The Montessori method of educating a child does not cease in its ability to amaze me and prove to me over and over again that it is the best way to help our children learn to live in proper control of their lives on earth.
As adults, we are sometimes under the illusion that we should be in control of the next generation especially in the childhood stage of their lives, but is this actually right? It is true that as adults we must take responsibility for the safety and proper guidance of our children and wards. We must show them the right way to live, imbibe in them the right moral and ethical values, enable them to learn what society expects and accepts as appropriate behaviour.
The problem usually starts with who should be in control of everything to do with the child, and this is where the Montessori method differs from the rest. From birth a child needs to start and wants to start working towards independence. Yet as adults we ask: ‘Why should a child be in control, what do they know? They cannot control anything or else everything will fall apart!’: or so we think.
It is however important to help us understand that the child has a job to do. That is to construct himself, to become, to be. The child wants to learn to do for himself, what you insist on doing for him. I am always amazed at what children can do when you let them be and learn to do for themselves.
It takes patience. I always talk about this 6 month old baby I witnessed feeding herself with a plate of rice in front of her! She could sit at a table and use a small spoon to scoop up the grains of rice from the plate and deliver them into her mouth making little to no spillage in the process and without any help from the adults around her!
How is this even possible you may ask?
It was possible because the mum allowed the child to be. She was sensitive to her little ones interest in feeding herself and immediately she saw her child reaching out for the spoon herself, she let her be, and watched her child first of all try to scoop the rice, they worked out a rhythm of the child scooping and the mum feeding and then the child doing both processes as she got more adept at doing both things.
It took time and patience, but in the end the mum ended up with her daughter being able to feed herself at 6 months! At this time some children are still consuming just breast milk!
Every child is unique and has their own time-table, but one thing Montessori helps us to take note of is observing each child and recognising what Maria Montessori famously called the Sensitive Period, when a child is highly interested in getting something done. They want to learn how to do it and are consumed with the process of doing, until they have mastered it.
It is therefore important to watch and encourage our children at the young and tender age when they are interested in sitting, crawling, standing, walking, talking, order, potty training, self-care, numbers, alphabets, reading, writing etc. Do not get in the child’s way encourage them at that time to work on what their interests are. This is how to help your child become independent, how to help them construct themselves, how to help them be.
An independent child is in control of their lives, yes you still need to guide and direct them how to live the right way, that is a topic for another day, but right now let us let these children be and learn to be, so they can become who they need to be. Let them become children in control of their lives, you will be happy you let them be.