You Can’t Hurry Love! - Homework and the Montessori Way
Far too many schools have transformed the process of learning and discovery, which comes naturally to children at birth, into a stressful and often unpleasant experience. We tend to think about schools from a business perspective. We talk incessantly about high standards, competition, and holding children accountable. Somewhere along the way we forgot that schools are meant to nurture children’s natural development, not manufacture a product.
Montessori schools are obviously different from traditional education. But the use of hands-on materials and multi-age classes are just some of the most obvious surface differences. What really sets Montessori apart from conventional education is the outcome that we seek in our children.
Montessori’s goal is to prepare students for life, not just for admission to college. All over the world, our schools work to empower, liberate, and encourage young people to become self-confident people who think for themselves, creatively solve problems, and who possess the emotional and spiritual balance, interpersonal skills, compassion and moral courage that will prepare them to lead lives filled with purpose, meaning, and joy.
Children learn at their own pace and they learn in different ways. Learning to read, write, and use mathematics is not a race!
In general, the more we, as parents or educators, push children to do things against their will, the more likely it is that many will learn to quietly or openly resist.
"An interesting piece of work that has been freely chosen, has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue and adds to children's energies and mental capacities, and leads them to self-mastery."
“… children must be free to choose their own occupations, just as they must never be interrupted in their spontaneous activities. No work may be imposed; no threats, no rewards, and no punishments used."
Today it has become common to find parents who feel the need to help their children to excel. They seem to fear that if they do not provide this external ‘push’, their children will not succeed.
Montessori demonstrates that children are normally born intelligent, curious, and creative. Without the need for external structure or encouragement, they will learn and explore whatever captures their attention. Keep in mind, though, that they want to learn what they find interesting, not what their parents or teachers choose for them.
Without realizing it, when parents and teachers put pressure on children to perform to adults standards they are showing them great disrespect. By using external rewards and pressure in an attempt to get them to do things that they are clearly not yet interested in enough to choose them for themselves.
But if a child ends up quietly resentful of lessons, tutors, workbooks, and tests, what have we really accomplished?
Montessori urges parents to allow children to develop at their own pace, within a home environment that sets a good example and provides all the right stimulation and support. In an atmosphere that truly respects children as people, we have to allow them to master new skills when they are ready, not when it says they should in a curriculum guide. Some children may begin to show interest at a very early age, others will not show the slightest interest until they are older. But with the right approach, we can increase the odds that, when they are ready, our children will want to learn with natural enthusiasm.
As a result, Montessori schools traditionally do not assign homework until the upper elementary grades or middle school, and even then, it rarely looks like the homework many parents remember from their own school years.
Why don’t we assign homework like everyone else? Don’t we want children to get into good colleges?
The answer is of course we do, but we ask a simple questions: why do we believe that assigning hours of homework to children after a long school day is the right way to go about it.
“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certificate from the secondary schools to the University, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolutions of the individual.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
Reprinted with the permission of the Montessori Foundation. © 2007 The Montessori Foundation. All Rights Reserved.