Comfort With Uncertainty

How To Decide What To Do With Your Life

This article addresses younger children primarily, but I believe this is important information for adults too. Perhaps we weren’t raised with practice in developing these skills, but there are many adults in my same situation – what we thought we’d be doing isn’t the case because the world has changed – and we now are sort of forced to develop these skills/habits, which is extremely difficult. Being comfortable with uncertainty is the most difficult for me, but hopefully will turn out to be the most rewarding when my business begins to thrive.

How wonderful, though, to think that we can help young children today be more comfortable with their uncertainty than I am today. My lack of opportunities to practice this skill becomes a huge motivator for me to make sure my child has every opportunity. Not to discourage any child who “just knows” to follow a certain path – I’m sure that plan still does work for some people. Either way, developing comfort with any kind of uncertainty is a life skill that young children need to learn to be able to adapt to a changing world.



This essay about the value of grades is written by, and from the perspective of a Montessori educated child who is now in high school. She writes about her experience with earning grades and how it relates to her experience with learning. I am grateful for contributions like this from people who are living examples of how Montessori method has impacted their lives. I can only speak as a teacher of Montessori, and not as someone who has experienced it personally. I often feel that my arguments automatically have an air of “grass is greener on the other side” because I can only speak to what I didn’t like about my childhood education, and what I think can be better for the future of our children. Words like these give me confidence for the kind of education I am offering children for a more peaceful future, and assurance that children are certainly not “missing out” on these aspects of traditional school.

Free Range Kids

Free Range Kids Controversy

Growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s in Iowa, my siblings and I were raised more or less as what you would call “free-range” kids today. We were allowed to go to area parks on our own at a young age. It wasn’t just me and my siblings, it was the norm in our neighborhood, and nearby neighborhoods at the time. I feel a little torn about the issue these days. The structure of the neighborhoods surrounding me now are a lot different from the one I grew up in. Our subdivision is placed near a very busy street with dangerous traffic. Deeper inside the subdivision it is much safer, and children would have to be taught to respect boundaries. But not all neighborhoods are the same. I think there is something lost when children can’t play unsupervised some of the time, but that all depends upon the relative safety of the surroundings. Parents who allow children to play unsupervised in questionable environments, or with expectations that other adults will simply take over supervision duties, are being neglectful. But, if you have created reasonable rules and boundaries to be certain of your child’s safety, you have developed a trusting relationship with your child(ren), and you have good relationships with neighbors who are happy to watch out, then there should be no fear. We have to make reasonable choices on both sides of the issue, no matter where we stand on it regarding our own children.

Trust Your Child, Free Yourself

Help, My Toddler Can’t Play Without Me!

Even if you have anxiety about leaving the presence of your child (including drop-offs to daycare) you should try to avoid passing that apprehension on to your child. Children can sense your moods and emotions, and will generally behave according to the model you set. I had many troubles with anxiety at drop-off – from parents and children – when I worked at large Montessori schools. Anxiety in children was heightened when parents behaved as if they did not want to leave the child, giving multiple hugs and kisses, and generally prolonging the departure. Unknowingly, parents were exhibiting distrust in the teachers and in the environment in which the child was being left. The children of such parents typically had difficulty getting calm, trusting and interacting with teachers, and trusting and interacting with friends.

It’s difficult to leave a child who appears to be in distress, but showing trust in your child’s ability and in the environment that you have chosen and/or prepared for your child to be able to entertain him or herself independently of you, can increase independence and self-confidence in your child. It frees you both from stress, and frees you both to do your own activities. Build trust, build freedom.

Slow Down To Real-Time

Why Slowing Down Stimuli to Real-Time Helps A Child’s Brain

Research continues to support limiting screen time especially in a child’s youngest years of development. Sadly, I have seen home day care ads that publish a daily schedule that includes tv/dvd time of at least 1 hour per day. I have even witnessed children in an after care program at a “Montessori” school sitting in front of the television. Be aware of your child’s exposure to the television (including ads targeted to children that feature unhealthy foods and developmentally inappropriate or unnecessary toys).

There is no television in my home day care space. Not only is it not necessary – we can find plenty of activities to engage in, even on a rainy day – it’s simply not healthy. I’m not suggesting we should ignore technology, but a young child’s brain simply is not ready for such a fast pace. Familiarity and ability with technology will come quickly – when the child is developmentally ready.

Embrace Unschooling

The kind of freedom described in this article illustrates the beauty of living life without arbitrary constraints. Adults today, particularly those who went through the traditional schooling regimen, may have a tendency to focus on what a child may be missing out on by not having “school”. But in today’s world there is no lack of resources for information, nor for human connections and interactions of all varieties. Why leave it up to chance the teachers your child will be “instructed” by? Yes, there are wonderful, inspiring teachers in public schools, and your child may or may not be lucky enough to have one, most likely for just a short period of time. Instead of having to obtain certain arbitrary credits, and spend time with arbitrarily assigned teachers who give out arbitrarily determined grades, now the whole world has opened up and can be accessible to your child! What could he be missing out on?


Schools Should Be Designed for Learning

I may have subconsciously known this when I was a student in public school, but became very aware of it when I became an orchestra teacher in both public and private schools. If what is happening in the academic world is the same as what is happening in the instrumental music world (in these schools), I can completely empathize and understand. I can only imagine at this point how much worse things have gotten in just a few years since I have left the profession.

In my experience, my job was to earn high performance ratings at all costs, and not to actually teach music and offer musical experiences to all interested students. I was rudely criticized at all opportunities for doing exactly the opposite of this. While many other programs “hid” their lower-performing groups by not allowing them to perform in public, I invited all of my students to have the valuable experience of performing in public and working with a local clinician. This resulted in lower overall performance scores, and intense and unfair scrutiny from administrators and department chairpersons who had no direct experience with my teaching, my classroom routines, or the children enrolled in my classes. I had no regrets about this whatsoever, because I could see how the experiences benefited the students in my program. But the years of criticism did wear me down. I felt like I was constantly fighting a losing battle. All interests were on annual performance scores, and not on actual learning. All staff meetings, and all conversations among colleagues essentially centered around this and it got to a point where I could not stand it any more and had to leave the profession.

As a student in the orchestra program at the public schools I attended, I may indeed have benefited in ways I can’t comprehend today. I remember practicing for auditions and “chair challenges” and being really proud of “first chair” distinctions. I do believe that competitive opportunities are valuable, but they have their place in the child’s experiences and overall development in their younger years. It should not define a program or a school nearly to the extent that it does today. And they should definitely not be to the exclusion of real learning opportunities. Focus needs to be more on authentic learning experiences for young children rather than on outward appearances of success, which are usually artificial, and at the expense of alienating many hard-working and well-intentioned young minds.

Free to Concentrate

“ The child is impelled by the opportunities given to him. – Maria Montessori ”

In a world so ever-changing, always adjusting to the demands of the day, and as fast-paced as modern American life has come to be, the question of “How to you get kids to concentrate?” is an essential question among devoted parents, about their child(ren), directed to their child’s Montessori teacher. The question is asked in grave concern regarding their child’s development, and in their notably devoted efforts to complement and make consistent what the child experiences between home and school. The answer to that question? Some examples are given here in this link, and others are forthcoming as the topic has many variables.

Here is a starting point to that dialogue, and the rest is a process of trust, belief, and understanding – not in a spiritual way, but in a way that allows for the delicate balance of many aspects of human development to occur with as few obstacles as possible over a long period of time – as much time as is required for optimal human development, and under the guidance of a network of trusting and loving adults.

Sibling Rivalry and Building Conflict Resolution Skills

Laura Markham’s article on the latest research on whether or not to intervene when children argue. We need to give children opportunities to work through conflicts on their own if we expect them tp be independent in this area in the future. But they also need adequate language and skills to deal with conflicts, especially in the early years of interacting with siblings and peers. It’s important for the adult to be aware of when the stronger personality constantly wins out and the softer personality constantly gives in. In these instances, intervention is appropriate. This gives a great opportunity for teaching listening and empathy skills for the strong child, and to encourage the quieter child that speaking up is important, and okay to do.

Emotional Meltdowns

Great tips are given in this article on strengthening social/emotional skills in children. Children very much respond to your energy and emotion. That’s not to say that you should hide yours or pretend you don’t ever experience anger. But, the way you deal with your emotions is your child’s model for how to deal with emotions. In order to help children deal effectively with emotions and relationships with others, we must be calm in our approach.