Recently I was speaking with a Montessori parent, a brilliant and scientific researcher. She described the months that preceded making the enrollment commitment for her child’s next three-year-cycle in Montessori. The visits to other schools were extensive, as was the process of empirical data gathering. “I need evidence and information,” she said. “And after all we have seen, we continue to hold the highest respect for Montessori.” I was immediately struck by the paradoxical picture she’d put forth. “Do you find it fascinating,” I asked, “that with your scientific orientation and interest in evidence and proof . . . that you continue to choose an approach to education that asks for faith?”
Later that day I came across words by Thomas Moore in an article called Schooling our Intelligence. ‘The idea of schooling and intelligence that we now have, with its emphasis on information and rationality, represents only a small portion of knowing and learning that is part of a vital human life. We need to be schooled as well in play, ritual, love, community, contemplation, aesthetic expression and appreciation, house-making, work, friendship, walking, gardening, and a thousand other aspects of living’.
This is the Montessori model, and this is where faith enters in because this aspect of development has a timetable and a life of its own. When our children are given the chance to engage, to initiate, to take risks and to put themselves on the line, they are schooled as we live each day. They come to know life intimately and interactively, rather than from a distance. Moore goes on, ‘We may be highly educated in the usual formal ways, and yet find it extraordinarily difficult to make friends, keep a home, avoid addiction, and find personal fulfillment. In these difficulties, the difference between formal intelligence and the deep knowing of the soul becomes clear. The way we educate in our school systems often implies we don’t need to learn about being creative or living in a community. We assume we can deal with our emotional lives in a purely intuitive manner and fix problems as they arise. We assume that we don’t need an education for the heart’.
The mother who was looking for enough data to support their choice for Montessori education realized that information must be balanced with trust – and if they are to offer their child the richest preparation for living life with both intelligence and wisdom, they must embrace the mysterious development of the soul as earnestly as the testable advances of the mind.
Your child will learn square root. Your child will learn to cube and capitalize, analyze and prove. But information is no longer enough (not that it ever has been), but in this time when the whole of human literature and discovery is becoming available on a monitor screen, we must be ever active and alert that we do not become inflated by what it ‘looks like’ we have. We must offer our children experiences, mentors, and environments for the development of their souls as well as their minds. This is when judgement, character and the fire of intelligence are linked for life. That’s Montessori.
Mary Zeman, Interim Head of School
on behalf of Mercedes Dugan, Associate Interim Head of School and our faculty and staff