Thursday, April 3, 2014

The "Guide"

"Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence." 

I've rewritten this post what feels like fifteen different times. I think it's because it keeps sounding so- sterile- for lack of a better word. I could write for pages about the importance of being a "guide" to your munchkins but in reality it's messy and hard and frustrating. And I want to talk about all of it. Not just a textbook description of this odd term.

I keep trying though. Because it really is important. It's top of the chart important. So hang with me for a minute while I struggle through this...

"Education is not something which the teacher does, but...a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange..."    Montessori

This is what makes the Montessori Method so very unique and what I missed for years and years. It isn't about what materials you have or don't have. It's not about your student to teacher ratio. It's about the directress. Or the parent. Or simply, it's about you.  It's about this concept of "The Guide."

  The responsibility overwhelms me many days. I am the one who just lost it on her three year old. I am the one who made her son cry through his entire piano practice- more than once.   The one who is so tired of carrying around the seven month old that I would do anything to get him to stay in one spot happily. Including one of those ipad baby seat things. And we don't even have an ipad.

Thankfully these kids are resilient.

We had a moment the other day. My daughter was working on the binomial cube. Something that is probably just out of her reach normally. But she kept trying. And trying. And I kept presenting how to do it. And at one point, she did it. And sat back in her chair and sighed a sigh of contentment. I was so glad that I caught this moment because that moment was what this whole thing is about. What the whole struggle is about.

We have the power to create an excellent environment in which children learn spontaneously. One in which they find joy in work.  Where they challenge themselves and check their work and find answers to questions- all on their own.

Being a guide means providing an environment in which children are free to learn. Free to move. Free to gravitate towards what inspires them.  Most days that means making sure the tables are clean and the trays are out. It means materials showing up after an interest was observed. It means intentionally observing your kids work and adjusting accordingly.

I'm slowly learning in the end that "Montessori" really encompasses an attitude. An attitude we can all attain regardless of income bracket or educational philosophies. We can keep a light burning in these kids. It's worth it. 

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