A Walk Around Clanmore Montessori School

There is an atmosphere of joy and fun which prevails in Clanmore Montessori School. It is very cheery here; which is why, on first blush, the following sentences may seem out of place. Independence is the ultimate goal of childhood. All that we do as children prepares us for adulthood and prepares us for becoming a fully functioning member of society. Maximum opportunity in childhood allows us to develop to the maximum of our potential as adults. In the words of Dr. Montessori, “It is necessary, then, to give the child the possibility of developing according to the laws of his nature, so that he can become strong, and having become strong, can do even more than we dared hope for him.”

In a walk through the school this Fall, I pondered the development of the individuals around me, focusing on one question: Where were the children on the continuum of growth and acquisition of independence?

I visited the Toddler Community. It’s all action here; language and movement drive this group. As the children learn to speak, they are surrounded by a busy and contented flock of peers of 18 months to 3 years. All are occupied meaningfully under the guidance of their teachers.  The striking thing I observed that morning was the degree to which I could see super-concentration. The children focus intensely on activities of their own choice. Their own choice! Here, in the earliest stage of the continuum, is the emerging independence.

The cheerfulness of the Casa Communities is audible as you enter these rooms. These are active places. The role of movement in the child’s day is evident everywhere here. In one corner I see a small group of children sitting on the floor around a mat, playing a game. In his hands, one boy has a pale blue cloth with which he is covering the geometric solids.  When one member of the group feels a cube under the cloth and tells his friends what he thinks it is, they squeal with delight. Yes, he got it right! In another corner, a girl is colouring a map of the world. She works alone, fully engaged. Beside her, a younger child observes, quietly admiring her skill. Nearby a three-year-old is playing the bells, gently muting the sound after the note has rung out into the air.

As the morning progresses, children carefully carry beads and words on trays, checking in with the teachers occasionally. There is washing of linen, flower arranging, watercolour painting and addition of large numbers going on in yet another corner. In the middle of the room a couple of boys are having a lively conversation over morning snack. One teacher is watching the group; another is working with a child. Given the variety of activities and the number of children doing them, it is obvious that independence and freedom of choice are playing a large part here.  These children of 3 to 6 years of age are exhibiting great power and while the success of the system rests on the careful preparation of the environment and the expertise of those who have put it together, in fact the children are already very independent. Acts of grace and social courtesy are being performed all the time.  In the Casa class,  the children are working at their own pace and level. They are free to develop.

The noise level increases as I walk towards the rooms of the Elementary Community. Here there dwells a child very different to that of the Casa and Toddler Communities. This child is increasingly cognisant of abstract ideas and concepts, less reliant on concrete experience and social and moral development rises in importance.  Groups of children are gathered everywhere. They love to be together. It makes their hearts sing!

In the Elementary Community, I see one teacher writing a collaborative piece of poetry with a small group of like-minded children. The enthusiasm of the response manifests in the wild waving of hands so that a contribution to the poem may be made. The smiles on their faces as they deliver their ideas to their peers and the teacher tell me they are happy learners. A little later I see that group disband and each goes off to write his/her own piece in that beautiful cursive script which is one of the trademarks of our school.

The teachers are visible and engaged, conferencing with an individual or presenting a lesson to a small group, but the large majority of work going on in these rooms is being done by the children fully competent on their own.  Daily practice helps strengthen this already well-developed independence and in turn feeds  self-esteem. I am reminded of the basic Montessori tenant, “Help me to help myself.”

At the same time as all that is happening, there are children arguing passionately about trilobites and the development of life on earth, the Timeline of Life spread out on the floor in front of them. There are children delivering clean hand towels to the rest of the school, children collecting data for a survey that they are conducting, children making snack for the class, children making three dimensional geometric shapes with colourful pipe cleaners: in short, all manner of meaningful activity all happening in great good humour.

Our job as adults in the lives of these children is to facilitate the growth of their independence and not to hinder it. Ever. By considering the nature of the child at the various ages, and understanding the part it plays as the individual grows, we have prepared environments which nurture development. Always.

It’s a splendid private school. I’m so glad you’re with us. And, consider what our children will do when they grow up fully independent and full of potential? There’s a thought!

Grace Kidney
Elementary Program Co-ordinator / Co-owner
Clanmore Montessori School

Clanmore students