Wednesday, March 18, 2009 design?

"I don't want to be an accidental parent."

What a surprising and powerful statement that is: a commitment to intentionality, a commitment to action based on principle. It came from a participant in one of our prospective parent meetings, a series of four classes we offer as a part of the admission process to the Post Oak School. We want parents who are considering our school to make an informed choice; to understand what we do and why; and we hope they will learn basic Montessori ideas that will be helpful at home right away.

This parent thanked us for helping her understand the importance of offering a child choices because that empowers the child. He has a voice. He feel likes he has some control over his world. He is not a pawn or a victim. At the same time, the adult must set limits on the choices. The child is not running the show, and limits provide security and structure.

It is time for your two year old to get dressed. You do not ask, "Would you like to get dressed?" That is not really a choice that you are offering...unless you are ready to accept "no" for an answer. But you could say, "It is time to get dressed. Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?" Or, if you have limited to a small number the shirts in the dresser drawer, you could say, "It is time to get dressed. Would you choose a shirt to wear?"

This is an example of a design principle undergirding Montessori classrooms: children make choices within limits. This helps them learn to make choices. It helps them develop their will. It helps them develop diligence and self-control. It helps them know themselves, recognize their own interests and act on them. It helps them have a respectful engagement with adults and with authority, rather than to utilize opposition as the only way to express autonomy.

Do all schools have design principles? What are they?

Tangential connections to the idea of "education by design:"

David Perkins' book Knowledge as Design
Dan Pink's book A Whole New Mind
Fast Company magazine
the books of Edward Tufte
the work of Frank Lloyd Wright
Presentation Zen

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