I had been intrigued by the “Montessori ways” for several years. Well, since I was taking coursework in the area of early childhood education in the late 90’s to be exact. As I learned more about Maria Montessori; her progressive take on how to educate children and her observational basis for why, I knew that one day it would be a part of what I sought out for the children I hoped to have.
Fast forward 15 years…
Before our family joined the HMS Community, I had toured a couple other schools (and had a sneaking suspicion the best would be the last). Today was the day I would be moving from room to room at Harbor Montessori soaking up all that I could in order to make the best educational choice for our first daughter, Wren, who was approaching age three. It was mid-morning and I had been sitting in a corner, moving with a steady cadence in a comfy rocker, trying to be part of the environment so as not to disrupt any little thing, nor any little person. I watched as children age one and half to three were busily engaged in their “work”. While I knew Wren would be started in the primary program, ages three through six, I was completely taken by what I am about to describe.
Snack time was about to begin for the littles in the Birch Room. Sliced apples and crackers had been poured into bowls. Tongs were awaiting the little hands that would attempt to best manipulate them and experience the victory of food meeting little plate. I began to see the magic of Montessori at work. The practice on the part of both student and teacher is patient, kind, intentional, and very gritty. There is a silent promise made between the two for the sake of realizing what is possible through the minds and in the hands of each child. Girls and boys were taking their tiny wooden seats around four different tables. Bowls were passed from two surprisingly capable toddler hands to the next in a family style kind of serving fashion. The teachers were there as on-lookers for the most part; offering encouraging words and a little support if needed. As I was watching all of this unfold my attention was drawn to a toddler who I will call Tommy. He was 18, maybe 20 months, pretty new to the group and absolutely precious. It was his turn to serve himself a glass of water. Through Montessori a lot is translated with materials. Children use glassware. This inherently conveys trust and there was a lot of it whirling around this space that safely beckons children to always try. Anyway, I digress, Tommy… He was encouraged to take a small glass pitcher which the teacher had filled with just the right amount of water from a larger stainless pitcher. Tommy picked up the pitcher grasping the small handle and placing his other tiny hand at the base just below the spout. He aimed for the glass and as all three teachers watched, he poured. It became clear to me during that moment and the next that I wanted my daughter to be at HMS experiencing what her own little hands could do. You see, Tommy managed to fill up his water glass and upon finishing, smiled. He looked at no one for a nod or smile. He celebrated within himself for his own success. As he realized his accomplishment, so did his three teachers. They exchanged a look, one to the next, and rewarded the moment with a knowing little smile. They celebrated together for Tommy, quietly, so that he could learn to do that too, for himself.
I often find myself thinking about who I would have been if I had a beginning like Tommy’s, or the one we’ve chosen to give both of our daughters, Wren (4) and Willow (2). I mentioned earlier in this post that I had studied education and did, in fact, become a teacher in the public school system. While I believe a wonderful education can be achieved in a more conventional setting, I also believe that it is equally important to understand how that education is achieved. As I see more of the Montessori ways taking root in my children I liken it to this; Montessori invites the child to show us who he/she is. Montessori encourages children to create their own box, if you will; whereas, many educational approaches show the student the box and then set about implementing ways to get them to climb in. I want my children to show me who they are based on their own discovery in one of the safest, most loving places I could dream up. Our family is just smitten with HMS and I am forever grateful for the morning I spent watching the magic of Montessori being revealed so beautifully.
If, like me, you believe Harbor Montessori is a wonderful place for your children please take a minute to let others know. Here are a few places you can do just that —
A wise and wonderful friend once told me that “the closest path between two people is through their stories.”
Thank you for reading mine.
A very grateful parent of two very happy girls,