Most of our society thinks of children as impulsive and chaotic beings. Dr. Maria Montessori found, however, that even the youngest children display a need for and a sense of order in their environment. The infant needs the constancy of his mother’s and father’s faces; the toddler must have his “blankee” and favorite stuffed animals to go to sleep. The room in which the young child spends most of his time must remain constant in the location of his bed, toys, chair, etc. because his environment is, to him, “like the sea to the fish and the air to the birds”, said Dr. Montessori.
Even young children will see items out-of-place and put them back. This is his divine drive for constancy, as part of his construction, and we must recognize it and allow it to be expressed. A parent once asked one of our teachers, “Why does my son take the front door mat to his room and put his toys on it?” Of course we know the answer: The child loves an orderly environment and has learned how satisfying it is to have a safe place to “work.” Adults do not realize how young children thrive on the same environment, and things always in their place. As Dr. Montessori mentioned, during the period of active construction of his psyche, “the child often feels the deepest impulse to bring order into what, according to his logic, is in a state of confusion” (1995).
One year I allowed about twenty teachers in training to visit one of our large classrooms for a short while, maybe thirty minutes. The adults came in while the children were working, and the new teachers took off their shoes and put them by the double doors. Then they found places around the room to sit and watch. Not too long afterwards, we all looked over and saw two children by the doorway. They observed the twenty pairs of shoes and found the matches for each one, placing them in pairs along the wall.
Although the child appears to be primarily fixed on his external world, he also possesses an internal order in his body. The internal sense of order “makes him aware of the different parts of his own body and their relative positions” (1966). He thrives on a definite schedule of eating and sleeping, playing, and learning. Without it, he becomes distracted and loses concentration.
4-8 am: Read Hebrews and prayed. Then, wrote notes for the 3-hour speech, “Global Montessori,” for sixty people who want to know the latest of Montessori around the world. Ate in the fabulous buffet mostly fruit since the eggs were cold.
9:15am: Went to Dandelion Kindergarten of Director Yu-Fan Liu, her husband, and son, Eric. Eric took his business degree in CA and was our excellent translator 2 years. He will translate again for me.
Visited a toddler classroom with 7 children and 3 teachers, none trained so they were co-intervening. The toddlers were amazing, however, in their ability to match picture to picture and replica to picture. We plan to give the training in Taiwan soon. First Jane Suchen Wang and Dr. Shu-Fang will go to Beijing this summer for the Birth-3, come back and begin training for the poor, indigenous tribes near Taitung U.
Jane got her 2 1/2 to 6 certificate in 1993, began training in Taiwan in 1994, and took her Birth-to-3 Course from MTP of WA, Kent, in 1998 (www.montessoriplus.org). She will be the teacher for the training. Dr. Shu-Fang Chen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Early Childhood Ed at National Taitung University where Jane is now completing her thesis for her Master’s Degree.
Had to climb up about 15 steps to the second floor but it was worth it because hallways overlooked the huge playground and had many plants. It was like a garden. There were 4 classrooms with 2 put together for one set of equipment and a walk removed between. I had trouble finding many 3′s but they were gone to music, I guess, just for the morning. Two years ago we were here and they only had single-age classrooms. Because I spoke to them about it, now they have mixed ages. The children were using a lot of Chinese language materials, made by Jane and her teachers. A little boy gave me Ritz cracker with jam between the two. Another boy used the knobbed cylinders by picking up the cylinder first, then just trying each socket. I asked Jane to give him a lesson, and she did, and the boy then looked up at me with a quizzical look. It was just amazing to see how dedicated the children were to their work and how well the new teachers and interns were doing. I was inspired to continue to work hard for children. One child cut an egg while the teacher bent down to watch.
Yu-Fang and Eric took us past their house about a block away, a small estate, and then onto an organic restaurant, vegetarian as well. The owners also have a cancer hospital next door and supply good food to the patients as well as to the public. Amazing! It is Catholic. God does so many things through His children.
1-3pm: I rested but couldn’t sleep.
3-5pm: Jane and I met with Dr. Fang and planned the future of Montessori in Taiwan together, e.g., using Birth-3 DVD’s, bringing students this summer to Kent, and going to the new Beijing course for Birth-3, etc. We are cooperating with Taitung U to give 2 1/2 to 6 level courses contained within the Taitung U curriculum. We plan to open a Birth-to-3 course also through Taitung U with the goal of helping young women, especially the indigenous tribal women who live near Taitung to know how to care for their young children in a Montessori way.
6-8pm: Dinner with Dr. Jane and her 12 year old son, Jane and Joanna. We talked many spiritual things, Dr. Jane’s health, and the goodness of God in our lives. They all wish that Don were with us. Jane is spending every moment with the students at the U, getting the materials ready for the bowl test. She is very tired. I am finally waking up at a normal time (5am) and am feeling energetic and ready to go.
I took many pictures at the school and will share them later.
May God bless and lead us today and give the students a peaceful heart. Sharlet.
The Montessori students take all of their Montessori courses as part of their curriculum to graduate with a degree. It is the only full Montessori program, leading to an international teaching certificate, in the country of Taiwan. Dr. Shu-Fang supervises the course in Jane’s absence in the US and says that she sees the difference in the early childhood students after they take the course: they are focused, give attention to detail, have learned how to speak with respect to the children, and have a huge enthusiasm for teaching young children.
When you visit a Montessori classroom, you will probably hear the children say, “This is my work.” This concept is a foundational principle in Montessori education. I remember a new child’s words to his mother when she can back to pick him up: “Guess what, Mom, we “work” here. We don’t “play”! But how can it be that young children work, not play, in the Montessori classroom?
The concept of work for the young child is built upon Dr. Maria Montessori’s philosophy of “self-construction.” It is the child who constructs himself, not the adult. It is the adult’s task to nurture and care for the child’s well-being in all areas of his development, but not to take the burden for it upon ourselves. As Dr. Montessori defined “work” for children, the child forms his personality and “builds himself” through his instinct and desire for work (Montessori, 1966). The child is like a beautiful plant, growing and blossoming according to his own biological plan. No one can change him into a different “plant” but yet he can wither or be scorched from lack or excess of care and attention.
In our Montessori classrooms, therefore, our children are surrounded in an environment where they satisfy their instinct of work through carefully-designed learning materials at their own pace. It is through a “purposeful play,” our children acquire skills that help them meet their intrinsic need for growth and development. For example, allowing a child to choose his own work, with as many repetitions as he wants to end the activity, enables the child to not only builds his self-confidence, but also helps him to perfect his inner life – his true desire as a human-being.
I remember hearing an experienced Montessori teacher respond to a parent’s question, “When will my child learn to read?” He said, “He will begin to read when he wants to!” This concept of self-construction is very difficult for many parents to understand because they want to do everything for the child. We must remember, “Whatever a child can do for himself, he should be able to do.” Real love is allowing the child to grow in independence and self-confidence.