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.