Montessori neuroscience

Neuroscience Debunked!

Crossing that midline debunked! Growing those myelin sheaths does or doesn’t increase cognition!

Talking to students in my class can be an exercise in neuroscience because we’re growing the connections in our brains every day. My students start the morning finding the work that will warm them up for the day: reading, a math warm up, vocabulary work, even looking at their personal work plan to mentally prepare for the day.

We choose our own work at the beginning of the day, even before our morning circle to help get into the groove and provide children with a start to the day that will be most relevant to them. Relevance to the child, or affect, is the first aspect of Universal Design for Learning, a catch phrase for something Montessori knew a long time ago: the brain affects learning.

Montessori knew form observation that children learn better from peers and that their learning is more relevant when they care about it, can learn and express knowledge in the way that is most meaningful to them, and that even patience grows over time. As with so much of what Montessori observed, we’re learning through modern neuroscience that children do indeed grow patience through practice (think of the maps and slowly moving cards across the mat), crossing the midline increases the myelin coating the nerves across the corpus callosum in the brain and makes accessing information faster (increases cognition), and  learn the expected foundational understanding by both learning through what we love and expressing that newly gained knowledge in a way that is meaningful to the child.

As neuroscience debunks the way that different information has been applied (think Lucy Calkin’s work and “educational kinesiology”), we find that Maria Montessori’s observations endure the test, and teases, of time.



There are many different things we do during the week or month. Some are actively chosen, some are happenstance when we go with the flow, and some are habit. Something else happens when you are acted upon. What about when another person’s habit acts upon you, and you have to go through your life responding or reacting to the habits of others. Among the many things that happen is exhaustion.

I was fortunate enough to visit the AMS Traveling Symposium today and to hear Amira Mogaji talk about the differences between Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

Arguably, both are very important, but CRT is not a curriculum, rather it’s an acknowledgement of the systems that support racism and the way those systems are woven into daily life. On the other hand, Culturally Responsive Teaching means to support all children knowing they each have their own culture and backgrounds and families that they are coming from.

My notes from this talk include so many important resources and notes. What it also did was mix in my mind with Gay Ward’s talk about action research. I started thinking about Popov’s virtues and the way that they can be employed to support all children better.

My next step is to read more, examine my own biases, and to actively work to deconstruct stereotypes. This not new. This is a re-commitment.

Personal Skylab

Happy, Happy 50th, Skylab

In my house, this is a holiday. We talk about 100 pound computers and the experiments that are hinted at, but only 80 of them listed. Talk about Pete Conrad’s favorite foods or Robert Crippen’s patch preference start. It was a beginning in our species attempt to live off-world. Surely science fiction would have continued to tell the stories of humans off planet, but Skylab was the science nonfiction for us all.

Personal Science Fiction Writing

Vonda Fantana

Did you ever watch Star Trek? Do you still?

When I was 10, I wanted to be DC Fontana, or Vonda N. McIntyre. They were both seminal in creating new ways to examine the heavy, important issues we face in society but may not agree upon the issues in our own lives. Science Fiction is a venue that lowers the stakes, making it possible to talk about injustice and social inequities without a stake on the hand.

I was immersed in stories for over a decade, the plot structures of science fiction, anime, fantasy, and more than 100 volumes of the Mary Higgins Clark, Jane Austen, and Edward Rutherfurd, LeGuin and Butler, McCaffey and Rice. To this day I remember loving a science fiction about a judge-like human who entered a planet with his Spice-like eyes and could see the truth. My friend’s father told me it was a very poorly written book, but I remember the concept to this day. I was also very afraid of vampires that could read our minds lurking outside city windows. Always the city, why would a vampire bother with the suburbs?

When I was 13, I realized how hard McInyre and Fontana worked for their place in the writing world. How hard they worked in a world that didn’t respect their presence in their crafts. Animated Star Trek! If it had been live action, we would respect it to this day.

When I was 20 I started trying in earnest while also making a place in the world. I taught. I also tried to write. To that end, I wrote. I wrote such bad science fiction of all types. It was gloriously terrible. Through high school I had friends who put up with the writing and those who joined. It was all practice. I stopped to do the mechanical parts of subbing anime.

By 40 I began writing academically in a major way. I was considering a PhD, getting a couple masters because that seemed to be outside my personal capabilities with the personal life concerns I met. I was published in the state Library Association a couple times.

Writing for academic purposes and taking care of children at scifi conventions (and doing a panel) changed my voice, perhaps forever. Someday I hope to come back to writing about the deep concerns of humans in an accessible way for all readers. For now, I think I will continue to try to change the world through the youngest learner’s experiences and grow their ability to empathize and connect.

I also want to make people love stories. We’ll see.

Book Review

Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth

A Civil War historical fiction about Lincoln’s assassination told through a family saga lens, outlining the many Booth actors in the generation that made one brother infamous while resonating without naming the divides of our current political culture. Junius Brutus Booth was a Shakespearean actor who moved his family into the countryside. The large family lived a farming life when they were not in the very busy cities, learning Shakespeare and growing strong-headed to a one. Many of the brothers took to the stage, traveling the huge country from Maryland to San Francisco and spending time on the London scene.

The story does not start or end with the fateful bullet, it’s told through letters and impressions gathered from those around the family. We knew that Edwin, Jun, and Johnny Booth were all actors, but the lives they lived with their alcoholic father and Asia and Rosalind with strong opinions and small stages in the home as women.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

The people involved are given depth and motive as we see their mother who dotes on some children and is emotionally scarred by the loss of so many others; the father who drank himself senseless plays a large role in their lives and memories expressed through letters and their interactions and concerns.

The unironic declarations of the plays as being low entertainment by Asia when it’s discovered Lincoln died at a theater and John’s feeling of being bound due to the restrictions of the Union are noted and apt. Small vignettes of Lincoln’s life concurrent with the lives of the Booths.


Montessori is a Social Justice Curriculum

With everything happening in the classroom and in the world, I’m reminded of the words of Maria Montessori: Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education (Educaiton For Peace, p. 24). History starts from a couple standpoints in our curriculum: everything is made of atoms shared in the world over time, and that every living creature has fundamental needs that must be met for successful continuation. Some fundamental needs are easy to see: food and water. But when we talk about the early humanoids of our planet we see that some of our human fundamental needs are ones that we may not recognize: needs like art, spirituality, and community. This time of year we celebrate so many different holidays that help fill those needs. From Bodhi Day on December 8th through New Year’s Day, my class counted 19 days that are special to different communities in our world. That’s not including National Horse Day and Bathtub day – which some in our community chose to recognize. Again, to paraphrase Montessori, “The work of education is peace.”

Much of our day is spent in recognizing the needs of others and establishing responsible actions in ourselves. From peace education and understanding our own emotions to recognizing inequity and standing up to help change it, Montessori brings peace large and small. In the Lower Elementary ages, we recognize that dignity, safety, peaceful interactions, fresh air and good food are all part of human needs, human peace, and human “justice.” We practice every day to ensure everyone in our community has physical space and an opportunity to use all the materials in class. We take time to ensure everyone has dignity as they move through their day. We also take the time to point out when someone needs to have their dignity or peace restored. We take the time to talk through how to do it and to try different, meaningful, ways to solve the problem as we see it or as it is presented. In Upper El, the children have a chance to move outside the community we are in to look at the world outside our classrooms.

Maria Montessori was a reformer. She was Italy’s first female doctor and provided this beautiful education environment to low-income children exclusively and proved it worked by observing the children for years before the Montessori Method was recognized as the exemplary learning experience it provides. She was a social reform advocate for women and children, and she rooted her peace education on those foundations. I’m proud to share her peace and spread our recognition of the dignity in meeting the fundamental needs of those around us.

mystery Science Fiction

Cat Rambo, Helene Tursten

A search for cozy mysteries became a week of crime with retirees.

TLDR: So funny! Read this serial killer novel.

An octogenarian, hard of hearing and often stooped over, finally has the life she wanted. She lives in a large apartment rent-free, travels public transportation on a pensioner’s permit, and eats the meals that make her most happy. Maud travels Europe alone now that her sister has passed, and she spends her days quietly. Maud is a picture of quiet retirement. And so she would remain, except when she is interrupted.

Maud is a serial killer. Don’t get between her and that sweet retirement life.

This series of vignettes follows the troubles that Maude encounters, how she solves them by getting the offending person out of the way, and in one case, the officers trying to solve mysterious murders that happen around her. The tongue-in-cheek writing style keeps the mayhem fun.

TLDR: Shockingly good space story: cooks, sentient ships, and conscription.

Niko was the organizer in her mind-hive conscription military outfit. Niko and her lieutenant got out by becoming artists: the elite and respected level of society. they took most of their crew with them. Their art? Food Prep.They run into a princess and Niko’s history with a scary mob/pirate king type character and have to find their way back to their normal lives.

Cat Rambo's Book Cover: You Sexy thing

The title is the name of a ship. Think over-the-top-pleasure vessel names like Rocky’s Retirement or the Cindy Lou Who.

If you like heist novels and Becky Chambers space romps, this is a book for you. Cat Rambo has always moved between genres, but this foray into a new space opera series is a perfect novel to jump into. I can’t express how right this book is for this moment in our collective space opera reading, not-really Post Covid society. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

December Reads: Cat Rambo's You Sexy Thing, Helene Tursten's An Eldery Lady is up to No Good, Martha Well's All Systems Red, and The Little old Lady Who Broke All the Rules all in audiobook cover

I don’t review eveyrthign I listen to in the week, but here’s the run-down if you want to get in touch to talk about them. I’ll come back when I have time to talk about the books that really struck me as fun.


Hello World

A kitten in front of a library shelf

Over the 2020-2022 period when we sequestered ourselves, I lost track of my online presence. Those who could text me were my world, but now I’m realizing that the broader world was fun to interact with. Of course, we’re also losing Twitter, so I’ve decided to renew my dedication to blogging on my own platform again. I have high hopes for this!

Most pages will be organized by blog hashtags. I’m learning again. It’s an important step. Curiosity is the hallmark of humans (and so many other intelligent creatures), so I’m keeping my hopes up for myself in general.