by Carrie O’Shea, Primary III parent
It is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to each child the chance to fulfill his potential possibilities. –Maria Montessori
As the years pass and I grow in parental maturity (if there is such a thing), it seems I find more to love in the teachings of Maria Montessori. I’ve always looked to her as a personal hero; -the kind of person who’s focus on peace, humility and kindness is a soothing balm in a time of endless schedules and impatient demands. Without careful reflection, it seems the nature of humanity to enslave ourselves to these loud voices in our lives, spurring ourselves onward in search of a better, faster, more productive, more intelligent version of ourselves and too often we take our children into this trap, wrapped up behind us in a bewildered tangle of childhood lost. As I’ve grown as a mother, I’ve come to appreciate the folly of these actions. In the rushing, pushing demands of soccer and dance, perfect straight A’s and perfect straight teeth, piano lessons and math enrichment sessions, it seems our children lose something of themselves in our race to improve them. Not that any of these things are bad in the right setting, but what self-determination can there be if your life is a planned module? What identity can you have for yourself, if you spend all your time living another person’s vision for your life?
Fortunately, there is an answer to these questions and that answer is Maria Montessori. Against the race of self-assisted perfectionism, her ideology stands as a gentle reminder that slow, quiet reflection is really the only way to peace. We cannot expect a child to matriculate into geniusdom any more than we can expect a seed to germinate before it’s time. There is a process to life and that process takes time. The above quote is a wonderful example of this and additionally, a quiet reminder that when patience and care are invested into the life of a child, a miracle results; -the miracle of a child becoming that person who he or she was meant to be.
It takes a lot of faith, patience and care for a parent to sit by and watch as their child develops unassisted by their grandiose plans, – at least, it has for me. But giving my child the ability to develop unimpeded by the pressure of performance has provided a blessing I couldn’t have imagined, – the choice of her own free-will. They ask me for opportunities to do something they love! That’s a big difference! I no longer have to do the “parental dance of suggestion,” listing all the academic and extra-curricular activities needed to fill their minds as well-rounded individuals; now, they find what they love on their own! Instead of pestering my older child to do her math “homework,” I smile as she checks books out of the library on the expression of Geometric series in nature. Instead of wrangling my five-year-old into the car for a third weekly dance practice, I smile as a small reminder is all that’s necessary for her to run into the car with her tu-tu. There is time to develop what they love and as a parent, I know my children will do just that if I give them my trust. That trust started with Montessori as our foundation and the gentle education I received as a parent, just as much as what my children gained as students. It has shaped the course of our family and for that, I am extremely grateful.
As parents, Maria Montessori arms us with the courage to believe that our children can be something great, if only we believe they will be.
by Ms. Becky
Toddler Co-Lead Teacher
A child does not learn because he is taught by a teacher. A child learns because he wants to learn. A teacher cannot will a child to learn. What she can do is prepare an environment, which invites him to want to learn. An environment that does this is one that is rich in stimuli. This kind of environment will kindle his desire to learn and explore through his senses. A material that evokes a child to use his senses “provokes auto-education” (Montessori 169).
In her book, The Montessori Method, Maria Montessori writes that her materials “are adapted to cause the child to exercise the senses” (168). Montessori taught that children in their early primary years, ages three to six years, were in a state of absorbent mind. In this state they are taking in everything that surrounds them. They are sponges soaking up the world to which they are exposed. During sensitive periods children are apt to be drawn towards using one of their senses over the others. This is why it is crucial for a teacher to prepare an environment rich in sensory experiences. This type of environment can cater to all of the children in it, and to whichever type of sensitive period each one may be going through in their individual way.
Academic work has its own place and time, and it will come eventually. However, a child in these years “is attracted more by stimuli than by reason” (Montessori 144). If the child is rushed past what he is craving it will be hard, if not nearly impossible, to back track at a later time to fill in the gaps. When given the proper environment in which to learn through his senses a child may choose to experience a material repeatedly. Through his senses he takes in any task he is doing, and it is also through his senses that he experiences self-correction.
I had the opportunity to observe in a primary classroom. I watched one of my students from the previous year, who was newly three, take a final knobbed cylinder block from the shelf. She sat on her rug and repeated the exercise from start to finish five times before returning it to the shelf. Each time she began she removed all of the cylinders and placed them on her rug. One by one she picked them up and dipped her finger inside of the holes along the block. It appeared that she was testing the depth of the holes before placing the cylinder she held in her hand in the hold she thought it might fit. When one was too tall or too short she took it out and continued her task of looking for the perfect fit. I am not aware if she had had a lesson on this material or not, but her concentration and method of correcting herself caught my attention. “A man is not what he is because of the teachers he has had, but because of what he has done” (Montessori 172).
Montessori, Maria. The Discovery of the Child. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 1967. Print.
by Maria Ingram, Toddler I Parent
Maria Montessori said “The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” When I read this it made me think about some students I taught in high school who were completely lacking in curiosity. When I asked students why they thought something happened or was a certain way, I got “It’s not in the book.” When I asked, “What do YOU think?” They seemed almost startled I wanted their opinion. How do kids reach that point? How does one child get from the “why” stage we are familiar with to a glazed over blank stare when asked for their opinion?
They get there because they are given facts to memorize, told what the right answer is, and are never asked their opinions or allowed to explore. If we let them use their natural curiosity, and just get out of their way, kids will be curious and they will want to learn.
A toddler wants to know everything. What something is, how it works, why it Is that way. Once they learn these things they are so excited about the discovery, and want to make sure you know about it too. If we allow them to move at their own pace rather than imposing our hurried pace on them, they will explore their environment and everything in it. They won’t be able to stop themselves.
We may tell a child not to touch something, but we need to think about why we are saying that. Will it kill them, hurt them? Or is the “no touching that” for our own convenience? If they open and close the drawer in the bathroom 12 times while you’re trying to brush your teeth, the question is, why? Maybe they want to see how the sliding mechanism on the side of the drawer works. If we let them slow down and figure it out, not only will they be happier and able to move on with their lives, we will get to brush our teeth in peace. Because, as well all know, toddlers don’t just let things go when they want an answer.
Too often I find myself trying to hurry, but a toddler won’t allow it. They are too busy taking their time. Allowing for extra time helps them and me. Having a house that’s free or limited in its “untouchable” items or restricted spaces makes every space in their world a place where they can learn and be curious. Montessori’s quote isn’t just an inspirational one for school, it’s an inspirational one for life.
It has been a pleasure working with the kindergarten, upper and lower elementary art students at MSH. The Montessori-method proves to encourage creative exploration and divergent thinking skills. This assertion has never been more apparent to me, than when facilitating the art classes here at MSH. Witnessing student’s degree of creative focus and aesthetic awareness has been greatly inspiring.
It is bittersweet to announce that at this juncture, I have accepted a full-time educational research role and will have to cut my time with the art students at MSH short. I am truly grateful for the time I was able to spend, and would like to thank parents and teachers for sharing your children.
It has been a lovely artful experience, and the students have accomplished much in the areas of visual representation. Some of the concepts implemented include, but are not limited to; conceptualizing artistic design, organizing and formatting various forms of media, analyzing and interpreting art, responding to and evaluating art. For more information on visual art standards you can visit the National Art Education Association website.
I will still be collecting art work from students that wish to submit work for the Endangered Species Youth Art Contest sponsored by The Endangered Species Coalition (ESC). I will need any completed work as well as a signed permission slips by March 1st in order to submit art to be considered for the contest. Thank you to all the teachers for helping with research of the many endangered species currently on the list. For more information on the ESC or the Endangered Species Youth Art Contest, you can visit their website.
Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions.
Dr. Laticia Hequembourg
I’m really pleased with the music classes at both campuses this year, both in how the groups are coming together to learn new things, and in what they are actually learning.
Toddlers are delightfully involved and interested in their singing, movement activities, and instruments. They are participating and eager in every class, and are keeping a steady beat in different tempos.
Preprimaries are singing in their singing voices, high and light, and are moving expressively to music, often using instruments. They especially enjoy circles dances.
Kindergarten and 1st grade glockenspiel students are beginning to read notes in treble clef, know the note values from whole notes through eighth notes and how to count them, are finished with 1st semester preparation and are beginning to play their glocks now.
2nd and 3rd grade recorder students have nearly completed their entire lesson book and are learning music theory, including note reading, rhythm, various time signatures, musical markings, etc. They have played dozens of songs from their book, starting and ending their playing of each song together, and playing with a good tone and correct fingering.
Come to the Multicultural Festival on April 1 to hear us!
Thank you for the privilege of working with your children!
Ms. Kathy Fisher