Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ode to Duplos

With my son's fourth birthday came our household's first set of real Legos.  (Thanks, Grandma!) He plays with them almost every day, as does my daughter.  I'm sure we have many happy hours of building ahead of us.  Stashing the Duplos in the closet made me  nostalgic though.  So, before they disappear into the box marked "toddler toys", let me write a little tribute to the good they've done for us.

Read more at Thriving STEM.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nuggets on Child Development from Montessori's "The Absorbent Mind"


Caring well for an infant gives him or her the chance to develop to full potential later on.

"And if this period is helped in conformity with the requirements of human life, to that degree will each one benefit, by being better able, later on, to develop his individual capacities. " from Chapter 7, The Spiritual Embryo.

In particular, it is important to talk and read to babies, even if they don't seem to respond. 

"There is an unconscious development that prepares speech, and succeeded by a conscious process which slowly awakens and takes from the unconscious what it can offer." from Chapter 10,  Some Thoughts on Language,

Children's natural urge for independence should be supported in the toddler years and beyond. 

 "The child's conquest of independance are the steps in what is called natural development." from Chapter 8, The Child's Conquest of Independence.

 I think that this is a critical truth for parents and teachers.  Children are naturally driven to establish their independence from an early age.  If they sense that we are their allies in this pursuit, they will learn from us more readily.

"How does he achieve independence?  He does it by continual activity. " from Chapter 8, The Child's Conquest of Independence

Let me make it my business to make worthwhile activity continually available!

 This principal applies not simply to "academics" but to learning constructive social behaviors. "Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding."  from chapter 23, Cohesion in the Social Unit.

The  pre-school years are a golden time for learning.

"Before three the functions are being created, after three they develop.  .   . So from the ages of three to six, being now able to tackle his environment deliberately and consciously, he beings a period of real constructiveness."  from chapter 16, From Unconscious Creator to Conscious Worker

"It is at this age the vocabulary is most rapidly enriched."  from chapter 17, Further Elaboration Montessori elaborates that between ages three and six is the best time to introduce technical scientific vocabulary and familiarity with the globe.   

Montessori maintains that children's physical and moral movements will progress as their mental processes become disciplined and focused.  "The essential thing is for the the task to arouse the interest of the child so that it engages his entire personality." from chapter 19, the Child's Contribution to Society.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Order from Chaos

One of my favorite parts of teaching is watching my students spontaneously take interest in learning.  Their joy over their new found abilities and knowledge is the sweetest reward a teacher can know.  Last spring I felt that I was having many of these moments with my children. It was wonderful.

After our cross world move, I feel like we've lost that synergy, and I was at a complete loss on how to get it back.  It reminds of me of my first year in the public school and that one class that never really got on track.

Last night, I finished Maria Montessori's Absorbent Mind. In chapter 26, Discipline and the Teacher, I found some help.  Here are the steps I'm going to take.

1.  Create an attractive, simple space.   I'm going to put more effort into coaching my children in maintaining an well ordered environment in our home.   This is my motivation to deal with clutter in our home.

2.  Intentionally spend my time and energy in helping my children use the toys we have in our home well.  The abacus is a perfect example.  I know it's a powerful way to interact with numbers, but I'll have to help my children learn to appreciate it before it can really begin to do them good.  I also need to accept that having disordered our world by moving, it's going to take a significant amount of energy before the learning process can really flourish again.

One of the important things I need to do at this point is give my children is a way to self-correct.  When working with a puzzle, they can easily see whether they've completed it correctly or not.  But I'll need to work on adding some ways for them to check themselves on other tasks.  This gets us ready to take step 3.

3.  Give my children the space to develop their interests without interfering by critique or praise.  Montessori says that children who have begun to focus on a task are distracted by praise and discouraged by criticism.  Her advice is to leave them alone and let the desire mature.  I've noticed that my children hate bribes as much as they hate criticism, so this makes sense.

4.  Pour on the praise when they're ready to share!  Having completed their practice, the children will be ready to preform, and that's when I get to rejoice with them.  I'm looking forward to it!