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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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    Montessori - Natural Life Learning

    Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants - doing nothing but living and walking about - came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.

    ~Maria Montessori


    Children, people, love learning. It’s natural and innate, and happens whether we interfere or not. Why not encourage that natural love of learning? The essence of life is learning, growing, loving, interacting with our environment and people around us. Children need simply to experience life, to be honored and encouraged for their own gifts and love of learning from what and whomever is around them - regardless of age or achievement - and without rewards or punishment. When children are allowed to learn on their own, they find success through personal experience, and build self-esteem and internal motivation: an incentive more powerful than any external reward (i.e. grades). Learning IS the reward.  

    Just as with adults, the freedom to choose what is interesting and thus, what to learn, belongs to each child. As parents, we should foster that freedom by offering a calm, peaceful, and inspired environment in which they can make those choices without hindrance. I don't mean free-for-all chaos, but rather that we accept the understanding that our children to know what to do. We observe and honor our children's interests (even if they may not reflect our own expectations or desires) and support them, offering help and guidance as requested, and teaching only through example - trusting they'll learn at their own pace, in their own time, as they desire and need.  

    Imagine the possibilities if everyone could learn and explore their desires as they are naturally inclined to, without fear of failure, self-guided and internally motivated. It would be like having the world in your hands - limitless. 

    Posted: Jul 28 2012, 18:32 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Wordless Wednesday: Liberty

    We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.  ~Robert J. McCracken

    For Mother's Day, we took a daytrip to Liberty State Park in New Jersey. From there, we hopped the ferry to Ellis Island, and then on to the Statue of Liberty. It had been years and years since I saw the statue up close - some long-since-filed memory from a forgettable middle school trip, I'm sure.  This time, combined with the wonder of Ellis Island and the exuberance of my children it was much more meaningful and exciting.  Our 6 year old really got into the trip - as she was able to read all the signs and descriptions in the museum on Ellis Island. Our nearly 4 year old wasn't nearly as jazzed about the museum as he was about the ferry rides and climbing all the stairs inside the statue.  There are a few things available to younger guests - phones to pick up & listen to people talk about their experiences arriving on Ellis Island, and a gift shop with wooden whirly birds for sale, as an example. But on the whole, I'd say being reading age makes this trip much more interesting for children. We also got to see, relatively close, the new Freedom Tower under construction.  While the skyline looked a bit strange, as it always does, without the World Trade Center towers standing, seeing new construction was inspiring. In all, we had a fabulous time. It was amazing to me to see all the old photographs and artifacts, and with taking a ferry to & fro, I really could imagine what it would have been like arriving in America for the very first time. Amazing. For a history of Ellis Island & the mass immigration that took place there from 1892 - 1924, visit the EllisIsland.org Some photos from our trip:

    Sign on the way to the ferries.

    My son's favorite part of the trip.

    Lady liberty from afar.

    Walking around Ellis Island - checking out some of the names inscribed on the "Immigrant Wall of Honor".

    Luggage (amazing).

    Babywearing - nearly 100 years ago! :)

    The restored great hall where immigrants were first greeted & divided into groups for health, intelligence, legal processing, and other screenings. Here's a "then & now"
    photo gallery.

    Looking out over Ellis Island - the statue is off in the background.

    A list of the food available for purchase by immigrants. CANDY! :)

    A wall of postcards illustrating the various ships that brought passengers to the USA.

    Walking outside the main building, on the way to the ferry.

    The Manhattan skyline from the ferry. Missing the World Trade Towers.

    The statue from the ferry... getting closer!

    Preservation of the old torch.

    Odd art from the museum.

    Yes, there are elevators, but we walked!

    La Liberté éclairant le monde

    Family pic! (6 year old is making faces & 3 year old is bored)

    Posted: May 12 2011, 08:28 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Changing Education Paradigms

    I was visiting Montessori Matters a couple days ago, where Pilar had posted this amazing video animation to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on changing education paradigms:

    Not only is the animation worth watching (so cool), but the message is extremely important.


    Here are a few highlights from the video, if you don’t have 12 minutes (though I really recommend you watch it – more than once – to get the full meaning. It’s worth your time, really.)


    On education reform:


    “Every country on earth is reforming education…

    ….the problem is they’re trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past and on the way they’re alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school… and they’re right (kids not thinking there’s a purpose to going to school) particularly not if the route to it (going to school, getting a college degree) marginalizes most of the things you think are important about yourself…”


    On outdated education models:


    “…This is deep in the gene pool of public education that there are really two types of people: academic & non academic, smart people & non- smart people and the consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they’re not because they’ve been judged against this particular view of the mind…”


    …this model has caused chaos in many people’s lives. Most people have not. Instead they suffer…


    On school being boring instead of exciting:


    “An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak… when you’re present in the current moment… when you’re resonating with the excitement of this thing that you’re experiencing when you’re fully alive….

    An anesthetic is when you shut your senses off… we’re getting our children through education by anesthetizing them. And I think we should be doing the exact opposite, we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves….”


    On school being like a factory:


    “…The system of education is modeled on the interests of industrialism & the in the image of it. Schools are still pretty much organized on factory lines: ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized subjects...still educate children by batches.  We put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are? The most import thing about them is their date of manufacture?


    I know kids who are much better than other kids at the same age in different disciplines. Or at different times of the day. Or better in smaller groups than in large groups or sometimes they want to be on their own.

    If you’re interested in learning you don’t start from this production line mentality.... essentially about conformity and increasingly about that as you look at the growth of standardized testing and standardized curricula. It's about standardization, I believe we have to go in the exact opposite direction….”

    On humans’ capacity for learning and thinking:


    “… we all have a capacity (for divergent thinking)… [but] it mostly deterioriates…. [after kids] spend 10 years in school being told there’s ONE  answer, its at the back, and don’t look, and don’t copy. Because that’s cheating… outside of school that’s called collaboration, but inside schools [it’s cheating].


    We have to think differently about human capacity…. We have to get over old conception of academic vs. non-academic and see it for what it is: a myth.


    You have to recognize that most great learning happens in groups.  Collaboration is the stuff of growth….”

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


    There is so much good information in this video, so much to think about; and much of it true to what I’ve experienced and believe about education.


    I believe that children can learn to LOVE learning, if they are given the opportunity to do so in a free, open, self-directed environment.  This may be a Montessori school, a homeschool, an unschooling environment, maybe even a public school (though this has not been my experience; if it has been yours, please share!). When children are able to be themselves, to follow what they are naturally interested in and not to not have to worry about homework, tests, or grades, they find that learning, just for the sake of learning – because we know our brains are capable of SO much, not just what a state or country determines we should be learning at a specific period of time in our life  – is amazing and awesome!


    When you get away from the idea that there is only one right answer, and are praised for “thinking outside the box”, children have the ability to come up with the MANY right answers that are out there.  I believe it is so important to foster independent thinkers who are taught how to use their minds, how to think through things – instead of specifically WHAT and HOW to think – because those children will become the adults that will direct change in this world.


    Hope you enjoyed the video!

    Posted: Oct 30 2010, 11:57 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education

    Our Geocaching Adventure

    A couple days ago, the children and I had a couple hours of time to fill between school and dinner.  It was a sunny day, far too nice to stay indoors, but I wasn't in the mood for a playground.  So... we decided to go geocaching! What is geocaching, you may ask? Basically, it’s high tech global treasure hunting. A bit more specifically, someone in the world (the hider) hides a treasure (a cache) somewhere in the world, and someone else in the world (the seeker), tries to find it by using their GPS!


    Specifically, how does it work? Well, first, he hider creates a cache – usually a small Tupperware-like box (though it can be much smaller – called a microcache), often camouflaged, and fills it with trinkets, a pen, and small pad of paper.  The hider takes the box out to an undisclosed public location and hides it, and then records the coordinates – X(and Y) marks the spot, you know – by using their GPS.  Next, the hider uploads those coordinates to http://www.geocaching.com/ and describes a bit about the cache for the potential seekers: the size, the terrain, the difficulty of hiding spot, perhaps the contents of the box – particularly if the there is a special “prize” for the FTF (first to find), or a “travel bug” (a trackable tag that can be carried from cache to cache), and any clues (which are encrypted as to not spoil the surprise) if the seekers are having difficulty finding the cache. Next, someone else in the world (the seeker), goes online, chooses a cache that’s been hidden nearby, enters the coordinates of that cache into their GPS, and then attempts to find it! Once the seeker finds it, they take a bit of the treasure, leave a bit of new treasure, sign the log (if there is one), re-hide the cache (in the same spot) for the next seeker to find, and then log their find online, along with any extra hints, notes about the condition of the box or the hiding spot for future seekers’ reference.


    Adam and I have been geocaching on and off for the last 6 years; and have even hidden a couple ourselves. We’ve taken the kids geocaching on nearly every vacation we’ve been on, ever since they were babies.  It’s a way we’ve been able to reconnect with our love of hiking/climbing/outdoor activities without planning a full-on outdoors camping  hiking trip.  A geocaching trip can be a quick as a half hour stop, or a full day hiking adventure! The fun part for kids is that many caches contain small treasures – bouncy balls, figurines, toys, stickers, even money! I really enjoy the hunt! It’s a great family activity that combines nature, technology, and science, introduces you to new places you’ve never explored, and spans age groups (one trip, we went with both Adam’s grandmother AND our (then baby) daughter; and all had a great time!). 


    Yesterday’s seek was our first of the year, and my first time as the only adult on a geocaching trip; meaning, that I was both Captain AND Navigator!  This was also the first time I used the Groundspeak Geocaching app on my iPhone instead of the hand-held GPS.  Wow, what a difference!  Prior to the iPhone, you’d go to your computer before setting out, find a few caches that looked interesting, print off the details (in the event that you need to look at clues or re-read the description, etc.), then painstakingly enter each coordinate into your GPS & set way points. With the iPhone, the GPS, map, compass, and geocaching.com are all combined in one place – so there’s no printing, no entering coordinates – just pick your cache, and start hunting! Makes caching with kids much easier & more fun!


    We ended up finding two caches on this trip – the first being a bit more challenging of a find than the second – which was convenient, as by the end of the second one, the kids were wearing down, and it was starting to get chilly outside.  My 5-yo was really into it this time; she knew right where to search, was actively checking the GPS map, and making guesses as to what was in the cache. 


    My 2-yo was just excited to be able to run freely outside, through the woods and mud, and get a bonus toy! Both kids have asked me when the next time is that we’ll go out. Myself, I can’t wait until the next sunny afternoon that comes along – it’s just that much fun!



    To find out more about Geocaching:



    Follow Geocaching.com on twitter: http://twitter.com/GoGeocaching 

    Posted: Mar 27 2010, 12:13 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education | Outdoors