If you are not familiar with Montessori, you may be surprised to hear that the classroom is very much child centered and a place where children are encouraged to ask questions and follow their curiosity. In fact, questions matter more than answers. Newsweek ran an article last summer about America's 'creativity crisis' talking about how creativity in children has declined steadily over the last 20 years (www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10the-creativity-crisis.html). Why is this happening? It may be because schools have become increasingly focused on test scores, product outcomes, and conformity. In Montessori classrooms, we believe that children are born learners and have an intrinsic desire to learn about their world and the people in it. Allowing them the freedom to lead their own learning and follow their curiosity allows them to be creative thinkers, problem solvers, and builds perseverance because when they are freely given the time they need to work through something or learn more about a certain topic, they learn it more thoroughly and believe that they can continue learning. Daniel C. Petter-Lipstein is a father of three children who attend a Montessori school-he says, "The culture of inquiry that is the hallmark of a good Montessori school is also a critical foundation for the creativity and innovation that America will need to compete in the 21st century". In December 2009, the Harvard Business Review published an article called, "The Innovator's DNA" based on a six year study of 3000 creative executives including visionaries like Apple's Steve Jobs, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and P&G's A.G. Lafley. One of the professors that conducted the study noted "We also believe that the most innovative entrepreneurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmosphere where inquisitiveness was encouraged. We were struck by the stories they told about being sustained by people who cared about experimentation and exploration. Sometimes these people were relatives, but sometimes they were neighbors, teachers, or other influential adults. A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools , where they learned to follow their curiosity.
What does this mean practically for parents right now, in the thick of parenting younger and older children?
1. Try to answer a question with a question back to the child. Let them know you appreciate them thinking through things and just not giving them a quick answer.
2. Try not to move in too quickly when your child has encountered a problem. If you notice your child struggling, you could say, 'let me know if you need help' rather than rushing in and taking over the situation. It's not a bad thing to struggle or even fail and try again. Focus on process vs. product.
3. When they ask questions, ask them what they think-let them know you trust their thoughts. Many times when we allow our children freedom, they end up teaching us something. :)
Have fun with your children! Encourage their curiosity and creativity. Allowing them the freedom for these things to develop will help them long term in their lives with confidence and leadership skills as well as thinking outside the box which many times leads to solutions that we never knew existed! www.CMontessori.com