History for Kids? Yes!

“How will I ever learn history when every day the world keeps making more?” laments Billy in a recent Family Circus cartoon. Two things.  First, a wave of sympathy for him because we have all felt that way as we learned history in pieces. Second, it’s great to see a second grader thinking about history.  When I worked with student teachers in traditional school settings, they insisted history was not part of  the mandated curriculum.  Well, maybe it was supposed to be included in the one hour of the week set aside for social studies.  … Continue reading

Cosmic Education

The unmistakable buzz of a thousand children’s voices greeted us as we entered New York’s Hayden Planetarium in early June. My traveling companions could’t resist teasing me about taking them on a school field trip, and it’s true I’ve conducted many. Soon, however, they were studying the displays on the first floor until we hurried up the stairs with the crowd for the show in the main projection gallery. We wowed right along with the kids as we watched the simulated “big bang,” the emergence of galaxies, black holes, and dark matter clouding the universe. Afterwards we walked down the… Continue reading

Books before Movies

Discussing The Giver

Discussing The Giver

I raced to beat the movie release of The Giver, starting a book club with students as soon as school took up last August. Ten chose to participate. Discussing the book previously with upper elementary students had convinced me of its relevance to them.  I was further inspired listening to Lois Lowry talk about the Giver books at the Tucson Book Fair last spring. She characterized The Giver as the struggle between conformity and resistance, a theme that some of the students articulated as they began to understand the book.  Others often sketched how… Continue reading

Montessori Alums Changing the World

Some are well-known thanks to a 2012 article in the Christian Science Monitor naming ten highly respected leaders in diverse fields who give credit to Montessori education for their success.  On the list were Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Dakota Fanning, Will Wright, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Julia Child, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jimmy Wales, and Anne Frank. http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Tech-Culture/2012/0831/Maria-Montessori-and-10-famous-graduates-from-her-schools/Strong-supportersBut that is the short list.  There are so many many former Montessori students who are now leading the way in every field—science, technology, literature, entertainment, art, and education.

With a PhD from Dartmouth, Molly… Continue reading

Is Reflection A Luxury Good?

Enjoyed only by the leisure class?  Reports suggest that time spent reading books increases with wealth. Do only rich people have time to read and think?

In a recent NY Times piece (Sunday Review, 6/15/2014), Maria Konnikova admits that, like most of us, she often feels she is working against the clock, her time squeezed between obligations and responsibilities. She admits this state of mind is an unpleasant inconvenience but suggests comparing our experience with the lives of the poor.  We know they lack financial resources. They are also short on time because they are always trying to… Continue reading

Bring Back Summer Reading

Remember?  Nestled among cushions on the window seat or lolling in the hammock under the big tree in the back or hidden in the closet for perfect privacy, we relished long summer afternoons of uninterrupted reading time. We were 8 or 9 or 10 when we became serious serial readers—Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, or in Kentucky, the Little Colonel series. If we were lucky to live near the library or trade with friends, we could avoid the dreaded “end” of a book and move seamlessly to the next one in the series.… Continue reading

To laugh, or to cry: that is the question.

Reports of 2014 test scores from elementary grades through high school are coming in fast now.  Some are truly comical, and others border on tragic.

As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 13th, Georgia’s students’ performance on spring tests showed some improvement in reading, but more than ten percent at every grade level failed math.  Twenty percent of fifth graders failed the math test. To put it mildly, this is cause for concern.  Here’s the funny part:  superintendent John Barge suggests that changing the math standards set ten years ago to the new Common Core… Continue reading

Test Score Reporting Season, 2014

According to the The Dallas Morning News ( June 6, 2012), Texas students still struggle on English tests with just 62% passing English I and 66% passing English II. The gap between white students passing the test and minorities is huge, with black and Hispanic students scoring about 30 percentage points lower. There were better results for passing rates in algebra (81%), biology (91%), and U.S. history (92%). White students’ scores were still higher, but not significantly.

What I find significant in the report is that standards for passing the tests have been lowered for the first three years of… Continue reading

Promoting tolerance in Montessori classrooms

In the most recent issue of TIME magazine (June 9, 2014), the cover article on transgender identity was subtitled “America’s next civil rights frontier.”  It pointed out that tolerance for transgender individuals lags way behind tolerance for homosexuals, especially same-sex marriage, which is speeding towards the commonplace. I was surprised to learn how widespread transgender identity is and how difficult transgender individuals find life in school.

Near the end of the article was a story about a transgender boy thriving at a Montessori school in Tacoma, Washington because the school administrators had recognized his special needs and established a… Continue reading

Tired Teachers

I’ve been hanging out with some tired teachers this week, people who have come to the end of another school year, exhausted.  They recount high points of the year, especially a last trip or a great theater production that wrapped things up.  Teachers remember mostly the good things along with some disappointing outcomes or unresolved issues.  Above all, though, they are heaving great sighs of relief that there is now time to rest.

Although we have become accustomed to this year end exhaustion, I would suggest two possible remedies.

First, we can enjoy true rest by slowing… Continue reading