Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Montessori Around the World - Beijing

As you all know Montessori schools have been around for a very long time - a great testament not only a great testament to Mari Montessori, but also to the method itself. It shows that the method is not only solid, but also adaptable to the many changes which have happened since her first school opened in 1906.

These days you can find Montessori schools just about anywhere, ranging in size, shape, and number of years that students can study there. One thing that is constant with all the schools, though, is the enthusiasm of the staff and the energy and happiness of the children who attend these schools.

One thing I like to do is visit some of the sites of the schools to see what is happening there and look for new ideas. One of my favourite sites and, indeed a very impressive school, is The Children's House Montessori Kindergarten. They have some wonderful programs and an interesting variety of teachers, including one Malaysian, with a variety of backgrounds.

Even the website for the school is full of energy and just about bounces off the screen. Please take a few minutes to visit it and see what is happening at the Beijing school. One word of warning, though, make sure the volume on your computer is turned on - but not too high! The address for the site is http://www.montessoribeijing.com/ens/


Important message about this blog!

As many of us are new to blogging it's important to remember that it is not a professional website. It is purely a site for all of us involved with Taska LMC to be able to enjoy.

Please feel free to post your thoughts, comments, suggestions, stories, photos and even videos. Good typing skills are not necessary. Neither is perfect English. The most important thing is for people to feel excited enough about the site to want to participate. It's also a great way for friends of the school to keep in touch.

As we get more and more information on the site you may find that some postings are no longer on the screen where you thought they would be. If this is the case, for example with the videos, you may need to go to the bottom of the screen and search through the old blogs. It's just a matter of practice and you will soon get used to it.

Enjoy the site and happy blogging!
Famous Montessorians
The Montessori Method has been around now for over one hundred years. Here is a list of some famous people who have attended Montessori schools in the past. The list may both surprise and inspire you. If you happen to know of any others to add to the list, please let us know.
We are trying to generate a list of famous Montessori students, parents, and supporters. Our list (borrowed from an online source) is below. Do you have any to add?Below is a list of many familiar people who were Montessori educated:
Sergey Brin & Larry Page, Founders of Google
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (deceased), editor, former first lady (John F. Kennedy) Sean 'P.Diddy' (formerly known as Puffy) Combs, RAP mega-star
Anne Frank, famous diarist from world war II
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize winner for Literature
Jeff Bezos, financial analyst, founder, AMAZON.COM
Prince William and Prince Harry, English royal family
T. Berry Brazelton, noted pediatrician and author
Julia Child, famous chef, star of many TV cooking shows and author of numerous cookbooks Kami Cotler, actress (youngest child on long-running series The Waltons)
Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actors
Famous people who chose Montessori schools for their own children:
Stephen J. Cannell, TV writer-producer-director (The Rockford Files and many others)
Patty Duke Austin, actress
Cher Bono, singer-actress
John Bradshaw, psychologist and author
Yul Brynner (dec.), actor
Marcy Carcy, TV producer
Bill & Hillary Clinton, former president/senator, NY
Michael Douglas, actor
Shari Lewis (dec.), puppeteer
Yo Yo Ma, cellist
Others with a Montessori Connection:
Alexander Graham Bell (dec.), noted inventor, and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Education Assocation in 1913. They also provided financial support directly to Dr. Montessori and helped establish the first Montessori class in Canada and one of the first in the United States.
Mister Rogers, children's TV personality, strong supporter of Montessori education
Thomas Edison, noted scientist and inventor, helped found a Montessori school
President Wilson's daughter trained as a Montessori teacher. There was a Montessori classroom in the basement of the White House during Wilson's presidency
Jean Piaget (dec.), noted Swiss psychologist, made his first observations of children in a Montessori school. He was also head of the Swiss Montessori Society for many years.
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Maria Montessori:A Brief History

January 6, 1906, Maria Montessori, Casa de Bambini, Children's House, San Lorenzo, Italy
Michael Strong writes of Montessori, of learning in a stream of exploration flowing onward from childhood
On January 6, 1906, Maria Montessori opened up the first Casa de Bambini, Children's House, in San Lorenzo, Italy. This January 7th [2006] marks the 100th year anniversary of Montessori education.
Maria Montessori was the first woman to attend medical school in Italy. In 1896 she became Italy's first female physician and she soon began working with "feeble-minded" children. She came to believe that their problem was educational rather than medical, and began a process of studying innovative pedagogies and observing how actual children go about learning on their own. By means of the methods she was developing, she worked with a cohort of "idiots" and enabled them to pass the standard elementary school test in Italy at the time; this achievement was regarded as "miraculous."
In her words, "While everyone was admiring the progress of my idiots, I was searching for the reasons that could keep the happy, healthy children of the common schools on so low a plane that they could be equaled in intelligence by my unfortunate pupils!" She thus came to focus on the development of new pedagogical methods, and offered to implement her methods in the public schools of Italy, but permission was denied. She then obtained an opportunity to open up a pre-school in a rough ghetto on the outskirts of Rome:
"It was January 6th (1907), when the first school was opened for small, normal children of between three and six years of age. I cannot say on my methods, for these did not yet exist. But in the school that was opened my method was shortly to come into being. On that day there was nothing to be seen but about fifty wretchedly poor children, rough and shy in manner, many of them crying, almost all the children of illiterate parents, who had been entrusted to my care"... "They were tearful, frightened children, so shy that it was impossible to get them to speak; their faces were expressionless, with bewildered eyes as though they had never seen anything in their lives."... "It would be interesting to know the original circumstances that enabled these children to undergo such an extraordinary transformation, or rather, that brought about the appearance of new children, whose souls revealed themselves with such radiance as to spread a light through the whole world."
Soon the results she was obtaining made her an international celebrity. She was invited to the U.S. to speak at Carnegie Hall in 1913 by Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell and soon there were hundreds of Montessori schools opening up in the United States.
It is in our bones to believe that "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door." As of 1913, it certainly appeared as if Maria Montessori had created a new and better kind of education, and the world was beating a path to her door.
Then in 1914, William Heard Kilpatrick, a disciple of John Dewey, a professor of education at Columbia Teachers College, and the leading expert in education in America, published The Montessori System Examined. Kilpatrick presented a scathing critique of Maria Montessori and her system from a Deweyan perspective through which he persuaded Americans that the strange woman doctor from Italy had created an unscientific approach completely at odds with contemporary pedagogy. The nascent Montessori movement collapsed in the U.S., with only a handful of schools surviving into the 1920s.
Meanwhile Mussolini was pushing Italy towards fascism, and Montessori's methods that liberated children were becoming increasingly unwelcome there as well. In the 1930s she moved to India, where she stayed until the late 1940s. After restarting the Montessori movement in Europe, she died in 1952.
Nancy McCormick Rambusch is credited with re-launching the Montessori movement in the U.S. in 1958. By 1964, Time reported that there were hundreds of Montessori schools in the U.S. That first cohort started as pre-schools, but by the 1970s some of them had begun to develop elementary programs. By the 1980s a few had begun to create Montessori middle schools; from 1994 onwards I've been involved in the movement to create Montessori secondary education. Now there are thousands of Montessori pre-schools around the world, hundreds of Montessori elementary programs, dozens of middle school programs, and a handful of high school programs.
For me, the essence of Montessori's genius was to create an integrated system in which children learn to take responsibility for their own learning in the context of a prepared environment. Often people naively assume that Montessori education is similar to the controversial "Open Classroom" movement of the 1970s or various educational programs in which students are allowed to do as they please. In fact, Montessori education works because the classroom learning materials are carefully designed, the Montessori guide has been carefully trained in how to manage such an environment, and the students are gently trained to become successful autodidacts. A functioning Montessori classroom is actually a very sophisticated organism which really must be seen to be believed: Imagine a room full of four year olds, quietly and intently focused on learning, with an adult off to the side perhaps giving one child a new lesson.
Montessori education results in adolescents who are happy, confidant, bright, well-educated, who love learning and who are eager to initiate projects. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Google Founders, credit Montessori for much of their success, as does Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com. When I was about to open up a Montessori middle school program in Palo Alto, a group of 6th grade girls came up to me in the middle of the summer, prior to the start of school, to discuss with me, politely and appropriately, which Algebra textbook was best. For those of you who are familiar with adolescents, how many do you know who would have the seriousness of purpose, courage, and interest, to approach an adult authority figure on their own initiative in order to discuss optimizing their curriculum?
At one point while a Silicon Valley executive visited the middle school classroom after it had opened and asked "How do you do this? This is exactly what I want my employees to do!" The adolescents were quietly and intently focused on learning, with no authority needed to tell them what to do. Our average middle school student without a learning disability finished 8th grade with SAT scores higher than those of the average private school senior; some of our students were among the most mathematically advanced of any students in Silicon Valley.
Maria Montessori did create a better mousetrap, a much better one. Here I won't elaborate on why it hasn't been more widely adopted, though for an introduction to the subject I'll point you to "Renewing the Promise of Montessori Education."
On our website this month we have a short articles by Ariel Miller, a Montessori middle school student at the Oneness Family School in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I had the opportunity to hear this young woman give a speech in front of an audience of several hundred Montessorians from around the world, and was impressed by her articulateness and poise as well as the content. The organization highlighted this month is The Montessori Foundation, an excellent resource for those interested in Montessori education, and our featured book is by the Director of The Montessori Foundation, Tim Seldin, How to Raise an Amazing Child: The Montessori Way.
To a world in which all children have an opportunity to be amazing by means of developing their intrinsic genius,
Michael Strong CEO & Chief Visionary OfficerFLOW, Inc.
Please contact us at "contact *-at-* flowidealism.org" with ideas, insights, and inspiration. And remember that FLOW is a non-profit organization that promotes economic freedom and broadly distributed prosperity. You can support FLOW through your financial contributions among other means.
P.S. And, not surprisingly, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, is a fan of Montessori education, because the "quietly and intently focused on learning" feature mentioned above is, of course, a "flow" experience. Montessori schools allow children to learn and grow up habitually in a state of flow.
Michael Strong, is the co-founder of FLOW, with John Mackey of Whole Foods.
FLOW is an entrepreneur of meaning, advancing an idealistic worldview through a community that supports new ways of seeing, being, doing, and belonging, which embody the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Our goal is to liberate the entrepreneurial spirit for good, to create sustainable peace, prosperity, happiness, and wellbeing for all in the next fifty years.
http://explorersfoundation.org/glyphery/369.htmlJanuary 15, 2007

Monday, January 19, 2009

For Parents / General
Introduction to Montessori Videos
Videos Introducing Montessori
Many parents come to us with basic questions about Montessori. What is it? How is it different from other forms of education? What do children get out of a Montessori education? We offer answers to these questions both as text and as videos for those who find videos more compatible with their learning style.