A foundation

“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning withing him the light which is called intelligence.” –Maria Montessori

103It’s been a busy time for my oldest two children. One is deciding on colleges, the other is preparing to study in France this summer. These two quests merged into a trip to Bloomington, Indiana for a day at Indiana University. My daughter’s French exchange program is through IU, and my son has decided to attend the university in the fall. I spent the day with my daughter at her orientation sessions while my son explored the campus.

Clare has been successful in high school. She has participated in three sports a year and has continued to participate in three different choirs. A member of the National Honor Society, she has maintained an outstanding grade point average in a challenging International Baccalaureate program of study. This foreign exchange program, the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages, was something she applied for, tested into, interviewed for, and then raised money for, once accepted. It was a challenging goal for her.

The day in Bloomington was a bit overwhelming for me. I honestly hadn’t had a complete understanding of exactly what this seven weeks in France would entail. But Clare was energized by it. During the four hour drive home, she told me all about the program, the classes in French literature and French language she’d be taking, the side trips to various points of interest in France, the commitment to speak and hear only French from the time the plane lands, the extracurricular activities with her classmates, and the “counseling sessions” they were going to have every day. “Dad,” she explained, excitedly, “That’s basically a community meeting. I get to do community meetings again!”

Three years after she left Good Shepherd Montessori School, through all her academic and extracurricular success, she still looks back to the Montessori experience and knows how important and formative it was. Throughout her time in a traditional high school, she has perked up whenever a teacher has slipped into something that felt “Montessori” to her, and now a highlight of a trip overseas is the community meeting format, something that guided her experience through eighth grade.

The community meeting is central to the work of the classroom, especially in the junior high. It brings true ownership to the child/adolescent. The structure of the day, the emphasis of various parts of the curriculum, and interpersonal conflict all find their way to the community meeting. From age six (“I never get a chance to use the stamp game because people aren’t sharing”) to age fourteen (“What time will the End of Year Conference Committee be meeting this morning?”) the community meeting empowers the members of the classroom to create an environment that is fair, safe, and challenging.

She misses her years at Good Shepherd, but Clare sees that they gave her the foundation to find a way to love learning, to meet new challenges, and to take ownership of her experience.

Explore posts in the same categories: community, elementary education, Montessori, Montessori Method

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