Monday, May 24, 2010


Not only do I steal other people's ideas, I steal the ideas of even other people from some third party's blog. Thus, I present: a book review from a failed blog that I'm euthanizing today.

Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives

David Gettman
1987, St. Martin's Press

Essentially, the book is everything that the average seller summary claims: a summary of the Montessori Method in it's most basic and easy-to-understand form. I've always liked Montessori, since her philosophy about life is compatible with my own. She was Roman Catholic, and few of the bizarre ideas which modern philosophy and psychology have brought to the educational table are found in her work. Besides all that, it works. I know Montessori kids.

Gettman takes his own personal experience and study with the method and creates a two part book. The beginning is simply an overview of Montessori theory itself. He details the life and studies Maria Montessori completed, and takes her findings as the basis for a "worldview" on early childhood education. Everything about Montessori is, essentially, about holistic something--learning, teaching, thinking, developing--and Gettman is a sincere and devoted subscriber to those ideals and theories.

The second half of the book is divided among the five Montessori learning modules, with each section containing a good sampling of traditional Montessori "work", along with Gettman's very helpful instructions on how to carry out each learning project. I appreciated, more than anything else, his enthusiasm about the method. One often encounters Montessori teachers who are extremely stuffy about the method, and who would never dream of suggesting that anyone but a fully qualified instructor should even attempt to impart Montessori lessons to a child. Gettman has no such delusions of grandeur, but rather strives to convey to the reader that they, too, can give their child or children a valuable exposure to Maria Montessori's carefully-crafted educational system. Speaking from the homeschooling "dark ages" of the 1980s, to hear his voice telling parents to take the reins into their own hands is a surprising thing.

Best part: detailed instructions on creating Montessori materials, environment, and on how to carry out a wide variety of the "classic" Montessori activities

My take away: Helping a child develop is a full-time job, but not one that requires your mouth to be moving or your hands to be interfering. The time that a child spends simply imitating your initial, careful, precise behavior is the time you don't realize he's benefiting from.

Funny thought: Reading this book and seeing how a poor demonstration of technique leads to bad technique in a child, it's no wonder that today's children are unable to properly use the English language. The only time they [might] hear it spoken with precision is in the classroom, meanwhile they've already spend four or five years of their life immersed in an environment of dropped consonants and twangy vowels.

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