“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.
I remember the first time I ever heard the question. It was during my first or second week of high school, and in one of my classes someone asked, “Is this going to be on the test?” I was sitting in my freshman science class and my first thought was, “Why would it matter?”
If you are a parent of a young child who attends school, you have probably been told not to ask your child about their day at pick up. So many parents ask me, why is that? It seems so natural to ask the ones you love about their day when you come back together. It actually seems like it may be a part of helping a child adapt to his culture through grace and courtesy. So why are we asked to refrain from the questions?
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.