In reflecting upon the busy month of November, I realized that in addition to my favorite family holiday, my two favorite Inly Parent Insight events were held last month as well; Montessori in the Home, and Going the Distance at Inly. These events reconnect me to the promise, practice and inspiring outcomes of Montessori education, and remind me what it means to be a Montessori educator and parent.
During our Montessori in the Home event, Children’s House Program Director Lauren Vitali and I had the pleasure of speaking with parents about the Montessori tenets that guide our practice in the classroom and offered suggestions as to how these could be applied at home. Chief among these is Montessori’s belief that we should never do for a child what she can do for herself – a simple idea on its face, but one that requires thoughtful preparation and a great deal of commitment to achieve. We spoke about the prepared environment, establishing order in the home, the importance of engaging children in chores to allow them to be helpful, the need for our children to develop concentration, to introduce them to nature, to encourage self discovery, and to use positive discipline that establishes clear and necessary limits without relying on harsh punishment or rewards to manipulate behavior. These are all big ideas that we, as educators, speak about each day and practice in the classroom. It is always a benefit when parents and teachers can come together to learn from and support each other in the education and development of the children.
For copies of the material that was distributed at this event, please click on the following links:
What Maria Montessori pioneered over a century ago was revolutionary at the time, but is gaining popularity today. In the recently published book How Children Succeed, author Paul Tough speaks about “grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character.” As summarized in the book’s jacket, “The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.” In Montessori’s words a century ago, “Here, then, is the fundamental problem of education: until now the education of character has been neglected.”
I couldn’t help but reflect on this as I listened to our alumni parents and students speak at the Going the Distance at Inly event last week. Certainly many of the students present that evening had scored in the highest bracket on tests and attend (or attended) the most academically competitive schools in the northeast. But that was secondary to their true achievements. What was remarkable to me was the depth of character and sense of self that each of these students exhibited. As I listened to each speak about how they had transitioned to secondary school, or college, or career, I marveled at the confidence that each had to advocate for his or her academic and emotional needs, to take risks, and to face the world as a fully forming and morally grounded individual. These Inly graduates, as young as 14 and as old as 25, came back to speak about how they had been respected, challenged, and nurtured as community members at Inly – from 18 months to 8th grade – and how that investment in their character had done more to prepare them for life than anything else could have.
In “To Educate the Human Potential,” Montessori made the claim that “the average boy or girl of twelve who has been educated till then at one of our schools, knows at least as much as the High School product of several years’ seniority and the achievement has been at no cost of pain or distortion to body or mind. Rather are our pupils equipped in the whole being for the adventure of life, accustomed to the free exercise of will and judgment, illuminated by imagination and enthusiasm.” Surely this could be said of each of those Inly graduates who so generously gave of their time to be with us last week.
– Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School