Quotation to Ponder

“The Montessori experience resembles what adults do in innovative organizations. Montessori emphasizes collaboration, communication, self-direction, and risk-taking. There are no grades or tests, but teachers and other students give informed feedback. Kids take the lead in defining their goals, exploring passions, and learning about the world. It’s an environment of discovery, of inquiry, of working on something for long blocks of time instead of shifting gears every forty-five minutes. And kids are encouraged to take chances, fail, and iterate to an end goal of importance.”

Tony Wagner & Ted Dintersmith in Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our kids for the Innovation Era.

Effective Communication Begins with Writing – Part 2

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Speaking about the communication skills of young executives, Annmarie Neal, a former Cisco executive says, ”I continue to believe that two of the most important skills in the innovation economy are in thinking critically (about problems, situations, market ideas) and then the ability to communicate (an idea, a recommendation, a plan forward) in a way that is not only thoughtful and compelling but also in a way that influences others to take action.”

“The ability to write and speak persuasively go hand in hand” according to Wagner and Dintersmith (2015).

Communication is the process of conveying ideas verbally, through written form, or in an exchange of information. Learning to write effectively for the purpose of communication is a skill that children need to function in a 21st century economy. If what Ms. Neal says above is true, children and adults need to learn to fully express critical thinking and strategic thinking in a way that compels and influences people to take action. This means the writing must be clear enough to actually communicate. Effective communication is clear – it leaves no room for the reader to misinterpret the meaning. Effective communication uses appropriate grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.

Once the writing clearly defines the problem and clarifies the solution then the person can use verbal skills to persuasively exchange information.

Teaching writing skills is time consuming and requires useful feedback. Very little writing is necessary if teachers and students are judged by test scores. Effective writing skills aide in the development of all of the other communication skills.


Wagner & Dintersmith (2015). Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids For The Innovation Era. Scribner: New York.

Effective Communication Begins with Writing – Part 1

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

I was not impressed when my son’s fifth grade teacher indicated they were not concerned about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or syntax when handing out writing assignments. They wanted the children to be creative and just write their story.

My thought was how do they learn to communicate effectively if they don’t understand the rules of writing?

The ability to communicate effectively is a skill every adult needs in the 21st century. Mastery of written skills improve verbal communication. Presentation skills improve with mastery of written and verbal skills. Effective communication combines writing, reading, verbal, and presentation skills. It is important to communicate your thoughts completely and effectively and also to be able to comprehend someone else’s communication back to you.

My husband passed along a writing tip to me learned from his doctoral program: Use Microsoft Word’s readability statistics to help check your writing.  To set this up:

  • Open Word,
  • Select File,
  • Select options,
  • Select proofing, and
  • Check the box for readability statistics.

This function lists the grade level of the writing, number of words, number of paragraphs, number of sentences, and lists the percentage of passive sentences contained in the area checked. The spell check function activates the readability statistics. My husband was told to aim for no more that 15% total passive sentences.

I have used this function for over 12 years and without a doubt this single step has improved my writing. At first I struggled to change the passive sentences to active but following this rule has helped me write better and communicate more effectively.

The Obsolescence of the Slide Rule

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

I never learned the intricacies of a slide rule. I never took the upper level math that required its use.

Wagner and Dintersmith (2015) state that the heyday of 19th and 20th century math revolves around the use of a slide rule. It was the use of a slide rule that “spared people from messy computations.” It was an essential tool used by bombardiers and navigators in both world wars, the Manhattan Project team, astronauts, designers of tanks, planes, ships, and rockets. They say the slide rule, “in hands of people trained to perform low-level tasks under enormous pressure – preserved the free world and propelled us to global leadership.”

The slide rule was obsoleted with a pocket calculator – an expensive one at the time – created by Hewlett-Packard. Thank you HP! I don’t need to know how to use a slide rule.

Smart phones now have much more power than the 1970s vintage super computers. Computers, calculators, and smart phones allow people to focus on creative problem-solving using imagination and creativity rather than focusing on repetitive computations.

Standardized tests still rely on the ability to do repetitive computations by hand, quickly, and error free but they cannot evaluate a student’s ability to creatively solve problems. It is the creative problem-solving skills that are needed for life!

Wagner & Dintersmith (2015). Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids For The Innovation Era. Scribner: New York.

Test Preparation or Life Preparation

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

During my professional career I have worked for several nonprofit organizations, a huge for-profit technology corporation, several family businesses, and several different governmental agencies. During all of this time I have never been tested over the work I was doing. Are you shocked?

Every employer, every supervisor, and every peer has only ever looked at the outcome of the project I was working on.

My very first job was filing for a municipal government (everything is digital now – be thankful!). Nobody tested me to determine if I knew the alphabet or tested me to see if I could read. Instead they watched me file personnel applications for 8 hours, each day for several months. At the end of that first summer I left for college but my supervisor told me to contact her during every college break and she would have a job waiting for me.

It wasn’t my ability to take a test that kept me employed. It was my work ethic.

Later, supervisors and peers were more concerned with the outcome of projects, the willingness to collaborate with others, and the ability to communicate, rather than test over the work content.

In a Montessori environment children learn to collaborate, communicate, and work ethic. The learning is holistic not just focused on learning about what will be on a test.


You are cordially invited…

book-cover-how-to-raiseWe are happy to announce the Montessori Academy Book Club!

You are cordially invited to attend. Check out “Upcoming Events” (tab on the left) on this website for more details. Our first book is How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Child for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims.

The format is a facilitated discussion led by MA bloggers: Emily Breaux, Tanelle Murphy, and Brenda Bernstorf.

Quotation to Ponder

“We all know that Montessori children tend to be caring, compassionate, entrepreneurial, and creative problem solvers. For them, learning tends to come naturally. Their minds are open, they welcome diversity, and they see that they can accomplish more by working together.  Montessori doesn’t crush their spirit, it empowers them to find their own voice.”

From Tim Seldin, president of the Montessori Foundation:

Montessori Myths- Part 4

MA blogger: Tanelle Murphy

#4 “Won’t my child have trouble adjusting when she leaves Montessori?”

Parents worry so much about how their children will adjust to traditional classrooms when they leave a Montessori school. The reality is that Montessori educated children develop skills that take them successfully into any new environment.  They are self-directed, know how to problem-solve, have time management skills, know how to think for themselves, and still love to learn!  Of course the longer children stay in the Montessori environment, the more these skills will be developed.  If you’re leaving because your child has reached the final grade in your Montessori school, relax and know that your child has the academic, social, and practical skills to tackle this change.  If you’re thinking about moving your child out of your Montessori school early so that he can “get used to” a traditional classroom, really think about what you would be giving up.  The benefits of a Montessori education grow with each year, so it will not help your child do better later by pulling her from Montessori earlier.

I can tell you that my daughter attended Montessori Academy from the age of three through 8th grade.  She is now in a much larger high school environment, and she’s thriving there!  Stay as long as you can in your Montessori school, and trust that your child will be extremely well prepared for whatever environment she enters next.

Montessori Myths- Part 3

MA blogger: Tanelle Murphy

#3 “If the teachers aren’t telling my child what to do, how do I know that my child will make progress?”

This question is based on the mistaken belief that children have to be forced to learn. Did you have to push your child to learn how to speak or walk?  In fact, learning is a natural, joyful, and exciting process in the right environment.  Did you have to push your child to learn how to speak or walk?  Of course not!  Children are natural learners.

In the Montessori classroom, teachers give lessons to children, and then children practice those lessons until they achieve mastery and are ready for a new challenge. Through observation and careful recordkeeping, teachers know exactly where each child is in the curriculum and when that child needs more time, needs more assistance, or is ready for a new lesson.  The children make progress at their own pace, and usually far exceed academic levels reached by children in traditional settings.

If you’ve asked yourself this question, I’d suggest a new question, “If the teachers are telling my child what to do all day, how will she become a self-motivated, self-directed, independent person?”  In a Montessori classroom, she will!

Montessori Myths – Part 2 “Isn’t Montessori just for little kids?”

MA blogger: Tanelle Murphy

Sometimes parents bring their children to Montessori schools lacking the understanding that Montessori education is for children of all ages, from infant through high school. Maria Montessori designed educational programs based on each three-year plane of development. Yes, Toddler and Primary classes are wonderful, but the elementary and middle school classes are equally wonderful and continue to give children what they need developmentally, socially, and emotionally.  For example, the age of six to nine is when children become more social, more concerned with justice and fairness, and are able to think more abstractly.  Yet this is the exact time when traditional schools expect them to become solitary, passive learners- to sit in a desk, work alone, and begin what is, in many schools, the drudgery of trading true learning for rote memorization.  In a Montessori classroom, those same children are working together, learning social skills and conflict resolution, continuing to progress through the curriculum at their own pace, and delving into learning with joy and confidence.

No, Montessori isn’t just for little kids; it is exceptional education for all ages.