Sunday, December 27, 2009

Throwing Boys a Buoy

I am reading Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax.  It is an alternately thought-provoking and scary look at boys in today's society.  Dr. Sax finds five factors that are resulting in unmotivated, underachieving boys and men.  Teaching methods are one area Dr. Sax says (and he is research supported) is tilted in favor of most girls.  He cites the facts that most boys need to move, need a connection with the outdoors, and need outside the classroom learning (that knowing as in "knowledge", and knowing as in "experiencing" are equally important). Typical classrooms do not address these needs.  Sax also states that the newer, more rigorous Kindergarten curriculums favor girls because at the age of five the language area of the brain that governs reading and writing is 1 1/2 years ahead developmentally in girls.  The boys "catch up" around age 14.  Montessori education does a good job of mitigating these issues.  We allow movement, choice, outdoor time and outdoor experiential education.  My own school has an outdoor garden available to children all day (shown in the above photo).  We Montessorians treat children as individuals, offering materials at the time (hopefully) when the child is ready to receive the information, as opposed to teaching concepts to a group when outside forces have decided the time is right.  We are not without our issues in Montessori. I think sometimes we measure our success too much by how quiet the room is, or by how slowly and carefully the children are moving.  However, we do a terrific job of meeting the child wherever he or she is in the individual path of academic and social enlightenment. All educators and parents need to take a look at this book and consider the implications;  for society, for all boys, and for our own sons.,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU15_.jpg

Children Must Move

No deep and profound thoughts at this time--just a fun video of the children dancing at our pre-break party.  This is quite a departure from the normal state of the environment.  We laid a few mutually agreed-upon ground rules and had a great morning playing games, dancing to music and eating cookies! Oh, we also came to school in our pajamas.  Enjoy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saving Kindergarten

In these difficult economic times Kindergarten, or the Montessori third year, is facing competition from non-Montessori public kindergartens.  My heart just breaks every time we lose a child for his or her last year.  The beautiful foundational work the children have been doing is left unfinished without the outlet and materials for the child to flourish and move forward in his work.  The children don't get to experience being the oldest, where they feel so competent and responsible because they can teach and help, thus reinforcing their own skills.  They go from a child-centric situation to a teacher-centric situation, and lose the opportunity to self-govern.  Their natural curiosity and creativity is contained by the need to teach to all, instead of each child progressing at his or her own pace.  The give and take of their Montessori community, where they solve issues, negotiate problems, and choose activities is replaced by an environment where decisions are already made, and the natural movement of the children is restrained.  The five to six year old is developing into a social learner and in a public kindergarten is negotiating this complex developmental change in an environment where he or she is the youngest, has a new set of friends, and a new teacher, instead of one year later, when it is developmentally appropriate to move on.  I believe sometimes parents think we just want their children to stay because of the  money.  The money is not the point, the well-being of the child is the point.  If money was the goal, we could run schools much differently. taking children at any time and for any amount of time, thus sacrificing the integrity of their community ties.  We could make less of a commitment to our staff and reduce hours based on numbers of children who are sick or on vacation.  There are plenty of ways to make more money.  There is no way to regain the lost year of Kindergarten.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Breaking the Code
We spent much of our time at book club listening to real life behavior issues from our parents and brainstorming possible ways to help.  Most of our scenarios fit into the table in Chapter 4 of Positive Discipline.  Dreikurs found that children kept ending up in four categories when they were discouraged:  looking for undue attention, using misguided power, seeking revenge, and/or assuming inadequacy.  Nelson states that misbehaving children are speaking to us in code, saying, "I just want to belong."  It is up to us to break the code and help the child resolve the behavior in ways that result in positive life skills, and a feeling of belonging and significance. Punishment may stop the behavior, but it will not solve the problem.  Nelson acknowledges that it is difficult to encourage a child when:  we do not feel positive about the misbehavior, we do not understand our own contribution to the misbehavior, and because, even when we remain positive, the child may not be receptive because he needs a time to "cool-off."  Nelson states that once children get to age 11 or 12, it becomes more difficult to use some of her techniques, because teens are so much more governed by peer pressure.So, it is even more important to use encouragement over excessively-controlling methods with our young children, because it becomes almost impossible to control a teen.  Everyone, adults, teens, and children, want mutual respect and a standard of equality when it comes to problem solving.  The table developed by Dreikurs is an invaluable tool found in Chapter 4.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day Gifts
While enjoying the beauty of a "snow day" I know many of us are contemplating our shopping list.  Try this link for some lovely Montessori-inspired gifts for your child:  Also, try for some wonderful hand-made toys.  Happy e-shopping!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Slowing Down

As I contemplate the weekend ahead I feel blessed but frantic.  An event every evening, and a few during the day too!  This season brings out the best and the worst in us all.  Please remember, if you're tired and frazzled,  your children probably are too.  We want to be super parents, and do every event, and open every door for our children, but give yourself permission to slow down.  Whenever I get overly tired, my own children always say what I used to say to them when I sensed they were overloaded: "Let's put on our jammies, make some cookies, and watch a movie."  And honestly, those are always the best of times.  I've included some fun photos of work from November.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giving Thanks

Every year we have a Harvest Feast where the children prepare the food, the table decor, and everyone stays for lunch.  We have the opportunity to give thanks for all the wonderful things in our lives.  Following are some photos from the event.