The theory of
chaos and complexity tells us that a small change can affect the
whole. By valuing self direction, good character, respect for nature
and each other, Melville Montessori School
stayed small, and went on. We believe we have made, and will make,
a difference . Einstein tells us that 2% of "positive"
energy can affect the whole system. We don't need a majority to
shift the balance in the attitudes and actions of the people on
the Earth. Knowing that the critical minority is two percent gives
us great hope (hundredth monkey). In human terms, denial and apathy
are the greatest obstacles to the growth of human consciousness.
is a Human Service, but when Human Services, like education, are
stripped of the "personal" and interactive, it contradicts
the term "human". Run like businesses, people become objects
and are robbed of their uniqueness. This has been the case for Public
Education in California
since Prop 13. Once this model took over, the "product"
became the focus, not the "process". Before Prop 13, California was #2 in Public Education
in the United States, second only to New York.
Today we are #47. Research that has been paid for by "the people"
is not being applied to todayıs classrooms. This research tells
us that a ratio of 1 to 10 or 1 to 15 is best, and that when you
go beyond 1-15 retention drops by 70%. Research also tells us that
teacher evaluations are the best marker for how a student will do
in school and in life, NOT TESTS. Standardized tests that are gender
biased like SATs are "good for the state" but not good
for the child. The "labels" used by the Public System
to "sort" the children is so damaging to the childıs self
concept, no rational person could deny it. It was for this reason
that I feel Melville Montessori School attracted so many children
whoıs parents worked in the System.
A school is an
extension of the family, not a learning factory. Process-oriented
education is best made possible with a low student faculty ratio.
Product-oriented education not only tends to damage the spirit of
the child, it is not cost effective in the long run. In most of
today's public schools, children sit in rows, in many cases thirty
or more to a teacher, and try to endure. Grouped by age with one
standard curriculum, how can we wonder at the childrenıs despair.
I would love to see hundreds of home schools, (Montessori called
her schools, "Casa d'Bambini" - A Home for Children) each
based on individual philosophies of teachers, interacting with the
other little schools. The big institutional buildings could then
be rented out for sports, big dances, and College classes.
A very dangerous
trend today is kids being treated as if they belong to the State.
That so outrages me. It is so anti-American, so anti-freedom - the
idea that we are not responsible for our children until age 18.
And after that, they belong to themselves and the World. I donıt
know how many people are aware that they are losing their rights
as the counselors and religious center of the family. It is discouraging
that military recruiters can ask for a childıs records without parent
permission, and that students can be tested without parent permission.
Although the law still supports the rights of the parents, Public
School administrators take the position that a parent MUST ASK that
their child/ren not be tested. A parent MUST ASK that information
regarding their child/ren not be given to recruiters.
teacher, or any good teacher (parents are our first real teachers),
passes on the love of learning to children in an environment where
they can be self-directed.
consciously made the choice to take my children out of Public Education
in 1981, all Public Institutions in California, even the University System,
had accepted the argument that "Humanism was Religion".
Only UC Santa Cruz, Sonoma State University
and private Universities like, The Claremont Colleges taught "Humanism"
as the core of the social sciences. The idea that all "humans"
are created "equal" and that they are endowed by their
creator with certain undeniable rights; like "life", "liberty",
and "the pursuit of happiness" , was practicing religion.
However, "evolution" was false science, and "creationism
or intelligent design" was good science. Today we live with
the consequences of this "dis-ease".
Humanism is at the core of the majority of European Educational
Institutions and most of the Universities in the rest of the World.
Behaviorism divorced from Humanism is only practiced in America.
This is where Skinner and other "soul-less" social scientists
function. Science as exploration and fact finder, to Aristotle evolution
was a'prior - an obvious truth - common sense, what ever you want
to call it. Only humans removed from nature are divorced from the
obvious existence of change over time. This is why Darwin
experienced the evidence with such "awe" - he was not
living with nature in his own life. He was the refined, ill at ease
with nature "sex" etal generation. Yet, Chief Seattle,
in his words expresses a mind conscious of evolution and connection
to the whole of nature, though he had never heard of Darwin.
Also, the Ancient Native Minds who constructed the "Sun Dagger"
in the US South West could not have done so without the quality
of mind of an Einstein. Refinement of facts and further links to
the whole will continue for ever, the great mystery - the more you
know about it - the more there is to be known, like an onion with
layers and layers of skins.
SEX LINKED DIFFERENCES:
As a teacher and administration of children K-12 for over 20 years
I learned a great deal about sex linked differences. Here are some
of the facts:
lay a group of babies - 3 to 6 months - under a tree with branches
and leaves on a warm - gentle breeze - day, and you have an equal
number of boy babies and girls babies, all the babies will be engrossed
by the leaves waving and rustling in the branches, but if you roll
a wagon by the babies as they are watching the tree branches, the
majority of boy babies will turn their heads and look at the wheels,
but most of the girls will not stop concentration on the branches.
young children first came to my school I would do exercises and
games with them to determine if they were "abstract" in
math - and how "abstract" they might be. ( For a long
time, since Sputnik went up, we have not looked for children who
are "abstract" in language in most of public education.
There was a time when tests were much more wholistic, because the
idea was to use the tests in order to approach the child at the
place they were, not to treat them like they were cookies that had
been cut out by the same cookie cutters, but more like snowflakes,
each unique.) I would also do exercises and games to determine how
"abstract" my young children were in language. In this
way I could offer each child work I felt would help them grow, not
bore them or push them, but challenge them.
is meant by the term "abstract"? In math the ability to
see - in your mind, an object - like "a cube" - and rotate
it, is "one" form of abstraction. In language, the ability
to understand relationships, is a form of abstraction. The majority
of boys that I worked with were able to "see" objects
and concepts in their minds without any physical aids. (However
if offered physical aids, or materials, the majority of boys moved
quickly to math and science concepts that most children who did
not have the three dimensional representations would not approach
for years.) The majority of girls were more "concrete"
in math, but the girls who had the manipulative kept pace with the
boys. The majority of girls I worked with were very conformable
with the flow of words, the psychological dimension, and if offered
materials, quickly moved to the understanding and use of metaphor.
If boys are offered concrete materials in the early years, they
too "abstract in language" and will keep pace with the
girls. In a public school, students are enrolled in Algebra around
grade 8 or 9. Those girls who have not "abstracted" are
encouraged to forget doing math and science, but by age 18 or so
these girls will be ready for the math and science. By this time
most of them have had such a bad experience with these subjects,
that many will say "I hate math". The girls who have had
the manipulative at an early age do not have this experience. Students
in Public School are enrolled in College Prep English by 9th Grade.
Those boys who make it into these classes often do poorly, and many
never read novels or poetry again. By age 18 or so these boys will
be ready for the experience in reading and writing that these classes
offer. By this time most of them have had such a bad experience
with the subject, they avoid the subject whenever possible.
child should love everything that he learns, for his mental and
emotional growth are linked. Whatever is presented to him must be
made beautiful and clear, striking his imagination. Once this love
has been kindled, all problems confronting the educationalist will
The term "manipulatives",
where used in the text of these web pages, is used in the context
of "experiential, or direct experience".
Where direct experience is not open to the facilitator, the created
"experience" should be presented in such a manner that
all the senses are addressed. (ie. you don't have a real horse?
visit a farm, take a ride in the country side, - can't do that?
use an object; At the very least have a three dimensional representation
of what the student has told you they want to focus on, and yes
a photograph or painting is good, and so our books and movies but
direct experience is such a great teacher, and for the guide so
effortless. You know this if you have ever taken a group to the
tide pools, camped - had dialogue and prepared meals together.
A wonderful model of what is possible
when parents and facilitators work together exists in Saint Helena.
Under the direction of Head Teacher and Director Maureen Kelly,
parents work with their own children and others at the Saint Helena Cooperative Nursery School
co-op's web address is: <www.sthelenscoop.org>
Evaluation of Montessori's Philosophy of Education by William Crane
: Theories of Development - Concepts and Applications: Prentice
Hall, Englewood Cliffs,. New Jersey: 1992 (4th Ed.) ISBN 013955402-5
passages from pages 82-85
Montessori's interests were more practical than theoretical, she
did develop a definite theoretical position, one that owed much
to Rousseau. She argued that we are wrong to assume that children
are whatever we make them, for children also learn on their own,
from their own maturational promptings. And, as did Rousseau, she
argued that children often think and learn quite differently form
central component of Montessori's theory is the concept of sensitive
periods. Sensitive periods are similar to critical periods; they
are genetically programmed blocks of them during which the child
is especially eager and able to master certain tasks. For example,
there are sensitive periods for the acquisition of language and
for the beginning use of the hand. During these periods, the child
works with all his or her might at perfecting these abilities. And,
"if the child is prevented from enjoying these experiences
at the very time when nature has planned for him to do so, the special
sensitivity which draws him to them will vanish, with a disturbing
effect on development."(Montessori, 1949)
cornerstone of developmental or child-centered education is a faith
in the child - or, better put, a faith in Nature's laws guiding
the child from within. Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Gessell, and others
made this point. Adults shouldnıt constantly set goals and try to
influence children; they should try to provide tasks that give children
opportunities to pursue their naturally emerging interests. Before
Montessori, however, no one knew how much children seem to need
such tasks, or how much energy they will pour into them. In the
Children's House, 3 to 6 year olds freely chose certain tasks and
worked on them with the deepest concentration. And when they finished,
they emerged happy, refreshed, and serene. They seemed at peace
because they had been able to develop themselves. The intensity
of concentration seems to be especially great in the first 6 years
of life, but Montessori believed that all education should consider
what children themselves are most eager to learn. ...........................................................
If Montessori were to hear of this pattern of results (that children
from Montessori schools don't do as well on tests), she probably
would be pleased. For her primary goal was not high scores on achievement
tests, but inner attitudes. (But researchers have generally been
more impressed by the attitudes that Montessori schools foster -
concentration, confidence, and independence.).................She
did not want to impose tasks on children just because adults are
anxious that they learn them as soon as possible. She care little
about how rapidly children learn standard skills or about advancing
them along the ladder of achievement tests. Rather, she was concerned
with children's attitudes toward learning. She wanted to unharness
their natural love for learning and their capacities for concerted
and independent work, which unfold according to an inner timetable.
As she once said: "My vision of the future is no longer of
people taking exams and proceeding on that certificate from the
secondary school to the University, but of individuals passing from
one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity,
through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution
of the individual."(Montessori, 1936)............. ........................She
anticipated much that is current in developmental thinking. For
one thing, she was among the first to argue for the possibility
of sensitive or critical periods in intellectual development. Even
more impressive were her insights into language acquisition. Early
on, she suggested that children unconsciously master complex grammatical
rules and suggested that they must possess an innate mechanism that
enables them to do this - suggestions that anticipated the work
also was among the first to call attention to the child's need for
contact with nature. She said children are especially attuned to
nature and benefit from rich exposure to it. She didn't specify
a precise sensitive period when this is so, but she believed that
children need experience with nature to develop their powers of
observation and other qualities, such as a feeling of connection
to the living world. Today we find such thoughts among researchers
advancing the "biophilia hypothesis". ...............
Montessori was among the few scholars ever to take the child's tie
to nature seriously.............Montessori might have given more
recognition to young children's social, imaginative, and artistic
development. I believe Montessori was also wrong about fairy tales.........
then, may have undervalued some components of the childhood years,
such as play, drawing, and fairy tales. But, whatever Montessori
may have overlooked, her oversights are minor in comparison to her
contributions. Montessori, as much or more than anyone, demonstrated
how the developmental philosophies of Rousseau, Gessell, and others
can be put into practice. She showed how it is possible to follow
children's spontaneous tendencies and to provide materials that
will permit them to learn independently and with great enthusiasm.
Montessori was one of history's great educators.