When I first discovered Montessori back in 1998 it spoke to my heart – it was what I (eventually!) wanted for my children and for other children to experience. It went further than simply an education system, as the Montessori Method offered practical ideas and strategies to feed a child’s heart, mind and spirit through freedom, independence and respect. The result is children who are self directed, morally independent and sensitive to the needs of others. Love and genuine care for each other are central organising values for each child and not just acceptable behaviour as they carried a larger vision of being together rather than just focusing on “what is in it for me”. The child's life is filled with meaning, they are optimistic about the future and have the courage to live with love and respect, cherish peace and strive for it in their friendships.
The Tie that Binds
So what does this look like in real life? One day a child was weaving a flax bracelet for her mum and another child was sitting alongside her and just couldn't get the hang of weaving. The competent weaver saw how her friend was struggling, so setting her nearly finished bracelet aside offered to show her friend how to weave. A younger child will often struggle put on an apron; another child will see this and reach over to help. A loud crash often means beans rolling over the floor. Suddenly a group of children are there to help clean up. Random acts of kindness tied up with Grace & Courtesy is the ribbon that binds a Montessori community together.
So how do we do Grace & Courtesy?
Montessori was pretty adamant about the importance of showing children how to live together with respect at the heart of everything. This includes how to say please and thank you, politely interrupting someone, greeting and farewell, table talk, introducing friends as well as how to sort out differences. Through the lessons of Grace and Courtesy, a child is able to develop and refine social skills while building self-esteem and independence.
“A child who becomes a master of his acts through… repeated exercises [of grace and courtesy], and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline”
In the Montessori environment, we aim to show children through our every move, word and interaction how to "do" Grace & Courtesy. Children admire and look at us no matter what we do. We are the living example of how to live graciously. We often ask ourselves, how have I been attentive, kind, polite, grateful, considerate, respectful, honest, co-operative and thoughtful towards the children today? Did I call out instead of talking quietly, bang doors shut, did I stride when I could of walked?
Adults are children's most important example of how to love and live and one that role-models self respect, self confidence and self worth - what greater gift can we offer a child than this?
The Kindness Wreath
A lovely way to promote kindness and doing things for others is with the kindness wreath. Each time an act of kindness is seen this is written down on a slip of paper...The key is that the person writes something down they have seen another person do and not their own acts of kindness! This is then folded and placed in a bowl and when the bowl is filled or at a special time each week these acts of kindness are read out. The person who has done this act then ties a ribbon around the wreath. Over time the wreath overflows with ribbons signifying kinds acts that have been seen. This can be done any time of year and could be a wonderful Christmas decoration that symbolises the care and love shown in your family.
Till next time...