Thursday, December 10, 2020

Making Holidays Happy ....Can It Be Done, especially now!

Is this the scene we all imagine when we think about the winter holidays?  For most of in Houston that rarely (if ever) means snow and a blazing fire. 

There are a few challenges that come with this time of year.  If your family celebrates Christmas the rush of decorating, buying presents, finding a tree, hosting parties and family gatherings can be overwhelming, especially this year when gatherings may or may not be possible.   If your family observes other holidays that do not occur in December it can be difficult to manage all of the excitement in the air. 

Each family must choose how, if and when they participate in the holiday events.  One thing that is common to all is the coming of winter.  It is easy to decorate the home with winter in mind, to arrange a trip to ice skate or play in one of the "snow storms" that are set up around the city.  All can enjoy the lights at the zoo, in our neighborhoods and at Discovery Green. 

Of course there are many who are less fortunate, who find it difficult to put food on the table, to have warm clothing for their family, to provide even the most simple of toys.  The joy of giving to others can bring a sense of belonging, of being of service, and feeling that we have done some good.  Perhaps your family can do a food drive in the neighborhood, go through their toys and donate gently used but outgrown ones to charities.  Children can raise money for the homeless and food banks. Simply  baking some cookies and taking them to a lonely neighbor can lift our spirits and bring our families together. 

Take a winter walk on the beach, or go on a hunt for winter pictures, play board games, visit a park and roast marshmallows, sing, tell stories and gather together in person where possible, or virtually, to celebrate a season of family and caring for our fellow human beings.  Most of all, remember that we really are one world.  

Have a wonderful winter holiday.  Look for another post in a week with a funny, true and workable solution to an overload of toys!

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Books for Parents!

 Welcome back to our parenting blog!  Today I am posting a number of books that will give more insights into Montessori education, the Montessori child and some just for enjoyment of a glimpse into the child's world.  You are always welcome to comment, ask questions or add ideas. 

Learning about Montessori:

The Discovery of the Child

This is Dr. Montessori's own book which is an essential part of every teacher's education and training.  We read and reread this brilliant insight into how children learn and grow. 

The Joyful Child:  Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three:  Susan Mayclin Stephenson

Child of the World:  Montessori, Global Wisdom for Ages 3-12: Susan Mayclin Stephenson

These two books are a great introduction to Montessori and understanding the development of the young child. 

Montessori Today:Paula Polk Lillard  

Looking at the benefits of a Montessori education and a readable and comprehensive overview of Montessori life. 

Books to enjoy:

You Can't Say You Can't Play:  Vivian Gussin Paley  

The Girl With the Brown Crayon Vivian Gussin Paley

Paley is a former teacher with a joyful and deep understanding of young children.  She has written many books filled with humor and joy.  

Some of these books are available in the public library and online (do a search).

Friday, September 18, 2020

What is Montessori? For new and returning parents!


This year we return to a very different experience for our students, parents and staff.  Even as we navigate the best approach to provide the closest Montessori learning possible, there are challenges and necessary adaptations.  

Today I want to share with you an important part of my experience through over 40 years teaching and being an administrator in both public and private Montessori schools. 

If we return to Dr. Maria Montessori's teachings and her own knowledge of children we learn that every child has the same basic needs and interests.  It is our responsibility not to put barriers in the path of the child as they grow, learn and mature.  Montessori called these needs the human tendencies.  

These are true for all children and adults everywhere.

Order:  At home or at school, a sense of order helps the child to organize their thoughts, to feel secure and confident, to become more and more capable and independent.  In the classroom, everything has a place and that place does not change.  At home, the child's room can be set up to provide this benefit. 

Communication:  Communication comes in many forms:  words, actions, symbols, signs, body language and behavior.  In Montessori talking with friends when appropriate is encouraged.  Teachers make time to talk with each child every day, to tell stories and share ideas.  At home, family time together to talk, sing, play games and share a meal helps the child to feel valued and understood.  Language is the tool of the intellect.  

Orientation:  This is the ability to fit in, to relate to a place or group.  Orientation gives the child a sense of direction and belonging.  If the child is disoriented he may be insecure and unsure of himself.  In Montessori every child has grace and courtesy lessons that teach manners, respect and ways to resolve problems.  These lessons are given as information, not as correction or disapproval.  At home, helping your child to understand what is expected as a family member and how he or she can contribute to the good of the family will aid in achieving orientation.

Concentration:  We all want our children to be able to concentrate.  To build concentration skills it is important that the work is interesting and attractive to him.  Montessori lessons are designed to build on the child's interests and abilities.  At home, reducing outside interruptions will help develop the ability to focus.  If you are reading with your child or engaged in a lesson or conversation giving full attention will demonstrate the importance of the book or task, and of course, show the child how important he or she is.  

Repetition:  Learning takes place through repetition.  Children have a desire for perfection and for this reason it is important to allow time for repetition.  As the child repeats the work they become more confident and ready to move on to the next challenge.  Remember that when we try a new activity it takes time to feel confident and strong.  Mistakes are just the steps to competence.  We must honor the effort and not just the result as the child repeats any skill. 

Perfection: All human beings have the desire for perfection.  We achieve perfection by practicing skills, following our abilities and interests, and staying with a task until we succeed.  It is important that children have the time and support to work toward perfection.  This will differ with every child and in every endeavor so patience on the part of adults while encouraging and supporting effort will be most helpful.

Exactness:  The human tendency for exactness shows in our ability to do intricate work, to choose the right words when speaking, to follow a recipe, drive safely and in many other areas.  Children develop this ability in the Montessori classroom with many activities which require increasing exactness, culminating in the ability to do complex math, solve difficult problems and be orderly and precise in their work.  

Exploration:  Young children are sensorial learners.  At a very young age they will spend hours building towers with blocks, using clay, playing in the sand.  In school many of the primary Montessori materials use this tendency to encourage exploration of size, sound, touch and weight.  As they progress, later work encourages discovery of results of experimentation, exploration of the history of the world, the secrets of science and math.  Without the tendency to explore mankind would not have progressed. 

Abstraction:  The human tendency to seek abstraction begins with a base in reality at the youngest ages.  For this reason we offer only real information to the primary child.  As the child forms a solid base in reality (no talking animals, etc.) the ability to begin thinking beyond what they know and move into the world of imagination and more complex creativity becomes possible.

Movement:  Movement is essential for all humans.  Children who are free to move about will show increased ability to concentrate and focus.  In the Montessori classroom children are free to move about, to choose different kinds of work as long as they do not disturb others.  In my early days of teaching I went to a child who was just wandering about and suggested he choose some work.  This four year old replied "I am working.  I am thinking about numbers."  I learned a lot about movement from this young boy.  As parents let's help our children to have activities every day that involve moving:  gardening, playing ball, washing the car, cooking...all of these will built confidence and skill. 

Work:  Every human needs to engage their mind, body and spirit in a purpose.  Work helps the child feel productive and useful and gives a sense of belonging.  In Montessori we call our lessons work because we want the children to respect and enjoy work.  As adults when we show respect and enthusiasm for our own work we teach a valuable lesson to the child. 

Activity:  This is a new dimension of work.  Purposeful activity gives all people a sense of value and importance.  Donating time to a cause, helping a neighbor, caring for someone who needs help, planting a garden...all of these are examples of how we build self esteem and confidence.  Children can contribute to the good of the family.  Even the youngest child can help in many ways.  Think about calling these activities "contributions to our family" rather than "your job".  These important activities are part of every classroom as the students care for plants and animals, clean up after lunch, keep their materials in a neat manner and enjoy being a real part of the school through their activity.  In the adolescent community (middle school) the students take on projects and community activities which are the culmination of earlier work in the classrooms. 

I hope this gives you a glimpse into the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori and her deep understanding of the needs of all humankind, especially children. 

Next week I will post some books if you would like to explore the world of Montessori further.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020



We strongly encourage you to implement these ideas every day.  Consistency is important in any educational experience, and especially now.  It is important that you help your child realize that although they are at home it is a school experience. These suggestions will help your child to feel more as if they are in the actual classroom and will increase concentration and attention.  


Make sure you know your child’s class schedule and set an alarm at least 15 minutes ahead so they can be ready on time.


A paper calendar with the days and times for class time noted and posted where it can be seen will help prepare your student. 


 It will help your child to be more attentive and prepared if they are wearing appropriate clothing:  our school uniform or a nice tee shirt, pants, skirt, hair brushed, shoes on.  Make it a pleasure to “get ready for school”.  

Have a regular, dedicated space with a desk or table, a comfortable chair, pencils and any other books or supplies the teacher has suggested.  Try to keep this space the same every day. Have a dedicated place for materials to be kept between sessions.

/Be sure to keep distractions at a minimum.  We know you are at home and there will be some disruption.  Perhaps ask friends and family not to call during school time, turn off television, cell phones and music while your child is “at school.”

It will make the time for class more useful if your child uses the bathroom beforehand, and, depending on the specified time, is not hungry or thirsty.  


We know that you will join us in doing everything possible to help the children have the best possible experience.  Please show a positive attitude toward the remote learning experience, emphasize the positive and know you are contributing greatly to your child’s education.  Our faculty is working hard to achieve that same end.  We are all in this together.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Getting Outside....Safely


Most of us are either at home or spending our days working.  

Families are busy helping children with remote learning, navigating the pages of information about the virus, deciding what is safe to do, how to get groceries, manage changing finances and all of the other challenges we face together.  

Children, especially young children, cannot really understand all of the changes in their lives, even with loving parents and teachers doing their best to support them. 

An essential part of a healthy life for everyone is spending time in nature. Walking through a garden, observing birds and wildlife, listening to water create a musical backdrop to a stroll through a forest; these moments can make worry and fatigue fall away.  

Finding these safe havens can be a challenge.  We are fortunate that we have many parks and natural areas close by the Houston area where families can be safely distanced from others and be safely outdoors.  Explore the options with your family and go experience some of the most beautiful and peaceful areas of our city.

It is good to be prepared.  Bring snacks, drinks or even a full picnic.  Pack hand sanitizers, masks for those that can wear them, wet washcloths in plastic bags, and sunscreen if needed.  It is summer in Houston, after all.  Make sure everyone uses the restroom before leaving to limit stops in public places.  Go over the rules for safety and go have fun!

Most of the following places can be visited safely, especially if you go early in the day.  I routinely walk at Mercer Botanic Gardens at 8 a.m. and am often the only person there.  The picture at the top of the blog was taken there. 

Mercer Botanic Gardens:

Miles of hiking trails, fountains, flowers, a children's garden, picnic tables and a playground make this a great place for family outings.  If you are lucky you might see deer, rabbits, armadillos and lots of birds!  Best of is free. 

Alexander Deussen Park:

309 beautiful acres on Lake Houston with lots of room for bike riding, hiking, a duck pond, a dog park, fishing and boat ramps are all open and free.  Lots of room to spread out, play ball, read and relax.  

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center:

A gem in the heart of Houston!  Visit the web site for a map of the many trails.  Be sure to check the link for restrictions due the Covid19 as they change frequently.  

Brazos Bend State Park:

Ready for a "wild" experience?  Come hike the miles of trails, fish, picnic and see the wildlife.  Alligators, birds and other animals are common sightings.  Be sure to check out the link (more info !) for current information on restrictions due to Covid19. 

For more places to get your nature on go to the Texas State Park website.  

'Parks are listed by location and have full information.  

Play safe!  Let's get outdoors and have some fun!

Look for the next post for ideas on how to make being at home a positive experience.  We are doing this together! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Most of us are at home with our families.  Meals become an important part of the day; an opportunity to be together and nourish our bodies and our minds.

Children of all ages usually love to participate in the preparation of the food and even the youngest can help.  In our Montessori classrooms lessons on peeling and chopping carrots and apples, peeling oranges, slicing hard boiled eggs and even baking are part of every day. 

When given the title of "sous chef" helping takes on a different feeling.  A stool for the younger child to reach the counter, or a low table if available is a great idea.  Wearing an apron (or a dish towel around the waist adds importance to the activity.  Don't be afraid to show your child how to use kitchen tools safely.  At school we use a round tipped, serrated knife with a wooden handle and a sturdy cutting board. 

If you wish, excellent child size tools and aprons are available at

So what to prepare?  A few beginning places to look:

Or just make your child's own favorites:  mac and cheese, tacos, kebabs, a fruit salad and of course, always, cookies.

The important thing is to have fun, relax, laugh and of course, everyone helps to clean up.  Believe it or not, most children will enjoy that if it is a shared activity.

Happy Cooking!!!!

And here is a new link from our amazing Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
These are great ideas for all ages (including the adults in the family).

Stay well! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Nurturing Our Mental Health and Stress

This was shared with me by my daughter, Avia Benzion.  She is a therapist specializing in stress and trauma.

This is a helpful video on how to nurture our mental health during the pandemic from trauma research author Bessel van der Kolk, MD.

There is additional helpful information on Dr Kolk's website (the link is at the start of the video).

Additionally it is very helpful to get out into nature safely.
The short video above was taken at Mercer Arboretum, an uncrowded, beautiful and free spot to visit safely.  I walk there early in the mornings (around 9 a.m.) and there have been very few people.  Those who are have been courteous and will avoid walking anywhere close to others.  The west side has paved trails, deer, rabbits, birds and squirrels.  The east side has beautiful planted areas, a view of Cypress Creek, and an interesting children's area.  At this time the playground, benches and tables are all off limits for safety and the park is closed on the weekends and open Monday through Friday.  You can read more about Mercer at:

If you can't get out, try this virtual link to the Dallas Arboretum which also has links to STEM activities for children.

Do you do Yoga, Tai Chi, like to sing, play an instrument, cook, play board games or garden?  Involve your children and have some relaxed, fun time together.  We will all get through this, closer and better for the challenges.

Stay safe and well!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Some Calming Moments for the Whole Family

Good morning,
As we all are adjusting to the challenges we face together I want to share a free resource for everyone.

Have you noticed the downward spiral of thoughts that can happen when you're worried, stressed, or nervous? 
It’s common to fast forward into an unknown future and play out worst case scenarios in our mind. The antidote is to bring awareness to our thoughts and emotions, and return to presence. This helps recenter and stabilize us in times of uncertainty. is providing some peaceful tools for adults and children.

A walk outdoors, keeping your distance of course can be helpful. The photo above was taken at Mercer Arboretum, a free, uncrowded place of beauty.

Stay safe and well!

Friday, March 27, 2020

At home...making the most of the hours safely

Good morning (or afternoon) everyone,

I thought I would share this sweet photo of a dad and his son sharing a bit of food. It was his son's first taste of a s'more and he wasn't quite sure if he liked it!  As it turned out, he did.

Especially in times of stress food can be a comfort for our families.  Sharing the preparation of a meal and then sitting down together to eat helps us to feel connected and safe.  Over the next few days I will be posting some ideas for easy snacks and meals you can prepare with simple ingredients.  Encourage your whole family to get involved (after washing their hands for 20 seconds, of course.)

However, this morning I share with you a very important video from a physician who has taken the time to help us make sure the food we bring into our homes is not also bringing in sickness.  Although it seems like a lot to trouble, the benefits will far outweigh the effort.

Have a safe and pleasant day.  Enjoy the lessons and suggestions our dedicated and hardworking teachers and administration have put together to help our children prosper and feel connected while we are apart.  They will be in touch with each of you.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Resources and Ideas for Parents During School Closing

We know you are all trying your best to manage this situation, trying to balance work, home and everyone’s health and well being.  Please use these ideas to help maintain you and your children’s lives as much as possible.  Check back frequently as we will be adding information and ideas.  
First of all it is important to provide a variety of activities for the entire family.  Doing this will reduce stress and worry and will feel more normal for everyone.  
We suggest having a somewhat regular schedule which incorporates all the essential elements of a child’s day: 
1.     Regular, healthy meals with as many family members present as possible
2.     Enough sleep, preceded by a pleasant nighttime routine, such as story time, quiet conversation and ideally no screen time, especially in the bedroom.
3.     A regular time for school work which will be available from AMCS to all parents
4.     Reading together for pleasure
5.     Time outdoors in a safe place:  the home yard or patio, a walk in a public park remembering to stay 10 feet away from others and not use playground equipment, a small home garden and other outside chores such as washing the car, etc.
6.     Family board games can be relaxing, educational and fun.  Have a regular time set aside at least several times a week.
7.     Taking advantage of some of the special resources listed below.  Virtual trips to the zoo, listening to stories read by librarians, authors and others, learning new songs in many languages, and many more.  Please explore these resources and share with others by the internet.
8.     Take care not to expose your children (especially those under 12) to news stories and TV news.  These are difficult to absorb and understand even for adults and can result in fear and anxiety. 
9.     Your children will miss their friends.  If possible, Facetime chats with friends and relatives.  This can be comforting and fun.
10.    And of course, remember that adults that have been out in public need to wash and sanitize their hands and any materials brought in from outside as soon as arriving at home, including cell phones, mail and work materials. 

Resources for children and parents:
1.      Free stories for ages up to 18 at Audible:
2.     Scholastic Magazine Learn at Home:  resources for families and teachers:
3.     The Smithsonian Learning Lab:  a deep source for science related activity and information:
4.     Great Books Foundation:
5.     Visit the Houston Zoo on Facebook, live at 11 a.m. daily
6.     Stories read by KPRC staff:
7.     Thousands of songs and play ideas in many languages, all free  
8  Free books to read together or for children to read to you:

Friday, February 7, 2020

YOUR CHILD'S BRAIN AND ELECTRONIC MEDIA: the latest research and some good ideas.

Image result for children and screen time

Updated research information on how screen time changes the brains of our children and other information on the topic of technology.

The following link will take you to the article on the latest research:


  • Playing
  • Reading
  • Activities with family, friends, or neighbors
  • Learning a hobby, sport, instrument, or an art
  • Helping with household tasks; gardening, dusting, folding clothes, etc. 

Children in the United States watch over 6 hours of TV every day. Watching movies and playing video games only adds to time spent in front of a screen. It may be tempting to use television, movies, and video games to keep your child busy, but your child needs to spend as much time growing and learning as possible. Playing, reading, and spending time with friends and family are much healthier than sitting in front of a screen.  Spending time in nature is a critical part of the development of the mind and body.  Children do not learn how to interact and solve problems while watching a screen. They need real experience to learn these skills.

Children who spend too much time in front of a screen  are more likely to be overweight and weak. They do not spend as much time running, jumping, and getting the exercise they need. They also see many commercials for unhealthy foods, such as candy, snacks, sugary cereals, and drinks during children's programs. Commercials almost never give information about the foods children should eat to keep healthy.

If your child watches 3 to 4 hours of non-educational TV per day, he will have seen about 8,000 murders on TV by the time he finishes grade school. Children who see violence on television may not understand that real violence hurts and kills people. Even if the "good guys" use violence, children may learn that it is okay to use force to handle aggression and settle disagreements. It is best not to let your child watch violent programs and cartoons. Video games often  depict violence and criminal activity. 

Television and video games  expose children to adult behaviors but it usually does not show the risks and results of early sexual activity. On TV, sexual activity is shown as fun, exciting, and without any risks. Your child may copy what she sees on TV in order to feel more grown up.  Woman are often depicted as sexual objects which gives both boys and girls negative ideas about gender.  

Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
Young people today are surrounded by messages that say drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes or cigars are normal activities. These messages don't say that alcohol and tobacco harm people and may lead to death. Beer and wine are some of the most advertised products on television. TV programs and commercials often show people who drink and smoke as healthy, energetic, sexy, and successful. It is up to you to teach your child the truth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. 

The average child sees more than 20,000 commercials each year. Commercials are quick, fast-paced, and entertaining. After seeing the same commercials over and over, your child can easily remember a song, slogan, or catchy phrase. Ads may try to convince your child that having a certain toy or eating a certain food will make him happy or popular. Older children can begin to understand how ads use pictures, music, and sound to entertain. Kids need to know that ads try to convince people to buy things they may not need.

Brain development
Please read the linked article above for the latest research.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time at all  for children age 2 or younger. For older children, the Academy recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs and/or screen time of any sort.  There is a growing body of evidence that suggest negative changes in the way the brain functions and develops in children who watch TV or other screens at an early age, or too much after age 2.  Screen activities are increasingly linked to ADHD and other learning disabilities. Children of all ages are constantly learning new things. The first 2 years of  life are especially important  for the growth and development of your child's brain. During this time, children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults. Without this interaction children lack social skills and may become antisocial. The ability to concentrate, to draw conclusions and remember are also deeply affected. Older children need face to face interactions to develop confidence and social skills.  

What We Can Do
As a parent, there are many ways you can help your child develop positive viewing habits. The following tips may help:
1. Set limits
Limit your child's use of TV, movies, and video and computer games to no more than 1 or 2 hours per day. Do not let your child watch TV while doing homework. Do not have a TV, computer or video games in the child's room. 
2. Plan your child's viewing
Instead of flipping through channels, use a program guide and the TV ratings to help you and your child choose shows. Turn the TV on to watch the program you chose and turn it off when the program is over. Monitor what your child watches at the homes of friends and family. 
3. Watch TV with your child
Whenever possible, watch TV with your child and talk about what you see. If your child is very young, she may not be able to tell the difference between a show, a commercial, a cartoon, or real life. Explain that characters on TV are make-believe and not real. Some "reality-based" programs may appear to be "real," but most of these shows focus on stories that will attract as many viewers as possible. Often these are stories about tragedy and violence. Much of their content is not appropriate for children. Young children may worry that what they see could happen to them or their family. News broadcasts also contain violent or inappropriate material. If your schedule prevents you from watching TV with your child, talk to her later about what she watched. Better yet, record the programs so that you can watch them with your child at a later time.  
4. Find the right message
Even a poor program can turn out to be a learning experience if you help your child find the right message. Some television programs may portray people as stereotypes. Talk with your child about the real-life roles of women, the elderly, and people of other races that may not be shown on television. Discuss ways that people are different and ways that we are the same. Help your child learn tolerance for others. Remember, if you don't agree with certain subject matter, you can either turn off the TV or explain why you object.
5. Help your child resist commercials
Don't expect your child to be able to resist ads for toys, candy, snacks, cereal, drinks, or new TV programs without your help. When your child asks for products advertised on TV, explain that the purpose of commercials is to make people want things they may not need. Limit the number of commercials your child sees by watching public television stations (PBS). You can also record programs and leave out the commercials or buy or rent children's videos.
6.  Give other options
Watching TV can become a habit for your child. Help your child find other things to do with his time, such as the following:
7. Set a good example
You are the most important role model in your child's life. Limiting your own screen time  and choosing programs carefully will help your child do the same.
8. Express your views
When you like or don't like something you see on television, make yourself heard. Write to the TV station, network, or the program's sponsor. Stations, networks, and sponsors pay attention to letters from the public. If you think a commercial is misleading, write down the product name, channel, and time you saw the commercial and describe your concerns. Call your local Better Business Bureau.
9.  Install blocks on your TV to eliminate any possibility of your child watching inappropriate programming.
 By knowing how television affects your children and by setting limits, you can help make your child's screen experience snot only enjoyable, but healthy too.
10.  Decide if and when you want your child to have a cell phone.  A good beginning option is a limited function phone such as Jitterbug.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Montessori and Paperwork....

Image result for piles of paperwork

What – No Briefcase? Montessori and Paperwork

Please enjoy this insightful article that will be of interest to all AMCS parents.  
 Montessori parents are often bewildered by the lack of paperwork coming home with their child. There’s hardly any! So what does my child do all day? What can he be possibly learning?
For most of us our school experience was a blizzard of paper work – spaces to fill in, lines to write, dots to connect. Pages upon pages of busy work that hopefully conveyed to parents that we were learning. Much of it was redundant, boring and the waste of a good tree! But that was the measure for parents that learning was happening.
You’ve now entered a new universe when you chose a Montessori program. You didn’t choose Montessori because it resembled your learning experience but because it represented the learning experience you wished you’d been privileged to have. When you visit the environment your eyes feast on amazing materials – colors, shapes, complexities. Is this material really for my three year old or four year old – isosceles triangles, quatrefoils, reniform leaf shapes? Does he really touch it and feel it and use it? But when there is no paper trail coming home, you wonder!
Socrates said, “There is nothing in the mind that is not first in the hands.” And it is the touching of these concrete materials that begins the building of the mental processes in your child. Traditional education begins with intellectual development hoping to make the abstract concrete. Montessori education begins with the development and refining of the senses, allowing your child to build this concrete knowledge one step at a time until he is ready and poised to make the great intellectual leap into the abstract. In Montessori education, it is the child’s own developmental timetable that causes this explosion of solid (and unprecedented) learning to occur. It is not an artificial timetable based on age or calendar but a continual cultivation and development of the child’s growing intellectual power that is being fed day by day in a manner that allows your child to appropriate and practice the tools and skills that will form his intellectual abilities for a lifetime.
All this time the child is building within himself this intellectual capability. Montessori education is very much like the construction of a jetty. Rock after rock is submerged in the water, seemingly lost beneath the surface but then the day comes when the latest rocks begin to become visible and break the water’s plane. Your child is building a very concrete foundation for all further intellectual development one achievement at a time.
These processes and achievements, in many ways, are very private for your child. Your child often doesn’t speak of them – or want to speak of them until after (sometimes long after) they have become operative and well established in your child. It is not that they want to exclude you from their developmental journey but they guard it – not jealously – but protectively, as if speaking about it would jeopardize its development.
This is why your best ally in understanding your child’s development and progress is the teacher and not random pieces of paper that wend their way home. The teacher is a good guide to share with you your child’s progress because much of what the teacher does in the classroom is to observe and document this progress. Montessori education is never just a question of teaching or presenting materials but of presenting and teaching at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. Each child has a different learning style – one size doesn’t fit all. And it is this different learning style of your child that is celebrated and used to your child’s advantage in the learning process.
It is not so much what is put into your child that creates this tremendous Montessori learning explosion but what comes out of your child – out from their personality, their talents, gifts, and temperament. Montessori is about aligning learning with the way your child learns. There may not be another time in his life where the whole world is bent to give him every advantage and opportunity to learn as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.
Every day your child is absorbing the whole world around him trying to make sense of it, trying to master the parts he can. And it is in his Montessori classroom that this world is made tangible and accessible. He can’t always tell you when he is going to make the discoveries that will propel him on to new and even more exciting discoveries. (“Did you know that three times two is the same as two times three? The windows are rectangles and so are the tables.”) Instead of being given the answers – which he would be expected to put down on paper – which could go home; he is given the questions and allowed to discover the answers for himself. This joy of discovery is hard to put on paper.
There are two ways better than paper to know what your child is learning. Ask his teacher. She has the great joy of daily watching the discoveries light up your child’s eyes, of watching your child work the challenges of learning and the joy that comes to your child from mastery. She is watching the emergence of your child’s personality, watching his character form and his intellect develop. When you are talking with the teacher listen to the excitement of her voice as she relates your child’s progress and read in her eyes the joy she shares in your child’s discoveries and accomplishments. Much better than paperwork.
Second, ask your child. But don’t ask him what he learned today – he may not be able to tell you (and it still may be private but he’ll share with you when he is ready.) Ask him what he sees out of the window. He may just read the street signs to you (which isn’t bad for a three year old.) Ask him about his friends. Ask him about colors or dinosaurs or cars – and then listen. He will tell you all kinds of things. He will use all kinds of words – vocabulary and concepts you didn’t even know he knew. And if you keep listening you’ll learn not only what he learned but you will set a pattern for conversation and discussion that will take you well beyond the teenage years – much more satisfying and important than paperwork.