Dear Jarrow Community,
Over the course of the last few weeks, as the seasons have been changing, the leaves falling, and the delight of our first snow storm, I have been contemplating the power and importance of parenting. During this time I have also had the joy of sitting with small groups of Jarrow parents in a couple of JPA organized meetings where I felt the commitment, as well as the challenges of being a parent in our modern world. I recognize now more than ever the valuable role that each of you plays not only in the life and development of your own children, but in the life of Jarrow and the energy and vibrancy of our community.
I thought I would focus this communication on the important principles of parenting a Montessori child, and to this end I have attached/included a wonderful article called, “Owner’s Manual for a Child”, written directly to parents from a Montessori Child, in the powerful voice of the child. Here is an excerpt:
We are both so fortunate that within me I have a secret plan for my own way of being like you. I am driven by my secret plan. I am safe and happy following it. It is irresistible to me. If you interfere with my work of unfolding myself according to my secret plan and try to force me to be like you in your own way, in your own time, by your own efforts, I will forget to work on my secret plan and begin to struggle against you. I will decide to wage a war against you and everything you stand for. That’s my nature it’s my way of protecting myself. You could call it integrity.
In reading this, some of the take-aways for me are:
Children want to be like you, they just want to do it in their own way and their own time. You are the most important role models in your child’s life, and that is a big responsibility. Not only is it a responsibility, but it is an opportunity – an opportunity to further develop all the great qualities that you already have. I know that when I was a parent of a young child, and even today as the parent of a teenager, I am continually getting feedback from him [directly or indirectly] on some of my own challenges, and I do my best to see these as growth opportunities.
Your child has a ‘secret plan’ for their unique unfolding, and if supported, this plan will reveal the most amazing and beautiful beings imaginable. Montessori was one of the first educators to recognize this secret plan and create an environment of love, support and purposeful activity for it to blossom. This view of child development is a major driving force in how we need to see our children. Montessori suggests that each child is a unique and vibrant being striving from within to learn and grow into the highest human qualities. And, we as parents have the privilege of being a guide and facilitator to this unfolding.
If you choose to over impose your will and your plan, and micro-manage your child’s life, there will most likely be an ensuing power struggle and in the long run, your child’s secret plan will be buried, and those beautiful gifts will be stunted. Here is where the Montessori philosophy of ‘Freedom with Limits’ can support you and your child. We at Jarrow are planning on providing more and more resources to help you better understand and implement some success oriented changes to your home environment and culture.
The McFarlands have this to say about freedom in their book, “Montessori Parenting”:
Freedom never meant chaos…what [Montessori] meant was that children should have the freedom to act constructively within well-defined limits. The…responsibility was to guide the children and make certain that they made appropriate choices that would further their development and education.
Thinking about being a ‘Montessori Parent’, given these ideals, may feel like an overwhelming or unreachable goal, and that may be true to some degree, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The desire to make our lives and our family culture more in-line with these principles can be a very wonderful thing. It can become the compass that guides us in our challenges and our storms, and all the while we can know that all we can do is our best. Just like in the Montessori classroom, we can do our best to set ourselves, and our children, up for success. We know that there will be failures and those are just opportunities for more learning and growth. Parenting is an evolutionary process, and like our children, we too are still evolving into our highest human potentials.
I know that in my 17+ years of parenting, I have rarely felt like I was 100% successful, but I did feel a great sense of comfort and confidence that I had a view or a goal that I was aspiring to. That goal became a guiding light to keep me on course during the challenges, and a beacon of joy when I was succeeding.
I look forward to joining you on this magnificent journey of parenting and hope to see more of all of you at our community events.
Jarrow Head of School