I recently came across a great article entitled “Top 10 Skills Middle School Students Need to Thrive, and How Parents Can Help.”
As a Montessori mom, I’m sitting here smugly patting myself on the back. Hey, when you feel like you’re actually doing something right with this parenting thing, you better soak it up. I’m sure I’ll be back to humble within the next few minutes once they are fighting over stickers in the backseat and complaining they are hungry for lunch.
The one thing I can say we are doing right is having them in a great Montessori school where they really seem focused on teaching our kids Grace & Courtesy (for the most part. I mean, they wouldn’t be kids if they weren’t total jerks sometimes, amiright?!), a lifetime love of learning, and care for their community and environment.
I see the 10 skills Ms. Fagell lists as the same skills my kids are actively developing beginning at the preschool level. They learn to work out their differences, negotiate with others, and mediate issues among their peers. Our Montessori school goes up to 8th grade and by then, they are formally mediating issues in class. They learn to work respectfully with guides (teachers). The guides are their educational facilitators and collaborators but the children have ownership of their work. They often decide when they will do what work (within the boundaries chosen by their guide). In doing this, they are also developing organizational skills, planning and executing projects. They don’t really have homework in the traditional sense. They are expected to manage their time so most of their work is done in class.
They develop a sense of responsibility within their community. Our school starts as young as 18 months. My kids started at 3 years, in the 3-6 year old class. The younger students watch and learn from the older ones. They are way more interested in and impressed with what their slightly older peers or doing than a teacher just telling them what to do. They are seeing something to work towards in real time. They are learning that hard work, determination and focus will get them there just like the older kids.The older kids, in turn, feel a sense of responsibility for the younger ones and will even give lessons on topics they have mastered, building self-confidence, ownership of their knowledge, and an even stronger foundation they could only get from teaching. They tend to behave more maturely and compassionately as they take the younger ones under their wings.
Speaking of focus, a lot of emphasis is put on respecting others’ “work.” In class, children learn to speak up and self-advocate in many ways, one being that if they can’t concentrate and it gets too loud, they give a signal (in my daughter’s I think it was the peace sign). When they are in a work period, you could see the students concentrating quietly on their chosen work. It is amazing to see. They are also taught to label their feelings to effectively express themselves and their needs.
Partially because they do not get grades and their environment is more cooperative rather than competitive, Montessori children tend to love learning for the sake of learning. Their guides are also trained to give lessons in ways that speak to that child’s interest or particular way of learning. Maria Montessori posited that children will continue to grow in their abilities as long as they are continually challenged. So their guides (and parents) know to give them work that may be a bit above what may be easy for them. It will teach them perseverance and grit (a recently popular concept-here’s a Ted talk about it).
As for creating and innovating? The Montessori method has a way of bringing out creativity in children, probably because they learn in different ways, are curious about the world around them and with that curiosity and focus, they learn to delve deeper into subjects, experiment, and discover. To see some examples of innovators who came Montessori schools, you can read about The Montessori Mafia.
I could talk about Montessori all day. If you have any questions about the Montessori method, feel free to comment or contact me. If I get enough questions, I’ll post an FAQ.