Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Montessori's Epiphany: A Play on Words

Did she say, "Follow the child" or "Follow the Child"?
My Montessori Philosophy album reads:  "On Jan 6, 1907, as fellow Catholics celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, she [Maria Montessori] opened the first Casa dei Bambini.   Montessori, a Catholic, read aloud the Gospel reading for that day, an excerpt from the Book of Isaiah 60: 1-6."
"Rise up in splendor!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples;  but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory....."
Montessori is often quoted as saying, "Follow the child."  Observe the needs of the child's inner life, this is what drives him or her.  Looking for answers to the big questions--Who made me?  Why am I here?  Why is there suffering?--is one of those drives we see in children.  So why don't we recognize it more?  Why don't we, following the example of Maria' life, follow the Child?   The Epiphany was the manifestation--the physical showing--of God with us, the divine here with us, as a baby.

It's hard to imagine that many parents who are believers themselves won't bring their children to church (or to their place of worship).  In this recent article in First Things magazine the author makes some good points.
We—the Christian parents of America—should not leave our kids to make up their own minds about religion. We need to go against the grain. If we really believe the Gospel, we ought to join the shrinking ranks of those pushy parents who insist their children attend church with them. We make our children eat their vegetables. We make them brush their teeth. Let’s make them go to church.
Honestly, it doesn't matter to me if you are Jewish, Christian, Buddhist--please impart to your children your faith.  You may not be around forever, and what could be more important?  It's looking more and more like we aren't allowed to mention God or a Creator even in online groups, much less in a classroom.  So how exactly are the inner needs of the child addressed?  And if we as believers are chased off of social media, then we aren't part of the conversation.

I write about this now because many parents and teachers who love the Montessori approach to education don't realize that Montessori was practicing Catholic and that her faith was very important to her. She wrote a beautiful book on the Mass for children and this book includes writings of Montessori on God and the child. If we have embraced her philosophy and approach with children, we owe it to ourselves to learn more. We as parents and as Montessorians are fooling ourselves if we think that connecting our children with their Creator is not part of our work. It is essential. Our children our like sheep among wolves. When we are gone, what then? Have we helped to answer their questions on who made them? About their purpose? About good and evil? About suffering?

Back to the child and the Child. If Maria Montessori followed the Child Jesus and found the child, maybe it wouldn't hurt to allow some divine seeking, in ourselves and in the children. Could we as Montessorians have a epiphany of our own--an eye-opening discovery that Maria's faith was central to her work, that she wanted to much to share her insights with others.

Only this week I made a comment on a Facebook group for those interested in the Montessori philosophy.  There was an article listing the most basic needs of children, and I commented that it was missing just one thing:  connecting the child with his or her Creator.  This immediately caused a stir, with one reader angrily writing that she didn't find that important at all and, from the moderator, a gentle reminder that I read the group's new rules (apparently words like "the Creator" are a red flag!).  I confess that I didn't read the group's new rules, I just "unjoined."

And finally, a word of warning.  G. K. Chesterton is often quoted (though there is some disagreement about his exact words) as saying, "He who does not believe in God will believe in anything."  If we don't give our children at least some direction, aren't we leaving them vulnerable?  Only the Good Shepherd would risk His life for the sheep.  Watch out for the wolves.

1 comment:

  1. A great post! Most people don't know about the deeply religious underpinnings of Maria Montessori's teaching philosophy.