Consider the child’s experience of a cube. Does she learn more by seeing a flat, screen image of a cube (actually a two-dimensional hexagon), or by lifting a polished wooden block that measures 10 cm on each side and weighs 50 grams? After observing the way young children learn, Dr. Montessori told us, “Never give more to the mind than you give to the hand.”
Dr. Montessori observed that children are already motivated to learn. We don’t need to impose motivation on them. In fact, if we give them a little encouragement, they’ll do far more than we would dare ask.
Here, as always, the child’s liberty consists in being free to choose from a basis of real knowledge, and not out of mere curiosity. He is free to take up which of the “radial lines of research” appeals to him, but not to choose “anything he likes” in vacuo. It must be based on a real center of interest, and therefore motivated by what Montessori calls “intellectual love.”
“In the beginning, before you were born, before your mother and father were born, before your grandparents were born, before there were even people on the earth, before there was an earth! There was nothing…nothing at all.”
Julia Child attended Montessori school and credits that education (in her book Julia Child and Company) for her love of working with her hands.
It reminds me of a presentation I made several years ago to the “Men’s Business Breakfast Club”. I asked, “How many of you like learning something new?” and every hand went up. Then I asked, “How many of you liked school?” and almost every hand went down.
Teachers: three archtypal advertising images: A smiling young woman stands in front of a chalkboard, and looks at hands raised from desks. Five students gather around a table-top globe, and look attentively as their teacher points out a location. A young man stands, shirt sleeves rolled up, in front of hands raised from desks.