I want to talk about Montessori in a way that’s less sensational, less sexy, less focused on immediate marketing strategies. I want to start a conversation about a Montessori education and it’s possible impact on the aging process.
On November 11, 2015, I had a stroke. I was 33; this was very unexpected. My stroke was mild and I liked to think my recovery was going very well, thanks to my amazing support system and speech therapist. However, I spent several weeks with moderate-severe Aphasia.
Aphasia happens during any brain injury to any one (or many) specific parts of the brain that control language. Aphasia doesn’t affect cognitive intelligence, but it affects one’s ability to communicate. There are many different types of Aphasia. In my case, for the most part, I could understand others, but could not adequately speak back.
During my time struggling with the depths of Aphasia, visual imagery was my primary way of understanding the world. While I have always strongly tended toward visual thinking over linguistic thinking, the absence of language altogether was immensely frustrating and debilitating. (As a Montessori toddler teacher, I have new compassion for this common struggle among toddlers!)
During this time, I could recall blank sentence diagrams. One of my favorite teachers I have ever had was Mrs. Esneault. Many years ago, she was my English teacher for both 7th and 8th grades. (She must be good, because I’m a math girl at heart.)
I don’t think it was a part of the curriculum she was asked to teach, but Mrs. Esneault taught us how to diagram sentences. When words were coming back after my stroke, I could tell that my sentences were just on that straight line, like this:
And I was missing those diagonal lines altogether, like these:
And I knew I did not have a handle on these little spaces, missing here:
I practiced diagramming sentences along with my intensive speech therapy and I strongly believe this aided my recovery.
BUT ONLY BECAUSE I HAD BEEN TAUGHT IT BEFORE.
All this got me thinking more about Montessori education (as if I ever need an excuse).
Montessori does more than offer two places to put something in your brain, like words and a diagram.
Montessori is tactile;
In short, that new sucker is “in there”.
In fact, many of Dr. Montessori’s original material designs were for the mentally handicapped or brain-injured children. It was only after these children ended up scoring as well as conventionally-educated “typical” children did she begin to ask: what’s going wrong everywhere else? (Kramer, R., 1976)
In addition to the pictures of the sentence diagrams, I could recall two Montessori language symbols. These two:
(I only know some basics about Montessori elementary grammar — it’s not my area.) But, these were some of the types of words I was having the most trouble with!
I can only imagine if instead of a brief fling with learning about Montessori grammar, I had spent years feeling the 3-D representations of the parts of speech, moving the shapes that represent the parts of speech, using grammar boxes, moving the cards, writing my own sentences, and using colored pencils to denote my own handwritten sentences with symbols, how all of that would have affected my stroke recovery.
… not to mention how my brain circuitry and word recall would have been different had I spent my early years choosing objects and pictures to spell with the moveable alphabet?
Imagine what my brain would have kept then!
So, I get it: when we are choosing a toddler program or a preschool or even an elementary school for our children, none of us think — well, what if my child has a stroke in their 30s? How will this preschool education impact that?
It’s not something we generally think about.
However, every single one of us ages.
You just aged right now. And now.
And, yes, of course we want to plan to make sure our children get a solid education now. We want them to be capable of achieving their dreams!
Dr. Montessori says that it is the young adult in the ages of 18 to 24 who is finding out where his/her interested and education intersect with the world’s needs. We all envision our children asking these questions and struggling to find the answers to them.
But, life doesn’t end when we find our occupation.
I’ll say that again, because I think sometimes we are in too much of a hurry to notice it:
Life doesn’t end when we find our occupation.
We have vibrant family and like-family lives until the very end. I just have to believe that a Montessori education provides much, much more than an education that will give a child a future productive career. I believe it will give them a healthier brain. A healthier brain to enjoy their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren.
So, I’ll admit: this isn’t the best advertisement for prospective parents looking for a place for their child to learn their ABCs.
But, I would like to encourage you to think BIGGER about what it is you want for your children. For all of our children.
Small disclaimer: My joy in Montessori is even bigger than healthy brains, although that is a recent event. A Montessori education is much, much more than *simply* a multi sensory education and I feel that I’d be misrepresenting Montessori if you left thinking this.
Montessori education educates the whole child and embeds peace education from the very young in the effort to bring about greater harmony. Hoping for a better, more peaceful world is why I chose a Montessori education for my children and why I want it to be available for more children worldwide.
Hampton Cove Toddler Lead Teacher
Kramer, R. (1976). Maria Montessori: A Biography. New York: Capricorn Books
You always see a lot of joy on children’s faces on the day we have a cooking class. You also hear lot of questions – What are we cooking? Is it time yet? They show lots of curiosity on what happens next.
After all the preparation of watching lessons and working with the practical life materials, it is time now for putting them to use. The kids show excitement in their faces while watching boiling water, melting cheese, frying, baking, toasting, and breaking eggs or turning simple banana to a yummy treat. Even though they are picky eaters, they enjoy eating what they cook because they made those all by themselves. They show a lot of pride in their accomplishment.
Cooking in Montessori class involves all areas of the classroom – practical life, math, language, science, geography, history and culture, and sensorial.
Practical Life activities include Washing hands, Mixing, Rolling, Cutting, Cleaning, Peeling, Pouring, Hand and Eye Coordination, and the use of different kitchen tools such as knives, spoons, forks, egg-beaters, tongs, etc. Also, it teaches how to follow steps in a recipe, and improves fine motor skills.
Math includes activities such as Measurement, Fraction, Numbers, Time, etc.
Language activities include exposure to new words such as names of ingredients, recipes, places, etc.
Science includes activities such as differentiating between hot and cold or solid, liquid, and gas, or boiling and melting, etc.
History and Culture activities involves understanding about the holidays and festivals from different regions of the world.
Sensorial activities involve all the five senses – touch, smell, see, hear, and taste.
Primary Lead Teacher
Visit our class at 9:00 am and you will see the children getting water and getting ready to start our day… the Brain Gym way.
We begin our days outside on the playground for a bit of fresh air, socialization and playtime. Following our outdoor time, we drink water to get our neurons firing and begin Brain Gym. The children follow the teacher through a variety of mid-line movements, such as the cross-crawl, neck rolls, and lazy eights.
These mid-line movements help increase uper-lower body coordination which are necessary for both gross and fine motor skills when both the right and left hemisphere of the brain are working together.
Other movements include energy exercises such as brain buttons, hook-ups and positive points. Like electrical circuits in buildings become overloaded, our energy circuits overload at times as well. These energy exercises activate the neocortex and refocus the electrical energy back to the reasoning centers, thus regaining coordination of thought and action.
We conclude our Brain Gym time with two minutes of silent meditation followed by a time of sharing. Most children look forward to sharing their thoughts and meditations which vary from vacation experiences, to works in the classroom that they want to do, to thoughts about peace and friendship.
Please read the following articles that explain the educational kinesiology of BrainGym and to see examples of exercises you can do with your child at home. These are great exercises for all ages!
Research shows that telling children, “good job”, is ineffective. Furthermore, it creates the opposite of our intention, which is to boost self esteem.
Let that settle. How many times a day do you either say this to your child, or hear it being said to one? On playgrounds, sports fields, in classrooms and living rooms, adults use this phrase as the most common form of praise thinking it is beneficial.
In order to explain how detrimental this phrase can be, a deeper understanding of praise is needed. Praise is a way to express approval or admiration, and the intention when using it is to encourage the child to repeat a behavior. Unfortunately, saying, “good job” has no value in that it does not help the child to understand why what he did was good, therefore the encouragement to repeat the behavior is not there. Saying, “good job” does not express approval as praise is intended to be. Instead, this two word phrase fails to highlight a specific behavior that the adult wants a child to repeat. It focuses only on the outcome and completely ignores the process that occurred. If the steps taken in order to be successful are not ever acknowledged, how is the child able to evolve and develop independence? As parents, teachers, and coaches we should recognize that it is imperative to acknowledge the steps a child has taken to be successful at something in order to reach the goal of becoming independent.
Focusing on a specific behavior is where the statements of approval need to be. In order to praise effectively, children should be told exactly what they did well so that they will be able to repeat the desired behavior. If your child helps prepare dinner by cutting some vegetables, their effort should be the focus of the praise. “It really helped our family when you cut the veggies for dinner.” Or, “I noticed you being very careful when using the chopper and that made all the ones you cut stay on the cutting board!” This kind of praise is thoughtful, encourages the effort, fosters independence, and promotes self value.
The boost of self esteem born from this type of appropriate praise would be immeasurable. Upon hearing these messages, a child will try harder, become self motivated, and learn from his experiences.
Submitted by Ms. Monica & Ms. Sarah
Primary 2 Co-Lead Teachers
“Toilet training, like every developmental milestone, is the compilation of numerous neurobiological processes affected by social opportunities, cultural expectations, and temperamental tendencies (Schonwald and Rappaport 2008).”
Being diaper-free is a big step toward conquering one of the obstacles of life. It is a developmental milestone for a toddler. As a parent or teacher, we have to look for signs to help them get rid of diapers when they tell us they need to change their diaper because it is wet. Research shows that 20-26 months of age is the ideal time for toilet training, however every individual is different. Eventually everyone will be toilet trained. In my experience, if the child is attending school during the toilet training process, the school and home need to play the same role. Because we are fortunate to have multi-age class, I pair them up with a trained child so the trainee child gets his motivation from his companion.
Some parental guidelines are:
• The child needs to develop basic dressing/undressing skills.
• The child needs to take the diaper off and put the underwear on to feel the wetness. This way they learn the consequences.
• Consider the clothing which is child friendly so that the child can easily manipulate his pants and underwear by himself which requires minimum assistance.
• Maintain a bathroom schedule.
• Mentally prepare for some messy situations like accidents.
• During this time you may also see some emotional changes happening to the child.
If you are further interested, many developmental behavioral pediatrics have their publications available, such as the following articles:
1. B. Taubman and N. J. Blum. “Toilet Training,” Encyclopedia or Infant and Early Childhood Development, 2008, pp 356-364
2. A. Schonwald and L. A. Rappaport. “Elimination Condition,” Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 2008, pp 791-804.
Toddler Lead Teacher