During his second year in our community, Dmitri, now seven and a half years old, became relaxed and natural. He participated in everything that did not require his performing before a group. When a child or children memorized and practiced a poem to recite to our class and then took it on tour around the campus, Dmitri shuddered. If invited to join someone in doing so, he recoiled in horror, but he watched with lively interest as two children went to the front garden and sat on the bench under the tree to memorize a poem. He peeked out the door into the rear garden and listened as a child delivered lines from atop the tree house to another child on the far side of the fence.
In September I was observing in a primary class and happened to be present as the teacher gave a lesson to a three-year-old girl on cleaning a chalkboard. They were both wearing aprons, carried a bucket, sponge, towel and underlay to a table, and then brought a small, and very dusty, student-size chalkboard to the table, as well. The little girl watched with rapt attention as the teacher dipped the sponge in the bucket of water, squeezed it out and then began to wipe. As she wiped from left to right across the surface of the chalkboard, it changed from chalky white to a dark, shiny green before the child’s eyes.
Finding joy in the cold, chaotic months of winter requires thought and planning, and a yogic awareness of time. Our winter celebrations of light and the real joy we find in simple gifts are too often lost in glitz and consumerism, even though we know the value of the presents we chose for our children is not measured extravagance or expense. A gift of great value is a small, loving investment of thought and attention, and an uninterrupted commitment of time.
When we hear a title or label our mind conjures images and stereotypes from memory and repeated experience. The stereotypical role of the conventional teacher is so different from the role of trained Montessori adults working with children in a prepared environment, that the term teacher misleads and confounds our understanding. It is for this reason that I consciously choose the term Guide.
It is a very short walk from Oliver’s primary classroom, through the toddler community to the gym. It takes every ounce of self-control most children can muster not to sprint the distance. Already like the goal-oriented adults they will become, they have their minds set on their destination.
Like many parents, as my son’s first birthday drew close, I spent a lot of time thinking of and researching the best gifts for the first birthday. My wish list included wooden stacking blocks, a tricycle, and musical instruments. Then one day, while observing my almost one year old, I realized that the best gifts for the first year cannot be bought; they are not material, but psychological.
The best gifts for the first year are the Basic Trusts. I learned about the Basic Trusts in my AMI Assistants to infancy training. They were not called gifts or described as such, but as I have gone through the first year of parenting, I realize that they are gifts that we give our child from their day of birth – perhaps even from conception. These gifts are made even more special because they can only be given in the first year and only under the right conditions.
When he came to the community at three years old, he established himself right away as ‘individual’ and ‘decider’. The guide thought he was extraordinarily self-aware and self-defined, with a prodigious vocabulary and an adult-like presence. He had a head of blondish curls and a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of his nose. He intense brown eyes peered out from his glasses with dark rims – somewhat the little professor in appearance. She liked him right away. She had long since found this “liking” to be the key to working with each and every child, regardless of the challenge she might find herself facing.
Reading Charlotte’s Web In a week or maybe two, my husband will finish reading Charlotte’s Web for the fourth time, the first time when he was a child, once for each of our three children. My husband has a low, mumbly voice, and he is often very tired when he sits down in his rocking […]
I had a humbling experience last week in my community of 3-6-year-olds – one of those moments that reminded me to put my faith in the power of the child’s own inner guide to lead them to the experiences they need for their own satisfying development.
The other day I took a call from a prospective parent. I had not given her tour, and she was calling to talk to the director and ask a few questions. She wanted to know if I knew the national average ACT or SAT scores for Montessori alumni. I had to admit that I don’t, and I am not aware of anyone who has narrowed down that population for that sort of study. I asked her what she was looking for in that question. She told me that what she really wanted was for her daughter to be happy.
It begins with the increasingly noisy tap – tap – tapping of brush on bucket, that first signal of digging in and lying low and simultaneously signaling readiness for the potential struggle to come. This is soon accompanied by nonsense chatter and noises. “How quickly we can get into these cycles, “ the guide thinks to herself.
They came in from the playground knotted together by tight feelings for their injured friend. “He’s hurt. He fell off the slide. Ned pushed him.” Ned was supporting Bart, who was hopping along, his face squeezing out tears and his jaw clenching in sobs. Breathing heavily, pushing and stumbling, with heads bobbing and backs bent as they jockeyed for close, clear gapes at the bloody knee, Ned and Bart’s buddies accompanied them to gain the safety and reassurance that presenting the disaster to me always bestows.
Parents and teachers are some of the most inspiring people at work in the world today. We’ll break into song when the first robin appears, dance a jig when the sun breaks through the clouds, cry on the last day of school, and laugh when it snows in April.
We begin each day hoping to impart knowledge. At day’s end, we consider all we have learned. Cliché, Pollyannaish, but true: learning really is the best part of teaching. The best part of parenting really is seeing the world through the eyes of a child once again.
I began my research by asking my son, “What inspires you to keep working, even when the work is difficult?” His quick reply was, “I keep working by choosing the most challenging thing I’ve had a lesson on. Then it’s interesting to figure out.” I pressed, “But what if you encounter a problem you cannot solve or have trouble finding a solution even with a lot of effort?” He answered, “Then I find a friend and ask them for advice or see if they have a good idea.”
The perseverance practiced early with concrete life tasks, later takes the form of tackling the complicated math equation, mastering that difficult list of spelling words, and getting the research project done by the due date. But hand-in-glove with the feeling that you can do hard things is the desire to do hard things.