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    Why We Chose Montessori

    Today I'm writing at Natural Parents Network about Montessori Schooling. Here's an excerpt...    

    “…  Children learn through doing: working with their hands, washing, folding, buttoning, tying, building, stacking, filling, pouring. Each lesson builds on another – without a child knowing she’s learning about the cube root of numbers, she’s already learning the basic understanding of why and how to do those skills as she stacks, matches, and fills the binomial cube. As a child is taught to wash a table she’s not just learning how to wash a table (a valuable life skill in itself, of course), but learning about sequence, responsibility, concentration, and muscle action and coordination. Each lesson in Montessori builds on other, previous lessons, that mesh seamlessly with each other – children often don’t realize they are being “taught” something – they are fascinated with the presentation, and the ability to do and practice real skills. As they practice, they’re learning. Just as they do in “real life”.

    There is no grading, homework, or testing in Montessori, rather, observing, learning, and doing. When external motivators like test scores or grades are introduced to a child, children often work to achieve those external rewards (getting an A), or to avoid those external punishments (getting an F or being held back a grade). The natural love of learning is squashed when what matters most is the end result and how it will be judged, instead of encouragement and focus on the process. The end result (reward) of a job well done should be doing the job well, having enjoyed doing it, learning from it, and completing the task. Not how well you can replicate the task artificially in a testing situation or what someone else thinks it should be ranked.

    Montessori guides (teachers) believe that when we pay attention to what our children are saying and doing, we trust that children have an innate desire to learn, and we foster that desire through opportunity, they will choose to take the opportunity to learn more. In this way, I have found Montessori to be much like Attachment Parenting: trusting and believing that your child is an individual and should be honored as such, that she has important things to say (even if she can’t say them yet, like as a baby crying), and those things shouldn’t be ignored, but honored.

    People learn differently. Period. To expect that every child can be taught in the same way at the same time and come out with the same knowledge is a disservice to the child. It can result in frustration in school, and throughout life: feeling like they’re never “good enough” when really, it’s just that they may never have had the opportunity to learn at their own pace according to their own skills and desires, and without the pressure of external punishment or reward. I trust that through Montessori education, we’re giving our children the opportunity to learn at their own pace, to grow through their own experiences, and to direct their learning via their own interests. We’re fostering their natural love of learning, which will serve them throughout life in feeling like they can take on any goal they wish and accomplish it! “

    To read the entire post, please visit the Natural Parents Network site… and stay a while; there are some really amazing mothers writing about all aspects of gentle, intuitive, natural parenting. 

    For more things I've written on Montessori, have a look here.


    For more information on Montessori education:

    Michael Olaf.net: The Montessori Method of Educating & Raising Children to Develop Their Fullest Potential

    Montessori.edu: The International Montessori Index

    Montessori 101: Basic Information Every Montessori Parent Should Know

    Living Montessori Now: Information & Inspiration for Parents & Teachers (on Montessori Homeschooling)

    Posted: Aug 16 2012, 10:48 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    All Girls Are Pretty

    My 5 year old son made a new friend this week. He was telling me about how nice she was, that he loved the sound of her name, and how great it was to have a new friend. As the conversation drew to a close, I asked him if she was pretty.

    In retrospect, I'm not sure why I did. It didn't seem an important factor to him - indeed he seemed a bit perplexed and didn't immediately answer. I certainly don’t consider myself to be one to judge a book by its cover, and yet for some reason, I was compelled to ask.  

    As he was considering his answer, my 7 year old daughter piped up:

    "Are you kidding mom?!?", she exclaimed, with a tone of voice indicating my question was utterly laughable in her mind, "ALL girls are pretty!"

    I felt so proud in that instant - of her, for speaking out against a question that she felt wasn't crucial  to the conversation.  For setting me straight, that the insides of people is far more important than the outside; enough so as to have an unshakable belief that all people ARE pretty.  I felt too, a bit self-congratulatory; heck, I must be setting a good example, right? Of course, if I am actually doing so well at this self-image stuff, why did "is she pretty" even cross my mind - enough to care, enough to ask?

    In my defense (assuming my question was defensible), I think it's ingrained in our society to comment prettiness or looks - especially when it comes to girls; it's almost expected etiquette, polite even. "What a cute dress you have on" or "awww look at those pigtails!" just flows in conversations with girls, right from the start. Harmless chatter from strangers in the grocery store, neighbors, grandparents….

    But, I wonder. Is it entirely harmless?


    When our girls hear mostly about their hair being shiny, their clothes being pretty, what is the message they are receiving about WHO they really are? When they hear more often about their cuteness than their strength or skills, what do they learn about what other people - and thus, maybe themselves - think is important? Isn't it a real risk that in simply being nice -  what we're conveying isn't a boost in self-love, but rather a lesson that praise and positive attention comes from looks; something we can't truly even control? Shouldn't we, instead, be greeting our girls with complements on their hard-earned skills, not their prowess at, well, hitting the genetic jackpot? And wouldn't it benefit our boys, too, to hear more about their female contemporaries' skills than their beauty?

    I do try to complement my daughter on her skills: You really nailed that math problem! or You did well combing your hair yourself this morning! - instead of generic "good job" or "you're so pretty".  It's not that I NEVER say those things, but I work to tip the balance of complements in favor of pointing out real skills she's worked at or participated in, over praising her for her looks.

    Now, this isn't to say that looks are  completely unimportant, nor that being drawn towards or interested beauty is entirely wrong. As an artist, aesthetics are naturally important to me; I find beauty in many things - the human form being one of them. Human  beings even as babies pay more attention to faces considered more "beautiful". But, to overly value beauty, to the exclusion of all else  is a detriment - not only to those not considered "beautiful" by our society's standards (feeling like you're always striving for an unattainable ideal perhaps, or, just a feeling of being overlooked), but also to those who Do fit the standard of beauty - in that being considered pretty, being EXPECTED to be pretty, runs the risk of taking precedence over personality, education, skills, conversation, creativity. 

    When my son told me about his new friend, he didn't tell me how pretty she was, he told me she was nice to him.  I should, we all should take a lesson from that.  Cliché as it may be, inner beauty - character is what is most important.

    Because, as my daughter adeptly pointed out: ALL girls are pretty.

    And isn't she absolutely right? 

    Posted: Aug 04 2012, 22:57 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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