One good way to find out what people are thinking about on a subject, is to have a dialogue with them and allow their ideas to be expressed without bias or argument.
There has always been 2 sides to the coin, when it comes to the Montessori school system.
Talking to a group of parents, I found out that one group seems to feel that the children are’ regimented into work and only work’, there is hardly any time allowed to let ‘them have fun’. The fact that the Montessori child is reading and writing, doing addition and multiplication, by the time she is 4 years of age, means she has been ‘hard at work all day!’ Where is childhood, they ask? When does the child get some free time to just enjoy and play with toys?
The other group wants their child to get ‘structure’, learn ’manners’ and be more ’focused and attentive’ at work. They want their child to learn good habits of politeness, courtesy, to engage in self- expression with confidence, to develop independence and be focused at work – all of this early in life, so that it becomes a part of their developing personalities.
Both groups have good reason to support their beliefs, but actually there is a middle ground here that neither group is really looking into. That ‘middle ground’ is the child herself/himself. Each group has set expectations of what they would like their child to experience, assuming they know what’s best for their child. But is it really so? What really does the child want? Is it right to assume that children want to play and have ‘fun’ – the ‘fun’ that adults define? What is ‘fun’ or enjoyable to the child?
Maria Montessori based her method of teaching on observation and experimentation. She concluded that the child has an inner drive to ‘construct itself’ –i.e. build the person it will be as an adult; and it has a love for freedom; and therefore it seeks out those activities that will feed this inner drive.
When the child meets with circumstances that provide opportunities to be free, and it has activities that engage its interests in constructing its own persona, – the child is having ‘fun’ and enjoying herself/himself.
The Montessori classroom provides an environment that is equipped with age appropriate, developmentally suited activities where children are free to engage in building their adult personalities without interference. The teacher’s role is to provide such an environment, based on observation and experimentation, and to start the process with lesson presentations, after which she steps out of the way.
The Root of the matter – allow children independence and opportunity. They will ‘find’ themselves.
-Ms. Jay Blench