This article is about a study involving children between the ages of 8 – 16, but imagine if this kind of environment is provided to children as infants all the way through their teen years? The description of the environment offered to the children in this study very closely resembles a Montessori prepared environment. Of course guidance is given and teaching is offered, but it’s based on the interests of the child, not the lesson plans of the teacher.
Children are naturally curious. Our job as teachers is to keep their love for learning alive.
“His task is rather to keep alive the sacred spark of wonder and to fan the flame that already glows. His problem is to protect the spirit of inquiry, to keep it from becoming blasé from overexcitement, wooden from routine, fossilized through dogmatic instruction, or dissipated by random exercise upon trivial things.”
From an article published in Psychology Today, research about what babies need (and don’t need). Some suggestions seem obvious while others may spark debate. I’m curious to know what my readers think and why. I was surprised at first about #2 (Never let a baby cry) but was reassured when what was meant was to minimize situations that cause crying, and observing and paying attention are the way to do that. When you establish communication and routine and get to know the baby, everyone can be more at ease.
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.
Laura Markham’s article on the latest research on whether or not to intervene when children argue. We need to give children opportunities to work through conflicts on their own if we expect them tp be independent in this area in the future. But they also need adequate language and skills to deal with conflicts, especially in the early years of interacting with siblings and peers. It’s important for the adult to be aware of when the stronger personality constantly wins out and the softer personality constantly gives in. In these instances, intervention is appropriate. This gives a great opportunity for teaching listening and empathy skills for the strong child, and to encourage the quieter child that speaking up is important, and okay to do.
View reports of research that shows academic learning is not as beneficial to children as strengthening social and emotional skills and building intelligence. There is a difference between strengthening intelligence skills and strengthening academic learning.
I am an AMI Montessori certified teacher, and came across Magda Gerber’s RIE method through web searches and social media contacts as I was researching childhood education since getting certified. I enjoyed reading articles and blog posts describing the RIE method and philosophy and started to discover that the two philosophies are extremely similar. For any of my readers who are wondering, this is a great article to outline the similarities and slight differences.
You often hear teachers, child care workers, and parents use the phrase “choose your battles”. In some areas of life, this is a helpful solution to our problems. But in regards to raising children, this article suggests that it may not be a wise approach. I had not thought about that phrase in the way this author suggests. Although I try to stay away from using clichés in general, I have acted in this manner as a teacher many times. I will now think twice and speak up when I hear this, as it is so prevalent in our society. When we say we are choosing battles, it doesn’t mean to simply not let the small stuff bother you. To a child, it is confusing and inconsistent, and can lead to insecurity and negative behavior. Children are most secure when there are clear and consistent limits and boundaries. Reading this article changed my thinking on the attitude behind the phrase “choosing your battles”.
This was one of the first books I read that started me on my journey away from the public school system, and towards finding some of the answers I was seeking.
In my orchestra classes, as I was looking for ways to motivate my students to do well, I commonly used extrinsic rewards such as earning prizes or pizza parties for getting enough practice time in during each week. This is what I learned from mentor teachers that I had to do. And, filling out weekly practice records was something I was required to do when I was a student in orchestra classes myself, so it made sense to me to do that same thing for my students. My parents did not closely monitor every minute of practice that I recorded, but at the same time, I knew they would not sign to verify that I had done an hour of practice every day, if I clearly did not.
However, I was learning very quickly that requiring my students to complete a weekly practice record was not functioning as I had intended. The purpose was to help create a habit of daily practice. I even dangled a treasure chest of toys to choose from, candy bars, or stickers as incentives to get those practice logs turned in, signed by parents, and with a minimum number of minutes per week.
In reality though, this requirement actually taught most children many undesirable lessons. First, since the number of minutes practiced does not take into account the quality or effectiveness of the practicing, requiring a minimum number of minutes practice per week does little to actually improve the child’s ability. The child, equally aware of this dilemma, tends to practice the “easy stuff” for an hour a day, or worse, simply fill in extra minutes – in order to earn those prizes.
Earning rewards motivated some students, but usually only those who were already practicing effectively anyway. Others participated for a week or two, and then interest faded and I had to come up with other “motivators”. Other children simply were not fooled, and didn’t ever bother to fill out or submit practice records. Earning a worse grade in the class as a result was also usually not motivation enough to practice more. (Because, earning a grade in a class is an extrinsic motivator in itself.)
Mostly, requiring practice logs and keeping up with the latest gimmicky rewards system, made a lot of work for me, with very little real results. Further, I was not teaching my students that being able to play the instrument well and make beautiful music is the reward for the effort that they put in.
Now, as a Montessori teacher, I do not have the job of coming up with incentives, bribes, or external motivators in order to motivate children. Most of the children who come to the classroom are naturally excited to learn and have a desire to achieve something. And my job is to keep that excitement and love of learning alive. I have learned that it is true that children are naturally motivated to explore and learn, and will learn from natural consequences of the decisions they make – good or bad ones. But, once children get into a habit of relying on bribes and rewards, it is a difficult habit to break, and a difficult task to help them rekindle that natural love for learning.
Unfortunately for some children, this habit is begun early in their lives and continues, and even worsens, throughout their school-aged years. It is important to change that path early, but even better, to avoid it altogether. This is the job of the parents and teachers, and it is one to be taken very seriously. If we are to raise a community of peaceful children, we need to avoid creating a mentality of “What’s in it for me?” Instead, we need to show children that a peaceful and pleasant environment is the result of cooperation, respect, and love.