Children learn by playing. The last several decades have seen a widespread recognition of the importance of the natural play of children to their growth and development. Montessori herself played a part in spreading this awareness, but she also recognized much of what children do, including some aspects of play, as valuable forms of work.
Part of recognizing that children are creating themselves is that they are putting effort into doing so. Even young infants set simple goals, such as grasping a nearby object, and then voluntarily direct incredible amounts of energy toward that goal, over extended periods of time and in spite of distractions. This process is a major part of what spurs development. As a result of this work, the goals, the actions, and the time and energy the child spends all naturally expand in scope—and the child conquers each milestone, separately and in increasingly integrated concert.
The centerpiece of Guidepost’s Montessori approach is the creation of conditions in which the child can perform this deep, developmental engagement. “The role of education,” at all levels, Montessori wrote, “is to interest the child profoundly in an external activity to which he will give all his potential” (FCTA p. 11). The fundamental impetus for this effort comes from within the child; our job is to ensure that the activities and materials that she engages with are challenging and valuable, and that they inspire her to keep the flame of inner curiosity burning.
The result? Children who grow by their own effort. Children who genuinely experience success independently. Children who are joyously earning confidence. Children who know that they can do real things and engage in real learning. Children whose growth and learning are coeval with their burgeoning spiritual independence. “The calm, serene child, attached to reality, begins to achieve his elevation through work” (SOC 22, p. 162).
At Guidepost Montessori, all of our curriculum and pedagogy—both inside and outside of our classrooms—is designed to enable the work of the child:
We optimize for sustained concentration over time, allowing a child to build her capacity not just to make choices but to learn the joy of persisting in them.
“Now the little child who manifests perseverance in his work as the first constructive act of his psychical life, and upon this act builds up internal order equilibrium, and the growth of personality, demonstrates, almost as in a splendid revelation, the true manner in which man renders himself valuable to the community. The little child who persists in his exercises, concentrated and absorbed, is obviously elaborating the constant man, the man of character, the man who will find in himself all human values, crowning that unique fundamental manifestation: persistence in work” (SAE, p. 179ff).
We use highly designed learning materials and activities. The sequence of Montessori learning materials is designed to give a child foundational learning experiences—in motor control, sensorial exploration, math, literacy, and human culture—that systematically build on one another. The result: the priceless advantage of foundational knowledge and skills, and the habit and joy of lifelong learning.
We help children do things that are meaningful to them. “Practical life” includes supporting infants in the process of their own weaning, helping children learn to love maintaining the cleanliness of their space, scaffolding for older children the organization of their own time and energy, and more. With the right materials, environment, and adult perspective, a child can actually practice her natural desire to participate in her human life.
The work of the child is to create herself: to create her own knowledge and abilities by struggle and practice, to create her own sense of self-worth, to create her own connection to the world and to people within it.
At Guidepost, we fuse our love for the child with an understanding of her work—by offering the child an endless set of choices and tools worthy of her effort.