Quotation to Ponder

The role of education is to interest the child profoundly in an external activity to which he will give all his potential.  We are concerned here with bringing him liberty and independence while interesting him in an activity through which he will subsequently discover reality.  And for him this is the means by which he may free himself from the adult.

Dr. Maria Montessori in Childhood to Adolescence

Mastery, the Great Motivator

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

In Montessori circles, we talk often about mastery, self-esteem, self-confidence – that self-efficacy that I have previously blogged about.

Dr. Edward Hallowell says that the greatest motivator is mastery. When a child, or an adult, practices something until they have mastered it they want to repeat that feeling of mastery over and over again. He says fear is the greatest disabler and the more times you feel mastery, the less likely you will be to give in to your fears.  Mastery builds self-esteem and builds self-confidence.

Mastery takes many forms.  We tend to think of great musicians – I have two sisters-in-law who have mastered musical instruments – and they are both incredible musicians. I have a brother-in-law who has mastered optometry. I have a brother who has mastered all things mechanical. I have a nephew-in-law who can create unbelievable things out of what other people throw away. The musicians practiced, so did everyone else.

Practice builds self-confidence and once you have mastered one thing, it’s not too hard to figure out that you probably master something else.

I’m still practicing writing and quilting. Mastery calls and motivates.

 

For more information see:

Hallowell, E. M. (2002). The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy. Random House Publishing Group, New York, NY.

Practice

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Practice has become a dirty word. Well, it has become a word that is synonymous with drudgery or associated with emotional pain.

Edward Hallowell in his book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, says that practice gives children a sense of control as they work towards mastery.

Children practice all the time. Simple games we play with our babies and toddlers continue until they no longer get the desired reaction from the child. Children repeat activities they love – whether its puzzles, playing with cars, or playing dress-up – until it no longer challenges them and then they move to something else. Think about playing patty-cake or peek-a-boo with your baby. Repetition becomes discipline. When the baby has mastered those activities they are ready to move on to more advanced play.

It’s a simple concept. If you enjoy doing it – you will repeat it.  Hallowell stated, “Practice and discipline bridge the gap between play and mastery.”

In the Montessori classroom there is a two and a half to three hour work cycle. That seems like a long time but children have the opportunity to practice, master, and learn new materials every day.

Practice is not a dirty word when you enjoy what you are doing, desire to master it, and want to repeat the activity.

Play it Again!

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

The scientific studies into what makes for happiness both in childhood and in adulthood always emphasize that it is crucial to feel that you have control over yourself and your environment. The best way to develop that sense of control is through practice. Soon you learn that practice leads to mastery, which shows you that you can control your life, at least somewhat.

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell in The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

Hollowell continues on to say, “Structure and discipline unlock the door to talent.”

I was very frustrated by my son’s fifth grade teacher. In creative writing the children were encouraged just to put words on the paper and “be creative.” I argued that they needed to discipline themselves to write within the rules of grammar (structure) in order to effectively communicate their ideas – because writing is about communicating.

The Montessori classroom is highly structured. There are rules…walk in the classroom, walk around other’s work…when you have completed a work, return it to the shelf…as long as you are using the material nobody else may use it, they must wait until it is available. This structure and discipline frees the child to focus on the work. It is an environment that is respectful of the material and respectful of each other. A child can return to a work over and over and over. This practice leads to mastery. The structure and discipline help give them a sense of control.  When I child struggles with the rules and structure other children help and the environment becomes self-correcting just like the materials.

My thought process in my son’s classroom came from my many years of studying music. Practice within the rules leads to mastery. Arnold Schoenberg intentionally broke all the rules of music and created a music called “twelve-tone row.” It is wildly dis-harmonic! It does take a special talent to create music of such dissonance but I don’t know anyone who listens to it. Our ears are trained to expect certain chord progressions and chord resolutions and when we don’t get that it makes us uncomfortable. Likewise, when we try to read something that breaks all of the grammatical and linguistic rules we understand, then the writer has failed to create a word picture in our minds.

Practice leads to mastery. “Structure and discipline unlock the door to talent.” Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

 

The Skill of Play

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Play is any activity in which there is room for spontaneous invention and/or change.

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell in The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

Dr. Hallowell says the opposite of play is not work it is doing what you are told to do. Rote memorization is the opposite of play but thinking up a mnemonic device to remember a series of items can be playful. He also says that play can be governed by rules. He uses the example of playing the piano – he says you follow a score but some people have the ability to play without a score. However, they do abide by theoretical rules of music in chord progressions or our ears would perceive difficulties.  But if you have every played a board game such as Monopoly – there are rules – even if you change the rules – there are still rules that everyone abides by.

When I was very young, one Christmas I received a doll called “Chatty Cathy.” I was fascinated by this doll. You could pull a string and she would talk to you. My brother was also fascinated by this doll – but he wanted to see how it worked. He proceeded to take it apart. She never talked again. I was disappointed. I’m sure my parents were not. The interesting thing is that my brother’s play of discovery was indicative of who he would become because he can fix anything now. He absolutely understands mechanical things.

Dr. Hallowell sees play as a time of learning the skill of play. This skill leads to the creative use of time no matter where you are or what you are doing. Play is closely related to what Csikszentmihalyi called flow. When children play they usually become absorbed into the activity which is an indication of reaching the total focus of flow. Hallowell says the more chances we have to reach flow the happier we are and play is the childhood equivalent of flow. Csikszentmihalyi says that children need to engage in active, mental leisure work in order to learn flow.

 

For more information see:

Hallowell, E. M. (2002). The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy. Random House Publishing Group, New York, NY.

I’m Thankful…

I’m thankful for extended family and the joy and fun we have had together through the years – even with all of our differences in interests.

I’m thankful for friends – friends that have been part of my life a very long time and friends recently met. You bring freshness and insight to my life.

I’m grateful that you all have been part of my life.

What are you thankful for?

I’m Thankful…

I’m thankful for my children and grandchildren. It has been a wonderful experience to watch my own children grow and change through the years and my grandchildren bring such innocent joy to my life.

I hope for each of you have a joyous Thanksgiving!

I’m Thankful…

I’m thankful for the people I work with – they are honestly terrific! They make work an enjoyable experience. I’m grateful that I have work that I love, where I can use my strengths to help people and the organization. I’m also grateful to have this week off!

What are you thankful for?

I’m Thankful…

I’m thankful for parents who always wanted the best for me but didn’t give me everything I wanted. Instead they taught me about hard work and how to go after my dreams.  Their achievements and accomplishments inspired me and made me want to live a purposeful life.

What are you thankful for?