Skip to main content

Don't Take Away Discovery

I was working with Henry the other day on some math materials during his homeschooling time. We were working together on the multiplication beads. I had presented the work to him and he was working to fill in some sheets with basic multiplication facts. This work was really speaking to him, and he was surprisingly into it. Suddenly, as he was working, he looks up at me and says, "MOM! One times the number is always the same number! I discovered that!!" He was positively beaming. I simply replied, "you sure did! 1 times the number is always the number." 

"I discovered that!" 

That phrase hit me like a ton of bricks because as simple as it sounds, it is speaks to the essence of Montessori not only as a method of education but as a parenting philosophy. While my story involves an 8-year-old well into the Second Plane of Development, this feeling fo discovering is sometime we should all be striving to give our children at any age. We want to bring our children to the brink of discovery with us, and they let them discover the mysteries of the world. 

But why? 

It's through these discoveries that your child will gain confidence, that your child will be able to keep that natural spark of curiosity and wonder, and that your child eventually will start to question and explore deeper questions. Here's an example using a younger baby. 

I often hear stories of parents frustrated that their babies aren't "playing with their object permanence box the right way." They are feeling upset and confused why their baby won't put the ball into the hole. Instead, the baby just wants to play with/hold the ball.  They have presented the work and feel like the baby should repeat exactly as intended. So, sometimes in their frustration they take the toy away (assuming no interested in the toy) or they take the ball and repeat and repeat the work as intended. But, by doing so, what is lost? The child's discovery of the ball - and all it's glorious properties. And, also the discovery of the work itself. "What happens if I miss the hole?" "What sound is made when the ball taps the side?" "What happens if I stick the ball up the other way?" "Will this other toy fit into the box?" I could go on, but you get it! 


When we intervene too much or too quickly, we take away that discovery. We take away a whole series of questions we might not even realize our children are answering for themselves. We break their concentration. We stop that line of creative exploration. And we lose those beaming moments of satisfaction from self discovery. 

How do we protect and encourage discovery?

So, practically, what does this mean for us as Montessori parents? Here are a few things you can do to protect your child's opportunity for discovery:

  • Don't give all the answers - it's ok to wonder with your child, even if you might know the answer. This isn't to say we never give them information, but if we can provide the opportunity to make that connection, we should. Especially with younger children and motor tasks - stop yourself from doing it for them when they are trying to do it themselves.
  • The struggle is essential - let your child struggle sometimes. I know it's hard to watch our child try over and over to do something, but if their frustration level isn't too high, let the struggle occur, there is so much to learn in those moments and so much joy as a result
  • Provide the opportunity - We as the adult still need to prepare our environment to allow for these discoveries, we need to provide opportunities in our homes, in our classrooms, out in the world for our children to make new discoveries, to learn what interests them, and what drives them as individuals 
  • Lead them to the brink - presentations are important in Montessori! We need to present the materials and activities we are allowing our children to do in our homes. Materials in the classroom are presented. But, then we need to step back, let go of our expectations for perfection and simply observe. We don't know the direction they might take until we give them space and time to do it!
  • Exploration is the key - allow for reasonable exploration. Don't step in unless something is dangerous to the material, the child or another person. So much learning and discovery happens during the process of exploration. Let go of your judgments and just observe the joy and magic.
  • Give them time - this process takes time. Time away from business, time to work, time to figure it out, time to concentrate, time make mistakes, time to explore. 

Have you ever seen the joy of self discovery? How do you give your child the opportunity to make discoveries on their own? 

---

Comments

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2019

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure!

2019 UPDATE: This post has been updated to include a variety of brands and new product finds! Just a reminder that no one child will be interested in all of this or needs all of this. These toys are just here to spark ideas and give you a feeling for some Montessori-friendly options available! 


So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. 


First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created to…

Which Open-Ended Toys are "Worth it?"

As a Montessori parent, I try to provide a mix of materials in our home to engage my kids! That work that will spark joy, concentration, and repetition. It's not always an easy task, as Maria Montessori said, "Life is mysterious...only the choice of life can choose the work that the child truly needs. Therefore, the teacher respects this mysterious process and knows to wait with faith." So, there does sometimes feel like there is a bit of trial and error when it comes to choosing materials that your children need. 

For us, the right balance is easier to find when I spend time deeply observing my children. Watching their interests, sitting on my hands if I have to, letting them struggle a little with things, and letting them get bored. And what I have personally found is that here at home, a combination of open ended materials and more structured work have been the right balance. Open ended toys wouldn't necessarily be found in a Montessori classroom, but they are perf…

A Montessori Approach to Purging Your Toys

Becoming a Montessori family has been life changing in so many ways, most obviously with the amount and type of materials we use in our home. Once you see why having so many toys is a problem, or when you make the decision to move towards Montessori, it can be completely overwhelming. But, taking a Montessori approach to purging your toys is possible! And, it doesn't exactly mean that you have to throw away everything you have and start over with only expensive wooden toys. It will mean taking a hard look at what you have and whether it really fits with Montessori.


One note, however, Montessori is at its core about following your child's own path and respecting your child as a whole person. So, if your child has a toy, lovey, book, or whatever that your child super loves or is super attached to, but it doesn't fit Montessori ideals, don't take it away. Follow your child, that is more Montessori than whether or not you own some specific consumer product. 
How to Purge You…