We finally brought out all the holiday decorations. For our family, it’s a fun time of year, especially as the girls are getting older and not only understanding more, but also appreciating all the beauty of the season. I love to transform the house for the festivities, and I think my daughters are following suit.
One evening, my husband and I brought in the tree and put up many of the decorations around the house. When the girls woke the next morning, Chapin came out of her room wide-eyed and proclaimed, “Christmas!” We had to rewind and explain a bit more, but her appreciation was exciting as she discovered little details at every turn, pointing them out to both her sister and us.
She then discovered an old, tarnished silver bowl with peppermints left over from the previous year. The small bowl had belonged to my great-aunt and was a gift to me when she passed away. It was extremely tarnished and in great need of polishing. I asked Chapin if she wanted to polish it with me, and to my surprise she didn’t (thankfully, since I discovered we didn’t have any silver polish). Really, I couldn’t tell if she was admiring the bowl or drooling over the old mints, but she remained captivated.
A few days later, Chapin’s teacher came to babysit. She relayed to me that, while they were reading before bed, Chapin had asked her, “Will you teach me metal polishing?” Aha! All this time I thought she had already done that lesson! Her teacher (tonight wearing the babysitter hat) said, “Yes, but I need to teach you wood polishing first.” Thankfully, she is going to get right on it, saying Chapin is ready, and will teach her both.
What’s interesting, as a parent, is observing my girls at home as they are learning lessons at school. Their wheels are turning—they are processing and immediately applying their school lessons at every opportunity. Parker (age 2) pours water from cup to cup, washes windows, sets the table and cleans spills. I notice Chapin (age 4) wanting to help in the kitchen (slicing, stirring, pouring, and even scrambling), gaining confidence to do things herself, and increasing her desire to learn.
As Dr. Maria Montessori developed her teachings based on the observations of many children, I am working as a parent on stepping back and honoring the independent life of my children, a hard skill that I’m continuing to hone. It’s a good lesson to remember: step back, observe and allow for the natural development of the child. Every day, I’m amazed at the ability of both of my young children for what they can do on their own and how they problem-solve to find solutions. Dr. Montessori gave us all a good reminder, even at home: “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listing to words, but by experiences in the environment.” We can gift our children growth, development and learning simply by providing them with rewarding experiences in the home environment.