Dissecting the flower to make sure it blooms. Or, unwrapping just a few early green sprouts on the maple tree to make sure the leaf is really coming from that verdant little nubbin. Or opening the tomato seed under a magnifying lens to check in on the tomatoes. None of these are good ideas, if we are respecting the process.
Ok you say, but what about a recipe? How about checking the oven while the cake is baking? Just a few times, perhaps - just to get some assurance we are on track. Annually? Just each spring? Maybe just at the important points when we want to make sure the cake is in line with all the other cakes we read about in that beautiful cookbook of successful cakes? Especially if we want to be conscientious caretakers of the cake we are entrusted with... it would be so nice to get just a measure... to know.
It is hard to appreciate the cake and check on it. Specifically, appreciating would be allowing the process of maturity to take place. Any interfering in the process starts to look much more like tinkering or monitoring.
Looking on with gratitude and wonder - or at least observation and understanding- is much more verily the act of appreciating.
Child development is something to trust, not to assess. And yet, here we find ourselves living in a time and place where monitoring, assessing, appreciating, caring and responsible parenting have all been blended up into a recipe I’ve mostly anxiety – if not disillusionment – for parents. Where does that leave us as adults in supporting children into their maturity?
Montessori education is grounded in the understanding that human development is an inevitable consequence of being alive. Simply by existing as a child - or appreciating a child - and making our way through time do we earn the right to expect that stages of development will follow. Unfolding and unveiling will reveal a process over time where every gift that an individual has to offer will bloom into plain view for all to appreciate. And this comes into full, head-on, oppositional tension with the world of academics and MCA tests that we operate within in the public school system.
Now, it’s difficult - in the moments of utter adult frustration and impatience - when we find ourselves demanding some answers, landmarks and assurances on the path to being “OK“. Specifically, this often happens for me at bedtime. Or when we have to get out of the house to be somewhere on time. Or when I’m concerned that perhaps my child will not be prepared when it’s time for them to meet a real world test of readiness. And I note that each of these situations has to do with the realm of time and the test of my own belief in the process of whether or not I can trust that all will be well for my child in due time.
I’ve written several times about MCA tests, and talked throughout my career with parents regarding whether or not standard assessments are appropriate for elementary or junior-high aged students. I see in the coming year that Great River School can serve our community more thoroughly by hosting some parent education evenings to discuss (and present some learning on) what is it that we can do at home as families and parents to create an environment in which the assessing and testing orientation of our culture does not interrupt the developmental process of our kids. We know that a home in which children think of themselves as learners, as problem-solving‘s, and as capable people are homes that are doing everything necessary to prepare their students to be successful adults. Benchmarks on knowledge and skills are not useful indicators at age 7 or 9 or even 12 for what the child will be capable of as an adult at age 25 or 35 or 40.
Whether or not that child has a mindset and understanding of them self as a learner and capable problem solver is a much more reliable indicator.
So, Families and parents, be well in these winter days of March - And do let me know if you have specific questions that we as a school compared to answer with resources and experience that we have the privilege of sharing with your children at Great River. Will be sending out a simple request for questions in the coming week, and I look forward to seeing where we can join in conversation as a community together.