“This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them to a single centre. Mothers, fathers, politicians: all must combine in their respect and help for this delicate work of formation, which the little child carries on in the depth of a profound mystery, under the tutelage of an inner guide.”
~Dr. Maria Montessori, from The Absorbent Mind
Those of us who have the good fortune to work in a Montessori school or who have children in our lives are witness to this “delicate work of formation” every day. And profound mystery it certainly is: even the trained Montessori teacher of many years will tell you that while it is the adults’ task to provide “just enough, at just the right time” to support each child, it is the child’s own work of self-discovery and exploration. We provide the environments in which meaningful activities, freely chosen, fulfill the child’s inner purpose to support the integration of mind, body, and spirit. But ultimately we adults (parents and teachers alike) are “guides” – the children embark on this journey themselves, and we observe where it takes them.
Those of us who are current or prospective parents of children in Montessori are fortunate in that there are more resources than ever before to help elucidate the workings of its theory and practice: from blogs, to websites, to books and even longitudinal studies, information abounds. Nevertheless, questions remain: what are the “metal insets” [or “metal insects”, as they are frequently referred to by young children], and what is their purpose? “Racks and Tubes” for long division – what are they? How does scrubbing a table or slicing carrots fulfill the young child and support future academic pursuits? What opportunities are there for the older child to exercise ever-greater autonomy and self-determination? How about the transition from concrete, hands-on materials to abstraction? “I hear all about outdoor time and what was for snack, but what is my child doing during her school day?”
We were so gratified to have so many parents take the opportunity to come to our recent Primary & Elementary parent/child open house. Unlike open houses for prospective families, which give an overview of the whole environment, the parent/child open house is a special opportunity for children to welcome their parents, grandparents, etc. into their classroom to show some of their favorite activities and perhaps even give a “lesson” or two. In addition to classroom observations and parent workshops, the parent/child open house provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to gain insight into the inner workings of the Montessori classroom.
And last but not least, here’s a nifty article from our winter newsletter giving details on the activities of the Montessori classroom: http://threetree.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/TTMS-newsletter-January-2014.pdf