Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting It Done

On Parent's Night, one of the children decided he wanted to show his parents how to make corn bread.  Unfortunately, we had run out of cornmeal that day.  Not letting this stop him, the child went into the baking center and pulled out the Betty Crocker Children's Cookbook, a cookbook that is a replica of recipes and cookbooks from the fifties.  I was otherwise occupied but happened to notice him cooking and wondered what he was making.  Later his Mom showed me the recipe:  get a can of juice, put it in a pitcher, add water and stir.  I had to laugh!  He had gone into the freezer, got a can of apple juice and made a pitcher of juice.  We actually don't drink juice in our Casa any longer, so it must have been from the previous year.  This child, who was introverted, quiet, and had trouble asking for presentations last year, is now going ahead, figuring out what he wants to do, and finding a way to do it.  Another story of Montessori initiative.  As my friend Dr. Steve Hughes says, "Montessori kids are simply good at doing things!"  Definitely what the world needs today.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Standardized Stagnation

One aspect of the Montessori approach I love is that it is not standardized.  All children are treated as individuals, with education meaning something different for each child.  Certainly, there are basics we all need but our path to achieving that knowledge may be very different from another person's path.  Alfie Kohn has written quite a bit about standardized testing and what being educated can mean.  Consider this:
"Are our schools in trouble because they have lowered their standards and strayed too far from the basics? Just the opposite: if American students are getting less than they deserve, it's due to simplistic demands to "raise the bar" and an aggressive nostalgia for traditional teaching.
Alfie Kohn, the author of critically acclaimed works on such subjects as competition and rewards, now turns the conventional wisdom about education on its head. In this landmark book, he shows how the "back-to-basics" philosophy of teaching treats children as passive receptacles into which forgettable facts are poured. Likewise, shrill calls for Tougher Standards are responsible for squeezing the intellectual life out of classrooms. Such political slogans reflect a lack of understanding about how and why kids learn, and they force teachers to spend time preparing students for standardized tests instead of helping them to become critical, creative thinkers" (from the flap of  The Schools Our Children Deserve:  Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards").  Alfie Kohn's website is www.alfiekohn.org.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Encouraging Words

At our book club we discussed chapters 7, 8 and 9, which covered using encouragement, and class and family meetings.  We found that when children most need encouragement , we tend to punish or "discipline" instead of motivating the child to do better through our words and actions.  It is difficult to be encouraging to a misbehaving child but it is exactly what he needs.  Negative punishment encourages rebellion while adults who use encouragement, mutual respect, problem solving and focusing on solutions help children feel a sense of belonging, and invite the development of responsible behavior.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing encouragement versus praise.  While encouragement invites self-confidence in children, praise invites dependency on others.  One example is, "Anne is such a good girl," versus, "Anne, thank you for helping."  The first invites dependency for more praise, in other words, the child does not feel good about herself unless others approve.  The second develops self-confidence and self-reliance, leading to feeling worthwhile without the approval of others.  This all hearkens back to the idea that we can't give someone self-esteem, it must be developed through "the sense of capability and the self-confidence gained from dealing with disappointments, solving problems, and having lots of opportunities to to learn from mistakes" (page 157). We touched on the importance of family meetings to discuss just about everything, from vacations to weekly menus.  It is easy to forget to respect the opinions of our children when making decisions.  If we want to ensure that everyone participates in a plan, all must have a voice.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

We Are The World

We are creating a quilt in our Casa using applique.  The quilt is for an upcoming silent auction at our school.  The center consists of the continents in our Montessori puzzle map colors and the border is green with animals of the world.  We ironed the continent fabric and animal fabric onto paper with a fusible bond and then cut out the objects and ironed them onto the water fabric and forest fabric.  We now are in the process of applique, which is taking a long time!  The children are doing a great job though, and we will be sad to part with our winter project.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Family Night

Every year we have a Family Night where the children get to show their environment to their family.  It is always a special night, one that confirms the children actually have absorbed their presentations as they tell their family members to, "take one at a time," or "this is how you carry the globe" and so on.  My favorite is, "This is glass.  It is breakable so you must carry it carefully, with two hands."  They are so proud of their competence.  The photos above show a lovely moment of discovery.