Thursday, December 6, 2012

Follow the Child

A topic that deserves attention again and again as we journey with the child through life.

What does it mean to follow the child?

Those who do not fully understand Montessori or who are just being introduced to it, think that it means that we only do what the child wants to do. That if he wants to explore what happens when he climbs onto the roof and jumps off, that is what we do.

And if a child never wants to touch a lick of math, we don't do any math at all.

But that's not it.

We follow the child - not willy-nilly - but according to his actual inner needs. We then provide the keys of the fulfillment of those needs.

Every human being has the same needs and tendencies, but personalities and circumstances will shape how those needs are expressed.

Within the Montessori environments, particular to each plane of development, we provide various keys. We also provide the children with freedom and responsibility - freedom to make choices within an environment we have set for them; along with responsibility to make a choice (or lose the freedom to make a choice and have to be told what to do - something that yes we do in Montessori when absolutely necessary to the development of normalization within the child). Freedom to work as long as he likes and with as big of a work as he likes - with the responsibility to maintain the freedom of others in the environment.
"My freedom ends where your freedom begins."

We adults set the environment in such a way that the child chooses between various good things; if and when a choice for something deviant (start of bad habits, disrespect, and the like), we immediately step in. Following the child does not mean we follow the child down a path towards poor choices. We follow the child so that we see potential stumbling blocks and provide the child the keys to overcoming them. In some cases, that is physically moving the child; in some cases, that is immediately cutting in to what is happening with an instruction put the material away appropriately and come for a new presentation - immediately; in some cases, that is a conversation with the child at an age appropriate level; in some cases, that is changing up the environment so that the child gains success and self-control.

Sometimes, it is simply stopping all presentations and just loving the child.

When we follow the child, the child reveals so much to us - the wonder of the world around us, new connections we didn't see before or have forgotten from our childhood's. Every time we work with a child in humility and respect, we become a better person - a better parent, a better teacher. Better - greater than we were before. And more humble.

So, our responses are varied. But our goal remains constant: to provide the keys towards the fullest possible spiritual development of the child in our care. We follow the child to serve as a guide - and so the child can be our guide as well.

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