Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Does student engagement matter?

Two readings this morning:

first this: "What is college for?" which includes this acknowledgement:
"...university curriculum leaves students disengaged from the material they are supposed to be learning. They see most of their courses as intrinsically 'boring.'"

then this: "Teaching innovation key to propelling economy." Here's a sample:

"While we often think of creativity as the domain of music and art classes, most educators know that it’s what brings students alive in every class. Writing a play about a historical event. Designing and creating a certified Wildlife Habitat on campus. Developing a new application for a concept in math. That’s the kind of learning that really stays with kids—when they create something of their own, drawing upon different disciplines, often in a hands-on project. What doesn’t stick is preparation for standardized tests."

Does student engagement matter?

Montessori Glee

Cincinnati's Clark Montessori School wins Glee Award. Very cool!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids

“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction."

See the whole story here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Welcome to the age of overparenting

"Mom, we're bored."
"I know that if I continue on this path, not only will my kids never have the wherewithal to build an igloo after a snowstorm, they won’t even have the freedom or imagination to try. Watching them play halfheartedly in their meager little forts, I knew I had to change."

Why Montessori can help executive function skills

My own executive functioning skills fell short this time. On December 1st, you could have tuned in to Adele Diamond as she presented a "Distinguished Visiting Scholar" lecture at Virginia Tech.

Or you could watch the tape now. Or read excerpts.

"The prefrontal cortex is overrated." Knowing and doing are not the same thing.

Montessori to the rescue

Jack Creeden spoke to board chairs of ISAS schools. Prestigious private independent schools. Topic: "Trustee Governance: Beyond the Basics".

After speaking about the threats to traditional private schools (on-line learning, charter schools, home schooling), here was his first ray of hope:

Don’t Despair, Montessori to the
Rescue (B.Globe, 8.26.11)

Montessori Alumni
Wikipedia founder – Jimmy Wales
Amazon.com – Jeff Bezos
SimCity – Will Wright
Google – Larry Page & Sergey Brin

“Brain research shows that all the characteristics
Internet entrepreneurs value – divergent and
innovative thinking, intellectual self reliance . . .
are the primary focus of Montessori classroom.
Mistakes are opportunities to learn.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

not acquired behind a desk

Great college essay by a Montessori alum.

"Happiness enabler"

From the International Journal of Well Being.

5C's + 1

Not 3 R's anymore?

It used to be we only needed to remember 3 key words. Now life has gotten to be so complex we need to remember twice as many.

5C's + 1.

There's a revolutionary rallying cry!

Of course when it comes to education, we are fighting a huge entropy-maintaining flywheel. Despite a chorus of Voices for Change, there's a huge body of literature attempting to explain why it is so hard to reform schools.

And perhaps the most significant change in conventional schools has been the shift from the 3 R's to High Stakes Testing. Fear is a great motivator. But the lizard brain, center of our fear response, does not lead us to innovative solutions.

Private independent schools are immune from most of the High Stakes Testing requirements, but they are still "teach and test" environments; geared less toward Learning and more toward Knowing. And blind to the impact such a worldview has on the formation of character and personality.

That brings me to Pat Bassett, Executive Director of NAIS, the National Association of Independent Schools. He is a student of education as well as a leader, and he speaks from the bully pulpit: 5C's + 1? What's not to like here?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

fired for requiring students to think?

"The Socratic method is increasingly unpopular on college campuses 'because we are in a test-based education system.' Students are no longer used to such a process-oriented way of learning, and are 'increasingly impatient where the answer is not clear and when the professor is not giving it to them immediately.'"

Monday, October 31, 2011

international entrepeneurs seeking...

"Indian educator Guarav Singh takes a break from observing classes at the Metropolitan Montessori School in New York City. He is one of a group of international entrepreneurs seeking American educational models to bring back home."

front page photo from last week's Education Week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A home-schooler goes to college

The following article was sent to me by Stephan Kinsella (thanks, Stephan). From the feedback I've heard over the years from Montessori grads, some colleges are like this, some aren't. Some Montessori grads describe their college experiences as "getting back to a Montessori-style education after the wasteland of high school."

That's the prime reason we are starting our own high school next year.

It wasn't the schoolwork or social life that threw me. It's that I never realized how dull a classroom could be

I went to college when I was 18, like everyone else. But unlike other people, I had never been to school before. The first standardized test I ever took was the SAT. The day I took it was the first time I’d ever been in a high school classroom. It didn’t seem like a fun place.
I started college as a Music Ed major, because while I didn’t know what I wanted to study, I knew I liked music. The Intro to Music Education teacher, a woman I’ll call Mrs. Grimini, had taught kindergarten at a local school before joining the university faculty. She led us in songs like “The wheels on the bus go round and round!” She wanted us to share a memory of our own music teachers from kindergarten and first grade.
Everyone had one: The triangle. Holding hands in a circle. Those rainbow xylophones.
“Actually,” I said, “I didn’t go to school. But my dad is a jazz pianist?”
He played every day when I was a little kid. I used to sit under the piano and he’d ask if I could remember the melody, or he’d teach me how to play a few notes. Sometimes I sat with him on the couch in the darkened living room and we listened to Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” together, talking about how scary Mars was, and how big Jupiter was. We were almost never not listening to music.
But before I could say any of that, Mrs. Grimini interrupted me. “Home-schooled?” she said tightly.
“Yes,” I said, offering my politest smile.
“OK, you don’t need to participate.” And she moved on.
I was home-schooled. Unschooled, really, because my brothers and I didn’t follow a formal curriculum at all. But home schooling sounds radical enough, so I usually use that term to describe how I grew up. The latest statistics about American home-schoolers from the U.S. Department of Education were collected in 2007. They estimate around 1.5 million home-schoolers were in the country at that point, up from 1.1 million in 2003. No one seems to have any idea how many of those home-schoolers call themselves unschoolers, but it’s a pretty safe bet that there are more of us now than ever.
I look really normal, I promise. No one would think I’m a freak. Which is important, because if I didn’t appear normal, it would look bad for everyone in my group. We’re a very small group, and the world hasn’t had much time to get to know us. Like most minorities, we get stereotyped a lot. People think the wrong things about us and keep on thinking those things. Like that all home-schoolers are evangelical Christians who don’t believe in evolution, or that home-schooled kids can’t socialize, that we’re huge nerds who win spelling bees but can’t grasp simple pop cultural references. We’re all radical hippies or strange child prodigies. Whatever people think about home schooling, they’re pretty sure it’s emotionally damaging. We make people uncomfortable, even angry, maybe because they just don’t know us well.
“How arrogant does someone have to be,” they say, “to think they know better than everyone else in the world?”
That part is about my parents, because they made the decision initially. Sometimes all of the anger is directed at my parents (mostly my mother), and I am force-fed bitter, watery spoonfuls of pity.
“You poor thing! You didn’t get to be like the other children …”
That’s definitely true.
“How arrogant,” people like to say of my parents, “to think you could educate your child better than qualified teachers!”
“I could never do that,” women often say, of my mother. “I don’t have the energy.”
“But how will they learn science without a lab?” everyone says in unison.
These people have no idea how unschooling works.
And it’s hard for me to explain it to them. Because unschooling, for me, worked a lot like living. It wasn’t a dramatic political statement about our broken society. My parents decided not to send me to school because they liked hanging out with me. It sounds too simple. Were they radical anarchists or free-love types? Nope. They were just two brave people who believed that kids are naturally smart, and will naturally learn the things people need to learn to get by. As a result I am very polite and pretty bad at math. My parents were entrepreneurs. They were running their own business when I was born. They thought they could probably make it work. They didn’t think they were smarter than other people; they just trusted themselves to figure it out.
For me, home schooling meant getting to read all day and then read all the next day. It meant being able to apprentice myself to the adults whose work I admired, spend a lot of time playing in the nearby brook, write the books I couldn’t find but wanted to read, try directing Shakespeare plays and competing in classical piano and learning some Greek, all without having to worry about what might happen if I failed. Home schooling was about making mistakes that didn’t have bigger consequences than momentary embarrassment. Because I didn’t have grades. I worked hard to get better, because I cared about being better, because, I think, maybe people just care about that.
And then there was the occasional math textbook and online biology course, which Mom researched and purchased when she got nervous. Sometimes she became overwhelmed with concern. What if I fell behind the school kids? What if I didn’t go to college? It was important that I could still be good at the things people were supposed to be good at.
I wasn’t worried. I was happy.
I thought college would be interesting, but it didn’t sound particularly necessary, and I only applied to one school, the state university, which I chose for its proximity to my job and its relatively low cost. Home-schoolers often already have jobs, and I’d gotten mine at 15. I led services and tutored bar and bat mitzvah students at my synagogue. I was the one who sang the prayers in Hebrew on the bima, at the podium across from the rabbi’s. Adults sometimes asked for my advice. I was a community leader. I was making more money than all of my friends (a lot of them went to school and didn’t have time to work as much as me). College was going to be a piece of cake compared to this. But I had no idea what that particular piece of cake would be like.
College, it turned out, was an ugly place with mismatching architecture, surrounded by a sagging, distracted-looking little city. I got a big scholarship, for my SAT score and my “class rank.” My SAT score was good, but then, it’s kind of a dumb test. I’d made up the class rank. I didn’t have a class, so I said first. Technically, I was last as well.
“We shouldn’t lie,” my mom said.
“Why not?” my dad said. “Look how stupid this is.”
I was naive. It’s embarrassing, but I was. I thought college would be full of students leaning forward in class, eager to learn. Mom thought that, too. Her family couldn’t afford it, so she hadn’t gone, but she always imagined it would be world-expanding and fantastic. Dad hadn’t gone because his family couldn’t afford it either, and he thought it sounded boring.
Since I was so naive, I didn’t think a music major sounded different from another major. Or a state university sounded different from a private one. College was college. As a home-schooler, I hadn’t learned to separate everything into its own categories and rank it according to some perceived value. I got better at doing that in college, but it made life less interesting.
That was one of the most jarring lessons I learned in college. Life is just less interesting in a classroom. In college, you don’t really have to contribute. Unless it’s one of those classes where participation is 15 percent of your final grade. I liked those classes best.
I also learned what it felt like to be truly bored. I learned it was much more important to memorize than to understand. I learned that it was cool to get drunk and not cool to admit, as my friend down the hall once did, that you were in AA because of all the getting drunk. I learned it was fine not to care about any of your classes and funny to lock someone out of a building they were trying to get into and important to band together in the hall of the dorm to scream, “Get out! Get out, bitch!” at a girl from another school who had come to see her boyfriend, and who, freshly broken up with, was crying hysterically, huddled against his locked door.
And I learned that I wasn’t allowed to talk in Mrs. Grimini’s class. The next time I raised my hand, she said to the other students, “Kate was home-schooled, she can’t participate in this discussion.” And she never called on me again.
“Can she really take points off this one?” I asked, holding out my recently graded test to a friend. “I think that’s the answer. What did you write?”
He showed me. He’d written the same thing. And she had not taken off any points.
I sighed. “Should I go to a dean or something?”
“I guess.”
I didn’t want to. I wanted to pretend that Mrs. Grimini didn’t actually narrow her eyes when she looked at me. I wanted pretend that in college, people were smarter than they’d been outside of college. They were supposed to understand more about the way the world worked.
I needed some advice. I picked the scariest, most renowned, most bearded professor I could find, and I asked if I could meet with him.
“This is hard,” I told him. “All this is very new for me. I was home-schooled.”
“Oh!” he said, squinting at me like a puzzle he might have a chance at solving. “Home-schooled. And then here. A trial by fire.” He shook his head and chuckled in a way that only very bearded, very revered professors are able.
“So,” he said, as though we were about to begin a long talk. “Is it mostly the socialization?”
“Well, not exactly,” I said. I didn’t sigh aloud; I sighed to myself. I liked him.
It was mostly that I had thought that college would be the beginning of an exciting new phase of life, and instead it felt like the end of one. Before, learning could happen at any moment, rather than waiting for a professor to get up in front of a blackboard and start talking. You could end up friends with anyone, not just people exactly the same age as you. There were lots of problems with being home-schooled, and they were all becoming apparent. Home schooling had made me expect too much. It had given me plenty of time to figure out who I was, so that I didn’t have to do it now. College, so formulaic to me, didn’t feel like the real world.
Which is sort of funny, because for my whole life, people have been telling me that I must not know what the real world is. People always think that home-schoolers live these small lives in a constricted little world. I don’t know how to explain my life to them. I don’t know how to clarify the open-ended world of my childhood, in which the rules made sense and I worked hard because it was fun to be productive. What world is that? It isn’t normal. There are no grades.
“So how is it?” Mom would ask. She was eager, much like any other mother, probably.
I didn’t want to disappoint her. I wanted her to feel that home schooling had been a success. The right kind of success that had prepared me for the next step. So I didn’t tell her that my little brothers were wittier than the students I was meeting. I didn’t tell her that they knew more about the Enlightenment than the upperclassmen in my history class. I didn’t tell her about Mrs. Grimini. But I didn’t lie to her, either.
“I’m getting really good grades,” I said.

Friday, September 30, 2011

little bets

Daring to stumble on the road to discovery
by Peter Sims

INVENTION and discovery emanate from the ability to try seemingly wild possibilities; to feel comfortable being wrong before being right; to live in the world as a careful observer, open to different experiences; to play with ideas without prematurely judging oneself or others; to persist through difficulties; and to have a willingness to be misunderstood, sometimes for long periods, despite the conventional wisdom.

All these abilities can be learned and developed, but doing so requires us to unlearn many of our tendencies toward linear planning and perfectionism.

As the technology pioneer Alan Kay put it: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” It begins with a little bet. What will yours be?

the bubble test

Fill in the circles. There is only one right answer. Stop when time is called.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Secret of success = failure?

This article in the New York times created good buzz among the parents here at Post Oak. They've heard this from us before...

The power of "yes"

A recent e-mail from Post Oak parent Deepa Poduval:

Aashna (4 1/2 years old) reminded us of a valuable parenting lesson this weekend and I thought we should share it with you since you will recognize POS' imprint in it!

Aashna's sister, Ashwini, is now 7 months old and has just started to crawl. She has been particularly attracted to the power outlets we have in the floor of our living room for our table lamps. Since she is still relatively unsteady and slow while she tests her new skills, Raj and I have had fair warning when she starts to approach the power outlets and have stopped her before she was able to get too close. We would look her in the eyes and say "No" firmly and repeat it a couple of times (for reinforcement!). Each time, Ashwini would look at us with those big, sparkling eyes, give us a toothless grin and set right off toward the outlet again. This afternoon I was at it again with Ashwini when Aashna walked by, saw us and went running to get Ashwini one of her favorite sqeak toys and held it out in the opposite direction from the power outlet and said "This is Yes!", "This is Yes!". And sure enough - Ashwini abandoned her journey to the power outlet and set off in pursuit of her toy. I'm pretty sure this will not be a permanent solution to Ashwini's fascination with the power outlet but we enjoyed and appreciated watching the way Aashna's mind worked while ours defaulted to saying "No"! Aashna saw the problem and as a Montessori child rushed to the rescue with a simple, yet practical solution - she instinctively offered choices and used the power of the affirmative.

Definitely a testament to her Montessori journey at POS every day!


Friday, September 9, 2011

quick draw (superwoman)

A second You Tube Quick Draw video done by a parent singing the value of Montessori education.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Single Best Idea

Steve Denning's latest blog for Forbes: "The single best idea for reforming K-12 education." He doesn't much care for conventional education which he compares to the management system that emerged from the 20th century factory model. He presents an alternative approach and says, by the way, that we don't need to reinvent the wheel. It's already been done.

EFs pt 2

The Wall Street Journal has picked up the story about EFs. Here's Jonah Lehrer's version:

Friday, September 2, 2011


Executive functions.

What are they? (hint: think self-management, self-control, self-direction)

Why are they important? (hint: success in school and in life)

How can we help children develop them? (hint: Montessori education is the most comprehensive school curriculum to do this.)

Read this article (be sure to scroll down the page for the article) in Science magazine for the full story.

or this article in the Weekly Post for my take on it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Montessori Schools Do This

When many of our best thinkers think about how to make creative and innovative thinking part of our schools, they automatically think of Montessori classrooms.

From an interview with Cathy Davidson in Salon:

In the book, you have this fascinating statistic that 65 percent of kids born today will have careers that don’t exist yet. Right now, under No Child Left Behind, the school system puts tremendous emphasis on standardized multiple choice tests, which, as you point out, don't exactly train kids to think creatively about the technological future.

The whole point of standardized testing was invented in 1914 and modeled explicitly as a way to process all these immigrants who were flooding into America at the same time as we were requiring two years of high school, and men were off at war and women were working in factories. The multiple choice test is based on the assembly line – what’s fast, what’s machine readable, what can be graded very, very rapidly. It’s also based on the idea of objectivity and that there's a kind of knowledge that has a right answer. If you chose a right answer, you’re done.

It's really only in the last 100 years that we’ve thought of learning in that very quantifiable way. We’re now in an era where anybody can find out anything just by Googling. So the real issue is not how fast can I choose a fact A, B, C or D. Now if I Google an answer I’ve got thousands of possibilities to choose from. How do you teach a kid to be able to make a sound judgment about what is and what isn’t reliable information? How do you synthesize that into a coherent position that allows you to make informed decisions about your life?

In other words, all of those things we think of as school were shaped for a vision of work and productivity and adulthood that was very much an industrial age of work, productivity and adulthood. We now have a pretty different idea of work, productivity and adulthood, but we’re still teaching people using the same institutionalized forms of education.

So what do we do to change that?

First I’d get rid of end-of-grade tests. They demotivate learning, in boys especially. Establish more challenge-based problem-solving kinds of education. This is hardly revolutionary. Montessori schools do this. I would like to see more attention paid to how you go from thinking something to making something.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Great tourist video. Not all tourists are learners, and not all learners are tourists.

But this is fun, maybe even inspiring.

Here's the question at the end of the chapter: What does this video tell us about the nature of learning?

Friday, July 29, 2011

what is it about this moment in time?

Last week it was You Tube. Yesterday Harvard Business Review. Today in Forbes business writer Steve Denning blogs a wake-up call to Bill Gates who has spent $5 billion trying to improve education. "Think Bigger," Denning says.


If you read deep enough into his blog, you learn, "Schools practicing this new culture of learning don't have to be invented....the new culture of learning takes place in thousands of Montessori classrooms every day."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Montessori Builds Innovators

Harvard Business Review. blog by Andrew McAfee, author of Enterprise 2.0.

"When I got too old for my Montessori school and went to public school in fourth grade, I felt like I'd been sent to the Gulag. I have to sit in this desk? All day? We're going to divide the day into hour-long chunks and do only one thing during each chunk?"

Monday, June 27, 2011


Here's a new idea: Kickstarter.

What is it?

A new way to fund creative projects.

Yancey Strickler is a co-founder of Kickstarter. A Montessori kid. Another creative enterprise from the Montessori mafia!

The Virtues of Play

Here's a blog post from Jonah Lehrer, author of How we decide and Proust was a neuroscientist.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The New Culture of Learning

Culture of learning.
The new culture of learning.
An example of the new culture of learning.

Montessori is an example of the new culture of learning.

(Steve Denning's blog "Rethink" in Forbes.)

Montessori Mafia - posted on the web

The Wall Street Journal says Montessori education is "the surest route to joining the creative elite." Meet the elite: Montessori grads, parents and supporters.

Send us names, conact information, and profiles of former Montessori students who ought to be added to this list. It is not complete...and never will be. This is a project designed to capture the impact of Montessori education as demonstrated by the lives and characteristics of our alumni.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

in the plex

"...both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids....It's really ingrained in their personalities."

This is a powerful, profound statement -- and it is NOT about Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It is about the big picture impact of Montessori education. It is CAUSAL, not casual.

Montessori education shapes the learner. This is not about skills or information or test scores. It is about the formation of personal traits: the way we learn shapes us.

"This is really baked in to the way Larry and Sergey approach problems." BAKED IN.

"They're always asking, 'Why should it be like that?' It's the way their brains were programmed early on." THE WAY THEIR BRAINS WERE PROGRAMMED.

The way we learn shapes who we become.

Recently we interviewed parents of older children at our school. Some complained that they were tired of hearing my message about the significance of Montessori methodolgy. What they want to hear about is evidence of their own children's progress.

An interesting dilemma. How do we help them see our progress engraining personality traits?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Montessori Mafia

Author, pilot, and Montessori dad, Trevor Eissler, bemoans Montessori's "peace, love, wimpy" image. "Montessori's not wimpy," he says. Montessori education is rigorous. Montessori education emphasizes personal responsibility -- and that is certainly not wimpy."

Now comes the perfect antidote: The Montessori Mafia toughens up the Montessori image in a "sticky" way.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

this amputated view of human nature

Melissa Cordero sent me this article by David Brooks, "The New Humanism."

Here's a sample:
"When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

"Yet while we are trapped within this amputated view of human nature, a richer and deeper view is coming back into view. It is being brought to us by researchers across an array of diverse fields: neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on.

"This growing, dispersed body of research reminds us of a few key insights. First, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place. Second, emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to things and are the basis of reason. Finally, we are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships."

7 Sins of Forced Education

Rakesh Agrawal often sends me stories to read. Here's another from Psychology Today: "7 Sins of our system of forced education."

Don't get hung up on the section about schools as prisons. If you're interested in Gray's argument, read it. He's quite convincing. Otherwise, skip ahead to the section on The Sins.

Author Peter Gray says, "It is not easy to force people to do what they do not want to do. We no longer use the cane, as schoolmasters once did, but instead rely on a system of incessant testing, grading, and ranking of children compared with their peers. We thereby tap into and distort the human emotional systems of shame and pride to motivate children to do the work."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here's an invitation I sent today:

Faculty, Staff and Board:

Service is at the core of our mission. In my Weekly Post letter last week, I quoted Post Oak alumnus Nikkil Schneider who said simply, “That’s just what we do.” Service is baked in to Montessori kids from the earliest age. For us, service to others is more than a food drive at Thanksgiving. It is a character trait whose roots are nourished in the infant community classroom when one two-year old helps another put on a sweater.

Montessori kids learn to give help and to receive help in matters of practical life, and in their studies as well. What do you call it when one child helps another in class? Cheating? That’s what most schools call it. We call it the ideal. Business writer Steven Covey agreed. He said that the traditional American ideal has always been to move from the dependence of childhood to the independence of adulthood. Covey suggests that an even higher state of development comes when we recognize and embrace our interdependence. Once again Dr. Montessori was ahead of her time. In the Montessori elementary curriculum we present a chart entitled “Interdependencies” when we study the organization of society. That is an academic model, an intellectual construct, one that becomes a lens through which the Montessori student views the world. On a more concrete and practical plane, helping each other from the earliest age is augmented by service to the classroom community, to the school as a whole, and then service to the wider community as the child matures and their worldview expands.

Montessori graduates understand that their work is a part of the network of interdependencies that comprise our society. In that way, all work is service. Beyond that, Montessori graduates have learned to give and to receive help. They have learned that this is a core value of community, and so they look to serve. As Post Oak alum Lt. Will Treadway said when I asked him to connect the dots between Montessori education, West Point, and a career in the military, “Leadership and service.”

And so I am pleased to see that the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is promoting service. Read about its “One Million Hours of Service Initiative” . NAIS Executive Director Pat Bassett frames service as part of the “public purpose” of private schools.

I would like to contribute our voice to this dialog and am asking for volunteers who are willing to lead this project for Post Oak. Please let me know if you are interested.


Baked In

“You can’t understand Google,” vice president Marissa Mayer says, “unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.” She’s referring to schools based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician born in 1870 who believed that children should be allowed the freedom to pursue their interests. “In a Montessori school, you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so,” she says. “This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, why should it be like that? It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.”

But the dominant flavor in the dish is his boundless ambition, both to excel individually and to improve the conditions of the planet at large.

From “Larry Page Wants to Return Google to its Start-up Roots”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reason vs Emotions

From Post Oak parent Melissa Cordero:


I love reading about the “deeper talents” that some are just now recognizing the importance of as if revolutionary; and which have been the core of Montessori education for a century!

Enjoy your Spring Break,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Talented Teenagers

From a review of a 1995 book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

"The authors conclude that learning to invest, and wanting to invest, in challenging tasks is indispensable to skill development. It is also important to have a social environment wherein students enjoy emotional and material support from their families while taking more responsibility for their own learning, especially in the area of their talent, and finding enjoyment in doing so. None of these elements, however, was much in evidence in the teenagers' schools; instead, the schools appeared more interested in "covering cognitive ground" than engaging the interest of talented students.

Parents, teachers, psychologists and counselors will find concrete information about conditions that cultivate talent in both "gifted" and "regular" adolescents."

We need to make better schools. Not schools driven by high stakes testing. That simply amplifies the orientation to "cover cognitive ground".

What kind of schools do we need? Schools that understand how to cultivate talent in both "gifted" and "regular" adolescents.

This is why we have accepted the challenge to expand our program into the high school level -- not just another conventional high school -- a Montessori high school, a Post Oak high school.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Be the best possible version of yourself

A note from Post Oak parent Rakesh Agrawal.


A blog reading...
from the guy who created gmail at google and then started another company which he sold to Facebook. A good response, I think, to Amy Chua's Tiger Mother book that's been getting a lot of attention (I read it a few weeks back and have enjoyed using it as a springboard for discussing parenting with Shonali and friends).


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Social Animal

I found the beginning of this article by David Brooks annoying, but the last ¾ was much more interesting. Implications for schooling are interesting to contemplate. Certainly the active, engaging, collaborative social environment of the Montessori classroom (as opposed to the teacher-directed seat-work environment of traditional schools) is a richer laboratory for the development of social skills.

Actually,that article amplifies the theme of Brooks' unique criticism of Tiger Mom Amy Chua -- see if this whets your appetite: "Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls."

"the stolen incandescence of a thousand young minds"

From Theodore Gray's web site, Periodic Table.

At the end of one of those books, Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sacks describes the process of growing out of his youthful enthusiasm for chemistry as a painful feeling of loss. I know exactly what he's talking about.

And I also know that there are a lot of kids who never feel this sense of loss, because by the time they are teenagers, they have nothing left to lose. Whatever enthusiasm, creativity, and focus they started with has long since been driven out of them, destroyed by television, video games, horrible schools, horrible opportunities, and horrible role models. The bright flicker of our television screens is the stolen incandescence of a thousand young minds.

One of the first things to go is a sense of mastery. Television, even the supposedly good stuff, is full cues that this is something other people can do, not you. Beyond the ubiquitous "Don't try this at home kids!" there are the slick production values and the fancy props to hammer home the lesson that nothing you could possibly do at home is as interesting or as valid as what you see on TV.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What makes kids creative?

Two entries about creativity to bang against each other: an article from the Wall Street Journal (brought to my attention by Post Oak parent Lisa Eddleman) and a TED talk from "creativity expert" Ken Robinson.

Hi John

This is a very interesting article from Wednesday's WSJ on what makes children creative. Apparently "creativity" (as measured by particular tests) has fallen over the past several years--the article speculates that the focus on teaching to standardized tests in school, as well as too much TV and computer time have both contributed to the decline.

All the "solutions" to this problem discussed in the article appear to be what Montessori education already emphasizes: listening to children's ideas without judging them as good or bad; teaching children how to pick out the best ideas for solving problems through teamwork; avoid paying too much attention to "outcome" of creative work. None of these things are surprising or novel for Montessori parents!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Montessori Ethos

"What were your most important leadership lessons?" the NY Times asked internet entrepeneur Jeremy Allaire. "Being educated in a Montessori setting," he said.