The COVID-19 Pandemic has truly changed life as we know it. Montessorians around the globe have been thrown in the deep end, out of their comfort zones as they navigate a completely new world and way of teaching. There have been numerous discussions as to whether online learning is “right for the child?” The age-old question – is it Montessori? has also been posed time and time again.
My suggestion is that we look to Dr Montessori for guidance. What would she say and do under these circumstances? Dr Montessori herself didn’t get everything right when she started out. Instead, she observed, tried things, observed how it worked, then adapted and repeated this cycle until she got it right. After her sojourn in India, she made many adaptations to her initial ideas, and it was then that she was inspired to write “The Absorbent Mind” And, she pointed us to the direction of the child.
“The highest honour and the deepest gratitude you can pay me is to turn your attention from me in the direction of which I am pointing – The child.”
We have a responsibility to our children to support them during this period of great uncertainty for all. We have to widen our lenses and adapt our programmes keeping in mind the CHILD/ren.
We also need to take cognisance of the fact that life for our children and their families has changed. Some families are facing job cuts, others are using this time to bond and get to know each other. Some are trying to figure out how to put food on the table, while others are just trying to deal with life without domestic assistance. It is not our job to judge. Nor is it a time to dictate what should be done. Instead, we need to work out how we can support our children, and by natural extension, their parents, as best as we can.
All of our parents were accustomed to at least 4 – 5 hours a day with their children at a school and now have them 24/7. We cannot expect them to suddenly become Montessori guides, nor should we expect them to replicate materials for development. Instead, we should be jumping at this opportunity for parent education. Share ideas for purposeful work with them. Guide them to use what they have at home – to set it out on open shelves, to create a space for their child. Send them recordings, links or ideas for activities that they could easily set up. Reach out to other Montessorians – this is a time for us to share resources and ideas; to come together as a bigger community.
This is an opportunity for us, as Montessorians to truly look at the holistic development of the child. To look beyond the academic, and just connect with the children as humans. Touch base with them, ask them how they’re doing, what they’re up to, etc. Ask them what they would like to do, what are their ideas, etc. Just listen to them. Each and every one of them. Whichever digital solution you choose for these “online classes”, make sure you touch base with each and every one of your children. Record some or all of the sessions to review later.
Be mindful of the unique circumstances of the children. As most families share devices, find out when the most convenient times are for lessons, or give them a choice between times that works for you. Perhaps not all of them have the resources to join the online community, this should not stop you from connecting. If you can’t video call them regularly to say hello, send a video telling them how much you are thinking of them, miss them and hope they are well.
You can also send video recordings of activities that they could replicate at home, like science experiments, gardening, food preparation, arts and crafts activities, care of self/environment, activities using the different senses, etc. Video recordings are great in allowing children to work independently and also creating some sort of freedom of choice for children to choose when they want to watch a video or whether they want to try it out or not. It is not the time to be giving out worksheets, or sending tons and tons of printables or 3 part-cards, etc but rather finding other ways that children can do purposeful activities. Remember, it is important to give children choices as well.
Whatever it is you decide to do in your school, do not forget to sit back, observe, reflect and adapt until you find a solution that meets the needs of the children (and parents) in your community.
We will continue to share some of the ideas we have come up within our community. Feel free to use them or share them (please acknowledge us) and remember to share your own experiences, ideas activities with us too!