We know we need to improve our traditional school system, both public and private. But how? More homework? Better-qualified teachers? Longer school days or school years? More testing? More funding? No, no, no, no, and no. Montessori Madness! explains why the incremental steps politicians and administrators continue to propose are incremental steps in the wrong direction. The entire system must be turned on its head. This book asks parents to take a look - one thirty-minute observation- at a Montessori school. Your picture of what education should look like will never be the same. Montessori Madness! follows one family with young children on their journey of determination, discovery, and delight.
This is the most easy to read, funniest, jaw dropping Montessori book I have read yet! Eissler explores everything and leave nothing untouched. The difference between Montessori and traditional school is brought into the spotlight and from his profound yet clear comparison, I think none can be left unmoved, or not inspired by the abundance of knowledge, research, history and personal stories to bring his point home. Every teacher, parent, school administrator, principal, needs to read this, but anyone who has been through the traditional public or private school system that picks this up will think it was well worth it!
I feel like I could write a book on every chapter in the book it is so incredibly groundbreaking yet at the same time so simple and obvious once you understand.
One quote I love from the book talking about what happened when Montessori, after observing 'idiot' (as they called them a century ago) children's needs, interests, what engaged them, developed a materials for accordingly. The result were incredible. They did as well and better than the 'normal' children at the standardized testing. Everyone praised her but all she could think was if she can do this with her idiot children, what on earth was the public system doing to hold back these 'normal' children so much from their great potential. And thus began the Montessori Method for normal children. This is what he wrote about it;
Montessori’s solution was to give the teacher one task, which she must do above all else. The teacher must prepare the environment of the classroom in such a way as to allow the child to concentrate. That is, to concentrate freely on a self-chosen task for as long as his interest is held. The object of his concentration must “arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality.” To Montessori’s astonishment, such simple and intense concentration caused all the negative traits children exhibit to miraculously fade away. It is what Montessori called “the most important single result of our whole work.”
Once children are regularly choosing their work— freely, spontaneously, and without help—and once they are concentrating on that work for an extended period, they become what Montessori called “normalized.”
I could write about every chapter, but one other thing I found quite interesting is about error. How error in the Montessori classroom is welcomed, learned from, adjusted and perfected. Where as in the traditional school setting it is seen as an absolute. There is no "You got 60%, let's work through that 40% you didn't understand." this is it error is final it is a fail, a black mark. But that is not the way it is in society and that is not the way it is in life, we learn from our mistakes, we do it again and again, till we get it right. Eissler writes;
The contrast between Montessori schools and traditional schools in the treatment of error is jaw-dropping. Maria Montessori attempted “to cultivate a friendly feeling towards error, to treat it as a companion inseparable from our lives, as something having a purpose, which it truly has.” Her method brings error into the light of day, removes any stigma towards it, and develops a child’s sense of ownership of it. She argues, “…what matters is not so much correction in itself as that each individual should become aware of his own errors. Each should have a means of checking, so that he can tell if he is right or not.” She contrasts her “control of error” method with the methods of traditional schools, in which children “often have no idea that they are making mistakes. They make them unconsciously and with complete indifference, because it is not their business to correct them but the teacher’s!”
Anyway there barely touches the tip of the iceberg of insight in this wonderful book. I recommend it to everyone and anyone, I think everyone can get something wonderful out of Montessori Maddness!
If you are interested in learning all about Trevor Eissler's life experiences, social ideas, and pet peeves, this is the book for you. If you are interested in learning (or learning more) about the Montessori method and why it may be a good fit for your child (as I believe it is for mine), then do not buy/open this book. Reviews for this book found on various places around the web lauded it for its conversational, approachable style. I misunderstood this characterization. I believed it meant solely that it would achieve its comparative purpose in easy to understand, lay person terms. If you stick with it, it will eventually do this, but, before it does, it will ramble on and on and on about the author's pant-staining childhood, about his experiences with the medical professionals of a neonatal intensive care unit, about his views on the industrial prison complex, etcetera, etc. Had I been engaged in an actual conversation with Mr. Eissler, I would have hung up the phone or cooked him some dinner so that he would eat and stop talking or, more likely, just told him to get to the point. Don't get me wrong; I agree with most of his world perspectives. I just don't believe that I needed to know all about Mr. Eissler in order to respect his views on how traditional education compares to a Montessori education. I wanted to like this book, because I will be sending my son to a Montessori school when he starts his education this year. (I made this decision before he was born and long before reading this book. That's a good thing, because Mr. Eissler's verbose style rings like a cult leader's chant and would have given me pause when making my decision had I not had other sources of information.) In short, I wanted to like this book, but I don't. I expected it to be a good source of concise or easily condensable information I could use in explaining my decision and advocating for others to follow. It is not. Again, if you're planning on going on a date with Mr. Eissler, this is the book for you. Otherwise, keep looking.