Posts Categorized: General
by Carrie O’Shea, Primary III parent
It is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to each child the chance to fulfill his potential possibilities. –Maria Montessori
As the years pass and I grow in parental maturity (if there is such a thing), it seems I find more to love in the teachings of Maria Montessori. I’ve always looked to her as a personal hero; -the kind of person who’s focus on peace, humility and kindness is a soothing balm in a time of endless schedules and impatient demands. Without careful reflection, it seems the nature of humanity to enslave ourselves to these loud voices in our lives, spurring ourselves onward in search of a better, faster, more productive, more intelligent version of ourselves and too often we take our children into this trap, wrapped up behind us in a bewildered tangle of childhood lost. As I’ve grown as a mother, I’ve come to appreciate the folly of these actions. In the rushing, pushing demands of soccer and dance, perfect straight A’s and perfect straight teeth, piano lessons and math enrichment sessions, it seems our children lose something of themselves in our race to improve them. Not that any of these things are bad in the right setting, but what self-determination can there be if your life is a planned module? What identity can you have for yourself, if you spend all your time living another person’s vision for your life?
Fortunately, there is an answer to these questions and that answer is Maria Montessori. Against the race of self-assisted perfectionism, her ideology stands as a gentle reminder that slow, quiet reflection is really the only way to peace. We cannot expect a child to matriculate into geniusdom any more than we can expect a seed to germinate before it’s time. There is a process to life and that process takes time. The above quote is a wonderful example of this and additionally, a quiet reminder that when patience and care are invested into the life of a child, a miracle results; -the miracle of a child becoming that person who he or she was meant to be.
It takes a lot of faith, patience and care for a parent to sit by and watch as their child develops unassisted by their grandiose plans, – at least, it has for me. But giving my child the ability to develop unimpeded by the pressure of performance has provided a blessing I couldn’t have imagined, – the choice of her own free-will. They ask me for opportunities to do something they love! That’s a big difference! I no longer have to do the “parental dance of suggestion,” listing all the academic and extra-curricular activities needed to fill their minds as well-rounded individuals; now, they find what they love on their own! Instead of pestering my older child to do her math “homework,” I smile as she checks books out of the library on the expression of Geometric series in nature. Instead of wrangling my five-year-old into the car for a third weekly dance practice, I smile as a small reminder is all that’s necessary for her to run into the car with her tu-tu. There is time to develop what they love and as a parent, I know my children will do just that if I give them my trust. That trust started with Montessori as our foundation and the gentle education I received as a parent, just as much as what my children gained as students. It has shaped the course of our family and for that, I am extremely grateful.
As parents, Maria Montessori arms us with the courage to believe that our children can be something great, if only we believe they will be.
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!
As a brief introduction for those parents who do not know me: my name is Laticia Hequembourg, my daughter Harper attends kindergarten at MSH (she is in Shree and Leela’s class). Teaching and creating art are among my greatest passions in life. I hold a PhD in adult education from Auburn University. My dissertation explored creativity generation and the creative process in adult learners. I also hold a master’s of art education from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and a BA in studio art with a concentration in sculpture from The State University of New York in Potsdam, New York. I have taught for the last few years as an adjunct professor in the fine art departments at both Alabama A and M University and Calhoun Community College.
This year at MSH I teach two kindergarten art classes, and both the lower and upper elementary art classes. The kindergarten art curriculum explores the basics of creating art through the inspiration of a variety of art forms and disciplines. Thus far we have found inspiration for our paper cut outs through the literary work of Shel Silverstein. We have also concentrated on learning about the elements of art with the construction of a visual chart that highlights both color and texture. This week we will be weaving paper to create work mats and then moving along to watercolor.
Both lower and upper elementary have been concentrating on the fundamentals and basic compositional components of drawing. They are currently working on self- portraits in oil pastel. In the next few weeks to come we will be transitioning into painting and focusing on color theory.
Also, as a note to all parents: I wanted to take a moment to inform parents that I will be utilizing a website called Artsonia (www.artsonia.com). Artsonia is a free online digital portfolio and student art gallery dedicated to promoting the visual arts curriculum in schools worldwide. I will e-mail parents individually with a password so that you can log on and view your child’s work throughout the year (you can also upload artwork yourself). This is a great way to share work with friends and family, keep a digital record of creative development, and the website offers fun keepsakes (these make excellent personalized gifts) with your child’s work, with 20% of sales going directly to the participating school’s art program. Keep a look out for more information regarding log-in details.
Thanks in advance for all of your support, if you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime.
Dr. Laticia Hequembourg