Parents often talk about Montessori children having a sparkle in their eye or a spring in their step that most students don’t have. At our school, parents wonder at how their children love school at Fulton, compared to their friends at other schools or to their old school. There are many reasons for this, but two keys are the relevancy of curriculum and the autonomy of the student.
As part of a Montessorian’s call to follow the child (see Part II), we need to tailor the material to speak to them. This does not mean that third grade boys should only study Legos and four-year-old girls must study princesses. A true educator knows that you can get kids excited about almost any subject if you approach it appropriately.
We do need to be ready to help children understand why they’re learning. When we teach a preschooler to zip, she is immensely rewarded by helping all the younger kids who cannot yet zip get zipped up for recess. She is even more excited to go learn the next thing. This can get more difficult as the material gets more abstract, but it must remain a priority. However, if we are following the child and the material is developmentally appropriate, the relevancy will be much easier to convey.
Secondly, kids love to learn when there is a little bit of choice. Can they do their grammar before their reading comprehension? Is there some give in the schedule when the group gets particularly excited about Egypt? Can they move on after page 65 or do they have to wait on the rest of the group? Can they choose a timeline OR a skit?
99% of us would be completely deflated if our professional lives were devoid of any relevancy or autonomy, so how dare we treat our children with less respect? We can and do, and most children comply, or at least try, but they will not have the sparkle or the bounce that they could have. They will be surviving instead of thriving.