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waveman comments on Self-fulfilling correlations - Less Wrong

103 Post author: PhilGoetz 26 August 2010 09:07PM

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Comment author: waveman 24 August 2016 11:23:58PM 2 points [-]

The crazier, more-expensive, and more-difficult the method is, the more improvement it should show; craziness should filter out less-committed parents.

Montessori

Your main point may well be valid; I think it probably is. But my daughter attended a Montessori kindergarten (but not a Montessori school) and I have read Maria Montessori's book. Neither seemed at all crazy to me.

The Montessori method is to engage children in activities which are challenging but not discouragingly so. Each activity produces a small increment in a skills. The children seem to become absorbed in the activities and find them very rewarding. In the adult world this would probably be something like "deliberate practice".

This idea of learning skills in small increments - in the sweet spot between "too easy and you learn nothing" and "too hard so you learn nothing and get discouraged" has wide applicability to children and adults. For example after almost a year of conventional swimming lessons and my daughter could not swim, I tried applying this method to swimming.

Swimming of course requires you to do several things at once. If you don't do them all you get a mouth full of water and learn very little.

I bought her a buoyancy vest and fins. She learned to swim with these very quickly. After a while we deflated the vest progressively and she again learned to swim that way, being now responsible for staying afloat. Then we took away the fins and she mastered that quickly. After a few lessons she was a confident swimmer. This was a very dramatic result. Back at the swim school they were surprised she could now swim, but were totally uninterested in how we achieved this.

The Montessori children seem to end up with excellent powers of concentration; that is certainly the case with my daughter. I did hear of a study that found that this was the most prominent effect of the Montessori schools. I would suggest they are worth looking at, but I would check that they are actually following the method.