Sunday, November 17, 2013

Handwriting: The importance of repetition and perfection.

A few months ago I wrote a post about cursive and the art of handwriting.  I had not yet re-entered the classroom when I wrote it.  Now that I've been there for almost 3 months, it is something I see as essential.  My experience thus far is difficult to write in a short post, but what I will say is how it has made me love and appreciate the Montessori materials and philosophy even more.

From my experience before and now, and even seeing my own child's development in language and handwriting there are somethings I have come to realize.  I will try to summerize.

Today language is viewed as reading.  It's more important to read than write.  Whereas in Montessori, we teach children to write before they read (another post I wrote).  I see that reading is vial in most traditional education since children need to read and comprehend for test taking so they can color in a bubble.  Not to simplify this issue, but it has come down to test taking and finding that right answer, so reading and reading comprehension is valued over writing abilities.

The results are valued rather than the process.  Not so in Montessori.  In our classrooms you have all the time in the day/week/month to work through the task.  There is no rush.  We invite the children to take their time, take care and pride in their work, take the time in between to work on something else, and work on things at their pace and pleasure.  It is not a task to be crossed off a list or be weighed down by.  It is the process of doing, and re-doing (repetition) that builds the synaptic network.  A young child is joyous when doing a task that is of interest to them.  This is part of what we call "following the child".  We are guided as teachers by their interest and so we provide them the opportunity to further their interest in that field.

Bringing home "work" and homework.  Often we find ourselves telling parents not to give children workbooks and apps that "help" children learn at home.  This is mostly because when a child is doing all this work at home, coming to school where they have freedom to choose their work and friends gives them the opportunity to also choose to socialize instead of choosing work.  Mostly because they are already exhausted from working at home.  Every child needs a break from work.  This is why you will see a child working for hours with the moveable alphabet or the addition strip board and after they put it away, they are calm and collected and choose "lighter" work where they color or do some sewing, or just sit and watch others work.  They need that time to process what they have done. 
So, why do Montessori children not bring loads and load of paperwork?  Two reasons; 1. Dr. Montessori was an early conservationist.  She believed that we do not need to waste.  She found that using materials like the sandpaper letter, moveable alphabet, and other hands-on materials allowed a child to work and not have pages and pages to take home. 2. The children perfect their work in the class with the materials, with the chalkboard, they practice their handwriting with the sandpaper letters and various alphabets, then when they are ready, the take out a small piece of paper and transcribe their intentions and ideas onto that paper.  As they become more proficient, they can lose the materials and simply move onto paper, but that takes 3 years of being in a classroom. 

Handwriting.  As I wrote and copied the authors essay in the handwriting post, handwriting is a lost art.  Children are comfortable and choose to write in print.  They see print around and find it easier to copy.  Handwriting is not simply about copying written symbols, but a means of expression.  Just as it is individual and personal so should our handwriting be.  It is an expression of who we are.  The typed/ printed word is static even with the myriad fonts out there.  A handwritten note is still valued over a typed email, why?  The personal touch.  So, why do we not encourage a young child to develop that ability and sensibility?
Is it really worth it and beneficial to teach a child the easy way or the short-cuts?  What are the long-term effects when we have adults who are lacking these skills, sensibilities, and executive functions?

One of the key philosophies of Dr. Montessori was “Never give more to the mind than you give to the hand.”  And this is why a Montessori classroom looks the way it does!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Holiday Cultre Exchange

My apologies in not writing as frequently, but with work and home, time in front of a computer is even less- that's because I choose to sleep instead. 

Our first culture exchange of postcards was a better turnout than I expected so thank you to all who participated.  I didn't get much feedback and would love to, so let me know how it goes either here or on our Facebook page. 

This time we will have a holiday exchange.  I hope this will be a very special and engaging experience for you.  Our holiday theme will include a wide variety of options.  Please share something of the following list or as many as you like, be sure to tell us a little something about the holiday you wish to share.  As many holidays are rooted in religious practices, please be open and accepting in sharing and receiving, see culture exchange details for more info.

  • Family traditions: send a note of what you do and how you celebrate your cultural and holiday event.
  • Recipes: send in an old or new family recipe that you make for your chosen holiday.
  • Ingredient(s): Send in an ingredient that is unique to your recipe or something that makes you think of the season/ holiday
  • Songs: is there a song or songs that have significance to your holiday
  • Trinkets: a holiday trinket or something either home-made or local. 
  • Treats: are there specific treats that are sold during this time of year? (Turron, panettone, speculaas, vanillekipferl, tamales, alfajores, Buñuelos,etc) Whatever is possible to mail meeting international regulations.  
  • Decorations: garlands, papers, or anything else that is used to decorate your house at this time of year.
  • Clothing: a picture of holiday attire, or if you feel generous, send a garment to your lucky recipient! 
  •  Let us know if we're missing something to add here. 

Be creative, this is a wonderful time to share traditions, cultures, family life, city life, holiday treats, and a glimpse of our values with others.  Send in pictures, postcards, or anything else you'd like.  Please include your children when doing this, as this is an opportunity for them to learn and share their joys.

If there is a tradition you'd like to know more about, request it, and let's see if someone can volunteer to send you a package.  If you'd like to send more than 1 package, let me know or post it in your comment. Sometimes, if you're making 1 package it's just as easy to make multiples. 

Thank you in advance for your courage, enthusiasm, interest, and willingness to participate.  I think this will be a really fun experience for us all.  Feel free to share this post with anyone you think would like to participate. 

New Rules- for sign up on Facebook:
This time when you sign up on Facebook, be sure to number it so we can see the order in which you commented.  I think there was a bit of confusion with who came before and after.  So:

1. Homegrown, CA - Sri Lankan holidays
2. Megan, NJ -
3. Mary, Sweden
etc, etc.

Thank you again for participating and I hope to see pictures or hear about your experiences.  Feel free to post one on our FB page and let us know how the experience of sending and receiving goes for your children. 

Happy Holidays :)

Links to get you excited:
List of Christmas food from around the world: Christmas Dishes
Saveur: Holiday recipes

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