Montessori Thoughts

Schools of choice have been a theme for a few decades now in education so I’m conscious daily that you have choices and I celebrate that you’ve selected Montessori.  As a parent who immediately enrolled her adopted daughters in Montessori, a wife who scheduled her husband to observe a Montessori classroom during our honeymoon, and a trained elementary teacher, I believe the Montessori philosophy provides so many advantages for your child.

The foremost that always warms my heart is the increasing levels of independence that your child is offered and provided.  As I look around the classroom, I see so many opportunities.  Providing child-sized materials and equipment facilitates their work (such as a scrapbooking paper-cutter for a project).  Offering lessons in “grace and courtesy” encourages them to brainstorm their own solutions.  Mrs. Spence recently practiced with the students how to interrupt a lesson (ask a classmate, write the teacher a note, or try a different work while waiting patiently).  Learning to work with your peers and problem solve are strengths we presented from the Tony Wagner book (The Global Achievement Gap) at our Parent Ed Night and necessities for today’s workforce.  This week I witnessed their interpersonal skills improving by leaps and bounds as the students introduced themselves freely at The Stratford and engaged in conversation with our senior friends.  The students were so independent this week that I was able to sit down and chat with a resident who shared how impressed she was with our children (their manners, intelligence, and social graces).

Freedom is another benefit touted from Montessori experts.  So many freedoms are often listed, such as movement, choice, and exploration.  My theory album also details these as freedom from “timetables, curriculum restraints, and rewards and punishments”.  And a Montessorian always understands that these freedoms are offered with responsibility (so students gain self-awareness and chaos doesn’t reign).  The variety of choices around the room at this moment attests to this:  two students practicing division with racks and tubes, a student researching Thailand, another practicing Chinese characters with brush painting, two students examining and identifying rocks, another at snack, a few writing and two stretching with yoga poses. The Google founders emphasize that their take-away from their Montessori roots was to “think outside the box”.

In addition, individualization is key to how I approach lessons and Dr. Montessori designed the materials and classroom through her observation of children’s needs and characteristics (style of learning).  Small groups enable me to discern how students have internalized their understanding and to provide challenge and continuation.  Each presentation extends in so many ways (e.g. a fraction lesson has led a few students to explore equivalencies, others to draw creative pictures while others made a poster naming the fractions).  The materials provide hands-on exploration and a visual understanding to provide independent abstraction (i.e. not teaching rules but students verbalizing their observations).  For example, I’ve had students tell me that fractions are equivalent because they see the lines of halves with the circles.  Consider a student that derives formulas for area through the materials.  When they’ve discovered ideas independently, they’re able to retrace the steps again and are not dependent on memorization skills.

I hope that keeping a few students for fourth grade next year will provide opportunities for students that are in line with their growth as well as continue to grow our program. Having fourth graders will encourage me to take the training for the Montessori United Nations and open up further opportunities for our students. Each year we’ve had several inquiries and tours for fifth graders so there seems to be a market for an upper elementary and having fourth graders will encourage them to commit.  Once we have a permanent location, I’ll take the next step in exploring our possibilities for the program (charter, accreditation, schools of choice scholarships, etc.).  I’ll definitely want any expertise you have to offer in these areas to inform our path.

As I share my day (and lessons) with your students, I’m constantly amazed at their interactions with the materials and each other.  There’s so many other thoughts rattling around my brain and perhaps my fingers will find the keyboard again in those moments.

Thank you for choosing Montessori for your family and for choosing IMA, a school that provides a quality AMI education for your child!

Mrs. Brigitte Frost, The Elementary Directress

January 2017