Thursday, May 21, 2009

Education for Life

It was difficult for me to get through this terribly short chapter. Montessori emphasizes the importance of all of society in embracing her definition of education as the creation of man, and, as such, being integral to life, rather than what is found in "academia."

In defining education as the building up of the whole person in this way, she encompasses traditional education along with quite a bit of idealism. To me, it sounds wonderful, but I can hardly see how it can be implemented. Montessori personifies "civilization" and "education" and describes them in active terms: "civilization must ..." and "education should ..." When she writes, "Fathers and mothers must shoulder their responsibilities" I am on board: this is difficult, but within my mental grasp, but as she continues with "and if the home fails for lack of means, then it is required of society not only to give the needed instruction but also the support necessary for bringing up the children," I am flummoxed. I cannot even imagine how this would happen, since I am reading "society" as "government." I would not be ready and willing to allow "people who know better" to necessarily govern my family's home life. So this is one problem I do not know how to mentally digest.

Another problem I have is the description of the child at birth: "he is nothing—psychologically speaking. ... he is incapable of coordinated movement." What I have learned from my midwife in the past year is that babies are astonishingly coordinated, and can crawl up the mother's stomach and latch onto her breast without assistance (assuming a healthy, natural birth). This is a minor problem, and I can't help but think how fascinated Montessori herself would be to find out what modern science has discovered about children in the past century.

The main thing which I noticed which was not mentioned in this chapter is the idea that we already know what man should be, and the only question is how to best support the child, in our role as collaborators, to reach the "end" of the journey, which she describes as "a single center."

This is difficult for me: combining the ideal and the practical. I understand the ideal (or pretend I do), but I don't know how to make it even touch the practical, even occasionally. I am feeling more Erma Bombeck than Maria Montessori in my "prepared environment."

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Oh, and I should probably mention I'm Jess from Australia. I have a 21mth old daughter through whom I have discovered the joys of Montessori. We attend a Montessori playgroup and implement Montessori type things as best we can at home. Ive become addicted and have just taken up a one year Montessori online course (non accredited) with the view to go back to uni next year and study teaching. Looking forward to lots of juicy discussions. Cheers.


Chaper 1 - post 2

Sorry to have to do this folks, but after spending large amounts of time playing around to try and post a comment on this site and losing a long post (I'm sure it was highly intelligent, witty and insightful....well, maybe it was just long!) I'm going to have to do a new post. I cant leave comments on this format, despite being logged in. I have this problem with other blogs using similar format, and I know I'm not alone. so frustrating, but don't know how to change it.

Anyway, not wanting to be left out, and having finally got the book from the Directress at our Playgroup, I thought Id do a new post. Hope I dont disrupt the flow too much.

My reflections:
I love how MM uses the term "Children's House". It puts children at the centre of learning and suggests that they are the directors of this learning, rather than it being imposed upon them.

I really enjoyed reading about the context in which MM did her thinking and work. I had heard it was based in peace education, but was not sure now. I'm starting to get a better understanding of this, and think it will expand as I read.

I too loved the quote that magda pointed out. I also resonated with the one before that stated education is not attained from 'listening to words, but virtue of experience in which the child acts on his environment'. And I will be taking this to heart as I do demonstrations with her this week.

I had more to say, but one always falls flat with a repeat post....and its time for bed.

Looking forward to the next chapter.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Child's Part in World Reconstruction

"If education were to be conceived along the lines of transmitting knowledge, the problem would remain without solution for ever."

Maria Montessori (MM) is trying to draw a point of difference here. Her method is not about "what" children learn, but focuses on the "how", "why", and "where".

"Education must take a different path..."

This path is set out for us:

We must have "consideration of personality" - Does this mean acknowledging that children have an inherent personality that they are born with? And that every child has their own unique temperament?

We must intent to "help the development of the psychic powers inherent in the individual" - I think this means that we have to consciously believe that each of our children is in possession of their own unique set of "powers" that they will use to construct their "psychic" or inner self.

"This cannot be attained by teaching" - We need to rethink the role we play as adults in the development of the children around us. Our self-importance as our children's teachers, sometimes clouds their ability to hear their inner guide. We need to find an alternative role - as the child's protector, leaving them free to grow themselves within a safe, secure and supportive environment.

We need to provide "an environment specially prepared for the children"

We need to prepare this environment in such a way that the children can "absorb whatever culture is spread in the environment without any one teaching them"

"All children have this power of absorbing culture" - this means ALL children - sometimes I lose faith that my child has this power. I interfere in the process and try to direct his interests towards what I choose for him, or I get bored when he stays with something for a long period to the exclusion of everything else. I forget that he has this amazing power, and I believe that I know better. Then I wonder why he avoids this work - I have clouded his guide.

MM gives a clear definition of "education":
It is a "natural process"
It is "spontaneously carried out"
It can only be acquired "by experiences upon the environment"

I question myself now - is this the definition of education for me? Yes, I believe it is.
And then I ask - how can I help the other adults in my child's life to believe this too?

Mmmm, only chapter one and already plenty of food for thought!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reading Schedule for The Absorbent Mind

I have completed the reading schedule for The Absorbent Mind. Finally, it is time to get started!

Every Monday and Thursday from now until June 29th we will (hopefully) have completed a reading and can post on it over the next few days. I have tried to keep the number of pages per reading to under twenty, though I stretched it occasionally to include chapters of similar topic, and at other times the readings are very short when I thought the chapter was particularly dense. You'll find that we start out fairly slowly and then pick up the pace a bit as we go along.

If, at any time, you feel that we are going too fast, please e-mail me and we can edit this schedule. Should you happen to finish a chapter/reading earlier than the planned date, don't feel that you need to wait to post. Write while the thoughts are still in your head. On the other hand, when you've fallen a bit behind, don't think that anyone will be bothered if you begin to re-visit earlier chapters with new comments.

Please note that the last two readings are not on the regularly scheduled format. I've skipped July 2nd and July 6th due to significant holidays (Canada Day on July 1st, my birthday on July 2nd, and the Fourth of July on July 4th... of course). Therefore we resume on July 9th (for which we have a longer reading, just to give you the heads up) and finish on July 13th.

If you have any confusion or questions, just let me know! Happy Reading!







The Child's part in World Reconstruction



Education for Life



The Periods of Growth




The New Path

The Miracle of Creation



Embryology and Behaviour



The Spiritual Embryo



The Child's Conquest of Independence




The First Days of Life




Some Thoughts on Language

How Language Calls to the Child




The Effect of Obstacles on Development

The Importance of Movement in General Development




Intelligence and the Hand

Development and Imitation



From Unconscious Creator to Conscious Worker



Further Elaboration Through Culture and Imagination





Character and Its Defects in Childhood

The Child's Contribution to Society – Normalization

Character Building is the Child's Own Achievement



Children's Possessiveness and its Transformations




Social Development

Cohesion in the Social Unit






Mistakes and Their Correction

The Three Levels of Obedience

Discipline and the Teacher




The Teacher's Preparation

Love and Its Source – the Child

Monday, May 4, 2009

Comments - Open or Closed???

A question has come up - should we or shouldn't we allow comments by people who are not authors/members of this blog? By not allowing them, we keep the discussion to ourselves, i.e. those who are currently reading the book. And we won't have some yahoo coming along and making inappropriate comments.

On the other hand, by allowing comments from others, we may find more people who would be interested in joining. We may find that others who have studied educational philosophy and/or Montessori happen to "stumble" upon this blog and have valuable information/opinions to add.

There is the in-between option of me having to approve of each individual comment (as I do on my other blog), but that would mean that your comments wouldn't appear instantly, and if I'm away from the computer for a few days, stuff could slow down significantly. This is the option I prefer the least, but we could go that way if you want.

Let me know what you think!