While the history of Dr. Montessori is not only impressive but fascinating, what I’m most intersted in, however, are the lessons she can teach us about children and ourselves. For she believed, “A child is mysterious and powerful and contains within himself the secret of human nature.” And I believe that if we can understand children better, we can understand ourselves better. Below are some of her most profound insights into the education and formation of children.
Lesson 1: Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it and do not say a word. If you tell them, they will watch your lips move. If you show them, they will want to do it themselves.
Lesson 2: Children have an anxious concern for living beings, and the satisfaction of this instinct fills them with delight. It is therefore easy to interest them in taking care of plants and especially of animals. Nothing awakens foresight in a small child such as this. When he knows that animals have need of him, that little plants will dry up if he does not water them, he binds together with a new thread of love today’s passing moments with those of the morrow.
Lesson 3: Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.
Lesson 4: Children become like the things they love.
Lesson 5: The adult works to improve his environment while the child works to improve himself.
Lesson 6: Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and when the grass of the meadows is wet with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning.
Lesson 7: The adult ought never to mold the child after himself, but should leave him alone and work always from the deepest comprehension of the child himself.
Lesson 8: Respect all the reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them.
Lesson 9: The child will reveal himself through work.
Lesson 10: Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding.
Lesson 11: There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.
Lesson 12: As soon as children find something that interests them they lose their instability and learn to concentrate.
Lesson 13: A child’s work is to create the person she/he will become.
Lesson 14: It is not in human nature for all men to tread the same path of development, as animals do of a single species.
Lesson 15: Order is one of the needs of life which, when it is satisfied, produces a real happiness.
Lesson 16: The child is much more spiritually elevated than is usually supposed. He often suffers, not from too much work, but from work that is unworthy of him.
Lesson 17: The child, in fact, once he feels sure of himself, will no longer seek the approval of authority after every step.
Lesson 18: The more the capacity to concentrate is developed, the more often the profound tranquility in work is achieved, then the clearer will be the manifestation of discipline within the child.
Lesson 19: The child’s parents are not his makers but his guardians.
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