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Children Learn by Themselves When Environment is Set

How does a child learn a sense of independence? Yoko Avramov, Director of the Montessori Language Academy in Forest Park, spoke about Montessori education in her school. The children are three to six years old and learn Japanese, English, math, arts, dance, music, manners, and more. The school opens at 7:30 a.m. and goes to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Japanese is used in the morning classes, and everything is done in English in the afternoon classes.

Avramov said that Montessori education nurtures children’s independence by setting an appropriate environment which leads them to learn things. For example, a sponge is placed beside a cup or water pitcher. When a child spills water, he or she can wipe the water with a sponge. If he spills more water, he can wipe it with a towel, which is always hung in a nearby area. After wiping the water, he can hang the towel after wringing it to dry. In this way, children can learn how to deal with spilled water.

At lunchtime, children use ceramic plates, so that they can naturally learn how to handle plates gently. When they finish lunch, they clear the garbage away and hand the plates to a person who washes dishes.

After lunch, each child picks a picture book and reads it while the other children are waiting for teacher Avramov. Their teacher reads only one book, so they choose one by majority. This time, they picked “Dango mushi (sow bug)”. While Avramov was reading it, the children joined the story by their actions.

When book reading ended, the children stretched their bodies and were ready for an afternoon class. Each child chose a learning material such as math, writing, or drawing and studied.
In the Montessori education, only one set per material is available. If a child wants a certain material, she has to wait until her friend finishes it. In this way, Avramov said that children were able to learn patience and wait for one's turn.
Actually, a girl was waiting for a material and asked another girl, “May I use it?” Another girl responded to her and handed it to her with both hands. The girl said, “Thank you.” It was a heartwarming scene. Avramov said that she has strictly taught children about the importance of courtesy, friends, and materials.

A classroom has a kitchen for the children. It has a lemon juicer, an end-rounded knife, cups, faucets, sinks, and more. Avramov said that the basic of Montessori was Controlled Environment, which was limited by teachers’ discretion, and children acted freely in the environment. She said that teachers always taught children how to use scissors and a knife at the beginning, so they were able to squeeze a lemon and make juice by themselves.
She also said that mothers could not help assisting their children when they were wearing clothes, but they should just take a breath and let children try it. Such patience helps children develop their skills more quickly.

Recently, the school has 35 children. One half of them are from married international couples, and other half are from parents of Sansei (third generation of Japanese American), Japanese, Americans, and other foreign origins.
According to recent studies, Avramov said when children’s executive function in the frontal lobe was well-developed, they were able to have good scores in schools, maintain married life, and control inducements such as drugs and alcohol. Another study showed that the frontal lobe was well-developed among bilingual children.
Avramov said, “When children use their native language, they often speak out without thinking, but when they use a foreign language, they have to take a moment before they speak out. I think that it helps children to control themselves more.”

The school has introduced Spanish classes and private piano lessons. It also offers Japanese classes for grade-school students, who had attended the school and want to continue Japanese language study.

Yoko Avramov graduated from Doshisha University where she majored in English language and literature. She met her husband Mr. Avramov in Kyoto and moved to the U.S. in 1992.
When her child became three in 1996, she was looking for a kindergarten and found Intercultural Montessori in Oak Park. The school happened to be looking for an assistant, so she began to work for it. She obtained a certificate for Montessori education in the following year and taught classes.
In 2004 Avramov opened her own school, Montessori Language Academy, with seven children. Now she has 35 children in her school, and four other Japanese teachers have helped the classes. Three of the four have a certificate for Montessori. All five teachers including Avramov have raised their children in the U.S. and the children are all bilingual.

Time passes quickly. Her first students became college freshman this fall and often visit her. One of them entered Purdue University with a full scholarship.
Avramov said that she was an ordinary mom, but the more she taught children, the more she liked it.

Yoko Avramov obtained a Master’s Degree at Concordia University in Early Childhood Education in 2004.
She was a finalist for the 2000 Golden Apple Teaching Award, received the 2001 Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award, and was named the 2011 Concordia University Alumna of the Year.

Montessori Language Academy
314 Circle Ave.
Forest Park, IL 60130
(708) 771-5030
http://www.montessorilanguageacademy.com


A class room in Montessori Language Academy in Forest Park

Yoko Avramov reads a picture book for the children, and they join the story by their actions.

Yoko Avramov

The girls study with nihongo cards.

The boys study with number cards.