Montessori Friends International

By on February 28, 2011

Montessori Friends International is one of the longest-running learning center for kids, owned and managed by American mother of 3, Jeanne Shimazaki whose boundless energy and natural love for kids contribute to the overall positive atmosphere in her classroom. Tokyo Families talks to Jeanne about her school.


Q. What motivated you to start Montessori Friends?


I have three boys, all born here.  The foundation by which they grow and molded as individuals mattered a lot to me. Looking back at the early education options I had then, the choices were unsatisfactory. As someone who has spent her life working with children, I became convinced that something new was needed in Japan for parents like me who wanted something more individualized.


In July of 2000, I started Montessori Friends with strong focus on the Montessori Method of teaching that places the child at the center of their own learning, growth and exposure to their true potential through challenging and stimulating experiences. Respect of the child is the cornerstone on which all of the other Montessori principles rest, and this mattered to me knowing that kids learn best at their own pace in the early years. Teachers act as guides, showing each child respect by helping them to be independent and learn things for themselves. When children have choices, they are able to develop the skills and abilities necessary for effective learning and positive self-esteem. I believe in and subscribe to the Montessori method of teaching for how it positively shapes children including my own. "Home" was a key word to me, as I wanted to give each child the warmth and comfort of home in a school environment.


I view my school as a family business offering Tokyo families a customized education that is as unique as each individual child.


Q. What are the positive aspects on your classroom?


In the classroom the children are actively engaged through hands-on experience, and working independently. Observation is a key to knowing when the child is ready for introduction to new materials and keeping them stimulated. Each child receives individual, one-on-one attention with each teacher. The materials are sequenced so that each activity follows a specific order and logical process. The activities allow the child to organize their thinking and problem-solving skills. Older children act as mentor and models for younger children. The teachers foster a strong sense of community which empowers children to develop respect for self, others and the environment. Our goal is to nurture the innate love of learning in kids by providing a loving and stimulating environment and help develop their social, spiritual and intellectual potential to the fullest! This month, we are starting an after school physical education program with Kid-Fit.


Q.  What would a typical day look like?


Our typical day begins with the children sitting in a large circle on the floor, with a “Hello” song and personal greeting and brief exchange with each child. We set the pace for the day by discussing any events or happenings for that day. We then ask for volunteers to take attendance, lead the calendar, examine the weather, water the plants, feed the fish, and choose a letter for the day. This time of the morning is the most concentrated language exchange and learning. We focus on the sound the letter makes, and follow up with tracing the letter in sand, then introduce objects and images. The older children spell out the individual object with the alphabet letter. We continue to focus on that particular letter throughout the day. After circle time, the children then choose a material to work on from six basic areas in the room: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Geography, and Culture. Each child is responsible for their own work space, keeping it neat and tidy, and returning the material to original place on the shelf when completed. We have a fifteen-minute bathroom break, then go outside to the park for an hour. After the park, we have lunch, and children under 3.5 years nap. The older children work with various materials and books for reading and writing. We once again assemble at 2:20pm to discuss the day’s activities and sing "goodbye"! We offer tea ceremonies and pottery once a month, respectively. We also have a Music Together lesson weekly. We have an open-door policy where the parents can make an appointment and come to observe their child at work, in their environment, anytime!


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