Thursday, 7 September 2017

Simplifying Montessori: The Value of Concentration

Before I start this post I wanted to precursor it with something else I thought was important to note. Do you ever read my blog, or any other Montessori blogs, and think, well, of course, this works for their kids, they are obviously more naturally inclined to concentration, are less energetic than mine, are better listeners - or anything else along these lines?

First of all, I would say, head here to read about Jerome's violent behaviour and here to read about one of the phases he has had (violence has definitely been one of the most reoccurring issues we have had to deal with). While we are always working toward certain things like returning works to shelves and toys to proper baskets when he is finished, sitting at the table during meal times and not wandering around, and using manners, he is far from mastering any of these, and we have our difficult days.  I am well aware that our family is a fairly typical one, working on communication, patience, and cooperation.

With that being said, Maria Montessori truly believed her method was beneficial for every child, not just those especially predisposed to obedience and focused work. In fact, her first Children's Houses were in the poorest of neighbourhoods and the children who first came to her were from the roughest of families, and from these children, she saw the first breakthroughs in her method and study.

Maria Montessori believed - and supported by years of study and observation, that all defects in children were caused by "insufficient nourishment of the life of the mind." She noticed, quite remarkably, that once children became accustomed to the Children's House, surro
unded by interesting work with freedom to choose and repeat exercises if desired, and once these children could become immersed in concentration during this work, their defects unanimously disappeared.

She avowed that "the first essential for the child's development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behaviour. He must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon." {The Absorbent Mind, pg 222}

This type of claim may seem fantastical, and maybe raises all kinds of questions, (as a regular parent, how are we supposed to provide this environment for our children, how are we to deal with defects in the meantime, how are we to form this consequential skill of concentration in our energetic children, etc.) but I love this foundational simplicity of Montessori.

I truly believe Montessori to be beneficial for our family, and for any family that devotes itself to this method, but I also completely understand how overwhelming it can seem. There are so many terms to understand - prepared environment, normalization, care of environment, absorbent mind, pink tower, moveable alphabet, to name just a few terms which will likely come up as you begin reading about Montessori, but I believe this understanding will come, just as it is slowly coming for me.

As far as I understand, at its basis, Montessori is so very simple. Every young child is its own teacher, they respond to natural laws within themselves which are working to form their character and necessary abilities. It is our job as parents, our children's first teachers, to provide our children with an environment rich in motives that will encourage concentration, and these motives will be best understood by us, as our children's most intimate assistants, if we are careful to observe and to prepare our environment with our children's specific interests in mind. 

Practically in our own home, I see immense improvements, even day to day, when the boys are given opportunities to immerse themselves in work, as compared to days when they are not. In fact, I have come to find that on Jerome's most difficult days, if I make a special effort to entice him to some work which I know will interest him, a puzzle, a game, a craft, a beloved book, or a like activity, his entire demeanour will shift.

{Some notes on the game pictured: I find this game to be phenomenal for Jerome's stage in development. It provides rich opportunities for muscle control,  learning about waiting his turn, counting, especially past ten, consequences, comparing less and more, among many other things.  We purchased ours second hand but you can find it online here.}

I am well aware that I have much to learn, even about this aspect of Montessori in particular, but I hope my limited understanding of the importance of concentration, and how I see its effects on my children, will give you hope and make Montessori just a little bit more approachable. I will write more in depth about the ways I have encouraged concentration in my children, and how I attempt to prepare our environment, but I will save that for another day.

Thank you so much for reading! For more posts in my simplifying Montessori series: Practical Life | Following The Child | The Work Cycle | Obedience and Self-Discipline

If you have any questions about Montessori or our family, please feel free to contact me either through the blog, Instagram, or Bloglovin'. I will do my best to answer your questions, or will point you in the direction of another Montessorian I know will be able to assist you.

Have a great day,

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