The very first article I read that sold me on Montessori did not have the word “Montessori” anywhere in it. Seven years ago, when our first child was at the cusp of transitioning from baby to toddler, my husband and I walked into a Prospective Parent class at a local Montessori school. Until that evening we had understood Montessori to be an alternative method of education worth investigating. We walked out with several handouts, one of which was written by the founder of the school, Donna Bryant Goertz, and titled “Owner’s Manual for a Child.” It is written from the point of view of a child in the first plane of development and begins with these words, “Dear Parent, I want to be like you. I want to be just like you, but I want to become like you in my own way, in my own time, and by my own efforts. I want to watch you and imitate you”. I still possess my copy from that evening: creased, tear-stained, and printed on green paper.
Mary memorized Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem The Swing effortlessly, through the natural absorption of story and song that is one of the gifts of childhood. Stevenson’s timeless collection of poetry for children, A Child’s Garden of Verses, has always been on the bookshelf beside Mary’s bed. It is also present in her classroom library. Mary’s mother and her teacher read poetry to her often, sometimes singing as they read.
I had an interesting conversation with a prospective parent recently who teaches at a local college. She shared that she and her colleagues are constantly discussing “how underprepared kids are for college in terms of ‘soft skills.’” By soft skills she meant skills other than the purely academic — the personal qualities, habits and attitudes that make someone a successful college student and, by extension, a good boss or employee later in life. She had just come from an observation in toddlers and primary and was surprised to have seen that in Montessori, “starting in toddlers students develop the self-motivation, independence, and follow-through that many college students lack!” In other words, beginning at these very young ages, Montessori children are already developing the soft skills that will benefit them so greatly later in life.
When Dr. Montessori opened her first classroom in 1907 in the San Lorenzo tenement housing in Rome, she had two cabinets of materials for the children’s use. One was filled with the materials she had designed and made for the children based on her earlier work in hospitals, and the other was filled with toys that had been donated to her by her friends.
If you saw me walking across campus with a clipboard in my hand, I would probably be on my way to substitute in a primary (3- to 6-year-old) classroom. I keep a stack of blank slips of paper and a pencil on the clipboard, because I know how much new readers simply love reading handwritten words and phrases. It is simply magic to them that I can have an idea in my head and make it manifest on a piece of paper and that they can decode it! It’s an excitement that all of the Bob Books and other primers in the world can never match.
“What do you think?”
“I’m sure you will do the right thing.”
“Do you have any ideas?”
“How might that work?”
Outside my bedroom windows, along the back property line where my neighbor’s yard begins, I can see the four cherry laurel trees we planted a few years ago. Three of them are flourishing – getting tall and treelike – while the fourth is not doing so well. It is not as tall as the others and is skimpy in canopy. It’s not its fault. When we planted these trees we were not terribly discerning about the location. The gardener helping us said that the laurels should do well whether in sun or shade. So we planted them in an offset row across the back of our yard to serve as screening. We hadn’t taken into account the future growth of all the surrounding trees that now cast that part of the yard into deep shade, where the fourth laurel lives.
“Your children go to Montessori school? I heard that’s fine for preschoolers, but when they are older, won’t they need something different?”
We expect what we purchase to be tailored to our particular specifications. There is almost nothing we can’t find, nothing we can’t ask, and nothing we can’t get delivered.
“The fundamental basis of education must always remain that one must act for oneself. That is clear. One must act for him or herself.” –Maria Montessori
Ben was quiet and seemed uncomfortable in his own skin, a boy’s boy with a father who hung out with the guys, who watched sports during those years a couple of decades ago before wives and girlfriends had begun to join in. Ben’s father didn’t much know what to say to his wife and daughter. And his son Ben seemed barely comfortable enough on the sports field and with his buddies. He was stocky in a muscular sort of way, with a husky voice that came from his struggles with allergies.
The Guide walks about the room, slowly and with calm focus so that she will not distract or disturb the children in their work. She repeats this routine a few times a day, deliberately choosing a different route each time, in order to make herself available to the child that might need some scaffolding in […]
Wait… let’s try that again. I strongly dislike mornings, and my life long relationship with them could be described as contentious, at best. Or so I thought. My first day on the job as the Terra assistant I was led out to arrival and my feelings about mornings quickly began to change.
Give the experience of listening to poetry by reciting poetry to the children. The guide selects short poems that he/she really enjoys from among adult poems, not children’s poems.
The work-cycle is the time, everyday, the children have to work/play at school. Once a child has adapted to the routine of school, he moves from one activity to the next, with very little adult interaction. He sometimes will choose to be in a group activity, or check-in with the teacher through conversation. Generally, he plans his day and proceeds with his “auto-education”. The children’s ability to do this is what allows each child the specific education they need, and each teacher the ability to observation each child and their growth.