So I went on my first Montessori School “outing” and I couldn’t have been more excited to go. These are not regular field trips as you and I know them, these are brief trips with a purpose and they’re planned and organized by the children without teacher/parent assistance.
It’s Tuesday morning. My cell phone rings as I’m sitting at my office desk. The caller ID says “OakHaven”, my boys’ Montessori school, so of course the first thought that always immediately enters my head is “oh Lord, please let my boys be okay.” It’s funny though, any time the head of the school calls she immediately says, “everything’s alright” before diving into a conversation. Always appreciated.
The voice on the other end of the line is a little girl’s voice, sweet as can be, so I know at once what’s about to happen.
“Hi. Would you be able to take us to the library this week? It can be any day before Thursday. There are 3 of us going.”
I have to say… there are few things sweeter (or more difficult to procure) than a child’s voice over a phone. For some reason, to me, they usually sound younger on the phone and ALWAYS melt my heart. Of course coaxing my boys onto the phone usually requires bribes and occasional threats of violence, but even then, the few words they utter are priceless to me. So of course I’m saying yes! I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for anything. I immediately look at my wife, who I share an office with and covering my phone say, “I might miss the sales meeting today” because, let’s face it, I can’t pass this opportunity up! After a little back and forth with the boss I agree to take the children early enough to allow me to be back in time for the meeting. Sweeeeet.
At the beginning of the year any parent willing or able to drive a small group of elementary students (usually only 2-3) to a predetermined destination (grocery store, library, science center) signs up. There’s really no advance warning or notice, you just receive the call and if you can do it you do it. If not, the kids move to the next person on the list. The children are responsible for making the phone call, determining the destination, and making the other necessary arrangements. The children are responsible for every detail. The “driver’s” job is simple. Drive the students to the destination, make sure no one steals them, return them to the school in the same condition you picked them up. That’s it. So I know we’re going to the library, but I have no idea why. Not my job, that’s theirs. The little girl and I agree on a day and time for pickup. I hang up and I’m easily 10 times more excited than the kids could possibly be.
Wednesday morning, 9 am. I pick up the three kids, ages 10, 9 and 7, the youngest my little man Aiden. We head over to the public library, enter, and they’re off to the children’s section to locate the books they need. If they need assistance they have to approach a librarian and ask them for help, not me. I’m simply there as driver, nothing more. Basically I’m to be invisible to them, you know, kind of how it is at home. And this is the same if it’s the grocery store or any other destination, so as to teach them independence, problem solving, proper planning, and a multitude of other potentially unforeseen lessons. If they forget something, or don’t have enough money, or whatever else that could prevent successful completion of the task, then they’re likely to experience a bit of failure, and there’s a wonderful lesson in that too.
Too often we parents get unnecessarily involved in our young children’s lives because it’s faster for everyone, or more efficient, or cheaper, or they’re doing it wrong, etc. In doing so we rob them of experiencing their own success, or often times failure. There’s no better teacher than experience, and I so wish I had these types of experiences growing up. I honestly believe that in today’s world the Montessori method should be the standard by which every child is taught. Public school education served a purpose at one time, but that time has come to pass as evidenced in America’s 17th place ranking in education worldwide. So out of 40 developed countries that places us in right in the middle. Just average. Average doesn’t cut it anymore. There’s so much more to the Montessori School method and I plan on diving into it in future blogs to help de-mystify for some, or provide more clarity for others, what it means to be a Montessori student… and parent.
And in case you were wondering, the children were selecting books they could take down to the primary school to read to the younger children. How cool is that?!