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Visiting during an open house is a great way to learn about West Side Montessori! You and your family will have the opportunity to see our classrooms as well as speak with teachers, current families, current students, and graduates.

Come and join us:

January 28, 2018
1:00 to 3:00 pm

Can’t you make it on the 28?

Contact AnneBrandi or Helena and schedule a private tour. Tours typically last about an hour and include seeing the safe and well-equipped campus, visiting classrooms and time to ask questions.

You’ll feel the difference from your very first visit.

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THE MONTESSORI MAFIA!

By Peter Sims

It may seem like a laughable “only in New York” story that Manhattan mother, Nicole Imprescia, is suing her 4-year-old daughter’s untraditional private preschool for failing to prepare her for a private school admissions exam.

But her daughter’s future and ours might be much brighter with a little less conditioning to perform well on tests and more encouragement to discover as they teach in Montessori schools. Ironically, the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia: Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, not to mention Julia Child and rapper Sean ” P.Diddy” Combs.

Is there something going on here? Is there something about the Montessori approach that nurtures creativity and inventiveness that we can all learn from?

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After all, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were famous life-long tinkerers, who discovered new ways of doing things by constantly improvising, experimenting, failing, and retesting. Above all they were voraciously inquisitive learners.

The Montessori learning method, founded by Maria Montessori, emphasizes a collaborative environment without grades or tests, multi-aged classrooms, as well as self-directed learning and discovery for long blocks of time, primarily for young children ages 2 1/2 to 7.

The Montessori Mafia showed up in an extensive, six-year study about the way creative business executives think. Professors Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gregersen of globe-spanning business school INSEAD surveyed over 3,000 executives and interviewed 500 people who had either started innovative companies or invented new products.

“A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity,” Mr. Gregersen said. “To paraphrase the famous Apple ad campaign, innovators not only learned early on to think different, they act different (and even talk different).”

When Barbara Walters, who interviewed Google founders Messrs. Page and Brin in 2004, asked if having parents who were college professors was a major factor behind their success, they instead credited their early Montessori education. “We both went to Montessori school,” Mr. Page said, “and I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a little bit differently.”

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Will Wright, inventor of bestselling “The Sims” videogame series, heaps similar praise. “Montessori taught me the joy of discovery,” Mr. Wright said, “It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori…”

Meanwhile, according to Jeff Bezos’s mother, young Jeff would get so engrossed in his activities as a Montessori preschooler that his teachers would literally have to pick him up out of his chair to go to the next task. “I’ve always felt that there’s a certain kind of important pioneering that goes on from an inventor like Thomas Edison,” Mr. Bezos has said, and that discovery mentality is precisely the environment that Montessori seeks to create.

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Neuroscience author Jonah Lehrer cites a 2006 study published in Science that compared the educational achievement performance of low-income Milwaukee children who attended Montessori schools versus children who attended a variety of other preschools, as determined by a lottery.

By the end of kindergarten, among 5-year-olds, “Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children,” according to the researchers. “They also tested better on “executive function,” the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success.”

Of course, Montessori methods go against the grain of traditional educational methods. We are given very little opportunity, for instance, to perform our own, original experiments, and there is also little or no margin for failure or mistakes. We are judged primarily on getting answers right. There is much less emphasis on developing our creative thinking abilities, our abilities to let our minds run imaginatively and to discover things on our own.

But most highly creative achievers don’t begin with brilliant ideas, they discover them.

Google, for instance, didn’t begin as a brilliant vision, but as a project to improve library searches, followed by a series of small discoveries that unlocked a revolutionary business model. Larry Page and Sergei Brin didn’t begin with an ingenious idea. But they certainly discovered one.

Similarly, Amazon’s culture breathes experimentation and discovery. Mr. Bezos often compares Amazon’s strategy of developing ideas in new markets to “planting seeds” or “going down blind alleys.” Amazon’s executives learn and uncover opportunities as they go. Many efforts turn out to be dead ends, Mr. Bezos has said, “But every once in a while, you go down an alley and it opens up into this huge, broad avenue.”

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Montessori alumni lead two of the world’s most innovative companies. Or perhaps the Montessori Mafia of can provide lessons for us all even though it’s too late for most of us to attend Montessori.

We can change the way we’ve been trained to think. That begins in small, achievable ways, with increased experimentation and inquisitiveness. Those who work with Mr. Bezos, for example, find his ability to ask “why not?” or “what if?” as much as “why?” to be one of his most advantageous qualities. Questions are the new answers.

Peter Sims is the author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.

Developing a World View!

We read about it everywhere.  Everything’s connected.  We live in a global society, an interdependent world where actions and re-actions in distant lands have an effect on our daily lives.  We know we need to prepare our children for the future, but how?

Each infant begins to develop a world view at birth.  Am I safe? Well-fed? Healthy? Loved?  A tiny child’s world is completely self-centered.  However, within a remarkably short time young children begin to explore and expand their universe.  As they do so they absorb the sights, sounds, smells, touch, and culture of their families and others around them. Experiences shape their developing views and values.

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(Beautiful presentation on the Philippines in the Sapphire Room.)

Ideally, young children should be exposed to other cultures and languages at a very early age.  Many American families speak several languages at home or have grandparents and relatives visit who are non-English speakers.  How fortunate those children are!  While some may initially take longer to learn our language, they ultimately have a broad understanding and appreciation of the rich diversity in the world.

Find ways to expose your young child to other cultures, languages, and ideas. Take them to an Asian, Middle Eastern, or Indian grocery store or restaurant.  Seek out neighbors and friends who speak Greek or Farsi or Portuguese.  Ask a baba to tell your child stories about growing up in the old country.

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(Learning about Hanukkah)

By the time a child is 5 or 6 years old the idea of a vast and exciting world and universe beyond to be explored can be firmly established and should be the basis for feeding their insatiable curiosity and quest for knowledge and understanding.

Give your young child the gift of exposure to other languages and cultures from a young age and you will set them on the path to greater understanding, less fear of the unknown, and an openness to the future.  You will give them a world view worthy of the future they will inherit.

Lynn Fisher,

Head of School

Gifts are an expression of love. We give gifts and are giddy with anticipation as the receiver is opening it. We are given gifts and feel deeply known and deeply loved.

Babies and Children, especially, are given gifts. Not just for holidays and birthdays, but also when families visit, or because it’s Thursday. Gifts can be silly and impractical. This year’s Must-Have toy, or something a child really really wants in this moment and we say yes, or a stuffed animal that is just too soft to not send to that small person you love.

Gifts can also be an opportunity, for enriching a child’s life, for contributing to their development, for helping.

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Here are some of our favorites.

1) Books

Books are a whole world of learning. Looking at words or pictures, being read to, starting to read independently, staying up too late with a chapter book you simply cannot put down.They’re entertainment, they’re relationship-building, they’re fond memories.

They also have longevity. Books aren’t played with the same way toys are, or clothes are worn, so they can be passed on to a sibling, friend, or local donation center when they’re no longer as engaging as they once were. Books can have many lives.

2) Furniture

This is a big one. Maybe a small table and chair uncovered at a garage sale, carefully sanded, painted, and restored by a loving grandparent. Maybe it’s a learning tower, so a child can participate in making family meals or washing dishes. Maybe it’s a small bookshelf, for those books to be stored, or so a parent isn’t constantly tripping over toys left on the floor because they have no home. This is a generous gift that can impact not only a child’s life, giving them space and ability to learn and to participate, but also can impact a family’s life together. It’s a gift for everyone.

“These are treasured gifts, and priceless.”

3) Time

This might be expected, but should always be included in a top list of gifts to give a child, of any age. Time with their favorite people, conversations, and complete attention, for five minutes, for five hours, for five days. A trip to grandma’s for the week, where even pulling weeds and vacuuming and washing dishes is magical cause grandma always seems to suggest ice cream at the opportune moment and tells the best stories. Picked up from school by an older sibling to go run errands together, and it’s just you and me?! A sleepover at an Auntie and Uncle’s house, and we’ll get pizza and watch a movie. A special trip to the museum when siblings are doing something else. These are treasured gifts, and priceless.

4) Future Joy

Maybe you’ve been bitten by the Minimalism Bug, or you look around and think there’s not one more thing that we need right now, or you’re focusing more on experiences than items. Or maybe education and adventures have been the most gratifying, meaningful gifts in your life, and you want to help pave the way for this child in the future.

A College or Adventure Fund is a wonderful gift for a child. If there are occasions you regularly would purchase a gift for, such as a birthday or holiday, what about making a contribution to a savings account a child would have access to when they turn 18? Five-dollars in a savings account has potential to be so much more down the road, both in terms of actual value and in terms of the meaning in a child’s life compared with another toy.

This is a lovely gift to give in combination with the gift of time, such as a special trip with a child to the park, so you can enjoy all that they are today and create memories together, and also a contribution to an account for them, so you can imagine all they might become.

5) Something they’re passionate about today

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Children’s interests are sometimes fleeting, though deeply passionate. A child’s passion and dedication can be incomparable, and a gift can honor what they’re living and breathing today. Soccer is Life, today. I can rattle off any number of facts about Dinosaurs, today. Of course, I’m going to be a Ballerina, today. Dive into their passions with them. They might not actually become an Archaeologist, but that science subscription box will be so meaningful right now. Tomorrow, deep sea creatures might be Everything, but today those pencils with planets on them are “Woah! So cool!” Excitement might outweigh talent, but those colored pencils from the art store, rather than the drug store, will be used down to nubs.

Children need us to believe in them, before there is really anything to believe in. We might get tied down with practical, or rational, but isn’t that part of the joy of children? The wonder they still possess? The joy and delight? Let’s get caught up in the moment with them.

Source: Baan Dek

Picture a peaceful nine-year-old child, kind and giving, passionate and joyful, and mostly in control of his or her emotions. Is this some alien species? Or is it possible to nurture peaceful children in our highly competitive, cynical and polarized society?

Research tells us that educating the emotions, teaching self-control, has a wider impact than preventing violence. Look at the widespread anti-bullying programs in place across our country today. And yet, mean-spirited, demeaning behavior persists in elementary schools and beyond.

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Surround your child with a caring community of adults who model emotional competence. Gently but firmly set the boundaries for your child’s behavior to provide both physical and emotional security. When you lose your temper with your child out of frustration or exhaustion, apologize. Explain your feelings and actions to help your children recognize and accept their own mistakes, to understand that no one is perfect, no one is superior.

Stop calling your children good or bad. A child labeled good is only good in relation to someone else’s being bad. Labeling encourages children to invest in keeping others bad to ensure superiority. It perpetuates a cycle of judgment and blame and discourages cooperation.

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Build your child’s self-confidence and empathy by supporting him in moments of personal crisis and demonstrating that helping others is as important as superior grades or winning the game. Each step you demonstrate toward cooperation and compassion is a step toward developing a peaceful child.

Lynn Fisher,

Head of School