Tuesday, December 19, 2006

peeling potatoes as a learning opportunity - Montessori ed

My wife posts on the educational value of peeling potatoes. Montessori fans know that one of the insights of the Montessori system is that engaging in food preparation using real grown up tools develops fine motor skills and is a learning experience which should be part of the early school year’s curriculum. I meant to get back to hilchos Chanukah and got sidetracked by segulos and mysticism, which I am not done with yet. No time to go into a detailed discussion of Montessori, but it is worth reading up on. I remain unconvinced that the method produces all the positive gains its adherent claim it does, but I have never seen a full Montessori school program in action (I don’t think any Montessori yeshivos that have grades 1-8 exist).


  1. I am a beneficiary of a Montessori education and my mother likes to point out that nearly all of the top students in my sister's graduating class went to her Montessori.

    I think the benefits of being in a Montessori environment decrease over time. But, I think it provides an excellent start on education, especially for math where things are learned visually, bringing better understanding to the concepts.

    Three things that I believe are superior about the Montessori system include:

    1. It allows students to see projects through start to finish. A good example is a food preparation project (carrots or celery), like Ariella featured. A student is responsible for washing, peeling, cutting, cleaning up, and serving. Having observed/helped in a traditional pre-school, I elieve that seeing a project through, start to finish, is sorely lacking. Rather, the aides set up a project, students work on it for a short time, and are subsequently moved to the next project, leaving the aide to clean up. Which leads me to my next point. . . .

    2. Montessori allows students to work for longer on projects, explore at their own pace, since they work individually in a group setting, but are not working as a group. Therefore, there is no need to "keep up" with the group. Which leads me to my next point. . .

    3. Students learn (probably a bad term) to be self-directed and are expected to find work. Ample supervision is provided. But, they are expected to find "work" rather than always be directed.

    That is enough for now. It is too bad that there are not long standing Montessori Yeshivot/Day Schools so that we could see the results and make more educated judgements.

  2. Aaakkk--One more comment. I hear a lot of parents complaining about the myriads of homeworks their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders bring home. I truely believe so much classroom time is wasted through disciplining, and more, that it often necessitates homework to "keep up." If students were more self-directed and teachers helped them sit and concentrate, I'd like to think there would be less need for homework (and possibly even less need to such long school hours).