Chapter 7 - The vital years

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The vital years


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instance, only 41 percent of English-speaking children and 15 percent of Mexican-American children come into kindergarten at age five with any experience of preschool centers.47

8. Continue the same fun-filled approach at school
  Even worse: in many states "formal academic education" is the norm from the first elementary-school years. Children don't get the chance for the fun-filled, experience-rich learning that is the basis for real growth. And all too often the joy of learning fades. They learn not to learn.
  The alternatives are shown in yet another school which follows successful fun- and activity-filled lessons from preschool into its primary school. It's called The Classical Academy, formed by the Maxin Learning Institute at St. Louis Park, in Minnesota. A small group of teachers and parents got together in 1991 and analyzed some of the world's best teaching methods. They came to similar conclusions as the present authors, and to favor what they now describe as Maxin's "Best of the Integrated Learning Systems" program. By 1994 their Academy had grown to encompass students from preschool through ninth grade.
  Four of the key founders - Nancy Nicholson Terry, Nora Flood, Janet Oliver and Amira Sewell - have had extensive Montessori training. Now they have broadened out from that sound beginning, using many models from our first edition and from Jeannette Vos workshops.
  The Classical Academy uses Romalda Spalding's The Writing Way to Reading - an integrated phonics program which the Academy has linked with many Doman methods (as does Montessori International), the Japanese Kumon maths program; Paul Dennison's Brain-Gym methods (which we cover in chapter 11); the Marva Collins Classical Literature program - a multimedia program linking history and art; and a wide range of other stimulating accelerated learning methods.
  The Upper School administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for all students in 1993 and then again in May 1994. Students averaged an increase of 1.6 years over that six-month period. Several students achieved four and five years' growth in major academic areas.48
  Fortunately other examples also abound of what can happen when common sense is linked to good research and dedicated principals and teachers; and when schools program for success instead of failure.


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