Being a Montessori Child

By Mignon Duffy, President, LMS Board of Directors Spring ‘14
I was talking with my Dad recently, and he observed that adults who have spent more than a couple of years at a Montessori school do not say “I went to a Montessori school” -- they say “I am a Montessori child.” I am a Montessori child myself, and watching my own children thrive at LMS prompts me to think about what that means, and how I am a different person for having been educated in Montessori schools. Here are a few of the things I have come up with that are part of being a Montessori child:
School is fun.
This is one that we all know as LMS parents watching our kids go off happily to school (most days at least). But what is interesting is that I don’t think that ends when they leave LMS. My own experience is that a love of learning stays with you through school (and
I went to a lot of schools) and far beyond. Sounds corny, but it’s true. And it is really a profound thing.
I can be good at math and science and reading and writing.
One of my memories of middle school and high school was being baffled by people asking me whether I was a “math person” or an “English person.” In my experience with Montessori, I wasn’t asked to carve up my brain or myself into those parts. Being good at one didn’t mean I couldn’t be good at the other. The lack of hard and fast intellectual boundaries has definitely affected the way I learn, the way I think, and now that I am a teacher, the way I teach. It is a kind of intellectual breadth and flexibility that I take for granted coming out of a Montessori education, but that I now see at the University level (interdisciplinary) as all the rage.
I have a place in this universe, and it is tiny.
This is how I think about cosmic education, one of the keystones of the Montessori elementary curriculum. It is about giving kids the ability to hold in their brains simultaneously the notion that they are unique and make a difference in the world in everything that they do -- and at the same time that they are mere specks in the universe. I feel like I still carry around that idea with me somewhere in my gut, and it motivates the ways that I think about my own role in building a better world. It is a sense of being a part of something bigger, and of taking seriously our own role in that bigger world.
I can always ask why.
My fellow board members can testify to the fact that many years after leaving a Montessori school, I still feel compelled to ask “Why?” all of the time. Wanting to know more -- to understand fully -- is part of what learners in Montessori classrooms are allowed and asked to do all of the time. And it turns out that is a hard habit to break. There are a lot of things I could say -- about conflict resolution and the strength of the academic preparation that I received and lots of other things I got from my Montessori education. And there are a lot of great schools out there that are not Montessori schools. But these are a few of the things that I reflect on sometimes, as I watch my own children go happily into LMS, about what being a Montessori child has meant to me.
Mignon Duffy is a current parent and board member of LMS. Her parents, Michael and D’Neil Duffy are Montessori educators, and Michael Duffy is the author of books on Montessori education, the most recent one titled “Math Works.”