by Tom Kushinka
“What?!? You’re using scissors? You’re only two years old!”
Those were my words when I saw my grandson successfully using scissors.
“Miles, you’re doing a great job! Where did you learn how to cut paper like that?”
“At school, Pop. We learn a lot of things there.”
The Montessori method teaches self-reliance and curiosity. It employs creative tools to help students learn—a far cry from my early childhood education. Having students become actively engaged in learning, of course, means that retention of the material presented comes naturally since self-reliance helps material “stick” in their heads.
This self-reliance isn’t used only at school. When our grandsons’ parents discover spilled yogurt on the countertop or Cheerios rolling on the floor, it’s Miles or his brother Elliott who has to get a wet cloth or a dustpan. Having to clean up is the natural consequence of their actions. (If my wife is reading this, tell her I’ll fish out the cashews still lying in the crevices of the easy chair. Remember, I never went to a Montessori school.)
If Miles and Elliott wonder about the sun, moon, and stars as I did as a child, then Montessori seems to bring science into focus better than my traditional education did. I visited my grandson’s classroom once and watched children sitting in a circle while one student carried a globe around the perimeter of the circle, with the sun in the center of that circle.
This is how a student’s birthday—a day representing the passage of one year—is done in Montessori. The students could see that our planet makes one revolution around the sun, an amount of time that we call a year, or the passage of time from one birthday to the next. (The only way that my elementary teacher could have done the same thing is if she had removed all the screws from the immovable desks arranged in rows. That might have moved me, bored as I was from the teacher’s lecture about how time is measured. Speaking of my school days and the concept of time, why is that when the hand on the clock moved one minute it felt like an hour?)
The materials that Montessori students use on a daily basis keep them engaged, which makes Mom-Mom and Pop (my wife and me) very happy. When we drop off Miles and Elliott at Stepping Stones, we know that real learning is taking place.
Hmmm… I wonder: Is a man in his seventies too old for Montessori school?