The Montessori Greenhouse
A concern of parents is that a Montessori environment is too protective, that children may not be prepared to face the real world. After all, a Montessori environment is made for the child, (the real world isn’t.) Everything in the environment is child size. Again, the real world is made for adults. A Montessori environment is constructed for the child to succeed – the real world doesn’t care.
So, is the Montessori environment an effective preparation to learn to swim in the real world or are children better off to be thrown into the deep end? A Montessori education is designed to master the deep end – but not today! It is designed to step by step to prepare (and help create) the future adult to master all the challenges of adult responsibility. The environment affords the protection for the child to safely build the adult they will become. The child will build the adult out of real successes gained day by day and processes learned and mastered in navigating the intricacies of interpersonal relationships and task management. It is often said in Montessori that a child’s work is his play and the irony is that when a Montessori child enters the adult world his work does become like child play because he or she has already spent the formative years mastering the tools of the deep end. The child knows how to set priorities; how to follow a plan; how to work with others; how to work through mistakes; how to develop initiative and countless other adult tools.
As equally important as the tools are, so are the emotional building blocks the child is adding to his or her life of the adult that will emerge. Blocks like confidence and competence are invaluable. Blocks like the satisfaction of working through a problem and the understanding that you can just about conquer any problem you encounter if you don’t give up. As successful as a Montessori education might be intellectually, its emotional components are far more powerful. Those emotional components only grow in the protected environment where making mistakes is not branded as failure but only interim steps on the way to success. Finishing what you start (not going seventy percent of the way and quitting or being satisfied with less than your best) can only happen in the supportive environment of a Montessori education.
As parents we need to be mindful that what we see happening in our children are the underlying preparations that are being constructed in our children because of the Montessori education. The iceberg of your child’s potential and ability is hardly visible but the bulk of it is being constructed (and growing) under the surface day by day in the protected environment of the classroom. Far more is being constructed than can be seen without the eye of time when it will come to fruition.
Montessori is certainly a greenhouse. No one plants their tomato plants outside in the deep of winter. Our Montessori seeds are lovingly planted and tended where the roots go down and the stalk grows up strong until the young fledgling plant has the strength to grow and thrive - in the real world.
By Edward Fidellow