Maria Montessori knew that education is not something that the teachers do, but the natural process that develops spontaneously within children and adults. With this realisation, the process of home schooling takes on a whole new journey.
As a mum of three children under 7, home educating through lockdown has been haphazard – and I’m a teacher! I’m referring to academic education here, reading and writing, phonics and maths. You see, there’s a combination of personalities in our household whose needs and wants are constantly changing – my eldest struggles to concentrate on things that he finds tricky, my middle child’s interest for education is a 5 minute time-slot, at some point during the day, but miss it and we must wait till the next day, and my youngest, well she’s 2 and more interested in exploring her world (toilet brush, suspect crumbs) and her own busy jobs (mainly un-organising!).
But of course, education isn’t all about academics and while it would be great if my children could recite their times tables and write stories with perfect spelling, what we have achieved during our days of isolation is something much more important…
Back to Maria Montessori’s words of wisdom… The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, ’The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ Does this ring any lockdown bells for your home at the moment?!
Maria’s revolutionary understanding of child development and the subsequent movement in child-led education happened over 100 years ago. The key principles were Independence, Observation, Following the Child, Correcting the Child, Prepared Environment and Absorbent Mind.
Hands up if you can think of a point in your day, week, months of isolation where:
· Your child/ren worked independently, at an activity of their choice and without your guidance, support, voice. They investigated, problem-solved and enjoyed themselves.
· You have sat with a cup of tea and enjoyed watching/observing your children play – and from that moment, you learned what their needs were.
· You followed your child to find out what they wanted or needed, then provided them with resources to further their learning (Lego, drawing…)
· You gently corrected mistakes your child/ren made and showed them how resolve them independently “Oh you’ve spilled the water, let’s get a cloth and wipe it up.”
· You have prepared the home or garden for play; with toys they love and pencils and paper within easy reach of little hands.
· Have noticed the utter beauty of your child’s absorbent mind learning through play with not a flash card in sight!
No doubt, these have made up a huge part of your child’s day. Play, play, play, discovery, independence and investigation of what interests them.
I think we are all guilty of comparing ourselves to the next mum or dad. My body prickles with anxiety when I hear of the sheer volume of home education happening in some homes! Is their child going to be streets ahead of mine when they get back to school?! The reality is that children - of all ages - need to play, hey – we never cease to need play – even as adults!
What we must remember is that we all have a unique, completely different set of circumstances. We are negotiating home-schooling while holding down jobs, running a household, and often with many other responsibilities. Our time is stretched, and we are doing the best with what we’ve got. Comparing ourselves and our children to others might make us feel better but will probably make us feel worse.
If your child has played today then well done, Maria Montessori would be patting you on the back!