The environment is nurture; the child in his raw form is nature.
Outside my bedroom windows, along the back property line where my neighbor’s yard begins, I can see the four cherry laurel trees we planted a few years ago. Three of them are flourishing – getting tall and treelike – while the fourth is not doing so well. It is not as tall as the others and is skimpy in canopy. It’s not its fault. When we planted these trees we were not terribly discerning about the location. The gardener helping us said that the laurels should do well whether in sun or shade. So we planted them in an offset row across the back of our yard to serve as screening. We hadn’t taken into account the future growth of all the surrounding trees that now cast that part of the yard into deep shade, where the fourth laurel lives.
The trees came with ‘instructions’ – hidden potential with everything needed to become cherry laurels we could one day count on to screen the back of our property. But the environment in which they grow varied enough that one of four has not lived up to its potential of tree shading. Continue reading →
The Guide walks about the room, slowly and with calm focus so that she will not distract or disturb the children in their work. She repeats this routine a few times a day, deliberately choosing a different route each time, in order to make herself available to the child that might need some scaffolding in reaching the next level in an activity or to inform herself of the work being done. The Guide is careful to observe indirectly so that no one feels monitored or intruded upon – she has developed a deep respect for the child’s concentration and work. She also recognizes that the children themselves take cues from her on how they show respect for the concentrated work of others, or not. She makes mental notes of the children’s needs for fresh lessons with points of interest, of readiness for the next step in a work or a new work.
Occasionally, she finds a child using a material in a manner not reflecting the aim of the lesson presented on that material and she makes note to herself to continue observing this child and his work from a distance. She means to ascertain if it is exploration that will benefit him in reaching the essence of the material, or if the child stands in need of a new, clarifying lesson with the material or perhaps even disruption of the present work and a return of the material to the shelf.
When she observes misuse of the material that calls for gentle but firm intervention, a calling to the child to engage with the material in a safe, respectful and knowledgeable manner, she does not hesitate to intervene in these instances. Her long years of experience in guiding a Children’s House have strengthened both her instincts for appropriate action and her instinct to wait and observe a bit longer. She recalls the early years when this instinct and skill that must accompany it was not so keenly developed and she was sometimes confused on which, if any, action to take. Luckily, she recalled from her readings in Montessori books that encourage a ‘wait and see’ approach. She recognizes that the adult is often the biggest obstacle to a child’s ability to concentrate. Continue reading →