This week is Montessori Education Week, and so I thought I would take the opportunity to write about a few of my favorite things about Montessori!
Children in Montessori often learn to read at a very early age (although I will admit there was a point in time when I wondered if my son would EVER learn to read, but he did exactly when his teacher predicted he would.) They learn their numbers – not just counting but understanding that seven is one more than six and not just because it follows six. They begin to add and subtract, even multiply and divide, as early as kindergarten. They learn about leaves and leaf shapes. They learn about zoology, geometry and time. There seems to be almost no end of the surprises of what our children learn. It is ironic, however, that one of the most important lessons they learn in Montessori does not appear on a progress report. And yet once it’s learned, it’s a lesson that will make your child stand out for the rest of his or her life. The lesson: grace and courtesy.
I've had many friends along the way ask why I chose Montessori when the public schools in Minnesota are so far ahead of most other states. Sometimes it's really hard. Especially when it's time to make two tuition payments. I don't have a new car. Heck, I haven't even fixed the dents in my mini-van (don't get me started about having to drive a mini-van in the first place.) But our family has finally reached that pinnacle year - Kindergarten - when all of the promises of investing in Montessori are coming to fruition. My son is a curious, respectful little boy who is a joy to be around. There was a time when I wasn't sure I liked him at all, so this is divine. My daughter learns so much from her older brother, it's very sweet to watch. So in my bliss, I give you my top ten reasons why I'm happy, even joyful, that I was able to choose to send my children to a Montessori school rather than daycare.
- My child's learning environment is based on what each child needs, rather than what is required by a standard curriculum meant to cover a wide range of capabilities. I love the freedom of choice!
- I get to meet other parents who value their child's happiness above convenience.
- My view of education and the value of a child's thoughts and words changed when I started learning about Montessori. It’s exactly what I was looking for to encourage my child’s curiosity, independence, and enthusiasm.
- Montessori isn’t just about the education of children. It gives each child a whole new outlook on the history and path of humankind.
- Montessori has given my family a healthy base for building a family system that hinges on respect, courtesy and mutual responsibility for keeping our home inviting, clean and pleasant. It's not perfect, but our children feel like it's just as much their home as mine.
- I enjoy letting my children do things for themselves... which is really as simple as allowing them to try things you wouldn't have thought they could handle - such as helping with dinner using child-size cooking and cleaning tools, organizing their toys and clothing, and engaging in active play instead of endless screen time. Hopefully they will grow into responsible adults who work hard at what they love.
- I am so proud that both family, friends, and strangers frequently tell me how amazed they are at how well both of my children speak. They use full sentences and ask thoughtful questions. There's no baby-talk in our house - although there is still some whining :)
- My child’s teachers see the joy in my children and treat them with respect. They do not constantly try keep them quiet and still, but allow them to explore their interests with activities that engage their minds and bodies.
- I love the fact that the Montessori emphasis on individualism combats the messages of conformity and materialism that are all too prevalent in our world today.
- The staff at my child’s school believes that parents are the first and primary educators of the child. They are quick to offer a word of encouragement or a helpful suggestion, are never judgemental, and do a great job of keeping me up-to-date on my child’s progress. There are many days when a few words of wisdom from the staff keeps me from losing my mind.
One aspect of Montessori that was challenging for me to get my head around was the ideal class size. All I had ever heard was that small class size and small student-to-teacher ratios were good, while large classrooms were something to avoid. That made sense to me – the smaller the class, the easier it is for a teacher to provide individualized attention to each student. And that’s the goal, right?
Not according to Maria Montessori. Montessori classes thrive when the number of children in the class is substantial...
This summer I enrolled my son in a mixed-age outdoor play session for Kindergarten through 5th grade, organized and supervised by the local parks and rec association. He loves being outside and is an on-the-go kid so I figured it would be good for him while also giving me a few hours to run errands or do stuff around the house. For the first few weeks, things were great. He was excited to go and it was difficult to pry him away from the playground and his new friends when I came to pick him up.
But after a few weeks, something changed. He started putting up a fuss when it was time to go and not wanting to get out of the car once we got there. He also started being very bossy and directive with his younger sister and neighborhood friends.
The more I learn about Montessori, the more fascinated I become with how early children begin developing. When my first child was born, I literally thought all he was capable of was sleeping, nursing, and pooping. Anything beyond that, such as reading, was for my enjoyment only. Fortunately, I heard about the WBMS Parent-Infant program where I learned all kinds of things about infant development. However, for the young child, each day is filled with opportunities for infant language development. There are many activities that Montessori teachers use during the day that parents can also use at home – starting at birth. Here is an outline of the types of activity that you can reasonably expect as an infant grows in the first year.
When my kids started showing signs that they were interested in reading and writing, like most Moms, I turned to the internet to research how to teach kids to read and write. I wanted to know the right way to do these things so I don't confuse them. I also didn't want to contradict what they were learning in their Toddler and Children's House - especially during their Kindergarten year. What I learned is that the internet can be a confusing place. Do kids need to be able to recognize letters before they start writing them? That made sense to me, but Montessori teaches it the other way around. Keep reading and I'll clear up the confusion by telling you why writing is taught before reading in the Montessori method.
Montessori assumes a totally different way of teaching reading by teaching writing first. This approach is far more effective and efficient because by the time you learn to read you’ve already learned to write. Traditional education approaches reading through an intellectual process. Montessori begins teaching reading long before the intellectual process is ready giving it a great head start. Montessori education begins with the training of the senses. That is why there is tremendous emphasis on practical life and sensorial materials in the classroom. None of it “appears” intellectually stimulating but it is the basis of success in Montessori reading.
Have you ever been confused when you were talking to an expert about something and they continuously use terms or acronyms that you don't understand? While this is rampant in the technology industry, it's also pretty easy for your eyes to glass over when you are speaking to a trained Montessori educator. Whether you are at a parent education night, a workshop, reading a book or article about Montessori, or just talking to a Montessori guide, there are so many terms that just don't make sense. My goal in all of my blog posts is to bridge the gap between the experts - the staff at our school - and the rest of us: parents, grandparents, and anyone else who just wants to learn more about the Montessori method.
It always amazes me to watch children dress themselves in a public location such as a restaurant or at the door of a large retail store. There is such a wide variety of capabilities when it comes to children who are capable of zipping their coat, putting on their mittens and hats, or (gasp!) tie their shoes. I've always wondered why there are 3-year-olds who can tie their shoes and 8-year-olds who can't button their shirt or zip their coat. So when I saw the dressing frames in the Toddler room at WBMS, I realized how early a child is capable of learning to care for themselves. As a society, we don't take the time to let children try, fail, try, and then finally learn how to take care of themselves. We are just too busy and I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I certainly do my fair share of zipping and tying to get going faster - especially in the morning, right?!
There are a few reasons why I'm excited to share this video with you. First, it tells a very compelling story about the Montessori method of education and how it keeps a child's natural love for learning alive. Second, I love the way the whiteboard drawing really emphasizes what Trevor Eissler is telling us. Most importantly, I really love it when dads get involved in their child(ren)'s education.