A Balanced Relationship and the Montessori Difference — By Bart Theriot

Parents wonder about the differences between Montessori and traditional daycare or preschool.  In fact, I recently saw a Facebook Ad from a national daycare chain attempting to favorably compare the differences between our method and theirs.  The comments revealed that parents understand Montessori a lot better than they did 20 years ago. Ultimately, I think the daycare operation in question’s ad backfired in a way they clearly did not anticipate.  Needless to say, there are many differences between Montessori and the rest, such as; the mixed age classroom, specially created didactic materials, individualized learning and it is widely known that Montessori teachers are specially trained and certified, but what does that really mean for the child’s experience?  Among many techniques, perhaps the most impactful result of Montessori certification training is how we focus upon our relationship with the child.

From a child’s first day, teachers set about establishing a unique partnership.  Imagine a scale.  The old kind, held by lady justice.  On the side with the most weight are the teacher’s responsibilities.  On the lightest side are the responsibilities of the child.  The younger the child, the greater the weight differential. Each interaction with the child is a small, but precice effort to place more responsibility on his or her side of the scale.  This also has the effect of lessening the weight on the teacher’s side.  In a Montessori classroom, children usually spend three years with the same teacher.  In that time, the scale of responsibilities approaches balance in accordance with each child’s unique timeline.

There is no pre-defined age or date by which the scales may become level.  However, usually, that balance occurs somewhere near the child’s third year.Some children may mature quickly, developing independence within a year or two.  Others may require every minute of the three year cycle.  Why is this balance such an important goal?  Well, in actuality, balance is not the end goal.  It is an indicator of a child’s readiness for a much more valuable moment.

Until those scales begin to balance, it is the teacher who gives the responsibility as the child receives it.  However, at a certain point, if we have done it right, something magical happens.  The change is so subtle, the casual observer might not even notice.  Instead of waiting for the teacher to offer responsibility, the child begins to take it for him or herself.  When a child actively seeks ownership, looking for challenges and new experiences, they demonstrate that they do not need to wait for an adult to tell them what to do.  This small, but crucial step in a child’s growth is just about all the proof we need that they are ready for whatever comes next.

As a parent, the moment when your race is run and you must hand your child the batton is coming.  Perhaps sooner than you think. The difference between Montessori and other educational methods is that we don’t just leave it to chance and hope that the volume of work, time and circumstances will lead to success.  We are intentional in providing each child (and parent) with a unique, detailed road map that will get them there.  That is the overarching goal of a Montessori trained teacher.

If this sounds exactly like what you hope to acheive with your child, it is no accident.  Our methods are not based upon arbitrary benchmarks or state-driven, standardized learning.  We don’t rely on “STEM”, “STEAM” or whatever acroynm becomes the current fad.  Dr. Montessori knew what children needed to build themselves into wonderful adults.  She created a method of preparing teachers to understand and hold these ideas above all else.  In spite of all the changes and challenges our world has endured in more than 120 years, Montessori has worked for millions of families and continues to set itself apart from every other model in so many ways.  The teacher-child relationship is just one of them. We welcome you to visit our school.  Meet our teachers and learn more about how your child can get the most out of life with a Montessori start.