One of the core beliefs in Montessori education is that we are preparing the child to be a part of the larger community – of one’s school, neighborhood, city, state, country, and planet. The aspects of being part of a community particularly stressed by Montessori:
- Empathize with others’ circumstances.
- Take part in the action to solve problems that go beyond the scope of the child (giving back to the larger community).
- The ability to work together even while doing different things.
“Little by little a child accepts the idea of his group. He is proud of the world of this group. This is an expression of social sentiment. The child is happy when his group or class does well. This is a more complex kind of unity. It is a higher sentiment like the love we have for a nation or a city.”—Dr. Montessori
What a tremendous gift for children to understand, early in life, that they are part of a bigger picture. Children learn early in a community that it is important to help another when needed, to care for each other, and to respect each other.
The sense of community in a Montessori environment comes partly from the multi-aged aspect and partly from things that go on under the direction of the teacher.
How does one build community? First, children get to know each other. This may initially be fairly superficial. At the 3 to 6 age range it may be getting to know each other’s names. As children work and play together they learn more about each other. The teacher promotes respect with the children. Lessons are given in manners of grace and courtesy. A child is shown how to appropriately interrupt or to watch someone work. Teachers promote community in classrooms by showing the children how to work together, how to handle conflict, and how to appropriately interact with visitors. As the children grow and mature they are given opportunities to learn how to work in a group. Children have the opportunity to play cooperative games that teach about themselves and others.
You can be part of the Montessori community. You can be involved in what is going on at the school. You can arrange play dates with other children from the school. Children learn community from parents, school, and the larger community.