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February 03, 2008

Comments

Sara

You may not be aware, but Birgitta's daughter sent both her kids to Montessori school as well! (One was there through kindergarten and is now in first grade in public school, and one is still there with two years to go.) My mother can explain the method better than I, but basically it involves giving children meaningful work to perform using materials suited to both the task at hand and the age and abilities of the individual. A very young child might choose to wipe a table clean, for example. To do so, she takes a small sponge and pail of water (and perhaps a smock--they love smocks)from the classroom's child-height sink and shelves and wipe off the table. Then she puts away the materials so the next table-scrubber can find them. Not only has the child accomplished an important task independently, but she has also followed a logical sequence of steps, used small and gross motor skills, and left behind a clean table.

I went to Montessori school myself about 34 years ago and let me tell you, I am still a very good table cleaner--though with two Montessori-trained kids in the house, you'd think I could pass the torch/sponge by now, wouldn't you?
Sara

Birgitta

The more you learn about Montessori's philosophy and understanding of children,(read The Absorbent Mind by M.M.)the more you wonder why it has not been to adopted more extensively.I read an interview with the guys who started Google, and they attributed their success to both having attended Montessori schools.

Ellen

Dear Florence,

Oh golly. I was a HUGE fan when I was pregnant with Christopher ... mmmm ... forty two years ago. I read EVERY WORD the woman wrote ... a stack of books from the library, ha ha, alas, no first editions.

One day, Mickey innocently asked - Who IS this woman anyway? Does she have any children of her own?

No. No mention of children of her own in any of the books I was reading ... but I read on.

Now I learn, yes sir ee, turns out she DID have a son. No mention of a husband or marriage, but yes, her son was in full view for all to see, and he grew up to be an ambassador of his mother's methods.

What do I remember after all that reading?

- That children learn from LIFE. Take them WITH you, and point out things. Don't leave them in the stroller outside, while you pop in to the drug store to buy aspirin. They will learn from every part of life they are exposed to ... and it doesn't have to be a trip to Paris. A trip to the grocery store is a learning experience if you tune in to it.

- Yeah. Thats one thing. Another ... that children LIKE order. If you provide the MEANS for them, they will want to keep things orderly. This is where - cleaning up after yourself - would come in I guess.

- Oh ... and that children learn through all their senses. Let them touch objects to count, to learn the meaning of numbers ...

- Annnnd INVOLVE the child in correcting unfortunate behavior. Same idea here ... that they really WANT to behave in a socially acceptable way. Separate with kindness, a fitful child ... with something like ... when you're finished screaming, you're welcome to join us again.

Thats about all I can remember from hours of reading forty years ago. But its nice to thinks back.

Thanks for asking Florence.

Goddard Graves

A couple of observations about Montessori schooling as I have observed it in the world generally, and close-up. First, let us not forget that Anne Frank (THE Anne Frank, God rest her) was thrown-out of her Montessori School, along with several others, to meet her fate. Then too, I have known scores of Montessori kids, and there are three things they have in common: they are extremely polite, they are academically no better-off, indeed probably worse, than the average suburban public-school student, and most significantly, they tend to be helpless as kittens in sacks when it comes to basics like following schedules, assuming personal responsibility, and confronting unknown social situations.
Other than protecting their little darlings from some of the world's inevitable abrasion -- at staggering expense, I might add -- I cannot imagine what motivates parents to indulge in this educational equivalent of commodity fetishism.

jonny c, ex of HP

there are no janitors/custodial staff in japanese "grammar' schools. the children do all the work. no pta's either, with parents directing school policy/second-guessing teachers in the classroom.in fact, they do w/o all the crap taken for granted in our affluent spolied suburbs.

Karen Higgins

In response to Goddard Graves post on February 6th 2008, I wonder if he really knows much about Montessori Education. There are numerous studies that have been conducted on the advantages of Montessori Education versus the more traditional methods. They concur that children who have received a Montessori education tend to do much better in subjects such as Language and Maths, but far more importantly are better in social situations, can make decisions, are good team players as well as taking initiative when required. They are also more likely to be less aggressive and have good negotiation skills than their peers in traditional forms of education. Perhaps Mr. Graves should do some further research before dismissing Dr. Montessori's wonderful method out of hand.

Karen Higgins

In response to Goddard Graves post on February 6th 2008, I wonder if he really knows much about Montessori Education. There are numerous studies that have been conducted on the advantages of Montessori Education versus the more traditional methods. They concur that children who have received a Montessori education tend to do much better in subjects such as Language and Maths, but far more importantly are better in social situations, can make decisions, are good team players as well as taking initiative when required. They are also more likely to be less aggressive and have good negotiation skills than their peers in traditional forms of education. Perhaps Mr. Graves should do some further research before dismissing Dr. Montessori's wonderful method out of hand.

Goddard Graves

Peace to the ghost (& reputation) of Maria Montessori, & to the unnecessarily agitated spirit of Karen Higgins (who is presumably still alive). In the whole spectrum of Life's challeneges, I must beg-off on what Ms Higgins is pleased to recommend to me as "further research". Not that I have to establish my credentials to her or to anyone else, I will nonetheless state that I have observed Montessori students & teachers at very close range over more than ten years, first in my work in the children's book business, and more recently as a librarian. Call me "self-involved" -- I can take it, as I've been called worse -- but after several decades as a teacher, parent, librarian, writer of children's stories, and God knows what else, if I can't trust my own perceptions, I have bigger problems than to sort-out the various theologies & fads in the Never-Never Land of educational theory.
Anyone who has read this far can probably discern that I don't apply conventional yard-sticks to anything except yard-goods, but may I pose a few questions, whose answers I honestly don't know, though I would like to find-out. How many Montessori grads could be found, say, in the student populations of the best independent schools like Lawrenceville & Exeter, or of the best universities like Princeton, Stanford, & McGill? How many National Merit scholars have come from the custom-built desks at Montessori schools? How many Montessori grads are working in, say, inner-city schools or Doctors Without Borders?
It would be interesting to get the perceptions of people who aren't White, or who cannot afford the cost of private schools, as to the relevance, in a world of hunger & anger, of investing boatloads of money just to make chidren nice. Anybody who thinks that the Montessori method is unique is living in a very small world indeed.
I say the following w/ some trepidation, lest my intensity inadvertently prejudice readers against the two brave & remarkable local institutions I want to mention for their contribution to decency in the world. I can assure anyone that very civil & skilled young people are coming out of Lions Academy in Waukegan, & Saint Gregory's School in Chicago -- and without "benefit" of table-manners classes. They are also fully capable of reading the calendar and following schedules, which, for those who don't know it, are two aspects of everday life which current Montessori practice -- theory be damned -- are considered to be a vicious imposition of the free development of little minds.
In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, who admittedly might have been better for a little of the Montessori touch, "I shall retire to Bedlam".

Sara

As it happens, at the Montessori school my children attend they start each day by sitting together and, among other routine tasks, noting the day and date on the large calendar displayed at all times in the classroom.

As for checking the number of Montessori-educated kids at schools like Lawrenceville and Exeter to determine whether the Montessori method promotes success in high school, well, let's just say that the parents who send their kids to Montessori programs
very likely have different thoughts about childrearing and education than the ones who send theirs to boarding school.

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