Montessori Monday: Education for Life
Monday, January 22, 2007
There are many misconceptions about a Montessori education. Most people are only familiar with Montessori preschools, and think that the method only applies to early childhood, as a preparation for "real school". Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Maria Montessori was an advocate of education for life. She defined several "sensitive periods", when a child was the most open to a particular concept or idea. She also did not see the child as an entity separate from the world, a blank slate to be molded by parents or teachers. Her view was more that the child was like a flower, containing everything he needed to become a man; the role of the adults in his life were to facilitate and lead - more shepherds than sculptors; after all, the child had already been formed by God himself. This is the reason Montessori schools have Directresses (or Directors), not teachers.

From "The Absorbent Mind": (Although Dr. Montessori died in 1952, these premises are still applicable today)
The education of our day is rich in methods, aims and social ends, but one must still say that it takes no account of life itself.

Education, as today conceived, is something separated both from biological and social life. All who enter the educational world tend to be cut off from society.

The world of education is like an island where people, cut off from the world, are prepared for life by exclusion from it... There are graduates so nervous that when they pass out into the world, they are useless to themselves, and a burden to family and friends.

A growing problem today are college graduates who aren't leaving the nest. Twenty-somethings who behave more like teenagers, who have a scholastic degree, but no degree of independence or self motivation. After being chewed up by the school machine, taking tests, putting in their time, they are spit out into the world without a clue as to how to be in the world. So they get a job, hopefully in their field of study, and pass the years as "kidults", spending their paychecks on nights out with friends, X-boxes, and buying things like nice cars it took their parents years to earn. We all know someone who suffers from "Peter Pan syndrome", refusing to grow up.

I am 28 years old, and I very often can't believe the shallowness and immaturity of some other people my age. I have a very difficult problem relating to a 25 year old who is pouting because her dad won't pay for her car insurance, or who quits his job (and why shouldn't he, since he still lives at home) because his boss doesn't understand that every single guy has a right to have at least one Friday night off a month and why does the Boss get to make the schedule, anyway, couldn't it be a group project? (Never mind that he is at his liberty on Saturday night, and has Mondays off.)

Montessori promoted an education from birth, with an aim not to
turn out a person with a diploma, but to prepare a child to become a man (or woman) who would be a

...bright new hope for mankind. Not reconstruction, but help for the constructive work that the human soul is called upon to do, and to bring to fruition.
The means which she promoted to attain this lofty goal was treating the child as a dignified individual; not an inconvenience, but as a person. She advocated a prepared environment, in which the child was able to do for himself - furniture in his size, tools he could get his small fingers around, and an orderly place to work. A child's play is his work, and so his toys should be good quality, not faddish, cheap, or broken and also should be treated with respect (by the child and by others).

Children were not meant to simply memorize the facts their teachers wanted them to know, but to discover and apply knowledge. They are not mindless dolls, learning the tricks to keep their masters happy; they are meant to become a fully formed and realized creation of God, capable of doing the work He sets out for them. They need training, yes, but not to be a mindless robot; they need training in order to become a mindful adult.

Look around your home. Do you want your 6 year old to help you sweep the floor, but your broom is 5 feet long (and he's only 40 inches tall)? Do you want him to merely sweep the floor at your request, or to spontaneously see that it needs to be done and take the initiative to do it himself? (Yeah. Still working on that one at Mama's house.) Do you want her to learn to solve her own problems, and be resourceful, but you insist on doing everything for her so that it's done 'right' or quickly? Have you looked carefully at what you do with and for your children, with a view that looks past the now and into 10, 15, 20 years from now? As you go through your week, notice the traits you are encouraging in your children. Are you educating them for life, or just for this minute's convenience?

Feel free to answer this question in the comments: What does education for life mean for you and your family?

PS - here's a great tip from Barbara Curtis at Mommylife:
Teaching a child to sweep
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/22/2007 09:06:00 AM | Permalink | |