many families through our doors over the years. Hear from the parents who have trusted us with their children and read the words they have shared with us:

Words from our families:

“I also need to tell you that Quinn is not the only one who benefited from her time with Children’s House. Our family will be forever grateful for the learning we did while we were a part of your family community. You helped us transition from being parents of a toddler into parents of a school-age child, and your staff always had a smile and supportive words for us.”

“I will never forget all that you have done for my family, for me, and for my children. You gave John such a great start in life and I know he will never forget you. “

“We have been so fortunate to be a part of Children’s House Montessori School. Thank you for holding Liam’s hands and guiding him through the years. He has grown to be a happy, curious, entertaining little man. You have such a special place with an amazing group of people and we thank you for sharing all of your talents and gifts with us.”

“So again I say thank you for the wonderful times, for helping our little flower grow, giving her a safe space to create that which she has inside, for guiding her, loving her, nurturing her and all the wonderful children at CHMS.”

Welcome to the CHMS Community!

We are always eager to welcome new faces to our school community! As you and your family join ours, we will have many opportunities for you to meet some new friends and get your bearings.

  • Fall Family events are scheduled through the year starting with an ice-cream social a few days before school begins, a chance for you to reconnect after the summer, meet some new friends, and take some time to look around the classrooms and get familiar with the school space before the first day.  A parent coffee brings parents together to start the year off right with questions answered and another chance to connect with new parents, chat with returning parents, and decompress after the first week of school.  Fall also brings a family picnic on a Saturday at Temporary Road Picnic Pavilion to share a pot-luck meal and play in the great out-of-doors, and then the fall festival, a day of fun crafts at school and of course, pizza on the playground.  Thanksgiving wraps up our fall activities with a complete meal of turkey and all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie!
  • Winter The fun starts with our holiday program, where the children perform songs and poems from holiday traditions, musical numbers with instruments from music class, and of course some dancing. Parent day is in February, a chance for you to spend the morning with your child and see how she spends her day. Another pot-luck lunch gives parents a chance to share their favorite traditional foods with the community.
  • Spring When the weather warms up again, it’s time for our spring celebration, another chance to spend the morning with your child doing crafts and eating pizza on the playground.  The year ends with pajama day for the children in the morning of that last day of school and then a school picnic for families, again on our playground.  

It’s a full schedule of activities to bring families together and help you feel a part of our special community.  Family is at the heart of all that we do here at Children’s House and we want you to feel included! If you’re having a hard time connecting with other families or you need a little support in this area, please don’t hesitate to reach out.