I weeded my garden yesterday. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I really don't like weeding. It was hot and the bugs were biting, but it still didn't escape my notice that the daylilies were exceptionally beautiful. Kneeling in the dirt, I was face to face with a sprig of these vividly orange beauties. And that’s when the odd thought occurred to me: how does the lily know how to be a lily?
No, I wasn’t suffering from heat stroke. I was actually thinking about one of the concepts that Mary Ellen Mauntz teaches in Age of Montessori’s on-line course. When she describes the development of the child, she likens it to the growth of a seed. Just as a seed contains the pattern of what it is meant to be, so too does the little child. In other words, a lily seed does not need to be taught how to grow into a lily; it already is a lily. And, given the right care and environment, it has the inner potential to become an exceptionally beautiful lily. Mary Ellen put it this way, “…when we create an environment, it is like the soil, the water, the sunshine[…]if we those things, then the child can show us who he is.”
Did you catch that? "...the child can show us who he (or she) is." How beautiful!
Too often, we think of a newborn baby as an empty slate, waiting to be filled in with our handpicked lessons. But, according to Maria Montessori and her close friend/student, Elisabeth Caspari, the ‘empty slate’ theory is just not true. Children come into this world with their own, inherent design. They are like little seeds, already containing what they need to grow into their own, unique person.
“Education is never a pouring in, but a release from within.”~ Dr. Elizabeth Caspari
Of course, children need to be loved and nurtured by their parents and caregivers. Like my lilies-- which need healthy soil, water, sun, and (the dreaded) weeding--children need a carefully prepared environment in which to grow and develop. Whether it is at home or in the classroom, children thrive when they have the right stimuli at the right stage of their development. Each stage of development has its own purpose, characteristics, and goals. Levels of education build on one another, sequentially, and must match with the child’s current stage of development.
“Successive levels of education must correspond to the successive personalities of the child.” ~Dr. Maria Montessori
But how can parents, teachers, and caregivers really know exactly what our little seedlings need, and when? Fortunately, that’s what the Montessori Method is all about. Maria Montessori dedicated her lifetime to discovering how children develop and what they need to reach their full, inborn potential. Montessori passed her vast knowledge onto Elizabeth Caspari, who in turn passed the torch to Mary Ellen Mauntz, M. Ed, founder and program director of Age of Montessori, an authentic, on-line Montessori training course for teachers, caregivers, parents, grandparents, and anyone else who cares about the healthy development of a child.