How to Get Your Mind to Read

A recent article online in the New York Times- Sunday review offered insight on the “reading problem” in America.

This article focused on the comprehension issues that lead to problems in reading. Many of these poor readers can sound out words from print, so in that sense, they can read. Yet they are functionally illiterate — they comprehend very little of what they can sound out. So what does comprehension require? Broad vocabulary, obviously. Equally important, but more subtle, is the role played by factual knowledge.

Please click on the following link to read the article in it’s entirety. We believe it complements our Montessori philosophy in teaching the “Whole Child”.

Primary Coffee Chat- Fall 2017

Ms. Jayna and Ms. Sarah hosted the annual Primary Coffee Chat in the Lower Elementary Environment so the 3-6 friends could work in their environment undisturbed. We were welcomed by Ms. Amanda as well as Mr. Kurt Hine of the Parent Social Organization. Mr. Kurt offered helpful tips for new parents and explained the purpose of the PSO.

The topic this year was “Mathematics”. We began the presentation with a brief introduction about Maria Montessori’s design of the Primary Environment. The areas of the Environment include Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Math. Exercises in Practical Life and Sensorial prepare the natural Mathematical Mind of the child. Dr. Montessori felt that humans have a Mathematical Mind! Geometry is in nature. Shapes compose the basis for science and technology.

It is through activity that the child constructs himself and develops knowledge. The ages of 3-6 are the optimal ages for the child to discover through experiences. His intelligence is awakened as he absorbs ideas and concepts touching and manipulating the Montessori materials.

We offer active experiences in the area of Mathematics. The child makes his own abstractions. He works with the concrete materials as he prepares the foundation which his conscious mind will use later.

We feel it is beneficial for parents to actually see and manipulate the materials just as the children do! Ms. Sarah brought over some of the key mathematics materials for parents to work with. She talked about the very beginning of learning how to count our “3” pieces of snack. She explained about “Numbers 1-10” and gave a presentation using the Number Rods and Cards. As the material becomes more abstract we offered “The Stamp Game” and “Bead Frame” for participants to use to work operations of numbers; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Having the Decimal System Material available to touch, feel and manipulate helped parents understand the complexity and importance of this “materialized abstraction”. The parents were able to also clearly see how the “Bank Game Material” and the “Bead Frame” really had the same objective, although the “Bead Frame” was much more abstract.

Ms. Sarah also talked about other areas within the mathematics curriculum of the Primary class. Linear counting, memorization activities and passage to abstraction were explained.

Parents were enthralled with the materials as they attempted to use them for a mathematical operation.

We are pleased to share the Montessori materials and philosophy with parents!

Thank you for your interest!

Ms. Jayna Ms. Sarah

Montessori Schools Offer Big Lessons for ‘Managers’

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Did you know that children at Montessori schools regularly out-perform those who graduate from traditional schools? And that some of the leading innovators in the world, including Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales credit their ability to think differently to their Montessori educations?

Founded in 1897 by Italian educator and physician Dr. Maria Montessori, the Montessori approach challenged predominant educational theories by giving children the freedom to grow, learn and contribute in the classroom.

Interestingly, although Dr. Montessori’s methodologies were developed for children and education, her philosophy was based on the science of life. So it makes sense that studies challenging the paradigm of ‘management’ today would echo several Montessori principles. The studies show striking parallels between the nature of children and adults, the environments needed to unleash potential in the classroom and the workspace and the role of teachers and leaders.

Let’s explore the most common parallels.

1.) New rules of inspiration

Instead of seeing children as empty vessels that need to be disciplined and filled, Dr. Montessori saw their innate desire and ability to learn.

She recognized their psychic instinct to grow by seeing life as it is. She saw that an infant learns to sit, walk and speak without external instruction. She observed a child’s indifference to rewards and punishments and recognized her inner guiding principles as the source of learning. And Dr. Montessori concluded that a child’s innate hunger for knowledge and development naturally leads to inner discipline, concentration and joy!

Similarly, implicit in traditional organizational structures and roles is a deep-seated belief that employees need to be given orders and disciplined. That is why traditional workspaces are built on the premise of ‘command and control’ with many measures for incentives, punishment and surveillance.

But authors like Daniel Pink of Drive, question this idea. Pink says that for activities that require rudimentary cognitive skills, large monetary rewards often lead to lower performance rather than the other way around. What really motivates us is autonomy, mastery and purpose. Pink speaks of the deep human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things and to do better for ourselves and our world. His research and studies across several companies show us that if we are looking to encourage (and not manage) people to be their best, we need to tap into their inner drive.

2.) Environments that Activate

Because Dr. Montessori saw a child’s inherent ability to learn, she realized that all children need is an enabling environment – much like the way a womb supports an embryo. Unlike traditional classrooms where children are dependent on adults for all activities and direction, Montessori classrooms enable a child to direct her own learning. Objects and furniture in a classroom are proportioned to a child’s body and books and materials are easily accessible. Most importantly, the environment gives the child the freedom to choose activities based on her inner needs and work at her own pace.

In 2014, organizational development thought leader Frederic Laloux (Reinventing Organizations) examined organizations with similar self-management structures. He found that FAVI, a French gearbox manufacturing company, organizes its teams into mini-factories (15-35 people each) that cater to a client. There is no middle management, and there are no support functions like human resources or planning and sales departments and no set rules and procedures. The teams self-organize to deliver to the client. Account managers bring orders to the team, which then jointly plans and agrees on a shipment date. The account managers have no sales targets – their motivation is to feed their teams with work and serve their clients well in the face of competition. When opportunities arise, workers also self-nominate to create temporary project teams.

This self-managing structure has reduced the need for meetings, improved coordination and boosted organic problem-solving among workers.

The blue collars wear their own white collars here and no longer receive instructions from above. FAVI has replaced a command and control structure with a structure that is built on trusting employees’ inner drive to lead and contribute. The result? FAVI is the only gearbox producer left standing in Europe with 50% market share because of its quality and on-time delivery.

3.) Leader as a facilitator

In Montessori schools, teachers don’t sit behind imposing desks, commanding authority. Children are at the center, free to choose and act. Teachers have to believe, guide, step aside and let the child fly.

Dr. Montessori believed a teacher couldn’t play such a role without studying herself and tearing out deeply rooted ego-centric, subconscious beliefs that impede the ability to see children as they are – without any preconceived notions or judgments. Instead of leading children, teachers should be willing to be taught by them. Teachers must remain constantly alert to the direction each child is heading and remove obstacles to growth. In essence, the role of the teacher is not to instruct, but to facilitate.

Bill Joiner & Stephen Josephs, authors of Leadership Agility, call the type of leadership that over-controls and underutilizes subordinates – heroic leadership. And they say that in an environment like the office, which now demands greater collaborative problem-solving abilities, we need post-heroic leaders who facilitate participation by acting as catalysts, co-creators and synergists.

According to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, the CEOs of companies outperforming the competition do not have giant charismatic personalities. Instead, they are good listeners, and they tend to be more humble, modest and quiet.

“The day I stopped seeing myself as a leader and more as a facilitator, my work started to expand,” says Dr. Suresh Kumar, the founder of the Institute of Palliative Medicine in India.

This change in thinking helped him shift from building a large hierarchical organization to catalyzing a decentralized network of over 200 autonomous palliative care units. Organizing them around the shared experience of death, Dr. Kumar encouraged members to lead the solution and positioned himself as only a support for his team. Today, his units across Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka and Thailand collectively serve over 65,000 patients a year.

Army Brigadier General Stanley McChrystal, who led the Combined Joint Task force in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s, shares that to respond to the unpredictable environment on the ground, he had to move from being a chess master to being a gardener. He says that “tending the garden became my primary responsibility.” He had to learn to make fewer decisions and focus on creating and maintaining the conditions needed for effective teamwork.

Why now? What now?

The parallels prove that Dr. Montessori was not off the mark when she said children conceal within themselves a secret that can help adults solve their own problems. Her observations and principles hold strong clues to addressing growing job dissatisfaction in organizations and the challenges posed by the fast changing environment.

Simply creating open spaces and changing processes, while a great first step, may not be enough. We need to begin challenging our fundamental assumptions about human nature, organizational structures and our roles as leaders.  And recognizing the child within may be the best approach to help us get closer to the answer.

Article by Supriya Sankaran. a Forbes Contributor, as seen online at on August30, 2016 .


Why don’t we have grades?

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The above question is a common question asked of Montessori Schools. The following response is an excerpt from an article by John Long, Headmaster of the Post Oak School in Bellaire.

    Dr. Montessori emphasized the significance of internal, intrinsic motivation as the power behind learning- as opposed external, extrinsic rewards. Young people are hard-wired for learning. Their brains are still in formation for years after they are born, and during this period they are uniquely receptive to learning. their inner voice directs them to learn. We don’t need to manipulate them in learning. We don’t need to reward them, or to punish them, to make them learn.

    But why not give them grades? Isn’t that the way the world works? Let me ask, ”What is the purpose of grades?” Is it to make students work? Our students work already. They do not need to be coerced into working.

    Is it to make them work harder? When Montessori students ask “How much do I have to do?” we ask in response, “How much can you do?” Consequently, students set goals for themselves that are monumental in scope and work to achieve them.

    Is it to make students competitive? Our graduates’ performance in high school tells us that they compete quite well.

    On the other hand, academic competition, as is structured in traditional schools, leads to results in the character of the individual and in the construction of society that Dr. Montessori was trying to help us escape. She said, “Education, as it is commonly regarded, encourages individuals to go their own way and pursue their own personal interests. School children are taught not to help one another, not to prompt their classmates who don’t know the answers, but to concern themselves only with getting promoted at the end of the year and to win prizes in competition with fellow pupils.”

    Furthermore, it has been shown that when students know they are being graded, their creativity declines. If a student knows he or she is being graded, he will make choices that are safe and not take risks. The student will do what he already knows will result in a predictable, positive result. He or she will not choose a project, or an answer, that could result in failure. Thomas Edison said that if you want to increase your creativity, increase your rate of failure.

    We want students to learn because of their own intrinsic desire to do so. We want them to become self-confident, creative risk-takers. Ultimately, our success as individuals is not best measured by our relative standing in society, but in the society itself that we help to create.


Why Kids Need to Move, Touch and Experience to Learn

by Katrina Schwartz, MindShift/KQED

When students use their bodies in the learning process, it can have a big effect, even if it seems silly or unconnected to the learning goal at hand. Researchers have found that when students use their bodies while doing mathematical storytelling (like with word problems, for example), it changes the way they think about math. “We understand language in a richer, fuller way if we can connect it to the actions we perform,” said Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

To see more of this interesting article, please click the link below:

9/25/15 Reprinted with permission from Katrina Schwartz, MindShift/KQED. No part of this publication may be repro-
duced for any purpose, whether private or public, without the express permission of Katrina Schwartz, MindShift/KQED.

Play is an important part of our learning experience.

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Click the link below to be directed to NPR’s TED Radio Hour from March 27, 2015.

This webisode focused on the importance of Play in helping us become “smarter, saner,
and more collaborative.” Of particular interest will be the third and fourth speakers.
Stuart Brown discusses how Play shapes our environment, while noted primatologist
Isabel Behncke speaks on what Bonobo apes can teach us about Play.


9/25/15 Reprinted with permission from NPR’s TED Radio Hour. No part of this publication may be repro-
duced for any purpose, whether private or public, without the express permission of Katrina Schwartz, MindShift/KQED.



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~Launches literacy campaign to help families read 20 minutes a day ~

Last week, the Florida Department of Education launched the Just Take 20 literacy campaign to support K-12 Florida families with practical, easy-to-implement activities to add 20 minutes of reading to their day. Research says that children who read at least 20 minutes a day outside of the classroom do better in school and in life. Just Take 20 gives families tips and activities to integrate reading easily into daily life.
“Parents play a critical role in their child’s literacy development,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “Providing families with strategies to make the most of teachable moments and infuse reading into busy schedules can increase student literacy and help Florida students succeed now and in the future.”
The centerpiece of the campaign is an interactive website that prompts families to practice reading at home using a customizable literacy plan tailored to their child’s grade level and needs. Each family can build its own family profile, score points and earn badges while having fun with various reading and writing activities. Activities include tips for struggling readers and many of the resources are provided in Spanish and Haitian-Creole. Online activities and materials are easily accessed on any smart phone, tablet or computer.
The campaign includes a portal for educators where they can participate in virtual learning courses, download materials to engage students and families in literacy learning, and track online reading progress if a family chooses to connect with them for more support.
The Just Take 20 campaign is available free to all Florida families and K-12 public schools. In addition to the online web app, districts will also receive printed toolkits that will help them continue literacy engagement with families throughout the year. The toolkits will include event and activity guides, monthly newsletters and other communication materials.


For more information about the Just Take 20 family literacy campaign, visit