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April | 2013 | Atomic Bee Ranch

Monthly Archives: April 2013

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A Little Weekend Watching: Education in the 21st Century

Weekend Reading.jpg

If you do nothing else this weekend, watch this TEDx talk about education in the 21st century. It’s only 15 minutes and speaks volumes to me about why I want to homeschool Cam and everything I see wrong with the current educational system- even many of those expensive private schools. I found this through one of the library blogs that I follow, Stephen’s Lighthouse. I’m really glad he found it because I don’t think I ever would have come across it, but it articulates so well what I have been thinking about education. Plus it’s based on interviews Grant Lichtman conducted with real teachers and students.

Some of the problems he sees are that subjects are too compartmentalized, that teachers are too proprietary and not collaborative enough, and that there is too much standardization which stymies even the best-intentioned educational system.


Rigidity, Flexibility, and The Hundred Languages

Pedagogy BannerOne aspect of the Montessori Method that I am not overly fond of is its rigidity. If you are a purist, there are very specific activities and materials that are to be used in a very specific way, in a very specific sequence. If a child does not use the materials in the exact way demonstrated the teacher is to bring the activity to a close and shift to something else.

There are several reasons for this approach. Firstly, sensitive periods in brain development need to be fully taken advantage of and the materials are designed specifically with the needs and desires of these periods in mind. Secondly, children need and crave order. By insisting on the correct way to use materials or complete an activity and by imposing a cycle of setting the space, doing the activity, and cleaning up, you are satiating that desire and teaching order. Finally, specific skills need to be isolated and practiced, a requirement that was also taken into consideration when developing the materials and activities. By deviating from intended uses and proscribed sequences of activities a child’s full development and potential will be hindered. While I understand the reasoning, I don’t think it fits or sits well with my own educational philosophy for very young children.

Reggio-Emilia, on the other hand, has the Hundred Langauges of Children. This is a guiding principle based on the idea that children have many ways (a figurative one hundred) of exploring their environment and expressing what they have learned. This allows the Reggio-Emilia method to be very flexible in its application and use of activities and materials. It is up to the adult to provide the child with open-ended materials and activities and observe how the child uses these to express what they are interested in learning and how best to go about addressing their educational needs. Unfortunately, this is a bit too flexible for me.

Personally, I think there has to be a middle ground between these applications. I think it’s okay to have some activities that have a set outcome, product, or purpose. A puzzle for example encourages a number of skills and higher order thinking in a very particular way. But I also think it’s a good thing to have open ended activities, like pretend play, or to see where a child goes with an activity that they are not using “correctly”. Sometimes being flexible allows the student to express and learn things that the adult may not have seen or intended but are no less valuable and important. And I think both the Reggio-Emilia approach and the Montessori method would agree that allowing the child some intellectual wiggle room is a good thing.

For Your Bookshelf: The Classics

For Your Bookshelf Banner

I have come to the conclusion that any politician that runs on a platform seeking to ban the Daylight Savings time changes would win by a landslide. Parents of young children would be the first to vote. It took us nearly a month to readjust to the new time. A month of putting the baby to bed at 9, or putting her in the car, or falling asleep next to her at 8:30 even though the to-do list loomed large and long.

After reading to Cam at nap time one day, however, I discovered that it calmed her down pretty quickly. I had tried this in the past at bed and nap times to no avail and was really disappointed. As a big advocate of reading to children and as a reader myself, I wanted to have this tradition and routine with my daughter, but it just didn’t work for us. So seeing that it might be a possibility now that she’s older, I jumped at the opportunity.

I also decided that instead of reading several picture books, which are too short, can become a negotiation tactic, and can enliven her a little too much (just today she was shouting “egg” at the top of her voice while I read aloud from The Golden Egg Book), I would read from a classic novel. I created a list on my GoodReads account which you can see here if you are interested in the titles I chose.

Traditions Banner

Our first selection I had on our bookshelf, so we could start immediately, was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. So far we are all enjoying it, one chapter a night. Cam has decided that she likes to sit in our bed with both of us and the lights turned down low. She will bring one of her blankets and several stuffed friends in and snuggles up. Sometimes she wants to snatch the book out of my hands, so I have taken to giving her a book of her own with lots of pictures so she has something to mimic me with. Usually she looks through her book for the first couple minutes and then lies back to listen.

We don’t do it every night. It’s just not always possible. But she has come to expect it and it has pushed her bedtime back to between 8 and 8:30!

A New Series: Pedagogy Monday

If you have read my FAQs page you know that I was introduced to the Montessori Method by a friend of mine when my daughter was very young. I was very drawn to the ideas and principles of it because I was also reading a lot of parenting books in an attempt to feel more confident in raising my daughter. I had formed some opinons of and preferences for how to deal with children when working in the classroom, but I had zero experience working with babies and toddlers. Zero. I was terrified.

I hadn’t really considered much beyond our immediate needs- a baby/toddler environment, cloth vs. disposable diapers, and the like. However, the Montessori Method gave me an eye to the future. I began to evaluate our educational options and this opened a whole new line of research for me into educational philosophies, theories, and approaches.

Of course being a mother to a toddler and caring for our house and menagerie as well as keeping up on my professional community, I have a limited amount of time to devote to heavy, theoretical reading and research. That isn’t to say I have given up or don’t do it, just that it moves at a slower pace than I would like.

Which brings me to my new series of Monday posts: Pedagogy Mondays. I would like to discuss a variety of Montessori and Reggio-Emilia tenets, both what they are and what they mean and the practical application of them in our home. I would also like to discuss any other research that I do into brain development, other educational approaches (including revisiting Waldorf education), and child development. I would like to talk generally and specifically. I have a list of books that I am working my way through and I thought this might be a good place to share my notes, thoughts, and reading list.