10. Montessori education will not teach your child that;
"How you feel, what you like, and what interests you is not nearly as important as what an adult wants you like and do.”
What Montessori does instead...
Montessori educators do not arbitrarily decide what an individual child or a whole group should learn about or when to do it each day. We do not say (through words or actions) “I have collected some model dinosaurs and because I spent so much time preparing it I want everyone in the class to sit and listen to me because I am very important and knowledgeable about dinosaurs”. That would not be an inspiring, personally engaging and joyful way for each child to learn and we think that children deserve those qualities in a classroom for as long as possible.
If we try to force a lesson before a child is ready then that child learns a much more sinister lesson than what we had in mind. Let’s consider writing – if we try to force pencil to paper when a child has absolutely no interest in writing, or lacks the physical control for it, then they learn:
“writing is hard and boring – so I’ll only do it when an adult forces me to”.
Instead of imposing tasks we inspire discovery. We prepare the classroom environment by carefully creating and displaying engaging, interesting, developmentally appropriate activities. Then we let each child choose the tasks that he or she finds appealing and interesting. From our observations of these choices we know what other tasks a child might be interested in or ready for if we present it to them.
For instance if a 3 year old child is choosing to sit and flip through books every day then we know they might be ready for some lessons in the phonetic alphabet so that they can name the letters and begin to word build and, later, to read. If a child is going through a period of choosing lots of work involving water – such as pouring liquid between vessels or washing the dishes – then we use this as our inspiration to present lessons from the Cultural curriculum in the scientific concepts of density and the states of water (liquid, solid, gas). To revisit the dinosaur example used above, the Montessori way of presenting this concept is to have some of the materials, or a small dinosaur activity, presented on the shelf. If a child chooses it, or several children have shown particular interest in it, then the teacher knows that the time is right for those individuals to be invited to a more elaborate lesson on the characteristics of dinosaur classes. Yet as those children examine the dinosaurs another child is still a few metres away washing dishes, while another draws and another counts.
This is one of the reasons why we have very few ‘whole group times’ during a session – it is just simply extremely unlikely that every single child in the group will actually be interested in the same thing at the same time to the same extent. Therefore it is more valuable for each child to be taught as an individual, or with a small group of similarly interested peers.
It is also important to remember that learning something new is both easier and more meaningful if it occurs when an individual is ready and interested. It may take a year to teach something to a child who is not yet ready or interested but that same lesson could have been taught in a week (with far less stress for both the child and the adult) if the adult had been patient enough to wait for the child’s interest and readiness.
This is why we respect and trust each child as a unique, capable individual.