“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for oneself”.
Dr. Maria Montessori
Making opportunities available to develop independence at home and at school—
Noticing what children can do for themselves can begin early on the child’s life. when we
notice and acknowledge our child’s growing abilities, they connect to the value of their
actions and choices.
From the earliest stages, children learn by the interactions they have in their environment. They activate their learning potential (cognitive skills) through sensory experiences. They need to be able to touch, taste, smell, hear and see in order to activate the brain
functions that support their ability to measure, compare, notice differences and similarities. They need to feel safe in order to explore and interact peacefully with an environment that will nurture awareness in each experience.
As caretakers, we honor our children’s need to learn through his/her senses when we appropriate gentle and balanced experiences at his/her reach. This can be designated areas
in the house, such as —
Kitchen or Family Room— easily reachable and visible items that can have some practical use of interaction.
For example, 1-2 drawers and a cabinet of real, smaller versions of tools like brooms, rags,
sponges or art and writing supplies that will allow for some participation alongside the
family. None of this is meant to be academic, but more relevant to what your child sees
you do. With some creativity, we can design small experiences for the child to be let in as
a contributing family member.
Notice changes in abilities and interests to update materials. Most importantly, keep interactions alive through conversations as you each do something close by. It is less about
using language to give direction, but rather to engage through the use of language bidirectionally (child-parent).
When we as caretakers, are quick to act and do for our children, we risk taking those opportunities away from our child and to truly know what our child is capable of. Sadly, in
some cases even the child does not get to know of his/her abilities or potential and fear
begins to accompany any encouragement toward trying and growing.
In the Montessori classroom, independence develops by nurturing the child’s strengths, sense of care (for self, the environment and others), responsibility and curiosity.
“Human dignity is derived from a sense of independence”. Dr. Maria Montessori
Careful attention is given to the prepared learning environment to offer appropriate opportunities for the child to be called to try them. The teacher observes the child to learn about his interests, tendencies, demonstrated abilities (physically, socio-emotionally, and cognitively) to determine how to approach with a lesson.
Along with the child, an activity is chosen, A lesson is offered to demonstrate the way in which the activity is treated, its purpose, its follow-through or the continuation from what was originally shown. As a lesson is chosen for an individual or small set of children, other children may observe.
What happens next is more observation on how the child or children will take it on. Will the lesson need to be shown again? That will depend on how the child goes on to interact with the activity (follow-through) or decide to put it away.
Either way, the importance of choice nurtures this relationship of trust, empowerment, and gentle awareness of natural consequences of choices made. One choice at a time, the child comes to experience the benefits or hindrance of their choice. There is little need to point out a mistake. In such environment, the mistake will reveal itself to the child. Self-esteem unscathed, the child will rectify the problem on his own or ask for help if he can-not. Such is the eventual goal in a Montessori classroom. In the child’s life, the goal is autonomy to lead to self-actualization.
Those who nurture the child in this way, whether in school or at home, can influence a life-long connection that cannot outgrow itself, for it is bound by ultimate respect for the per-son the child is to become.
Independence nurtures free will. Free will nurtures initiative. Initiative nurtures enterprise. Enterprise nurtures creativity and self-sufficiency.
How much independence?
We follow the child, widen the range of choices according to the child’s ability to under-stand the effects and consequences of his or her choices onto him or herself, others and the surrounding environment (things in it). We gauge that understanding in noticing the willingness of the child toward positive choices.
Remember the three C’s: Care of Self, Care of others. Care of environment.
Negative choices are treated as mistakes, so we offer a way toward the positive by demonstrating “how” we do that certain something, or setting up the lesson for the child to self-correct—always modeling the way forward.
“Never help a child at a task at which he feels he can succeed”. Dr. Maria Montessori