The Function of Education

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”  These words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summarize the purpose of schooling.  Good schools unlock a child’s potential for cognitive thought while cultivating those characteristics that make them into good people.   Maria Montessori understood this well and would have agreed with Dr. King; however, she would have added that the function of education would need to lead to a singular goal: to achieve world peace.  It is important to clarify here that Maria Montessori was developing her methods during a time of global unrest and war.  She believed that her approach not only unlocked a child’s intellectual potential but also their ability to be compassionate, caring, and kind.

How would each school answer the question: “What is their primary function or goal in educating children?”  Unfortunately, too many schools are focused solely on raising test scores and achievement levels; they focus on the product instead of the process.  At FWM, our primary goal can be summed up in FWM’s mission which is eight words in length: “We cultivate compassion, confidence, and joy of learning.”  We have seen that one of the key by-products of our mission has been providing a challenging, academic program that, in the words of Dr. King, “teaches children to think intensively and to think critically.”  Like Dr. King, we believe that intelligence plus character are the recipe for true education.

Why Every Child Should be at FWM

Every year, parents make the decision to enroll their child at FWM because they believe that the way children learn prepares them far more successfully then other models in both public and private education.  As an educator who has spent the majority of his time in independent school education, I can say with conviction that Montessori cultivates the skills and mindset that will position children to be future leaders.  There is no better investment for a parent in helping their child prepare for a future that requires children to maneuver in an ever-changing, uncertain world.

How can a school prepare a child with a future so opaque?  One thing that is clear about the future is that it will change quickly.  This means children must learn to evolve and adapt effectively.  The days of having children assessed because of how much they memorize is an obsolete benchmark.  The future will require children to acquire skills to problem-solve effectively; think and analyze critically; be both cognitively and socially nimble; and have the resolve to keep going in the face of hardship and change (grit).   All of this is intentionally cultivated in a Montessori learning environment starting in Toddler and going all the way through 8th grade at FWM.  For our students, they achieve academic excellence and good grades – but it isn’t about the grade.  When a testing score or grade is the focus, then children develop a mindset that learning is only about the grade.  At FWM, children learn because they love school and love learning.  The joy of learning is first, good grades are a logical consequence.

Below are a few of the many ways a FWM education prepares children for the future:

  • The emphasis on “choice” prepares children to be independent thinkers who are responsible for their learning
  • Works are self-correcting which means children develop the understanding that mistakes are a key part of the learning process
  • The prepared environment encourages learning that is both joyful and highly academic
  • The multi-age classrooms and work cycle provides a plethora of opportunities for children to collaborate, solve problems, and cooperate with children of different ages
  • There is an intentional focus on building independence from an early age – this builds confidence, self-advocacy, self-efficacy, and leadership
  • By partnering with teachers instead of being “taught to”, children become more invested in their learning
  • The culture is one that emphasizes and intentionally cultivates the child’s social-emotional development (e.g. kindness, empathy, and compassion)

Last year, I shared an article in Inc. Magazine that listed skills needed for people entering into the work force in 2020 to be successful.  Though there is no plan to have our children employed in two years, the below skills provide a road map for the types of skills needed in the future job market.  I think you will also find that these same skills are cultivated at FWM.  Below is an excerpt from the magazine:

“The World Economic Forum recently surveyed 350 executives across 9 industries in 15 of the world’s biggest economies to generate The Future of Jobs.  The top 10 skills that will be most desired by employers by 2020:

10. Cognitive flexibility

This involves creativity, logical reasoning, and problem sensitivity. It also means being able to adapt how you communicate based on who you’re talking to. Employers want to know you don’t just say the same thing to everyone — that you think critically about who you’re talking to, deeply listen, and tailor communication to that person.

9. Negotiation skills

This will be in especially high demand in computer and math jobs, such as data analysis and software development. It will also be critical in the arts and design (including commercial and industrial designers).

8. Service orientation

This was defined as actively seeking ways to help others. How much do you assist those on your team, your superiors, and people across your industry? How much are you known for that?

7. Judgment and decision-making

As organizations collect more and more data, there will be an even greater need for workers who can analyze it and use it to make intelligent decisions. Good judgment also involves knowing how to get buy-in from a colleague, or making a strong suggestion to a manager (even if it might not make you popular).

6. Emotional intelligence

Robots can do a lot, but they still can’t read people the way other humans can (at least not yet). Employers will place a strong emphasis on hiring those who are aware of others’ reactions, as well as their own impact on others.

5. Coordinating with others

Again, this falls under the social skills umbrella (sensing a trend?). It involves being able to collaborate, adjust in relation to others, and be sensitive to the needs of others.

4. People management

In the report, this included being able to motivate people, develop the talents and skills of employees, and pick the best people for a job. This will be especially in demand for managers in the media and energy industries.

3. Creativity

In 2015, creativity ranked 10th on the list. It’s now one of the top three skills employers will seek. Why? Because as we’re bombarded by new technologies, employers want creative people who can apply that tech to new products and services.

2. Critical thinking

As automation increases, the need for humans who can employ logic and reasoning increases. This is, in part, because machines must be directed ethically and optimally. Employers want people with critical minds who can evaluate the uses or abuses of the power of technology, and use them to benefit the company, the people in it, and the future.

1. Complex problem-solving

Technology can make life easier, but it can also make things more complicated. For example, you could use wearables to help map the walking patterns of nurses and doctors in a hospital to see how to make things more efficient. But without a human being analyzing those results while also having intelligent conversations with nurses, doctors, and patients, you will likely end up with a wrong or even dangerous result.

The report shows that 36% of all jobs across all industries will require complex problem-solving abilities as a core skill by 2020.”

Click here for the full Inc. article by Melanie Curtin


Being Your Best Self

Since this is the new year, I have been reflecting more and more on what it means to “be your best self”.  First, we can’t always be our best selves – this would take an enormous amount of energy to always strive to be our best at each moment.  Being the best is an action and there are times humans need to pause and just “be”.  However, sometimes we expect children to always be their best selves – at school, in the supermarket, on the athletic field, when playing with friends, or spending time with family at home.   This can be overwhelming for young minds and hearts who are growing, making mistakes, and learning how to become an adult.  I would suggest parents veer away from using words like “best” and be specific about what it means to “be your best self” by naming and describing behaviors for the child:

  • Be kind to other children
  • Be honest with your answers
  • Be grateful for the small and big moments that bring you happiness
  • Say “Thank you” when someone does something nice for you no matter how small
  • Say “Please” if you would like something
  • Say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake
  • If you make a mistake (everyone makes mistakes) learn what you did wrong

The above are just a few ways children can learn how to grow into their best selves without the pressure of feeling the need to always “be their best self” at any given moment.   This doesn’t mean parents and teachers shouldn’t push or challenge children to meet their fullest potential; however, ultimately children need to know that we love them for exactly who they are at that very moment.





There is Strength in Community


In his book,  The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful GroupsDaniel Coyle writes, “While successful culture can look and feel like magic, the truth is that it’s not. Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”  At FWM, the faculty, staff, and parents all embrace a Montessori ideology and methodology because we know that a Montessori education is the most effective way to educate children to be good thinkers and good people.  This is the work we do and we do it well.

Parents who chose an FWM education for their children embrace similar if not the same ideology.  Therefore, there is a bond within our community that is unique when compared to other school communities.   Parents of a Montessori school know the type of educational experience they want for their child and they share a perspective of what that experience looks like in the classroom.  This shared perspective strengthens the relationships between parents which make for a healthy and more robust sense of community.

An example of the strength of the FWM community occurred this weekend.  Ninety adults and children attended the North Pole Express in Essex, Connecticut.  Three train cars were filled with FWM families who enjoyed hot chocolate, entertainment, and a visit from Santa.  This event was organized by FWM parent, Christi Orlowski, and the response was amazing.

This is the last week before the Winter Holiday Break and when school returns, we will begin the 2nd part of the school year.  As we move into 2020, I want to thank you for being part of our community.  All of our faculty and staff are grateful to have parents who are supportive and committed to our work as Montessori educators.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year to you and your family!

Books about Honesty

As you think about gifts for friends, relatives, and your own children, consider giving the gift of stories that teach children the importance of honesty.  The role models children see today in the media often contradict the fundamental values that families seek to cultivate in their home: honesty, integrity, and responsibility.  By sharing stories that show characters choosing the path of honesty in the face of difficulty and challenge, helps them understand the power of telling the truth.

Below are some books for children about honesty.  In addition, consider telling your own stories of how you (or other adults you know) made the honest choice during a time when telling a lie would have been the easier path.  “Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.” – James E. Faust

Book for kids about honesty and telling the truth

Tell the Truth B.B. Wolf

Traits: honesty, taking responsibility for actions
The Big Bad Wolf is a new wolf with new ways. But when he’s asked to talk about his life, he has trouble telling the truth. The audience (of pigs and other fairy tale characters) calls him out on his lies, and BB Wolf learns about being honest with yourself and taking responsibility for your actions, while his audience learns about forgiveness.

Good picture book about honesty, conscience, and forgiveness

Be Proud

Traits: honesty, listening to conscience, forgiving mistakes
“Oh no! I have a conscience!” When a boy sneaks off for a secret game on his gameplayer, a wise old tree steps into teach him about being honest in his actions and listening to his conscience. With emotional illustrations, kids learn to connect with the good feelings that come from making good choices. Also try the free printable lesson plan and reminder posters.

Beloved picture book about being honest even when it's hard

The Empty Pot

Traits: honesty, courage
A surprising story about a boy who has the courage to tell the Chinese emperor the truth, even when it’s difficult. The outcome of the story reinforces the honor in being honest and doing the right thing. Readers rave about the stunning illustrations of traditional Chinese architecture and landscapes.

Picture book about learning the value of honesty

Be honest and tell the truth

Traits: honesty
The Learning to Get Along Series is a staple in character education lessons. In this book, the characters learn the value of honesty, and are introduced to the idea that sometimes honesty requires courage and tact.

Book about the importance of being honesty, saying the truth

Picture book that teaches a lesson on honesty and telling the truth

The Boy Who Cried Wolf and The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot

Traits: honesty, consequences of lying and breaking trust
These two books feature the classic Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried wolf retold with modern twists. In this version of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, we see the usual scenario of a boy lying and losing the trust of the village. But in this version, the sheep are super amusing and the ending less gruesome. In “The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot”, we get the same morality tale about lying and losing trust, but with a funny new character and plot twist.

A good picture book on telling the truth with tact

The Honest to Goodness Truth

Traits: honesty, respect, caring
It’s important to be honest, but it’s also important to care for other’s feelings. This story shows kids that there is a limit to how honest you should be. The story illustrates how using tact is sometimes more important than telling the “honest to goodness” truth.

Character Education book with range of short lessons on good traits

Character Building Day by Day

Traits: honesty, responsibility, respect, caring and more
Very short stories that are meant to be read aloud and prompt discussion about good traits. Teachers and parents both comment that this book is very effective to get kids talking about their own experiences and to explore good character traits. Great way to include a little character education lesson in each day.

Book for kids about honesty, lying and listening to conscience

The Big Lie, a Katie Woo Story

Traits: honesty, conscience
Katie wants her friend’s toy and takes it without asking. Then she lies about it until her conscience drives her to confess. A simple story with lots of elements about honest actions, lying, and listening to your conscience. Bonus kudos- the Katie Woo series presents a multi-cultural set of friends.

Popular children's book about learning to be honest

Berenstain Bears and the Truth

Traits: honesty, taking responsibility
From the popular Berenstain Bears book series, the two younger bears learn a lesson about telling the truth and taking responsibility for their actions.

A book about telling the truth, but doing it with caring

Being Frank

Traits: honesty, caring
Frank is too, well, frank. He prides himself on how honest he is and never lies about anything. But Frank soon learns that you can be honest and be caring of other feelings at the same time. Great social skills lesson on tact.

Social emotional learning book for kids about honesty and lying

Lying up a storm

Traits: honesty, conscience
Author Julia Cook adds another social emotional learning book to her vast collection with this tale about little fibs that add up to a big lie. The story connects bad actions with bad feelings as the boy’s lies lead to a stormy conscience.

Here are some books for Upper Elementary and Middle School students about honesty:

Honey Moon Shiver book

Honey Moon Shiver

Written and illustrated by Joyce Magnin
Recommend Ages: 9-12

“Honey Moon is in a terrible pickle. She borrowed her mother’s precious silver locket without permission and now the family heirloom has gone missing. Honey suspects it was taken by one of her best friends. She sets out to find the necklace before her mother notices it’s gone. Along the way, Honey meets Shiver, who turns out to be much more than the owner of the newest popsicle shop in Sleepy Hollow. With Shiver’s guidance and a bit of magic, Honey is able to track down the locket and learn the importance of telling the truth and the power of forgiveness.”

Double Trouble book

Double Trouble

Written and illustrated by Joanne Levy
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Victoria Adelman is lonely. Her best friend has moved away, leaving her to spend the summer alone. One day, on her way home from a bat mitzvah, she meets Jazzy, her next-door neighbors’ granddaughter. Tori hopes her friendless status is about to change.

Later, in her garden, she meets Jazzy again, but Jazzy doesn’t recognize the filthy, smelly girl as the one she met earlier. In a moment of insecurity, Tori tells Jazzy that the girl she met before was her twin sister, Vicky. Tori is sure she can fake being that girl in the dress—it’s only for two weeks.

But then Jazzy announces she’s staying with her grandparents for the school year. Tori needs to figure out what to do: come clean and lose her new friend, or live her life as a fake.

Nothing But the Truth

Nothing But the Truth

Patriotism or practical joke?

Ninth-grade student Philip Malloy was suspended from school for singing along to The Star-Spangled Banner in his homeroom, causing what his teacher, Margaret Narwin, called “a disturbance.” But was he standing up for his patriotic ideals, only to be squelched by the school system? Was Ms. Narwin simply trying to be a good teacher? Or could it all be just a misunderstanding gone bad—very bad? What is the truth here? Can it ever be known?

Heroism, hoax, or mistake, what happened at Harrison High changes everything for everyone in ways no one—least of all Philip—could have ever predicted.



A Season of Hope

With the negativity in the news and the poor and shocking behavior of those in leadership positions in our country, it is easy to begin losing faith in humanity.  However, though December is the darkest month of the year, it is also a time of charity and a time of hope. Below is a true story that reminds us of the power of  goodness.  May the below story inspire you as we move into this holiday season.

There was a jailbreak in Parker County, Texas, in June, and a correctional officer is alive because of it. Inmates were awaiting court appearances in a holding cell when the officer watching over them collapsed. The inmates called out for help. When none appeared, they used their collective weight to break down the cell door. Rather than making a run for it, they went to the officer’s aid, still yelling for help. One even tried the officer’s radio. Eventually, guards heard the commotion and came in. After placing the inmates back in their cell, CPR was performed on the stricken officer, saving his life. “It never crossed my mind not to help, whether he’s got a gun or a badge,” inmate Nick Kelton told WFAA. “If he falls down, I’m gonna help.”

Developing a Child’s Gratitude

Many people identify Thanksgiving as their favorite holiday.  It’s a day often filled with delicious food, good company, and a common theme that different faiths and backgrounds can appreciate: gratitude.  However, “being grateful” is not a natural behavior and parents need to be intentional about cultivating it in their child.  “No one is born grateful,” says life coach Mary Jane Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude (Conari, 1999). “Recognizing that someone has gone out of the way for you is not a natural behavior for children — it’s learned.”

Below are some ways parents can intentionally develop gratitude in their child.  The information is from an article by Charlotte Latvala which I hope you find useful.  Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Model and have children use “please” and “thank you”.  Use language like, “Thanks for that hug — it made me feel great!” when talking to your child.  Also, insist on these words as well.  After all, “good manners and gratitude overlap,” says New York City etiquette consultant Melissa Leonard, a mother of two young daughters.
  •  Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Lately, we’ve been trying to weave appreciation for mundane things into our everyday talk — “I’m so grateful to have a good cat like Sam!” or “I’m so happy when you listen!”  When you reinforce an idea frequently, it’s more likely to stick. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick a “thanking” part of the day. Two old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas: Make saying what good things happened today part of the dinnertime conversation or make bedtime prayers part of your nightly routine.
  •  Have kids help. It happens to all of us: You give your child a chore, but it’s too agonizing watching him 1) take forever to clear the table or 2) make a huge mess mixing the pancake batter. The temptation is always to step in and do it yourself. But the more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts. (Don’t you feel more empathy for people who work outside on cold days when you’ve just been out shoveling snow yourself?) By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort.
  •  Find a goodwill project. That doesn’t mean you need to drag your toddler off to a soup kitchen every week, says Lewis. Instead, figure out some way he can actively participate in helping someone else, even if it’s as simple as making cupcakes for a sick neighbor. “As you’re stirring the batter or adding sprinkles,” she says, “talk about how you’re making them for a special person, and how happy the recipient will be.”
  •  Encourage generosity. “We frequently donate toys and clothes to less fortunate kids,” says Hulya Migliorino, of Bloomingdale, New Jersey. “When my daughters see me giving to others, it inspires them to go through their own closets and give something special to those in need, as well.”
  •  Insist on thank-you notes. Paula Goodnight, of Maineville, Ohio, always makes her girls (Rachel, 10, Amelia, 6, and Isabella, 3) write thank-yous for gifts. “When they were toddlers, the cards were just scribbles with my own thank-you attached,” she says. “As they grew, they became drawings, then longer letters.” Younger children can even dictate the letter while you write, says Lewis. “Just the act of saying out loud why he loved the gift will make him feel more grateful,” she says.
  •  Practice saying “no”. Of course kids ask for toys, video games, and candy. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted. Saying “no” a lot makes saying “yes” that much sweeter.
  •  Be patient. You can’t expect gratitude to develop overnight — it requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement.

What Bullying is and What Bullying Isn’t

In August, the faculty and I developed a draft of a new FWM Bullying Policy.  The catalyst for creating a school-wide policy was to ensure the teachers and staff were up-to-date on the latest definitions and approaches when it comes to bullying.  In fact, this Wednesday, there will be a representative from Resiliency Center of Newtown who will provide training for our faculty and staff on bullying.

Why a new bullying policy and why the training?  Interestingly, FWM is practically void of bullying.  Compassion and empathy are the DNA of our school and I rarely ever experience anything close to children bullying other children here at FWM.  However, though we are a school that truly gets it right when it comes to developing and cultivating a culture of kindness and care, it is vital that all educators remain well-versed in new approaches when it comes to addressing bullying because it is so pervasive in our society.

It is important to add our children (like all children) make mistakes, say unkind things, act with insensitivity, and experiment with power.  School is a social laboratory where children practice their social skills – sometimes failing miserably.  When adults witness their child being the recipient of an unkind behavior, they will sometimes call it bullying.  However, bullying is a specific type of behavior:

“Bullying is unwanted, repeated behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior may be a physical act, or a communication that is directed at or intended for another child, and which causes harm.  While unkind behavior is also unacceptable, bullying is distinct in that it is repeated and causes physical or emotional harm, or creates an environment where a child feels intimidated or reasonably fearful.”

I am in the final stages of preparing the FWM Bullying Policy so parents can view it online in the resource page of their account.  In the meantime, if you’d like educate yourself on bullying and how parents can become better informed at recognizing bullying behavior, please click here.

I’ll end with a quote from one of my heroes, Fred Rogers: “Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we are not perfect. Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”





What Adults can do?

  • Be proactive by establishing a bully free culture
  • Build trust
  • Talk to children about what bullying is
  • Give strategies for dealing with bullying
  • Model how to treat others