Friday, April 25, 2008

Sensorial: Knocking Down The Pink Tower

Here is a very pithy quote from Maria Montessori herself in her book "Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook" regarding the Pink Tower:

"Ten wooden cubes colored pink. The sides of the cubes diminish from ten centimeters to one centimeter.

With these cubes the child builds a tower, first laying on the ground (upon a carpet) the largest cube, and then placing on the top of it all the others in their order of size to the very smallest.

As soon as he has built the tower, the child, with a blow of his hand, knocks it down, so that the cubes are scattered on the carpet, and then he builds it up again. " (p. 72)

This makes a lot of intuitive sense! But it's not popular with Montessori schools -- a combination of the high cost of equipment and the general desire to keep kids quiet. Not such a big problem for many children, but it seems especially unfair for children who are especially active or physical.

So, quote Maria Montessori to your child's teacher next time. For all your Montessori homeschoolers out here, keep up the good work!

The book, Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook, is, incidentally quite a good bargain because the language is a bit old-fashioned, it has an unglossy jacket cover, and the photos are in black and white. Since such things matter tremendously in book sales, you can find a used copy very cheaply!

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Monday, April 21, 2008

" Heart exam, EKG recommended before children get ADHD drugs"

This article from the AP reported on Yahoo caught our eye. Check out the full article here

Here are some key points made in the article:

"Children should be screened for heart problems with an electrocardiogram before getting drugs like Ritalin to treat hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder, the American Heart Association recommended Monday.
We don't want to keep children who have this from being treated. We want to do it as safely as possible," said Dr. Victoria Vetter, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and head of the committee making the recommendation."

The article then goes on to say:

"The label warnings were added after a review by the Food and Drug Administration of its databases found reports of 19 sudden deaths in children treated with ADHD drugs and 26 reports of other problems including strokes and fast heart rates between 1999 and 2003. There were also reports of heart problems in adults; the committee didn't look at adults."


"Dr. Steven Pliszka, a child psychiatrist at the University of Texas in San Antonio, is quoted as saying he is "baffled by the EKG recommendation." The article quoted him as saying "there's no evidence that sudden death is a bigger problem for children taking stimulants than for children who aren't taking the drugs."

Interestingly, the author also states that this psychiatrist has received research support or served as a consultant for makers of ADHD drugs.

We're not in the medical business here at Montessori House. Bits of the article just leapt out and we wanted to share them with our readers. The University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine is as well-known as our Johns Hopkins alma mater, so it's noteworthy that a pediatric cardiologist there has issued the statement she did.

As always, we'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Classroom Schedules: Montessori, Autism, Asperger's

Due to the cost of outdoor play areas, the extra staff needed to supervise children outdoors, and other practical administrative matters, the classroom schedule such as Maria Montessori proposed has been dramatically altered.

Nowadays, children spend a lot of time sitting still in the classroom. This can be an especially big disservice to children with Autism and Asperger's.

I find this original classroom schedule put together by Maria Montessori to be a fascinating contrast with classroom programs today!

Opening at Nine O'clock–Closing at Four O'clock

9-10. Entrance. Greeting. Inspection as to personal cleanliness. Exercises of practical life; helping one another to take off and put on the aprons. Going over the room to see that everything is dusted and in order. Language. Conversation period Children give an account of the events of the day before. Religious exercises. Note that religion and life in Italy during this time were closely intertwined

10-11. Intellectual exercises. Objective lessons interrupted by short rest periods. Nomenclature, Sense exercises.

11-11:30. Simple gymnastics: Ordinary movements done gracefully, normal position of the body, walking, marching in line, salutations, movements for attention, placing of objects gracefully.

11:30-12. Luncheon: Short prayer.

12-1. Free games.

1-2. Directed games, if possible, in the open air. During this period the older children in turn go through with the exercises of practical life, cleaning the room, dusting, putting the material in order. General inspection for cleanliness: Conversation.

2-3. Manual work. Clay modelling, design, etc.

3-4. Collective gymnastics and songs, if possible in the open air. Exercises to develop forethought: Visiting, and caring for, the plants and animals.

As soon as a school is established, the question of schedule arises. This must be considered from two points of view; the length of the school-day and the distribution of study and of the activities of life

Definitely not a day full of sitting indoors quietly!