There is a child in my classroom that I had when I taught in the Toddler program. I remember in toddler working with him on numbers, on recognition of numbers, understanding quantity, of even having an interest. I knew he wasn’t in his sensitive period of math… but it wouldn’t hurt to try, right?
He did not learn them in Toddler.
When we moved into Primary, I thought Now, it’s going to happen. Now he will start to remember this. We spent his whole first year in Primary doing a push and pull of sometimes recognizing 1-10 and sometimes not. He had zero interest, but I felt a lot of pressure for him to succeed, to move forward. Other children his age had learned this or were far past it. When was he going to learn these numbers?
When the beginning of this school year hit, I honestly felt as exhausted as he did with this topic. I knew he loved other areas of the classroom. I knew he excelled in these areas. I decided to trust him, to trust what Maria Montessori taught me about sensitive periods and just let go of it.
To be totally honest this was terrifying. When we had our first conference in the fall with his parents, I was scared to say “he’s still working on 1-10.” However… I am SO GLAD I DID THIS!
Taking the pressure off of him, and me, really allowed him the joy to spend his days learning what he was interested in. Exploring, discovering, engaging in new ideas or lessons. He talked to me about geography and countries he wants to visit. He talked about his hypothesis on why objects may be magnetic or why the oceans have tides. He was joyful.
Last week, a miracle happened. He asked to work on the teen board. I reminded him he was still on the 1-10 lessons and he said, “Let me try.” Wow… ok, let’s do it. He got out the teen board, counted the beads, laid them in order, and matched them to the number tablets. My mind was blown. Where had this come from? We practiced it the rest of the week and moved into the tens board. The same thing happened. He could tell me when he was in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s. He was cruising through numbers and soaking it up effortlessly.
Today I felt encouraged to ask if he wanted to try the chains. This was a lesson he had craved since the beginning of his first year in primary. I was just as excited as he was to try them out. We picked the three chain to start. He counted to three, then six, then nine. He found the tickets correctly and placed them in order. I asked if he wanted to keep going.
So, he did.
He has not stopped. He is on the eight chain.
Maria Montessori said, “Joy is the evidence of inner growth.” All those times that this child was engaging in materials he loved and gravitated towards, he was experiencing inner growth. His focus, concentration, attention to detail, coordination, and interest were expanding. By allowing him the freedom to choose and explore I gave him the chance to learn in harmony what his mind craved. I removed the obstacle of my own agenda for him and he was able to be free and learn in his own way.
This whole situation made me think about what other obstacles I could be unknowingly placing in front of the children in my classroom. Am I giving them enough independence? Am I allowing them the freedom to explore? Am I providing the correct materials and lessons?
While that sounds like a lot of self-doubt, I like to view it as a chance to reevaluate how our classroom works and place my trust back in the philosophy that I love so much.