Divergent thinking, collaboration and the culture of the environment…hmmm…isn’t this Montessori???


December 5, 2012. Uncategorized, Articles. No Comments.

A Really Nice Article - written by a parent of one of our graduating children

So Liz, co-owner and full time Casa teacher at the school has had an article written about her in the Grid - she has taught the son of one of the writers, Christopher Shulgan for the past 4 years. In fact, this child was one of the original first children enrolled at Westside! And he graduated, completing the entire program. It is things like this that makes all the work of opening a school worth it!
Thanks for your kind words Chris.

Check out the article here.

July 3, 2012. Uncategorized, Articles. No Comments.

Montessori - Preparation for the future - It is an investment


Montessori seems to be coming up more and more often in the press, whether it be education reform, neurological research, executive function, or how companies function and run. Is it a coincidence that Google, founded by Montessori graduates has been Here at Google part of Fortune Magazine’s prestigious “100 Best Companies to Work For” for four consecutive years? And of those 4 years they have achieved a Top 5 ranking. In 2012 it was #1. In fact, they have taken the number 1 spot 3 times, which is more than any other company. Google says that ‘innovative benefits, flexibility, and the opportunity to pursue big ideas are just a few of the attributes that have continued to earn [them] this exciting recognition’. “People want to feel part of a family, even when they’re at work,” Google CEO Larry Page said.
SAS Institute in Cary, NC – last year’s top company – impressed Fortune researchers with its subsidized Montessori childcare as one of the perks.
Montessori, Montessori, Montessori. There just seems to be a link. Coincidence? Maybe. But we don’t think so.

The following is from Tony Evans - Head of School at Dundas Valley Montessori School in Dundas, Ontario.

‘Society has not only developed into a state of utmost complication and extreme contrasts, but it has now come to a crisis in which the peace of the world and civilization itself are threatened. More than to anything else it is due to the fact that the development of man himself has not kept pace with that of his external environment.’ -Dr. Maria Montessori, 1948, Childhood to Adolescence

Whenever I read Montessori’s later writings, I am literally astounded by how prescient she was about the evolution of education, technology, brain research, and the modern world. Last week, there were two inspiring articles in the Globe & Mail extolling the ability of Montessori Education to develop innovative minds.

Article 1: “Maria Montessori: Guru for a New Generation of Business Innovators.”
(View related artcile)

Article 2: “Rethinking Cubicle Culture.”
View related artcile)

Please read the articles and forward them to anyone who asks why you are committed to a different model of education for your child. The model we are accustomed to was designed for children of the past (think industrial revolution). Montessori is designed for the leaders of tomorrow.

In the accompanying articles we examine how businesses are using Montessori principles to employ and engage employees with astounding success.

The Work World

An interesting perspective is offered by Ambiga Dhiraj, Head of Talent Management for Chicago-based Mu Sigma, a decision science and analytics services firm, in her blog post “Develop Leaders the Montessori Way” (View related artcile) at Harvard Business Review. She outlines how her company shifted to a Montessori approach to motivating employees.
“We believe this intrinsic motivation - an employee’s love for what she does - is better than money and promotions,” writes Dhiraj.

John Steen, member of the Technology & Innovation Management Centre in the School of Business at the University of Queensland, Australia, and founder of The Innovation Leadership Network blog, also sees the advantages of bringing Montessori approaches to the work world. In “Montessori Lessons for Innovators,” (View related artcile) Steen argues that bringing Montessori-principled prepared environments into the workplace is the best way to advance innovation.

The environment “is structured but the structure supports experimentation and learning rather than dictating what will be learnt and what the experiment will be,” says Steen.

Then there’s “the move to incorporate more co-op experiences into graduate school programs.”
View related artcile)
From the article:
“At a basic level, it is a Montessori approach. What works well for kindergartners works well for engineers,” says Bryan Dansberry, who chairs the American Society for Engineering Education’s Co-operative & Experiential Education Division (CEED) and is a higher education experiential programs specialist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.”

Montessori can contribute to lifelong success in ways that might not be initially obvious. Here we have examples of how Montessori not only contributes to children’s development, but how it can also contribute to aspects of grown-up development as well.

The Brain
When it comes to the internal skills that lead to success, Dr. Judy Willis has written an article much-discussed by Montessorians recently. In Whose Children Will Get the Best Jobs in the 21st Century, (
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Dr. Willis postulates that “The best jobs will go to applicants who have the skillsets to analyze information as it becomes available, the flexibility to adapt when what were believed to be facts are revised, and to collaborate with other experts on a global playing field requiring tolerance, willingness to consider alternative perspectives, and articulately communicate one’s ideas successfully.” These skills are part of the set of skills neurologists refer to as executive functions.

Willis relates the development of sound executive function skillsets to educational models and says, “What is important is that today’s students have the education they need to choose the career path that will give them the most satisfaction.” She explains that “children who have opportunities to use and strengthen their developing executive functions early” will have a greater likelihood of success in future educational and vocational endeavours.

She outlines the kinds of skills children should learn in school - focusing attention, organization, prioritization, and active participation - and gives some examples of things parents can do to foster executive function abilities, such as having children make plans or set goals and experience the consequences of their choices in accomplishing (or not) the plans they have made, and how parents should respond when seeing them make poor choices.

All of this is exactly what Montessori does. Many business professionals are just now beginning to recognize the advantages of Montessori as providing both valuable employee skills and as a model upon which corporate structures and practices can be based. Choosing Montessori for your child, and learning more about how it can help your own business, has never been a better choice.

And, we agree, she was Superwoman! What do you think?
View related artcile

April 19, 2012. Uncategorized, Articles. No Comments.

A Message From a Parent to Parents



October 12, 2011. Uncategorized, Articles. No Comments.

“Good at Doing Things: Montessori Education and Higher Level Thinking” By Dr. Steven Hughes; Reviewed by Katherine Poyntz; Photos taken at Westside, CCMA

He is in the brain business and there is research going on that asks the question: What should school be for? When middle school students were surveyed for the top 10 of all possible goals when leaving school, 85% said ‘leaving school confident ‘and ‘take initiative to introduce change.’ They also highly rated ‘becoming independent and stand on my own two feet.’
When teachers were asked, their answers for their students were similar. Fundamentally they had the same goals. Generally their responses were schools should help young people grow up in a world and be independent and take responsibility.

In looking at school, he came across Montessori by the slightest of accidents. He asked the leaders of an Outdoor Leadership programme about where the ‘good kids come from?’ They mentioned that the adolescents from Montessori schools held each other accountable, would embellish the jobs and the environment such as wash the tables at clean up and put flowers on them. The conclusion they came to was: Montessori kids have the ability to look around, see something and do it! Montessori kids are good at doing things. When Hughes looked around as a parent, he and his wife could not imagine something as developmentally beautiful as a Montessori education. His daughter lives at the Farm School in Hershey, Penn. and has grown so fully into herself that his family really connected to Montessori education.

Dr. Hughes said he was not the only pediatric neuro-psychologist who fell in love with Montessori education. He has spoken all over the world and the experience is, if you are interested in the brain, then this is the education for you!!

In looking at a picture of the brain from 4-20 months and the cortical tissue that is functional and at age 4 years old is maturing. One clear advantage of Montessori is “experiential interaction with the environment”. It is both physical and emotional development that fosters the development of the brain. If you look at how we explore the world, it is through the mouth and hands. Humans are built to understand the world through hands-on activities, especially so in childhood. If hands on activities can lead to brain development, why do we learn language by sitting and listening to teachers? He showed a diagram of what he called Nuggets and Networks which showed the development of the brain. The nuggets for reading show an imitating capability. For dyslexics, the nuggets are not well activated. Dr. Montessori knew about reading nuggets, although she did not use this terminology, and surmised that the brain needs specific connections for letter and word recognition and phonological processing. In looking at a picture of his daughter doing sandpaper letters, he mentioned the use of sound/ symbol relationship, the need to assign an arbitrary symbol with the sound and the visual cues. This is about cracking the code for reading.

In the cylinder blocks, the discernment that was apparent, it showed the hand was being prepared with the indirect purpose of muscle control. The same with the metal insets and these are compelling. In this way, the wrist, the hand, the grip are established. Anyone would say this makes sense. These are the foundations of simplicity.
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The movable alphabet requires fine motor movement and vocabulary enrichment such as showing the organization into plants and animals in the words on a mat. This is helping to build complexity and organizational principles. It is an extremely sensible way to understand reading and writing and it happened effortlessly for most. The brain is building networks.

What is the foundation of this?
A well developed neurological network is a good thing to have. The way you develop these bundles of fibre is ‘experiential interactions with the environment.’
In looking at an image of the brain doing a test, and what it does when it does not know something, the brain calls on all its resources. The game of Tetris was played and in the beginning the brain was a novice brain at this, but after 6 weeks of practice the mastery of the joy stick showed a growth in one brain area. Only 45 days separates you from being a Tetris master! It is the same as driving a car and mastery will show up in this area.

What should school be for?
Every child that walks through the door should have the maximum opportunities to explore, learn and develop. You cannot teach it, you can foster it. You can help foster new nuggets.

How can we build better brains?
Repetition. Brains like mastery.

How can we build better brains?
Security. When you have trauma, seizures or emotional trauma, they can impact brain development. If your goal is to help prepare an environment to let children grow, beauty is not an option. It works better in a beautiful environment. There is a natural cycle of engagement in Montessori with lovely rituals such as taking a break to water a plant or participate in a birthday ritual like the earth going around the sun.

How can we build better brains?
Hands on – learning that provides steps to prepare and solve problems. All meaningful learning takes place though analysis of error. The neurological parts of the brain are designed to activate attention to the point of error. You are providing children a puzzle they can stop and step back. It will not work however, if the puzzle is too complicated.


How do we build better brains?
Multi - sensory. Motivated learning. You must give them time to develop. They might spend a lot of time doing one activity. Have the confidence that the material is speaking to the child. Do leave them something to discover, step out of the way and let the light bulb go off. It is hard for this if we say, ok stop now and it is time to go on to history.

Executive functions: Hands-on, direct learning develops critical cognitive abilities and skills. Montessori is unique in fashioning these capabilities. We can modify remote events through intentional behaviour. We can link the present to the future. Humans are capable of judging, planning, imagining, foresight, organization, self-awareness, self correction, picking strategies, mastering progress. The executive functions are driven by genetic development.
It is the birth-rite of every child and we don’t want to mess with it. It means profound concentration, spontaneous self discipline, independence and initiative, a love of order and a love of work. Montessori knew it before anyone talked about these things.

Most traditional education is about crowd control, content, and standardized testing. In Montessori, normalization continues through a love of silence and being alone when
needed, attachment to reality, using adults in the environment as resources and respect through them as an ally. There is a sense of joy. What does it feel like to be good at doing things? A sense of JOY! It is about the recognition of your own capabilities.

If we go back to the top 10 education goals for kids, doing well on tests is #23 but for many teachers it is #1. This is not a way to ‘help children be good at doing things’. A good store manager tends to: show initiative, set goals, coach, influence, build teams, listen and demonstrate empathy and help others. Really effective people practice what they experience. If you want entrepreneurs, give students opportunities to learn these skills. Competent machine operators must be: dependable, accurate, respond to the needs of the situation, get along well with others, take responsibilities. We should give kids the opportunity to engage in meaningful learning and do practical, real things.

In Angeline Lillard’s study that was published in the Science Journal, the Montessori students showed good executive control, as well as decoding and early math skills and understanding. The Grade 6 kids also showed social skills, a sense of community, creativity in their stories and the use of complex sentence structure. In the unstructured time out in the playground, they showed more positive shared play, less aggressive play and more understanding of another’s point of view.

There was a study done in a poor area of a U.S. city that showed that 75% of graduates applied and were accepted in the gifted programmes from their public Montessori school. In this community, less than 50% graduated from traditional high school but from the Montessori school, 97% graduated from high school and 88% went on to college. There was purposeful and intentional learning. Montessori is not about method and materials. The goal is to create a developmental environment for children to progress at his/her own pace.

In the culture of a Montessori school, everyone is to be respected as the unique person they will become. At its core, Montessori education is transformative.
It is the social milieu that surrounds the family and the child that helps them deal with challenge, adversity and trauma. Who you mix with, matters.

We learn how to be human beings from other human beings.
“Montessori provides a culture that is deeply supportive of civilization.” What happens next in our civilization? We hope those who run it will base it on core values of peace, kindness and fairness. These are core values and this is the core of Montessori.

On this spaceship earth, all of us are in this together. We are not alone. The universe is teeming with life but no external intelligence will swoop in and save the earth. It is up to us and our children. We need a generation that values realty and loves the earth.
We need to produce children who look around, figure out what is to be done and do it!!

March 31, 2011. Uncategorized, Articles. No Comments.

Am I a Helicopter?

“The insanity crept up on us slowly; we just wanted what was best for our kids. We bought macrobiotic cupcakes and hypoallergenic socks, hired tutors to correct a 5-year-old’s “pencil-holding deficiency,” hooked up broadband connections in the treehouse but took down the swing set after the second skinned knee. We hovered over every school, playground and practice field - “helicopter parents,” teachers christened us, a phenomenon that spread to parents of all ages, races and regions.” Time Magazine, Fri., Nov 29. 2009

Does this sound familiar? You are not alone!

This fascinating article on the dark side of the helicopter phenomena speaks to the importance of allowing children to develop independence. Sometimes the hardest part of loving your children is trusting them enough to make mistakes. In a time where children have never been safer, it is unusual to see children walking or playing outside unchaperoned. Even when we try to send our kids outside to play, all the other children are inside so they just want to come back in. Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying your 3 year old should be outside on their own, but can they play in the park without you an arms length away? Can you be that parent who is there and available if necessary, but otherwise silently observing from a distance (maybe even taking some time to leisurely read)?

The irony is that by hovering over our children, protecting them from everything, we make them more vulnerable. They learn to look for the adult to teach them, give them approval, make the decision for the and ultimately they then don’t look inside themselves for moral and cultural lessons. Look at it this way; we best protect our children from the dangers of water by teaching them how to swim. It would be shallow minded and more dangerous to instead keep them away from water. (Not to mention the loss of the joys of swimming.)

Montessori education has, at its, core a faith in the child. This is what most clearly separates it from other forms of education. We are not advocating letting the child run free from dawn to dusk. Freedom within clearly defined limits allows for a child to grow. The limits are equally as important as the freedom.

Please read the Time magazine article and step back and observe your own unique family so you can find the ways to slowly but surely encourage meaningful freedom in your own children, ultimately instilling in them confidence. By doing this you allow for independence and engagement in children and let them learn lessons on their own - we all know from our own lives that these are the most meaningful lessons.

As Montessori said 100 years ago - “Help me to help myself”.

To read the Time magazine article click here, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1940395,00.html.

Some contents of this post are courtesy of Tony Evans, Director of Dundas Valley Montessori School.

January 18, 2010. Articles. No Comments.

Our Neighbourhood Magazine

Please check out this month’s issue of ON online at www.onmagazine.ca/documents/WestsideMontessori.pdf

This month, the magazine’s issue is all about Family. The children at Westside Montessori thoroughly enjoyed looking through the magazine and delighted to see themselves, their classmates and teachers featured in the publication. Enjoy!

June 4, 2009. Articles. No Comments.

Our Neighbourhood Magazine.

The summer has fallen upon us so quickly and things are quite busy at Westside. We are so pleased with all of the interest and hype around the school. Be sure to check out the most recent publication of Our Neighbourhood Magazine featuring an article about Westside Montessori School.


With July all booked up we are now booking prospective parent meetings into August. Give us a call or shoot us an email and we will be happy to schedule an appointment with you!

June 27, 2008. Articles. No Comments.