As we begin the New Year we are reorienting to our environment, to each other, and to the task at hand, which is to work and learn. The Montessori philosophy and environment supports the children in the cultivation of a strong love for learning. Through the practice of working in 3-year cycles, the children are afforded the time and space to investigate their passions and practice the skills that support their success in the world.
As we observe the children engage with their interests we look for opportunities to deepen their knowledge, strengthen their skills, and mature their social intelligence. As the adults, it is our task to 'guide from behind'. Our task is not to impart information into the child's mind, but rather to introduce concepts, and inspire the desire to investigate. This learning process allows for the children to experience for themselves what is true in the world. And while we offer the children this freedom to explore and follow their interests, we also follow along and provide boundaries and expectations of responsibility.
We provide these external expectations to the children so that they have the opportunity to, overtime, internalize the balance between freedom and responsibility that we all must develop in order to become contributing members of our society. This balance is promoted through out all aspects of the Montessori classroom; we discuss what is a reasonable amount of time for a project deadline, how many long division problems could be done within a work cycle, or the many variable ways for children to balance their work between personal interests and skills that must be practiced.
The most profound aspect of the developing balance between freedom and responsibility in the Montessori classroom is the work of the children's social intelligence. The children in the second plane are discovering how to balance the needs of the self with the needs of the group. This work supports the children's development of many characteristics that we value as human beings and that support our sense of belonging; empathy, compassion, perseverance, the critical thinking that is needed for problem solving. This is one of the major tasks of the second plane child; to to find his or her place within in the world and to recognize that we all have a voice for change and value to contribute to the community. This is a beautiful journey to embark on with the children, and I am grateful everyday for the opportunity to share it with them.