Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'The Best of Mozart' on YouTube

This video that I found consists of two straight hours of Mozart. Again, his portrait is used for the background video. It's so calm, peaceful and relaxing...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

'1 Hour Forest Relaxation Sounds' on YouTube

You can easily supplement your studies of the forest while simultaneously creating relaxing sounds in the classroom environment. I came across this video that consists of one hour of sounds in the forest. The birds are chirping. Insects are buzzing. It elicits the feeling of walking through the woods on a clear summer day. The video is a static photo of a path in the woods, with wildflowers abounding. That means there is less distraction from a changing video. I think this is one of my favorites, as walking in the woods is one of my favorite things to do.

I can see myself playing this in the background while reading books about the forest and trees to the kids. I would put this one up on the SmartBoard. It would also be an asset to a quiet area. Play games to see if you can identify the sounds you hear.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' on YouTube

I think "Moonlight Sonata" is my favorite Beethoven piece. It is for many of us, I am sure. This one isn't as long as others I have been posting for background music. It's only 15 minutes, but it is still beautiful. It would be even more appropriate for a short lesson on Beethoven or whatever. This one also includes a portrait of Beethoven while the song plays.

Another thought: Ask the kids why they think this song is called "Moonlight Sonata."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beethoven's 'Symphony No. 9 in D Minor' on YouTube

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is arguably his finest work. As legend has it, despite the thunderous applause following his "Ode to Joy," he couldn't hear it. They had to turn him around so that he could see the standing ovation.

What amazes me most is that this was written when he was deaf. Yes, he could hear it in his head, but that is never the same as hearing it performed live.

This YouTube video lasts about an hour. It has a portrait of Beethoven in the background. This again makes it a great learning tool to put up on a laptop or even that dreaded SmartBoard.

I need to try to play the "Ode to Joy" on my bells this year, I think. I learned how to play it on the piano when I was a kid...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Impossible promises

Yesterday, I was talking about how parents easily misunderstand what we are hoping to accomplish in Montessori education. What children have been able to achieve in the past does not guarantee that your child will have an identical experience. Sometimes, I feel like I need to post a disclaimer, similar to what those lawyer firms do. "Past settlements do not guarantee a similar outcome in your case." That means, just because they were able to achieve millions for one person after an accident, you cannot count on receiving the same. The same can be said for the kids. Just because your friend's child started doing elementary work at a young age doesn't mean that your child will go as far.

I was forced to reflect on this today, after a friend mentioned a parent encounter to me. She said that when she sat down with the new family, they asked if she could promise that their child would be reading by the age of 4. After all, the child's previous Montessori school had made that promise. Isn't it the same at all of them?

I think of some of my own experiences with parents. Yes, I have been fortunate enough to have had children who are fluent readers at the age of 4. That doesn't mean that all of my students are going to do the same. Inevitably, siblings of these children are expected to achieve the same lofty goals. Friends of the family expect a similar outcome with their own children.

**Each child is different.**

All we promise to do in Montessori school is to help your child achieve his or her own potential. When it comes to reading, each child has his own special point in time where everything comes together and clicks so that he is reading. There are no magic formulas that make this happen on an adult's time. It all depends on the child and what works best for him. The most that we can do is to guide the child along the path of reading, introducing each concept as he is ready.

Most children will at least be familiar with the sounds of the alphabet by the time they are four, or in their second year of Montessori. Some of those children will be putting together those sounds to create words. When they are five and in their third year, most of them will be putting together sounds and starting to recognize some sight words. Some children aren't going to be able to do this until first grade. If a child is unable to read words by the age of 7, then you know you have a problem. A good instructor will recognize signs of struggle much sooner and will do whatever she can to help the child. She may make recommendations for some outside help that is more specialized. Services available are going to vary from school to school, and even district to district. 

The key is to communicate with your child's teacher.  Ask how your child is progressing. Compare your child's progression to himself, not his siblings or best friends. Make sure there is progress and not regression or an overly extended period of no progress. Remember that progress isn't always going to be memorizing sounds and words. Progress may be as simple as actually choosing to work in the language area multiple times throughout the day. Ask how your child's teacher feels about how he is doing and see if there are any recommendations.

Be wary of programs that claim they can turn your child into a reader as a toddler or promise reading by the age of 4. Find a program that sets more realistic goals and works with you to nurture your child in a way that is correct for him and not someone else.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Montessori misconceptions on reading from celebrities

Maria Montessori's 142nd birthday was just this past August 31st. I love that everyone is talking about it. Montessori is being pushed out into the mainstream media, creating more awareness. However, I also fear that even more miseducation could result from some of this.

I am speaking specifically about an article that I saw via Tim Seldin. It was posted on the Christian Science Monitor website: 'Maria Montessori and 10 famous graduates from her schools.' Talking about the famous people who have done well thinking outside of the box can do great things for Montessori education. It demonstrates how the goal of Montessori is to make children think for themselves, to expand their horizons, and to feel comfortable as they do so. Brilliant minds are nurtured within this type of environment. Educating the child for life has long-lasting effects that reach way into adulthood. This is all true. I see it in myself as a grown-up Montessori child.

One effect I see of constantly bringing up these famous Montessori kids is that many parents start to expect you to magically turn their kid into some kind of a superstar. They think that by enrolling their kids into a prestigious Montessori school, we will create these amazing creatures. We don't. These children come to us already as amazing creatures. We just help to lay a stronger foundation in their lives to help them blossom and grow and to realize their potential. The child is the one doing the work, not us.

The one page that haunted me the most was the one featuring Dakota Fanning. In it, she says that she learned how to read at the age of two and that Montessori teaches kids how to read at a really, really young age.

So did I. In fact, that was the reason that my parents sought some kind of appropriate education for me. They chose Montessori, not because children read early, but because it was the kind of environment that would stimulate my mind and educate me at my level. Even though I was reading at such a young age, I still needed to study phonics from the beginning. I distinctly remember tracing sandpaper letters and practicing their sounds. My early reading was all through sight word recognition that I had picked up on my own. I didn't have a grasp of phonics.

I find that parents often expect us to teach their children to read at the age of 3. Some of my toddler teacher friends have encountered parents who expect their children to read even at their level. You cannot force reading on a child. All you can do is give him as much exposure as possible. Feed into those sensitive periods for language with phonics exposure. Enrich the child's language environment. The child will learn how to read when he is ready. Sometimes that doesn't happen until the child is about seven years old, regardless of the child's educational background. Some of them will read at a younger age. Those who read at a younger age often have the skills ready to go at the surface. They just need someone to show them the way to let out those skills. THAT is what we can provide to the child, not teaching them at such a young age. It is not a guarantee.

I am glad that I encountered this story at the beginning of the school year. It just serves to remind me (and should all of us) how important parent education is. In some ways, we have to educate the parents even more than the children, so that they understand what we are really doing.