Wednesday, April 21, 2010

One third of students thrive in a traditional education system

ONE THIRD? According to Dr. Steve Hughes, a professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, the remaining two thirds are either buying time until they graduate or are actually damaged by it. My goodness.

Ryann's future Montessori school (she got in!) linked to this series of videos on their Facebook page and they are really great. I suggest you watch all three.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The internet annoys me sometimes

It never fails. Any time I find myself combing the internet for some Montessori info, I run across a thread like this one.

To make that long, poorly written thread short, some people think the Montessori method only works for developmentally delayed, antisocial kids who like to work by themselves. These people, and lots of others around the net, see the Montessori method as ridged, lacking imaginative play, group work and, well, fun. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence for these claims, and I do not doubt the experiences of these parents. But there are bad schools everywhere, it has nothing to do with a specific method of teaching.

Many of these schools are not Montessori schools people have experience with. A lot of them are Montessori "style" or Montessori "inspired" and do not actually follow the whole method. Or at least the whole method as I understand it. And these schools comprise some people's only experience with the method, which is really sad.

In other cases, I think the schools may not be the problem. I think sometimes the Montessori method is too focused on real world applications for parents to see "results." There aren't enough grades or check marks or stickers or lists or rewards or punishments. One criticism in the link above was that Montessori doesn't teach vocabulary. Really?? Life teaches vocabulary. Talking about things teaches vocabulary. I really doubt the school in question never talked to the children about what was going on around them and I doubt the child's vocabulary was stagnant. More likely, there wasn't a list of words for the parent to look at or quiz about.

Montessori schools, as I understand them, don't discourage dramatic, creative play and thinking. Although, maybe because of the materials it comes across differently than in other schools. Even so, I went to a public school until 5th grade. I don't remember pretend play, drama and creativity in the curriculum. I remember in kindergarten there was a kitchen set and store "station" that I didn't play with a lot because it was in high demand and I wasn't aggressive enough to push ahead of the pack. After kindergarten I remember specifically being discouraged to pretend or, in fact, do anything the rest of the class wasn't doing. We didn't put on plays or act out stories or draw outside of art class. Maybe things have changed in the 20ish years since I was a youngster (20? Really?) but I'm just not sure most traditional schools have an emphasis on pretend play and creativity.

Lastly, the social aspect. As a former homeschooler I've heard more than enough "what about socialization??" cries from concerned parents. In my opinion, traditional schools don't offer much time for socialization between peers, the peers are often of exactly the same age and meaningful interactions between different ages rarely happens, and finally any group work usually only serves to separate the leaders from the followers and rarely shows any true cooperation. But even so, socialization is not something that you have to facilitate, people naturally bond and connect. This post from The Moveable Alphabet describes the importance of peer leadership and small groups in a Montessori classroom.

It is possible that these criticisms annoy me so much because I finally took the plunge and sent in Ryann's application to a Montessori school and am anxiously waiting to see if there is an open spot for her. After much back and forth in my mind I decided this was the perfect place for her to be -- and after much planning and number crunching, I can definitely afford tuition ;) It's hard to make a decision about a school and to know that you will be handing over a portion of raising your child. It's hard to think that I, like these other parents, might be putting my trust in a place that isn't what I expected. I'm confident, though, that I have made the right choice. If I haven't, well... she'll be out of there before she can say, "I hate school."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Washing dishes and other water activities

My girl loves water. LOVES it. She often gets into mischief because of it. Playing in cups of water, letting water drip from the water dispenser, washing her hands until the bathroom is flooded, dumping water on a table to make a pool for some toys, playing in dirty dishes... Wait, that last one isn't really a problem...

Because washing dishes is the perfect solution.

Ignore the Christmas pjs... it WAS early morning... in April.

After separating the sharp and the heavy, I showed Ryann how to wash things with a rag, turn on the water, rinse, turn off the water (because we don't waste water, I repeat this mantra multiple times a day) and then put the item to drain. She was fantastic at it!

Until she suddenly shouted, "I need a boat, a penguin and a bird!"

"A what??" I asked, totally taken off guard since *I* was thinking about dishes. She explained further and I got her a penguin, a bird and suggested a boat made out of a bowl.

And the fun continued. A little less structured, but a lot less dirty.

After my blog post about creating a Montessori environment at home, Grandma Honey and Grandpa Norm gave us a bench to use as a stool for the kitchen.

We've had it a week and it's made a world of difference! Ryann can reach the facet and see into mixing bowls. She really gets into cooking now. Which has lots of benefits, like she was finally willing to try some banana bread since *we* made it instead of just me.

When Ryann was done with the dishes, I threw everything into the dishwasher. It made my work that much easier and she had a great time.

Such a great time, in fact, later on she ran into the kitchen with a scrub brush and said, "I need a bowl and some soap!" She was full of declarations today.

I got her the bowl and the soap, asking all the while what the bowl and the soap were for to no avail. When she finally revealed it was for the floor, we had to talk about how you need to prepare and sweep first, but I don't think she cared much for my explaination. I swept and then we got to work on scrubbing the kitchen floor. No pictures for this one, floor cleaning keeps me too busy trying to keep the water level down enough that we don't slip all over!

I'm hoping as she masters these cleaning skills she feels the need to make a mess with water less and less. Until then, I'm always looking for a constructive outlet for her water obsession.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My first Montessori purchase: An A Plus Montessori review

A few weeks ago I ordered sound boxes and a scale from A Plus Montessori. I ordered on a Friday and got an email from the company on Tuesday saying they did not have the scales in stock :( I was quite disappointed since that was what I wanted most, but that stuff happens, right? I had the option of switching to another product of similar price or just going through with my order without the scale. I decided to just get the sound boxes and asked when the scales would be back in stock. I got a reply the next day with the tracking number for the sound boxes and a note saying the scales would be in stock within two months.

The following Tuesday the sound boxes were on my doorstep! They were packaged well and in great shape. They seem to be of high quality, as well, considering the low price point of A Plus Montessori's products. All in all, I am quite thrilled with my experience. I would have liked a quicker email that one of my products was out of stock, but I thought the customer service was otherwise excellent.

And look how cute the sound boxes are on our activity shelves!