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By Elizabeth Falls
Millhopper Montessori School
4 ½ – 6 Year Old Class
“The child’s first instinct is to carry out his actions by himself, without anyone helping him, and his first conscientious bid for independence is made when he defends himself against those who try to do the action for him” (Maria Montessori, Absorbent Mind, 1995, pp. 90-91).
Independence and autonomy are important traits/gifts we must foster in children. Piaget (1973) reminds us that it is only as we encourage and guide children in the development of these two traits from an early age that oral autonomy in adulthood will be developed.
Like many Montessori environments, our school provides the environment necessary for the fulfillment of this inborn drive.
To understand that school and home are complementing each other in their approach to your children, it is helpful to look at Maria Montessori’s insights about children’s development and see how these relate to family life, as well as school life. They, of course, will not be exactly implemented at home in the same way as at school, but the underlying dynamics will be the same – for it will take the combined efforts of both parties (two distinct, yet complementary roles) to create an optimal environment for children’s growth and development.
Maria Montessori believed that independence and autonomy/self-direction was of prime importance for children to develop. Children will need these characteristics in the world in which they love. As educators, we rely on these characteristics for an optimal environment for the children to grow and develop (“work”) in.
As we first enter the toddler classroom, we see that it has been designed to meet the needs of very young children: the furniture and shelves are sized appropriately so the child can choose and return work independently. Activities of Practical Life are the child’s first introduction to independence: first in the toddler and early childhood classes and continuing throughout the elementary and upper elementary years. With each increasing year of advancement, the children are given more opportunities to work without direct interference from adults. They instinctively choose work which helps them master the skills they need.
Whether the community is at school or at home, the child’s autonomy and independence must always be within limits for the group as a whole. There are implicit and explicit rules and behaviors – both inside and outside of the classroom. Behavioral expectations also must operate at home. Implicit rules of behavior such as bedtime and meal routines need to be consistent. Children quickly understand the ground rules of home just as they learn the behavior expected at school. Most behavioral ground rules are modeled and learned by repeated practice. It is absolutely necessary for the children to follow the rules for the well being of our “school family” as well as our “home family”.
In some settings where time and routine are not in place, children are often unsure what to expect or how to act. Well defined rules provide security for the child and it is within the safety of routine that the child can learn to make appropriate choices – have independence and be responsible.
From their early childhood years, the children will automatically apply the skills they have learned from the Practical Life activities – leaving their minds free to concentrate on more complex social/emotional and academic issues. As Maria Montessori pointed out “the child becomes less dependent on the persons about him, till the time comes when he wants also to be mentally independent. Then he shows a liking to develop his mind by his own experiences and not by the experiences of others. He begins to seek the reasons for things” (pp. 89).
We can simulate this environment at home by learning much from Maria’s prepared environment used in the classroom. Maria Montessori found that children need to have order, consistency such as in where things can be found and clear expectations of how to care for things, how to put them away when finished working with them, how to have respect for other’s privacy and how to appreciate their own and other’s work without receiving external rewards.
It is important that parents respect their children’s efforts – even if done imperfectly in the adult’s eyes! Young children do not yet have the judgment to be independent in some areas, but we need to find those areas in which they can make successful decisions and begin to allow them to practice. For example, one way we can foster independence is to allow the children to pick/choose their clothes each day. What difference does it really make if the child chooses to wear colors/patterns that do not match!
As educators and parents, we help children through this journey into dependence, explaining situations as well as being there with the love and nurturing they need! Even during the sometimes rough communication times of adolescence, it is important that students are guided in their development of their own sense of responsibility. As Maria wrote, “independence is not a static condition; it is a continuous conquest, and in order to reach not only freedom, but also strength, and the perfecting of one’s powers” fostering independence and beginning autonomy we must guide our children towards responsibility and independence. Children will begin to assume responsibility for their own thinking and for their own actions – they will then be able to move along the path to becoming more mature and responsible adults.
As a parent of three teenage children, the continuous effort to allow independence as well as provide guidance will be (and has already been) rewarding for themselves and for us as parents!
~to The Chess Club K-1 Team for winning Second Place in the Fall Scholastic Chess League.
~ to Anthony Dang – individual 4th place in in the K-5 Open Division.
SIGN UP: Chess Club will be open for sign up for the Spring session. Sign up now – Club meetings begin January 10!
Mr. Richard Aslanian
- Please remember to use the cross walk when crossing from the parking lot to the school during morning arrival and afternoon departure. Crossing through the mulched beds or through the shrubs is unsafe. The safety patrol can see neither you, nor your child, around the portico columns until you step into the actual lane of traffic. Please teach your child, by example, safety when crossing. We also have had several parents step directly in front of moving cars when leaving with their elementary children from the elementary pick up area. Please use the painted crosswalks to cross and do not walk into the traffic lane (even if a driver is slowing as they see you.) You need to cross in the designated areas.
- Please do not park your car near the cones and exit your vehicle. If you need to exit your vehicle, or if you are dropping a family member off, but not using the drive through, please park in a designated parking space. Parking along the thoroughfare blocks other traffic and causes unsafe conditions.
- Please be a careful and defensive driver at all times while on school property. Do not use your cell phones while operating your vehicles or waiting in the drive through.
- Please make sure the safety patrol has closed your door and cleared your vehicle before accelerating. A few extra seconds of caution can prevent an accident.
Thank you for your attention to these matters. If you have any questions about the drive through process or are new to the school and would like a more in-depth explanation of how the process works please don’t hesitate to ask.
Safety Patrol Supervisor