The following is condensed from the keynote address at the 2006 Utah Montessori Council Conference.
Villages have been the normal unit of community living in most areas of the world. Each resident plays a role to provide for the peoples’ needs. In today’s fast-paced society the concept of the village is important because of such factors as the erosion of the nuclear family, the high incidence of divorce, technology that distracts from family time, bombardment with commercialism and materialism and continuing pressure to work long hours or for households to have two wage earners. With these changes in the social fabric of our culture parents must work harder to maintain a village for their families and depend more on schools to prepare our children for their roles in the global village.
Perceived deficiencies in or limitations of traditional schools include:
-Traditional schools are modeled after factories
-Treat children as though they are the same
-Children are sorted into classrooms by age eliminating opportunities for modelling and community building
-Children are trained to compete rather than to collaborate
-Rigidity in classroom schedule
-Limits freedom of movement
-Operates on the notion of the child as an “empty vessel” or a “blank slate”
-Relies heavily on rote memorization
-Teaches to the test
What are the strengths of the Montessori school?
-Founded on respect
-Warm and supportive environment
-Teaches children to be kind and peaceful
-Bright and exciting learning environment
-Students manage their own community; develop leadership skills and independence
-Assumes children are intelligent
-Learning accomplished through hands-on experience rather than rote drill and memorization
-Challenges and sets high expectations for every child
-Children develop internal sense of purpose, motivation and self-discipline
-Promotes diversity, mutual respect and global perspective
-Students develop love for the natural world and appreciation for the environment
-Enhances critical thinking, composition and research skills
-Role of teacher as coach/guide facilitates learning
-Creates a safe environment for learning where children are not afraid to make mistakes
-Students learn through collaboration; not by competing against one another for the highest grade
-Focus on community service; learning to care for others
The factory model of the traditional school makes a pretty good product. Some of the pieces might break or are defective in some way, but most are pretty good. The Montessori school focuses on the individual development of each child, just as a craftsman creates one piece at a time. The craftsman takes the time to make sure that every product is an excellent one. If you have a choice between a factory product and a hand crafted one, which would you choose? We are a village, each with our own strengths and talents, responsible for drawing on our best resources for the sake of our children.
We use a simple tool daily in our classrooms which has become the foundation for the emotional literacy and conflict resolution skills which our students practice confidently. This is the “Peace Object”. The Turquoise Class uses a turquoise stone, the Cottonwoods Class uses a cottonwood branch, the Rainbow Class uses a prism. This object is used whenever there is a problem or simply to give each a turn to speak. The holder of the peace object speaks from the heart and is given respectful attention by the rest of the group. When the conflict is resolved, the object is carefully returned to its special place. Even the youngest children fetch the peace object and work out differences without an adult’s help. At some point the need for the object fades as the children become more able to speak respectfully and listen to each other.
Parents have reported that the peace object works well at home, too. Any simple object will do but it must be kept in a special, central place where it can be reached quickly when a conflict arises. Duna and Bruce made good use of the peace object and the “family meeting” as our children were growing up. When our children were young we held family meetings each Sunday night after dinner. We liked to include the ceremony of lighting a candle, reading a poem, passing a Native American “talking stick” and giving each person a turn to speak to every family member. We sometimes requested that each person say one nice thing about everyone else or that they think of one great thing about our family. We found that we could address problems before they reached crisis level and approach the new week as a team. When Lina and Leith moved into their own homes in SLC, we were grateful for the closeness that we cultivated then and continued to enjoy despite the physical distance between us.
Our schedule in March includes topics on the process of becoming independent – Weaning, Toileting and Practical Life: Care of Self and Envriironment. If you are planning or expecting a child or have a baby under 18 months, plan to join us on Fridays this month. Lina Singleton will lead discussions on these topics and more including the importance of helping your child become more independent in your home. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join us!
News from the Tadpoles and Sunflowers Classes
It is satisfying to look around the room and see children easily carrying things to and fro, rolling up work rugs, taking care of spills, serving themselves snack and using the toilet independently. Teachers spend more time observing and less time helping. The classes are peaceful, productive and happy. As spring approaches we look forward to spending more time outside in our outdoor learning environment. The children have gotten quite adept at dealing with winter clothing and as we let go of some of these layers we have more time to spend attending to the tasks of maintaining the outdoors just as we do the indoors – sweeping, shoveling, washing and gardening.
The next school event is our Soaring Wings Spring Sing coming up on Friday, April 3rd. You are invited to attend our Toddler Sing-a-long from from 8:45 – 9:30 am. Details on costumes to follow.
Monday – Music
In February we launched into the realm of music with some practice at rhythm, marching, dancing, the scale and the instruments of the orchestra. Children practiced playing simple rhythm instruments and we heard a variety of recorded music in the classroom. We begin our study of composers with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If you have a Mozart book or music you’d like to share, please send it in.
Tuesday – Time/Seasons
We began our study of time by learning the parts of the clock, discussing why we use clocks, looking at different kinds of clocks, and defining “second” (a clap of the hands), “minute” (60 claps) and “hour” (3600 claps!). From here we’ll move into telling time to the hour and half hour. At home you can try building a sun dial by erecting a pole or using a narrow tree and marking it’s shadow at different times of the day. Give your child a stick or a paper cup with which to run out and mark the shadow at different times of the day. We like to collect as many types of timepieces as possible. If you have an old clock that is no longer in use, consider donating it to the school. If it is not functional we will be happy to dissect it!
Wednesday – Geography
Our study of Asia culminated with our annual Asian Celebration in February. Check out the photos on our Soaring Wings International Montessori School Facebook page! We integrated Asian stories, songs, crafts, clothing, traditions and foods into a memorable celebration. We conducted a Dragon Dance down the hall involving every class – a Chinese tradition aimed at scaring away the “bad luck” to welcome in the good luck, good health and prosperity of the new year. The next time you go out to a Chinese restaurant your child may entertain you with fables about the dragons, the phoenix bird and the symbolism behind the colors. In March we will study Europe and celebrate European culture with a “Wearin’ o’ the Green” on the 17th.
Our Soaring Wings Spring Sing is coming up on April 3rd. You re invited to attend or Early Childhood Spring Song Singsong from 10:00 – 11:00 am. (Just Dance! Dancers should plan to arrive in costume at 9:15.) Each class will prepare songs, decor and refreshments. Details on costumes will follow.
Thursday – Poetry
We began our study of poetry by reading many different types of poetry and playing with rhyming words. This month we will examine the work of one poet in particular, Robert Louis Stevenson. If you have any of his poems at home, they make for good reading at bed time.
Friday – Biology
We wrapped up our look at characteristics, habits and adaptations of amphibians and move into a study of reptiles. We currently have a snake, a turtle and a bearded dragon lizard in our school zoo, but we’d love to borrow another reptile if anyone has one to share. We are planning a visit from Kim’s Cold-blooded Creatures soon so we can get up close and personal with a variety of amphibians and reptiles and notice their differences.
Monday – History
In March the Elementary Class will study the history of story-telling. We will examine mythology, folk tales, fables and fairy tales leading into recording the history of the school year by creating this year’s yearbook.
Tuesday – Geography
This month we will be taking an imaginary journey through Europe. We’ll stop in various countries to take a look at their customs and literature. The unit culminates with a “Wearin’ o’ the Green” on the 17th.
Wednesday – Art
We’ve been dabbling in paint and will begin preparations for the annual Wasatch Back Student Art Show at the Kimball Art Center. We will send home your child’s entry and ask for your help in framing it for hanging. It is always satisfying to see the fruits of the year’s practice on display at the Kimball.
Thursday – Zoology
We study reptiles in March. We have a bearded dragon lizard, a snake and a turtle as our study specimens. If you have another reptile that could come for a visit please let us know.
Friday – Field Trips and Other Cool Stuff
We have field trips and rehearsals for our Spring Sing scheduled through the month of March. Remember to sign up for a conference time if you’ve not already done so.
Our Soaring Wings Spring Sing is coming up on April 3rd. Each class will represent a musical revue with elementary students providing the framework as hosts for the event. You are invited to attend our Elementary Ensemble from 11:00-12:15. Moose Tracks students should arrive at 8:30 in costume. Costume information will follow.
It’s almost time to begin work on our school yearbook which every elementary student will take part in producing. Please send in any great photos you may have taken over the school year and let us know if you’d like to help. No experience necessary!