Soon enough our early elementary classrooms will be filling once again with children excited to begin the new school year. Among the happy faces will be those of the youngest children, those who are making the leap into the second plane of development and experiencing for the first time the elementary environment that we will have so carefully prepared for them. In all the excitement of welcoming the new children, let us not forget their parents – for their parents, too, may be new to the elementary and just as much in transition as their children.
Fourteen years ago the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement addressing children’s screen time that created a media hubbub. The statement was weak and ineffective. The ruckus was in grand disproportion to the Academy’s ho-hum recommendation that parents “avoid television for children under the age of two years.” It generated no positive results. Screen time for all children continues to increase. Parents still consider the television a member of the family. Mobile apps are every parent’s new best friend.
A tired working mother stood in the classroom doorway, ready to depart with her two sons. Separated in age by two years, the boys were as different in appearance as they were in temperament, but they were great kids. They enjoyed math and reading, laughed hard and punched hard. They loved learning, loved life, loved each other.
She was twenty and she told us that her mom had read aloud to her every night till she went off to university. The first time she came home for a visit her mom kissed her and said goodnight. “Wait,” she said to her mom, “we can’t go to bed till you read to me!” And so their custom continued, but over time it evolved into each of them alternating to read to the other from their current book.
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.
As the director of a Montessori school, one of the most frequent questions I get from parents is, “What should I be doing at home to help my child academically?” My answer is always the same: “Talk and read with your child.”
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?
The Silent Journey & Discovery is a powerful event for many parents. Unfortunately, most parents did not attend a Montessori school as a child; although they can read about Montessori philosophy, attend parent nights and observe the classroom, it can be difficult, at times, for them to really understand the experience that their child has every day at school. The J&D provides and opportunity for parents to explore the entire continuum of the school and experience first hand, just like their children, the amazing things that an authentic Montessori program has to offer.
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.
Peter and Margaret had heard that children in Montessori schools were precocious learners. Their neighbor’s five-year old daughter, Jenny, began to read and write while she attended the local Montessori school. They didn’t know much about the method, but when the time came to enroll their three-year-old son Wyatt in a preschool, they decided to give Montessori a chance.
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.
I expected her to ask, ‘What’s Montessori?’ or to disdainfully say something like, ‘Oh, isn’t Montessori where children do whatever they want?’ Instead, she almost jumped out of her chair and exclaimed: “Oh my goodness, I LOVE MONTESSORI!!!” Before I could get a word in, she began to tell me her story, and I realized that I had to share it with the world.
They are surprised by the children’s independence, and by the overall atmosphere of calmness and happiness in both environments. They are also brimming with questions and reactions. As Mr. S phrases it, “Although I was very impressed by the children’s purposefulness and engagement, it’s just not what I was expecting. It’s not what I’m used to. How on earth do you accomplish this?”
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.
It’s not that Montessori only works with exceptional children. Rather, from our point of view, every child is blessed with exceptional potential, your child included.