In all honesty, it was one of the first things I learned when taking my Montessori teaching courses: follow the child, follow the child, follow the child. It's drilled into our brains. For the most part, I did a good job observing and following the needs of my students. As an administrator, I did even better, helping teachers have a third-party perspective on how to guide the child. As a mommy... let's just say, I am back to the introduction mode. You see, when you learn how to observe a child and take scientific notes, one of the easiest things to do is create a triangle to represent the child's level of mastery. One line of the triangle represents that a concept or lesson has just been introduced to the child. Two connecting lines represent that the child is independently practicing the concept. A completed triangle equals mastery! My one, lonely line of the triangle right now tells me I have so much more to understand and practice before moving towards the mastery, which I will NEVER reach-none of us will with our own children.
The problem we face as adults, and especially parents, is that we view children through our lens. We think that, because we have traveled a certain path with the experiences we have acquired, children close to us should experience the same things and avoid our mistakes. We have good intentions, but we are dead wrong! A child's wholeness should not be a reflection of who we are-as I type this, I reread it to sink into my soul! I'll say it again: A child's wholeness should not be a reflection of who we are. Children are not empty vessels waiting to be filled as so many traditional educators and adults believe. Don't get me wrong, we have an obligation to model and teach them essential skills BUT under the premise that the child is unlike you or anyone else. I recently started to homeschool my 3 year old-trust me, the choice to do this was out of my control. The night before we started "school," I gathered all kinds of materials for things I knew he was capable of doing. I spent more than $200 on Montessori math and language materials that I couldn't wait to give him. As I Montessori-ized the playroom, his eyes grew huge in excitement. He couldn't wait to start his lessons. For two days, I modeled how to use the works. He was so attentive and repeated everything to a T. But, the nostalgia wore off. By the end of the week, I was pulling teeth, trying to get him to do a few minutes of "school." So, I went on Amazon (how I hate to love you) to purchase more items. Surely, he just needed more variety of things. I know he needed to develop certain skills: identifying and counting to 1000 using the decimal system, mastering his letter sounds with the sandpaper letters, tracing lines and working on his pencil grip. He wouldn't go back to these works. Why!?!
We see amazing potential in children, don't we? When the child is our own, this is amplified. I know my son is well on his way to reading and may even do it before his 4th birthday. He loves to color his own creations while gripping his instrument incorrectly with a whole fist. As I try to correct him and introduce him to concepts that will push him, I completely ignore what is right in front of me: a content and thriving 3 year old who wants to explore his world and be creative. After watching my, I mean his, beautiful new materials collect dust on the shelves, I sat back to observe what he likes. He LOVES dinosaurs, water pouring, using eye droppers, building with LEGOS, and coloring! I have had to tell myself that this is fine. My experience as a Montessorian has allowed me to support the future for his education while at home, but it must be through his lens, not mine. So, now, I have throttled back some to let him drive his learning. Instead of filling his shelves with challenging work, I have started to keep it stocked with a variety of things he enjoys: coloring, cutting, and gluing materials; 3 different water works; scooping work; and one challenging math and language work that we do together. I do not know how long we will do homeschool-again, I believe it is not optimal for a child his age who has been in school since he was a baby. I will, however, make the best out of this experience, following the beat of his drum rather than my own. Maybe by the end of this, I will be able to have two lines for my triangle instead of one.