Aaron officially started at a Montessori kindergarten this year. I was very excited for him and imagined all the brilliant concepts he would be picking up in the classroom filled with stimulating activities. I liked the idea that there was a mix of practical life lessons such as banana cutting and the more academic stuff, like addition up to thousands with the 'golden beads'.
For five weeks now, I ask him "How was your day? What did you do?". The answer is always the same, "Just chatting with my friends."
Today, I went in for a class observation to confirm my worst fears. Of the one hour I was there, he spent 45 mins at the snack table, chatting. I made a mental note to myself not to pack so much food! And the remaining 15 mins I was there, he demonstrated to me how to clean a table top. At least, he did a very thorough job.
Naturally, a part of me has been trying to get concerned. We're paying good money for him to chat?? The other part is telling me to give him time to adjust to socializing. The teacher has eased my mind a little by letting me know that he has been getting some of the other lessons as well but I can't help it, I imagined more.
The teachers send out a short weekly report on whats going on in the classroom and recently, they had this to say :
When asked what are they have chosen to do the response is “just chatting.”
While the children are engaging in conversations with each other they are practicing the skills needed to express themselves as well as to listen to the thoughts of others.
The act of listening to the thoughts and needs of others is a small step towards building a cohesive group of individuals.
Large scale social reform and world peace (Montessori's Philosophy and Education Aim) can only be achieved when listening to the thoughts and needs of others and therefore, “Just chatting” is recognised as a valuable piece of work in the Montessori Childrens' House.
Alright! He's learning how to negotiate world peace!
Obviously, I'm not the only new parent wondering if the freedom of the Montessori system works seeing as the kids just chat all day long. I did visit a class sometime last year and I saw kids engaged in individual work and exploration, I'm clinging on to that hope.