Quotation to Ponder

According to historians at the Thomas Edison National Historic Park, this is what Thomas Edison had to say about Montessori Education:

I like the Montessori Method.  It teaches through play. It makes learning a pleasure. It follows the natural instincts of the human being. The present system casts the brain into a mold. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning.


What are we doing?

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

I watched a video created by a high school senior at prestigious private school describe the loss of purpose, passion, and curiosity  of students on their journey from elementary school to high school and beyond.

You can watch the video here:

Losing Ourselves

I once heard a radio broadcast from the late Larry Burkett, a financial planner, who in the course of the broadcast about how to help your child create a positive financial future for him- or herself said, “Help your child find his or her passion and stick to it. Financial success will follow.”

Every parent wants success for their child – greater success than they have known.

My mom was the first person to go to college in her family and become a professional – a teacher. She came from a working class family.

My dad grew up on a farm and was the first person in his family to go to college.

Their wish for me and my brother was to have a better future than they had.

I want that for my children and grandchildren.

What kind of parents would we be if we didn’t want our children to be successful? But us pushing them to be something we want and ignoring what they want does not guarantee success, happiness, or fulfillment.

In the video, I’m struck by the lack of letting children enjoy life as children versus the alternative of inflicting stress and pursuit of faux goals that smack of deceit. What are we really teaching?


Practical Skills

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Every school and educational method believes that students need fundamental skills in math, reading, writing, important concepts, historical figures, and historical events. Each school and methodology differs in how to accomplish this.

I have never taught math per se. However, I have taught math concepts to piano students, cooking students, and as a substitute teacher. How many ways are there to teach fractions from a practical perspective?

Whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, 16th notes, are equivalent to 1, ½, ¼, 1/8, and 1/16. Notes are measurements of time or duration – in fractions.

Every cook understands 1 cup, ½ cup, ¼ cup (or teaspoons). These are measurements of volume and understanding is essential for the success of the recipe.

A whole pie, half pie, quarter pie, eighth pie – are all measurements about how much pie I will get to eat. (I have found this particularly helpful for students who just don’t get fraction concepts – this is visceral).

One dollar (doesn’t mean as much as it once did), half dollar (don’t see these much anymore), quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. Money is all about fractions and will help children understand fractions.

I’m sure you could share many more ways to teach fractions. Montessori materials give children hands on experience to demonstrate fractions. Teaching this concept in the abstract is not nearly as effective as hands on – or dividing a pie.  When the materials help the child experience what fractions mean the learning becomes concrete.

Just for fun!

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

I recently ran across this humorous video of pianist Nicole Pesce. Her virtuosity astounds as she explores how master composers might have played the tune “Happy Birthday.” This appeals to the classical musician in me.

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S75gYhODS0M

This is a perfect example of taking her extensive knowledge about different composers, their unique style, and the period in music history and applying it creatively – just for fun.

I hope you enjoy it!

Crazy Education

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” *

In 1893 a committee of ten industrialist stated the purpose of education is to teach students low-level cognitive skills, train them to perform repetitive tasks quickly and error free, and eliminate all traces of creativity and innovation (Wagner & Dintersmith).

Late 19th century schools fulfilled this objective and created effective factory workers and early to mid-20th century schools utilized this same purpose to create knowledge workers. Twenty-first century workers need to be creative, innovative, and critical thinkers. Why are we still using the same method meant to eliminate what is needed? This is insanity.

Wagner and Dintersmith in their book: Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era, suggest that the committee of ten would rewrite the purpose of education to be:

The purpose of education is to engage students with their passions and growing sense of purpose, teach them critical skills needed for career and citizenship, and inspire them to do their very best to make their world better.

Crazy education is allowing a child to develop his or her own passions, purpose, and develop skills according to that interest. Crazy education is helping children develop critical thinking skills needed for future careers and placing an emphasis on social and citizenship skills. Crazy education is to inspire children to be all they were created to be and help make the world better.

Hmm…not so crazy. Sounds like a Montessori education.


*This quote is probably misattributed to Einstein – read more at: https://www.quora.com/Did-Einstein-really-define-insanity-as-doing-the-same-thing-over-and-over-again-and-expecting-different-results

Quotation to Ponder

Steve Denning, author and global leadership guru, says this in discussing the kinds of people businesses need in our changing economy:

You need people who are creative self-starters, who are comfortable doing that, and want to live and flourish in that kind of world.  The Montessori Method fits perfectly into America’s emerging economy.


MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

When my children were very young I realized that my priority for them was that they would develop into responsible and socially acceptable adults.  Academically, I knew they would succeed but I wanted them to grow into socially acceptable, thinking people.

Wagner and Dintersmith in their book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our kids for the Innovation Era give the following description for the purpose of education:

  1. Cognitive and social skills
  2. Preparing students to be responsible, contributing citizens
  3. Character building
  4. The process of self-discovery
  5. Inspire students through the study of great works
  6. Preparation for productive careers

They future state: “few schools are operationally clear on their priorities.”

At Montessori Academy, our vision statement starts with these words: Our vision is that each student will become an independent, confident, motivated learner, and responsible community member….

The logical question to the list and to the vision statement is: How do you do that? Or how do you know you do that?

Montessori classrooms are designed to meet these priorities at every level.

Montessori Academy of Brentwood is accredited by the American Montessori Society and AdvancED. Accreditation validates the achievement of standards or priorities.

Things to Learn by Doing

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

  • Musicians learn by practicing.
  • Composers learn by composing.
  • Computer programmers learn by coding.
  • Doctors learn by practicing medicine.
  • Builders learn by building.
  • Woodworkers learn by working with wood.
  • Surgeons learn by doing surgery.
  • Writers learn by writing.
  • Chefs learn by cooking.

As you see, this list could be endless. There is a foundation of knowledge that is applied to the learning for every area mentioned in this list. Musicians learn by practicing based upon their knowledge of the type of music they are practicing and how they know it should sound. Composers take the fundamentals of music theory and are creative with that knowledge to compose new music. Surgeons and doctors have extensive knowledge about the human body before they practice medicine or do surgery. Builders have extensive knowledge about structural integrity before they attempt building something larger than a treehouse. All have a good foundation in basic skills of reading and math.

But the fact still remains – they have to do it not just read about it.

Learning by Doing

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Can you ride a bike?

I learned to ride a bike at age 5 or 6. When my dad took the training wheels off the bike I was only partially there. As you know, there is an instant between not balancing and achieving balance on a bicycle. Once you learn balance there is no going back. To get to that point you may fall, you may scrape up your legs but this is how you learn to ride a bike.

I watched our own children go through this process. I have watched my grandchildren go through this process. It always works the same way.

Can you swim?

Growing up in the very hot southwest made swimming a necessity.  There is a point in time when a child goes from splashing in the shallow end or kiddie pool to swimming under water across the pool and diving in the deep end.

The process is similar for everyone and while you don’t scrape your legs as mentioned above, you may swallow water and sputter as you learn to hold your breath and as you learn to use stokes to push and pull through the water. You may sting your belly and legs as you learn to dive.

Nothing can replace finding your balance and scraping your legs or sputtering and getting wet. You have to do it. When you learn by doing something you never forget how. I can still ride a bike and still swim.

Help your children do something.

A Very Brief History of Education – Part 2

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Last Thursday we explored early educational systems that included the caveman’s intent to survive, the apprenticeship system, and an introduction to the Prussian system to America…here is the rest of the story*.

A shift to low-wage routine jobs moving offshore gave rise to white-collar jobs and the knowledge worker (Peter Drucker’s term). To keep pace, Americans prioritized education and the number of high school and college graduates soared. The Prussian model remained effective in preparing students for knowledge-worker jobs.

In the 1980s a choice between gradual and incremental improvements and wholesale renovation of the educational system produced policies like No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top. The emphasis on standardized testing firmly established the practice of teaching to the test.

Knowledge is now available at the swipe of a finger where once it was only available through schools and libraries. Knowledge alone is no longer valued in the workplace. In our innovation-driven economy it is not what you know, but what you can do with what you know that is important.

The importance of what you can do or how you can integrate your knowledge into practical, creative or innovative application is a result of doing not memorization. If you recall, on Thursday I indicated that at home I applied knowledge of what I learned in school. Practical things like cooking and sewing reinforced math and reading skills and built confidence in my ability to learn and apply what I had learned.

A Montessori education helps children do not just know. Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg use the term Smart Creatives to describe the type of people Google needs.

*Note: This is a partial synopsis from: Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith.