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Why it Matters for Your Child's Success and Happiness


Tracy Fortun

Montessori Guide (teacher)

Wheaton Montessori School, Illinois


"I know that I will often refer back to the book for Charlotte’s clear explanations of some of the 'hot button' issues that we Montessori teachers are often called upon to discuss..."

Charlotte Cushman has a keen understanding of the processes of cognition which, with her decades of experience as a Montessori guide, makes her uniquely able to understand how the Montessori experience contributes to a child's development. In “Montessori: Why it Matters for your Child’s Success and Happiness”, Charlotte provides a clear explanation of how the developing mind organizes itself and how authentic Montessori environments provide the optimal experiences to support that development.

As a Montessori guide, I appreciated the way Charlotte described the concept of “following the child”, which is so often misunderstood – even by other Montessori guides. This misunderstanding is so pervasive that you have probably heard someone describe a Montessori school as “that place where they allow the children to do whatever they want”. When Dr. Montessori instructs us to follow the child, she means that we must have a clear understanding of the natural course of child development, and when we see a child exhibiting behavior that indicates they are somehow off that course, we offer the experiences and limits needed to help them find their way back. Charlotte skillfully provides examples and clear descriptions of how this is done in an authentic Montessori environment.

I also appreciated the thorough explanations of the lessons of Practical Life (including Grace and Courtesy) as well as the Sensorial activities. These areas are of critical importance to the developing intellect, and provide invaluable support to the subjects we generally think of as more ‘academic’, such as mathematics and language. Newcomers are often impressed by the seemingly advanced work that is possible in language and math in a Montessori school, without understanding the many experiences that provide the foundation which makes it possible. Charlotte does a great job of connecting those dots for her reader.

I know that I will often refer back to the book for Charlotte’s clear explanations of some of the “hot button” issues that we Montessori teachers are often called upon to discuss, including: the relationship between reality/imagination/creativity, repetition, making choices, and why we call it “work”.

Perhaps my biggest “Yes!” moment was when I read the section on the importance of concentration. This tops my list of the things I wish parents understood about what their children are doing in a Montessori school. A close second was the section on where a child’s self-esteem really comes from. She shares many examples from her experience to illustrate these critically important points.

Charlotte also delves into some areas that are applicable to the modern parent, such as the idea of “involved” parents vs. “helicopter” or “curling” parents. She also discusses how to set appropriate limits for technology use by children – advice that is both accurate and also realistic for our time.

Charlotte’s book definitely addresses a need I have long observed in my years of teaching. We always have parents who want to understand the Montessori Method better, but reading the translations of Dr. Montessori’s own work can be daunting. Usually we trained guides wind up being the interpreters, and as such we answer the same questions again and again, year after year. Because Charlotte’s explanations are clear and concise, this book will be a wonderful resource for Montessori parents. I loved the “Quick Referral” list for parents in the back of the book. I will definitely be keeping my copy at school so that I can refer to it and lend it out to parents.

"This is by far the clearest and most useful book on Montessori I have read and it has also helped me understand a lot of what was wrong with my education-highly recommended!"

...incorporating the correct approach to education ie Montessori and the philosophy behind it.

With detailed examples throughout it not only demonstrates how and why Montessori works in the classroom but answers specific questions often raised by parents and details what parents can do out of school to help!

This is by far the clearest and most useful book on Montessori I have read and it has also helped me understand a lot of what was wrong with my education-highly recommended!

Godfrey Joseph

 "It is a delightful, informative read."

Cindy Adams

Ms. Cushman has written a fast paced book intertwined with anecdotal examples that should be read by anyone interested in the Montessori approach to education. The book is written from an educator's perspective, as well as from a parent's perspective. It is a delightful, informative read.

Charlotte Cushman’s book, Montessori, Why It Matters for Your Child’s Success and Happiness, is a remarkable achievement.

It’s written so clearly and logically, that any parent or guardian now has a well laid out path to follow in guiding their child’s intellectual development. This is more than an overview of Montessori education for children; it is an integration of Montessori’s teaching method with examples of when and how a child’s mind develops, and how Montessori anticipated what a child needs.

That is, what is the world like for a child? How does a toddler, a 4 year old, apprehend reality? How is that apprehension different from an older child or an adult? How does one prepare a child’s mind to understand letters, make measurements, develop physical coordination? Why is it crucial that a child be able to do these tasks, develop these abilities? Why is seeing relationships and differences between physical objects vital to a child’s ability to think?

Charlotte Cushman tells us, in clear language with examples from her own life and work. She covers what a child needs to know, when, why and how.

E.g., since the senses are our first contact with reality, Maria Montessori developed many exercises that develop and hone the senses. The exercises help the child discern sounds, touch, sight (shapes), smell. These exercises make sensorial material explicit, instead of implicit, such as when words for sensory data alone are used. This builds a strong connection to reality that is independent for the child from what anyone is telling him about physical reality.

Charlotte Cushman shows us how advanced Montessori was in understanding that the more vivid a child’s sense perception is, and his perception of reality is, the more ease he’ll have in learning concepts, and he will then have confidence in his mind’s ability to grasp reality. That confidence will be the basis of his future success as it allows the child to take control of his mind, which means functioning independently. Per Charlotte Cushman, Montessori can be summed up in one word: Independence.

This is important, as Montessori’s goal is NOT about producing super achieving children. Many Montessori students are achievers but that is not the purpose of Montessori’s method. Her purpose is to give a child the independence that only a fully functioning, well ordered mind can give him, so that he can attain whatever his goals may be. Per Montessori, children naturally want to learn, want to work, want to discover the world. If a child is hanging back, then a barrier (internal or external) has to be discovered to be removed. It’s not about “prodding” the child; no prodding is normally needed.

This book also covers the challenges of modern life: time-challenged kids, smart phones, “helicopter parenting”, self-discipline and parental discipline, computers, kids who don’t get along with other kids, social interaction vs. independent learning, etc. She goes into these subjects at length with good insight, as she’s taught for decades and has raised her own children. She’s detailed and helpful with no preaching; honest observations, no punches pulled. I liked these sections as they were concrete applications of Montessori’s ideas.

Charlotte Cushman brought a genius to life for me. Maria Montessori was an educational pioneer who uncovered an optimal way for children to learn, in order to become an independent, intelligent, productive, happy person.

Why is this so important? We live in a society that is losing it’s freedom and wealth. People may not agree on the cause or the cure, but that our society has more than one grave challenge facing it is not open to dispute. To face the future, to affect change for the better, to achieve a fully functioning, free country, as envisioned by our Founders, requires independent, logical, self-confident individuals who want the responsibility of freedom. Such individuals want to be left alone to achieve rational values, under their own steam; they want to meet challenges and see what they envision made real. Such a person requires an independent mind capable of learning, applying principles, thinking conceptually. Maria Montessori discovered a method that develops that type of mind.

Charlotte Cushman has written how, step-by-step, it’s done.

Roxanne Albertoli

Charlotte Cushman brought a genius to life for me.

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