Sunday, December 27, 2009
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.
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
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
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
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: www.forsmallhands.com/store/. Also, try etsy.com for some wonderful hand-made toys. Happy e-shopping!