Soon enough our early elementary classrooms will be filling once again with children excited to begin the new school year. Among the happy faces will be those of the youngest children, those who are making the leap into the second plane of development and experiencing for the first time the elementary environment that we will have so carefully prepared for them. In all the excitement of welcoming the new children, let us not forget their parents – for their parents, too, may be new to the elementary and just as much in transition as their children.
The elementary years are years of vigorous, continual growth, stretched between the two poles of the first and third planes of development. Building on the foundation – whether solid or shaky – of the first six years, they aim for the heights of adolescence. Everything that we have a hope of understanding about these elementary children can be understood as a function of three things: the raw materials of personhood that they bring with them from early childhood; the developmental trajectory toward adolescence; and the quality of the support and protection they have from us along the way.
Elementary children need to experience themselves as increasingly powerful agents in the world. As their personal power increases with age and maturity, they begin to encounter all the classical questions about power with which humanity has struggled and continues to struggle. At the root of these questions is the fact that power and its uses define relationships.
He was a sweet child with an angelic face, this new six year-old from another Montessori school. And he was so eager to please. How was I to know that he—during the very first week of school–would treat the parents at departure to the most spectacular display of temper I’d ever seen, complete with language I’d never in my life heard used against me, by anyone, much less a sweet child!
I like to think that maybe she found the experience inspiring nonetheless, and that perhaps the Montessori children had taught her just a little bit more about creativity…
And so, Peter spends his days in his Montessori classroom engaged in work that he finds fascinating, challenging, and deeply satisfying. In his mind, a vision of the world is taking shape – a world of tightly woven relationships. He begins to understand cause and effect at a universal level. Above all, Peter’s experiences will help him appreciate the achievements of past generations and realize that he, too, can make positive contributions to the world.
The Silent Journey & Discovery is a powerful event for many parents. Unfortunately, most parents did not attend a Montessori school as a child; although they can read about Montessori philosophy, attend parent nights and observe the classroom, it can be difficult, at times, for them to really understand the experience that their child has every day at school. The J&D provides and opportunity for parents to explore the entire continuum of the school and experience first hand, just like their children, the amazing things that an authentic Montessori program has to offer.
Montessori teachers and school administrators often hear versions of the following questions from parents who are wondering how well their children are being academically prepared in Montessori programs: How does the Montessori curriculum compare to traditional curricula? Are Montessori elementary programs usually academically “accelerated” in relation to their traditional counterparts? How do Montessori graduates compare to other students?
The definition of fantasy is: “ideas that have no basis in reality”. Fantasy can be a great tool for escape and entertainment for those of us who have a strong grip on reality. However, young children (before the age of 5 or 6) are not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality; a phenomenon that has dire repercussions on their ability to learn and problem-solve.
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.
Dr. Maria Montessori discovered a brilliant and elegant solution to the challenge of meeting every child’s needs. She created, tested, and refined the through observation auto-didactic (self-teaching) materials to convey particular knowledge to children. Today’s Montessori teachers rely on the same materials and do very little direct instruction.
They are surprised by the children’s independence, and by the overall atmosphere of calmness and happiness in both environments. They are also brimming with questions and reactions. As Mr. S phrases it, “Although I was very impressed by the children’s purposefulness and engagement, it’s just not what I was expecting. It’s not what I’m used to. How on earth do you accomplish this?”
“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.”