We are pleased to announce that Trevor Eissler, author of Montessori Madness, will be speaking at the March 23 Inly Insight Event at 5:30 p.m. in the Library. The event is free and open to the public.
You may recall Donna’s podcast about Montessori Madness. To round out the views about the book and to inspire you to mark the date on your calendar, we asked asked Jill Baxter to write a review of it from a parent’s perspective.
By Jill Baxter, Inly Parent
I’ll admit it, I felt somewhat relieved as I read Montessori Madness: A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education by Trevor Eissler. “We have escaped the drudgery of public schools!” I thought, “My kids are reaping the benefits of the Montessori method! They are less stressed, learning more, and actually enjoying it!” Here was the book that backed up what my husband and I saw in our own kids after they moved from traditional education to Inly School.
Our short stay in the public schools started with great optimism, and ended with us thoroughly disillusioned. As our public schools struggle with major budgeting shortfalls projected (at least in our town) for 2010 and 2011, it’s clear the traditional system could use an overhaul. Montessori Madness shows how Montessori methods could be the revolution traditional schooling needs. Our public schools have had limited success incorporating individualized lessons into their curricula. Eissler does a great job showing how the Montessori method is designed to take advantage of each child’s individual development to maximize learning, and how Montessori principles could answer some of the basic problems in traditional education.
In addition to an explanation of the absorbent mind and the notion of “sensitive periods,” Montessori Madness discusses how—and if—reward, competition, punishment, concentration, responsibility, and freedom belong in education. I loved reading these chapters and mulling over my own journey through public education (grades 1-12). If competition weren’t in play, if I hadn’t been desperate to get 100%, would I have cheated (don’t judge me) while correcting my second grade spelling test? If I had been allowed the freedom to concentrate on numbers when I was interested, might I have actually grasped higher math? Might I have enjoyed it?
While I would love an education free of competition and grading for my children, it’s not feasible yet, as my kids are going to have to re-enter the traditional system after 8th grade. Eissler notes that, “the implementation of reform starts by convincing parents like you to give it a try” (p 235). To convince a parent like me, living in our region, you’re going to have to discuss the transition back to traditional education. What happens when there is not a prepared environment, or when the materials or curriculum are not Montessori based? Will my Montessori kids be able to achieve in a traditional high school? Are the skills they have learned portable? I am grateful that Inly takes on questions like these in its “Insight Events” for parents. Indeed, the School offers one called “Life After Inly” every spring that I am looking forward to attending.
Montessori Madness doesn’t really dissuade the popular notion that the Montessori method is a loose, structure-free style where kids aren’t disciplined, where “work” isn’t measured, and where achievement is unimportant. As Inly parents, we know this is not true. Fortunately for us, Inly has translated many of the Montessori ideals into practical preparation for each student’s entire education—traditional or not. Part of the beauty of the Montessori method is that it can be implemented in degrees. Eissler would have done well to give such flexibility a little more credit. For example, unlike the Montessori “guides” Eissler describes, Inly teachers do assign homework (with restraint, and good results). Testing and grades may be antithetical to the Montessori method in Eissler’s eyes, but both are necessary as older kids get ready to move on to other schools. Inly recognizes this, and begins introducing testing in Upper Elementary. Inly middle schoolers go on to a variety of private, public, traditional, or alternative high schools and the buzz is that Inly’s students measure up exceedingly well.
Montessori Madness will resonate with anyone contemplating the impact of standardized testing, the one-size-fits all mentality in many of our public schools, or what elements make up a complete education. If you have older children and are sweating an impending transition back to traditional education, Montessori Madness may give you pause. But it’s a great read as you consider the educational path you want for your young child—especially if you are curious about the fundamental differences of traditional and Montessori education.
I’m not sure I will seek out converts as Eissler hopes, but after reading Montessori Madness, I do feel better equipped to explain why I think my kids are better off in a school that understands Montessori principles. I am more confident than ever that when my kids leave Inly, they will be well prepared for meaningful success—and they will likely have grasped higher math!
Both of my children, Adrienne (’00) and Brett (’07) graduated from Inly. Like other parents we wondered if we had chosen the best educational path for our children. (obviously, with the age gap in our children, the most questions were raised when Adrienne graduated). Our first cue that we had made the right choice was on graduation day, our children, and their peers, delivered amazing introspective speeches, which truly reflected the individual that they were. This continues to be one of the best “gifts” of Inly, the sense of self. Why is this important? This grasp of who they are, what they desire in life and what their personal values are have assisted both Adrienne and Brett in making choices in life in both High School and College (for Adrienne). They both strive to achieve their personal best in the classroom, on the playing field, with faculty and peers. The school administration has recognized these strong positive values by choosing Brett and Adrienne to assume such leadership positions as Student Council, Judicial Board, Resident Assistant and Move in “Crew”.
Another “gift” from Inly is the respect between student and faculty, because of this respectful relationship both of our children understood that faculty really want them to attain their personal best and they are willing to assist them in this goal. Adrienne and Brett have sought out many high school teachers &/or college professors to clarify concepts, seek support and on some occasions just to “hang out”, an amazing concept for many teenagers!
We look back fondly on our time at Inly, the faculty and staff provided each member of our family with guidance and support that have assisted us in life. How did the faculty guide me as a parent? When we questioned our choice of a Montessori education we attended Parent Education programs and marveled at how much sense the math program made, while signing those permission slips for experiential learning opportunities we learned that these opportunities were much more than “overnight field trips” and whenever we observed in the classroom we were reminded of the personal knowledge of each individual child upon which the faculty based their educational plan .
Adrienne is now a college graduate and gainfully employed as a preschool educator. Brett is a junior in high school, beginning his college search. Both are wonderful creative and confident individuals, who continue to contribute to their communities. So yes, we made the right choice!