Monthly Archives: March 2015

Bubbles and the prefrontal cortex activity

Fun with CaryCary, our lovely dance/movement instructor has inspired this post!  The children have been practicing moving in a small bubble, medium bubble or large bubble with her.  They have been enjoying these activities since January.  A couple weeks ago, Cary brought real bubbles into the classroom.  The excitement was unmeasurable!  The challenge was amazing to watch… Cary asked the children to watch the bubbles float with their eyes without touching.

“This ability, which depends on the prefrontal cortex, provides the basis for mental flexibility, social skills and discipline.  It predicts success in education, career and marriage.  Indeed, childhood self-control is twice as important as intelligence in predicting academic achievement.” (Building Self – Control, NY Times).

Cary asked the children why they didn’t touch the bubbles.  The majority agreed because she asked them not to.  She asked who told their hands to stay still?  Some answered she did, and a couple older children came up with “MY BRAIN!”  It truly was amazing to be there at that moment to watch children’s faces as they discovered something new in such a simple way.  The activity continued with each child taking turns popping bubbles one at a time only moving in a small bubble (the way they call small movements) and slow speed.  And at last they could all pop the bubbles at the same time moving slowly and respectful of each other.

Self-control is a skill that children need to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.  Brain regions essential to self-control are immature at birth and develop slowly throughout childhood. From ages 3 to 6 years, as these brain regions become more mature, children show improved ability to control impulses.  The home environment is a great contributing factor to developing self-control.  The Montessori method offers many opportunities to practice self-control as well.  Here are some examples: there are no multiples of materials in the classroom and there is no time limit for how long one can work with the material, many materials are self-correcting, only two children at a time can sit down for morning snack, children practice carefully walking around friends work, we practice keeping our hands off of friends work although at times it can be very hard!

What if my child wants to paint all day every day?

 

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Drawing Still Life with Camille

The montessori method is known for allowing the child the freedom to move around and choose an activity based on interest.  This is often interpreted by an adult as they can do whatever they want.  And that could be the reason I often get asked by many new parents what if my child just wants “to paint” the whole day every day he/she comes to school?  Imagine being home without any of the electronic devices and having the whole day to do whatever you want with your hands.  You could read, garden, build, cook, clean, paint, go running, climbing, etc… within a range of what is available.  You would have to allow your deep interest to guide you!  In our busy world, to do whatever you want sounds very luxurious and something that we don’t get to do very often as adults!  Does that mean our very young children should not be allowed it either?  To take the time to listen to the deep interest inside.

Doing whatever you want in a Montessori environment is doing activities within what is available – a carefully selected set of materials.  This already eliminates so much more a child could do!

We would love to share Two Full days of our life at school with you!  Thanks to the quiet and small technology I seamlessly took as many pictures as I could during Tuesday, February 10, 2015 and Wednesday, February 11, 2015.  Why?  I hope it shows that painting all day every day is harder to be done than said.  And how different, vibrant, sometimes chaotic yet structured, organized and predictable our days are.  The three-hour work period is a hallmark of the Montessori school day.  It is an uninterrupted work cycle during which children chose to work with materials.  These 3 hours 9 am – noon is the true freedom of their day we are so worried about they would waste painting away!

February 10, 2015

Photos are available via the protected blog post under the same name. 

February 11, 2015

Notice how different this day is from the one yesterday!  The same children, the same materials, the same time (3 hours 9 am – noon), but super sunny!

Photos are available via the protected blog post under the same name. 

In summary, yes, Montessori children can “do whatever they like” as long as it is exercising their freedom with caring concern about how their actions affect others,  themselves and the environment.  Does every young child exercise his freedom appropriately all the time?  No.  There are no pictures available of that.  This is an acquired habit which must be developed slowly over time.  It is this freedom to choose and move around that leads to the academic success in the Montessori environment.  Painting for days/weeks in deep concentration with so many things available to explore is a very hard thing to do!