I love the thoughts Sara shares here about trusting our children and helping them grow into capable, confident adults. Even though my kids are still small, I'm always thinking about the homeschooling years ahead and contemplating how best to encourage their learning and growth. I've always been impressed with the sorts of kids that emerge from Montessori programs (and isn't that the best indicator of the success of a teaching model?) and plan on incorporating some of the ideas in our own home.
I teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at a public Montessori school in Houston. I am a Montessori teacher because I believe that if we change the way we educate children, we can change the world. I experienced one of my most memorable teaching moments of all time: I stood back while my third graders planned and executed their very own field trip.
First, they collected and developed ideas (just like we do in writing and research!) about where they wanted to go. They brainstormed lots of ideas, including going back to the Houston Arboretum or the zoo, to our pen pals' school across town, to Rice University, downtown Houston to see the "highest" and "lowest," etc. They ended up picking the latter option, and they set out to plan the entire trip. For example, they had to figured out how to get from our school to their first destination on the city bus. They also had to create an itinerary for the day, decide how much money to bring, debate between a picnic or a restaurant lunch, keep an ongoing "To Bring" list, and call the bus company to confirm the schedule.During the field trip, they had to use a compass and a map to navigate the streets of downtown Houston, pay cashiers, ask security guards for directions, hold doors for people, and solve issues that came up along the way.
It was no small feat--for them or me. I had to stand back and let them take charge, even though it inevitably meant that the process was slower, less efficient, and more riddled with error. But it was in the slowness, the inefficiency, and the errors that the real learning took place. That's when the children really activated their critical thinking, made predictions, tested out ideas, demonstrated persistence, and collaborated with each other.
We missed the first bus, headed the wrong direction on McKinney street, and couldn't find the Smoothie King for our afternoon snack. But they had more fun on a field trip than they have ever had before. Because they planned it. Because they got their hands dirty in the creation and execution processes.
As teachers and parents in a fast-paced, drive-through society obsessed with the product at the expense of the process, it is so easy to do everything for children. It's faster. It's cleaner. It's more efficient. We've got things to do and places to go.
But, as Maria Montessori said so long ago, our children need to do for themselves. That's how they learn. That's also how they build true self-esteem-- the kind of self-esteem that stays rooted in storms, not the kind of "Oh, you're so smart/pretty/amazing!" self-esteem that blows over as soon as someone expresses a contradictory opinion of them.
It's challenging, but it's possible. It takes time, mindfulness, and a commitment to truly cultivate independence in our children. But it can be done. It has to be done.