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Reading and Weeping - Livin' the Good Life

May. 6th, 2008

07:55 am - Reading and Weeping

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I spent the better part of yesterday reading and weeping. I stumbled on a book that may be the best book on the subject of "children" that I've ever read. And, trust me, I've read a lot of them! I've been reading books about children since I was a sought-after, babysitting teenager, carefully studying Dr. Spock's infamous BABY AND CHILD CARE manual. (So sorry, Nathen and Ely! I made some regrettable mistakes with you guys due to Spock's tutelage back in the dark ages of childcare advice.) The book that engaged me so thoroughly yesterday is called, CHILDREN WHO ARE NOT YET PEACEFUL by Donna Goertz. She is a MASTER Montessori schoolteacher in Austin, Texas, and has run a school there for 30 years. It must be a thriving place, because it accommodates preschool through high school, and schools don't usually get that big unless they are doing well. Anyway, this teacher has to be the most compassionate person on earth today. She rates up there with Mother Teresa. Her premise is that "difficult" children are a huge blessing to the classroom and should NOT BE EXCLUDED. She genuinely loves the disruptive, violent, angry, hurt children. She believes that they perform a valuable service to everyone around them by calling on their fellow student's highest good to come forth. The teacher assists the students in recognizing the troubled student's often disturbing and annoying cries for help and shows them how to actually transform the situation through action... basically, by extending a hand. The book is comprised of stories of actual children in this teacher's classes, and then a fair amount of Montessori philosophy is thrown in and around those stories to justify her words and actions. The stories are incredibly moving, revealing profound truths that made me have to stop reading because I wanted to savor the beauty of it all (and to clear my eyes of tears so I could continue). Goertz's way of describing what took place and how it was resolved is brilliant, and the things she says to the students are worthy of framing and putting up in our living rooms. She also lays out her expectations of parents in supporting the work she does at school, and it's not unlike the Waldorf education philosophy. She encourages lots of time and energy spent by parents in doing non-mainstream things with their kids, like taking them to plays, concerts and other culturally-rich events. She says to listen to music together, play music together, cook together, clean together, garden together, work together, read together, write together, play games together, and limit "screen time" (tv, computers, video games etc.) to TWO HOURS per WEEK, total. She says to feed kids whole, fresh foods (no chemicals) and have plenty of outdoor play every day. THIS SOUNDS LIKE ME! This is what I found to give optimal results in growing happy, healthy kids. She says not to drag your kids around doing errands all afternoon (as busy, working parents are wont to do) and call it "time spent with them". This all sounds perfectly reasonable and right to me, and yet I'm sure it's a huge stretch for a lot of parents. Anyway, this book is a gem and a MUST READ for anyone involved with children. And to prove my passionate endorsement, I just bought 3 extra copies to give away.

Comments:

From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 8th, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
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ooh! can i be one of the first to borrow a copy?
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From:flavorgirl
Date:May 8th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
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oops, that was me, maya, who just posted. i didn't mean to be anonymous.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 12th, 2008 03:01 am (UTC)
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That sounds amazing Darlene. I'll track it down up here.

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Anne
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From:ext_99885
Date:May 14th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)

Semi Famous

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Just wanted to let you know that my children attend Austin Montessori School (founded by Donna Bryant Goertz) and in this week's school newsletter Donna reprinted your blog post. She really is an amazing teacher - we feel blessed to have our children be in her school.

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From:lestermom
Date:May 20th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)

Thanks

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Hey Steve, how did you find me? Did you google Donna's name or her book? I'm honored, and a little embarrassed, that Donna reprinted my post. I definitely took liberties in reviewing the book and probably put more of my own spin on it than I should have. But, heck, it's my blog and that's my privilege, I guess. I'm glad to "meet" someone who has children in that school. Actually, I have a million questions that I'd love to ask. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Darlene
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