I recently read an interesting study that was conducted by researchers at Oregon State University on children’s ability to pay attention. The researchers concluded that learning to pay attention is “more important to success in school than academic performance”. The study also concluded that “children who pay attention and persist with a task have a 50 percent better chance of completing college. The researchers discovered that children who were rated higher by their parents on attention span and persistence at age 4 had nearly 50 percent greater odds of getting a bachelor’s degree by age 25.” “Our study shows that the biggest predictor of college completion wasn’t math or reading skills, but whether or not children were able to pay attention and finish tasks at age 4.” The study was published online in Early Childhood Research Quarterly 2012. What does this have to do with Montessori? Several things! One of the basic philosophical beliefs of Montessori is the ideal of persistence. Children are encouraged to make their own work choices, but must persevere and finish the task they have chosen. The skilled Montessori teacher gives carefully selected lessons so that the child is successful, but challenged in their skill level. Because most lessons are given individually, children progress at their own rate gaining skills as they move through the curriculum. Another basic philosophical belief of Montessori is the progression towards sustained concentration. The materials in the classroom are designed to move from the concrete to abstract, simple to more difficult, and one step tasks towards many more complex steps in a task. Think of a work such as snack preparation (something all of the children love!). The child must first wash their hands, get a napkin take it to the snack table, get a plate, count the number of snack they are permitted to take that day, place the snack on their plate (if the snack involves spreading or opening a package they must also do that), take the plate to the snack table, get a glass, pour the juice, take it to the snack table, clean anything they have spilled or dropped along the way, place their napkin on their lap, and FINALLY sit at the table and eat their well deserved snack. I think you can see how Montessori fits into the idea of “paying attention through a task”, “finishing a task”, “persistence”, and “perseverance”. It is wonderful to read “modern” research that supports the basic tenants of Montessori that were developed over 100 years ago. What can you do at home? Give your child activities, chores, or tasks that contain multiple steps. Give them the tools and/or skills they need to be successful. In other words, think the task through first and make sure it is something they are physically able to do. Be sure they follow through and complete the task to the end. Celebrate their success!

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