Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Giving Disorganized Boys the Tools for Success? Start Earlier!

Reading the January 1st online edition of the New York Times, I was struck by Alan Finder's article "Giving Disorganized Boys the Tools for Success" and the ages of the children in the article. If you haven't read it, the article is definitely worth a read. Even if your child is still a toddler or, perhaps, especially if your child is still a toddler, the article has some valuable points.

From a Montessori perspective, we'd say this is what happens when you do not foster independent activities and thought at an early age. For those of you who haven't read the article, there is a new business involving consultants who work with teen boys (and some girls) to get them organized in life. From helping them sort the materials in their backpacks to figuring out how to apply to colleges. The consultant's work sounds very solid and good, but why is it needed ...

Those of you who subscribe to our weekly curriculum guides will have already noted the importance Montessori places on independent action, whether for a toddler choosing a piece of equipment to handle or a third-grader deciding how to best choose an essay topic.

Many parents, teachers, and schools look for the perfect fix. That combination of curriculum and material that will yield the best results. Montessori teachers frequently find themselves in a bind. Why is it important for a three or five year old to learn how to guide his or her morning activities independently? Why don't we just direct them to finish the most projects the fastest way possible so they can move on to the next level?

What goes missing from the observation is that we are teaching the children. They are learning how to make solid choices independently (It's not as if a Montessori classroom gives playing in traffic as an option.... children make choices between such topics as math, sensorial development, fine motor skill exercises, language, reading, writing, physical exercises, music, and art)

A few tips to start:
  1. Streamline your home (or classroom) environment so your child can reach everything safely, work at a child-sized table or desk, and have a place for equipment, toys, and clothing. Your child should be able to use his or her belongings and then put them away easily (no jumping up to put them in the top of the closet or in an overstuffed toy chest).
  2. Is your child's room jam packed with toys and junk after the holidays? Work with your child to discard, give to charity, and organize. If your child's room is a disaster, he or she will not have a chance to get organized mentally.
  3. If you are homeschooling children under seven, set up an easy-to-follow schedule starting with getting up and getting dressed, meals and snacks, outdoor play, and quiet indoor activities and study. Leave three hour blocks for indoor work, do not break them up into 45 minute segments as schools are prone to do.
  4. Show your child how to prepare easy and healthy snacks such as sliced apples with cheese or celery with peanut butter. Once your kitchen is set up for children with low tables and child food on a low shelf in the fridge, let your child decide when he or she needs a snack. Let your child make the snacks instead of shoving the food in front of them and exhorting them to eat. Children adore being able to do things on their own and they'll be delighted to make snacks for everyone to share.
  5. Healthy food. If your child eats sugary breakfast cereal in the morning, you'll have to drug them with ritalin to get them to sit still. No, we're not advocating ritalin. Get rid of the "super chocolate chip frosted flakes" cereal. Same goes for snacks and other meals. No soda, either!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these blogs! I am not a trained Montessori teacher, but have read many books, sites, joined groups on the subject. I home school my two boys and NEEDED the reminders that are here in your blogs! They have "straightened" me up again and reminded me to follow my children! Blessings to you!

Mrs. Kolein Carlson

Mama Know Best said...

I've been reading all of your earlier posts and loving them all. As your other commenter said, I too homeschool my six year old and have seen the difference that a Montessori education can make. I really wish that I could be a trained Montessori teacher, but I'll settle for informed homeschool teacher following the Montessori theory. Thanks for keeping us beginners in mind!

Thajmode said...

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mod*mom said...

good tips! montessori is intriguing

i'm going to homeschool my daughter. we use a stepladder in the kitchen so she can work at the sink + counter. the mixer is on the counter. she uses a stepladder in the bathroom too. we call it her "stairs"

Tech Mama Digital said...

Fantatic Blog, I wish I had seen it sooner, one non-verbal one high functioning asperger's two sons, have homeschooled in past. have been thinking alot about Montessori style in last couple of weeks but realize that alot of Montessori has been commercialized and snobberized turning out little MR and Madames when the original Italian children were considered unteachable wild things. thank you from Winnipeg Canada. will be passing it on to all I know up here.
well done and thank you to all those for insightful honest from the heart posts.
Michelle Deschenes
Winnipeg, CANADA

Montessori House said...

Thanks for your comment! One thing that we always recommend is that parents visit the classroom, watch the teacher in action, see how the teacher interacts with the children, and then observe how the children work with one another. Is the teacher polite to the children? Do the children work happily alone as well as in groups? When they work in groups, are the children polite and interacting kindly or are there little cliques forming?

Classes and schools can be so different from one another, even if they are all Montessori schools, because the people running them are key. Some little schools are super good because dedicated teachers run them, and other large fancy schools suffer because money goes to administration and the focus is not on teacher quality (and the teachers are stressed out and miserable).

Good luck!