Education and Development

"Following the Child"

Children need to be seen, heard, respected, and given a chance to develop in their own way at their own pace. Having those basic needs met is so critical to their fullest development that we probably will never be done talking about them on this site — and revising both what we feel and how we express it. For now, let's start with this:

Millions of unusually able, intelligent, and loving people around the world have had the benefit of an educational process which, instead of seeing them as empty receptacles to fill with data and behavioral conditioning, saw and followed their real natures. This approach to educating children comes from an understanding that the root meaning of "educate" (from the Latin verb "educare" — to lead out or evoke) is to bring out what's there, not try to stuff in what isn't. It is based, above all, on loving attention and close, personal observation of a particular child's particular angle on life.

The best education has always been of this kind, manifested in many different ways. But its application to our modern, industrialized era began in the early 1900s in the slums of Rome. Doctor Maria Montessori, an MD with a unique combination of deep love of children and a deep passion for scientific investigation, began to work with very small children (from about age two onward) who were severely deprived and, in some cases, considered retarded. She quickly realized that the natural curiosity of very young children could be the center of an education that explores, reveals, and develops their true capacities. And she spent the rest of her life applying and refining the discoveries she continued to make.

The wonderfully flexible educational method Montessori developed was based not on theories or dogmatic beliefs, but on actual observation of children's real nature and activities. She filled their educational environment with materials they could discover and work with to learn. And she supplied both the guidance needed to get a child started at the right time with the right activity and the direct personal supervision needed to help the child succeed. The careful, loving observation that is the core of her method focused from the beginning on the individual child — not on age, or on peer group, or on preconceived standards of readiness, but on seeing and respecting each and every child.

As this site unfolds, we will be presenting information on Montessori education in as much depth as you care to explore. But for the moment, what we want to present as an introduction for anyone who visits this section of our site is the further intention that we are applying along with Montessori's methods to the charter school we are opening this fall in Ukiah, California. That further intention is to co-develop with our children, to learn with and from them as we enter this new and tremendously challenging time to be alive. If this resonates with your own feelings in any way, we hope you will stay with us as we develop this site. There will be more on all this by mid-June of 2000. Thanks for reading this far.

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