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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Montessory Education after 6

And who says Montessori is only for pre-schoolers!

I have just finished reading Montessori Today : A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood by Paula Polk Lillard, who is a co-founder and director of Forest Bluff School, Illinois, a Montessori school for 18 months to 15 years old.This book gives an interesting insight of Montessori theory and practice applied in a class of 6-12 year old children, as compared to the normal traditional form of schooling.

Childen at the age of 6-12 (the second plane of development) is in the stage of the formation of the Intellectual Period, where their appetite for knowledge is immense. They are not satisfied with bits and pieces of isolated information, but to grasp the whole of knowledge. This is the age where the children first begin to distance themselves from their family and form their own group of friends, having secret languages, hidden treasures.. etc. The children had developed a higher brain function for reasoning compared to the earlier age.

Montessori proposed to present the whole universe to the child in the elementary years. The whole universe holds within it the answers to all questions/ Such an all-inclusive context can meet the challenge of the child's great intellectual curiosity and strength at this age.
- The Great Lesson and Key Lesson, p54
The Elementary Curiculum, there are 5 major 'stories' , where the first story presents the whole of the universe as a framework for later knowledge. Then, each succeeding story carries the children into further and further details, arousing their curiosity and interest along the way. The part that I am always impressed with Montessori's approach in learning is that the children's learning do not stop just there, but the system intrigue them to search for further info with each passing years. Its a life learning business!

The Great Lessons:
#1 : The Creation of the Universe and Coming into Being of Earth (God has no hands)
#2 : The Coming of Life
#3 : The Coming of the Human Being
#4 : The Story of Communication in Signs
#5 : The Story of Numbers
(You have to read the book for further explaination, details of each Great Lesson is called the "Key Lessons". It also gives an overview how a class being conducted by a teacher the Montessori way)

New montessori materials being devised for the elementary children's exploration, which represent "keys to the universe". As compared to the early years of Montessori learning (3-5 years old) which is very concrete, the elementary child's tendency to explore the abstract. Materials like the Binomial / Trinomial Cube and other geometrical materials are given to the child for the hand to manipulate. It also gives an example on how the 'teacher' introduces the Pythagorean theory using the materials (I remembered my time memorising Maths formula was a torture) and all these done via hand manipulation. (Materials in montessori are not subject of instruction as visual aids/learning tool but learning takes place when he children use them)

The materials on the shelves will lead the children to explore beyong the classroom walls, out into the community and world beyond : to libraries, museums, universities, parks, observatories, botanical gardens, zoos, concert halls, etc.. their learning are not bound by the materials in the classroom.

A true Blue Montessori School vs Traditional School
In a normal traditional elementary school, teachers teach everything. The children are expected to sit down quietly and listen every word the teachers say. They are given text book and instructed to do their own work. May not even talk to each other. Most damaging of all to their relationship with each other is that: they are not allowed to help each other and forced into competition for grades, prizes, class ranking (thus in creating the environment in their adulthood: dog-eat-dog world).

In a Montessori education, the children has different experience. It is always through interaction with the environment and teachers play a passive role, a part of the environment (Teachers dont even have their own desk in the classroom). They are free to work in groups, talk to each other and help one another. Their syllabus does not stop in the classroom. They are encourage to explore, ask questions and seek answers, to find order and discover exactness, to fashion materials with their hands, to repeat until relative perfection is reached and to communicate the results of their work as part of a team. There are no multiple sets of materials as it is important that the children to feel that the materials are unique, special and well-worth to wait for their turn.

*sigh* too bad there's no tru-blu Montessori School here in Malaysia (what more in KK!)

Very much had been said. Here's a video from YouTube found online, an environment of a Montessori Elementary School. (Thanks Leah)


Elaine said...

I saw a message in a forum, a parent asked whether to sent her kid to a Montessori playgroup or a music playgroup and someone answered back, better go music playgroup, as for Montessori, if sent in too early, they will get bored very fast....such ignorant really made me fuming!!

Celine said...

I do agree that a lot of parents out there are ignorant about Montessori Approach. Sad to say too that some Montessori school that claimed itself montessori spoil the market value...

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