Practical Life – Not Just For Montessori Schools!

“Japanese educators have long emphasized both academic and nonacademic subjects, and the results

are impressive; Japan has the lowest rates of child obesity in the industrialized world….Japanese

children report being happier in school than their counterparts in other developed nations. And –

perhaps most importantly, in the minds of American educators – Japanese students consistently

outperform U.S. students on international achievement tests, especially in math and science.” This

is a paragraph from an article in today’s Wall Street Journal. Christine Gross-Loh writes about the

importance of maintaining a well balanced approach toward education and how Japan (and other

countries) is doing this successfully.

Every student in Japan studies home economics from the time they are in upper elementary through

high school. They learn meal planning alongside mathematics. In the article, Gross – Loh actually refers

to the home economics studies as “practical life skills;” a hallmark term in the world of Montessori


In Montessori, we talk about the importance of independence, normalization, and self-regulation.

After all, how well does one learn in the absence of being able to focus, concentrate and control their

movements? All of the scrubbing, polishing and sewing is helping our children center themselves.

Christine Gross-Loh would say that these activities “foster concrete know-how, as well as the confidence

to improvise. They teach children to make good choices, take the initiative and make connections.”

In the article, Gross compares Japanese, South Korean, and Finland schools to American schools, stating

that American schools fail to provide opportunities for adequate practical life training. However,

despite America’s focus on the three R’s, student performances do not measure up on a global level.

What can Americans do to provide that well-rounded education that focuses on not only academia, but

also cultural and family integration? There is an answer. It’s not public school. It’s not preparatory

training. It’s Montessori. We can and should continue to think of ways to mainstream the Montessori

Method. It’s nice to envision children advancing academically as they also begin to interact in the world

around them with common sense, confidence and global understanding and appreciation.

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