Sunday, June 3, 2012

Journey and Discovery Weekend

This weekend, I spent some time as a student at Aaron's school. Twice a year, a "Journey and Discovery" weekend is organised where parents can experience the classroom environment that the children are in every day.

It wasn't intentional but I was about 5 minutes late to class - unfortunately, Aaron is also very often late to class in the morning. All 24 other parents were already at work. In the Montessori environment, lessons for a particular activity are presented to children as individuals or in small groups. For this weekend, the teachers left instruction sheets next to most activities and only provided the lesson if we couldn't figure it out. The material presented was for children aged 3 to 12 years old but guess what, almost all of us had to have a lesson at some. The work on multiplication, division and square roots was definitely tricky to figure out.

Needless to say, the experience was refreshing and I now have a little first hand knowledge of the methods and rationale behind the Montessori method of teaching. I like that it is hands on and fosters a child's engagement in learning without being obvious about it. It is exciting to me that Aaron will be learning multiplication and division without the pain of memorising the times tables - that was my most hated thing to do at his age. Hopefully, he'll be able to grasp these concepts in a more concrete way and find meaning in the things he has to learn.

I didn't need convincing about the school or its methods. This weekend was just for me to gain a little more knowledge about the nuts and bolts of the classroom. The most meaningful idea that I took away was from the debriefing session at the end.

During a discussion on the place of computers/technology in the classroom a teacher explained that while being tech savvy is critical for these children, the use of technology also needs to be age appropriate and focused. Also, it is important that the children learn about delayed gratification. The example that she provided was about doing research for projects. It is tempting to conveniently get on the internet and Google all the information - quick and easy. (This is definitely something that I do with Aaron very frequently.) She explained that at this age (6-9 year olds), it may be a better idea to first go to books or even to talk to an expert before using the internet. To make a search of the internet more focused, a child may use it for a specific point that they could not find out by other means. This removes the temptation to 'wander' aimlessly around websites.

I think I like that idea. It may take a little longer but the process is just as important as the end result. Aaron and I are working on a timeline of the dinosaur age and he naturally brought out his books to find dates and details. We started on this a week and a half ago, but at the time, I thought he looked so focused surrounded by his books that I didn't want to spoil it by turning to the internet. I'm glad I didn't.

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