When I first read about the Montessori method, I was a young teenager, still in high school, and still very close to my own experience of grade school. Through my reading, I at once became very disillusioned with the schooling that I was experiencing, and very motivated.

Montessori’s work had described for me WHY I wasn’t motivated by my school experience, and had also brought my own inner desire to learn to my consciousness. I was indignant, angry even, at the schooling I had experienced so far. I felt as if I had lost a part of myself. It was as if I was being coerced to do something that I might have done on my own. I remember feeling strongly that I COULD be trusted with my own learning, but that I was not trusted by the schooling system I was engaged in. I became very driven to pursue my own interests, follow my heart, and intentionally explore life in a way that felt new to me. It was, simply, a reconnection with my heart, a reminder of something it seemed I’d been encouraged to forget.
Our cultural bias is towards the idea that children (people?) will only learn if they are made to do so. But, our babies learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, feed themselves, talk, and run, with very little adult intervention. At some point, we make the assumption that THIS new skill, THIS kind of learning, is different, and that the child won’t do it without coercion, rewards, punishments, direct instruction, and assigned work. As a result, we get adults who don’t know how to follow their interests, who are disillusioned, focused on money, security, or promotion, in careers they don’t even like. A Gallup survey from 2011 showed that 71% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work.

Our misunderstanding of the child’s natural motivation skews our perspective, and our mistrust in the child’s inner desire to learn, grow, explore, and expand, clouds our adult vision. This is especially the case if we, ourselves, have become disillusioned by our own work, or by our culture, or by human nature.

What if, instead, with our attitude and with a sparkle in our eye, we set the child free to explore, to follow his or her heart? What if we told the stories of human discovery, built on the child’s interests, and searched for ways to support the child’s natural pursuit of knowledge, skill, and understanding? What if we truly, deeply, thoughtfully, answered our children’s questions, and shared our own questions, with them?  

What if we, with our stories, by sharing our own curiousities, and with great gentleness and respect for the child’s own direction, brought each child to the edge of human knowledge – that place where human beings still have questions, still propose theories, still debate, research, explore, and wonder?

What if we got out of the child’s way and LET them learn, rather than trying to MAKE them learn?  

What if we believed in the human desire to contribute, to build, to solve problems, and to make oneself useful to others? What if we confidently believed that if we shared our human story and what is yet to be done, if we coloured the story with hopefulness, and if we empowered our children to question and to act, that each child would rise up to the potential of our species?   
What if we trusted the child?
Your child may be attending a Montessori school, homeschooling, or attending some other kind of school. We know that PARENTS’ attitudes toward learning and education have the most powerful effect on a child’s experience of school and learning. Regardless of the schooling that you have chosen for your child YOUR perspective, matters – profoundly – to your child. Your ability to create a framework IN WHICH the child’s “formal” (or not-so-formal:) ) education occurs is absolutely key.
In today’s world, children are prone to disillusionment, distraction, and lack of motivation. What you do, HOW you share your perspective with them, is powerful stuff. I hope this newsletter has given you some key areas to consider, and some key messages for you to share!
Montessori’s work with newborns through teenagers will show you HOW to demonstrate your trust in your child’s innate desire to learn, and how to support your child’s (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual) needs as they change. My upcoming course, The Happiness of the Child: Montessori Information Series will walk you through some specific aspects of Montessori’s philosophy and methodology that will encourage, empower, and inspire you.  You can register or find out more here.