Sharing: Why We Shouldn’t Force It

Photo by Kidstock/Getty Images

In this article by Christina Clemer, she explains why we don’t actually teach “sharing” in the Montessori classroom. Instead, we try to encourage the lifeskill of waiting. This article was originally published on Motherly.

As you probably know, being a referee for kids is pretty much a lose-lose situation. There is frequently no way to please everyone or make things seem fair. There is often no way to even decipher what happened or who “had it first.”

It’s not your fault, children just have such a strong (and often unreasonable) sense of justice. They want so badly for you to see their side, yet they’re often still learning how to see the other person’s side.

Many of these frustrating little fights pop up because of incidents of sharing, or a lack thereof.

There is nothing inherently wrong with sharing, it’s a beautiful idea and an important concept. The problem is, it’s really vague. There are no set rules and that can be confusing, and very frustrating, to a young child.

Imagine if you were really engrossed in a project on your laptop, but all of a sudden, you had to stop what you were doing and hand over your computer to a friend because it was her turn and you needed to share.

Or imagine you were cooking dinner, but suddenly had to give up your best knife because it was someone else’s turn. What if you couldn’t wear your favorite dress to a party because you needed to share? How frustrating would that be? It’s almost unimaginable, because it’s not the way the adult world works.

Play is children’s work and it is just as frustrating for them. Plus it puts you in the constant role of referee, which is no fun for anyone.

You might be surprised to hear that we don’t really “do” sharing in Montessori schools. In a sense, the children share everything in the classroom, but they are never asked to stop working with something because someone else wants it.

One main reason is that we want children to be able to work with something just as long as their stretching concentration will allow them.

Another reason though is that waiting is an important life skill. Montessori classrooms purposely have just one of most of the materials so that children have to learn to wait, to choose something else to do, when what they want most is not available.

So instead of asking the children to share, we have a simple rule—if someone is working with something, it is not available.

When the children see the material back on the shelf, they know they may choose it. They rarely come to us asking if they can have a turn because the rule is so simple, they know what the answer will be.

Sometimes there is a particularly exciting new material in the classroom and a particularly eager child who can barely contain himself with his desire to get his hands on it. In this case, we suggest to the child that he ask the person using it to let him know when they’re done so he can have a turn. The other child almost always graciously agrees.

We also assure the child that the material will be available for many days and they will get a turn to use it. Then we ask him to go choose something else while he waits.

I think there are times when talking about sharing is useful, like explaining to your child that when you have a guest over, the guest may share his toys. You can help your child put away any toys he is much too in love with to share, to avoid a battle.

You could also talk about sharing what we have with people in need, about how it’s important to help those who need it when we can.

But if you’re facing constant pleas of “Is it my turn yet?” or “She’s had it so long,” you may want to give this a try. Simply explain that the toy will be available when the other child is done using it, but he may use it as long as he likes. Then help your child find something else to do.

It also helps to show you understand the frustration and difficulty of waiting. You could say something like, “It’s hard to wait. This morning, I wanted to shower, but I had to wait until Daddy was done. Waiting is something we all have to practice.” This shows that you’re not dismissing how they feel, but that waiting is just part of life.

Learning to wait for what we want really is hard, but it doesn’t need to be a constant battle. Try taking yourself out of the equation and making a rule simple enough that the children can handle it on their own.

Then you can sit back and contemplate sharing a bottle of wine that night instead, because conquering this battle deserves celebrating.


7 Key Phrases We Use in the Montessori Classroom

This article was originally published by Christina Clemer on the blog, Motherly. We found it so true and very helpful and we wanted to share. This is a wonderful example of the language we use, the environment we strive to create, and the confidence we want to foster in our students. These phrases can also be used at home. This article gives great examples of  how we can facilitate a Montessori environment in how we speak to our children at home.

Montessori can be hard to sum up in just a few words—it is a philosophy on education and child development that runs deep. It’s a way of seeing the world. I think one of the easiest ways to get an idea for what Montessori means is to listen to the language that Montessori teachers use.

Montessori teachers use language that respects the child and provides consistent expectations. Words are chosen carefully to encourage children to be independent, intrinsically motivated critical thinkers.

Here are seven common phrases you’d probably hear in any Montessori classroom, and how to incorporate them into your home life.

1. “I saw you working hard.”

The focus on process over product is a key tenet of Montessori. We avoid telling the children “good work” or “your work is beautiful” and instead comment on how they concentrated for a long time, or how they wrote so carefully and their work could be easily read by anyone.

Praising your child’s hard work, rather than his results, helps instill a growth mindset where he believes he can improve through his own efforts.

Instead of telling your child, “You’re a good boy,” tell him “I noticed you being kind to your little brother yesterday when you shared your truck.” This shows him you see his good behavior, without placing judgments on him. Instead of telling him, “You’re such a good artist,” try, “I noticed you kept working on your picture until you got it just how you wanted it.”

2. “What do you think about your work?”

In Montessori, the child is his own teacher. The teachers are there as guides to give him lessons and help him but he discovers things for himself through the carefully prepared environment and materials.

Self-analysis is a big part of that discovery.

When your child asks you, “Do you like my picture?” try asking her about it instead of just saying you love it. Ask her what she thinks about it, how she decided what colors to use, and what her favorite part is. Help her start to evaluate her work for herself, rather than looking for your approval.

3. “Where could you look for that?”

Independence is another key value in any Montessori classroom or home. Our goal as teachers is to help the children do things for themselves. So while it’s sometimes easier to simply answer a child’s question about where something is or how to do something, we often answer questions with another question such as, “Where could you look for that?” or “Which friend could you ask for help?”

If your son loses his shoe and you see it peeking out from under the bed, try asking leading questions, rather than just handing it to him.

“Where were you when you took your shoes off? Have you checked your room?” This may take a little more time, but it will be worth it when he starts taking more initiative and coming to you less.

4. “Which part would you like my help with?”

In a Montessori classroom, children are responsible for many things, including taking care of their environment. Children often take great pride in this responsibility, spending time arranging flowers to put on tables, watering the garden, and happily washing the windows and tables.

Sometimes though, a job is just too big and overwhelming. In these cases, we ask the child how we can help. We don’t want to swoop in and “save the day,” sending the message that the child is not capable, but we also don’t want to leave the child overwhelmed.

For example: If your child is tired, but needs to put her Legos away before bed, all of those pieces can be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing though. Try “which color would you like me to put away” or “I’ll put away the yellow pieces and you put away the blue” to show that you’re in it together.

5. “In our class, we ….” (Or at home— “In our home, we…”)

This little phrase is used to remind the children of any number of classroom rules and desired behaviors. Phrasing reminders as objective statements about how the community works, rather than barking commands, is much more likely to elicit cooperation from a child.

“In our class, we sit while we eat” is less likely to incite a power struggle than “Sit down.”

Like all of us, children want to be a part of the community, and we simply remind them of how the community works.

If you have a rule about walking in the house, instead of “stop running,” try saying “we walk inside our house” and see if you get fewer arguments.

6. “Don’t disturb him, he’s concentrating.”

Protecting children’s concentration is a fundamental part of the Montessori philosophy. Montessori classes give children big blocks of uninterrupted work time, usually three hours. This allows children to develop deep concentration, without being disturbed because the schedule says it’s time to move on to learning something else.

It can be tempting to compliment a child who is working beautifully, but sometimes even making eye contact is enough to break their concentration.

Next time you walk by your child while he’s focused on drawing a picture or building a tower, try just walking by instead of telling him how great it is. You can make a mental note and tell him later that you noticed him concentrating so hard on his creation.

7. “Follow the Child.”

This last one is an important one. It’s something Montessori teachers say to each other and to parents—not to the child. We often remind each other to “follow the child,” to trust that each child is on his or her own internal developmental timeline, that he is doing something for a reason.

This reminds us to search for the reason behind the behavior. It reminds us that not all children will be walking by one or reading by four—they haven’t read the books and couldn’t care less about the milestones they are “supposed to” reach.

Following the child means remembering that each child is unique and has his own individual needs, passions, and gifts, and he should be taught and guided accordingly.

If you can’t get your child interested in reading, try watching what he does love—if he loves being silly, it may be that a joke book is what piques his interest, not the children’s classic you had in mind. Remembering to “follow your child” can help you see him in a different way and work with him instead of against him.

One of beautiful things about Montessori is that it is so much more than a type of education—it is a way of seeing and being with children. Even if your child does not go to Montessori school, you can easily bring the ideas into your home and watch your child’s independence and concentration grow.

For the original article, visit Motherly.

Happy Birthday Maria Montessori

Today, August 31st, is Maria Montessori’s birthday! We are proud to celebrate this incredible woman, and all the wisdom she gave us in the area of children and education. She is still celebrated as one of the finest educators of our time.

Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Anacona, Italy on August 31, 1870. Maria Montessori had a childhood in which her mother believed in discipline. Her childhood had key moment that was prophetic of her future career. As a child Maria Montessori had already showed interest in the poor by doing some knitting for them daily. And one incident at home was that as her parents were having a heated argument, she dragged a chair in between them, stood on it and held their hands together as tightly as she could. This is foreseen as to the beginning of her peacemaking efforts of bringing the adult and the child together. When she was young she had overheard a teacher of her mention about her eyes and as a protest never raised her eyes at that teacher. It is here that Montessori principle of not talking about children in front of them and thus giving respect even to the youngest child.

Montessori method of education stresses the importance of respecting children – “Help me to help myself”.


At Trent Montessori, we strive to uphold Maria Montessori’s foundational truths. We endeavor to respect all children, we believe in their abilities to be successful, and we hope that peace will live in their hearts as they grow and walk into the world. Thank you for all you’ve given us, Maria Montessori!

Read more about Dr. Maria Montessori here:

Fun Summer Learning Activities for your Kids

Summer is here! You made it through the school year, congratulations! We often feel a rush of relief once summer hits, but after a week or two, we need some fun ideas to occupy our kids during those long summer days.

We’ve put together a list of great resources and ideas to continue an active learning environment for your little ones this summer.

  1. Check with your local department of parks and recreation about camps and other activities. Find out what exhibits, events, or concerts are happening in your town over the summer.
  2. For the Kindergarteners, encourage them to read and write every day. See if they can read a few simple items on your grocery list. Or help them to write a postcard to their grandparents.
  3. Be active citizens. Kids who participate in community service activities gain not only new skills but self-confidence and self-esteem.
  4. Active bodies. Active minds. From the American Library Association, ilovelibraries has suggestions for staying fit and having fun that start at your local library.
  5. Get into geocaching. Everyone loves a scavenger hunt! Get in on the latest outdoor craze with geocaching, where families search for hidden “caches” or containers using handheld GPS tools (or a GPS app on your smart phone). Try a variation on geocaching called earthcaching where you seek out and learn about unique geologic features. Find more details about geocaching plus links to geocaching websites in this article from the School Family website, Geocaching 101: Family Fun for All, in Every Season. Or follow one young family on their geocaching adventure: Geocaching with Kids: The Ultimate Treasure Hunt.
  6. Watch a garden grow. Get outside and plant things together. The kids will love watching their seeds turn to flowers and vegetables. Check out the Kids Gardening website for lots of great ideas and resources for family.
These are just a few resources to get started — for more, check out our Pinterest page or this fantastic summer learning website from NAEYC (The National Association for the Education of Young Children).

Characteristics of Montessori Education

We recently attended the Cincinnati Montessori Society (CMS) Conference about the characteristics of Montessori Education. The following content is from Rosemary Quaranta, M. Ed.

“The child is truly a miraculous being and this should be felt deeply by the educator.” Maria Montessori

Authentic Characteristics of Montessori Education

  • Children are inspired through presentations
  • Allows for spontaneous activity
  • Individualized education — education that fits the needs of the child
  • Works from whole concepts and then breaks into parts
  • Children move from concrete to abstract
  • Beautifully prepared environments
  • Development of the whole child
  • Parent, child and teacher work together to support the child
  • Materials are developmentally sequenced
  • Multi-aged classrooms — 3-year cycle
  • Peer collaborative learning
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time
  • Guided choice of work
  • Specifically designed developmentally appropriate materials
  • Materials are used to teach the concept; not textbooks or pencil and paper
  • Child repeats presentation with materials until a deep understanding is achieved
  • Teacher guides children according to “sensitive periods”

“Education should no longer be mostly imparting knowledge but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentials.” Dr. Maria Montessori

Social and Emotional Development, Self Development, Cognitive Development

What are self-development skills?

  • Follows directions
  • Responsibility
  • Self-control
  • Exhibits self-confidence
  • Exhibits self-motivation
  • Seeks help and asks questions
  • Accepts guidance and direction
  • Independence
  • Concentration and focus
  • Organization of work
  • Organization of time
  • Able to transition
  • Takes on new challenges

(Stephen Hughes, Executive Functioning Skills)

Prepared Indoor Environment

  • Classroom environment supports group and individual activity and is suited to the needs of the students.
  • Rooms are open and spacious.
  • Children isolate their space on a rug or table.
  • Walls are uncluttered with beautiful pieces of art.
  • Each area of the curriculum is well defined.
  • Design and flow of the classroom create a learning environment that accommodates choice.
  • Environment encourages creative expression and spontaneous activity.
  • Everything is child-sized to support independence.
  • Spaces for large group, small group, and individual work space.
  • Classrooms have a feeling of home: rugs, lamps, flowers, plants, etc.
  • Classroom environment is free of clutter and ordered.
  • The teacher work space should not be in the classroom space.
  • Multiple kinds of work spaces.
  • You do not need a table for every child.
  • Space should encourage no more than two children to work together.
  • Preparation of the environment is done before children arrive or after they leave.

What is a “typical” Montessori student?

  • Independent
  • Responsible
  • Self-Disciplined
  • Self-Motivated
  • Concentrated/Focused
  • Joyful Learner
  • “Normalized”
  • Scientist
  • Respectful
  • Collaborates
  • Thinker
  • Problem Solver
  • Makes Connections
  • Makes a positive contribution to his/her community
  • Peacebuilder

Why Montessori?

  • Individualized education
  • Didactic materials
  • Allows movement
  • Teach to child’s interest
  • Differential learning
  • Have three years in one classroom
  • Have a supportive community
  • Understanding, respectful teachers
  • Teacher, child, and parents work together as a team
  • Teachers won’t ask for educational evaluation
  • Teachers supplement curriculum with new materials

Can we serve children with learning difficulties?

  • Maria Montessori first started with children with special needs.
  • She believed in the possibility of all children.
  • She developed didactic materials that with repetition reinforced a deep understanding of a specific concept.
  • She knew you had to arouse the interest in the child.
  • She said to saturate the children with presentations.
  • Through observation, she would change materials to meet the needs of the child.
  • First, look at your environment, then yourself, then the child.

Trent Celebrates 35 Years!

In case you missed it, we were featured in an article by Ft. Thomas Matters about our 35 year anniversary!

Fort Thomas resident Jan Haas decided that she wanted to work with children outside of the traditional teaching method while attending Hanover College. So, after receiving a B.A. in sociology and early childhood education, Haas took Montessori training with the dream of eventually starting her own school.

“During my written and oral exams, Renilda Montessori, Maria Montessori’s granddaughter, encouraged me to start my own Montessori school,” Haas says. “I worked one year for a Parent Coop in Fairfield, Ohio, and then decided to open Trent the following year.”

Since opening 35 years ago, Trent Montessori in Newport has served more than 400 children from Fort Thomas.

Thirty-five years ago Haas and her husband, Eric Haas (the mayor of Fort Thomas), lived in an 1889 Victorian called “The Trent House”—a Kentucky landmark—in Newport’s Mansion Hill neighborhood. “We started the school in this historic home,” Haas says. They applied through the Kentucky Department of Education as a private school and opened Trent Montessori’s doors on September 15, 1981. In 1982 they moved the school to its current location, a historic home at 305 Park Ave., Newport.

“When I started Trent I was pregnant with our first child, Lan,” Haas says. “I was so excited to start Trent so that I would be able to have my own children with me during the work day.” This job perk continues for Trent’s teachers today. “They are able to bring their own babies/toddlers to Trent during their work day, which allows them to be with their child during the wonderful, changing, early years of life. This is definitely a win/win for all.”

Two years later Ryan joined the Haas family; four years later, Erin. And each of Haas’ children stayed with her as she taught, sometimes sitting in the classroom while Trent children read them a story.

“We started with two families (four children) one Caucasian and one African-American,” Haas says. “I felt that this was the perfect beginning for what would become a diverse Montessori school.” Haas says she also wanted to offer an authentic Montessori school for all economic backgrounds. “Maria started her first Casa de Bambini in San Lorenzo, Italy, for children, some with learning difficulties, and living in the slums,” she says. “Eric and I were fortunate to visit her school and seeing the school and surroundings confirmed my thoughts that Montessori should be available for all children.” 

As such, Haas says she has tried to keep Trent Montessori’s tuition as low as she can so that all children may have the experience of a Montessori education if they wish. “We have grown from four to 60,” she says. “We added our Extended Care after four years and today many of our families are enrolled in our Montessori/Extended Care classes.”
13248566_10153467254002136_8892925363055997533_oSeveral of Trent’s graduates have returned to the school as part of the teaching team, and now graduates’ children attend. “Having my daughter working at Trent, and having my own grandchildren attend Trent is a dream come true,” Haas says.

Haas’ daughter, Erin Eckstein, received her B.A. in elementary education from Hanover College and then took an additional two years of training in Montessori. “I was so happy when Erin joined the Trent teaching team in 2012 and is now the Assistant Administrator and one of the lead Montessori Directresses,” Haas says.

Additional staff includes Jenny Adams (the other Montessori Directress and Fort Thomas resident); Cheri Helton; Megan Blosser; Courtney Blosser (a Trent graduate), Samantha McKinney (a Trent graduate and Fort Thomas resident); Jessi Ross; and Andi Tabor (Trent’s social media manager and blog contributor, and a Trent graduate and Fort Thomas resident).

“[They] are dedicated and caring individuals who are helping prepare our students for their future,” Haas says. “We will continue to be focused on preparing our students to be lifelong learners. While the Montessori method has been around for over 100 years, there has been more recent admiration for this teaching style. Our hopes for the future are that more parents become familiar with Montessori and decide to place their children in an environment to help them grow as independent, lifelong learners.” 

The mission of Trent Montessori is “to provide an authentic Primary Montessori education in a loving and nurturing environment. As a young child once said to Maria Montessori, ‘Help me to help myself’ we are dedicated to helping each child reach his or her fullest potential by meeting their developmental and social needs which will guide them to become successful members of their community.”

(To see how Montessori relates to Google and Amazon, go here.)

For more information about Trent Montessori and to find out about enrollment, visit their website here. “Most children are placed on our waiting list when they are infants,” Haas says. “The earliest you may put your child on the list is when the parent knows the sex of the baby.” 

Haas also notes that it’s important to observe a Montessori school prior to making your final decision. “Unfortunately Maria Montessori did not copyright the term, Montessori,” she says.

According to Haas, things to look for in a true Montessori school include a directress with a recognized AMI or AMS certification, limited adults in the classroom in order that the children will become independent, a mixed-age classroom of 3- to 6-year-olds, and a complete set of didactic Montessori materials “in a beautifully prepared environment for children to develop a love of learning.” 

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” —Maria Montessori, 1870-1952

You can find the original story here:


Amazon, Google and Montessori

Steve Denning published the following article in titled Is Montessori The Origin Of Google And Amazon? Here’s an excerpt that we found interesting!

Let’s Learn From Montessori

The idea that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel was striking. The example of thousands of Montessori schools is before us. Montessori puts the student at the center. It is proven to work.  As noted by Sivadlk it’s working on every inhabited continent, at every economic level. The approach is over 100 years old but the ideas are timeless. The world is finally catching up with Maria Montessori’s insights.

Is Montessori The Key To Apple And Amazon?

There was considerable interest in the Wall Street Journal article by Peter Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries (Free Press, 2011) about the possibility of a “Montessori Mafia”, given that the Montessori approach has spawned a creative elite, including Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, cook Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs.

The Montessori learning method establishes a collaborative environment without grades or tests, multi-aged classrooms, as well as self-directed learning and discovery for long blocks of time.

Montessori methods go against the grain of traditional educational methods but they have uncanny parallels in the success of their alumni:

  • Google [[GOOG] wasn’t launched by Larry Page and Sergei Brin as a brilliant vision, but rather as a project to improve library searches, followed by a series of small discoveries that unlocked a revolutionary business model.
  • Amazon’s [AMZN] strategy by Jeff Bezos involves developing ideas in new markets similar to “planting seeds” or “going down blind alleys.”  Amazon’s executives learn and uncover opportunities as they go, with many dead ends but also sometimes a huge, broad avenue.

Montessori Isn’t Just Primary Education

The impression that the Montessori approach is just for primary school was corrected. There are an increasing number of Montessori schools that educate kids in grades 7-12, as shown in this extensive overview of Montessori at the secondary level. The crown jewel of these programs, according to Daniel Petter-Lipstein, is the Clark Montessori in Cincinnati, a free public high school which provides these results for a class of 88 students:

  • 100% of the class of 2010 are expected to graduate
  • 100% of the class of 2010 are going on to college
  • 33% of current seniors are first generation in their families to go to college
  • 33% of current seniors receive free or reduced lunch

The Center for School Change, a research center issued a report on models of great small high schools and cited Clark as a model.

The Goal Of Education: Lifelong Learning

Overall, there was resonance with the idea that education concerns inspiring students to become life-long learners with a love of education.

Several readers (Geoff Barbaro, Robin Cangie) pointed to the dangers of the word “educated”, which wrongly implies that education is a destination rather than a journey. In that sense, one is never “educated”, one is always continuing to learn. If at any point, the point the journey stops, then education has failed.

Geoff Barbaro pointed to the need for education to be outward looking include the desire to face the situations of your life and to understand the situations of others, with the ability to gain the knowledge and create the experiences to achieve that desire.

Robert Picard suggested that education is really a way of looking at and interacting with the world. It involves having sufficient knowledge to ask good questions, having a willingness to consider different points of view, having the ability to analyze and make up one’s own mind and understand the basis for one’s opinion or decision. There are many ways to get an education and one of them is in school. Schools, however, turn out both educated and uneducated persons.

Randal Hendee is thrilled with A New Culture of Learning (2011) because it validates practices he started using in his high school English classes way back in the early 1980s. “In literature study, for example, student response came first, and the teacher’s interpretation was never presented as definitive. Seeking  to understand new material while interacting with classmates was valued over digesting spoon-fed teacher insights.”

Getting Away From Test-Driven Teaching

There was general horror at the current thrust to equate education with being able to deliver the expected answers on a standardized test.

Some noted that looking at education as producing outputs (students who could pass the test) was a very 20th Century way of looking at the world, and out of sync with what is going to move society forward in the 21st Century.

Looking at education as lifelong learning is more and more in sync with what is happening in the workplace and marketplace, which is basically very good news. Firms need, and are beginning to want, people who are genuinely “educated.”

Read more here:

The 3 Most Important Questions

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician, mother, writer, and has incredible insight into kids and families. She offers a free e-book for those who signup to her online newsletter that discusses the three most important questions you can answer for you child. It is a great read, and if you are interested in the full e-book, you can signup here. If you just want the CliffsNotes, here’s a great excerpt:

…[It is important to] focus less on your performance as a mother or father and more on what you can be to them. Why is this important? Kids look to us for cues about who they are and they use those cues to shape their identities. If a son learns from his father that he is smart, then he believes he’s smart. If a mom tells her daughter that she is stupid, then she believes that she is not worth anyone’s time or attention. Our children are walking sponges before us: listening, watching and scouring our face for clues about who they are in our eyes so that they can soak up those messages. They then internalize those messages and their identity begins to form. Our children become, in part, who we believe them to be. So we must pay very close attention to what we are communicating to our little (and even adult) sponges so that we answer the questions they need answered in a healthy way.

Specifically, we must answer three questions that burn in every child’s heart. These three questions are:

Mom or Dad, what do you believe about me?

Mom or Dad, how do you feel about me?

And finally, Mom or Dad, what are your hopes for me?

When we answer these three questions, we build the core of our child. We secure a great relationship with them (we win their hearts) and ultimately we help shape their character.

Preschool Education — A Huge Return on Your Investment

This article has been circulating around Facebook, but it was too good to not share. We believe wholeheartedly in the importance of a good foundation. Credit goes to NPRed and Eric Westervelt. 

How Investing In Preschool Beats The Stock Market, Hands Down

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you’d be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

That’s the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

There’s a growing body of research on the value and importance of high-quality early education programs — especially for disadvantaged kids.

But there’s surprisingly little research on its impact over time. This paper helps change that. Heckman and his co-authors examine the many ways in which these high-quality programs helped participants thrive throughout life.

The paper analyzes two North Carolina programs founded in the 1970s that worked with infants from 8 weeks old through age 5. The rub for researchers: The programs included data collection from birth through age 8 on a wide range of school and home life factors as well as long-term follow-ups through age 35.

Quality early education programs are expensive upfront. But as Heckman argues, the returns are enormous; the investment well worth it.

Your study found enduring positive effects of quality pre-K on a lot of things, including future earnings, health, IQ and crime reduction. Is the bottom line here stronger, fuller, richer lives?

Yes it is, but it’s more than just stronger, richer, fuller lives for the children. It’s also stronger, richer, fuller lives for the mothers of the children. Let me explain why. In America today we have a lot of single-parent families. We have a lot of mothers who are working.

What we’ve done is shown the benefits across two generations of the study of these enriched early child care programs. Not only providing child care for working mothers — allowing them to get more education — but primarily to get more work experience, higher earnings gains through participating in the workforce, but also getting high-quality child care environments that turn out to be developmentally rich. It promotes social mobility within — and across — generations. That I think is an important finding of this study.

Tell us about the two programs you’ve studied, serving mostly lower-income, predominantly African-American families.

The program starts very early. The children are 8 weeks old. It stays with the children until they’re age 5.

It’s a program that runs nine hours a day, so it’s very child care-friendly in the sense that women could leave their children at the child care center and then go on to work. They provide these disadvantaged children with enriched family environments: more verbal attention, more enrichment and parenting resources available to disadvantaged, predominantly African-American women, as you say, and single-parent women. It supplements the early lives.

In addition, it gives health care screenings for children 0 to 5. The pediatrician has access to the treatment group. The pediatrician then would suggest what health indications should be taken. What kind of steps, what kind of treatment might be taken. Doesn’t pay for the treatment but it does essentially screen the children and alert parents to the need for treatment.

This is true wrap-around service and personalized attention?

Yes. Turns out one of the most effective ingredients for these early child care programs is interacting with the child. What I mean by interacting is a give-and-take. The term that’s used by the child development specialist is scaffolding, like building a sculpture — in this case of a human being. Staying with the child, taking the child to the next step, challenging the child. In that sense it’s very personalized education.

It’s very time-intensive education, but it’s education that stays with the child. It also has another effect, which is that it engages, through the enhanced stimulation of the child, the parent. Parents themselves visit the center, so that there is also stimulation of the parent-child relationship that lasts long after the program itself is formally ended at age 5.

This kind of comprehensive program is more costly upfront?

For sure. The main benefit of this study is, if you count all of the benefits that accrue from this program in terms of reduced health care costs, reduced crime, greater earnings, more education, higher IQ — the list is quite long. Those all are monetized. We can compute a rate of return, the dividend would be from the investment. You get about 13 percent per annum. Much higher than the annual return on equities in the U.S. stock market post-Second World War through the 2008 meltdown.

Yeah I’d like 13 percent on my 401(k) every year.

Exactly. This is a huge, huge investment return. It competes favorably with almost any other public program.

What was the (annual) per-pupil spending while these children were in the program?

Per-year it’s probably about $16,000 to $18,000. It depends on what (year) dollars you use. It’s expensive.

That is pretty high. You’re saying you get what you pay for?

Well, yes, it’s a lot. But what are you getting in return? You’re getting hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seven to eight hundred thousand dollars back for what is essentially an $80,000 to $85,000 expenditure. Yes, it costs more but we can go back and think: In its time the transcontinental railroad that Abraham Lincoln launched, the Hoover Dam, the transcontinental highway system that Eisenhower launched. These all were very costly, but they also led to enormous social benefits.

These programs have enormous social benefit. They help to solve a lot of social problems. The way public policy is discussed frequently in this country is through silos. People say, “We want to reduce crime. We want to promote health.” We do what is, I think, a very limited kind of notion: looking at one problem at a time and one solution very closely linked to that problem. I would encourage people who see the price tag to also look at the benefit tag. They’re well-documented.

You followed these young people well into adulthood?

That’s the benefit of the study. The children in the study essentially are much healthier than their counterparts who did not participate in the study. That came as a surprise to some people, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only did they get the health screening, but they also developed these social and emotional skills: self-control, the ability to monitor. They had more education, therefore they had more information. In a number of ways these children became more engaged, control their own lives better, and that shows up in their adult health.

What is turning out from this body of research is that promoting engagement of children, their cognitive and noncognitive skills, boosting their IQs, at the same time boosting their social engagement, their willingness to participate in society, monitoring their health from an early age, is having huge benefits downstream for the rest of their lives.

You mentioned the return on investment. But you’ve also documented health benefits, crime reduction and parental benefits including boosted income and lower obesity rates. Talk about that a little.

That’s folded into what we have for a measure of the rate of return. You can actually monetize the cost of the criminal justice system, the cost of incarcerating people and so forth. You can also talk about the benefits of reduced health care expenditures, higher-quality of life and so forth. All of that’s incorporated into our rates of return and benefit-cost ratio. Breaking out these components, one of the most surprising findings from a study that we did published in Science magazine a couple of years ago. We showed that children who are in this program were much less likely to be obese, to have hypertension, to have precursor environments that would promote diabetes.

You mentioned the poisonous effect of the silofication — if we could call it that — in combating poverty. Looking at social challenges largely in isolation. This is also a hyper-partisan age. What do you think policymakers and politicians are missing when it comes to looking at early childhood education?

Some leading politicians both Republicans and Democrats are not missing. They’re well aware of it. What’s really interesting is that if you go out to those red states that were called fly-over states in the last election, the ones in the Midwest and the ones that people frequently ignore. It’s states like Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, that have been some of the most vigorous in promoting early childhood development.

The reason is that it’s based on an economic efficiency argument and it also promotes what is an agenda that’s frequently very common in some of those states about family values. It’s really about helping bolster the American family, which I think is under attack, it’s under transformation. It’s simply that we have many more single-parent families. We have many more mothers who are working because they have to support their families.

You’ve said the ultimate risk factor in the complex poverty equation is lack of parental engagement. Talk about that and what these programs you studied did in terms of parental engagement?

It’s not about getting toys that rotate or getting a particular program online to stimulate the kid. That can’t hurt, but it’s not the story. It’s the engagement. It’s “Johnny or Sally, here let’s look at this together, let’s go to the zoo, let’s look at this book, let’s see what we’re doing.” It’s that engagement. When you engage the parent in that process, you help them bolster their arrangement, then I think you actually will keep in place over the life of the child a very strong very beneficial environment. The center core is engagement. That’s what good teaching’s about too when you think about it.

I don’t think I’m saying anything that’s revolutionary, but I do think I’m saying something that is frequently ignored in public policy. We think about a bricks-and-mortar approach to what education is about. That’s exactly the wrong way to think about it. It’s not a teacher lecturing to a student, it’s basically the teachers or child care workers engaging students or engaging these young children and making age-adapted, person-adjusted interventions. I think that’s the key.

What do these programs have that helps foster that engagement?

It turns out that many of the disadvantaged families have a mode of discouraging the child. Saying, “Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and on and on. The alternative is to actually have a family that encourages the child and supports the child in making mistakes and learning from mistakes, but also in engaging the child to explore the world. It’s this attachment and this support that really plays a fundamental role I think in the structure of essential programs. That’s an example where you would literally take the child, read to the child, engage the child, and then you would show the parent, bring the parent into the center. Show how successful the child has been and then send the child home. When the child goes home the child is more engaged and also therefore engaging the parent. We found that. We found that as a byproduct: much more parental engagement among those who got the treatment compared to those who were randomized out into the control group. And these were lifetime effects.

If you look at disadvantaged children you’ll find that they’re getting about a third or a fourth as many words per hour as more advantaged children. The environments are fundamentally different. Over the lifetime, their young childhood — a period of say 0 to 5 — you’re getting a millions of words deficit between those who are advantaged and those who aren’t advantaged. That essentially is one way to close the gap. By literally reading to the child, by encouraging the child.

As you know there’s been a big emphasis on what constitutes high-quality child care centers. What elements are vital to create these great early learning centers?

There’s this enormous body of evidence talking about parent-child interaction. The structure of a successful [center] would be one that encourages those interactions, that fostered those.

Are we talking about empathy?

Well, yes, we’re talking about empathy, and we’re talking about the structure of engagement with the child, and at the core of successful programs is parenting. It’s not so much having a pretty building. There’s a whole mentality out there that says, “We have a textbook notion about what constitutes a good school. The teachers must have a certain level of educational attainment.” There have been a lot of studies, serious studies, that show that many of these so-called guides to what makes a good teacher — in terms of things like number of degrees or number of teacher credits and on and on and on — are really worthless in terms of predicting who’s a good teacher. What is important is finding this empathy, this ability to work with people, the engagement.

By empathy all I really mean is, you work with a child, you stay with a child, a child asks questions, you answer the questions. You don’t discourage the questions and you promote them. At the same time you have a firm line where you say, “Yeah that’s a mistake. You could go do a little better,” and so forth.

We need a national empathy project, Professor Heckman.

Probably could use it across the board and not just in early childhood!

Find the original article here:

national lampoons vacation

Traveling with Kids this Christmas?

Like so many families this Christmas season, you’ll be packing up the car and hitting the road or navigating the lines and crowds at the airport. We found the following tips and tricks from a post on to be very helpful!

Road Trips: Packing

Long road trips with kids aren’t always fun fests. But they are doable, and at times even enjoyable. As Shelly Rivoli, author of the blog, says, “The vacation begins the minute you leave the house.” Our tried-and-true tips:

  • Pack one small bag that contains clothes for the next day, an extra change of clothes (for spills), PJs, a toothbrush, and anything else you need for that day and night. It will be much easier to grab that than paw through the big suitcase.
  • Take your toddler’s blanket and pillow if there’s room. This is extra important if your road trip includes an overnight stay. Kids like their own stuff, particularly at bedtime in a strange place. If your child is out of his car seat, he may nod off more easily if he puts the pillow against the window and rests his head against it.
  • Babies and toddlers drop, spill, and spit up. Keep a roll of paper towels and a box of wipes in the front seat for easy cleanups. Keep a garbage bag handy too.

Road Trips: Surviving the Ride

  • Bring on the snacks. As adults know all too well, eating gives you something to do. Be careful, though — getting your kids sugared up may backfire. Pack some healthy fare, and don’t worry about them turning up their noses at it.
  • Beat the boredom. Be sure to load some kid favorites onto your iPod or take some of your child’s CDs. Portable DVD players can be a lifesaver, too. New DVDs they haven’t seen are a bonus. Kids often have a hard time with headphones, though, so make sure they’re comfortable before you go, and have at least one backup pair.
  • Get in the backseat. A little face-to-face contact, some patty-cake, and a few tickling games go a long way toward distracting a cranky baby or a bored toddler.
  • Try to tune out the tears. There may come a point where no amount of singing, snacking, or engaging will do — your child wants out of the car, now. How to deal? If your child isn’t hungry or wet, remind yourself that he’s safe in the car and won’t die from crying. Eventually, he’ll stop or fall asleep.
  • Choose travel toys wisely. Rivoli has had luck with magnetic and Aquadoodle boards. And she suggests that you find a local grocery store or pharmacy if your toy stash grows stale. “It’s likely they’ll have an inexpensive selection of things your toddler hasn’t seen before.”

Road Trips: Making Stops

  • Build in extra time. You know how hard it is getting out the door in the morning with a baby? The same laws of nature apply to trips in the car. You’ll have to stop for feedings, diaper changes, and stretching breaks. You’ll be much less stressed if you accept that it may take twice as long to get there as it did in your pre-kid days and plan accordingly.
  • Stop often — for little and big breaks. Yes, you want to get there, but letting your kids burn off some steam will make the time in the car more bearable. Rivoli suggests finding a local library. “You can read a book, let your child run around, and do a diaper change,” she says.
  • Be aware that 20 minutes after your longish lunch stop, your toddler will need to stop again for a bathroom break.
  • Book a motel that has an indoor pool. It may cost a little more, but it’s something to look forward to, and it will help your child sleep better.

Flying: Packing Tips

  • Overpack snacks, underpack toys. Kids get crankiest when they don’t have familiar things to eat. Also, food can double as toys; make mosaics out of colored Cheerios, for instance. And kids will play with anything (cups, napkins, sugar packets) and will also accumulate toys (from fast-food meals and souvenir stands) during the trip, so don’t take the whole toy bin along.
  • Put extra clothes in your carry-on — your baby may have a big diaper blowout on the plane.
  • Pack each day’s outfits in a one-gallon Ziploc bag: shirt/pants/socks. It makes packing easier because you can keep track of how many days of clothes you have; after an outfit is worn, use the bag for yucky laundry or dirty diapers.
  • Even with all those clothes, count on doing laundry while away. Dirty baby clothes stink.

Flying: Going Through Security

At security you’ll be expected to:

  • Keep your boarding pass in your hand at all times. But because you’re a mom, you’ll more likely wind up holding it in your teeth while you manage the baby.
  • Send everyone’s shoes through the scanning machine. Take baby’s shoes off while she’s still in the stroller and have your hands free because next you’ll need to…
  • Take baby out of the stroller (or carrier, or car seat), fold the stroller, and send it through the scanner.
  • Help older children put their loveys through the scanner. Promise that blanket or teddy will meet you on the other side.
  • Encourage a toddler to walk through the security gate ahead of or behind you.
  • Hold your baby without any carrier as you walk through the security gate.
  • Gather up everything on the other side; get shoes on and stroller unfolded as quickly as you can.

In preparation, we suggest you all wear slide-on shoes and little to no jewelry. To limit your juggling, try to use one big sack as your carry-on rather than a purse plus a diaper bag plus a bag of toys.

Flying: Feeding Baby on Board

The good news is that breast milk is considered a “liquid exemption,” which means you can bring more than 3 ounces on board as long as you are traveling with your child. (If your child isn’t with you, the 3-ounce rule applies.) This also applies to formula or juice, canned baby food, and teethers filled with gel or liquid. If you’re bringing these items on board, separate them from the cosmetics that you’re carrying in your quart-size plastic bag. Declare you have breast milk (or formula, etc.) at the security checkpoint. To print out the official rules to have in hand, log on to

Looking for a place to nurse in an airport? Find a quiet gate near your assigned one, or try one of those Internet booths. Some airports also have a kids’ play area where you’ll find a lot of understanding parents.

Flying: Managing Baby Gear

With baggage restrictions, how do you get baby gear to your destination? Options vary depending on where you’re going.

  • Best bet when it comes to diapers, wipes, and formula: buy and ship from places such as and This is a cheap, easy way to get heavy staples there, and it will give you more room (and weight allowance) in your suitcase.
  • Staying with relatives? See if they have neighbors or friends with young kids who will let you borrow a high chair, Pack ‘n Play, or baby swing while you visit.
  • Staying at a popular family destination? You may be able to rent equipment, but you’ll have to dig around, and prices vary. Baby Beach Rentals, serving the Gulf Shores of Alabama and Florida, charges $25 a week for a high chair. Bear Baby Equipment Rentals, run by a mom on Martha’s Vineyard, rents high chairs for $30 a week. A high chair from Rockabye Baby Equipment Rentals, serving cities in Texas, costs $45 a week. Trust us: It’s easier to rent than to bring one or buy one.
  • There are some national baby-equipment rental chains, such as To get prices, e-mail them the specifics of your trip.
  • Staying at a hotel? Call the concierge or front desk. At the least, most provide a Pack ‘n Play. (Even if there is a crib available, it may not meet current safety standards.) Loews hotels can lend Fisher-Price toys and baby gear like a bouncer seat. The more high-end the hotel is, the more it will offer. You should see the baby toiletries given out by a Four Seasons!
  • Mail your own stuff to your destination. Expensive, yes, but it may be cheaper than an extra piece of luggage.
  • Buy secondhand after you arrive at your destination. This is time consuming but can be worth it. One American Baby editor, staying in Ohio for a weekend, took her 2-year-old to a Salvation Army and bought $20 worth of toys. Before they left, she donated them all back again.