Another new school year is upon us and we are delighted to see the faces of new and returning students brightening our hallways once again. So many things about the Montessori method and environment ensure that students quickly adjust into school life. However, whether you are new to MAB or you have been with us for years, it is an adjustment for you, too. It may be even more complicated for you, because while they’re here, you’re at work or home. So I thought I’d provide a few pointers to help you keep up with your growing Montessori child over the next few months.
1. Everything is work -and that’s a good thing: Our classrooms are carefully planned and equipped down to the finest detail. There is nothing in the environment that doesn’t teach something and children rarely learn just one thing from a given lesson. So don’t worry too much about the specific activities your child is doing during these first few weeks or months -even if they have been here for years. A child’s time in our classrooms will never be wasted. They may be working in math, language, dish washing, pouring or just starting and finishing a task. It’s all important and all connected. But right now it’s about learning to make choices and take responsibility for their own development while finding their roles in the classroom community. This is a big deal and no easy task, but the good news is that everything they do throughout the day is aimed at building these important foundations. Regardless of age, it’s a focus for all children. So when you talk about school with your child, make sure you focus on the big picture and don’t sweat the small stuff. By November, we’ll be talking more about the lessons themselves.
2. Love mistakes: The best piece of advice you can give your child each morning is “Go make some mistakes today!” At Montessori, we encourage mistakes, both big and small. We even plan for them in every lesson. Mistakes will shape your child’s development more than anything else. So when they happen, we make sure each one is an opportunity for the child to grow and learn. By embracing and encouraging mistakes at home, you’re doing the same thing.
3. We are partners: Montessori isn’t just for children. In fact, at MAB, you have access to an incredible resource of master teachers. No other school can offer the expertise you will find here. We’ve all been doing this for a long time and we are here to help you stay ahead of (or at least keep up with) your child. So much of the philosophy we follow not only works at home, but will ultimately make your life as a parent easier and more rewarding. Please take advantage of the workshops, parent events, classroom observations and other opportunities we offer. If you can’t be here physically, follow us on Facebook and join your child’s private classroom Facebook page. Also, take a few minutes to read through our blog posts. We’ve covered a broad range of ideas. There’s even a few podcast episodes from last year. Email, call and schedule a meeting with Bart anytime.
4. Learn the lingo: Metal insets, Movable alphabet, sensorial work, peace education, leadership, normalization, how to talk to your child. It has all been discussed and defined on this very website. Each blog post offers some great take away ideas and useful parenting tips. It is also a great place to understand Montessori in simple terms. If you’re ever unsure of anything, or looking for answers, our blog is the perfect place to start. Your teachers are waiting to partner with you on everything from toilet learning to executive functions. Send them an email or give them a call.
5. Observe: One of the most important skills a parent can have is the power of observation. Without it, you’re literally working in the dark. It is not just watching and recording what you see. In our definition, observation means interpreting and looking deeper while maintaining an open mind. Patience, confidence, problem solving, empathy, generosity and more are very easy to miss. The evidence of your child’s growth is all around you in everything they do and say, but some of it may not be readily apparent or even quantifiable. The keys to good observation are knowing what to look for and knowing where to look.
6. Independence is the goal. In Montessori, anything your child can do for herself, she’ll be given the opportunity to do it. More than just dropping her in the environment and saying “explore.” There is a great deal of structure, planning and support from the teachers and the environment. This ensures your child will be challenged, but not frustrated and that the lesson will match her abilities at the time when she needs it. But as Mister Rogers said “There is much more to independence than learning to master new skills. One of the most important parts of independence is learning to form new relationships with other people.” Indeed, this social element of independence sets the stage for everything else. So in Montessori, when we refer to independence, we are speaking of the whole child.
You may already know some or all of this. Some of this may seem a bit foreign and some of it may seem suspiciously like work. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, know that you don’t need to do it all at once. Pick what resonates with you and feel free to hold off on the rest until you’re ready. Right now, you should take comfort in the fact that you have made a wonderful choice for your child. Montessori has worked for millions of children for more than 100 years. By joining us, you have become a member of the global Montessori community of nearly 25,000 Montessori schools, over 5,000 in the US alone! You’re also a member of the MAB family and we are all here to help.
Enjoy the year!
Beth & Bart Theriot