Planting Seeds for the Future

            During the summer many of the staff members at North Star including myself were fortunate to be able to attend the International Montessori Congress in Portland that occurs every four years.  It was an incredibly inspiring experience to connect with fellow Montessorians from around the globe, all of us with similar visions for our work with children in mind, all stemming from the ideas of the original visionary herself, Maria Montessori, over 100 years ago.  For me the congress really served to remind me of the big picture for my work as a Montessori guide.  For all of us working with children, educators and parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the small details of what we want or expect our children to learn from us.  Why is this child not reading at the same level as his peers?  Why is she not committing her math facts to memory?  Why is he not more careful with his handwriting?  Why is she not interested in art activities? Why does he always forget his belongings?  While all of these skills are important and are still a major focus in each child’s overall development, it’s also valuable to step back and keep in mind Maria Montessori’s greater vision for the total education of the child.  She recognized that only through the education of the child to become a global citizen who understands, feels connected to, and cares about the world around him or her and the people in it, can we have any hope for a more peaceful planet in the future.  The question we should ask then is what am I doing to help my child become someone who is inspired to make a positive impact on the world and become a future caretaker of the planet?  Dr. Montessori described the child’s mind as being like a “fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture.”  We as parents and educators must be the ones to plant not just the academic seeds but also the seeds of empathy, appreciation, and care for the planet early on and help nurture them into fruition.

Teaching Empathy

            Peace can only be achieved by finding it first within yourself and then through an understanding that all humans are alike and simply looking for ways to find happiness.  Recognizing the similarities between humans instead of focussing on the differences and being open to understanding the perspectives of others is much more conducive to peace and to helping children feel empathy for others in difficult situations.  Much of the Montessori curriculum focuses on highlighting these similarities, the interdependencies between all living things, and showing respect and care for the Earth.  At home, when a child has concerns with the behaviour of a classmate, or questions about choices someone else in society has made, try to practice non-judgement.  Ask them to try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective and understand that likely they have made those choices in order to try to get something they are missing.  Ask them to think about how they could help that person or another person they might encounter in that situation in the future instead of placing judgement.  Children have an innate capacity to care deeply for others but if it is not nurtured, apathy develops and they become passive bystanders afraid to stand up for what they believe in.