While most of the holiday commercialism runs counter to many of our families’ principles, it can seem nearly impossible to shield our children from the excesses of the season.
I wish you all the best in the weeks ahead and encourage you to keep in mind the insights we’ve learned from Montessori– chiefly these: children crave authentic, child-scaled activities including hands-on work like puzzles, cooking and crafts; they love creative play and movement; children hunger for books rich with language and images; they live for making music and quiet moments, routine, family and togetherness most of all.
Enjoy this special time with your family!
We are so fortunate to be in a place of gratitude and love. Kindness is contagious. Here is what our Nest class is thankful for this season:
I am thankful for…
- Lucy: flowers
- Nico: My toys
- Iona: Penny the dog
- Patrick: My school
- Vivian: Music
- Alma: Kitties
- Clarke: My mommy
- Evelyn: My pet fish
- Leia: My family
- Margot: Ice cream
- Nathan: My music
- James: Jake, my cousin’s dog
- Maia: planting flowers with Mommy
- Joshua B: My cats
- Joshua C: My brother Connor
- Shanthi: Music
- Avram: My dad
- Noelle: my pet fish
- Chloe: Time with my family
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
It must be spring time.
Schools like ours love to dig into big questions about Mission and Identity. Who are we? What do we value? and What sets us apart?
Beneath some school’s verbose Mission statements and punchy belief statements, deeper than their platitudes and clichés, lies their vision of The Good Life. What does it mean to live well? How do we prepare our children to do so?
You will not be surprised that Evergreen believes the Good Life requires core academic skills: reading, calculating, problem solving, analysis, inference and synthesis.
But more, the Good Life is filled with loving relationships with the people who surround us and endow our lives with meaning. The Good Life is about people and purpose. What can we do today to make it likely that our children will become compassionate husbands and wives, moms and dads, neighbors and friends?
For us, cooperation-based, multi-aged Montessori classrooms are the best place to develop self-assured and self-actualized young people. With our emphasis on developing confidence and competence, children view themselves as capable of doing hard, meaningful things. They become secure with their identity in a stress-free, supportive classroom community rather than a socially competitive one.
To lead the Good Life, according to the Evergreen formula, one must have unquenchable curiosity, an appreciation of beauty, a sense of duty to others, engagement with the world we live in and a vision for a better one. It starts with knowing and loving ourselves.
This is a special event in a special year. Soon we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. The school was formally chartered in December 1964
That means that our first group of students are just about 55 years old now– just old enough to be grandparents now. Unfortunately, the school’s records from the early years haven’t been preserved. So we don’t know the names of our first students. We haven’t been able to find our first graduates and find out if any of them are grandparents.
So let me check… did anyone grandparents here go to Evergreen School in the early 60’s?
I wasn’t expecting any yesses. Because it’s just really hard to believe that little children can actually grow into grandparents. Can you imagine that long after you and I are gone, that our students– Anna or Cole, Lucy, Neyla or any others could possibly sit where you are one day, watching their very own grandchildren?
Our hearts say “impossible” but our brains know that everything grows. That is the name of one of our un-official school anthems by Raffi:
Everything grows and grows
That’s how it goes…
We know our children grow. And this is Evergreen’s mission. Preparing our children to take our place. Giving them the skills and the tools to lead meaningful lives of achievement, to be loving moms and dads and grandmoms and granddads, and pass on their love. To leave the world a better place.
I want to thank you for coming today, for being an active part in these children’s lives and for giving them your love. They will pass it on.
Remember that list of attributes of high achieving 21st century kids? Perseverance, curiosity, self-control, optimism and conscientiousness. Essential yes, but incomplete. Gratitude may be the most important but overlooked virtue. The benefits of a grateful attitude are well known, including greater emotional well-being and a more positive mood. While our culture shows that egotism is the path to success, gratitude is the path to happiness.
Our gratitude may be the best antidote and only hope against our culture’s consumerism. Fortunately gratitude can be cultivated, modeled and taught. Here’s just one advice column and another saying how. We ought to take more time giving thanks for our blessings– precious children most of all.
There are so many romantic things you can do to improve your relationship with your spouse. Taking a parenting course is not romantic– but it’s more effective than a dinner and a movie. Of the three courses I have taken with my wife, Jane– a premarital one in Cincinnati; a prenatal one in Hong Kong; and a parenting one in Kensington– the life-changing one was the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP). PEP classes helped us get to the root of our parenting styles and philosophies. Our children benefited the most.
PEP often has notable speaker series. Recent speakers have included Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabes and Masterminds & Wingmen spoke on the topic of the New Rules of Boy World: Helping our Boys Cope.
PEP classes are staring this week. You can learn more here.
During my twenty-three years in education, my beliefs about children have not changed much. But my understanding of how to meet their needs has evolved a lot. Schools must be open to change, particularly as new opportunities challenge our long-standing assumptions. We must ask ourselves if traditional models still make sense.
While visiting the Jefferson Memorial yesterday, I was struck by a quote inscribed under its dome. Jefferson had written, “…institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”
As information technology has made vast amounts of information available at our children’s finger tips, the classroom paradigm has shifted. Education is about much more that teaching of facts. Now schools must be set up to nurture the personal qualities that prepare children for meaningful lives in a changing world. Personal qualities such as integrity, perseverance, grit and curiosity are more important than ever.
Are we willing to change our institutions to meet our children’s needs?