One of the greatest lessons in life, if we would but humble ourselves, we would learn not from grown up learned adults, but form the children placed before us. Jesus never uttered a more noble or remarkable truth than when He said that wisdom cometh out the mouth of babes. I believe it; I do not propose to describe to you the several phases through which this life of mine has passed, but I can only in truth, bear witness to the fact that when we approach children in humility and innocence, we will learn wisdom from them. Sometimes we are simply impatient to realize, children need not to prove anything, for they are created on purpose for a purpose. An education or home environment should not be a place where children prove themselves, yet unfold themselves.
This past weekend, I was given the opportunity to commune among 17 amazing women, all in whom share a common goal; “to help life”. An orientation, indeed, The Montessori Framework marked the beginning of a new year, not only for teachers but for parents. I sat captivated, of the hearts lifted and eyes enlightened as teachers, assistants, and parents from the Montessori Tides community better understood their role as a guide or facilitator. Classrooms are being re-designed as each teacher finds themselves alert and abreast with clearer inspiration to create an environment where your child will flourish. Most shockingly, they are fully aware that they too are students. Mrs. Kathy Graham, she is indeed a superb mentor, proclaimed, “One must be a student of the child, then you will know how to follow!”
As parents we tend to feel the need to instruct and direct our children, but Montessori believed we can partner with the school and follow them instead. Observation is the scientific approach applied to daily practice in the Montessori environment and there is no greater way to begin using Montessori‘s principles in your home than to become a student or observer of your child. How do they play with their toys? What is your child interested in, what do they say, is their imagination at a peak, and what do they like to do-run, jump, clean, read, paint, dance, build, etc? Children have an increasing amount of things to teach us about their inner needs and interests if we will take the time necessary and pay attention, then we will see him or her unfold before our very own eyes.
You can regularly set aside a short time each day just to sit and observe your child. Sit somewhere comfortable but close so that you can see and hear your child playing and at mealtime. Make notes about what you see. These will accumulate and be an interesting record of different ages of your child’s behavior, as well as identify certain patterns of behavior that could be arising at a particular time. You can try and interpret what your child’s behavior means. When you notice a new interest, think about ways to introduce some new activities that will feed and extend this interest. Remember the only aspect you can rely on day after day with children is that as they grow their interest, preferences, and capabilities change in unpredictable ways. Try to forget about previous experiences, each new time you observe your child, and focus on what is really happening now.
As you observe try not to interfere with anything your child is doing. Assist only upon request. Please note, the purpose of this exercise is to learn from what your child is doing, not to keep correcting. Observing can be rather challenging at first, but once you realize the importance of the exercise, the benefits are great. Nothing is more pleasurable than to sit and watch, not having to talk or do anything else and nothing can be more effective in helping you follow your child.
What Does it Mean to Trust the Child, to Follow the Child?
- Believe in the child’s inner drive to create him or herself
- Understand the child is his own best teacher
- Understand your role as guide or facilitator
- Observe the child, understand her needs and interest, and then guide the child accordingly. Use these interest to entice the child into new areas and use his strengths to build new skills
- Give hints- point in the right direction, but let the child discover for herself
- Allow the child to learn from her mistakes
- Provide support and direction only as needed. For example, one child may have difficulty making choices and need to be directed to purposeful work, while another child’s natural motivation would be stifled it too much direction were provided
“One must be a student of the child, then you will know how to follow”