Learning disorders like ADHD seem to be ever on the rise, while many now question the effectiveness (particularly long-term) of the usual ADHD treatments. Is this “crisis of attention” due to genetics or to our increasingly hurried and distracted culture? And if environment is part of the problem, what can we as parents do to help our children focus better?
It is about 9:00am, half an hour after the children have come inside from the playground and began their work. I have just arrived to the school to observe the classroom of my son a few months ago. As I walk towards his classroom I see two children, probably 5 or 6 years old, with the long one thousand chain laid out along the hallway. As the name suggests, this is a chain comprised of a thousand golden beads, laid upon a fleece mat cut to the right size and length. The children are counting the beads one by one and laying number tiles by the appropriate beads as they count all the way up to one thousand. They glance up at me as I walk by, smile, then go back to their work.
Freedom and Discipline are two words that are not usually used together, at least in regard to children. It seems counter-intuitive—how can you give kids freedom and still have discipline, or be disciplined and have freedom? It is generally understood that children can only “behave” when strict discipline is imposed on them, meaning their freedom taken away– this is the thinking of traditional schooling. But Maria Montessori discovered that the two, freedom and discipline, indeed go hand in hand.
The first time I saw a Montessori birthday celebration was when I observed at a school during my training. I immediately fell in love with the idea. I loved the simplicity of it, along with the introduction to a bit of science and history. I witnessed several birthday celebrations while working in the classroom, but [...]
Zach is a bit of an anomaly. He is incredibly smart in many areas, but was a late bloomer, at least when it came to reading. He didn’t read well until the 2nd or 3rd grade. But, as Montessorians often know to expect, at some point in that year something “clicked on” and he began reading voraciously– his sensitive period for reading was just a bit later than most children. He was soon reading chapter books, and by 5th grade was reading at a high school level. In high school he probably learned more from his independent reading than from school. He continues to read everything from science fiction to science journals and everything in between, and is one of the best-read people I know.
Somehow our culture has convinced students that learning only happens by force and only inside a classroom. Learning is something you only do because you have to, never for fun or because you just want to. What a shame…especially when Montessori education offers a time-tested and proven method that supports a child’s natural curiosity and love of learning!
The Montessori primary program is designed as a three-year cycle. Much of the material and exercises in the first year or two not only help the child achieve a direct, immediate goal (such as dressing and cleaning after themselves, or learning the sounds of each letter of the alphabet), but also serve an indirect purpose of laying the foundation for future work and learning.
Since my first son’s birth 3 years ago, I have gravitated towards Attachment Parenting. Yet, I have started to question: is it compatible with Montessori?
As a student, I started doing math on paper with a pencil; in Montessori the abstract process of math is the final step of a long series of exercises. To me, and most traditional school students, numbers on the page are just that – symbols we are taught how to manipulate. To Montessori students, those symbols represent very concrete ideas that they have physically manipulated; they fully understand what they mean, how they work, and why.
There has been much talk recently about Montessori-inspired applications for devices like Apple’s iPhone and iPad – specifically about the apps recently created by Montessorium. Some Montessorians are enraged, feeling that the apps violate the very foundation of Montessori pedagogy. Others love them, and claim that if Dr. Montessori were alive today she would use an iPad in the classroom with the children.
While one may not see “play” in a Montessori classroom, the spirit of play is very much still there.
I am always very excited when a friend or acquaintance approaches me asking about Montessori. This can also be an intimidating situation, though– how to explain Montessori in a way that is both concise and thorough? I’m afraid of overwhelming them with too much information all at once, or giving them a dense book that they start reading but then set aside and forget about.
One unfortunate aspect of Montessori is that, since no one “owns” the name/title, anyone who wishes to can open up a preschool, put a pink tower in the corner, and call themselves “Montessori.” There are many wonderful and amazing Montessori schools… and there are also quite a few not very good ones, and unfortunately it is these lesser schools that help spread confusion and misinformation of what Montessori is and how it works.
I’ve never been a big fan of toy boxes. They seem messy, and as if they’re designed for toys to get lost and/or broken in them. It’s hard to teach children to be careful of their toys when the way to put them away is toss them into a box with a bunch of other stuff. So when we started thinking about how to set up our son’s room and how to store/display his toys, I knew I didn’t want a toy box.
As a stay at home mom, I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate Practical Life exercises into our home and routine. The great thing is, this isn’t all that hard… though it does require more time and patience, and I will likely have to go through and re-do things afterwards anyway. This can be frustrating sometimes, but it can also be really fun and rewarding – there’s nothing like realizing your kid really can do a lot more than you’d given him credit for.