The Classroom, Reimagined: Peaceful Independence, not Quiet Submission
Envision a preschool classroom in which children are quietly and peacefully choosing their work, focused on completing it, and then returning it, without directions from teachers, to the place it belongs on the shelf.
Such independence for children coincides with their feelings of peace. We all want peace for our children. How do we foster peace in our children?
To help our children develop peace, we must first model it so they know what it looks like and sounds like. Next, it is important that we support our children in such a way as to help fashion their most complete and holistic development, including their very character. At Hillsboro’s Children’s House (ages 2.5-6) we support peaceful independence by nurturing these six curricular areas:
- Grace and Courtesy
- Care of the Environment
- Care of Self
- Control of Movement
As parents we, too, can create such environments at home and during play dates.
Grace and courtesy, fosters positive interactions with others. Young children need to be taught how to learn peacefully and respectfully, educating more than cognitive aspects. We want children to grow spiritually and understand how to treat others with dignity. If your child hurts someone, instead of making her say she is sorry, ask her if she notices how her friend is feeling, does she see in his face that he is sad? Hurt? What can she do to help him feel better? Teach your child how to respond by engaging her in the process.
The second area, preliminaries, provides a means by which children can succeed and have ownership. By specifically teaching your child how to hold objects and complete tasks, you provide order and groundwork for discipline because expectations are clear, concise, and consistent. Consistency in expectations gives children the boundaries they need to then be successful and peaceful as they busy themselves with their tasks.
Fundamentals form the third main curricular area. Some of the activities involved in this area include pouring, sorting, and spooning, which help children gain control of the world around them even as they participate in real and meaningful activities. Another example in this area would be simply scooping hands into stones, an activity in which Hillsboro students are allowed to investigate and get lost in the sensation. Yes, allow your child to get lost in feeling water, dirt, etc. Young children love repetition!
The fourth main curricular area is care of environment. Children at this age take great pleasure in seeing results of a task well done, developing an understanding of humanity’s role in taking care of nature and our world. Montessori advocated the need for children to imitate the behaviors they witnessed adults completing at home. As your child sees you enjoy cleaning, they, too, will find peace and satisfaction from being able to make the environment beautiful.
Care of self is the fifth area, and as children learn to take care of their needs they develop independence, success, and a positive self-concept. The more they can do, the better they feel. This means providing an environment in which they can reach things and put things away without help from an adult. Teach them that everything has a place. After you use something, put it back in its place and you will know where it is the next time you want to get it. Not wondering where things are leads to peace. They have certainty in their world.
Finally, control of movement is the sixth curricular area that brings peace to the child and community. We teach children to learn to take control of their movements because
as Maria Montessori noted,
“A child’s character remains rudimentary unless he finds opportunities for applying his powers of movement to his surroundings. Children who have been able to work with their hands make headway in their development, and reach a strength of character which is conspicuous.”
While each of these six areas fosters important developmental aims such as coordination, concentration, independence, and order, the more important take-away lesson is that by creating opportunities for your child to develop curiosity, compassion, and control, you enable them to experience peace each day. We find, and I hope you will, too, that children find the exercise of their free will in a quiet, familiar environment to be peaceful.
Quote Source: Dr. Montessori, Education and Peace, p. 72-74