Post Office

Posted on Jan 26, 2018

The sun is shining (yes, really) and Sean is busy, fussing over his post office, writing all sorts of important stuff. A customer (Miss Felicity) approaches

“Please may I buy a money order?”

“Yes, of course”

“How much will it be?”

“Fifty pounds”

Startled, but fully aware that she is talking to a master of the universe in the making, Miss Felicity tells Sean that she has to go to the school’s ATM to draw some cash. She returns and, under Sean’s watchful eye, counts out five £10 notes to make £50. Sean hands over the money order and says:

“Would you like anything else?”

“Yes, please. I’d like some stamps.”

“How many stamps?” Sean is nothing if not patient.

Miss Felicity tells Sean how many stamps she needs and he carefully counts them out for her.

“How much do I owe you?”

“One hundred and eighty five pounds!”

“Goodness, that’s so much money. How am I going to pay you?”

“You must give me money with £185 on it”

There not being such a thing as a £185 note (nor any notes, seeing as Miss Felicity is currently £50 lighter on account of the money order), Miss Felicity and Sean decide to embark on a bit of quantitative easing. They use as their inspiration a poster, pinned to the garden shed, of Australian dollar banknotes (the reader need not be concerned that we appear to have moved countries. Children at Victoria Road frequent countries, and continents, at their pleasure, and Sean has been much taken by Australia during the term’s theme of The Continents).

While they are easing away, and making an excellent job of recreating the faces on the notes too, Miss Felicity, who has learnt a thing or two over the years, starts telling Sean about the two faces on the $20 note: Mary Reiber and John Flynn.

Mary Rieber was a child convict, transported, aged fourteen, to Australia before making a considerable success of herself. At the end of Miss Felicity’s peroration, Sean knows a lot about transportation; possibly, he is left with the impression that the way on to an Australian banknote is to steal a horse first…

John Flynn created the flying doctor service and Miss Felicity is no less loquacious in her description of the importance, given the vast and inhospitable terrain that is most of Australia of this essential, and life-saving, facility.

Suitably nurtured, and having finished the necessary banknote production, Miss Felicity enquires again as to the price of the stamps:

“One thousand eight hundred and fifty pounds”, says Sean!! Miss Felicity is tempted to ask Sean for his views on the Weimar Republic’s inflationary period but thinks better of it.

“Sean, to count that amount of money we are going to need some help!” Miss Felicity and Sean go back into the classroom and emerge with the Golden Bead, which, together, they use to re-create the massive numeral of one thousand eight hundred and fifty, and its quantity, laid out in exquisite glass beads! I know many readers will be in urgent need of a full explanation of the Golden Bead. Well, tough. All you need to know is that it is to Montessori maths what Mozart is to music.

golden bead cube

So, what has Sean done? Personal, social and emotional development by interacting with teachers and peers as the postmaster; maths by selling (successfully) money orders and diamond-studded stamps, geography by visiting Australia, history by learning the wisdom of being a horse thief and a doctor with a pilot’s licence; art by creating, drawing and colouring banknotes. What will Sean take home in his bag? Nothing, because learning like that does not get written down. But Sean knows, and we know, and now you know too.

Bringing up children is an art not a science – Adam Gopnik

Posted on Jan 26, 2018

If you have a spare 10 minutes, listen to this excellent “Point of View” from Adam Gopnik.

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