“Imagine it is 20 years from now and your child is coming home for Sunday dinner. What are the qualities you wish to see in your adult child walking through your front door?” I let them brainstorm for a few minutes and then we collectively come together and write our responses paper for everyone to see. Generally, the qualities identified look something like this:
Independence is a skill. Like learning how to swim or ride a bike, it is not something that comes naturally or develops overnight. What it looks like and what it means to be independent needs to be modeled and practiced repeatedly, until it is mastered. Parents (and teachers) who wish to smooth the way and all obstacles may also be removing the precious experiences which help children grow.
Montessori Elementary: Developing Independence, Movement, and Motor SkillsChildren who have been in the Montessori preschool spend three years preparing to be independent. As they enter the Montessori lower elementary environment, they are once again explorers, embarking on a new stage of development. They ask serious and important questions: Who am I? What am I? Where did I come from? Who and what came before me? While seeking these connections, they journey closer and closer to independence.
Like the Montessori preschool environment from whence they came, students are free to move and explore in the Montessori elementary environment. Through movement, children explore their world. They touch it, they move and manipulate it, they go outside and out into the world to examine the natural beauty around them.
The materials in the Montessori elementary environment are spread throughout the room in a logical and orderly manner. Journals are in cubbies, materials are on shelves, pencils are in a pencil holder by the pencil sharpener and work mats are in a basket by the library. Important social connections are made – Montessori lessons are now given in small groups and students enjoy working with one or two classmates. Montessori students in this stage of development are learning how to establish community and the Montessori environment gives them freedom to explore this in a safe, supportive manner. Children learn to discuss ideas and listen to others without judgment. The Montessori elementary learning materials offer the reality, concretely demonstrating learning concepts, encouraging and enabling Montessori students to explore with their imaginations, creativity and authentic interest.
Freedom and movement go hand-in-hand in the Montessori environment. Becoming independent and capable means being free to explore and develop. Independence and well-being do not come from sitting at a desk for long hours and memorizing facts. These are achieved by exploring, experiencing and creating your personal working relationship with others and with the world.
See our other related blogs in this series:
- Montessori Musings: Development of Movement in Children
- Movement in the Montessori Infant/Toddler Environment
- Independence and Movement: Montessori Preschool
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, April 8, 2010.