I had an appointment with X’s directress yesterday to deal with the nitty gritty of his return to school. We ended our conversation with an interesting discussion on Montessori, one that really made me think since then.
This directress, she is the heart and soul of the school. She is the wizard that makes everything unfold beautifully. She makes Montessori alive in this school, and I have often been inspired by what she does, and how she does it.
And yet, when you look at the school, it doesn’t look like a real AMI pure Montessori school. In fact, it is not. And although it bugged me for a while, now it doesn’t. Not following the discussion we had.
I asked her why? Why, now that the school have moved into a brand new and absolutely beautiful building, why, aren’t there more Montessori material? Why not make it more AMI like? And here is what she had to say:
“Montessori is not a method it is a philosophy, a way of doing thing. She laid out many principles but 2 are IMO more important:
- Follow the child, and put him at the center of his learning
- Find a medium, not any mediums, the medium HE needs and place it between the child and the teacher. (And no, Mediums don’t have to be real Montessori material.)
This pattern of learning, is a pattern we all know works little, and yet it is the most common one used in schools:
But the genius of Montessori was that she was able to find a new pattern of learning, one that really does truly work and looks like this:
And this is what is at the basis of our school. The material can change, the children can and DO change over the years, but the relationship between all this is the most important thing, the one thing that we have to keep intact. This is the HEaRT of Montessori.
Everybody can become a good Montessori technician: one that can present perfectly at the right exact time the material, in the order that is prescribed by AMI. But being able to put the child at the center of life and of his education by really seeing/understanding his true need is a talent not everybody has, and yet that is the most crucial part of a Montessori education.”
Yes, this is it. This is what Montessori at home is all about. Finding the right material, whether it is a game, a piece of material, a book, a video, something that will pique the child’s interest, spark his imagination, drive him to go deeper, and let him engage with it to do real and meaningful learning on his own schedule. Children led, but yet provoked at the right moment, with the right tool, regardless of the tool. And the adult? He has to be close observing, and being ready to offer assistance, guidance, or provide what is necessary when asked for (asked directly or indirectly)
I have often see X be interested in something, and it was then obvious what the next step would be. But it is not obvious to him, because he has yet to know about this next step. Gentle guidance is then the key to success. Opening a door, without telling him where to go, and just believing.
These are the things I have found while walking around the house this afternoon. These images reflect my children’s current interest: I have seen M do a lot of art work lately, and X has been reading and talking about egyptians. E has been asking me everyday to play with the famous painting cards, and the puzzle? I have putted it away at least 3 times since yesterday, only to find it each time done again on the living room floor.
None of the material I have showed you are Montessori. But yet, I can see that, because they have been offered/found at the right time, available to use at any time, they are sustaining my children’s learning, and I agree with X directress that this is indeed the heart of Montessori.