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    Montessori is not preparation for school but for life

    May 9th, 2018

    Montessori- A strong foundation for life

    Experiences in your early life make basis for your personality. Early childhood events make patterns in your brain, which determine your behaviour in later stages of life. The emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become.
    Many theories have been suggested for early child care, one of which has been successfully developed and tested by Dr. Maria Montessori. She discovered and termed  0-3 years of age as a period of ‘absorption’ and 3-6 years as a period of ‘consolidation’. Her observations and discoveries have been so precise that they lay a strong foundation for learning programs across countries today.

    Talking about programs and methods, many traditional schools lay emphasis on scoring marks, good behaviour, learning matter from textbooks, rote learning and competition. Some of us experienced this during our school days, yet most of us are doing fine today with our careers and life in general. But the questions that arise are that did we really learn in such environments? Did it lay a good foundation for conceptual understanding? Did these schools allow us to think for ourselves? Were we really happy? Did they play a role in developing essential life skills and the necessary confidence? AND are we applying all the knowledgeacquired in our life?

    Do we relate to this image?

    This article will take you through how the Montessori education system helps to lay a strong foundation for a holistic development in children. An education system, where you not only learn the complex problems but also learn to apply them in your real life.

    Liberal attitude: For optimal emotional growth the first necessity is a liberal attitude of the school towards its students. The environment should be such that the children feel free, happy, attracted by and confident in it. The school should be like an extension of home. The fear element in schools do not allow children’s personalities to develop fully. With fear, no education is possible.

    This should not be misunderstood, children should not be pampered or over protected but they should be allowed to work with a free will. So then what is this free will?

    Classes: In Montessori schools, the class routines have a lot of flexibility within structure. There are no fixed timetables, so this allows continual work schedules without interruptions. These kinds of uninterrupted work patterns help the children to concentrate and develop focus. Self discoveries can only be made when children are left free to explore things on their own. In a Montessori classroom, children have a free will to choose their learning activities along with their place of work. This not only gives them freedom to make decisions but also the confidence to work with, an activity of their choice. Therefore, in Montessori schools there are no assigned desks to students and they have the freedom of space. The environment is rich with resources that directly cater to skill development and conceptual understandings.

    Curriculum: The Montessori curriculum is flexible that caters to developmental stages of the child. Just like one-size-fits all won’t work, Montessori educators know that one standard approach to teaching will not meet the needs of all the students. Therefore, Montessori schools practice something called as ‘differentiated learning’ where different activities are given to different ability of groups. This stimulates the quick learners to discover deeper layers of learning while simultaneously structuring curriculum to support lower level students. In simple terms differentiated instruction is the adjusting of lesson activities and tasks for students in a single class having different ability levels.

    Skills: Dr. Maria Montessori termed the child’s capacity of taking in maximum information from birth to 6 as the ‘Absorbent Mind’. At a young age, every new experience, every word children learn and every behaviour they adopt is an investment in a more productive future. Therefore, the Montessori curriculum is a skill based curriculum, where the prepared environment offers activities that aim to develop children who are; social, independent, thinkers, communicators, knowledgeable, risk-takers, caring, curious and confident.

    Assessments:“Everyone is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid”- Albert Einstein

    Such is the state of many education systems today. Recognising the strengths of each child is essential for a holistic development. Therefore assessments in Montessori schools are not a formal testing procedure but an ongoing action, where the emphasis is laid on the process rather than the product. Children have to be allowed to make mistakes and rather than correcting the errors, what really should be rectified is ‘what caused the error’. So instead of setting papers with marks and setting an atmosphere of tension and stress, assessments should be informally conducted where students are given multi-modal ways to explain their understanding. Assessments and tests should not be the only way to test students learning and capability.

    Teacher as a facilitator: In Montessori schools, teachers don’t impart knowledge but rather facilitate this learning journey by providing the necessary support. They remain passive, yet observant and sensitive to the needs to the child. The Montessori teachers assist children in the areas that need development and allow them to learn on their own.

    Hand’s on learning: Montessori in its true sense is experiential learning where children discover the information for themselves. They are encouraged to ask questions and try things on their own. On the contrary traditional school lessons are often given orally to students who are expected to sit, listen, memorise and give tests.

    Application of learning:When students are engaged in authentic hands on experiences they learn to apply their findings to real life scenarios. I witnessed many such evidences of learning during my teaching journey.
    I vividly remember a time when we were inquiring into the concept of ‘Measurements, with 6 year olds. They learned to use measuring jars to measure the capacity of liquids. In a few days of learning this, a 6 year old child came up to me and said, “I consumed 2 litres of water today”. I was surprised and asked him, “How did you know that?” He said, “My bottle had a capacity to hold one litre and I filled it twice”.
    At another time, our topic focus was ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’. Children received many hands on experiences where they learned different ways to make best out of waste. They conducted interviews, and researched to find out how much waste is created on an average, in a day. As a consequence of their learning they came up with an action plan of banning the use of tissues and instead started carrying their own hand towels.
    This is called ‘application of learning in its true sense’.

    Conclusion: Some of our education systems are geared towards teaching and testing knowledge as opposed to teaching skills. There goes a famous quote, “Give a man a fish and you feed him one day, teach him how to catch a fish and he will feed himself for lifetime”. Knowledge is largely forgotten after the semester exam is over. The goal of our new education system should be to create thinkers, entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, scientists and writers who can establish the foundation of a knowledge based economy. Montessori education provides children with opportunities which in turn takes mediocrity out of the system.

    Metaporphosis 2004, The Child and you

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    Power of words

    May 9th, 2018

    What kind of statements are you using with your child?

    A child’s brain is developing at its fastest from the age of 0-6, which Dr Maria Montessori termed as an Absorbent mind. Therefore, every experience and every word used during this phase contributes to the child’s overall health and personality.

    A growing body of evidence has proved that children who grow up in a home environment where they are degraded, humiliated or physically abused, have a hard time succeeding in life.

    For us to be very sure of how we can enhance a healthy mind, we need to understand an important component of our brain.

    Conscious and subconscious minds- Psychologically, a human mind has two spheres; the conscious mind; that is the reasoning mind and the subconscious mind that accepts what is impressed upon it without any questioning.
    The conscious mind helps you make your day to day decisions of what to eat, what books to choose, clothes to wear, all with a conscious state of being.
    Your subconscious mind functions without decision making e.g. heart beats, digestion, circulation, movements etc. Your subconscious mind is like the soil that absorbs any seed, good or bad.

    Using negative statements such as:
    You are a useless child
    I have my doubts if you are able to do anything
    You are so cranky and annoying
    You embarrass me
    You are dumb
    I will slap you
    Your cousin is smarter than you
    You are not behaving appropriately
    You will only understand when slapped
    and much more…. have detrimental effects on your child’s brain.
    These statements cannot be reasoned by your child and on repeating them, they enter the state of your child’s subconscious mind and become like the soil that will sow seeds for the future.
    Many parents rely on criticism and negative language, believing that it will make their children responsible. Parents also use frequent comparisons with relatives and friends and other threats in their conversations.

    The power of words:
    Infants understand facial expressions even before they start communicating. They get immensely disturbed when they hear shouting, yelling in the house. Words have power. Their meaning crystallises perceptions that shape our beliefs, behaviours and ultimately create our world.  One classic example of the power of words is ” shout out the word FIRE at your workplace” and see the immediate stimuli of people around you. People have been conditioned to words and throw back reactions based on their perception of words.

    Think about why you feel special or uplifted when someone says positive words like ” You look so beautiful”, “Today you did a fabulous job”, “I love the food you cook”. These are powerful words that boost your self confidence and ego. The same power of words apply to children right from birth.

    Consequences of negative words: When these children grow, the negative statements and experiences they have had in their childhood, start having an impact on their emotional development. They feel unloved, unprotected and unwanted.
    They grow up with the feeling that they aren’t good enough and they are inadequate. They feel they are constantly being watched with critical eyes and they are being judged in all the time. These children are the ones who grow up to suffer a great deal with their careers, relationships and personal worth. They tend to be harsh and can also engage in destructive behaviours. It can also turn them into demanding adults, who expect a lot from others and when do not receive what they expect they become negative.
    These are the children who are often seen as depressive and anxious adults.

    How do we rectify this? I know that parenting is a challenging job. After all we are also humans and caught up in our daily rut. However, we must not forget that we are responsible for the upbringing of our children and deep down we all want them to succeed in life. Therefore the correction needs to be made at the root level. If we stay conscious of the words we use with our children, we can make deliberate choices of our child’s future.

    Ineffective Example: ” I have asked you repeatedly to tidy up your toys and here they are, thrown all over the room. I am tired of you. I have been working all day and then you do this. Now I have to trip over your toys and waste my time cleaning them up. What’s wrong with you, you don’t understand?

    Effective Example: “I see the toys that haven’t been picked up yet. Come let’s clear them so that we can have a clean house. I would appreciate if you showed responsibility the next time.”

    Our children are learning behaviours and wiring their brain, which is why affirmations prove to be so effective. Positive self-beliefs developed in childhood will stay with them throughout their life. Affirmations are powerful to build a positive mind and happy children. They help children nurture themselves in order to enjoy the magic of childhood.
    Some affirmations that you can use on your children daily:
    1. I am so blessed to have you as my child.
    2. You are so intelligent.
    3. You are a quick learner.
    4. You make us proud each day.
    5. You are capable of achieving anything.
    6. I deeply love and accept you.
    Affirmations are nothing but powerful positive statements for your subconscious mind that can be created on your own. Just be sure not to use any negative words in it.
    Let us all work together to create a next generation of positive, healthy children who will grow up to be responsible, happy, successful adults.

    References- Images google
    Inspiration- The power of the subconscious mind by Dr Joseph Murphy
    The secret- Rhonda Byrne

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    Which curriculum is the best for your child?

    May 6th, 2018

    ICSE or IB? Play-based or Montessori?

    Let me first introduce myself, I have been an educator having worked in varied curriculum’s such as ICSE, CIPP, IB, IGCSE and Montessori.

    Most often as an educator I come across parents debating upon which method is better for the child. The struggle with admissions is a never ending process. It all begins with preschool years and is carried forward to formal schooling. Being guided by different people on different education systems, the education jargon’s, it all leads to a complete confusion.

    Education in modern times, as much as it is progressive, it has also become a business hub. Educators themselves are confused about methodology and most often they call it a mix of methods. In my opinion, there is no such thing as mix, its like providing a mix of tea and coffee to make a new beverage.
    An education system, to be a quality one has to have a base with some strong and ever lasting principles, be it ICSE or  IB, Play-based or Montessori. The education systems have to focus on a single method to do justice to its philosophy.

    So now the question arises that how do we know which method is better?

    Any education system is the best for your child if it meets the following criterion:
    Experiential learning-Your child should be able to learn by doing, in other words hands-on activities. You may have heard of the famous saying “Tell me I forget, show me I remember, let me do it and I understand”. Involving kinesthetic learning into the classroom has proved to be the most successful, as it ensures enduring understanding of concepts. A lot of learning actually happens with real-life experiences, therefore children should be kept as close to natural surroundings as possible.

    Multi modal ways- As goes the theory of Harvard Gardner on multiple intelligence’s, each one of us have different learning styles. Unless a school cannot recognize the kind of learner your child is, it will never be able to provide the child with experiences worthy of his/her capacity.

    Real and rich experiences- A child can only connect and relate to the world around him if the materials offered to him are real and have some significance. The child can then work with and apply his/her understanding to the outside world.

    Encourage development of skills- Education will remain as a dormant bank of knowledge unless you possess the skills to apply it in the appropriate way. Therefore, life skills such as independence, thinking, motor skills, communication, questioning and social skills are a crucial part of any academic institution.
    There goes a famous Chinese proverb; Give a man a Fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to Fish and you feed him for a lifetime. 

    Student/teacher ratio- This is extremely crucial for optimum development of children. Each school’s student/teacher ratio will vary depending on  the nature of activities offered. So a ratio between 1:8 or 1:10 is a reasonable one.

    Development of values- We live in a society and interaction with people around us is a daily affair. Therefore values such as sharing, extending a helping hand, showing empathy, tolerance, and respect are key elements that should be implicitly and explicitly taught in schools.

    Non-competitive set ups- As much as we would like to prepare our children for the real world, non-competitive, pressure free methods are the best. Each person you may know may have a quality better than you. This is a case with every human we meet, then why the competition? We have to learn to appreciate the qualities that are unique within our own child.

    We as parents must choose what is the best for our child’s development. Let us all get out of this rigmarole, as “Life is not a race but a journey to be savored each step of the way”.

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