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February 22, 2024

Montessori Parenting in the Second Plane: Responding to Questions

The mind opens up in the most incredible ways during the elementary years. Suddenly our small little people have all these big questions, thoughts, and abilities. Maria Montessori tells us that this period is so unique for the capacity that elementary children have for learning. They need new stimulation and crave abstract information. But in an age where every bit of information is at our fingertips, how do we give elementary aged kids the information they need without doing too much? Or should we just info dump on them at their given questions? 

I personally find these hard questions to answer. I want to give my kids ALL. You have a question about space, here are 14,000 facts about space that I know. Then, the words of Maria Montessori pop into my head, "Here he (the elementary teacher) must be sure of what he ought to do, of what he ought to say, and of the extent to which he must reply to questions. He must be clearly conscious that his duty is to say little; to say only what is true, but not the whole truth in all its details." (From Childhood to Adolescence p. 11)

Responding to Questions and Curiosity as a Montessori Parent

So, really what do we do? How do we prepare ourselves and our environment for the elementary mind? For me it is all about balance - learning to balance when we are giving and when we are pondering. For me it can be really hard work to decide when they need which, but that is the work of the prepared adult in the second plane of development. In some ways, that's easier than it was in the younger years, we at least can ask what they are interested in, but in some ways it's a lot harder. It's a lot more constraint and planting a seed and trusting that it will bear "knowledge fruit." 

Gus is using the Oil and Water Chemistry Kit from Kiwi Co. Such a great way to experiment in the second plane.

A Time to Give

When I talk about giving in response to questions and curiosity I mean two different things.

  1. Giving actual information. I sometimes straight up answer questions. Especially those without easily researched questions or ones that I want to makes sure they get a really clear answer about. I also always answer questions that pertain to their real lives, experiences, plans, etc. I find it really important to be an open book with them when it comes to issues like that so that we can continue to have important personal conversations as they move into adolescence. 

    When giving information, I do try to be careful not to add too much, to listen (truly) to what they are asking, and answer that. Going beyond what they are asking might snuff out an interest that they could dive in further on their own. Maria Montessori was also clear that drawing connections was more important often than getting into too many details with this age of child. 

  2. Giving Experiences. When questions are being asked this is also a sign to me to check our environment for experiences. This might be in our home or out of it. But, do they have materials that help them explore this interest? Do they have time to explore this interest? Are there places we could visit that would help to draw connections for them? Is there an experiment we could do? Is there something I could involve them in to bring this to life? 

    These do not have to be big or expensive things. Sometimes it is adding shelf work, sometimes it is adding books. Sometimes it's strewing some books around your home open to the right page, or offering a documentary or podcast on the topic. 

" teach details is to bring confusion; to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge." Maria Montessori (From Childhood to Adolescence p 55)

A Time to Ponder

Then, there is the time to ponder. This is the time when we aren't giving our children information to answer their question. Instead we are responding with space and some questions that give them things to think about. Some questions might include: 
  • I wonder about that too! I wonder why... 
  • That reminds me of...
  • Where could we find out more about that?
  • Could we plan somewhere to go to learn about that?
  • Why would that be? 
  • What do you think we could do about that?
These are open ended questions that your children could take in a million different directions. Then, you get to follow where they lead and learn together! 

Montessori parenting gives us the opportunity to really connect with our elementary children and their questions. We have to learn to balance giving too much and giving space to think. It's a really fun stage and one that really challenges us to follow our child. 

Discover the unique way Montessori parenting fosters curiosity in elementary aged children. Learn how to respond effectively to their big questions and enhance their learning experience.

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