Sandpaper letters, Pink Towers, Holy Cards, the Chain- oh my! Have you heard of these things but always wondered what they were? I along with about twenty-five other parents had the chance to become Montessori “students” and experience our children’s classroom from their perspective at the Silent Journey.
The Silent Journey was a two part series where on the first night we visited a primary and an elementary classroom in silence. That’s right, silence. And I’m a chatty Kathy (literally) so this was quite a feat for me. The silence as it turns out was the best way to experience the Montessori materials. With no one to talk to, I had the freedom to explore, touch, manipulate, and ponder the purpose of all the materials. The silence allowed me to really notice what was in the classroom and what was “missing.” Did you ever wonder why the walls are mostly blank or why there are no text books or desks? I know I did and had asked these questions, got a good explanation but never really understood until I took the journey. In our overbooked, over stimulated world we often think learning must have an end result like a grade or a reward, but what I could see was that having the freedom from the constraints of a traditional classroom allows a student young and old (like me) to really enjoy and understand what they are learning.
On the second evening of our journey we were allowed to speak as we became the students and could have a lesson in anything we chose. Apparently this is how it works. Your child sees something, takes it out, and a lesson will follow. I was most curious to see how math works in the Montessori world. It had always been my best subject and wasn’t quite sold that not memorizing times tables or repeating drills from a textbook could work. Mr. Flannery guided me through a lesson on long division with the stamps. The stamps are tiles numbered by ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands. Being able to touch the number tiles and see how math works was more exciting than penciling in numbers in the abstract. I urged Mr. Flannery to make the numbers larger so I could see if it really worked. I wanted to “play” all night. If I could get this excited over long division I can only imagine how the children feel every day when they see the materials laid out before them. The possibility of children discovering the world, not in the abstract, but with their hands, voices, and natural curiosity is something that is cultivated everyday at Logan. Picture the world we could create if we respected all children and their individual talents and interests.
As I ended my journey that evening I was grateful; grateful for the opportunity that my daughter and all of her friends have been given to develop into the wonderful beings they were meant to be. So, the next time your child tells you they did “nothing” all day know that it couldn’t be further from the truth. I invite you all to take the journey next time it is offered to see and learn for yourself.