We are very excited to share our journey and hope that you choose to walk a few steps with us. :)

Purposeful work or aimless fun?

posted Aug 22, 2015, 8:38 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Aug 22, 2015, 9:54 AM ]

Naren and Gargi working with shapes
Priliminary activities
Why do children in a Montessori seem to be working with concentration and purpose rather than simply having fun or playing aimlessly?

Have they been forced to be so or is there any other magic happening there that makes them focus on the task they are doing?

Is that kind of intensity at such a young age healthy or is it detrimental to the development of a child into an adult?

These are some typical questions that parents always have in the back of their minds when they come across a high fidelity Montessori House of Children and it is true with our parents too.

Children who come to work at Vismaya Montessori are always busy. Busy building the character of the adult they will be.
Children concentrating on their own freely chosen work
Traditional wisdom and common knowledge tells us that the character of a person is built by the age of five. For the personality to form, the child's will, intelligence and actions should work together. There are four characteristics that are a signal that this is happening:
  1. Love of work - includes the ability to choose work freely and to find serenity and joy in work
  2. Concentration - appears as individual children in a group became absorbed in their own freely chosen work
  3. Self-discipline - the ability to carry through what the child has begun
  4. Sociability - refers to patience in getting the materials one wants, respect for the work of others, help and sympathy for others, and harmonious working relationships among members of the group
These must appear, no matter how brief, to say that the representative of mankind is taking shape.

And that is what's happening in a high fidelity Montessori House of Children when you see the children so intently working with unwavering focus for a considerable length of time.

Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level, according to Csikszentmihalyi's flow model.

Modern psychologists, like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, would say that these children are in a state of Flow, which is attained when the child's skill level and the challenge level of the activity are at their optimum. A bit less challenging task and the child feels in control of the activity but is not in the state of flow. A bit less skilled and the child is aroused by the challenge but is not in the state of flow. As you can see from the above diagram, a child is bored when the challenge is very low. It is pretty straight forward to convert this into a state of arousal - give the child a higher challenge. In a Montessori House of Children, the child takes up a higher challenge and improves the skills in a continuous cycle and is in a state of Flow.

Here in this TED video Mihaly explains how Flow leads to happiness.

Flow, the secret to happiness

 
Still unsure? Give us a call at 9489480988 and drop in for a discussion.

Precision

posted Aug 22, 2015, 8:36 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Aug 22, 2015, 9:05 AM ]

Gargi with pink tower

A Montessori House of Children is often an archipelago of children immersed in their own choice of activities. It is a busy place with a unique hum from the work underway in each island of intense attention.

And in the midst of all this is Gargi, an older child, who is revisiting an early stage activity - the pink tower. And that's OK because she has learnt precision in the intervening months and now wants to apply that new found skill on the earlier activity.

Revision? Oh yeah! By her own choice, of her own will; without the fuss we expect.

Acquiring Language in a Montessori environment

posted Dec 2, 2014, 12:46 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Aug 22, 2015, 9:07 AM ]

Tracing sandpaper letters
Children in a Montessori do not start writing with pencil or pen or any other writing instruments. Instead, they trace the letters made of sand paper with their sensitive fingers. This builds muscle memory of the curves of the alphabet for the children without writing "wrong" letters. It also allows them time to strengthen their pincer or pencil grip through the other interesting activities like cylinder blocks which they hold by the nob on top of the cylinders. 

But that does not mean that the children do not learn their spellings or do not write their sentences. For the spellings children use phonics and for forming words they arrange letters of the alphabet made of cardboard.

When a child has garnered enough strength in their fingers to hold a writing instrument and has learnt to arrange the cardboard letters to form words and sentences, the child automatically explodes into writing. There is no stopping that child from writing at that point. Every scrap of paper becomes a place to write. All because the child was allowed to build, at their own pace, the prerequisite skills for writing. 

The child has also learnt by this time the associations between the sounds in the words and the graphical representation of those sounds as glyph or letters as well as amassed quite a sizable vocabulary and learnt grammatical syntax.

No wonder that a child of three in a Montessori who cannot recite the alphabet or write them is composing poems and writing verbose prose by the time they are six.

Why is Montessori not more widespread (in India)?

posted Jun 27, 2014, 6:24 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Aug 22, 2015, 9:08 AM ]

Most parents start as sceptics when introduced to the Montessori methods for the first time, including the Directress of Vismaya Montessori. But once they see how happy their toddlers are, how eager they are to go to "school", how well coordinated and intentional their actions are, how concerned they are for others, and so many more positive changes in their children, including an improved reading, writing and maths skills by the end of the pre-primary stage, these same parents are advocates of the Montessori methods.

And thus comes a question familiar to most Montessorians in India, but not easily answered: Why is Montessori not more widespread?

It is a genuine question given the wide availability of public schools in most urban and semi-urban areas, typically where most of the Montessori Houses of Children are present today. And yet these modern schools are so limited, and sometimes detrimental to the development of the child. The "leading" schools of the Metros are so intent on the marks that their students can get that it is not uncommon for parents to get a call from these schools to give them a notice period within which their 5-6 year old child must improve their "spellings".

Modern schools are an outcome of the authoritarian high modernism, a type of thinking that goes like this:
  • Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
  • Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
  • Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
  • Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
  • Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
  • Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
  • Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly
Authoritarian High Modernism
This is the kind of thinking that lead to forests being replaced with plantations. These monocultures have destroyed not only the biodiversity but also have caused huge damage to the planet.

Something similar is the case with how children learn and how government views it. Education officers do not usually get the beauty of a Montessori House of Children.

Because it is difficult to comprehend the complexity of thirty different children each doing their own thing, schools "discipline" children into following what the teacher instructs.

Because it is difficult to comprehend the level or developmental stage each child is at, schools have narrower age based groupings in classes rather than have mixed age groups or vertical grouping.

Because it is difficult to comprehend the interconnectedness of nature and society, let alone teach about them, schools follow different subjects rather than themes that cut across all the disciplines.

But not so in a Montessori environment. And because these Montessori houses of children are organic, no two environment are the same and a LOT depends upon the adult in the environment too, though it is the children who shape the House.

Montessori framework is more closer to what we used to have for more than a million years before we discovered agriculture than what we have had since the early nineteenth century after the British enforced the colonial education system, which unfortunately continues in India till date. Thanks to the authoritarian high modernism thinking.

Read how the hunter gatherer societies let their children teach themselves, in a very Montessori-ish manner if I may say so:
http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200808/children-educate-themselves-iii-the-wisdom-hunter-gatherers

But the Tamil Nadu government realised the mistake and thus, a decade back, incorporated many of the principles from the Rishi Valley School and the Montessori framework, with the help of veteran Montessorians like Amukta Mahapatra, and came up with the Activity Based Learning program in the state government schools after a successful pilot in the Chennai corporation schools.

Do you think that the education system in India should be revolutionized? Should we focus on the policy, process & technology or the needs of the child's developmental stage? Do you think Montessori principles should get more attention and focus?

Transport facility

posted Apr 7, 2014, 8:42 PM by Prem Kumar Aparanji

We now have transportation facility too. Contact us at 9489480988 to know more.
Vismaya Bus

Happy Pongal!

posted Jan 10, 2014, 11:20 PM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Jan 10, 2014, 11:20 PM ]

We at Vismaya Montessori would like to wish you all a very happy and prosperous Pongal!

Here is a small collection of what our children were up to thus far:

Janani with the pink tower
Janani works with the Pink Tower
Dan Joal with balls for sorting
Dan Joal got settled the fastest in our environment

Chandan doing the sponging activity
Chandan uses a sponge to transfer water between bowls

Triumph - The Magic of Montessori



What to expect in a Montessori environment?

posted Dec 16, 2013, 1:44 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Dec 16, 2013, 2:00 AM ]

When you are considering a Montessori School for your child here are 11 things to look out for in a classroom of 3-6 year olds.



low shelves
1) THIS: Open room with low shelves. Work area with mats, rugs and chowkis. Areas of work set up age appropriately for Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Math. Writing area with insets for design. Culture. Reading/library area. Peace corner. Snack table where children are free to come and go.

Some Schools have boards for display, but no busy, distracting,murals or cartoons.

 


images-58 NOT THIS: walls full of stuff, worksheets laid out on tables, very little floor space. Star charts, progress charts, work lists, jobs lists etc.

 

 

 



adult with children
2) THIS: Teachers engaging with the child individually or in groups.Encouraging innovation. Usually sitting on the floor.

 

 

 

images-59NOT THIS: No active participation, no hands on, no innovation






3) THIS: Children working individually or in groups through the senses.

 

 

 


 

images-64NOT THIS: Rote learning.

 

 

 

 


4) THIS: Collective celebration.

 

 

 

 


72SlN.St.4NOT THIS: Making an example of a child, flattery and praise.

 



 


images-655) THIS: Collaboration





images-69 NOT THIS: All on the same page.

 



 


6) images-72THIS: Resolving conflicts peacefully and independently.

 

 

 

 

images-70

NOT THIS: Time out.

 




images-737) THIS: Independence to choose their own work, when to use the rest room, etc.

 

 

 

 

iso-ie303-019NOT THIS: Having to ask permission for every move they make.

 

 

 

 


images-758) NO TEACHER’S DESK in a Montessori classroom. She/he may possibly have a shelf.

 

 

 

 


images-779) THIS: A fresh clean welcoming feel and look to the classroom, and everything at the child’s level. Children being empowered by the sense of order and routine in their classroom. A classroom that can be maintain by all of them.

 

 

 

IMG_0322

NOT THIS. Teacher driven.

 

 

 

 


fp_214b10) THIS: conferring and discussing, talking in class is encouraged.

 

 

 

 

images-78NOT THIS: Working in silence unless talking to the teacher.

 

 

 

 


images-8111) THIS: An age range 3-6 year olds in one classroom, older children mentoring the younger children.

 

 

 

 

images-82NOT THIS: Children streamed according to age.




 



Adapted from Montessori Circle. Not all images belong to Vismaya.


Common Misconceptions

posted Dec 12, 2013, 1:23 PM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Dec 12, 2013, 1:30 PM ]

Because the name “Montessori” is not a trademark, it has occasionally been used by schools that do not actually follow the Montessori Method. Unfortunately, this has created a lot of myths and misconceptions about true Montessori practices, as implemented by legitimate schools accredited by Indian Montessori Centre or AMI.

Montessori Misconceptions

1. Montessori is just for preschool children.

While the majority of Montessori schools are preschools, Montessori programs exist at age levels from birth to fourteen.

2. Montessori is just for special learners—the gifted or the learning-disabled.

The methods used in Montessori schools are highly effective with both learning-disabled and gifted learners; the reason for their effectiveness, however, is that the learning environments have been designed to ensure success for all children.

3. Children in Montessori classrooms are relatively unsupervised and can "do whatever they want."

Montessori is based on the principle of free choice of purposeful activity. If the child is being destructive or is using materials in an aimless way, the teacher will intervene and gently re-direct the child either to more appropriate materials or to a more appropriate use of the material.

4. Montessori is a cult.

Montessori is part of the educational mainstream, as evidenced by growing numbers of graduate-level programs in Montessori education (such as those at Cleveland State University and New York University) and the increasing popularity of Montessori in the public schools.

5. Montessori classrooms are too structured.

Although the teacher is careful to make clear the specific purpose of each material and to present activities in a clear, step-by-step order, the child is free to choose from a vast array of activities and to discover new possibilities.

6. Montessori is against fantasy; therefore, it stifles creativity.

The fact is that the freedom of the prepared environment encourages creative approaches to problem-solving. And while teacher-directed fantasy is discouraged, fantasy play initiated by the child is viewed as healthy and purposeful. In addition, art and music activities are integral parts of the Montessori classroom.

7. Montessori classrooms push children too far too fast.

Central to the Montessori philosophy is the idea of allowing each child to develop at his or her own, individual pace. The "miracle" stories of Montessori children far ahead of traditional expectations for their age level reflect not artificial acceleration but the possibilities open when children are allowed to learn at their own pace in a scientifically prepared environment.

8. Montessori is out of date.

While appropriate changes have been made to the original Montessori curriculum (including the introduction of computers and modifications to the Practical Life exercises to keep them culturally relevant), the basic pedagogy has not changed much since Dr. Montessori's lifetime. Contemporary research and evaluation, however, seem to be confirming Montessori's insights.

Originally published on NAMTA

The factory model of education

posted Nov 25, 2013, 11:29 PM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated May 13, 2015, 1:29 AM ]

comic on rote model

This 1975 comic on the factory model of education as rote memorization is both funny and tragic, but the best part is the caption in the upper-left-hand corner: “The brain can store more information than the most complex computer.”

Pair with why memory is not a recording devicehow you can optimize yours, and what the internet has done to improve our collective memory, then revisit Sir Ken Robinson on why this paradigm of education needs to change.

(Via Explore Blog)

Rote model of education considers the brain as only a storage medium. It gets children to mug up stuff and vomit them in the tests. How much they retain after that and for how long is anybody's guess. Typically, the more times you repeat it, the better it gets into your procedural memory. This was sufficient for preparing the factory workers who had to do only particular & limited range of tasks on the assembly line.

The rote model however did not prepare them for problem solving. Problems that arise out of the blue, with no previous knowledge to fall back on. And in this day and age, there is something new everyday. New technologies, new policies, new economic and financial situations, new markets, new suppliers, new geographies, even newer currencies. And the kind of problems they bring along are not only knew but unanticipated too.

As important as problem solving is for today's world, it is not sufficient for tomorrow. Our children will grow up to face a world where it is very important to create new things. Robots and computer algorithms have already taken over the repetitive and routine tasks from us via automation. Advances in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are now taking over even non-routine tasks from humans.

As per a research paper from the Oxford University, what remains as a safe harbour for humans from the machines in tomorrow's job market are predominantly related to those that involve perception and manipulation, creativity and social intelligence.

Interestingly, and thankfully, Montessori methods address these areas of human development. Strengthening of the fingers, especially the pincer grip of the thumb and the index finger, is embedded into most of the activities for the pre-primary children. And this is achieved by helping them learn to manipulate objects, from the large to the tiny. Creative expression of the child is seen in the various exploratory activities as well as arts and crafts lessons. Creativity is seen even better in the children of the Primary environment than the pre-primary given that children develop their sense of imagination (not to be confused with fantasy) roughly around the age of six. And given the structure of the Montessori environment and methods, children are found co-operating and collaborating with each other, giving them precious skills in social negotiation and etiquettes that does not just stay in the books waiting to be reproduced onto exam papers via memorisation without application. This is best seen in the teenagers in a Montessori Erdkinder environments who have to produce their own goods and sell them in the local/farmer markets. And we all know how important social skills are for selling.

And what are rote learning, memorising or as we call it in India, mugging up, good for? Getting great grades in the board exams and getting a great rank in the entrance exams. Now the good news is that the Indian central and state boards are going to do away with the board exams within the next couple of academic years, which would be even before most of our pre-primary children can get into the primary or first standard. And by the time our children finish their tenth and twelfth standards (without any board exams of course) we can be very confident, not just hopeful, that colleges will be foregoing entrance exams and looking at the problem solving and creative capabilities of our children, much like how our National Institute of Design does today.

By Prem Kumar Aparanji

First day of the environment

posted Nov 19, 2013, 12:36 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Nov 19, 2013, 12:37 AM ]

We started off the environment today with two little angles, Janani and Disha. Their names signify exactly what we needed - a start and a direction. :)



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