Dr. Marlene Barron: Montessori Educator.
Topic: How Montessori Principles Develop Self-Regulation;
with Strategies on How to Implement at Home
Dr. Marlene Barron’s long and distinguished career in Montessori education spans over 50 years. Founder of Staten Island Montessori School; prolific lecturer, teacher-trainer and published author; former Head of West Side Montessori School; Adjunct professor and Director of Montessori Education at NYU; international Consultant across five continents; Chief Academic Advisor in Beijing China and Associate Dean/Director of Research and Development for Shanghai Montessori School.
MONTESSORI PARENT WORKSHOP
Tuesday April 10, 2018
Fenimore Street United Methodist Church: 276 Fenimore St. Lower Level
(Corner of Rogers Ave and Fenimore St)
RSVP: March 26, 2018
Suggested Donation: $10.00
Maria Montessori Welcomed by European royal families, entertained in the White House, and introduced to Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Erik Ericson, and the world as the "great educator, who transformed the education of young children. She developed her theories while working as a doctor in a hospital for special-needs children, and opened her first school for normal children in Rome in 1907. Her approach, teaching materials, and observations were groundbreaking and innovative, and have made a lasting impact on our educational systems.
You might be surprised by the following information about this remarkable woman. Montessori's dedication to her research and to the development of the whole child was far from simple or easy:
For more, see: Maria Montessori: A Little History.
Color image of Maria Montessori is taken from Maria Montessori Poster (R03); black and white images are from Maria Montessori Centenary Cards (R09).
Hainstock, Elizabeth G., The Essential Montessori, An Introduction to the Woman, the Writings, the Method and the Movement, Penguin Books, 1978 (revised 1997).
Kramer, Rita, Maria Montessori: A Biography, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976.
North American Montessori Teachers' Association, A Montessori Journey: 1907-2007 - The Centenary Exhibit. The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer, 2007.
Pollard, Michael, Maria Montessori, Gareth Stevens Children's Books, 1990.
Standing, E.M., Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, Penguin Books,1957.
By Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families
"When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work,
they appeared rested and deeply pleased."
Maria Montessori (author), Paul Oswald (editor),
Basic Ideas of Montessori's Educational Theory
Boy Hammering-Children as young as three-years-old, after several months in a Montessori classroom, are able to choose their own work and focus on, and finish their tasks. Through observation and experimentation, Montessori discovered the importance of a two-and-a-half to three-hour uninterrupted work period. The last hour of a lengthy work period is usually when children are most likely to choose challenging work and concentrate deeply.
Montessori once observed a three-year-old repeat the knobbed cylinders activity 44 times. The girl's concentration did not waver when Montessori tested it, first picking up the girl in her chair and placing her (still in her chair) on top of her desk and then asking classmates to sing. When she stopped working of her own accord, "...she looked round with a satisfied air, almost as if waking from a refreshing nap." Montessori called this a "never-to-be-forgotten" discovery. (Spontaneous Activity in Education)
Phases of the Work Period
Montessori and her directresses carefully observed the phases of children's work during long work periods. They noted that in the first hour and twenty minutes, children often chose an easy initial task, followed by a moderately challenging activity. After this, ten minutes of "false fatigue" occurred as children appeared restless and classroom noise increased. This is the time when many teachers get uneasy and end the work period. However, false fatigue is actually "preparation for the culminating work," when children choose challenging work and concentrate deeply. When finished, there is a period of "contemplation" as children appear deeply satisfied and at peace. (ibid)
Children in Montessori classrooms become absorbed in their work, because they have the freedom to choose activities that interest them. In classrooms where the work period is less than two hours long, children rarely experience the deep concentration where leaps of cognitive development can take place. Children are understandably hesitant to choose challenging work if they think they won't have time to complete it (or repeat it 44 times).
At 10 o'clock, there is a great commotion; the children are restless; they neither work nor go in quest of materials. The onlooker gets an impression of a tired class, about to become disorderly. After a few minutes, the most perfect order reigns once more. The children are promptly absorbed in work again; they have chosen new and more difficult occupations.
False fatigue is similar to adults taking a coffee break after working hard. If children are disrupting others, they can be quietly redirected, but too much interference actually prolongs the period of false fatigue. Instead of anxiously over-controlling or ending the work period, we must trust children to return to work. We can then observe whether they choose their most challenging task of the day.
Is Circle Time Always Necessary?
During the morning work period, children receive individual or small group lessons, work at their own pace with materials they choose, and serve themselves snack. Many schools have a mandatory circle (often lasting 30-40 minutes) near the start or end of the work period. At the beginning of the school year, before the class has normalized, more whole group activities are often necessary.
However, any interruption to the work period (including circle) disrupts the child's exploration, focus, mastery of skills, critical thinking, and problem solving. Lengthy circles significantly shorten the work period. Without sufficient time, children rarely concentrate deeply on really challenging work. Instead of mandatory circle time, you could invite smaller groups of children to sing, listen to a story, or observe an art lesson. A good time for a short circle (to do the calendar or sing songs) is during the transition to lunch, while children are cleaning up from the work period.
If your school enlists specialists to teach enrichment subjects (music, Spanish, etc.), perhaps they could all be scheduled on the same day. This would maximize the number of uninterrupted work periods.
Implementing a Longer Work Period
As an intern supervisor, I have visited dozens of Montessori classrooms. Only a handful had a lengthy, uninterrupted work period. Here are some steps you can take to move towards a three-hour work period:
Evaluate if daily circle is truly necessary. Even at the start of the school year, you probably have a few children who could be given the choice to work quietly rather than attend circle.
Motivate parents to bring their children to school on time, explaining that when children miss class time, they are less likely to choose challenging work that requires more concentration.
Reschedule outdoor/lunch time to give children a longer work period.
Sometimes teachers wonder if it's still possible for today's children to attain the kind of deep concentration that Montessori called a "miracle." Are our children, surrounded by screens, incapable of the same focused attention as children in Montessori's time?
I was recently inspired by observing Montessori philosophy in action, in the kind of classroom that Montessori wrote about so eloquently. It had all of the key elements, including a three-hour work period and a mixed age group of three- to six-year-olds. The children were engaged in a variety of interesting activities, working without seeming to need the teachers. An older child spontaneously helped a younger one clean up a spill, teaching her how to use the mop. A large group of five-year-olds organized their own lesson, taking turns picking out rivers in an atlas. After the short period of false fatigue, there was a hush in the room as many children worked with profound concentration.
A Montessori teacher put it this way: "Protect the three-hour work period with your life! It's one of the most important ingredients in our method."
—by Irene Baker, MEd, Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She holds both primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (ages 6-12) Montessori certifications, and has taught at all three levels. For over 15 years, she has served as a Montessori teacher-trainer for both primary and elementary levels, and has presented workshops for teachers at schools and AMS national conferences. Her work with both students and teachers is infused with the knowledge she has gained from her passions: History, social justice, non-violent (compassionate) communication, nature, meditation, music, and poetry.
Harper will be my last grandchild. At 20 months old, the world of language opened its floodgates. She's actually quite verbal for her age. At her 18-month check-up, the pediatrician asked if she had a vocabulary of at least three words. At that point she probably had close to one-hundred words, and now, a few months later, it's more than doubled with her talking in two, and three-word sentences on a regular basis.
This becomes a double-edged sword because, when young children are this verbal, we tend to confuse vocabulary with comprehension. This can lead to frustration and fits of some temper and crying. In some, it may also manifest as a biting phase.
When Harper can't do something on her own, she'll plaintively call to me and say, "Help, help
Someone wise once told me that the best guidance she could give to me was, to provide me with a toolbox of skills to help me navigate my way. I've never forgotten that piece of sage advice, and have tried to hold back that overwhelming urge to rush in and solve all the little things challenging my grandchildren.
me, Gammie.'' While my heart goes out to her, the best help can offer is to give her time to figure something out on her own. Of course, it's important to first make sure she's safe from
whatever she's trying to manage. Sometimes, It works to ask her simple questions to figure out how she can be guided to work through her own situation. This is not always easy, because parents are busy, and often they do not have the luxury of extra time, and let's face it, we all reach our limits on certain days with patience.
Someone wise once told me that the best guidance she could give to me was to provide me with a toolbox of skills to help me navigate my way. I've never forgotten that piece of sage advice and have tried co hold back that overwhelming urge to rush in and solve all the little things challenging my grandchildren. I try to consciously hold myself back from doing that and, instead, help them use the tools in their boxes to solve their own problems. I must continually remind myself that it's not about me, but about fostering the child's independence.
It's not about my 'wants' to keep them small and dependent upon me, but to make sure they become confident and independent.
Another 'tool' in the box is the ability to master a skill. Have you ever seen your child, or grandchild sit and repeat doing something endlessly? Have they ever asked you to repeat a story over and over again? While it can often become tiresome for the adult, it's the way children learn and master a skill. In their classrooms, children are given the time, especially during the uninterrupted work cycle of two to three hours in the morning, when most are at their best, to repeat an activity over and over again.
lt's fine to make suggestions, question, or even demonstrate, but when we do something for them each and every time they ask, we aren't helping them reach their full potential. Dr.
Montessori's Method and materials help toddlers and young children learn from concrete to abstract. Each part of the practical Life lessons adds new tools to their personal boxes.
By reinforcing this method at home (or at grandparents' houses) on a consistent basis, it helps keep young children on the path to independence. Remember, holding your grandchild on your lap to read, pushing them in a stroller, and comforting and loving them with hugs and kisses, is more vital than rushing in to do something for them that they are totally capable of doing for themselves. Enjoy each moment. It's just amazing how fast grow up!
Margot Garfield-Anderson is on staff at the Montessori
Foundation and the Membership
Director of the International Montessori
Council. Her four granddaughters have
often been the inspiration of her writings.
To view the adorable videos that
accompany this article, please check out
it's digital counterpart on montessori.org
32 TOMORROW'S CHILD ® • SEPTEMBER 2017 • WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG
Most of us live our lives in the city or the suburbs and have vague ideas about the rhythm of life lived by farmers and ranchers. We all benefit from their work when we go to the grocery store. We might actually know when it is strawberry season (prices are lower), but to understand the cycles and seasons gives us an appreciation for “real” life.
This is why Montessori classrooms put a major emphasis on botany and zoology – to introduce our children to the mystery and magic of springtime and harvest. Whether planting is done in pots or garden plots, to prepare the soil, to plant a seed, to water it, to watch it grow, to pull the weeds, to see it flower, to observe the fruit and to enjoy the harvest; it is a celebration of life.
What is the most important step in this botanical experiment? They are all important, but the critical step happens long before you start the process; you have to have the seed! Where does the seed come from? The seed comes from that part of the harvest that you didn’t consume or sell. It is not part of the harvest that you get to “enjoy.” You keep the very best seed, bury it, and then you work the soil so that it flourishes.
Your seed is your Montessori investment. Montessori education is expensive - sometimes even approaching college tuitions, and a question often asked is, “shouldn’t I be saving this money for prep school or college?” The best time to plant your educational seed is in the springtime of your child’s life. Now!
There are five seeds planted in a Montessori Preschool or Elementary that bloom in college.
The first is order. Order is a foundational need of the child - it even has its own sensitive period in the child’s development. When a child enters this sensitive period, he builds for himself the internal apparatus that will guide his future acquisition of knowledge and give him the ability to construct all the other areas of his life. In a Montessori classroom everything has its own special place. This is not only efficient but impacts the whole psychological nature of the child. Order (especially from within) brings calmness and focus, saves frazzled nerves and produces the environment (both physical and emotional) in which concentrated work can occur.
The second seed is initiative – learning to start on your own. Traditional schools spend twelve or thirteen years telling your child what to do, when to do it and how to do it. College is the first freedom from such constraints but it is hardly the time to begin to practice initiative that has been inactive and dormant.
The third seed planted in preschool is the seed of mastery – finishing what you start. In Montessori you don’t take an “F” and go on. You go back and work on it until you master it. It is a major lesson (and habit) not only for school but also for life.
The fourth seed is taking responsibility. In college there is no one looking over your shoulder (or to blame). You are the young adult expected to take responsibility for your actions. For thirteen years of traditional education someone else bore the burden of responsibility. College is not the place to begin especially when Montessori children welcome the responsibility so early and young.
The fifth seed is curiosity. This is not so much of a seed that is planted in preschool but a seed that is nurtured, encouraged and kept alive. Curiosity is the difference between a life of boredom and a life of fascination with the world around you. Curiosity helps you not to settle, it helps you to dream, it helps you to look beyond the next hill. Curiosity can help to not only make a living, but to make a life also.
These seeds are a gift you plant in your children’s life now that bloom in college, and for the rest of their lives. It is the best seed that you can give.
Original Author: Edward Fidellow
Strong Minds, Empowered Thinkers
Lefferts Gardens Montessori School supports the emergent learner. Both LGM and LGME provide environments and curricula that spark the imagination, support discovery and teach your children to organize their approach to learning and problem solving. Our child-centered approach and lesson plans are created to ensure mastery of concepts while accommodating different learning styles and each student’s individual pace.
Join us at one of our Open House sessions and learn about how our multi-aged student bodies (ages 2 through 3 years old, 3 through 5 years old, and 5 through 10 year olds) thrive in our intellectually challenging atmosphere of cooperative learning.
Lefferts Gardens Montessori Open House Sessions for 2019 - 2020
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Saturdays: Adults Only
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Lefferts Gardens Montessori Elementary School
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There are seven simple steps to becoming a Montessori parent. When we say simple we don’t mean that they are not challenging. It is a lot like the definition of bull riding. “The object is to keep the bull between you and the ground.” Simple – but challenging.
The first step to becoming a Montessori parent took place when you enrolled your child in a Montessori program. That in itself is a challenge. Most of us weren’t raised in a Montessori school. The whole concept is foreign and takes a bit of courage to step out of the norm and our comfort zone. We may have chosen the program because it wasn’t like our school experience (which is why we chose it.) Or we chose it because we saw something unique in a Montessori child we knew. Or we were just plain lucky and stumbled on to a Montessori school and were fascinated by what we saw. Even then we had to deal with the question, “If this is so great, how come the whole world isn’t lined up outside the door to enroll?” (This is the same question Montessorians keep wondering about too!) But you made a complex and challenging decision to become a Montessori parent. And here you are. So how do you get the best out of your decision? You go to step two.
You begin to understand the core philosophy of what Montessori is all about. Fortunately, you don’t have to become a Montessori teacher to be a good Montessori parent. (You don’t have to know how to manipulate all of those materials and you don’t have to keep fifteen children from climbing the walls.) The most significant Montessori concept is to respect the child. I can almost hear the wheels turning “Of course I respect my child, I love them very much that’s why I have them in Montessori, I want the best for them.” Of course you love them – but respect is different. Respecting the child is first, to respect the nature of children. Children are not mini adults waiting to be molded. They are like tadpoles and caterpillars that have their own form and function of life waiting to become what they are intended to be. We are often impatient for them to become because we don’t realize that childhood – with its curiosity, playfulness, messiness and all – is part of the process of them transforming themselves into the adults they will become. We have to respect that process – which doesn’t mean they always get to do what they want. One of the operative words in Dr. Montessori’s writing is the word “train”. We do need to train our children but we need to train ourselves “not to destroy that which is good” in the nature of our children. The second part of respect is to respect the personality of your child. Your child is not a blank slate. They are already imbued with the unique characteristics of who they are. The artistic bent is already there. The math bent is already formed. The leader, the follower, the giver, the taker, the extrovert, the introvert are already DNA’d into your child. Right or left handed, right or left brained are already formed.
So how do you cooperate with nature? You become an observer. That is the next step in becoming a Montessori parent – you train yourself to observe. What does your child gravitate to? What gives them great joy? What occupies them endlessly? These are all clues to who your child is becoming. You are fortunate that you have a trained helper in your child’s Montessori teacher. Your next parent conference should ask more than what has she done but who do you see her becoming. It is hard to cooperate with nature if you are not aware of the nature of your child.
Our third step is to become their champion. I know. I hear you say, “Of course, I’m their champion. I love them.” And so you do. But are their goals your goals? Translation: Do you have goals for them that do not take into account who they are. (There are many jock fathers who do not have jock sons.) Yes, you have many wonderful goals for them to be caring and loving, honest and faithful, upright, truthful, etc. – and these are worthy, significant and meaningful goals which they should attain to. But the expression of their lives – career, vocation, work – is best met and fulfilled according to their gifts. When your five year old says, “I want to be a fireman.” He may be reflecting the latest book or television program he’s seen. However, if you continue to ask the why questions, “Why do you think that would be a good job? Why do you think that you would enjoy that?” you may discover that your child is not drawn just to the excitement but to the fact of wanting to help people or he likes the aspect of being part of a team. All are important clues to his personality. Your child needs you to champion and encourage his personality (especially, if it is different than yours.)
The fourth step is to practice what they learn at school – grace and courtesy. Please and thank you, may I, excuse me, please forgive me and a host of other considerations practiced (and modeled) at home will go a long way to giving your child every advantage in life. People respond favorably to a child with great manners.
Fifth, practice independence. Independence is the ability to be self-governing and that comes from making choices, living with the consequences and having responsibilities. As often as possible give your children choices. “What do you want for breakfast, cereal or eggs?” “Do you want two spoonfuls of carrots or one?” (Don’t offer choices where there are no choices. “Do you want carrots? They say no and you serve them anyway.) Give your children chores they can accomplish – making their beds, putting dirty clothes in the laundry, dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Chores build responsibility; responsibility builds independence; independence builds confidence.
Sixth, give them the gift of time. Give them time to accomplish their chores. Give them time to be children. Give them time to breathe. Give them your time.
Seventh, practice humility. They have a lot to learn from you. What is easy for you as an adult is mystifying and beyond challenge for them. Let your words be seasoned with grace. Look for the good in what they do. Their motives are often pure; their actions imperfect. Yet, we have a lot to learn from them also. And when you are wrong (when, not if) practice the humility of saying, “Please forgive me.” It will not destroy your authority or their respect for you. It will teach them one of the great lessons of life – when you fail, whether it’s in a relationship, school, career or life – own the failure and start over again – to succeed another day.
Becoming a Montessori parent is to become the best parent you can be.
Edward Fidellow: www.crossmountainpress.com
Many parents are attracted to Montessori because of its tremendous reputation for giving their children a great academic education. Parents are willing to spend impressive amounts of money to give their children this academic advantage. But as often as parents are impressed with Montessori excellence, they are a little bewildered that their children come home excited about mopping floors, doing dishes and washing tables. (This is what successful people hire others to do.) So there is a real disconnect between what you want, what you are paying for and what you think you are getting.
How then does Montessori get this academic reputation if all you are seeing for six months or a year is table washing and practical life? Montessori success is not built on its finished academic product but on its sure foundation. So what kind of academics comes from table washing? It is the foundation of what constitutes Montessori education which is built on an enduring set of scientific principles. The first is that you always begin with the concrete before moving on to the abstract. There is nothing more concrete in the child’s life than the exercises of practical life. Second, Montessori education begins with the development of all the senses before moving on to the intellectual. Rest assured your child will arrive. Third, Montessori starts with the control of the physical abilities as a precursor to control of intellectual capacity. Fourth, it builds physical discipline – being able to follow through and complete a project before embarking on intellectual discipline. Fifth, it significantly develops focus on details as a skill set to accomplish academic goals. There is a major difference between 2 + 3 and 2 X 3 – and it is only a minor detail. Sixth, table washing (and all of practical life) is not only a physical challenge for beginner learners but becomes an emotional and psychological building block in the development of confidence and self-esteem. Real confidence and self-esteem is not built on words such as “You did a good job” (whether you did or not) but is built on real achievement and mastery. For a three, four or five year old the process of successfully completing table washing or any other practical life exercise begins a pattern of success. It is a success that comes from beginning a project, working it step by step for as long as it takes until you come to the successful conclusion. This pattern becomes the model for the next stages of academic competence.
What practical life achieves in your child is first a feeling of “I can take care of myself” whether it is table washing or tying shoes. I am given a sense of security that I have some control over my environment and my place in it. Second, it teaches me how to follow steps to success. Third, it builds my confidence by having mastered some challenge which prepares me to tackle even more complex challenges. Fourth, it refines my senses and muscular control so I can effectively use all of the hands on materials in the Montessori classroom to advance my intellectual development.
Every sense, every motion, every action is focused to help me achieve academically. The academic success you hear about in Montessori is built on humble and less than impressive activities that are foundational to this amazing achievement that develops the whole child and prepares him or her for significant academic success.
Practical life is a portrait of the future!
The Lefferts Gardens Montessori (LGM) is a progressive, independent