I was the show and tell guest at my granddaughter’s kindergarten.
Her teacher introduced me to the class and just as she finished, Ryan, one of the boys, shouted out: “Guess what? I have a dog!”
His teacher quickly explained that he was supposed to turn his attention to me and instead of talking about himself, he should ask me a question. He nodded his head, turned to me and said: “Do you have a dog?” When I said yes, he jumped up, clapped his hands and said: “Me too! My dog’s name is …”
Being with little ones is very entertaining. Being charged with the responsibility of preparing them with the skills to function well in the world is a whole other subject.
I visited the summer program at Montessori School of Laguna Beach, located on the grounds of the Neighborhood Congregational Church. This school has been a part of our community since 1975 and has room for 84 children, ages two through six.
Teacher Krystle Lord-Keller extended an invitation to see the project the kids are currently working on. They are building a replica of Laguna Beach, titled: “Our Community” and using only recycled supplies to do it.
I arrived just in time to see the demonstration by our Laguna Beach firefighters. The fire hose was spilling from the fire truck in the parking lot. The kids got to see interior cab, measure themselves against the huge tires, and even to hold the hose squirting water. They felt the weight of yellow fireproof jackets and received their own firefighter’s hat and badge.
They watched wide-eyed as firefighter Jeff put on his entire outfit, complete with oxygen tank and mask, until he looked like a mustard Darth Vader.
The firefighters described to the children what to do if they were caught in a fire. Even though the mask looks scary, they need to know that they would see the firefighters crawling on their hands and knees looking for anyone they could save. Jeff got on his hands and knees, breathing through the mask, with all that equipment, including an axe. The children were instructed to go up close and stand next to him, even though he looked like a monster.
I stood back and watched as some ventured up close and some held back. They all paid attention, took everything in, and asked questions, all under the watchful eyes of the Assistant Director Cindy Alonge, Krystle and Mary, who also teaches art.
I was impressed with how intentional they are with their students. They are kind and caring while also being clear and precise in their directions. It was apparent that the curriculum actively teaches the children that they have a voice and they are consistently learning through every experience how to use it correctly. They have permission to say yes or no to how much they are willing to participate. At the same time, they are also validated for their leadership skills. They are encouraged to help others and to take risks by saying yes to new experiences. Also, if they say no, it is fully respected.
There was no manipulation, pleading, commanding, demanding, or any of the other common techniques we’ve all used when we wanted our kids to do something they didn’t want to do.
This school is run on mutual respect that is backed by a brilliant, highly validated early childhood teaching philosophy.
The Montessori Method was established by Marie Montessori, the first woman physician in Italy. As early as 1909, her work was widely published internationally.
The bedrock of the teaching is found within these two statements: “Marie Montessori believed first the education of the senses, then the education of the intellect. She also discovered that freedom and discipline indeed go hand-in-hand.”
Susan is the author of Beyond Intellect: Journey Into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind. Learn more about her at: susanvelasquez.com or (949) 494-7773.