Along the edge of my backyard, there is a little patch of dirt I call my garden. This is the only area of my property that is not already occupied by grass or shrubs or trees, etc., so I try to grow a variety of plants in this one small area. This means that all the different plants are all subjected to the same conditions: clay-like soil and full afternoon sun. Now, it probably comes as no surprise that not all of these plants are thriving in such homogeneous conditions. My blueberries and raspberries are somewhat stunted and my rosemary has shriveled up completely, but my jalapeno peppers, basil, and mint are flourishing.
These plants were all the picture of potential when I bought them. But when cared for as a group, instead of individuals with different needs, only three out of six are living up to that potential. This brings to mind the way we teach our children in traditional school settings. Most of us grew up sitting in classes of 20-30 children per one teacher, looking and listening to the same lesson taught ‘en masse.’ If this pace and structure didn’t work for you, well, too bad. Is it any wonder that, according to the U.S. Department of Education, “one out of every four students that walks through the schoolhouse doors on the first day of their freshmen year in high school will not graduate with their classmates, if at all. … Every year, that’s 1.2 million students giving up. That’s a student dropping out every 26 seconds.”
When you think about it, it really doesn’t make sense to expect all children to thrive in the same “garden.” Anyone who has spent any time with children can tell you this: children are all very different, (as different as strawberries and jalapeno peppers!) Each individual child has different interests, different strengths, and different developmental needs. This homogenous school model is even less sensible when you consider that there has been a solution to this problem for more than a century. It’s called the Montessori Method.
The Montessori Method works to cultivate each child’s individual potential. How does it work? For starters, the Montessori classroom is a very carefully-prepared environment. This means that the child has access to the right tools, at the right time for his/her individual development. As Maria Montessori explained, “What is most characteristic of our system of education is the emphasis that is placed upon the environment.”
Now the teacher observes the students in this prepared environment, learning what each child needs, observing that child’s developmental path and progress. The teacher then creates an individual learning “plan” for each and every student. This observation of the individual (combined with the teacher’s in-depth understanding of the child’s stages of development) ensures that children are never pushed to learn something they are not ready to learn, or bored with lessons while they wait for classmates to catch up.
Montessori classrooms are prepared (by the teacher) to offer activities and lessons that match the interests and needs of each individual child. Children are allowed to choose the lessons they are interested in, the lessons that they are developmentally ready and able to soak up naturally.
“To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself–that is the first duty of the educator.” ~Maria Montessori
Montessori teachers act as master gardeners in the classroom. Through their in-depth knowledge of the stages of child development, they can provide exactly what each individual child needs, when he/she needs it. This understanding is like those desired care instructions that didn’t come with your child.
[W]e have learnt from him certain fundamental principles of psychology … that the child must learn by his own individual activity, being given a mental freedom to take what he needs, and not to be questioned in his choice. Our teaching must only answer the mental needs of the child, never dictate them. Just as a small child cannot be still because he is in need of co-ordinating his movements, so the older child, who may seem troublesome in his curiosity over the why, what and wherefore of everything he sees, is building up his mind by this mental activity, and must be given a wide field of culture on which to feed.” ~ Maria Montessori (To Educate the Human Potential)
Are you a parent, teacher, or caregiver who’d like a peek at those coveted care instructions? Would you like to know more about:
- How to nurture the whole child
- Discovering the true needs of the child
- How to manage/avoid toddler temper tantrums or at any age
- How to help your child find peace, harmony, and purpose
- How to avoid power struggles
- Discovering the essential knowledge you need to guide a child’s spirit and mind
- How to make learning time more productive
If so, don’t miss Age of Montessori’s next 6-week, on-line Child Development Course! It’s “like getting a Parenting Manual”!