Montessori and mindfulness go hand in hand. If you are practicing Montessori in the home or at school, it's likely that you are practicing mindfulness. I haven't read many (adult) books since having Otto last September. I actually missed the release of this book but I'm so pleased that I finally ordered and read it.
This is my kind of Montessori book, it's authentic and true to the child. One of the obvious reasons that I enjoyed it is because it touches on the essence of Montessori, the connection between the child and their environment, the environment that supports and promotes deep concentration and mindfulness.
Everything that the author mentions in this book about the Montessori classroom can be translated, can be practiced in the home. So Montessori and Mindfulness is a good read for Montessori parents AND teachers of children of all ages, from birth. There are lots of examples of work with infants that I found super interesting (respect the infant's eye contact, allow them to be the one to end the visual communication).
The author lists two main things we can do to support mindful concentration:
- Respect and protect the three-hour work cycle.
- The careful selection of materials. The author promotes the strict use of Montessori materials for the classroom without surplus or 'supplementary' materials. I believe just as much care, with required observation for the selection of materials, can be made at home.
I love the section on flow - "deep concentration on an activity not just because someone has told one to do it, but for its own sake, intrinsically motivated." This flow is a deep form of concentration where the child is absorbed by their work and is a form of mindfulness. It is believed the fundamental elements of Montessori such as children choosing their own work, being able to concentrate without interruption and working at their own pace all contribute to achieving flow. One of my takeaway lessons from this section is that children often wake or walk into the classroom already concentrating and ready to work (perhaps they have thought about their work overnight and can't wait to get started), it is important to not schedule activities for them in this time. I believe the same applies to the period when the child returns home from school, they are ready and excited to work on their projects and we must not unnecessarily break or interrupt their flow. Flow can be achieved when the activity is chosen by the child, involves the whole being and uses the child's skills to the utmost.
The author provides practical ideas for supporting concentration in the classroom through personal anecdotes, although most of these will be known to Montessori teachers such as matching work to the child's skill levels, providing quiet spaces within the classroom and supporting order. There are sections on mindfulness through walking and through music. The section on mindful exploration is as relevant to infants as to elementary students.
There isn't a lot of new information here but there is a lot of suggestion and evidence to why Montessori works, about how to optimize concentration within a classroom environment and it's a brilliant reminder to teachers and parents about respecting the work cycle and natural development.
Parents new to Montessori will gain a deeper insight into the workings of a Montessori classroom but will also receive the words of wisdom from the author who has many years of teaching experience across many cultures. Through her written work the author has made a significant contribution to the education of Montessori parents across the globe.
"Children have their own inner guide that tells them when to move, when to sit still. Our role is to discover what will inspire each child to act, to move in such as way that is in sync with his stage in development, and allow him to be guided by his own inner wisdom. This is Montessori mindful meditation."
Montessori and Mindfulness is an adaption of the 2017 presentation at the AMI International Congress in Prague, Czech Republic by Susan Mayclin Stephenson, author of The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three and Child of the World: Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+.