Montessori: A Progressive Education for Today's World

I've watched Ken Robinson's TED Talk for about...I actually don't know how many times I've watched it. I've lost count.

Anyway, here are a couple of takeaways from that talk that I will never forget: 

> Children have extraordinary capacities for innovation

> Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status

> As children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.

After I've watched Sir Ken's talk the first time, I couldn't help but be grateful for having been educated in a system where a child's creativity potential is honed. 

I'm a Montessorian, and so are my boys. Truthfully, I really wouldn't have it any other way. Am I being biased about the Montessori system? Absolutely! But for good reasons.

It is true that in a Montessori system, creativity is celebrated. But what defines creativity? Is it limited to being able to paint, draw, dance, or act?  Creativity is extended to one's manner of thinking; the kind of thinking that involves flexibility and originality. This is a significant point, especially in today's fast-paced, lateral-thinking, and creative-driven world.

When it comes to the topic of innovation and creativity, Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin often comes up. Both are Montessorians, and both credited their success to their Montessori education. 
Peter Sims blogged about them and the other so-called Montessori Mafia in 2011. The topic was based on a study that was conducted by Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen. They wanted to find out how and why innovators become who they are. The conclusion? Many of the innovators that were part of their study went to Montessori schools where they were taught early on to "think differently".


Sandy Arellano of the Montessori de San Juan School has a great explanation for such: Our classroom activities involve 90 percent application and only 10 percent discussion, so a lot of the kids are able to see the practicality and the use of the subject matter they are learning. We try to show them the direct applications to what they are learning." 

The Montessori system applies theories to practice, and in Montessori schools, the topics are explained in a way that Richard Feynman would approve of. My youngest boy is the one who pointed it out. He said, "In a way, the Montessori system uses the Feynman Technique." If you're not yet familiar with it, the technique is all about conveying complex topics into simpler forms - which is considered to be a very powerful learning method. 

For example, the decimal system is introduced to casa students using the decimal beads and cubes. If you tell a 5-year-old child that there are ten tens in a hundred, you'll most probably get a blank stare or a hissy fit. But if you show the child the decimal cube and tell him or her that this is how many tens there are in one hundred, well, that one will stick. 


“I believe what is happening now is that schools and parents are too fixated on the effect, which is good academic performance,” she explained. “I can tell you through years of experience, however, that doing well in school is the natural result of a happy, motivated, and well-adjusted student. So why not focus diligently on the cause, rather than the effect?” Arellano further emphasized. 

Truthfully, I worry more about whether my boys' critical thinking skills are enhanced rather than them getting excellent grades every single quarter. The latter will get you to various universities and colleges, but the first one will get you everywhere. I often tell them, "don't brag about something that can be Googled. If you've created Google, then yeah maybe you can brag about that."


Another great thing about the Montessori system is the size of each class. In Montessori de San Juan, each class is composed of 12-15 students only. A low-student teacher ratio ensures that each student get the absolute best when it comes to learning. Also, since the kids are grouped in wider age spans per class, the children learn to value individuality and adaptability early on. We all know how useful these are when our kids start working someday. I mean, they can't tell their future employers to place them in an area where everyone should be in the same age as they are. 

I really do believe that the Montessori system is amazing; but like educational systems, it is not perfect. Like all other schools, they help groom kids to have a brighter future, along with the parents' efforts, and most especially, the child's. How a child turns up is a mixture of various influences. 

This system of education, however, has been proven to be beneficial in today's world, and hopefully, until forever. 

Montessori de San Juan
725-6306 or 239-1102

Onward and Upward!


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