A year or so back, I was lucky enough to talk to an incredibly inspiring headteacher, who spoke about wanting school to be so exciting for children that it was like a trip to a theme park. He was deeply saddened by the fact that despite children’s amazing capacity to learn, somewhere during their school careers their enthusiasm and natural inquisitiveness gets lost. I have seen enough in my own children to know how having something taught in an inspiring way can give them an enthusiasm for a topic that knows no bounds (involving weekend trips to the library, googling topics and making models/posters etc to take in to school the following week).
Then, a few weeks ago, a link to a YouTube video about Montessori schools was sent to me. I have heard of it and had a rough idea of what it is about, but the video (featuring Gordon Ramsay’s wife, Tana) tells a bit more. I have to say, I really liked the idea of children choosing what they want to do and how they want to learn. And it’s not anarchy – it is explained that if all of the activities are of very high quality and have a positive value, then the children will learn whatever they choose.
As I was watching, I thought that a really good Montessori education at a young age (say up to six) could really set children up to love learning for life. It is designed to tap into a child’s natural potential and desire to learn and to be stimulating and tactile. It crossed my mind that it could also be part of the answer to Sue Palmer’s (author of ‘Toxic Childhood’) complaint that children don’t get to play outside, make mudpies and dens, and be creative any longer.
And it also made me sad that schools are now pushed ever harder to reach academic targets for children of an ever younger age that their focus is so often more on results and league tables than on children’s general development and wellbeing.