I Knew That… (Inspiring a Love of Learning)

October 21, 2014

I am often asked why Apple Montessori’s students are so successful, and I’ve struggled for years to find a good answer but I think I finally have it.

Have you ever experienced that “Ah, ha!” feeling after attending a lecture or reading a magazine article? You know .. . that feeling that what you have just read or heard is something so exactly right, or something you always knew but could never express as clearly as the speaker or writer just did? I think it’s that feeling that our students get after working with a material for a while and then suddenly the light bulb goes on and they GET IT!

It happens with two-year-olds who will spend weeks pouring rice. Suddenly, one day, they want to pour their own juice because they know they can. It happens with three-year-olds who build the pink tower thirty times and the broad stair forty. One day they notice that the dimensions are the same and they set off on a quest to find other things that go together.

It happens with four-year-olds who have been reciting the sound cards for months and suddenly realize that they can sound out a word or, even better, write their own words with the moveable alphabet. It even happens with eight-year­ olds who figure out that multiplication is like adding and the opposite of division.

If s the hands-on experiences that our children have day after day that prepare their minds for these “discoveries.” No one can do it for them they have to find it out for themselves.

Often, Montessori materials “teach” the child something that he or she already knew but only in a vague, subconscious way. The materials help the child to focus attention on the concept and through repeated exposure, suddenly, that concept becomes crystal clear in the child’s mind.

This is seen most clearly when one looks at the math materials. There are many games in every classroom that expose a young child to counting, for example: the red and blue rods, the spindle boxes, the short chains, the apple tree game, and the sandpaper numbers to name a few. At first, the child thinks of them as separate and unrelated activities but one day he or she is going to realize they all do the same thing. That is the day that the child will understand counting!

In language the child will recite sound cards, do beginning sound games, match sound cards to sandpaper letters, trace letters on paper, listen to stories, and dozens of other activities. At some point, when the mind has been sufficiently prepared, the child is going to really understand how reading works and “discover” that he or she can read! Maria Montessori called this the “explosion into language.” Once it happens – once the child believes he or she CAN read they won’t stop!

Montessori is successful because of the prepared environment. Every activity is designed to illustrate a concept or skill. Perhaps, most importantly, the child is allowed the freedom to choose from this environment activities that he or she finds interesting or enjoyable and THE TIME to work with them until their curiosity is satisfied and a new concept or skill is mastered.

The environment is carefully planned so that subsequent games and materials will teach concepts that build on this first understanding. The result is a child who has a deep and profound understanding. Research shows that the brain works much like a muscle the more it is exercised the stronger it becomes.

It is truly a privilege to see children have their “Eureka” moments and to know that you have provided the fodder their growing minds need.

“If you are planning for a year, plant a seed, if you are planning for ten years, plant a tree, if you are planning for a hundred years, educate a child.”

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