An Educational Philosophy Contrast

The Absorbent Mind - Montessori   vs.   When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be


In what may be described as an overzealous use of the library, my first trip to Wake County libraries consisted of searching for “Montessori” and checking out every in-stock book that appeared. While mostly successful, a few books that weren’t really Montessori related slipped under the radar, namely Amy WIlson’s When Did I Get Like This? In one chapter, Wilson briefly mentions her child not getting into a Montessori school!

Despite the lack of Montessori relevant research material, it turned out to be a pretty hilarious read, and offered a stark contrast to what I was reading in the other Montessori books I have.

Both books featured an incident with a child and the possibility of that child tumbling downstairs. Check out the contrast here, first from Wilson:

And that is when I saw Maggie, who did not know how to negotiate her way down any staircase, let alone one without a railing, stepping confidently out into space like a very young (and female) Mister Magoo. “Hi, Mommy,” she crowed as she stepped into my arms 1.5 seconds later, having known all along I’d be there to catch her.

How did David react? He didn’t notice. Engrossed in his PGA tour chat, he was completely oblivious to the death-defying acts happening directly over his head.

Two minutes later, I looked out the plate-glass window to see Maggie one centimeter from the swimming pool, behind my dear husband’s turned back, while he was having a meaningful discussion about the continued relevance of the designated hitter in Major League baseball.

As I pounded on the glass, to no avail, then ran through the living room and out the front door to rescue Maggie, I wondered: Does David do this on purpose? So I will do all the child-chasing myself? So I won’t let him take a turn?

And now Montessori:

Hardly any children have been able to find the conditions necessary for full development. They have been isolated from people, made to sleep all the time; the adults have done everything for them; they have not been able to observe objects, because when they handle them, they were taken away; seeing them only and unable to handle them made them want to possess them, so when they did get hold of a flower or an insect they pulled them apart, not knowing what to do with them. And the passive child has developed inertia instead.

Fear is also traceable to the early period. If, when the little child fell down all the stairs, the adults had all rushed to help him and made a fuss (as they usually do) he would have felt fear instead of laughing. Our actions are often the cause of fear in children.

She had earlier described the child falling down the stairs, then looking up from the bottom and laughing before attempting to climb up again.

What’s interesting is how both authors end up ultimately describing the children they are raising. Montessori’s, given freedom to direct themselves and the work they do, become obedient and learn quickly. Wilson’s are hilariously self-described as Hellions, constantly fighting and rebelling.

Montessori’s Method definitely seems appealing. She and others have described it working in countries around the world with all kinds of different children at different ages. No matter how their behavior was when they started, Montessori states that they eventually settled down and started learning like all of the other children once they were able to realize and adjust to the environment that they were in.

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