Tag Archives: Julie Kelly-Detwiler

Why Summer Homework? Parent education talk at Inly presents a compelling case

Summer is right around the corner. Our family can feel it. After a busy year packed with school, homework, music lessons, sports, and never ending trips to the hockey rink, we are ready for a break. I can already hear the collective sigh we will make on the last day of school when we can finally drop into the hammock together, eat popsicles endlessly, and do nothing else.

Or will we this summer? After attending Tuesday’s Parent Insight Event, “Why Summer Work?” I think our family might be doing things differently this year.

Some interesting facts on reading and academic skills

Did you know that on average, all students regardless of socio-economic status, lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation over the summer months?

… that students who read at least six books during the summer maintain or improve their reading skills, while kids who don’t read can see their skills slip by as much as an entire grade level?

… or that students who consistently make time during each of the summer weeks to focus on learning show greater gains come fall than those who save everything to the last week of summer or do nothing at all?

These facts, presented by Julie Kelly-Detwiler and Shelley Sommer, were news to me. Fortunately, Inly has a plan to prevent students’ academic skills from sliding backwards during the summer months.

Reading, writing, math and… PLAY!

As part of Tuesday’s informal conversation, we learned about the importance of summer work and Inly’s plan for reading and projects for each of the different grade levels.  While summer time should be about play, it can also be a time of continuous learning.  As Julie explained, children need to exercise their reading, writing, and math muscles over summer break. At the upcoming parent/teacher conferences, teachers will present parents with Inly’s suggestions for age-appropriate summer work. Additional information about reading, writing, and math activities will also be posted on the Inly School website.

As Julie pointed out, we are our children’s first and best teachers, and teachable moments are happening all the time. Our children will do what they see us modeling for them. So read together, journal together, tell stories together, and laugh together. Find math opportunities on your car rides, trips to the grocery store and in the rest of your daily routine. Summer always goes by too quickly so savor each and every day with your children. And, of course, remember to eat lots of popsicles.

— Erin Hull

Thanks to Inly parent Erin Hull for writing this blog post. Erin has a child in the Children’s House preschool and kindergarten program at Inly School.

This Parent Insight Event was presented by Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School and Curriculum Director, and Shelley Sommer, Library Director and Middle School Literature Teacher.

Here are links to articles recommended by Shelley Sommer, Inly library director and literature teacher, during Tuesday’s event:

Montessori Kids at Home: Inly Parent Insight Event Wrap-Up

As part of our ongoing Montessori Education series, here’s a re-post of an article written in Fall 2011 by Jill Baxter, Parenting Learning Co-Coordinator of Inly’s Parent Steering Committee:

Practical life skills and Montessori principles—for preschool and beyond

Lauren Vitali, Children's House preschool and kindergarten teacher

At last week’s Parent Insight Event, Children’s House preschool and kindergarten teacher and Inly parent Lauren Vitali and Assistant Head of School and Inly alumni parent Julie Kelly-Detweiler led a conversation about implementing Montessori principles in the home. Parents from many different grade levels participated in a discussion that related topics including lunch choices, tantrums and chores to Montessori principles such as independence, responsibility, and the “prepared environment.”

Changing our mindset in connection with independence and responsibility is a tough one—whether it is setting the table, making a bed, or preparing part of a meal.  Often, it is easiest and most expedient for a parent to get it done alone. It takes time and thought to decide when it is appropriate and, then, allow children to undertake tasks, prepare the environment to help ensure their success (allowing for imperfection). Building extra time into your day to allow children to take on meaningful, age-appropriate tasks will pay dividends, however.

Montessori principles at home and at school

Many parents will be happy to learn that chores such as setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, or doing laundry actually bolster Montessori principles! As students in a Montessori classroom, all Inly students have weekly jobs they perform at school to help keep their community environment neat, safe, and healthy. Cutting fruit, cleaning tables, feeding classroom pets, recording attendance, or organizing snack are all jobs which encourage independence and help build and maintain a sense of community in the classroom. As Julie pointed out, giving children meaningful responsibility in their home also encourages them to think of themselves as part of a whole, and, in turn, identify the work they are doing as meaningful for themselves and others.

The link between independence and the Montessori “prepared environment”

Lauren offered sage advice on the link between independence and a prepared environment. While it may involve some extra time and thought in the short-term, a prepared environment can make giving your child responsibility and independence easier in the long run. Making your home a “prepared environment” can be as easy as moving the cereal bowls within reach, having a snack basket, or designating a work area with materials available for homework or book projects. Organizing clothes in a way your child understands can ease battles before school and allow you to more easily set boundaries for what is appropriate and what is not.

Montessori practical life materials

Montessori practical life materials for toddlers and preschool (source: montessori-n-such.com)

Of course, many of us know that encouraging our kids to take on additional responsibilities (even with a prepared environment) doesn’t rule out conflict. When there is conflict, using language that children are familiar with from school may help. Talk to your child’s teachers about language used in the classroom that you could implement at home, and ask about the jobs your child performs in the classroom to get ideas for age appropriate tasks your Montessori kid can take on at home.

I left that morning meeting resolved to figure out ways my boys can help around the house more and also with an “Independence Guide” handout that gave concrete examples of responsibility and independence at each stage of development. I think I can sort out some new responsibilities for my Montessori kids. I also walked away with a greater sense of community, happy my kids are in a school with a profound respect for children and family.

Montessori Links

Recommended resources on Montessori education and Montessori in the home:

Classroom Structure: The Prepared Environment and Mixed-Age Classes at Inly School

Montessori at Home: Practical Tips for Toddlers, Preschool Children and Parents (Inside Inly Blog)

Montessori Terminology: AMS Guide
All the Montessori terms you need to know—from Prepared Environment and Practical Life to Sensorial Exercises and Sensitive Periods

The "Aha" Series: A Slightly Altered View in Middle School

This week, we asked our Middle School director, Julie Kelly-Detwiler, to share a favorite story that illustrates a moment of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.


Julie’s Internship Story

Adolescence is a time of trying things on, making the theory real, taking a step closer to adulthood. Internships are a big part of this, and we see them make real leaps in their learning and self-confidence from the start to the end of the process.

We help our Middle School students craft their first resumes, and delight with them as they look with pride on their accumulated accomplishments. We discuss writing, punctuation, and word choice as they write their letters of introduction. We practice phone interviews and follow-up calls and watch students who said, “I could never do that” become focused and poised as they push themselves through their first cold call.

And we watch students walk with trepidation into our adult world on an internship and—Aha!—stride back to our school community with new found confidence, insights and a slightly altered view of themselves and their relationship to the world.

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on May 15, 2009.]

On a (Global) Mission to Montessori Model United Nations

MMUN 2009

Ten members of Inly’s Model UN team hit the Big Apple in March, well prepared to debate current international issues with fellow Montessori middle school students from across the US. Representing Mexico and Croatia, the Inly delegates spent three days at the Montessori Model UN conference (MMUN), the third annual event of its kind. They presented and debated their own position papers, and represented their nations in council sessions and in front of the MMUN General Assembly.

About Model UN

In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. While playing their roles as ambassadors, student delegates make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the Model UN conference rules of procedure—all in the interest of mobilizing “international cooperation” to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.

It not only involves young people in the study and discussion of global issues, but also encourages the development of skills useful throughout their lives, such as research, writing, public speaking, problem solving, consensus building, conflict resolution and compromise and cooperation.

MMUN Mexico Delegate


It took the Inly team 8–10 weeks to prepare, with two-hour after-school meetings once a week, plus a good deal of extra independent work. “When they were choosing to do this, they knew it was like adding an extra class,” explains Tschol Slade, middle school history teacher who helps lead the group.

“There’s lots of writing—students write position papers for each topic and have to distill all of their research into one page. The research they’re doing is pretty sophisticated. They use books for background research and the Internet for current events. But then they’re also using primary source documents and white papers—it’s dense information.”

“Having the opportunity to learn that deep about a country is a really valuable experience. They have to be experts in their own country and yet also really familiar with what’s going on in the rest of the world. It’s about depth and breadth at the same time.”

Life Skills

Tschol Slade and Julie Kelly-Detwiler accompanied the 7th and 8th graders on the trip, along with Inly parent Bill Dana.

This was Tschol’s second year attending Model UN with the Inly Middle School. Although he served as a chaperone, he points out that because he and Julie helped to run the conference this year, the kids were charged with an extra degree of autonomy. “Just traveling around New York City at this age…the independence they have to show and the maturity is pretty remarkable.”

“Small things are huge when you’re on your own like this for the first time,” he remarks. “Like planning a budget, figuring out how to spend your own money…knowing that you can’t spend $30 on a T-shirt you find in a rest stop in Connecticut because you have to eat four days from now… figuring out how early you have to get up in the morning so everyone in the room can have a shower and get to breakfast on time.”


Experiential Learning

“There’s a motivation in doing something authentic,” explains Tschol. “It’s different than practicing in the classroom. At Model UN they’re using the actual protocols that delegates need to follow with the real UN, and the moderators in the committees are adults they don’t know. So there’s a level of formality that wouldn’t exist with their peers.

“You can’t say ‘I’ – you say, ‘the republic of Croatia believes…’ You refer to the moderator as ‘Honorable Chair’ and you refer to the other delegates as ‘the delegate from…’”

The Takeaway

Tschol sees the value of the experience first-hand. “I’ve seen an increased interest in current events. It’s often hard for students to understand the news because there’s so much of it and it’s so complicated. This experience gives them a place to start when reading the newspaper. It gives them a context to get started, so they know the right questions to ask.”

“What’s great about this program is that it has both the academic rigor and the sense of community—these two things are not either/or; with Model UN it’s about both.”

Student Insight

We asked a couple of students to report on their experience:

Phoebe, grade 7

What was your area of focus?
My country was Croatia, and my topic was human rights and the employment of child soldiers.

Did you know much about Croatia before you started Model U.N.?
I had never thought Croatia was a very important country. I actually never gave it much thought. But I really enjoyed learning about it and learning all about its history, and about the war with Yugoslavia. Now I think of it as a much more important country in the world. It’s really very interesting. And I’ve been able to make some interesting connections with what we’ve been studying in history class.

Was the experience at Model U.N. what you expected?
It was definitely what I expected because we learned all about it in advance. We re-enacted what one of the sessions would look like and spent lots of time preparing beforehand.

Was there anything that surprised you?
Yes – when we went into the actual room at the U.N.—the General Assembly—and they had a whole panel of officials there. I thought there would only be one!

What was your favorite part about New York City?
Going to Shrek the Musical. It was an amazing performance, and Julie’s [Julie Kelly-Detwiler’s] cousin was Shrek, so we got to go backstage and get a behind-the-scenes tour.

What was the best part of the overall experience?
Getting to know our classmates better – from the after-school meetings for two months before and then traveling together and being together constantly.

Did you have time to meet many new kids from other schools?
Oh definitely. I met kids from Illinois and Arizona, and from California, Oregon and Washington. We all got each other’s phone numbers and emails and definitely want to keep in touch. They were all really nice, really friendly…and since we’re all from Montessori schools we have a similar learning style and we have something in common.

Tommy, grade 8

Last year your team represented the United States. How was it different, representing a small country like Croatia?
There were pros and cons with each. With a bigger country, like America, you have a bigger voice and you also have veto power. When you’re a smaller country, like Croatia, it’s harder to be heard. You need to depend on the bigger countries, but the bigger countries kind of ignore you. But on the other hand, as a smaller country you can voice your opinion more radically than a larger country because you don’t have to be as careful.

Careful about what?
Well, about alliances with other big countries. Last year when we were the United States and dealing with the crisis in Darfur, we had to be careful about criticizing China’s relationship with Darfur too strongly because we didn’t want to damage our own trading relationship with China.

What did you learn from the experience?
The whole experience helped me better understand someone else’s point of view. I’ve learned how to find compromise and I’ve become more empathetic with what other people are trying to do

What would you say were the best parts of the experience?
I’d say the lively debates, the great sense of teamwork, and the experience traveling around New York City.

How was your second year compared to your first year at MMUN?
From year one to year two, I think I grew in my ability to listen and to understand and to debate. That year of experience helped me to know what to expect and to know what you need to do to be successful.

Would you like to do Model UN or something similar in high school?
Yes, definitely. There’s a Model UN club at Milton and they have a great team. I’m definitely going to pursue that. [Tommy will be a freshman at Milton Academy next year.]

Any advice for classmates going to Model UN for the first time next year?
Don’t over pack; be prepared; make sure you’ve explored your topic; and keep an open mind.