Archive for November, 2012

Montessori Mid-Year Move Ups

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Montessori Math and Writing

Stay at a Montessori school like Evergreen long enough and it will happen to you: the inevitable question about your child’s ‘move up date.’

At schools like ours, we firmly believe that children grow and develop on their own timeline—not according to arbitrary dates on a calendar.  Students are able move from toddler to primary and from primary to elementary at almost any point during the school year–  just as long as they are ready for the increased intellectual and social demands of the new setting.

This is in strong contrast to traditional schools where everyone in a class can automatically move up on the first day of school in September. Ready or not.

Mid-year move ups require careful planning, observing and communicating between teachers and parents.  Are they worth it?

Absolutely.  Consider Anahad O’Brien’s  latest New York Times’ Well Blog that worries “students born at the end of the calendar year may be at a distinct disadvantage. Those perceived as having academic or behavioral problems may in fact be lagging simply as a result of being forced to compete with classmates almost a full year older than them. For a child as young as 5, a span of one year can account for 20 percent of the child’s age, potentially making him or her appear significantly less mature than older classmates.”

O’Brien quotes research from Iceland that examined over 10,000 children and found those in the youngest third of their class “were 90 percent more likely to earn low test scores in math and 80 percent more likely to receive low test scores in language arts.”

And students in the youngest quarter of their class are significantly more likely to be proscribed ADD medication.  Should we be medicating immature children?  Why can’t we give them time to learn and grow at their own pace?

Author and researcher Malcolm Gladwell has found that the link between age and grade placement makes a difference into the college years.  In a study of 4-year colleges, “students belonging to the relatively youngest group in their class are underrepresented by about 11.6 percent. That initial difference in maturity doesn’t go away with time. It persists.”

Schools should not punish children because they have the wrong birthday.

As long as there is interesting, meaningful and challenging class work, there is no advantage to rushing a child through the grades.  It is better to give him ample time to be the most mature; the leader. Savor the time when your child is at the top—and take comfort in knowing that a school like Evergreen, he can move up just when the time is right.


Giving Thanks for Reading

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

readersThis time last year, I wrote a post that imagined a world where shoppers wait in line for doorbusting sales for children’s books just the way they do for televisions and crock pots in our world.   Yes, it’s a fantasy. And I lamented the loss of Silver Spring’s Borders Bookstore makes it infinitely more difficult to buy books here.  Where would these doorbusting shoppers even line up?

Fortunately, since then I have come across three wonderful blogs that showcase great picture books for readers of any age.  And all the books they review are available online.  For those of us who plan to sleep in on Friday, these authors give us something to look forward to at home.

First, the Turtle and Robot blog is written by Jennifer Lavonier, a twenty-year veteran of the picture book industry.  She has worked as a book buyer in New York City’s Books of Wonder Bookshop and as the personal assistant to Maurice Sendak.  Her posts are erudite and thoughtful.

Second, Bookworm Bear is a terrific blog dedicated to reviewing children’s books.  Who is Bookworm Bear?  In her own words, she is “mama bear to a family of enthusiastic readers, seeker of good books for children, one who loves to wander in libraries and bookstores, one who nurtures – and celebrates – imagination and creativity.”

Third, Amy Dixon is the author of A Million Words blog. She is also a picture book author, mother and runner.  Amy’s tone is friendly and conversational. Her site regularly publishes humorous and poignant reviews of new and classic picture books.

Have a great Thanksgiving!  Happy Reading!

Let me know if you know other great sites to find books, too.

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Here is a great post on Jewish Montessori Mom Blog … and a link to infomontessori. Our hand-on parent night takes place January 17.

Jewish Montessori Mom

Our school has fabulous information evenings for parents where we get to see and try the Montessori materials for ourselves. I’d like to think that everyone who is interested in Montessori is lucky enough to be able to participate in that sort of thing, but I realize that’s probably not the case. For everyone who has ever wondered how Montessori goes from introducing numerals to multiplying four-digit numbers, or what exactly is happening when a child practices the wood-polishing exercise, this link is for you.

InfoMontessori is a website with a wealth of information on the Montessori primary (Casa) program. The best feature of the site, I think, is the Montessori AMI Primary Guide. Follow the links to each of the curriculum areas and you’ll find a list of all of the activities that are standard in a Montessori Casa classroom. Each activity name is also a link to…

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Generosity of Sprit

November 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Generosity of TeachersWith your parent conference fresh in mind, a quick question:  What are the characteristics of the best teachers?

Many agree that great teachers are organized, articulate, passionate, patient, thoughtful and gentle.  I am sure you saw these traits at your recent conference.

Deborah Meier, an oft-quoted educational writer, senior scholar at NYU’s Steinhardt School, and Board member of the Coalition of Essential Schools adds,  “…the qualities that make for those ‘great’ teachers: broad and eclectic interests and passions of their own, the capacity to find almost anything interesting, an ability to keep many balls in the air at once, and to share their enthusiasms and generosity of spirit with others…. [and they can] imagine possibilities in virtually all.”

Meier’s notion of generosity of spirit resonates.  And it makes me realize why I am so grateful to be here.  In this Thanksgiving season, I appreciate the culture of Evergreen and its optimism about children. Thank you, parents and teachers,  for all you do to perpetuate, sustain and nurture our school and the spirit of community here.

Educational Apps, a Skeptical Look

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Old School iPadThe more I look at the educational potential of iPads, the more aware I become of their potential and the limitations of ‘educational apps.’

Can you believe there are already 74,000 educational apps available for iPhones and iPads—and the number keeps growing. Even more startling, 72% of the top selling apps are designed for preschool or elementary children.  There is no denying that learning with iPads is here to stay. Sadly, the market is filled with low quality ‘edutainment apps’ that obscure many worth-while experiences for children.

The promise of digital education is great. There are marvelous programs such as the apps from Montessorium and the activities from Khan Academy. These programs allow children to act as agents of their learning experience. A child takes ownership and pride in his or her accomplishments with these high-quality programs.

Unfortunately, parents have a difficult time finding these superior activities in the haystack of bingo-math-cute-bunny-video-game-type drill activities.  At their core, these types of learning-blaster apps create a demotivating, passive learning experience. Rather than genuinely internalizing their learning, children are led through programs and rewarded by tokens, beeps or other external rewards.  Here is an example of typical, but misguiding game design: an award-winning software company brags that your child is “motivated to continue learning by’s Tickets and Rewards System.”

Creators of these programs don’t seem to understand the key insights of Montessori education. That is, “tying extrinsic rewards to an activity [like tokens, tickets or money] negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn.” Angeline Lillard, The Science Behind the Genius, 2005.

It is sad to see that so many educational app makers seem compelled to offer more flash than substance.   And we know that that the hyper-stimulus of electronics can impede the development of qualities such as patience, calm and persistence.   These skills are absolutely necessary for genuine learning and development to take place.  Have app makers thought about how these essential skills get learned?

What criteria should parents use when selecting educational apps for their children? Look beyond the arcade-style apps that allow children to rack up points.  Choose apps that allow them to be active agents in the learning process, encourage quiet perseverance, and inspire. Just like the classic ‘physical world toys’ that offer open-ended play like Legos and Lincoln Logs, high quality, child-friendly apps will be the ones your child will return to again and again.

At Evergreen School, we see the great potential for technology in the classroom.  Yet we are very selective about which materials, books and apps are appropriate for our older students. After all, the facts our children know may seem important, but it is their attitude about learning that will matter most in the long term.

A Creative, Talented Person

November 6, 2012 Leave a comment

We have a new  program view book  to share with prospective Montessori families at our November 16 Open House.  I am so grateful for the work of Kelsey Stephens in Minnesota who designed it. She has done a remarkable job capturing the joyful energy of our school.  It is such a pleasure to work with creative, talented and enthusiastic people like her. Thank you, Kelsey!


The Evergreen School Fall Open House takes place on November 16 from 9 to 11 am.

Digital Montessori?

November 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Digital Montessori

The texture of the physical world

Montessori education is coming into the digital age.  It has been over two and a half years since Warren Buckleitner delivered a lecture at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester titled What would Montessori Say About the iPad? When Old Theories of Play Meet New Media.  Since then, new Montessori apps have been developed, educators have debated the proper place of technology in classrooms, and school districts have invested millions of dollars in mobile computing for classrooms.

It is no surprise that there has been a debate within the Montessori community as well. The blog wrote, “There has been much talk recently about Montessori-inspired apps…  Some Montessorians are enraged, feeling that the apps violate the very foundation of Montessori pedagogy.  Others love them, and claim that if Dr. Montessori were alive today she would use an iPad in the classroom…”

There is no doubt about the awesome power of technology to be a teaching aid.   Have you tried Khan Academy? And there is no doubt that the hyper-stimulus of electronics can impede the development of qualities such as patience, calm and persistence.   We know that children who overuse devices can lose touch with the texture of the physical world and miss opportunities to interact with people.

At Evergreen, we have been thinking a lot about the role of technology in the Elementary classroom (grades 1-3).  Is it necessary?  Is it dangerous? Is it helpful or is it a costly, flashy distraction?  To help us answer those questions, Mrs. Hatziyannis and I have been test-driving Montessori iPad apps. She is now watching her own children (age 5 and 4) interact them.  She is looking to see if they live up to the words of Trevor Eissler, author of Montessori Madness who said the Montessorium App Intro to Letters “shows how Montessori allows children to be craftsmen.”

In addition to Montessori-specific apps, Mrs. Hatziyannis will be investigating others designed for research and creativity apps for writing, art and music and speech recognition that help students turn their spoken words into type.  In the end, I believe, we will find that there is potential to use iPads in our Elementary classroom– and some real pitfalls to avoid.

It is such an exciting time to be an educator.  Many questions. Many opportunities.

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