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A Grand Day Out for Montessori Kids

June, 2011
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img_7049e589afe69cac-2Birthdays are always such important events in children’s lives! The children at the Montessori Schools of Shanghai come to school dressed as Princesses or Princes on their Birthday. We often welcome their Parents too, because love and happiness are wonderful to share. The birth of a child is very special.

We also celebrate another special day – a child’s completion of Kindergarten. It puts a smile on the faces of adults to think that 5-year-old children have a Graduation Ceremony! These adults think that “graduations “ are for older children, students who have accomplished something, studied hard and long, struggled with math and teachers and parents. A high school or college graduation is often an event of enormous significance because, after many late nights, tests, and problems with peers, parents and dating, it is all finally over. Everyone begins to breathe again. Graduation is a time to mark this milestone in a student’s life and to celebrate their achievements and effort.

We believe that 5-year-old children who complete Kindergarten in an authentic Montessori school also deserve a Graduation.

img_7131e589afe69cac-2Early childhood educators recognize that it is the first 5 years of a child’s life that are the most significant years of a person’s life, and that those years are the most important educationally, socially, emotionally, and psychologically.

In the Montessori school, the completion of Kindergarten is the result of many of the same kinds of work done by older students. The level is different and there are no textbooks, but the children’s work requires dedication and mastery of subjects and skills that are part of an extraordinary curriculum designed specifically for the child. The children are really “students working”, not “children playing”.

In the Montessori classrooms the children do “work”, but it is so enjoyable to the children and with success built into each task, that to the adult who knows nothing about Montessori, it is hard to appreciate how much learning is taking place. While the “work” may be to carefully pour colored water from one container to another (and to wipe with a sponge any drops that are spilled) or to wash a mirror (a task that requires many steps and planning on the part of the child), an adult only has to look into the child’s face to see the concentration, the pleasure and the learning going on. The teachers carefully give directions, using simple phrases, on how to slowly pour. The teacher models concentration, “paying attention” and is totally focused on the demonstration. The teacher always spills a few drops to show that accidents, like drops, can be cleaned up, and the children are responsible enough to do this without assistance. The underlying message is that the child is competent and capable, and that learning is enjoyable and leads to accomplishing a task that the child can be proud of.

The way to a child’s mind and heart is through movement, action, observation and freedom within limits. Children want to learn. They want to do the things they see adults doing or that older children in the class take pleasure in doing. Adults know how to tie a bow. That skill is carefully taught and time is given for the child to practice that skill for as long as necessary. Lessons are given when the child is “ready”, and when the current of mastery indicates it is time to move on. This is a skill that teachers learn in their intensive Montessori training.

The child tests himself. “Can I tie the bow?” “Can I pour water, clean up the spillage and be respectful by putting this work back on the shelf in order that another child may have a turn?”

Montessori schools teach children how to think. What measure could be more important than a child’s own success?

A child is taught multiplication and reading. The carefully constructed and thoughtfully arranged sequences that result in those accomplishments require an understanding of the hierarchies of our base 10 number system, knowledge of addition and subtraction and then multiplication and division. The mastery of initial sounds, ending sounds, blends, diagraphs and diphthongs, are all pieces that a child at the age of 5 has spent days and months learning. These enable a child to finally read. There is no homework. The teacher is the mentor and the guide. There isn’t any stress about school and learning, and there certainly aren’t any tears. The classroom environment is set up so that a child wants to learn these things, and more.

img_6692e589afe69cac-2Montessori students have accomplished the foundations of reading, math, geography, science, taking care of themselves, and good manners, in addition to an impressive array of kind and assertive social skills by the time they “graduate”. For Montessori students, there were no late nights, no tests to determine if a child was smart enough for the next lesson, and problems with peers and friends are guided to resolution by adults who use language to communicate feelings, solutions, and forgiveness. While they know an amazing amount in terms of academics, our Montessori graduates are also good at telling a friend not to hurt their feelings, and to recognize that they have hurt someone else’s feelings.

To graduate simply recognizes that an enormous amount of learning has occurred. It is also a rite of passage and marks a stage of completion.

We have a Class of 2011. The children will come to school dressed as a Prince or Princess and they will know that this event is at least as important as their birthday, because Grandma and Grandpa will be there too! All the adults in the audience will be so proud because they do know how hard these children have worked, and the enormous amount they have learned at the Montessori Schools of Shanghai. We will celebrate.

 

By Judy Townsend,

Montessori School of Shanghai

 

 

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