Charlotte Montessori Blog

Molding vs Learning

I am “friends” with Janet Lansbury (author of No Bad Kids) on Facebook. While I don’t know her personally, not have even laid eyes on her….she is one of my Facebook friends that I look forward to seeing her posts! She writes fantastic articles that cover such a larger variety of parenting topics. I love her posts because I already believe in the things that she writes about.

Yesterday morning, while I was avoiding getting out of my cozy warm bed, I came across this post:

Janet had me on the tag line:
“Teaching our children reduces possibilities to discover what they already know. It also risks giving children a ‘you can’t unless I show you’ message, and with repetition that can become abbreviated in our children’s minds as ‘you can’t’”

In the Montessori Primary classroom, there are many of the works that the children need a lesson on before attempting. The didactic materials can be very specific and have very deliberate movements associated with them.
There are other works in the class that once the child has had a lesson on treating the works with respect, they may be able to attempt on their own. Most of these works are self-correcting. These self-correcting works give the child the independence to do the work without the teacher’s help. To clearly see and fix any mistakes that are made.

Another large value of these works is that the child is taking direct ownership of their learning. She controls how and what she learns from the materials. For each child what she needs to learn may be different….but the child innately knows.

We get to witness this on a weekly basis in the classroom….but the perfect example of allowing the child to do her own learning happened this morning:

Mia was working on a counting work on her own. The pieces can only fit together when the correct number is placed beside the piece with the same number of dots. It becomes pretty obvious that is the only way the pieces will go together…we do not have to tell the children that. Mia approached the work by taking a piece with dots on it and starting at the bottom of the numbers. She tried each number until she found the piece that fit. She did this tirelessly for the entire work.

Now, we could have stepped in and showed Mia how to count the dots, or order the numbers, or that the number and quantity go together or helped her with any of those steps….to “teach” her how to match the numbers and dots. But she didn’t need that. She learned how to find a way to do a work on her own, happily and proudly. Will Mia learn that the dots and numbers go together because it is number and quantity? Yes, eventually and on her own. And when she does, it will be more powerful than if we taught her. “Be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning.” Magda Gerber

For the adult in can be difficult to have faith in the child and environment that this learning is going to take place. We may get anxious and overzealous with our “teaching” when all the children want to do is learn on their own. Have faith in them, let them struggle, let them figure things out, let them learn.

I suggest you read the whole article (it highlight’s child’s art and drawing as the example). But I end with this quote from a dad about an accomplishment from his son “My joy was through the roof. Not at him meeting some medical milestone, or some competitive streak in me that wants my son to excel. But at seeing the satisfaction on my son’s face, being present enough to experience it and the knowledge that everything beautiful about this moment was built on trusting in my son to develop at his own pace, at his own time.”