Recently, I showed a 4 year-old how to do up the laces of her pretty tap shoes. The knot and bow had come undone and she had asked me for help. I said I would help but that she would have to wait for me to finish what I was doing. She said ok and waited for about 10 seconds before asking. I said the same thing. She said ok and then asked me again. To this I replied that I might take a little while and perhaps she could try it on her own while waiting. This is what she did.
this photo is my reenactment of course…
When that was done, she said, ‘Look!’ Then she looked at her other shoe and didn’t quite like how they didn’t look the same. She undid the latter and did the laces up the same way as the first.
Montessori reminds the adult not to correct unnecessarily but to show and model the way. Unnecessarily meaning that these oddly done up shoe laces didn’t hurt anybody. So on a different occasion, when I knew the tap shoes were soon to make an appearance, I took the laces off one shoe and kept the other one on (they’d been redone up the criss-cross way by some well-meaning person). The child took them out and showed me that one was done and one wasn’t. I asked if I could have a turn because I knew she already knows how to do it one way. I said I was going to do it the way the other shoe was done, Precisely and slowly, I showed her othe criss-cross method. When I was done, she took them off and redid them the non-criss-crossed way, then looked at the other shoe. Miraculously, she undid her own work and did it up criss-cross!
I have shown many a 4 year-old the lacing frame and none have succeeded as quickly as this child did. I have no doubt they were all as intelligent. They were of similar ages. This child did not attend a Montessori Children’s House but she does come from an orderly home with great routines and consistency. I also happened to have shown her lacing at an opportune moment.-A moment when this was of interest to her, a moment when it was natural and relevant to be lacing up shoes. Montessori Children’s Houses were established to provide a safe and orderly environment where the child is free to explore, pursue interests and develop at her own pace. She believed that the child is born equipped to auto-educate, to learn and teach herself through experience with th environment. The adult’s role is supportive rather than didactic, hence practitioners are called ‘directresses’ and ‘guides’ to remind us of our role. Home is the child’s primary environment even for the child who spends most of her waking hours in childcare or nursery. Home, mummies, daddies, gramps trump, everytime. Being present for the child (and family members) when you are around her allows for the relationship to develop and blossom till your child is an adult and later.
On another occasion, I was peeling an apple while a 6 year old ate. She watched with her spoon hovering mid-air. I begn to peel more carefully, keeping my thumb visibly out of the way of the blade. I cut off one end of the apple so it could rest steadily on the board. When I was half-done, I asked if she would like to try. She said yes. I said great, when you finish. We peeled, we cut.
Then there was the scarf tying and the hair braiding, the trouser buttoning. Being with the child in the home is vastly different to being with many of them in a community. But the efforts we put in in the safety of home never stops influencing their success in participating in the social and academic life in a school environment.