Montessori Baby

The author, trained as a Montessori primary teacher (AMI), documents and analyzes her efforts to raise a "Montessori" baby.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Educate for Peace

It has been a while since I've done a really theory-driven post, so I pulled Education and Peace off the shelf today in search of inspiration. Given the times in which we live, it was not difficult find topical ideas. This one struck me especially:

"Education as it is commonly regarded encourages individuals to go their own way and pursue their own personal interests. Schoolchildren are taught not to help one another, not to prompt their classmates who don't know the answers, but to concern themselves only with getting promoted at the end of the year and to win prizes in competition with fellow pupils. And these poor, selfish little creatures, who experimental pedagogy has proved are mentally exhausted, find themselves in later life like separate grains of sand in the desert; each one isolated from his neighbour, and all of them barren."

In this and other lectures, Montessori goes on to talk about the need for education that examines societal structures and the technology that rules our lives. She argues for an education steeped in the "science of peace" - a proactive, practical approach to unearthing the charitable and kind in each individual and of equipping him to serve humanity, not a particular country and not solely his own interests.

Even though my blog space is virtually unlimited, it would take a great deal of time (and review!) to summarize her approach at each stage. Instead, I will simply point out the sadness I feel in seeing how little has changes since she made these speeches. When I examine current educational policies, I see a system designed to create competitors and to leave the failing behind. The continued emphasis on testing isolates the individual and purports to tell him his worth relative to his peers. Even many parenting books emphasize an atmosphere of conformity and control rather than cooperation and mutual respect.

As a parent and educator, I would like to see our society move toward an education for peace. Where do we even begin? Just as Montessori said, I feel a bit lost in the structures we've created for ourselves. I imagine that, as they do in Montessori classrooms, we begin with the world in mind - as we raise our children, pursue our careers, make choices in our daily lives, and participate in our communities...

Perhaps this world focus can become an ongoing part of my reflections here. Where does it make itself felt in Montessori parenting? I guess we shall see...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


After weeks of hard work, Alex is now mobile. This was a huge milestone for the both of us. Clearly, Alex loves his newfound freedom. At the same time, I am seeing now just how well Montessori philosophy and, in particular, its ideas regarding the setup of the environment, support self-actualization.

Alex's ability to move means that he can seek out objects, noises, or areas that interest him. One of his first missions was to crawl over to and scrape at a red sticker attached to a piece of equipment in the living room. He also grinned once he managed to get himself underneath one of the dining room chairs. Crawling also allows him to access his favorite piece of the wooden train set on his shelf - the smokestack. In short, it has made very plain the fact that Alex already has strong preferences.

Having been skeptics of the Montessori bed initially, my husband and I were particularly interested to see how it would work for our family once Alex was crawling. This morning, he called me out of bed at 6 am to come look at Alex. When I rounded the corner of the hallway, there he was sitting at the gate to his room.

In that moment, I loved the bed. He had wanted to get up and come find us and had been able to do a part of that work himself. The low bed, then, has two purposes in my mind: it helps Alex to better communicate with us (as when he rolls out when he is not ready to go to sleep) and allows him to do the work of getting up himself. I'm still waiting for the day when he communicates his readiness to sleep by crawling on to the bed; perhaps that's a little much to hope for!

I can see already that this is by no means the end. Rather than rest on his laurels, Alex is already working to stand. It will be exciting to see what new parts of his selfhood emerge when that victory is accomplished!