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TSH Observations - 2020 May 18th

Week Beginning May 18th, 2020: From Founder & Principal Mimosa Jones Tunney

Good Morning TSH Families!

Lots to tell on this Sunday, so please read this issue of Observations carefully.


Change is a funny thing… how we react to it even more interesting.  In general I’ve found change to always be a place of renewal - something better on the other side.  Certainly in the time of COVID-19 we’ve found change to be helpful - in the case of a father who now has spent 2 months with his children; we’ve found it to be unsettling - with Governor Cuomo’s announcement of his reimagining of education; and sometimes challenging - moving from a hands-on learning environment to a remote one.  Yet, children are great teachers in a time of change.  Absent trauma, children respond incredibly well to changing environments.  They see them as learning opportunities, fresh voices and faces and new adventures.  

Meg and I have spent many months interviewing additional Educators, devising alternative “social distancing” schedules, fine-tuning our TSH Camps to include academics, re-organizing our interiors, finalizing our 2020-21 calendar and working with an incredible consultant in officially publishing  the American Emergent Curriculum - so much ahead to announce after May 30th once we receive official directives from NYS.   With that, and as always, my eye is firmly on our children.  When each of you signed up for TSH, I made only one promise.  Your children would be a part of the best elementary school in the world.  And whatever changes that entails, we intend to pursue them.  Additionally, there has been a new wave of applications from NYC.  If you know of any family who would like to open another TSH on Long Island please reach out!  We are woefully out of space.  

To round out this year,  portfolios are being complied by Educators (please read Meg’s announcement on Monday for details - it’s important), a beautiful yearbook is being crafted by Ms. Allison and a final art project coordinated by Ms. Trish - see below.  A few other things for our parent community to consider:

1.  In 1915 Dr. Montessori had a strong hold on America.  She was giving the keynote to the NEA National Conference of 16,000 teachers (who had booted Columbia University in favor of her approach); she had just taken the gold medal at the World’s Fair for her Glass Schoolhouse (the namesake of TSH); and there was a Montessori school in the Wilson White House.  That was the moment - 100 years ago - where education in America and the world could have changed forever.  What happened?  World War I.  

And with that war, a sudden change in focus.  We forgot her message.  We went back to our old ways in the name of “safety and security”.  

Is this 1915 again?  Or this time will we change things… for good?

2.  There is no current guidance on schools opening for the 2020-21 year with regard to COVID-19.  Please do not rely on reports relaying a plethora of mis-information.  From our point of view, should there be a social distancing component of our re-opening we are fully prepared with our small size and use of other buildings on the property to comply with these directives.  However… and this is a big however.  I would encourage each and every one of you who receive this mailing to personally contact Governor Cuomo’s Office with regard to technology and his personal reliance on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I know all too well that it’s difficult to be in the position where the buck stops with you.  This is especially true for Governors around the country as they navigate this pandemic.  Where technological options for colleges and maybe some high schools may be a viable option, they are not an option for the Pre-K through 8th grade developmental stage.  I personally believe this change would result in a loss of a generation of Learners who rely on hands-on, tactile learning to make valuable neurological connections that will affect the rest of their lives and their future learning.

Please contact Governor Cuomo on behalf of all of our 3-12 year old children - or include them in your endeavor - who will be forever changed if NYS proposes mandated digital curriculums.  While private schools still have the benefit of running our own curriculum in NYS, this is a freedom that can very easily be usurped by the pandemic.

Having previously worked for Senator Kennedy in my early years, please call instead of write.  Those of us who have worked on a political staff know that calls are tallied each day.  You can even put your child on the line on speaker.  

A.  Call 1-518-474-8390  and ask for his direct office line.

B.  Simply tell him that social distancing is the only option for re-opening K-8 schools. Screens have very little impact on robust learning and offer a very low percentage of retention versus hands-on learning in this development stage.  The Bill and Melinda Gates initiative should not apply to K-8 schools.

C.  Tell us about your experience.  

3.  We are so thrilled to announce that Ms. Stefanie will be joining us for the 2020-21 school year as our Lead Educator in our Elementary I classroom.  Stefanie Pizzolo has been teaching in Montessori classrooms - can you believe this… since she was 14 years old!  A native of Austria, Ms. Stefanie has worked in Montessori classrooms across the globe including leadership roles as a Lead Educator in New Rochelle, NY, Westside Montessori in New York City, Twin Parks Montessori School in New York City, the Montessori School of New Hartford, the Montessori School of Innsbruck in Innsbruck, Austria as well as serving as a Math Trainer for the Teacher Education Program at Westside Montessori in New York City.  However, more than her long list of credentials, Ms. Stefanie is most impressive in her comprehensive approach to Montessori and therefore to the American Emergent Curriculum.  Throughout our six interviews over the last three months, Ms. Stefanie presented so many incredible opportunities for children to engage in PBL, Socratic Method and Reggio Emilia (with which I find most European Educators are familiar).   She fervently sees Montessori as one of four viable components of a well-rounded curriculum and can’t wait to join us in September.  Her two children Charlie and Victoria will also become students at the school.  

Ms. Debbie will continue as our Lead Educator in our other Elementary I classroom with over 15 years of Montessori experience and a terrific track-record of providing PBL and nature-based learning.  She taught my son for 2 years and I’m one of her biggest fans.  

4.  Our garden is a staple of The School House. As are the chickens (and hopefully lambs!) who will join us over the summer.  For those of you who attended our Wink & Wave, your planting boxes are sprouting!  Check out these beautiful pictures below as well as more photos of our Learners:

5.  Ms. Trish would like us all to engage in Quarantine from a Child’s Eyes.  This project asks each of our Learners to photograph their perspective of being Sheltered in Place for the last two months.  You can use a regular camera or an iPhone, but the point is to let them capture their point of view.  How do they see things?  Learners can also draw, write or sculpt and photograph their piece.  We have set up a special gallery on our website for this collection.  Simply send us the best two photos from your Learner and we will publish them!

Ms. Trish is encouraging their voice… how they see the world in this changing landscape.  And she is always available for questions at trisha@theschoolhouse.org

Parent Tip:

I had a wonderful call with a dad this week that illuminated some of the challenges in Home Learning.  More and more what we come to realize is that it’s not the content but the presentation of that content that matters.  That’s true for great teachers too.  Some can be incredibly smart, but lose children because they're not interesting or engaging or kind enough.  Because information is fixed, I always find that children prefer the latter.  They’ll get to their multiplication tables… the real question is did they retain and enjoy the learning along the way.

Here are some additional suggestions as we round out our last month of Home Learning.

A.  If you have two children, settle the older one first.  If your older child is 7 for instance, engage them in a work they can do independently.  For my 8 year old, I’ve made multiplication cards for him since Ms. Jade assures me this is one of the most vital things going into 4th grade!  Because all of our children have been at TSH, they are relatively independent (boy, are we lucky if you’ve been reading any of the horror stories out there!)  He can go through his cards and write down the answers and check himself along the way.   Remember, do not give them something you’ve created.  Let them create their own cards.  One of the changes to the AEC that has come out of the pandemic (see good things are there!) is that I’ll suggest that our Educators no longer use pre-fabricated work plans in the coming year.  Each child should create their own, with their own drawings and intentions.

While your older is working, turn to the younger one.  The younger one may or may not be able to work at the same table… separate them if you need to “because their individual work is so important”.  If the sibling is 4 let’s say, give them sorting.  A new sorting box as I’ve mentioned before is an awesome way to start your morning.  Simply put different things in each morning… leaves, rocks, coins, bobby pins, pasta… and give them a cupcake tray.  If they are practicing letters, they can label the items.   They can count these items, make a pattern with them, put them in groups of two.  Literally, there are dozens of “academic” uses for these objects.

B.  Understand that the AEC curriculum means you are following the child - a tenant of Montessori and Reggio (and PBL for that matter).  If you start with addition in the morning and they want to move into geography, don’t force them to finish addition.  Ms. Christine is a genius at this and she often reminds us:  you can always, always reintroduce something.  If you force learning, they won’t retain it… they are just going through the motions.

C.  If I don’t get dressed in the morning, put on my earrings and set my day, my Home Learning is not as fruitful.  This past week, I simply had too much to do to be a good Home Educator.  At one point, I just didn’t have the energy.  I caught myself playing solitaire as they were doing math problems.  The whole energy of our day (and week) changed.  When I mentioned to big John how they were all over the place, John looked at me and said… and what about their Educator?  Ha… love that man.

Your Funny of the Day:

Little John and I used to take very long road trips and one of the things we searched for were “funny signs”.  For instance, once in PA it was raining and there was a highway sign that read “Turn on your wipers”.  We found this at the supermarket the other day.  Perhaps a new reason for the expansion of TSH:


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