Challenging Work

by Barbara O’Brien, Ph.D.
Developmental Psychologist

Parents often think about what they want for their child, what they want their child to become, and what they can do to foster a happy and healthy child. When I think of what I want for my children it is based on how I want them to continue approaching their world with the same inquisitiveness as they did when they were infants.

Consider how infants learn to crawl: they arrive at the challenge on their own, practice, fail, and succeed at their own pace. There are no inducements, grades, or bribes. Children are “wired” to seek out challenges – and to master those challenges within a supportive environment. A Montessori education beautifully supports this innate approach to learning.

Both of my daughters attend Chesterfield Montessori School When they arrived, they were introduced to an environment that includes five areas of learning: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and History/Geography. I knew my daughters would enjoy Practical life lessons such as table washing and flower arranging, but wondered how these lessons translated into academics. I was delighted to discover how engagement in these scientifically designed tasks implicitly teach concepts such as sequencing, concentration, coordination, attention span, and independence. And, these early tasks have given my daughters the foundation to work on more complex tasks such as mathematics, botany, geography, zoology, language, music and art.

In addition to challenging work, children are also wired to focus and emphasize the process of learning, more than the end result. For example, I recall when my newly five-year-old worked diligently for several weeks on a Montessori material that teaches how to tie a bow. One day, as she was putting on her shoes, I offered to help tie her laces. She replied, “No thanks mom, I can do it.” And without fanfare (or frustration), she elegantly tied her sneakers! I marveled at her persistence, patience, and grace as she worked on this. She mastered a task that was important to her, and did so at her own pace.

It is through the patient, peaceful and calm Montessori approach to learning that children adhere to their own pace and foster her own sense of process. As they master each task, they build a sense of quiet confidence, which propels them forward as they seek out the net challenging task. I am grateful to Chesterfield Montessori School for encouraging my daughters’ efforts and supporting their learning.

To learn more about Chesterfield Montessori School, please contact them at 314-469-7150 or visit www.chesterfieldmontessori.org.