A surprising and inspirational read about what Teacher Tom has to say about our children reaching “milestones”. What is on your child’s list?
Isaac Morehouse tells us a little about his unschooling experience, and why he feels playing with Legos is more valuable than learning algebra. A reminder to us to not underestimate the value of play, and not overestimate the value of “book” learning.
A great read about just taking things easy and enjoying time with your kids. Or at least letting them enjoy their time doing what interests them the most. Don’t worry so much about creating fun things for them to do – their innate curiosity will lead them towards plenty of creative projects, which are in themselves highly intellectually, socially, emotionally rich with opportunities to learn and grow.
Montessori was once asked to sum up her new approach to education. “Attendee, osservando – watch and wait.”
I’m a couple of days late in honoring the anniversary of Dr. Maria Montessori’s death, but here is a beautiful tribute and brief summary of Montessori’s approach according to Dr. Montessori herself. I hope you enjoy this article contributed by Baan Dek Montessori School blog.
Rita Kramer makes the case that, “An educator and teacher, Montessori ended her life by saying that neither teaching nor education brings about the child’s development.” Kramer continues, “in a somewhat radical and far-seeing summary of the Montessori philosophy, one that contains the heart of what makes this approach so special: all educators and teachers can do is refrain from placing obstacles in the child’s path by providing him with an environment in which he is “free to create himself”.
Studies show that insistence on academic achievement in a child’s preschool years does produce early results in reading, writing and math skills. However, not only does academic achievement equalize among children by the end of 4th grade, social and emotional skills are largely absent, causing stress and unhappiness in the lives of the children.
It’s easy to think that if children spend hours outside or otherwise engaged in play instead of spending time learning ABC’s and 123’s, that they aren’t learning or are somehow wasting time that could be spent “learning”. The reality is, children are learning valuable physical and social skills when they are engaged in play. These skills will help them with academic achievement when the time is right for it. Sitting at a table and doing worksheets has the illusion of real academic learning, but it is damaging to a child in so many ways. It’s not easy to change the mindset of early childhood academic achievement; it takes a lot of trust in your child that academic learning will happen later. If you understand that the child is building a strong sense of self and a strong emotional foundation for later learning, it’s easier to reframe your ideas of what a successful preschool environment looks like.
This essay about the value of grades is written by, and from the perspective of a Montessori educated child who is now in high school. She writes about her experience with earning grades and how it relates to her experience with learning. I am grateful for contributions like this from people who are living examples of how Montessori method has impacted their lives. I can only speak as a teacher of Montessori, and not as someone who has experienced it personally. I often feel that my arguments automatically have an air of “grass is greener on the other side” because I can only speak to what I didn’t like about my childhood education, and what I think can be better for the future of our children. Words like these give me confidence for the kind of education I am offering children for a more peaceful future, and assurance that children are certainly not “missing out” on these aspects of traditional school.
Research continues to support limiting screen time especially in a child’s youngest years of development. Sadly, I have seen home day care ads that publish a daily schedule that includes tv/dvd time of at least 1 hour per day. I have even witnessed children in an after care program at a “Montessori” school sitting in front of the television. Be aware of your child’s exposure to the television (including ads targeted to children that feature unhealthy foods and developmentally inappropriate or unnecessary toys).
There is no television in my home day care space. Not only is it not necessary – we can find plenty of activities to engage in, even on a rainy day – it’s simply not healthy. I’m not suggesting we should ignore technology, but a young child’s brain simply is not ready for such a fast pace. Familiarity and ability with technology will come quickly – when the child is developmentally ready.
The kind of freedom described in this article illustrates the beauty of living life without arbitrary constraints. Adults today, particularly those who went through the traditional schooling regimen, may have a tendency to focus on what a child may be missing out on by not having “school”. But in today’s world there is no lack of resources for information, nor for human connections and interactions of all varieties. Why leave it up to chance the teachers your child will be “instructed” by? Yes, there are wonderful, inspiring teachers in public schools, and your child may or may not be lucky enough to have one, most likely for just a short period of time. Instead of having to obtain certain arbitrary credits, and spend time with arbitrarily assigned teachers who give out arbitrarily determined grades, now the whole world has opened up and can be accessible to your child! What could he be missing out on?
I may have subconsciously known this when I was a student in public school, but became very aware of it when I became an orchestra teacher in both public and private schools. If what is happening in the academic world is the same as what is happening in the instrumental music world (in these schools), I can completely empathize and understand. I can only imagine at this point how much worse things have gotten in just a few years since I have left the profession.
In my experience, my job was to earn high performance ratings at all costs, and not to actually teach music and offer musical experiences to all interested students. I was rudely criticized at all opportunities for doing exactly the opposite of this. While many other programs “hid” their lower-performing groups by not allowing them to perform in public, I invited all of my students to have the valuable experience of performing in public and working with a local clinician. This resulted in lower overall performance scores, and intense and unfair scrutiny from administrators and department chairpersons who had no direct experience with my teaching, my classroom routines, or the children enrolled in my classes. I had no regrets about this whatsoever, because I could see how the experiences benefited the students in my program. But the years of criticism did wear me down. I felt like I was constantly fighting a losing battle. All interests were on annual performance scores, and not on actual learning. All staff meetings, and all conversations among colleagues essentially centered around this and it got to a point where I could not stand it any more and had to leave the profession.
As a student in the orchestra program at the public schools I attended, I may indeed have benefited in ways I can’t comprehend today. I remember practicing for auditions and “chair challenges” and being really proud of “first chair” distinctions. I do believe that competitive opportunities are valuable, but they have their place in the child’s experiences and overall development in their younger years. It should not define a program or a school nearly to the extent that it does today. And they should definitely not be to the exclusion of real learning opportunities. Focus needs to be more on authentic learning experiences for young children rather than on outward appearances of success, which are usually artificial, and at the expense of alienating many hard-working and well-intentioned young minds.