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What would they do during a pandemic?

This week my husband came across an article comparing Montessori and Piaget, and it made me think about what children are being asked to experience during digital homeschooling now. These two Europeans studied relationships between physical and mental development in children. I think they would be appalled by the idea that we expect children to spend hours on a computer trying to learn all sorts of information that is not immediately useful or meaningful to them.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was a medical doctor in Italy when she was asked to design a program for the poor children of Rome. She believed that children wanted to be useful, and they were willing to work and to become independent. In a prepared environment kids discovered how things worked in the world and how they should interact with people and the physical environment.

In Montessori schools, useful work is prominent in activities like helping to set the table before lunch, rolling up bedding after a nap, and putting items back in order within one work station before going to the next. In a prepared environment the children play with colors and shapes, they build with blocks, and they fit puzzle pieces into maps. Each day songs and poems bring the phonemic awareness kids need to learn to read, and sand letters offer children a tactile experiences with written language. At every level the learners have choices of a variety of ways of experiencing words and numbers, and they often go outside to interact with the natural world.

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss psychologist who worked with Alfred Binet to developed IQ tests to evaluate the abilities of children in Paris, France. Piaget carefully observed children’s behaviors at different ages and outlined the stages of cognitive development listed below:

Ages 0-2 Sensory Motor Stage — A child uses the senses to explore the bodies and environment.

Ages 2-7 Preoperational Stage — A child uses language to help organize and understand things.

Ages 7-11 Concrete Operational Stage — A child recognizes relationships & develops concepts.

Ages 11-15 Formal Operational Stage — A youth begins to develop abstract thinking faculties.

These developmental patterns help adults remember what it was like to be a child. Babies love to play “Peek a Boo” because they think the person they cannot see may really disappear. “Hide and Seek” and “Scavenger Hunts” are fun for preschoolers indoors or outdoors. Four and five-year- olds love daily circle games with songs and poems, and beginning readers like to see signs on the street and words on objects in the classroom or home. Checkers, chess, and other board games engage children with social interactions, game strategies, and final outcomes.

Interactions with people and the environment are key to child development. Computers are in the environment now, and using technology is essential for future jobs, but kids need interactive play.

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