Agenda | Next 7 Days

Nothing from August 4, 2020 to August 11, 2020.

In Times of Educational Crisis, Montessori Stands Tall

Written by: Michelle Morrison

An expected side effect of the current pandemic is its impact on our educational system. While schools have been using some degree of online learning for decades now, for many schools and especially for schools designed for younger children, the overnight transformation to fully online learning has been our biggest challenge in a century.

Teachers and educational leaders are working day and night to move to a remote learning model. The impact of this drastic shift in working style has brought to life the shortcomings and limitations of the traditional educational approach. The realities of learning from home exaggerate the defects of such a system. Remote learning gives parents an inside view into their child’s daily school life like they’ve never had before. Yes, things are different given online learning, yet they are remarkably the same in terms of what comes through—the school system’s beliefs about education, the relationship between the teacher and student, the level of adaptability and personalization inherent in the system, and the relationship to families.

Why Montessori Schools Are Succeeding At Remote Learning

Montessori schools are better prepared for this remote learning challenge. This is simply because children who have had their sense of independence, love of learning, and thinking skills sharpened are faring better than most, because self-discipline is key to remote learning and Montessori schools shine in such personal skill development.  The basis of Montessori is to follow the natural inclination of a child to learn and help them gain independence, self-motivation, manage choice, interact respectfully within a community of learners, use self-correcting instruments in their work, and ignite a sense of awe and wonder about the world.

Montessori children are used to long stretches of uninterrupted work cycles where they experiment, create, and apply their knowledge independently. They’ve developed a deep sense of agency through the empowering environments their Montessori teachers have designed over the many months or years they’ve been in the school. As Dr. Montessori reminds us, even now, “The child who has never learned to work by himself, to set goals for his own acts, or to be the master of his own force of will is recognizable in the adult who lets others guide his will and feels a constant need for approval of others.”

“The child who has never learned to work by himself, to set goals for his own acts, or to be the master of his own force of will is recognizable in the adult who lets others guide his will and feels a constant need for approval of others.”

—Dr. Montessori

What are Montessori schools finding in these early weeks of remote learning?  Through the American Montessori Society forum for Heads of School, reports are showing that most parents are blown away by how adaptive their child has been to at-home learning, how self-motivated they are to complete the work provided by their teachers, how strong the bonds are and how deep the respect is between their peers and teachers when they come together in online class time.  They are amazed to see students leading meetings, rather than teachers, and peer-to-peer help on projects and work.  At the younger levels, including Toddler and Early Childhood, parents have shared that getting an inside peek at the incredibly purposeful work their children are doing has reaffirmed their belief in a Montessori education.

A parent from our school highlighted a moment when she read the activity directions after a particular Zoom lesson from her son’s toddler teacher, “Not only was there a wonderful learning experience I could prepare for my son at home, but the directions shared the underlying developmental purpose of each step in the simple, yet beautiful, activity.  It’s clear that the teachers in a Montessori school are specialists in child development.  The degree of parenting support has also just been stellar as we manage our own family’s stresses while trying to keep our little guy engaged, happy, and learning.” A mother of two elementary-aged boys reports, “Friends from other private and public schools relay that they are experiencing less teacher and classmate interaction, recorded and live lessons. I truly hope this is where Montessori can thrive in delivering a personalized education in these times.”

“Not only was there a wonderful learning experience I could prepare for my son at home, but the directions shared the underlying developmental purpose of each step in the simple, yet beautiful, activity. It’s clear that the teachers in a Montessori school are specialists in child development. The degree of parenting support has also just been stellar as we manage our own family’s stresses while trying to keep our little guy engaged, happy, and learning.”

—A Parent from Princeton Montessori

At the middle school level, parents are most impressed by the degree of organization and self-discipline exhibited in their children compared to their non-Montessori peers. Amy Ricketts, Middle School Lead Teacher at The Montessori School for Shreveport, LA reports “Our parents have consistently commented on how impressed they are by the way the students have created their own routines, organized a home work space, and taken initiative to help peers who are less technologically-advanced. This situation has proven, once again, how Montessori students’ love of learning and whole-child development allows them to thrive wherever they are.”  A parent of a middle school student at Hilltop Montessori School in Brattleboro, VT shares, “I have watched my daughter approach this challenging situation with a level of professionalism and dedication that shocked me. I believe this experience will actually make her and her peers better, stronger people.”

It’s true that Montessori teachers believe fiercely that nothing can equally replace the classroom experience and they are at a deficit not being able to provide the beautiful and genius materials Montessori schools are known for that honor the tactile, sensorial, and relational learning that occurs in the early years of a child’s learning, They believe, as Dr. Montessori did, that, “Children acquire knowledge through experience in the environment.” However, across the world, they have been surprisingly quick to adapt the existing materials to reproducible ones for the home, be it print out or cleverly produced online versions. Montessori educators are mindful to balance a child’s day so they are not stuck at the computer all day long and to get children outside, ensuring they have time for their minds to process and consolidate new learning. Being at home allows for unique opportunities for other kinds of learning: deep and meaningful connections to developing practical life skills by pitching in more with chores, cultivating the inner development of self through reading and reflection, and strengthening resiliency and self-reliance.

Perhaps the most profound opportunity in this time is for parents to model what compassion, selflessness, and caring for others looks like in a time of real need. Can children go without a beloved item or routine in order to help their neighbors, school community, and the world? These are the silver linings Montessori educators look for and cultivate in such times.

Remote Learning Impact When Schools Reopen

And what about when our schools open again?  Most schools will face the dilemma of whether to advance children to the next grade level, though they may not be prepared. Montessori schools will not face this problem as its multi-age, three-year cycle within a program allows for the teacher to “follow the child” over a broader span of time. These educators will have the time and means to keep children advancing to grade level and beyond, without worrying about each child having to march in step to a homogenized curriculum by grade level, even for those advancing to a new program.  We will also open with a community of parents who better appreciate and understand the Montessori difference.

During this pandemic, our school is serving our children, aged infant through middle school, with thoughtfully-designed remote learning plans that meet the needs of children in each developmental stage and support the diverse needs of families.  These plans are personalized, use an inquiry-based approach, are holistic in meeting the social, emotional, and intellectual needs of the child, allow for mistakes, provide as much practice as each individual child needs, develop critical and creative thinking, build speaking and collaboration skills, resource peer-to-peer learning, offer parent support, and keep the teacher as the ‘guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage’. Dr. Montessori, through her scientific research and applied methodology, instructed teachers to “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  She knew that real confidence comes from mastering one’s own world and that this is the invisible, innate noble task of each living thing from the moment it enters the world. In addition, in this new reality of parents as partner guides in at-home learning, the remote learning plans are designed to be adaptive to any family’s home situation.

Adaptability and a belief that learning is lifelong and requires a growth-mindset are central to the Montessori philosophy.  As at-home learning continues into late spring and possibly longer, one thing is for sure, Montessori schools are likely to continue to learn, assess, adapt, and perfect this model so that we are able to meet the call should another situation like this occur, but even more important, so that a Montessori education may be more accessible to all. To call on Dr. Montessori’s words, once again,                                                    “This is the hope we have—a hope in a new humanity that will come from this new education, an education that is a collaboration of man and the universe….” For now, what we can say is ‘Montessori is standing tall in this new normal of learning from home.’

Compassion, selflessness, and caring for others looks like in a time of real need. Can children go without a beloved item or routine in order to help their neighbors, school community, and the world? These are the silver linings Montessori educators look for and cultivate in such times.

Below are descriptions of our remote learning plans across our program levels:

Infant

online community time for singing, talking, leading in movement exercises, one-on-one parent check-ins and guidance, sharing of vetted resources for parents of infants, learning materials kits sent home to parents

Toddler
(Montessori accredited program)

live morning circle time, daily live class time, learning activities and direct instruction videos sent home weekly, one-on-one parent check-ins and guidance, sharing of vetted resources for parents of infants, learning materials kits sent home to parents, daily after school activities and class time, music class, mindfulness class, guided movement class, Spanish class, and more

Early Childhood / Primary
(Montessori accredited program)

live morning circle time, daily live class time, learning activities and direct instruction videos sent home weekly, one-on-one parent check-ins and guidance, one-on-one student connects for lessons and checking in, show and tell for children, outside nature and yard work, sharing of vetted resources for parents of infants, learning materials kits sent home to parents, daily after school activities and class time, music class, mindfulness class, guided movement class, Spanish class, individual music lessons, clubs, and more.

Elementary
(Montessori accredited program)

live morning circle time, daily live class time, small group live lessons, learning activities and direct instruction videos sent home weekly, virtual field trips, one-on-one parent check-ins and guidance, one-on-one student connects for lessons and checking in, show and tell for children, outside nature and yard work, sharing of vetted resources for parents of infants, learning materials kits sent home to parents, daily after school activities and class time, music class, mindfulness class, guided movement class, Spanish class, individual music lessons, clubs, online play dates, and more

Middle School
(Montessori accredited and International Baccalaureate (IB) authorized Middle Years program)

live morning circle time, daily live class time,  small group and whole class live lessons, learning activities and direct instruction videos sent home weekly, Socratic dialogues, research reports, class presentations, virtual field trips, use of global resources and other school partnerships, use of software to aid learning, collaborative work assignments, individual work assignments, one-on-one parent check-ins and guidance, one-on-one student connects for lessons and checking in, show and tell for children, outside nature and yard work, sharing of vetted resources for parents of infants, learning materials kits sent home to parents, daily after school activities and class time, music class, mindfulness class, guided movement class, Spanish class, individual music lessons, clubs, online socials, and more

Child Supports

student services, one-on-one teacher connects and supports, peer online playdates, help with school work, individualized academic goals, adjusted each week, special holiday programming.

Family Supports

ongoing helpful resources guide, access to our partnering child psychologist and mindfulness coach, building strong parent to parent relationships, school-wide sing-a-long night, a weekly newsletter, HOS weekly addresses, a special expert-led parent education session on managing anxiety in family systems, an online BookFair.

We would love to tell you more about our school.

About PMonts

The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.

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