Our Gee's Bend guests arrive on Wednesday !

They will be here for All School Gathering on Thursday, some will be working in the theater prepping for their production and others will be in town getting ready for their quilt exhibition. Tickets are going fast for performances! If you haven't bought tickets or want more information about the events planned,

You are all invited to a potluck dinner at Hilltop next Saturday, October 3rd, to celebrate with our Alabama friends. We will be providing grill items, we are asking attendees to bring a side, salad or dessert.  If you would like to attend, please click on this link to RSVP and let us know what you'll be bringing.

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September 25, 2015


Click heading to get to section
Next Week at Hilltop
Notes from the Head of School
Toddler Program (TP) and Children's House (CH)
Lower Elementary (LE)
Upper Elementary (UE)
Middle School (MS)
Water Alert
Hilltop Helpers
Community News
Next Week at Hilltop
Monday 9/28
Middle School Home Soccer Game vs Compass at 3:45pm

Tuesday 9/29
Cultural Cooking
Upper El Soccer 
SSAT Prep Course 

Wednesday 9/30
Historical Fencing
Middle School Home Soccer Game vs Greenwood at 3:45pm

Thursday 10/1
All School Gathering
LE Soccer 3:30-4:15
Video Club

Gees Bend Events, click here for more info

Friday 10/2
Pizza Lunch
Circus Arts

Gees Bend Events, click here for more info

Check out the 2015-16 School Calendar 

Coming Up...

Monday 10/5 
Middle School Soccer Game vs Putney at the Grammar School 

Check out the Monday and Wednesday Middle School soccer game schedule here

10/9 Grandparent & Special Friend's Day
Noon Dismissal

Notes from the Head of School

Thank you for supporting us in educating your child by getting your children to school every day and on time! 

Because of the importance of consistent attendance, we have formalized the policy and language in the Student and Family Handbook. Page 43 of the Handbook includes that "the school expects each student . . . to have consistent attendance and punctual arrival."  We clarify further that "students arriving after 8:30am are considered late. When a child has been late or absent more than five times, the teachers will inform the Head of School who will contact the families. The number of days absent and tardy will be reported on Student Assessments. Should attendance and punctuality become a problem for an individual student or the community, the above actions will be taken." (Discussions, meetings, resolution, and, as a last resort, suspension or expulsion.) Click here for an online copy of the handbook and a quick reference to all School policies.

Your student needs to be here for us to teach them. We greatly appreciate the effort you all put forth to get your children here every day, on time. I have not had to write many notes to families yet!

Having your child here on time and every day does many things, including:
  • demonstrating to them that you feel school is a priority and it is important to make the effort to be there (students who are late, or miss school unnecessarily, often seem to develop an approach that school isn't very important and their lessons are not a priority to their family and therefore to them.)
  • allowing them to start the day with focus and camaraderie with their friends who are on the same schedule, rather then coming in when others are already engaged
  • ensuring that they do not miss critical information and lessons (While teachers and friends can help a child to get caught up, hearing things the first time, with everyone else, is the clearest and most efficient for all involved.)
So thank you for the great effort in getting your children here every day and on time. Keep it up!

Toddler Program and Children's House

Toilet Learning - The Whole Picture

At Hilltop Montessori School, we think of the process of moving out of diapers and into independence as "toilet learning".  This differs from "toilet training" because it is adult supported rather than adult directed, and because there is an emphasis on keeping the child involved in their own learning.

Toilet learning starts in the Toddler Program with readiness signs, and is not learned through a reward system.  It is a skill that needs to be learned over time.  The key to toilet learning is teaching, not training the child.  There are no 'accidents' during toilet learning, only lessons. Language also plays a big part in keeping a positive attitude with toilet learning.

Ideally, students in the Children's House program have learned to use the toilet. We define learning as the ability to consistently use the toilet independently. This may sound simple but there are many steps involved for the young child. These skills take time to learn and children need help from adults to lead them through the process.

When children have mastered using the toilet they can:

1) Tell an adult, with words, when they have to use it before they have to go.
2) Postpone going if they must wait for a bathroom to be available.
3) Pull down their underwear and pants and get them back up without assistance.
4) Wipe themselves after using the toilet.
5) Get off the toilet by themselves. (Our little toilets make that possible for very small people!)
6) Wash and dry their hands.

In the Toddler Room, we support children who are learning to use the toilet in a variety of ways. We read books about using the toilet and talk about using it in a matter-of-fact way. Children are given the opportunity to sit on the toilet during natural transition times (before and after meals, before and after naps, and after diaper changes). Children are shown how to wipe and wash up after using the toilet. We support their practice of pulling pants up and down and getting on and off the toilet independently. We watch for signs that children need to use the toilet and help them get there. And close contact is kept with parents to communicate signs of readiness and their child's work through toilet learning.

There are some easy daily things you can do at home that will really help your child's progression. It is critical that school and home be consistent with expectations and toilietng routines in order for your child to be successful.

1) Talk about using the toilet. Give your child the vocabulary needed to communicate with you about it.
2) If your child is using diapers, change him standing up in the bathroom and offer the opportunity to sit on the potty or toilet each time.
3) Dress for success: offer underwear and pants that are easy to get on and off quickly. Soft sweatpants and/or leggings with elastic waists are good options until the child is able to manage snaps, buttons, and zippers easily.
4) When children have wet or dirty pants, stay calm and neutral. Give the message that it's part of the learning process and when it happens we clean up and move on.
5) Offer opportunities to use, or remind children when it's time to use the toilet during natural transition times (after waking up, before leaving the house, after meals, etc.)
6) Encourage boys to sit while they are using the toilet until they are tall enough to stand at the bowl and adept enough to aim.
7) Show children how to wipe and give them opportunities to practice.  You can still help them "finish up" if you want make sure it's a thorough job.
8) Avoid punishments and rewards. They don't work and often backfire.

Reaching complete independence with using the toilet takes time and patience.  If a child has not achieved this point by the time they reach the Children's House we will provide support to achieve toileting independence. If there are setbacks, don't worry, we will get there by working together.

Have a great weekend!

-Ellie, Hannah, Jonathan, Rebecca, Jaime, Cheryl, Serina, and Mariam

Annabel finds what she's looking for! Kennedy pulling up her own pants!

Lower El

The school days are adding up, Fall is here, and Lower El is approaching more of a regular schedule these days.  

Math lessons for everyone are in full swing and in Writer's Workshop we are practicing our "small moments" stories-otherwise known as personal narratives.  This week we discussed setting using the books Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, and The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, by Dan Yaccarino.  Everyone drew a picture of their story setting, and will tell the story of their picture soon.  

For cultural studies, Dan is continuing his lessons on the composition of the earth.  This week Dan melted down the Earth and poured the components into a test tube.  We looked at the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and the barysphere.  It's another great way to think about relative amounts of the material that makes up our planet.

Plant Fridays got its start last week with the story of seaweed.  This plant, which has no true roots, stems, or leaves, lives exclusively in the water and was one of the first life forms on earth.  We all sampled three types of seaweed after the lesson, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  We learned the story of water-loving moss this week, and took a walk in the woods to see moss "in person."  

The topic during our weekly grace and courtesy lesson was "How to have a conversation."  The art of conversation is much like a game of catch, with each person sharing equal time with the ball.  Patrick and Kerstin demonstrated the following steps: the greeting, the starting comment or question, the conversation where we both take turns and ask questions of one another, the short explanation ("Talk to you later..."   "I should get back to work now...")  and the farewell.  Ask your child if they'd like to have a game of "conversation catch" with you this weekend, and reflect together on how you did!  Using a ball makes it fun.

In Other LE News: 

Our first Field Trip, a hike to Black Mountain, is scheduled for Tuesday, October 13th!  Field trips are an extension of the classroom and students are aware that the same good behavior is expected in the car and during the field trip as we expect in the classroom. As a chaperone, we ask your assistance in helping students live up to this expectation while we are out of the classroom. Please make sure your charges are attentive when a guide is speaking (eyes on the speaker, not talking, looking interested) and make an effort to participate in the activities of the field trip. Students will be aware they should stay with their chaperones during the entirety of the field trip. If you are kind enough to drive, please be sure the front desk has the insurance info they need before we depart for our field trip!  Thank you.
Along with this notice comes our request for chaperones: if you are able to drive to Black Mountain, please let us know how many children you can fit in your car, and if that includes booster seat riders.  

Red Home/School Folders: Red folders will be sent home with your child each Friday.  These folders contain work completed that week. Please take out any work, and return the empty folder with your child on Monday.  If there is not a lot of work one week, don't worry; your child may be involved with longer-term projects that take more time to complete.  If your child does not yet have a folder, please be assured that they will by next Friday.  

Indoor/Outdoor Shoes: Now that it is officially fall, we anticipate some rain in our future.  Please make sure your child has two pairs of shoes for school: one indoor, and one outdoor.  

Mugs: Some children still do not have mugs for drinking water in the classroom.  Please make sure he/she chooses one to bring to school by next week.

Thank you, parents, for all you do for your children and many thanks for sending them to Lower El!

Enjoy your weekend.
Kerstin and Patrick

Parker, Henry and Ian practicing their instruments

Upper El

Work or Play?

At the Upper Elementary Parent Orientation night held last week, an astute parent asked, "When looking at the classroom during the work cycle, does it look more like work or play?" This is an interesting question and, as observers, we are often struck by how much it is always both. One of Maria Montessori's famous quotes is "The work of the adult is the play of the child." We see this in Children's House as students enjoy sweeping, washing dishes, etc. In Upper Elementary we see it in their collaboration and in the balance they (and we all) work to achieve between socializing and "work". This is a goal of the Montessori classroom and we see it every day in Upper Elementary. The Montessori elementary classroom is prepared to encourage the social drive of this age of child with collaboration in their work and excitement for the subject matter. Children have fun working with a friend on their manipulative math work; they are playing, working, and learning. We see a student skip across the room (literally) to ask a friend for a book with information she is looking for, then skip back to read from the book. This looks very much like both play and work. Ideally, for us all, our work feels like play!

Middle School

Last week we sang the song, "There But For Fortune" by Phil Ochs for the first time.  It is a song that helps us to recognize our good fortune and illustrates the thin line that separates us from the destitution of body, heart, and mind.  The chorus repeats the lyric: "there but for fortune, may go you or I.  Simply said, it is a song about gratitude.  Sometimes it is easy to forget or not be mindful of all the gifts we are given but this week it couldn't have been more obvious.  Every day we walked the trails of Upland, the sun filtering through the trees, the temperature wrapping us in comfort, and examining with care the place we are in.  We had help with our exploration.  On Tuesday afternoon the incomparable Tom Wessels joined us on a wood walk and helped us to understand through the examination of stumps, trees, and the topography how the land was used in recent centuries.  This fascinating and eye opening tour was followed on Wednesday by a visit from Roger Haydock.  Roger is a singular individual, a true renaissance person and avowed amateur geologist.  Roger took us back 640 million years.  We could see evidence of colliding continents, molten mud, and various ice ages in the rocks we walk over every day.  An extraordinary week with extraordinary guests who shared wisdom, humor, the wonder of nature, and true respect for our students.  We have much to be grateful for. 

Also a reminder of next week's events with the residents of Gee's Bend, Alabama.  This community and number of these participants have been a central part of our Alabama Odyssey and have given us so much.  I hope that everyone will attend the play and visit the quilt show (Gallery Walk, Friday the 2nd is an excellent time) at the Catherine Dianich Gallery next weekend.  The play is a powerful portrayal of existence in rural Gee's Bend and is based on the life of Mary Lee Bendolph, who has personally hugged in greeting and true love every single Hilltop middle school student since 2002.  As the play is being performed in our new Arts Barn Theater, Mary Lee will be in Washington DC receiving the National Endowment of the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.  Having the play performed here by community members who know and love Mary Lee is truly a rare privilege and opportunity.  Go to the Hilltop website to buy tickets to both the performances (Friday at 8:00 and Saturday at 4:00 and 8:00) and Thursday night's gala at the gallery where you can meet the residents of Gee's Bend, quilt alongside some of the quilters as our students have done during the odyssey and view Vanessa Vadim's beautiful short film, "The Quilts of Gee's Bend".

Have a wonderful weekend.

Paul, Nora, Finn, and Becky

Imagining a billion years of Upland history with geologist Roger Haydock

Learning the History of upland with Tom Wessels

Water Alert
Bottled Water on us!

Thanks to volunteer water compliance parent, Lynn DeWald, we have been alerted to total coliform bacteria being found in the school's water. "Total coliform bacteria are generally not harmful themselves, but indicate that other bacteria that can make you sick may be present in the water." Lynn will be addressing the issue over the weekend and we will wait to get three clean results before we will allow children to drink the water again. 
We shut down the drinking fountains and provided bottled water (left over from the last event!) today, until three water coolers with bottled water arrived at noon to provide water for the students through next week until we get this cleared up. Sending your child to school with a water bottle would be helpful in decreasing the usage of paper cups.

Hilltop Helpers

Hilltop Montessori School has a wonderful group of helpful families supporting each other in many ways: carpools, meals in time of need, hand-me-down snow pants, etc. We would like to provide this space in the newsletter as a place that people can share needs and "gifts" with the rest of the Hilltop community. Recently, we've come together to support the Davis family as they moved into a house needing work and shortly thereafter they welcomed newborn twins! 

Below is a request for a ride needed into town for a middle schooler. If you have a need, or a service or item to offer, let the FRONT DESK know and we'll get it in the newsletter.

Middle Schooler Ride Request
Lucy, a student from the Middle School needs help getting to the Brattleboro Music Center on Wednesdays by 3:45pm, if you can help with this carpool, please contact Lucy's mom, Eileen

Garden Clean-up    
Thank you to Hilltop parents Rebecca Snow, Ciri Gillespie, Anna Berry, and Debra Rosenzweig, who all did an amazing job cleaning up our Hilltop Gardens ipreparation for Grandparents Day on October 9th! Great job ladies, it looks beautiful out there!

Carpooling for Auggie
Thank you to Mariam Diallo, Rosie and Matthew Wojcik, Amber Mosca, and Kathryn Einig, and to all the families who are helping Tara and Josh Davis shuttle August to and from school. It's wonderful to see so much generosity and support!

Community News

12th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner 
On Saturday, October 10th, the twelfth annual Empty Bowls dinner will take place at at Landmark College to benefit the Ground Works Collaborative Food Shelf.  Come enjoy a simple meal of soup prepared by local restaurants in a handmade pottery bowl you choose and take home. Tickets are $25 per person and can be reserved for either of the two seatings at 5pm or 6pm by calling 802-257-5415 x108. 

Kids Night Out
Is a chance for parents to have an evening out, and for the kiddos to have some fun at the school! The first 'Kids Night Out' is scheduled for October 16th from 5:30-9:30pm. Come drop your little ones off for some organized and safe fun! If you are interested please contact Emma.

Youth Battle of the Bands 
Area youth bands can launch their musical careers by competing at Youth Services' Battle of the Bands at the River Garden on Friday, November 6, during Gallery Walk night, from 7 to 10 p.m.  For more information, contact Nanci Leitch.

Hilltop Montessori School