DSCF3521“When we picked him up, he said he was sad. We asked him why and he replied, ” I don’t want to go home, I want to stay here longer.” Later he slept 3 hours….”

This affirms for me the Montessori method (again). We have many “visitor children” at this time of the year.  None of them have ever been to our school before, most do not know anyone else there, some have never been anywhere before (as in group care).  It is the end of the year, so the community is made, everyone knows what to do.  The parents have many emotions, which I well understand, but we (Lynn, Megan and I) do not worry.  Even when a child cries very hard for a bit, they settle down, watching in fascination.  There is so much to see!  The other children are intriguing to them.  “WHAT are they doing????”  Someone is hammering, someone is singing, someone is doing a puzzle, someone is counting, and someone is looking at a book, while someone is slicing bananas and someone is folding napkins and someone is painting glue on paper and….you get to use SCISSORS??????

And the “rules” are different.  You cannot touch everyone’s things (“work?”), you have to ask, you have to put that other stuff away, first, you have to wash your hands, you have to roll your rug, people say “no” to you….Outside, children are running everywhere.

If this were not a good place for children, they would shut down and beg to escape.  Why not?  It is all new and confusing, and there is no comfortable person there (yet).  None of it is routine, yet.  So, it must be something that works for what children need, or parts of it.  (It could always be better!)

Maybe it is because, especially at the end of the year, the children, especially the 3rd years, are so much in charge.  And maybe that is why I am so often sad at this time of year, not just that the 3rd years are “perfect” AND going to Kindergarten, but that they have gotten to the place where, for much of the time, the adult teachers are not needed much, and that is how it should be.  And….then we start again….

It helps if, in life, pants are not optional.

724_002From Facebook: “What is the rie/ montessori approach to a 2 yr old who refuses to get dressed in the morning? We ask him what he wants to do that day and it’s invariably go outside for a walk, but that fact doesn’t persuade him to help us or allow us to dress him. Ideas appreciated :)”

My response: “After you get dressed, we can go for a walk. Do you want some help?” If answer is no, cheerfully go away and make yourself some toast. After several days of your sticking to your guns to be a helpful helper of independent dressing who doesn’t do anything else (cajole, nag, remind, complain, explain), he will get the point. I think it is good if dressing is a habit, so we can talk about something else in the morning. It starts with this: all good things (including breakfast, if need be) start with clothes.

Attachment, “attachment parenting”, CIO and Montessori

I want to write something about “attachment”. Not “attachment parenting” but attachment. Attachment parenting writers have done a lot to terrify parents around crying, or “making a child sad/anxious/cry”. This is why I love RIE for infant/toddlers. Not that Montessori doesn’t have a lot of good observations about this age (by “Montessori”, I don’t mean Maria, I mean amazing Montessori I/T teachers all over the world; Maria did not work with infants or toddlers), but RIE has written more concisely about it (Janet Lansbury’s blog/FB page).

All children cry. All people cry. All babies cry. How we respond teaches them about the world. If we never respond, that is neglect, if we always respond to try remove all distress, I would say that we are teaching our children that they are incapable. If we are there, listening and empathizing, but not always “fixing”, and then express trust in the child, that is a life lesson.

Back to attachment. Attachment is something that has been studied for decadeshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory. If you read about it, in depth, you see that attachment is developed through response and observation, starting at birth. That is responding to cues of wanting interaction (child looks at you, makes sounds) and responding to cues of wanting to be not in relationship (child looks away, turns away). A small amount of appropriate response in either direction solidifies attachment; the estimate that Boyles made was good responses 10% of the time. Yes, 10% of the time, caused good attachment. That does not mean that a child must be held, carried, slept with, pacified with pacifier or breast to be attached. In fact, attachment is very hard to mess up, with attentive (that is attentive to “come close” AND “go away” responses) parents. Abused children are most often still attached :(.

So, we do NOT have to be so afraid of our children’s cries. No one is advocating neglect, of course…..but we do not have to attempt to “fix” all struggles. Montessori would say that this is harmful to children. Now, when and how to start this is up to interpretation, but children are designed to learn to eat, sleep, eliminate, self-soothe and problem solve. We are there to support that learning.

Attachment theory is a psychological model that attempts to describe the dynamics of long-term interpersonal relationships between humans. However, “attachment theory is not formulated as a general theory of relationships. It addresses only a specific facet” (Waters et al. 2005: 81): how human being…

The “Freakanomics” of Montessori!

18k2c4bjygau8jpg +MariaMontessori

Hello, all!

i have been talking to new/prospective parents about their children and what they want for them. It is very inspiring to me, and hopeful, and wonderful.  I love this every year.

This is good, as it is also the time of year when we get ready for the rising Kinders to leave.  They are such a mix: perfect in their ability to know what needs to happen in the classroom, chaotic, inspired, messy, kind, loud, pushing all the boundaries.  I also am sad to say goodbye to families; some of whom I have served for many years, with multiple children.

But, what I am excited about today is what I am calling “The Freakanomics of Montessori”!  Now, I can’t begin to explain what “Freakanomics” is, really.  It is a book about something called “functional economics” which is, to me “what people actually do instead of what you think they ought to do.”  The book is great, along with the 3 other ones Levitt and Dubner have written, and the blog, if you want to check it out.  It will push you right out of some boxes in which you are thinking.

The “Freakanomics of Montessori” is my way to describe what she (Maria Montessori) saw and what we “guides” (as she called us) attempt to do, every day.

Montessori was not a teacher, she was a medical doctor.  She was hired to take care of the physical/medical needs of a group of “at risk” students.  (We don’t know much about them; they were below average in some ways: cognitively, physically, socially, economically, we don’t know; It was between 1896 and 1901.)

As it was, she, as a doctor, watched the children.  Watching, she noticed that the children seemed “interested in learning.”  So, she set about to offer them instruments, materials, to help them to learn.  She thought that they should be tactile, and sought out those throughout Europe who were trying to work with children who were deaf, or blind, or had other handicapping conditions.

She used some of these devices (we call them “manipulatives”, and are now an educational catchphrase), and made some others (she made the first movable alphabet, famously, from a fruit crate).  The she sat back and watched.  She had no idea that these children needed to learn the way she had been taught, or that they would learn at all.  She took away some things, including reward systems, large tables, expecting children to sit still, to work alone, to work on what she chose instead of what they chose.  She added other things, like small furniture, allowing children to work on the floor, with others, alone, for a long time or a short time on something, with time to repeat things that they loved.  She thought children should go outside every day.  She noticed that children like to use real things, and to learn how to use real tools.

She noticed a lot, and we are still using her way of seeing children in schools all over the world, as best we can.  We base what we do on what works, not on what worked with us, or what should work, or even, what worked with another child.  We are always expected and, hopefully, willing to modify what we do, and how we do it,  to fit what we see as the needs of a particular child, and the way(s) in which they seem to learn best.  We also get to do this for three years, so that we truly get to know children deeply.

This “outside the box” way of seeing children is endlessly interesting.  The children appreciate being participants in their learning process, and forgive us when we make poor calls on what to do and how to do it, as they see we are trying, often, to meet them where they are, both in abilities and interests.  They appreciate the ability to pursue what they like, with whom they like, for how long they like, and reward us (so to speak) by dipping deeply, at times, into learning.  They also like to rest, and play, and return to things which are easy and meet a creative need.  We have sewing, painting, drawing, composing stories, making books, singing, and all kinds of movement going on.

Go check out what Montessori kids are doing!



Spring is the time for new things!


See this little waif?  She is my youngest, and, 25 years after this picture was taken,  she is expecting a baby in November.  I feel like I have been invited to Narnia, or some other wonderful place which I thought before was not real. 🙂

So, I haven’t been blogging much :).  Or at all.

That, and meeting lots and lots of new families for the school year, which is also a blessing.  Everyone loves talking about their most loved little people, and I love hearing about them.

They all want “something more” for their children, and I would love to give it to them.  This year, as every year, I cannot offer it to everyone who comes.  For some, what they want is really not what we do.  For others, there are barriers in the way of learning that need to be addressed, and they are not ready to start this information-gathering process….for lots of reasons.  For some, it is bad luck or timing!  And, can you imagine saying “no” to the grandson or daughter of a dear friend, or the child of one of your children’s dear friends?  And, in the US, it is expensive.  There is no outside funding (other than fundraising ourselves) which supports what we do.  And I don’t want to organize fundraisers; I want to teach children and talk to parents.

This is what it is like in the Spring of each year: getting ready to say goodbye to the amazing 5 year olds, whom you love, who are so self-possessed and bright and self-aware and meta-cognitive that you cannot manage being without them; looking at new two year olds and wondering how you can handle that process another year; trying to listen to the hearts of new families to find the best fit; and remembering to have faith, in myself, the staff, the parents, and, most of all, in the children, who are made to learn.

And, this year, thinking about Baby Coffey Bean.