One of the critical principles of Montessori philosophy on which we have built Adobe Montessori, and one of the most important to the success and development of our children, is that of Child Initiative. By this, we mean that it is essential that children learn to act for themselves. They need to learn to look at situations, decide between options, and make choices. Adults do this constantly, both in making big decisions, and in the day-to-day functioning of life.
Preschool, as it is often structured, heavily relies on the teacher specifically directing the activities on which the students will work. The adult makes all the decisions beforehand, and inadvertently removes the opportunity to make choices from their young students. Even if they do the work well, they don’t choose to do the work. Montessori teachings anchor heavily on the fact that teachers teach students…to learn. Learning is an inherent, intrinsic process found within every person; good teaching involves tapping into that already existing phenomenon.
In a Montessori setting, teachers plan and arrange activities for their children, allowing them to choose which “work” they would like to explore. All of the choices are designed to aid the child in learning new skills, or perfecting ones previously learned. If the child has difficulty making a choice, then the teacher guides the child through their young decision-making process, thereby empowering the child and assisting them in their pursuit of learning. Also, teachers give creative individual or small group lessons in language, math, practical life, geography, science, etc. to broaden their students’ experiences, again giving the child more opportunities to become independent and take the initiative in their exploration of the world. By learning these skills, they are initiating their own learning, something that is essential in developing their transition into successful and happy adults. A quote from Maria Montessori explains this concept:
“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” The Absorbent Mind, by Maria Montessori, translated by Claude A. Claremont