Mary’s face was splotchy and tear-stained when she arrived. After months of frustration with her before school dawdling, her father had decided to break their routine. Dad handed Mary a brown paper grocery bag containing her clothes, a hairbrush, toothpaste and a toothbrush. He carried Mary to their mini-van, listened to her wail through their five-minute commute to school, and dropped her off at carpool.
I love the start of the new school year. Everything is fresh and clean. It’s a fantastic opportunity to set goals for my classroom and for myself. These goals typically are phrased as comparatives and superlatives, learning from past experiences, wanting to get it “right.”
The child, unlike the adult, is not on his way to death. He is on his way to life. His work is to fashion a man in the fullness of his strength. By the time the adult exists, the child has vanished. So the whole life of the child is an advance toward perfection, toward a greater completeness. From this we may infer that the child will enjoy doing the work needed to complete himself. The child’s life is one in which work–the doing of one’s duty–begets joy and happiness. For adults, the daily round is more often depressing.
–Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind (page 30)
If you observe children in a Montessori preschool program, you’ll notice that children’s “work” has all the key characteristics of play. A very thoughtful article by Peter Grey in Psychology Today identifies five such key characteristics.
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 little boy would not have stood out in a grocery store, or sitting at his desk in second grade. On the little league baseball field, everybody noticed him. He was lanky and awkward, uncoordinated in ways that were painfully obvious every time he picked up a ball or a bat. When Sean stood up to bat, he wore the serious, determined expression of a boy who begged his parents to let him play, but he never made it to first base.
Here’s a lovely little letter I just received that ended thusly:
….People like you that just send their kids out for the vultures of the world because you THINK you are doing them a favor, are horrible, lazy, undeserving so-called parents. What a shame that God would bless you with something for which you show such little disregard.
And you have a nice day, too!
For children who are at home during the summer break, parents will wish to work diligently with slowing the pace of life. Children will savor the leisurely passage of time in which they can relish individual choices, uninterrupted play, ample rest and sleep, unhurried meals and unplugged screens. Here are just a few ideas of how a child can fill her long lovely summer days and return to school refreshed, nourished and eager:
Whenever you feel like turning on the TV or playing computer games, first come get this list of ideas and pick something from it to do before you spend any time in front of a screen. Then, if you still want to sit in front of a screen, set a timer for 30 minutes and make yourself turn off the electronics when the timer goes off. Be sure to limit yourself to no more than one hour of combined screen time per day.
At the end of the day, however, the fact is that we educate ourselves. We learn, first of all, by deciding to learn, by committing to learning. This commitment allows, in turn, for concentration.
Motherhood is always a revolution, a before and after event unlike any other. Before the birth of a child, a woman is uniquely herself in one way. When she becomes a mother, her life is forever different. Eating, sleeping and working will never feel the same. Simple decisions become complicated.
When a mom does her job well, her adult children achieve independence and leave home feeling strong, internally motivated by the knowledge their mother believed they were worth fighting for.
Revolutionary mothers alter the course of human history one life at a time, launching their grown-up children in to the world with confidence and a few good stories to inspire from within.
Dr. Angeline Lillard, professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, author of Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, as well as several academic articles on Montessori, and Montessori speaker and advocate, has a new article in the American Journal of Play: Playful Learning and Montessori Education. It’s long, dense but readable, and bristling with objectivity, academic citations, and peer-reviewed research.
With a dismissive gesture of the hand, Paula replied, “Nah, don’t ask her. She doesn’t know anything! I saw a chemistry book in the library, let’s look there.”