It’s finally time to talk about a question I frequently get asked by parents…. “Why is my child rarely bringing anything home from Montessori school?”
I truly understand where this question comes from, and let me assure you, there is a very good reason for that. If your child is not coming home with a mountain of papers, worksheets, and step-by-step adult-guided art projects, it does not mean that your child is not doing anything. Quite the contrary, your child is building, practicing, discovering, and manipulating the world of Montessori. Have you ever heard the saying “life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey” now, let me tell you, this applies to the classroom too.
It is not about what the children complete and bring home but the skills they acquire along the way. Children are explorers; they are adventurers, fully emerged in the world of Montessori. They will not be doing or achieving things to please others but because they are fascinated by the subject they are currently tackling.
Depending on the child’s age, this could, for instance, be building and rebuilding the pink tower for weeks at end. What is the child doing while repeatedly working with the material? The child is learning about dimension, gradation, size, building its focus of attention, refining a lightness of touch, and expanding its concentration. Now I am going to ask you this (and I might just ask you this again…), but can you put any of this into a folder?
I know it can be disappointing not to continually hang something on your fridge but think of it this way, the child created not an object to be admired for five minutes and then placed in a box but created himself. The child is working tirelessly towards creating an inner passion or drive, which is the starting point to auto education, the starting point to exploring the entire universe.
Let’s see if a second example can convince you of this. In the past, I have decided to create an art history timeline with children. Children aged 2.5 to 6 were exploring famous artists, learning about the time they lived in, what inspired them, and discussed their art. It was a pretty incredible learning journey that accompanied us for about 3 months. The children and I started out by learning about cave drawings. We made our own paint from dirt and food mixtures, covered an entire room in paper, and drew on the walls with nothing but one lit candle. The children learned how to make paint, were introduced to a different time and experienced an entirely different sensorial experience. So let me ask you my question again… Can you put this kind of learning into a folder? We continued learning about France and Monet; we baked a delicious apple tart, danced a waterlily dance, studied Monet’s artwork, and how it changed over time. We continued to learn about Van Gough, Andy Warhol, and so many other incredible artists who shaped our world. Yes, we tried out painting techniques that they used, but it was a holistic project, and painting was not our main focus.
Recently I received an email from a parent that thanked me for introducing his child to Monet’s waterlilies. So many years after this boy’s graduation, he still loves going to art museums to analyze and appreciate Monet’s work.
It is difficult not to have something in hand but let us not forget what education truly is about. Your children are learning, may I be so forward and even say, your children are on fire. We might not be able to see it yet, but it’s all inside them. They are creating themselves, they are doing the most challenging thing we can possibly imagine, and you know what… they love it.
Next time you go to your friend’s house and see all the step-by-step directed art projects, the math worksheets where children are tracing numbers an adult has drawn, be happy for them.
Every teaching philosophy is different; there is no good or bad; it is simply different.