Our Montessori: Montessori Illustrated

It is a family affair as we prepare to transition our heads and hearts back to school. We had learning experiences all summer, asking good questions and getting stumped; but it’s time to shift or cycle our minds, ready them for the rhythm of school.

In preparation, I’ve been doing a ton of reading and research and want to share some interesting educational findings, like this inspiring video by Trevor Eissler on Montessori education philosophy. As my family prepares for getting back into the rhythm of school, we also prepare our household, bending into new schedules and back to old ones, binding the sights and experiences of summer with the excitement for the impending school year.

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Categories: Education, Inspiration, Parenting

4 Comments on “Our Montessori: Montessori Illustrated”

  1. Gwen Stephens
    August 21, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Hi Dionne, I absolutely know you didn’t present this video as a means of bashing public schools or its teachers. I’m probably too sensitive about this topic, and I tend to immediately jump on the defensive for my profession (not good, I know). The current test-and-punish methods of school/student evaluation are serving nobody, as you said in your comment, and I think the adoption of Montessori teaching methods, while admirable and effective, will never happen in public schools. It’s to far “out there” and politicians, who have the ultimate control over the system, are not risk-takers. It’s much safer to leave the current watered- down, ineffective system in place, because there are convenient scapegoats to blame when it fails.

    It’s hard for me to know what the solution is. I agree with the notion that it takes a village. But I also firmly believe that education is not a priority in this country. I think most parents in their hearts want a good education for their children, but doing what’s necessary, putting the objective into practice, seldom happens at home. I see it all the time, even in the affluent suburb where I now live, particularly with the struggling students I privately tutor. I tell parents what needs to be reinforced at home, how they can support their child, but this support is inconsistent at best.

    My husband and I have this debate all the time, and we’ve come to the conclusion that the state of public education in America won’t change unless it becomes a priority, and clearly it’s not. If we as a nation truly cared about education, teachers would be paid a living wage, for starters. We would not have to purchase supplies for our classrooms in order to do our jobs effectively. We’d have the full support of parents and the community at large.

    I know my view has very negative undertones. Maybe I’m worn down by a system that’s set up for failure. Maybe I’m tired of my profession being blamed for what’s wrong with education. My husband says we’ll keep playing the lotto. If we win, we’ll dedicate ourselves to improving the broken system.

    • August 23, 2013 at 3:03 am #

      I absolutely hear you on so many points and you are right, education must be a priority not just in words but in actions. We will continue this dialogue and this work of parenting, teaching, learning…

  2. Gwen Stephens
    August 16, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    This video is incredible! Fascinating! What an amazing artist. I understand, appreciate, and admire the philosophy of Montessori. If only its tuition was more accessible to the general population.

    It also makes me sad to see another medium bashing public schools and the hardworking teachers who do the very best they can with one hand tied behind their backs. Public school teachers can’t control the class sizes they’re given, they purchase hundreds of dollars worth of supplies for their classrooms every year with money out of their own pockets, and they are expected to bring up test scores at all costs, or eventually face some sort of punishment if it doesn’t happen.

    The fresh-faced 22-year-olds arrive from college ready to make a difference! Change the world! Until they get in their classrooms and realize what they’re expected to do, and how little support they’re given to make it happen. What? It’s all about numbers? What about learning? What about discovering? What about all that stuff I learned in college? Teachers don’t extinguish the flame. The system, which is broken beyond repair, does it for them.

    • August 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

      I agree wholeheartedly…the system is broken for sure…

      And while I love Montessori philosophy, I do realize it is out of reach for so many children–which is why I write about it and share our family’s experiences so that we can have a dialogue about learning in and around formalized education or school. Though I have seen aspects of the Montessori method implemented in public, homeschool, and non-Montessori private school settings, I have yet to see wide access publicly. It is tricky. However, in that same breath Montessori methods are also not widely accepted in many conventional school systems… We should ask ourselves if we know about methods that are working and the research is there, why is it so inaccessible? Even we struggle to keep all of our children in a Montessori program. We sacrifice a lot to do so because we’ve seen what it’s doing for our boys, our entire family.

      I respect your take on this video but I hope you also know my intention in sharing it was not to bash conventional school. My hope is to always simply celebrate, learn from what else is out there in education, what appears to be working. It is true, our current public systems across the country asks its stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, educators, the community) to just accept that dysfunction, fragility, lack of safety, is just the way it is… I think this video attempts creative critical thinking out loud.

      In my work, I am always considering accessibility and one promising model and a project to keep an eye out for is FreeStyle Montessori (http://kellercenter.princeton.edu/elab/keller_students/freestyle-montessori/), a team of Princeton grads doing research on how to make Montessori philosophy more accessible. I’ve been in touch with one of the members of this incredible and bright team of young people and they are doing work in New Jersey and hope to move some of their work to the midwest as well.

      I agree, no one should ever bash our incredibly dedicated public school teachers. And you are right, teachers do not extinguish the flame–it is the system. I work closely with teachers everyday and I have seen the sacrifice you and others make to give all of your students a fighting chance in this complicated system which seems set-up to fail everyone involved. No judgment there, I get it.

      I can not say that one or the other method/philosophy is better because I am a product of public school and cherish many of my teachers and many of my learning experiences. But what I can say is it takes all of us to educate all of our children. We educate as parents, as educators, as caring and compassionate community members, as citizens, as human beings.

      What I would like to see is how we can incorporate methods we know work for children and make them available where most if not all children can access those methods. I would like to see schools work more in tandem with parents–it should be a partnership when at all possible. I would like the system to develop differentiated assessment just as classroom educators are expected and should do their best to differentiate instruction.

      However, we first must admit that the system is not only failing our children but also failing those serving and raising our children, and involve all (teachers, students, and parents) in the change we believe in and would like to see.

      Nothing but respect to all educators working with parents and the community (because it takes both) to open up and support the dreams and experiences in learning for all of our young people.

      Thank you Gwen for your comments, always.

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