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REVIEW by Bretta Weiss Wolff

Bretta Weiss Wolff was co-founder (and later, head) of the Montessori School of Westchester in Larchmont, NY. and Hudson Country Montessori School in New Rochelle, NY. She served as the national director of the American Montessori Society for 14 years, over which period the number of AMS-member schools doubled; the pool of AMS-credentialed teachers more than tripled; and parent membership in the Society quadrupled.  For more on her accomplishments click on the link below.

Her review is in the  December 2015 issue of Montessori Life

Montessori Life, AMS’s award-winning quarterly, is the preeminent publication for honoring the history and shaping the future of Montessori education. It is distributed to nearly 13,000 AMS members and other subscribers and read by an average 2.9 individuals—bringing total readership to 37,000.

 

Readers include teachers, heads of schools, program directors, business managers, and other administrators and decision-makers.

Charlotte Cushman has written a readable and delightful book about Montessori education based on her long experience as a teacher and head of school.  She suggests answers to parent questions such as "How can a teacher keep track of so many children?"  by pointing out that Montessori teachers work with children individually, using sequenced materials, and then carefully document children's progress.  Another common parent worry she addresses is "When I ask my child what he did in school today, he says "nothing."  Cushman explains that young children sometimes cannot visualize what they have done that day, or think of school as their own special place and don't appreciate being asked about what they do!

 

In her preface, Cushman expresses her hope that parents develop an understanding of the Montessori method and philosophy so they are able to enjoy and participate in their child's learning process and see the world from his point of view during this critical period of his life, when he is in the process of creating his mind, which will bring him success and happiness.  After explaining critical components of the Montessori methodology and the function of materials, Cushman looks at the four main areas in 3-6 classrooms (Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, and Language) and clearly defines which developmental needs each area meets. The chapter on child development is especially valuable; it offers examples of sensitive periods and emphasizes the child's need for reality, order, concentration, freedom to make choices, independence and communication.

 

Perhaps most impressive are Cushman's wise observations on how adults actually interfere in the learning process:  Examples include the "helping too much syndrome"; helicopter parenting; and the misuse of television, flash cards, tablets, cell phones, and computers.  Her concern about computers in particualr includes the idea that a child may think that all answers come from a machine; he does not develop muscular memory for letters or numbers by moving a mouse or pushing a button; and he gets used to quick and easy answers.  the book ends with some excellent advice on "How to Encourage Your Child to Think," as well as the "Advantages of Reading Books to Children."

 

Copyright (Winter 2015-2016) by the American Montessori Society. All rights reserved.

"The chapter on child development is especially valuable; it offers examples of sensitive periods and emphasizes the child's need for reality, order, concentration, freedom to make choices, independence and communication."

 

"Perhaps most impressive are Cushman's wise observations on how adults actually interfere in the learning process..."