October and November are known as “conference time,” where parents meet with teachers and discuss the child. Montessori schools also do parent-teacher conferences, and one of the most popular questions parents ask is, “What can I do to help my child at home? To complement what you are doing here?”
Answer: talk with your child. Play with your child. Read with your child.
Many parents are surprised by this answer and say, “That’s it? What about their letters? What about their numbers? I’m already doing flashcards–“
Wait, what? You’re doing flashcards?
Stop right there.
Any child (especially ages 0-6) who is exposed to flashcards is experiencing a disadvantage in his development.
You read that correctly: flash cards do not work.
Oh sure, you drill and drill your child and eventually they will be able to look at a card and tell you what the card says, but is that the child understanding the concept of what’s on that card? Or are they just telling you what’s been burned into their head?
It’s the latter.
First, here are some bullet points on the disadvantages of flash cards (and keep scrolling for research and Montessori/non-Montessori back up, too!)
1) It promotes square and rushed thinking: Flash cards show your child that there is only one answer for one thing. For example, if you are using number flash cards and there is the number “2” on one side and two buttons on the other, a couple of things may happen:
When your child is being drilled on these cards, he will skip over the understanding of the connection between the symbol and quantity, and prioritize answering it quickly.
Secondly, your child has seen over and over that 2 = buttons. When you begin to branch out and show him other quantities of two or ask, “How many shoes are you wearing?” your child will have a moment of self doubt because he’s been working so hard on 2 buttons that it will take an extra amount of time to see that there can be 2 of something else. You’re making your child’s brain go through an unnecessary step in self doubt and taking him longer to see the connection.
3) Your child works hard at school, let him or her relax when he gets home: For those of you Montessori parents who are thrilled with your child’s teacher, his classroom, his school, why would you feel that you need to quiz him and “work” with him in such a draining way when he gets home? One of the most wonderful parts of Montessori learning is that they get to in depth answers and questions
You may be saying, “All right, I get it. Enough already–so instead of telling me it’s wrong, why don’t you have a solution?”
Oh, but I do, I do! Look down there!
Here are 2 articles that help explain alternatives to flash cards. This one suggests ways a child really does learn (and some are games played at Montessori during recess!), and games you can play with your child that don’t directly tell the child, “Okay, it’s learning time.”
This one is a Montessori perspective on how to support your child’s Montessori education (and she flat out says no flash cards!)
One last plea to you parents. Let your child do his work at school, and please, please, just play with him and read with him at home. They need their moms and dads, and grandmas and grandpas. They have their teacher already, and if you’re lucky, she or he is a trained Montessorian that is educating the whole child.
One extra thought: Why do you think Montessori doesn’t have homework? It’s certainly not so that Mom and Dad can come up with work books and flashcards and create extra work for themselves. Maria Montessori wanted the child to have a place to learn but then return to their home and have their home. Don’t take that away from your child. If they are in a Montessori school, they are already at an extreme advantage. You don’t need to add to their workload–just love them and listen to the suggestions of your teacher on how to support, not drill, your child’s learning.