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Holiday Gifts They’ll Love

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The holidays are a great opportunity to come together as a family. In many families, they also are a time to express our appreciation with thoughtful gifts that align with our values, and that put big smiles on the faces of our precious children.

Unfortunately, among the many highly promoted toys that are commercially available this season, it may be difficult to find ones that foster the skills and attitudes at the core of your child’s Montessori education. If you are interested in finding gifts that help you support your child’s education at home, read on to discover gift ideas that your child will both love and learn from, and that, importantly, you will enjoy, not regret buying.

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  1. Get into the kitchen and out into the garden.  Most children love to hang out in the kitchen and “help”. They love to garden along with us, or take a turn at handling tools. Commercially available toys allow children to pretend to do these things, often using cheap plastic replica hammers, pots, rakes, and pizza slices. Why not give them the real thing, and let them apply their Montessori-acquired skills toward doing the real job? For Small Hands is a great online store that offers real, high-quality tools sized for young children to handle comfortably. You’ll find everything from child-sized brooms and aprons to hand-drills, from gardening gloves to child-safe vegetable choppers.

  2. Game time! Needless to say, this doesn’t mean video games or games on TV… The holidays are perfect for starting a tradition of turning that TV off and instead playing games together as a family. Children as young as age three can play board games, such as Hi Ho Cherry O, the Ladybug Game or Sequence for Kids. Memory games—with wide ranges of pictures, from construction equipment to life on earth and more challenging I Spy versions—can be turned into "matching games" for 2-year-olds; with practice, some 4- or 5-year-olds will love to beat Mom and Dad at memory! Simple card games, such as Uno or Go Fish, can also be fun, especially if you start by playing them with the cards laid out openly, so you can help younger players. And older children may enjoy more challenging games: Shut the Box was a favorite at this year’s Game Day at LePort.

  3. Pretend play. Every child should have plenty of time for unstructured free play. Pretending to take on grown-up roles, working together to make up far-flung journeys, or acting out day-to-day situations is lots of fun. Children are creative, and can make a lot from a little, so you don’t have to buy much. Consider largely unstructured items, which inspire and not limit creativity, things like a play cape, a doctor kit or even a working stethoscope, some huge card board blocks, a child’s tent structure, and your little ones may be off to hours of play, especially if you also make sofa cushions, chairs, blankets and tables available to them!

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  4. Let’s draw and do crafts together. With your child’s growing attention span and improving fine motor skills, he’ll soon delight in having quality and fun materials to be creative with. If you have the space, a two-sided easel can be great for the youngest ones to draw on a big, toddler-suitable surface, especially if you can offer nice chalk or poster paint. (Don’t forget the artist smock!) For older children, invest in drawing pads and high-quality colored pencils. If you want to help your budding artist to both learn to draw more things, and practice reproducing shapes (a key skill in writing), you may find one of the "How to Draw" series a great way to spend some quality time together. The step-by-step instructions for drawing animals, flowers, people or monsters are super-simple; 3-year-olds will delight in coloring the figures you draw for them, while older children will be excited to try their hand at tracing or copying the figures. Klutz books and activity kits also are a great source for creative inspiration, and so easy that even those of us who don’t think we are very good at crafty things can have fun with our children!

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  6. Head outside and play! Every child should have a collection of balls: even infants can enjoy easy-to-clutch open balls to throw around outside. Or try having fun with bubbles: this bubble wand is just amazing, and sure to be a hit, whether in your yard, or at the park. Finally, we keep coming back to balance bikes, which we wrote about in a prior blog post. These make great holiday gifts for children as young as age 2, and are a great way to get ready quickly for riding real bikes for older preschoolers.

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  8. Design and build. Unstructured building materials, from Lego Duplos to Citiblocs, from Magna Tiles to Zoob building sets, from Wedgits to wooden pattern blocks and the classic Tinker Toys, all foster creativity and offer lots of play value for the money.

  9. It’s story time. No surprise here: we think books are a must-have gift for your child whenever there’s a joyous occasion. If you haven’t seen our new 2012 list of favorite books yet, just click here to download these recommendations for preschoolers to lower elementary children now.

We hope you find some interesting new ideas in this list for your family, and that whatever gifts you choose add joy to your holidays and for the year to come.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. Do you have favorites you think other parents might enjoy? Please share them in the comments below, so we can add them to next year’s list.


While we will continue to recommend only products we personally use with our own children or in our classrooms, LePort is piloting an affiliate program with Amazon.com. Items placed in your Amazon cart directly from the above links earn LePort Schools a commission of up to 8%, which we donate to our Support LePort scholarship fund. We hope to offer a similar program from other vendors in the future. To learn about other ways you can contribute – or how to apply for a scholarship for your child – please click here. Together, we can spread Knowledge for Life to children across America.

Books Children Love – LePort 2012 Suggested Books

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Colder days are upon us, and the outdoors are not quite as welcoming. But as the dark comes early, so does the opportunity to cuddle up with our children in a favorite spot and explore the timeless treasure of great books.

At LePort, we are big believers in the power of literature. Beautiful, inspiring literary works help children become voracious readers who look to books for enjoyment as well as education. Whether it’s a 3-year-old enraptured as a teacher reads to her, a 5-year-old reading to a younger child, or a group of 8-year olds engaged in animated discussion about a read-aloud character, we love seeing our students discover the joys that await them in the pages of a good book.

As a parent, you can help your child discover the joys of reading. In looking for that perfect gift this holiday season, we offer up the list below of favorite books, from simple picture books for toddlers and younger preschool children, to more elaborate stories for older primary students, and beginning chapter books that elementary students can read by themselves.

This is our third holiday book list, and we plan to make it a yearly tradition! You can help us by sharing your favorite books for this age group in the comments: maybe you’ll see them in next year’s list.

P.S. If you aren’t yet sold on reading out loud daily to your child, or want an even broader range of book recommendations, check out reading advocate Jim Trelease’s web site. He has free excerpts from his Read-Aloud Handbook with helpful advice, and lots of ammunition on why reading aloud is so important.

 

Books with shorter text and generally simpler vocabulary, perfect for younger primary children. Some of these books are also accessible for older toddlers.

Gentle Giant Octopus—by Karen Wallace
This title in the Read and Wonder series follows a mother octopus on her journey to find a place to lay her eggs. Written in simple language and beautifully illustrated, this book will introduce a strange and different creature to a child’s life.

The Lotus Seed—by Sherry Garland
Ba, a young Vietnamese girl, witnesses the fall of the Vietnamese empire, and picks a lotus seed as a memory. Many years later, after Ba emigrates to the US, her grandson loses the treasured seed! Still, a happy ending awaits…

Little Elephant’s Trunk—by Hazel Lincoln
Follow a young elephant in his native African savannah as he discovers the many uses of his initially annoying trunk.

Apples to Oregon—by Deborah Hopkinson
How did apple trees come to the west? This silly story follows a farmer and his family on their adventures as they move with a wagon full of little trees across the entire US. Fun reading, esp. when taking a road trip across the country!

Library Lion—by Michelle Knudsen
There are rules we must obey. But are there reasons to occasionally violate rules, even in the library? What if a lion comes to the library, and is the only one to help the librarian in distress?

Christmas in the Big Woods—based on the book by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This series is a sweet picture book adaptation of the famous Little House books. It’s a good introduction to life in America in the 1800’s, and a great first step toward reading the Little House chapter books series with your child later on.

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin—by Lloyd Moss
This short, rhyming book cheerfully introduces the instruments of a classical orchestra, in a way even the youngest children can enjoy.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site—by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Sure to please all truck-obsessed boys (and girls), this beautifully illustrated story in rhyme follows the diggers, dump trucks and cranes as they finish up their fun work and settle down for the night.

Niccolini’s Song—by Chuck Wilcoxen
A night watchman at a rail yard discovers the power of his lullabies to help the trains sleep. When a strong wind wakes the town’s children, the trains help him in return. Great good night book for all train lovers!

Madeline—by Ludwig Bemelmans
This first book in the classic series, a Caldecott Honor book in 1940, takes children on an exploration of Paris, along with the spunky Madeline and her eleven friends.

These books have more advanced vocabulary, longer texts and more involved content.

A Street Through Time—by Anne Millard
In a series of fourteen intriguing illustrations, the award-winning A Street Through Time tells the story of human history by exploring a street as it evolves from 10,000 BCE to the present day. This book can be fascinating for 3-year-olds to use as an “I Spy” book – and children can come back to it in elementary to support their study of history and fundamental needs of man.

Pilgrim Catby Carol Antoinette Peacock
This picture books tells the story of the first Thanksgiving from the perspective of a young Pilgrim girl and the stray cat she adopts on her long, arduous journey to the new world.

The Gardener—by Sarah Stewart
Set during the Great Depression, this book follows a young country girl sent to live with her uncle in a time of need. It’s told through the letters the girl writes back to her family—a great opportunity to encourage older primary and lower elementary students to embark on letter writing on their own!

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot—by Margot Theis Raven
During the Russian blockade of Berlin, the children were close to starving, and candy was an unheard luxury. Then an American pilot flying one of the “raisin bombers” begins to shower chocolate bars on the waiting children. This retelling of a true story follows the relationship between one little girl and her Chocolate Pilot, from their letters during the blockade, to their reunion decades later.

Story of the Orchestra—by Robert Levine
This book-CD combo is a very accessible way to introduce older preschoolers and elementary children to the instruments of a classical orchestra. Load the CD onto your mp3 player, to make it easy to play a specific track as you browse through this book with your child!

Snowflake Bentley—by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
As winter comes, this is a great story of science to share. A young farm boy in Vermont falls in love with snowflakes, and pursues his passion to become a world-renown expert and snowflake photographer.

Because I Could Not Stop My Bike—by Karen Jo Shapiro
This collection of funny parodies of famous poems will delight children and adults alike. The poems explore day-to-day topics – such as a dawdling daughter, a messy room, and macaroni and cheese – all in whimsical rhyme. Great read-aloud!

Emma’s Rug—by Allen Say
A young girl is an inspired artist, drawing beautifully. But what happens when her mother accidentally washes her inspiration rug?

These are books that 1st – 3rd graders can tackle on their own. Some are also good read-alouds to introduce younger children to chapter books.

A Dog on Barkham Street—by Mary Stolz
Edward is desperate for a dog of his own—and also desperate to be rid of the neighborhood bully.  This is a much-beloved story with a satisfying ending.

Caddie Woodlawn—by Carol Ryrie Brink
Growing up in Wisconsin during the American Civil War, Caddie gets into all kinds of adventures with her brothers, befriends the local Indians, and would rather run free outside than learn to bake and sew indoors.

A Lion to Guard Us—by Clyde Robert Bulla
What’s it like for three siblings to travel across the Atlantic by themselves in search of their father, in 1609?  Clyde Bulla has a talent for communicating engaging stories with simple narratives – perfect for the beginner reader.

The Sword in the Tree—by Clyde Robert Bulla
This is another straightforward Bulla story, set during the time of King Arthur’s England.  This is a page-turner whether you’re 7 or 47!

Thimble Summer—by Elizabeth Enright
This book is written with warmth and simplicity that is reminiscent of simpler times.  After 9-year-old Garnet Linden discovers a silver thimble, things start to happen:  the local draught finally ends, an orphan boy comes to live with her family, and her pig wins a ribbon at the county fair.

Mimmy and Sophie All Around the Town—by Miriam Cohen
Mimmy and Sophie are two sisters who are always there for each other as they find treasure, play in mud puddles, or otherwise explore their neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, during the Great Depression.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—by L. Frank Baum
A classic of American literature, this imaginative tale is accessible to a strong young elementary reader.  Join Dorothy and Toto as they make their way to the Emerald City in the land called Oz.

Socksby Beverly Cleary
Socks is one happy cat until his owners, the nice young Bricker couple, bring home their new baby.   Beverly Cleary at her best!

The Family Under the Bridge—by Natalie Savage Carlson
This is an unusual story about a crabby homeless man in Paris who acquires a ready-made family when three young children befriend him.

Follow My Leader—by James B. Garfield
After Jimmy is blinded by an accident with a firecracker, he has to relearn all the things he used to know.  With the help of a therapist, he learns to read Braille and to use a cane.  Then he’s given the chance to have a guide dog.  Learning to work with Leader is not easy, but Jimmy tries harder than he ever has before.

 

 

 

Selecting Early Readers For Your Child

As a parent of a new reader (my daughter is 5½ and will start the 3rd year of Primary this fall), I recently browsed the “early reader” shelves of my local bookstore. As much as I love bookstores—and browsing Amazon after the children are asleep—this particular excursion was not a pleasant experience.

Too many of the early readers available are plainly not suited for children who are just starting to read!

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In Montessori Primary, children usually learn to read phonetically quite early. They become proficient at sounding out phonetic words, that is, words that can be decoded using the basic sounds individual letters make. They also learn 2-3 dozen puzzle words or sight words (such as the, was, one, they, to, do, he),words that appear frequently and can’t be decoded.

Following this work, students are introduced to English phonograms: those tricky letter combinations (such as <ch>, <ir>, and <aw>) that make English such a challenging language to read and write.  There are more than 40 phonograms in English! 

This is a big task for a new reader.  It can take many months for a child to master enough phonograms to give her the fluency to tackle regular books.  Within the Montessori prepared environment, a child has a variety of materials that help her to practice phonograms.

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But where does that leave parents—who naturally want to provide their child with things to read outside of school?

If you turn to the commercially available early readers, such as the Ready-to-Read series or the I-Can-Read series, you’ll find that your Montessori emergent reader will struggle.  Why? 

These books define themselves as “early readers”, not by introducing a carefully sequenced progression of phonetic skills, but by using short sentences, 1- or 2-syllable words, and big print. The biggest problem is that a child cannot sound out many words in these books using basic letter sounds—and the phonograms that they do use are so frequent and mixed, that your Montessori child will flounder.  (The idea behind these books is that children are supposed to learn to recognize words by sight through repetition.  This sets a dangerous example to a young child that reading means memorizing whole words.)    

Here are a few random example sentences, with the non-decodable letter combinations highlighted:

“Class, don’t forget!”, Ms. Glass says. “Tomorrow is…” “Pajama Day” we shout in unison. (That’s a fancy word for all together.) –from Fancy Nancy: Pajama Day, a Level 1 I-Can-Read book.

He could ride him in a circle without knocking over the chair or the dresser. from The Horse in Harry’s Room, a Level 1 I-Can-Read book

It was almost school picture day at Robin Hill School. “There will be many empty spaces in our picture,” said Mrs. Connor. “Look at the Tooth Chart.”—from A Tooth Story, Ready-to-Read, Level 1

Ironically, almost every one of these highlighted sounds are standard English phonograms.  They are predictable letter-sound patterns that should become a central part of a child’s arsenal of decoding skills—if they’re presented to him in a sequential manner that provides sufficient repetition and review. 

But don’t despair: there is an alternative available: Flyleaf Publishing’s Decodable Literature Library. These books, written by former Montessori teacher Laura Appleton-Smith, are a treasure of decodable literature for Montessori preschool students who are becoming fluent readers.  That’s why we’ve invested in a full set of these books for each of our Montessori Primary and Lower Elementary classrooms.

Flyleaf Publishing’s books outshine the alternatives. It’s the one series we have found that enables our students to read independently and joyfully, and to acquire fluency and phonogram knowledge in the process. Here are just a few reasons why this series is the best early reader library that we have found in years of perusing offerings:

  • A focus on offering decodable text.  Reading Series 1 is over 95% phonetically decodable!
  • A careful progression through phonograms, providing lots of practice along the way.  Take a look at this excerpt from Frank the Fish Gets His Wish, with the phonogram highlighted:

Frank would sit in his pink shell and wish his wish, “I wish that I had a pal to swim with; to splash and swish and jump with. I would swim the rest of my swims in a dish if I just had a pal to be with.”

What’s more, Ms. Smith is a master at introducing many words with these phonograms, without sacrificing the quality of the prose!

  • A slow build on length and complexity of stories.  Children move gradually from short, simple sentences to longer sentences with more on the page, and more complex stories to follow. 
  • Great, engaging, fun stories. While many early readers are contrived constructions that are of low interest, this series offers wonderful stories children can relate to, and which are fun to discuss with our young readers.
  • Elaborate, beautiful language. In place of the choppy, repetitive sentences found in other early readers, these books have interesting vocabulary. This list of words is just a random selection from Pearl Learns a Lesson, the book focused on the /ûr/ sound and its different spellings: flabbergasted, hurled, alert, respect, blurted, disturb, smirked, fungus, damsel, goblet, velvet, perplexed, dismissed, lavender, yearned…
  • Beautiful illustrations. While many early readers’ illustrations are cartoonish, these books feature beautiful art that wonderfully complements the story, bringing it alive and supplying context clues to help readers make sense of the stories they read.

If your child is enrolled in LePort’s Montessori program, once he or she reaches the stage of reading the Flyleaf series, you’ll notice that she’ll bring them home to read with you as part of our 3rd year Primary and early Lower Elementary programs. (If you aren’t a LePort family (yet!), you may want to search out these books for your emergent reader; they are sold directly from Flyleaf Publishing via their web site.)

We hope you enjoy listening to your child—and rejoicing in her achievement—as she reads to you from this special series!

Why Do We Study Science

Science education is a staple of modern schooling. One rarely hears anyone question the value or necessity of teaching our children science. But what is the reason behind this view? Why should a child study science?

Despite today’s focus on standardized test and national content standards, it’s clear that the purpose of science education cannot merely be to ensure that children score well on standardized tests of science. (Why have those tests?) The same is true of any answer of the form that science education is necessary to ensure that a child will succeed in high school science, or be ready for college many years down the road. (Why should science be taught at those levels?)

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Igniting a Passion to Learn

Take a moment to think back over the different experiences you’ve had during the past year.  What do you remember? When you do a quick survey of the significant events of your recent life, what type of things come to mind?

If you’re like most people, the events you tend to remember are more emotionally charged than those you’ve forgotten. Your mind goes to the gripping movie you watched, the novel that you couldn’t put down–but not that dry lecture at the long work conference. You have a vivid memory of the exuberant bike ride where you finally made it up that hill in target time, or the morning when you pedaled up over a fog bank to see a beautiful sunrise—but not the everyday training slog you conducted much more frequently. It’s hard to recall the daily routine of cleaning around the house and washing dirty laundry, but easy to invoke an image of the moment when your son took his first step right before your eyes, or the time you and your daughter had that wonderfully silly pillow fight, the one that left both of you out of breath from giggling so hard.

It’s not surprising that your lasting memories tend to involve events in which you are emotionally engaged. To the contrary, it intuitively makes sense: the reason you’re emotionally affected is that you care about what’s happening—and since you care, you’re more likely to remember it.

But why? What is it about being emotionally invested that enables greater retention?

In his recently published book, The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How, author Daniel Coyle offers us a fascinating answer.

Coyle argues first that learning of skills and memory occur as a result of particular way of being voluntarily engaged in a task—what he calls “deep practice”. Deep practice is a type of sustained focus in which a person is intently focused on completing a task superlatively. Coyle suggests that such deep practice results, neurologically, in the accelerated growth of myelin, an insulating substance that wraps around brain cells carrying signals from location to location the brain, and thereby strengthens those neural pathways.

The connection to emotions is this: only when learners are emotionally connected to the skill or knowledge they are pursuing are they sincerely motivated to put forth the effort that deep practice demands. Coyle argues that the will to engage in deep practice is ignited by emotional passion.

In his research, Coyle studied what he called talent hotbeds, places around the world where a certain talent–for music, baseball, learning–abounds, and observed that they all shared passion for what they do:

When I visited the talent hotbeds, I saw a lot of passion. It showed in the way people carried their violins, cradled their soccer balls, and sharpened their pencils. It showed in the way they treated bare-bones practice areas as if they were cathedrals; in the alert, respectful gazes that followed a coach. The feeling wasn’t always shiny and happy—sometimes it was dark and obsessive, and sometimes it was like the quiet, abiding love you see in old married couples. But the passion was always there, providing the emotional rocket fuel that kept them firing their circuits, honing skills, getting better.

Coyle’s argument fits with what we’ve observed in our classrooms at LePort Schools. The best teaching is teaching that makes a values-based, emotional connection between students and the rigorous academic content they need to learn. Only if students connect what they are studying to their own values, only if they are sincerely interested and engaged with what they learn, will they consistently remember and be able to apply their knowledge to situations in their own lives. Engaging students emotionally in what they study is a fundamental principle of correct pedagogy, and a necessary component of ensuring that students develop a meaningful, deep, integrated knowledge base.

So how can material be made emotionally engaging? There are countless ways, large and small. Take a Montessori classroom. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the entire Montessori approach is geared towards the goal of ensuring learning is properly motivated—students are provided an environment in which their internally driven interests are what fuels their cognitive inquiries.

Or consider LePort’s middle school history curriculum. We interest students in the study of a given historical period in a number of ways, one of which is by dramatizing that period through the inclusion of rich, moving historical fiction—novels and plays that invest the students in the times they are learning about. For instance, after reading The Lantern Bearers (a book that tells the story of a young Roman boy’s life in a once-civilized Rome now ruled by Saxon barbarians) our students become much more engaged in learning about the Fall of Rome: the literary dramatization of the period makes it emotionally real and important. Our history program also invests students emotionally by tying what they learn to their own values and life experiences—i.e. to that which already matters emotionally. See a vivid example here.

The underlying principle here is age-old: when something matters to you, you pay attention much more closely. Or more simply, when you care, you focus more. What Daniel Coyle offers in The Talent Code is a fascinating new perspective on this principle: not only do you focus more, but you actually focus differently. This point, along with the rest of Coyle’s uniquely rich analysis of the mental and neurological processes underlying the retention of knowledge and skills, makes The Talent Code a book that all educators should take the time to read and reflect on.

Ray Girn

Few question what students are being taught or how.

Memorizing and drilling students, once thought out of fashion, is now back in vogue in schools across the country. In the wake of the “No Child Left Behind” act, the emphasis of teaching has shifted to basic skills, and to increasing performance on state-wide standardized multiple choice tests.  And while many children, especially at middle class public schools, are scoring better on standardized tests, some educators are starting to wonder if these results might not be telling the whole story.

In his book The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – and What We Can Do About It, Dr. Tony Wagner questions the wisdom of the traditional teaching approach and the apparent excellence of suburban elementary, middle and high schools.  It is an important book to read for parents and educators alike.

Dr. Wagner believes that even the best public schools spend too much class time on memorizing content and drilling on basic skills, and he suggests that this leaves students without the thinking skills and real, meaningful knowledge they need to succeed in life. He writes of his decades of experience as a teacher, researcher and education policy advisor:

What I have seen in some of our best public schools over the past decade is that while Johnny and Juan and Leticia are learning how to read, at least at a basic level, they are not learning how to think or care about what they read; nor are they learning to clearly communicate ideas orally and in writing. They memorize names and dates in history, but they cannot explain the larger significance of historical events. And they may be learning how to add, subtract, and multiply, but they have no understanding of how to think about numbers. Not knowing how to interpret statistics or gauge probability, many students cannot make sense of the graphs and charts they see every day in the newspaper. They are required to memorize (and usually quickly forget) a wide range of scientific facts, but very few know how to apply the scientific method—how to formulate a hypothesis, test it, and analyze the results. Finally, I have observed that the longer our children are in school, the less curious they become.

Dr. Tony Wagner

He quotes a scientist from MIT, who describes his two sons’ experience in science class in 4th grade at one of the most acclaimed public schools in the country:

They went to the same school and had the same teacher. … My eldest son had a great experience. His class went over to the pond at Mount Auburn Cemetery and took samples from the muck. They brought them back to school and studied what they found. They discovered all kinds of creatures there –ones that even I hadn’t seen! It was great, ‘hands-on’ science, and it really motivated my son.

But my second son’s experience was totally different. Now all the kids had to take the MCAS test [annual standardized test required of all Massachusetts schools], and the teachers felt they couldn’t take the time for the ‘fun stuff.’ They felt they couldn’t take the time to collect and study the muck. They had to prepare fall the kids for the tests.

I worry about the future of science in this country… For kids to get passionate about science, they have to get their hands dirty—literally. They have to have labs where they study things in depth and learn to observe, instead of just memorizing facts from a textbook. The kids who take my intro lab courses today have gotten top scores on all the Advanced Placement science courses in their high schools, but they don’t know how to observe. I ask them to describe what they see in the microscopes, and they want to know what they should be looking for—what the right answer is.

Dr. Tony Wagner

In our view, this is one of the best summaries of what is wrong in education today: children memorize words, but don’t learn about the world.

Mr. Wagner continues with an even more alarming observation, namely, that the public education establishment—from educators to policy makers, from researchers to concerned business men—is not even asking the right questions to address the problem: “The only debate taking place about education in America today is simply whether to modify certain provisions of NCLB [the No Child Left Behind education act.] Few question what students are being taught or how.”

Yet these are exactly the questions an intelligent parent ought to ask of potential schools: Why are you teaching—what is the goal of your education? What are you teaching my child? And how are you teaching it? If you share our belief that children need to be engaged at school, that they need to care about what they learn, that the content of education matters (=what children learn), as does the pedagogy (=how children learn), then come and observe in our Montessori elementary school and Montessori middle school programs. You’ll discover an education like no other, and may just decide that it is time to question your own child’s educational options and explore Montessori for your child.