August 31, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dr. Montessori!


Yes, today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1870, of St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, known in her own time as Dr. Maria Montessori.

I had this to say about Montessori last year:

I take the liberty of bestowing the honorary beatification in order to jerk the chain of the Missus, who is a hard-core Montessori purist and who, when enthusing about the virtues of Montessori education, can make the Ancient Mariner seem down right tight-lipped. (She goes back to teaching lower elementary full time this fall. And in all fairness, she has a gift and an enthusiasm for it that everybody should be so lucky to have in their job.)

I say "purist" because there are an awful lot of programs out there that call themselves Montessori, but in fact are not. It's from these knock-offs that Montessori gets a good deal of its reputation as a sort of hippy-dippy educational free-for-all. The main battle lines, apparently, are drawn up between the Faithful, also known as Association Montessori Internationale, started by Dr. Montessori herself, and the apostate American Montessori Society. The Missus got her Masters in an AMI program and looks on the AMS crowd rather the same way in which the Montagues viewed the Capulets. I'm not anywhere near qualified to tell you the specifics of the differences except to say that the AMI philosophy includes a great deal more structured learning than its competitors.

Needless to say, all of the Llama-ettes are Montessori kids. Indeed, my five year old's teacher has remarked that she is one of the best Montessori students the teacher's seen in thirty-odd years of teaching. As far as tangible results go, the eldest Llama-ette did just fine on her first standardized achievement tests this spring, placing well above her grade level in most subjects. So we must be doing something right. (Of course, I've long harbored the suspicion that any child who a) is naturally bright and b) is properly encouraged at home can probably do just fine in any reasonably competent educational system.)

On the other hand, we've spent a great deal of time and energy organizing the Llama-ettes' bedroom and playroom in approved Montessori fashion (on St. Marie's theory that children crave structure in their lives) and the gels regulalry leave them looking as if they had been hit by an F4 tornado. So who knows.

This year, both the Eight and Six Year Olds will be in the Missus' classroom, albiet formally assigned to the other teacher in the class. Last year, the eldest Llama-ette picked up the most delightful habit: when she was speaking of the Missus in the context of the classroom, she would refer to her as "Mrs. LL". Any other setting, it was plain "Mom". The gel actually switches back and forth between these two titles without being aware of it, sometimes even in the same sentence. It'll be interesting to see if her sister picks up the same habit.

As I said last year, I truly admire the Missus' energy for and devotion to her teaching and I only tease her this way because of that admiration. Furthermore, I really have no complaints whatever about the educational development of the Llama-ettes. Also, I know that a fair number of our readers have small children and are going through the Where Do I Send Them To School? phase. Of course, if there's anything you want to know about Montessori, feel free to drop a line in the Tasty Bits (TM) Mail Sack. I'm sure the Missus would be happy to answer your questions.

UPDATE: Well, can I stay at your place?

Posted by Robert at August 31, 2006 09:36 AM | TrackBack


Posted by: Bill from INDC at August 31, 2006 02:29 PM