Chapter Two of Dr. Maria Montessori’s The Absorbent Mind is a completely fascinating chapter to read from a Christian homeschooling perspective. There are some terms which lack modern-day political sensitivities, but if you are able to read past them into what Dr. Montessori is really trying to get at, there are some really interesting concepts to dig into.
Keep in mind, this book is based on a series of lectures delivered over 80 years ago! It is so inspiring to me to read how fundamentally radical these ideas were — and to a degree still are — while reflecting on how many of Dr. Montessori’s visions have become mainstream.
Points that I think warrant further reflection after reading the book include:
Education as a help and protection to life.
Dr. Montessori reflects that education at the time (and arguably still today) “takes hardly into any consideration whatever life itself.”
Education as isolated from society.
As homeschoolers, the most cliche objection we hear is, “how will they be socialized?” But to look at a grander perspective of being isolated from society, Dr. Montessori discusses how education often does not seek to educate children about the issues of society and what their role in those issues is and could be.
From a Christian perspective, seeking to educate our children about their responsibilities as stewards of the Earth, as well as The Great Commission, we must give our children a greater awareness of society’s ills and how they can be a light unto them — and not contribute to those ills.
The “defects of the child.”
This is a term that is likely to cause a bit of discomfort, but what Dr. Montessori is referring to here is anything that impedes a child’s full participation in the modern classroom without intervention.
Dr. Montessori was among the first to demand that educational systems take on the “defects of the child” as their own; in other words, she called upon them to meet children where they were and cater the educational experience to the individual needs of the child. This is one of the most remarkable aspects of the Montessori curriculum to this day, that it truly meets the child where they are.
Also, this notion of caring about the child as a whole person rather than just their educational life is vital — she uses the example of a hungry child, and how a child who is malnourished in any way cannot achieve their educational best despite the best instruction. Of course, this extends to any malnourishment — if we don’t first seek to nurture the child’s basic needs, we cannot hope to improve their life via traditional education.
Observation of the child.
Imagine supporting your child through their developmental milestones, versus resisting seemingly disruptive and odd behaviour.
So often, educators and parents see their child’s developmentally appropriate processes as a disruption to their educational goals. It seems inconsistent, for example, to let a child run around outside when we want them to be sharpening and developing their mind; but a greater awareness of the “laws of development” allows us to trust the child as more aware of their own internal processes and needs than we are, and allow us to discern how we can best assist development rather than control it.
I love this viewpoint of education as “an aid to the construction carried out by the human soul as it was meant to be, developed in all the immense potentialities with which the new-born child is endowed.”
The Child as the Builder of Man
I’m not going to make any statements here about right to life, but it is very interesting how Dr. Montessori draws a parallel between methods of education and protection of life “from before birth.” This idea of viewing the child within the context of an education from birth is radical enough upon itself, but to extend that viewpoint to before birth grounds the Montessori movement in a sacredness for the child, and for life.
Montessori clearly views the child as the shaper of history and views our role as not merely endowing a child with our knowledge, but giving them the tools to unlock their own, while also raising them with kindness and compassion so that they can go on to act kindly and compassionately.
There is so much wonderful content to reflect upon here.
Am I aware of what is developmentally appropriate for my child’s age? Am I encouraging or hindering developmentally appropriate behaviour?
Do I trust my child to know their own educational needs?
Am I raising my child to be a educated and aware member of society, capable of making real change from within?
What are my child’s “defects” — or, in a more modern way, where does my child need me to be flexible or support them more?
Are my educational efforts nurturing my child’s whole self?
Is my child discovering and building their own education, or am I controlling access to information?
No matter how long we have followed the Montessori Method, I find that going back to Dr. Montessori’s writings always gives me a new challenge, much like no matter how long we have been a Christian, there is always something “new” that provides a challenge to us when we re-read our Bibles or attend a sermon.
We are all facing our own challenges in this journey — even writing out the questions today, I realize how much work I need to do to re-align myself to my goals in Montessori homeschooling. Continuing to challenge ourselves to be better educators to our children can be uncomfortable and daunting, but always worth the effort! If you need extra support, please connect with the Christian Montessori Nework Facebook community.
“It is a revolution inasmuch as everything that we know today will be changed.”