Self Construction and Independence in the YCC
by Jenny Wyrick
Young Child Community Teacher, Chesapeake Montessori School
There are moments when I look around my classroom and wonder about the future. Who will these children become? How will they contribute to the world? What will they be like as adults?
I know that there is only one person who holds the full responsibility for who this young child will become – that is the child herself. It is the child who will create the adult that is developing. What a wonder that is! Montessori tells us, “We must think of the child from the point of view of the miracles it accomplishes. No construction is greater than that which makes humanity.” (Montessori, 2012). Regardless of any situation for any child, within a few short decades he or she will have created an adult.
Above is a photo of Cooper using the Velcro frame. This activity isolates the task of learning to use Velcro, while also offering repetition and practice. Cooper is learning movement skills and developing his ability to concentrate, but also is gaining a skill which will transfer to his life. Soon he’ll be able to Velcro his apron when setting the table or take off his own shoes, and even help a classmate with their shoes. These moments of independence will give him an abundance of positive experiences as he develops all those skills we hope he’ll gain as he constructs himself. Plus, look how much fun he is having!
Now, it is useful to remember that the child does not create himself in isolation. He is part of a community and he resembles the community he is part of as he grows. Here is where our roles as parents and educators become so vitally important. We want to offer the child physical, social, and emotional environments that demonstrate the best we can provide, knowing that these contributions will support the young person’s development of herself as a truly amazing person. We know that the child has a strong drive for independence, from the 2-year old who wants to put on his own shoes (by himself!) to the adolescent who wants to complete that project in her own way, with her own time-frame.
Children crave self-worth and value contributing to care of themselves and care of other people.
Here is a photo of James and Hunter. They are making pizza for the YCC to eat for snack. Some of their other classmates helped with this process as well. While none of the children in the YCC are quite ready to do a complicated process of this sort entirely independently, they are gaining enormous skills in both physical independence (where they can DO something) and psychological independence (where they FEEL CONFIDENT in doing something). Making food and eating it, while also being thanked for their contributions to a meal, add to the child’s all-around independence as the child becomes his own person.
Below is a picture of Norah. She is learning to sweep using a dust broom and dustpan. But, that’s not all! What you cannot see from this picture is that this event began when another child was exploring the plant and pulled all the leaves out of the pot. After watching me tuck some of the leaves into the pot and then point out, “There is soil on the floor,” action occurred. Without even being asked, Norah fetched these tools, while other classmates brought the broom and the mop. I wouldn’t claim that they actually ended up with a clean floor, but they did demonstrate independence in initiation, choice, activity, movement, social interactions, language, concentration, sequencing, follow-through, and more. And this was just a small moment amid the beautiful work of independence that is happening constantly in the YCC, all leading to the construction of adults that I hope to know and be amazed by someday.
There will be moments when the children fail. There will be times when intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or not, they will not live up to our ideals and hopes for what we want, which is the best we can imagine. This makes sense to me. They are, after all, human. They absorb everything their environments offer when they are young. As much as we all hope to have perfection around them, I’m sure none of us would claim to be a perfect parent. Montessori suggests that we should “refocus our hearts”. ” We must put the creations of man at the centre, and not his defects…How much fuller and richer life would be if we saw the child in all his greatness, all his beauty, instead of focusing on all his little mistakes ?… We must give this development, this miraculous force, the help it needs. It needs the warmth of heart and it needs understanding.” (Montessori, 2012).
Montessori, M. (2012). Education as a Help to Life. In A. Haines (Ed.), The 1946 London Lectures (pp. 1-6) .Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company.
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