August 29, 2013

Lesson 89: We Chose Montessori Because ...

As I alerted you yesterday, Samara had her first day of school today! She loved it!

For those who have asked and would like to know a little more, Mark and I have decided to send Julia to a small Montessori school nearby.

Why Montessori?

1. Well, my cousin, Becky, sent her children to Montessori school and her children are awesome. (In Montessori they are called children, not kids, and so we will use the appropriate terminology.)

While this sounds like sort of a shallow reason, it is the reason that our interest was first peaked to Montessori education. From the get-go, my cousin and her husband seemed to parent with quality. They give their children beautiful books to read and read with them often. They include their children in outdoor projects, digging in the yard and riding on tractors. They eat healthy food and have soup parties with their neighbors. They participate as a family in charity walks and fundraisers. Becky sews a lot!

It's all good stuff. There's a healthiness, a wholeness, and a sense of community to a lot of their practical routine, and I really admire that.

And as I said, they sent their children to Montessori preschool.

This is why I initially began researching Montessori.


Note: I am not going to give you a full history of Montessori or all of its tenets and philosophies. It is so easy to find a million other resources for that on the internet. I am now merely going to give you the ways in which I think that some of the Montessori philosophy fits with Biblical ideas and a few other reasons for why we chose it.


2. Children were created to work: One of the foundational principles of Montessori is that children are made to work, just as grown-ups are, and that they should spend their time being engaged in meaningful work.

Tell me this doesn't just scream Gen 2 to you! Built into our framework as humans is the idea that we were created to work. God put the man in the garden to work it and keep it. This is prefall. This is before sin had entered the world. Before things went downhill, God had always intended that man should work. Montessori thought definitely taps into this most basic human principle.

The children engage in practical work at school. They care for the classroom, wash themselves properly, tend a garden as a class, and prepare snacks for one another.

The children engage in mental work at school. Based on each child's own pace, they learn about letters, numbers, art, music, and the world.

The children engage in meaningful work at school. This is crucial to the Montessori philosophy. Children get frustrated if they are instructed to do tasks over and over without accomplishing anything. The work the children are engaged in has worth.

3. Children should work hard simply because it is a good thing to work hard: The children at Montessori schools are not given rewards for completing tasks. Rather, they are taught that the expectation is to work hard and to do one's best, simply for the sake of doing one's best, not just to receive a reward at the end. Again, this taps into the idea that we are created by God to work, and that doing our work to the best of our ability brings glory to God. We should seek God's affirmation, not man's.

4. Children must be taught to focus: At Montessori schools, the children are rarely interrupted while they are in the middle of a task. Each child sets about her work and remains with an activity until she is ready to move onto something else. She learns to focus and to take her time. Because there is no ending time, she does not feel the need to rush to get something done. Thus, her quailty of work should be better.

Similarly, all the children in the classroom are doing their own work and focusing. So, the children are learning to focus and work well in the middle of a lot of moving parts. This is a great practical life lesson.

5. Children should be encouraged towards appropriate levels of independence: Maria Montessori believed that children developed in a series of peaks and valleys. Thus, at particular stages of a child's development, she is predisposed to learn specific lessons easier. You can read about this elsewhere, but one of the lessons I have taken from this observation is that children should be given responsibility appropriate to their ability and developmental stage. Parents should not keep doing everything for their children, but should rather be encouraging their children towards taking care of themselves. In some ways, we should be working ourselves out of a job.

Now, clearly, I am not advocating giving up parental obligations. Throughout the entire course of their lives, we should be nurturing and guiding our children, particularly in matters of faith. However, Samara is capable of getting her own dishes out for meals, setting the table, clearing the plates, and so on. I wrote this post a while ago, when I first began to think about this type of thing.

6. Children should think about and respect others: What are the two greatest commandments? Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

a. I see the "love your neighbor as yourself" happening in two ways in the classroom. First, the way the curriculum is set-up, the children learn about the world first. They spend a lot of time studying different countries, looking at maps, and learning about various cultures. The lessons then move inward, first to one's own continent, country, state, town, school, family, and finally, self. The idea is that by beginning broad, the child gains a larger perspective which will hopefully combat the naturally tendency to focus intently upon oneself.

As I said, I certainly see a benefit to opposing self-centeredness. Thus, this principle of Montessori is not entirely in conflict with a Biblical worldview. However, for Christians, a child's understanding should begin with God being God. The world as a whole is not our foundation, the Lord is! He is the one we are to be loving first and foremost, with all our heart, strength, and mind. Out of our relationship with him, we are able to love others. We know this! This is not spoken about about at Montessori school; therefore, this is one area where Mark and I are aware that we need to focus on during the time that Samara is at home. 

b. Each class has children of a range of ages. Samara's class has 3 - 5 year olds. The idea is that as the class learns together, the younger children come in, without as much experience and know-how. They look up to their older peers, watch the ways they act (hopefully, with a bit more maturity), and are encouraged to try new things. Similarly, as the child gets older, she then becomes a leader in the class. Thus, the children learn to follow and to lead, which I think is really cool!

7. Children should respect their environment, because aestethics are of some importance: Again, this is Biblical. The Lord did not just create, but he created a beautiful world, with interesting animals, bright colors, and a variety of backdrops. Similarly, the children are taught to keep their classroom clean and encouraged to make it beautiful. Each child donates a plant to the classroom, which she is responsiblity for watering and keeping dust free, for the good of the whole class. Once a week, a different child brings fresh flowers for the classroom, and that child receives a lesson on flower arranging. The children are taught to put their materials back exactly where they belong. The classroom is a light, airy environment, and the children are free to get on with the business of their work because it remains so.

8. Children should be taught healthy habits: Montessori education emphasizes healthy eating, lots of fresh air, drinking water, and exercise. Each day a different child brings in either a fruit or vegetable for the class to share. They eat lunch outside whenever the weather is nice enough.


So, basically, this is why I like Montessori education. A few additional reasons are that the children listen to classical music while they work, their system for learning math is really cool, and as I mentioned in a previous post, the teachers are awesome, loving, and intentional.

I do not think that Montessori is the only way to educate children. When we were still considering this option, a retiring (Christian) teacher friend of mine said that "She appreicated any type of education that really sought to think about children. Montessori education certainly thinks about children." 

Similarly, our ethics professor advised us "to make sure to consider the pros and cons to whatever type of schooling you choose for your children. Pray about your decision. Be sure to seek the Lord for wisdom in selecting the best option for your family and child."

I would like to make clear that if there is an area where we sense that the Montessori philosophy conflicts with Biblical teaching ... the Bible wins. Every time. 

We are so excited for Samara! We feel like the classroom that she will be going to everyday is a place where she will thrive. She will be loved, and she will learn to love to learn.

I welcome questions concerning Montessori and will do my best with my limited knowledge to answer them. We are obviously new to the whole thing!

Lesson Learned: My research into the Montessori classroom has helped provide practical goals and desires for the way I run my home, including a fleshing out of the purpose of a child's day, fostering opportunities for growth in independence, thought to our environment, and an encouragement of healthy habits.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...