“We believe in children’s potential”
Last issue I wrote about learning as an emotional experience. Many prospective students are interested in the Montessori approach because they make an emotional connection with Montessori’s ideas about children, as expressed in her writing, for example, “No one can be free unless he is independent.”
The pace of change and new developments continued throughout the summer with three new consultations requiring responses. Since January 2013 we have responded to 16 consultations from DfE, Ofsted, the Treasury and Revenue and Customs, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as inter-departmental reviews. Whilst this shows a creditable attempt to join up policies, the sham nature of some consultations was shown last summer when, in the midst of one on introducing baseline assessment which included questions on whether this should come in Year R, Year 1 or Year 2, Liz Truss the then Minister responsible went on BBC’s Newsnight and spoke about the ‘new Baseline Assessment in Reception classes’. The House of Lords set up a Select Committee to investigate affordable childcare earlier this year. MSA’s submission focused mainly on the tension between the government’s wish to raise levels of required qualifications whilst funding places for three and four year olds at increasingly uneconomic rates. Matters were not helped by the Committee referring to the places as being ‘subsidised’ when they do meet actual costs. DfE consulted on Proposed New Independent School Standards (that is, new regulations).
There are some things that children gravitate towards. Whether at home or at school, if we observe children over a period of time, we may well see the child choosing to play with or work with the same things on more than one occasion. Favourite toys, favourite things to do, both in the home and in the classroom. In the prepared environment of the classroom, we try and make the activities on the shelves as appealing as we can so that they ‘call’ to the child, as Montessori described. We consider the appeal to the child of the materials, which speak to the child on an unconscious level and encourage them to make independent choices.
More and more these days the Montessori community is expected to work within the broader education community. Accordingly, we are taking the opportunity in this issue to look at a selection of those agencies that contribute to good early years practice.
A long time ago, I recall a relative of mine shaking their head sadly while watching my then 2 year old struggling to do up their shoes.
‘Poor little mite, think it’s a bit much that they make them do their own shoes up at pre-school.’
‘There are loads of 5 year olds who can’t do up their own shoes, let alone 2 year olds.’
This seemed to be quite a big deal and somehow stood for an underlying feeling of disapproval for my choice of a Montessori school for my child. It was early days in my own Montessori journey and I remember feeling a bit affronted at this judgement, not least because I genuinely felt – and still feel – as we all do as parents – that I had chosen the way I felt was best for my child.
Barbara Isaacs explores how children can be enticed to learn in early years settings…
During recent research into Anna Freud’s early work in Vienna and in London during World War II, I came across the statement, “learning is an emotional experience”, which was made by her during the time she worked with a nursery in her native city. I started to reflect on what this means in context of early years practice and in support of young children’s emotional development in Montessori nurseries.