Edward Fidellow

Edward Fidellow

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One of the great attributes of success is confidence. While success breeds confidence, confidence also breeds success. However, there are no real courses on success, no seven easy steps, no magic potions, so how do we help our children build this important component into their lives? 


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The first level of building confidence is the ability to finish a project. In Montessori you introduce activities that are reasonable for the child to achieve. Second, you then give the child the time to achieve. Third, the project has to have value; it has to be worthwhile. (Learning to tie your shoes for a young child meets this need.) For confidence to build the project also has to have an element of real challenge – not one that can be accomplished in a moment or a day – learning to read fills this bill. Real confidence has to take you through all kinds of situations for which you are not prepared – which is pretty much a definition of life.

A Montessori classroom offers a child the ability to work at a problem (and the one that follows that etc) for a long time, while making mistakes (and not being devastated by them) and working your way to a satisfactory conclusion. Confidence just doesn’t come from finishing but by surmounting the problems that prevent you from reaching an easy victory. Confidence comes amidst the obstacles, the problems and the difficulties.

As parents, we don’t want our children to struggle so we often short circuit the confidence process by doing the heavy lifting or rescuing our children. We often don’t hear the child’s inaudible cry, “Help me do it myself.” Dr. Montessori heard it and developed a whole environment to make it possible for them to do it themselves.

Confidence also comes and is aided by people who tell you that you can, instead of telling you that you can’t. The seeds of confidence are tiny and are watered by small words, small deeds and small accomplishments. A Montessori environment opens to your child not only the realm of the possible but the realm of the impossible. When you are three or four years old so many things seem impossible – math, riding a two wheeler, jumping rope. Ironically, as you grow the list of the impossible grows along with you because now there are so many more things you never even know about that seem to go on the impossible list.

This is where real confidence begins its ascent of the mountains of impossibility. Everyday in a Montessori classroom where your child has a plan of activity, works through mistakes, takes one bite at a time of the problems, is being encouraged and works at the challenge again and again is laying the bedrock for a lifetime of confidence.

Confidence is like the ancient story of the shepherd boy David who said, “I killed the bear and the lion, this Goliath (of a problem, a challenge an impossibility) will be no different. Confidence – been there, done that – bring it on!

by: Edward Fidellow 
www.crossmountainpress.com

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An MCS Kindergarten student works on the Addition Strip board discovering "Ways to Make 10"

Kindergarten is the harvest year for all the planting and intellectual tending that has gone on for the preceding years in preschool. The kindergarten child’s learning explodes into an avalanche of reading and writing and math. All of the earlier preparation (practical life, sensorial) now finds academic outlets. The kindergarten child not only gains a wider breadth of knowledge but a deeper understanding of what she has learned and now is able to use this knowledge to enhance her own intellectual pursuits.

A Montessori education is not just cumulative in its learning; it is exponential in its understanding. The learning that happens in kindergarten is not just adding another year’s knowledge but multiplying what is learned and applying it to what is to come.

It is common for Montessori kindergarten graduates to be able to read well (and write) and to understand math far beyond addition and subtraction all the way to multiplication, division and geometry.

To miss this formative year that sets successful life patterns is to miss the ultimate advantage of this unique preschool experience.Maybe even more significantly, the lifetime patterns of responsibility, goal setting, having a work ethic, working through mistakes, inquiry and curiosity are being firmly set.

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The kindergarten year in a Montessori classroom is also the year of mentoring. It is the year when the five year old is able to really help her classmates. This mentoring year is significant for two reasons. First, when you teach others, you really master the subject for yourself. Second, when you are asked to teach you demonstrate your mastery of the material. It is this mastery that produces the profound feelings of self-confidence and assurance that is the hallmark of Montessori students. Real achievement and real achievement demonstrated builds real self-esteem.

Leaving the Montessori program before kindergarten often places a child into an educational setting that is not as advanced; nor one that allows for the initiative that has been carefully cultivated during the earlier preschool years. The child is often introduced to a different curriculum one that lacks the individual intellectual satisfaction that comes from exploring and discovering the wonderful world of learning found in Montessori.

The essence of successful life is to be able to make wise choices. The Montessori kindergarten student is at a major threshold of exercising that wise decision making power. To lose that opportunity is to lose a significant part of the hard won success of the preceding years.

The great gift of an education is not the accumulation of facts and statistics but the lighting of the fire of learning, discovery and joy. It is a gift that Montessori children have the privilege and pleasure of opening and using for a lifetime.

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