We never know when and how our work, our words, will be helpful.
Recently I received this message from the translator for Heidi Philippart’s AMI 0-3 Montessori Certificate course, Kate Sichkar:
Many Ukrainians requested that your article on how to talk to children about war be translated. I am asking your permission to translate it so as many people as possible will get answers. As with all of your books, that speak from the heart, it might save people’s souls and give them hope to move forward.
Last week a solo art show here in Trinidad, California featured the above painting of Ukraine, which was created as a way of processing the war. Two young boys shared their thoughts about war, peace, the news, screens, life—their thoughts, their confusion, their commitment to peace, and their hopes for the future. This conversation was the highlight of the evening, giving me “hope to move forward.”
It is impossible these days to completely avoid news about the war in Ukraine. Here are some ideas for how to best help children feel protected and safe during these times.
Of course, the best we can do is to avoid any television, radio, phones, and other electronic access to war news when the young child is present, to limit following the news of what going on in the world to times when we are alone. A child at this age is very tuned in to the words, actions, and even the emotions of us adults. We cannot, and should not, try to pretend that we are not upset, or way, when a child sees that we are upset, that everything is fine. Such a conflict between body language and facial expressions, and our actual words, is very confusing to the young child. When it is clear that we are upset, the best thing is to tell the child, “I am upset because I don’t like to see people fighting.” That is usually enough. The message is honest and clear, and the child will get the message and feel safe.
Then we can move on to what comes next in the day. Being free from war news in order to spend some of our time together, reading books, drawing pictures, setting the table, going for a walk, and looking at the leaves of the trees, feeding the cat—in essence, being in the present moment—is a gift to ourselves as much as to the child.
I would say that everything above applies to this age. The difference is that at this age the child is learning from the rest of the environment as well as from the adult. Continue reading →
Susan Mayclin Stephenson first began explaining Montessori in 1971, through a school newsletter that helped families of her students understand the essence of Montessori. She has continued to write and speak, based on personal experience, since that time.
Here is a quote from the upcoming book on observation and record keeping for the primary and elementary class, Please Help Me Do It Myself:
Rather than focusing first of all on the academic work in class, when I had a meeting with parents, I showed the parents the concentration graphs for their child. This kept the focus on the value of their child learning to independently choose work, to experience deeper and longer periods of concentration, and the positive results of this experience.
I found that this was an excellent way for parents not only to begin to understand Montessori, but to look for, and hesitate to interrupt, their child’s concentration at home.
During my first year of teaching, an older and more experienced teacher at our Montessori school in San Francisco, California, told us that we should have a 30-40 minute “group” lesson at the end of each morning, with all of the children sitting in a circle as we sang songs, had news time, and sometimes gave a lesson that usually would be for one child at a time. I had not heard of such a thing in my AMI 3-6 course in London but I respected this teacher so I followed her advice.
A few years later, Margot Waltuch, who had worked with Maria Montessori for many years, was the consultant for my own school in Michigan (and later the consultant for my 6-12 classes in California). Continue reading →