Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Third Year--Montessori Kindergarten

It's that time of year at MCH when parents of our second year students begin the decision making process for re-enrollment. We applaud and support them in this important process. It can seem like an overwhelming responsibility to choose the best class for your child. We hold a special meeting just for them at our school to offer guidance and explain which choice we feel is the best for our Montessori students. While not everyone can stay for the third year at our school, our hope is that those who can will do just that. It is a gift that will pay huge dividends in the child's outlook on learning. We feel so strongly about it that all of our scholarship money in the past has gone to making the third year choice an easy one for parents. As an authentic Montessori school, we are committed to the three year cycle in the classroom and to offering the best possible Montessori primary education to each child. We serve the Watcher (3 year old), the Worker (4 year old) and the Teacher (5 year old). It is both our mission and our pure delight.
Here are some of the videos we'll share at the information meeting:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

An Environment of Peace

After the passing of our beloved Bela bunny I wrote in our school newsletter about a new peaceful area in the classroom environment. This area was designed to help those seeking comfort with emotions and was set up after a discussion with the older children. On the table we have a book titled “Our Peaceful Classroom” which is written by children from Montessori schools around the world. Other items at the table include a stress ball, a large and small sand timer, a plant and a nature picture. The children also came up with a list of guidelines to follow while visiting the peace table. It is not visited as much now, but has remained an important part of the classroom.

Often at our school the entire environment is awash with peace and beauty as the community of children and adults work and thrive together, but there are also specific peace areas tucked away for children to access at their will.
As in many Montessori schools, our book area is called "the quiet corner".

Some schools call it the peace area, the silence corner, the peace table or the peace shelf. All these names and places in the Montessori classroom serve a similar purpose. It is an area where the children are able to go and calm their minds and bodies. It is often an area in the classroom for one child to visit at a time when they feel the need. While in this area, it is the expectation that the child is quiet and the other children are expected to not disturb the person visiting the peace area.

At times we have introduced another area we call the peace table. On this table we have a peace rose in a vase. The rose is used to practice conflict resolution and also when there is an actual conflict between two students. One brings over the peace rose to the student whom they are having a conflict with. While holding it, they state what happened and why they are upset to the other student. The rose is then passed. The child who was listening repeats back what the first child said. This is a skill that takes some work because it requires active listening during a conflict (something that is difficult for adults at times, too). The child who repeated the problem to the first student then gets a turn to either apologize or explain their point of view and it continues until the conflict is resolved. This takes practice, but the children appreciate the process and utilize it when a conflict arises.  
In the sensorial area of the room there is also a peace shelf that has a basket with a little sign that says "Silence", a Book of Peace (peace symbols and words from around the world), yoga cards, a blindfold and massager, finger labyrinth and a liquid timer (which is quite mesmerizing).  There is also a special basket used for practicing group silence that has a variety of quiet instruments (singing bowl, chime eggs, rain forest frog croaking) to play to signal the end of silence. Group silence is an activity practiced in both early childhood classes and elementary classrooms usually once per day. It is a time of quiet reflection and a chance to build self-control. 

Montessori Preschool School in Cary, Lake in the Hills Peace education is an extremely important part of Montessori. We strive to give the children tools and opportunities to experience peace and learn about peaceful living in many ways. Consider making a peace area in your home for all the family to use. I am sure we could all benefit from some quiet time every now and then!


"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."
--Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Change is good

Transition, adaptation, flexibility--all are words I can now say out loud quite comfortably. Along with this year of change I have been afforded a gift of time--for observing, reflecting, exploring. While taking a break from daily classroom work I have been able to walk further down some paths that I had meant to traverse long ago.
One of those paths is researching and writing about Montessori student outcomes. While I still have this time off from teaching I hope to complete our own MCH alumni survey and send it off to the AMS research committee. I will post it here, as well, and share what I'm sure will be interesting and positive findings on the lives of our former students.
Of course, any research like this about Montessori students will be quite different from test based data, etc. It is always a pleasure to talk with former students and families about their time in a Montessori classroom and what they feel the benefits have been. The following post from Montessori Answers is one I have shared often and recommend to parents when they ask about "life after Montessori".
Stay flexible in 2015--change is definitely good!

After Montessori

I often receive questions similar to the one below: 
  • "I want my daughter to have a good education so that she will be able to support her self and never have to relie on anyone for anything.   Will she get a good enough education with Montessori system that a college or University will notice this some say that children who are schooled the montessori way don't make it big.   My daughter says she wants to be a doctor this may never happen but if it does I am I placing her the right direction."
The first thing I do is to have the asker read the article:
What Are The Real Benefits of Sending a Child to Montessori?" by Tim Seldin.

After that, I then have them read my response to a similar question:
How do most children adjust to a traditional school after being in a Montessori School?

Additionally, I point them to all the scientifically based research on Montessori Education showing that children in Montessori schools, (both public and private), do better on standardized tests. (Not that I believe that a high standardized test score is the "be all and end all", but many people sadly do, and so it is a relief for them to know this information.)

Then I point them the the myriad of articles, such as the ones below, from everything from the BBC to Fox News, that state that children educated with the Montessori Method do better both in school and in their future endeavors:
 But people still want "proof".  Are there any famous people who went to Montessori Schools? Has the Montessori Method produced any Graduates of Distinction ?" people keep on asking. The answer is an overwhelming, "YES", and yet I was resistant to posting a list of graduates on my web page. I felt as if this was implying that if you put your child in a Montessori school, that they would automatically end up as one of the people on the list. I really had a problem with that implication. Let's face it, all forms of education have their graduates of distinction. More so, we have all heard of a person who seemingly without any outside intervention or unique learning environment, achieved something extraordinary.

But the letters kept coming asking for a list of famous Montessori graduates . I eventually decided to give people what they were looking for and started to compile a list. Even I was impressed.

  • The youngest Noble Peace Prize nominee is a Montessori graduate
  • The youngest Rhodes Scholar is a Montessori graduate
  • The youngest artist to exhibit at the United Nations is a Montessori graduate.

It was while researching the information for this page that I noticed something.  Most forms of education have produced famous graduates, but most of these graduates are in a certain field. Waldorf graduates are predominately in the arts, East Coast prep school graduates go mainly into business, law and politics.  Montessori graduates, on the other hand, are across the board; computer engineering, literature, art, medicine, politics, acting, ... As I reflected upon this, I realized that this, more than the "scientifically based research" and the "education articles", the list of our famous graduates proves that Montessori Education does exactly what it sets out to do, it doesn't force children into a mold, it doesn't work just for one type of child, instead, when done correctly, Montessori Education helps each child reach their full potential, whether that potential is in art, science, literature, computers, music, performance, ...
I am no longer hesitant to give you this  to give you this list:


Larry Page and Sergey Brinfounders of the  Internet search engine, have stated many times that their years as Montessori students were a major factor behind their success.  They say that going to a Montessori school taught them to be self directed self starters that could think for themselves.  They also state that a Montessori education gave them the freedom to pursue their own interests allowing them to "think outside the box".

William Wright - an American computer game designer who's greatest success to date is as the original designer for The Sims games series; the best-selling PC game in history.

states that he enjoyed Montessori's emphasis on creativity, problem solving, and self-motivation. ."Montessori taught me the joy of discovery...It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori—if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design."  Read more about Will Wright and Montessori in:
Maria Montessori: The 138-Year-Old Inspiration Behind Spore

 Jeffrey P. Bezos - founder of Inc., the most dominant retailer on the Internet, attended a Montessori School. By his mother's account, the young Jeffrey got so engrossed in the details of activities at his Montessori school that teachers had to pick him up in his chair to move him to new tasks.

Jimmy Wales co-founder of Wikipedia As a child, Wales was a avid  reader with an acute intellectual curiosity. This he credits to the influence of the Montessori Method on the school's philosophy of education. According to him he "spent lots of hours pouring over the Britannicas and World Book Encyclopedias"


Gabriel Garcia Marquez -  Nobel Prize winner for Literature attended Montessori de Aracataca for 5 years and credited his time there with making him fall in love with language.He said that Montessori Education gave him the desire him to "kiss literature" and: "the taste instilled to him to go to the school, not only see literature but to write it.".

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis - editor for Doubleday, former first lady attended a Montessori school where she was initially described as a "headstrong child". Through her time there, she learned to focus her behavior and academic pursuits.

Katherine Graham - owner/editor of the Washington Post attended a Montessori pre-school where the newspaper owner first learned to read and write, instilling a love of the written word that would stay with her her whole life. "The Montessori Method- learning by doing-once again became my stock in trade..." from Personal History by Katharine Graham.

T. Berry Brazelton - noted pediatrician and author Major hospitals throughout the world use the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS). Many parents know him as the host of a cable television program What Every Baby Knows, and as author of a syndicated newspaper column. Dr. Brazelton has written more than two hundred scholarly papers and twenty four books. 

Anne Frank - renowned World War II diarist.  According to her friend Hanneli Goslar, Anne showed aptitude for reading and writing at an early age., a talent that was nurtured in her Montessori school. She frequently wrote at school, and was outspoken, energetic, and extroverted, telling all, from a young age, that one day she wanted to be a published author.


Beyonce Knowles - An American Pop/R&B singer, songwriter, actress and fashion designer. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she  attended  St. Mary of the Purification Montessori School  for her elementary years. She rose to fame in the late 1990s as the lead singer of the R&B girl group Destiny's Child, one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time.

Joshua Bell - American violinist and the owner of Stradivarius violin began taking violin lessons at the age of four after his mother discovered her son had taken rubber bands from around the house and stretched them across the handles of his dresser drawer to pluck out music he had heard her play on the piano.

Lea Salonga - multi-awarded singer and Broadway actress best known for her role as Miss Saigon.  She is recognized for having won the Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and Theatre World Awards,as well as being the first  Asian to play Eponine in the musical Les Miserables on Broadway. Ms Salonga was first exposed to acting while attending a Montessori school in , Metro Manila.

Sean "P. Diddy” Combs - rapper and CEO of Bad Boy Records says he felt fortunate to attend Mount Vernon Montessori School during his childhood, "I feel like I was nurtured into wanting to be somebody special," he recalls.


Friedensreich Hundertwasser - Austrian painter and architect attended a Montessori school in Vienna, which influenced both his affinity for vibrant colors and respect of nature. He collected pebbles and pressed flowers as a child, demonstrating an interest in items that are precious and small at an early age, which later manifested itself in his collections of Venetian glass and Japanese fabrics.


Peter Drucker - Management Guru is known as the father of modern management. A prolific writer, business consultant and lecturer, he introduced many management concepts that have been embraced by corporations around the world. 

Performance Art

David Blaine - magician, endurance artist and advocate of "street magic"

Mathew Bronsil - Puppeteer and Comedian was "Montessori" from the day he was conceived being the child of two Montessori teachers. Matt now, not only does stand-up improvisational comedy, but is a Montessori pre-school teacher.


Dakota Fanning - actor - attended a Montessori school in Georgia before she moved to CA to become an actor.“I learned to read at two. I was in a Montessori school and they teach you to read really, really young.”

Alan Ricmanis a renowned English stage actor and theater director known for  both his modern and classical productions. He is a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is known best for his film performances as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series, Eamon de Valera in Michael Collins, and Metatron in Dogma. As a child Rickman attended Derwentwater Primary School, in Acton, a school that followed the Montessori method of education.

Anne Hathaway

One of People magazine's breakthrough stars of 2001, Anne Hathaway became a children's role model with the making of films such as The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted. She transitioned into more mature dramatic roles after The Princess Diaries 2, being nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2010 for her role in Rachael Getting Married.  Later that year she hosted the  Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, and in 2011 co-hosted the 83 Academy Awards.

 Elizabeth Berridge - award-winning theatre actor best known for her tour-de-force in Milos Forman's Amadeus or her comedic turns on The John Larroquette Show and Grounded For Life.

George Clooney - Academy Award-wining actor

Julia Child - first world-famous television chef who clearly enjoyed her work. She exuded a sense of fun, and inspired others to try new things. she also credited her Montessori experience with her love of working with her hand, finding fun in her work, and her joy of working with others. 

Melissa Gilbert - actor/director- most famous for portraying author Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie1974 - 1983

Sara Gilbert  - an American actress best known for her role as Darlene Conner-Healy from 1988–1997 in the U.S. sitcom Roseanne.

Helen Hunt - Academy Award-winning actress

Kami Cotler - actress (youngest child on long-running series The Waltons)

Children of Famous Politicians

Prince William and Prince Harry - sons of Prince Charles and Princess Dianna of Wales

Chelsea Clinton - Daughter of President  Bill and Hillary Clinton

Princess Eugenie of York  - the younger daughter of  Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Sarah, Duchess of York.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Montessori in China

Whew! I'm back from a rather quick trip to the other side of the world and amazed in many ways. My happiest amazement came at the proliferation of Montessori schools in Asia since my time there. It has been sixteen years since I boxed up and shuttered Montessori Children's House of Sai Kung outside of Hong Kong. It was one of a handful of schools in the region and now the Montessori community there has just hosted their first professional conference. What's even more amazing is the growth of Montessori (even elementary) on the mainland. Hooray! It looks like a wave of the future on the Chinese education scene. This, of course, means big things for the world. Maria would be proud.

My trainer at NYU, Marlene Barron, has done a lot of work to introduce authtentic teacher training in China. She is featured in these two videos.


Shanghai, where I visited last week, has so many Montessori schools it was hard to choose which ones to visit. According to this video, Shanghai is leading a new "revolution" in learning in China.