Friday, August 03, 2012

Montessori Madness: The Goldilocks of Montessori Books

Ages ago I got an email from Trevor Eissler offering to send me a copy of his book, Montessori Madness.  I was pregnant with Quinn (see? I told you it was ages ago) so I warned him that I might not have time to read it or write about it for a while, but would love to read the book at some point. So he sent me a copy.

The book sat by my bedside table for...months.  I don't know why I waited so long to pick it up.  When I finally did, I instantly fell in love.  People often ask me for recommendations for books to read to learn more about Montessori.  Maria Montessori wrote many books, but I hesitate to recommend those to someone just testing the waters because they tend to be pretty dense in information and can be overwhelming (especially to parents with young kids who are trying to squeeze in some reading during their few precious free minutes of the day). I usually go with Tim Seldin's How To Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way, which is great and a very light read and only a basic introduction, really, especially for someone wanting to know about Montessori schools.  There are a few other books as well, such a Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard, but none that in my opinion feels like a really great introduction piece-- not too dense, not too light.

Well, Montessori Madness is that book.  Eissler is himself a Montessori parent, and wrote the book from that perspective speaking to other parents.  Without getting too bogged down in the details of specific activities or Montessori jargon, he explains the main principles of Montessori and how a classroom operates, and the many benefits to this system.  He even uses examples from his own life, times when these same principles were adopted in his career as an aviator and the great benefits they brought.  I especially love those examples, because they show that Montessori is very much applicable to the "real world." has posted an excerpt from Montessori Madness on their site:

I remember setting foot in that Montessori classroom. I sat down on a chair—a very, very small chair—near the door. I had just stepped into someone’s living room. Or was it a science laboratory? Or maybe an office building? I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was different at first, but this was unlike any classroom I had ever seen. It felt different too. Peaceful. Purposeful. 
What there was not struck me as much as what there was. There were no rows of desks lined up. There was no wall-to-wall chalkboard at the front of the room. There was no teacher’s desk at the front of the room. There was no teacher’s desk at all. There was no teacher! Then I found the teacher. She was sitting on a very small chair to one side of the classroom, whispering with two students. She hadn’t interrupted her conversation with them when I walked in, so I settled into my chair the best I could and began to notice what was there.

I highly recommend you head over and read the rest.  I also hope you'll get a copy (I'll happily lend mine out!) and read it in its entirety.  I'm not just saying all this because I got a free copy-- this is nearly 2 years after the fact.  But seriously, Eissler so beautifully and simply explains what Montessori is all about, and it makes me very happy to know this book is out there and helping introduce people to what I happen to think is a really, really cool and important way to educate children.

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