By Barbara Isaacs, June 2021
In our last Montessori Musings webinar of this academic year, focusing on the leading and managing our Montessori settings in England, we will be exploring the challenges facing us with the introduction of the revised EYFS in September 2021. You can register for this webinar here.
One significant change which has been made within this statutory document is the emphasis on children’s progress and achievements in reception classes. This will actually give Montessori preschool settings more freedom to ensure that they focus on children’s learning and development in the prime areas of learning, which align so beautifully with the children’s sensitive periods. Concentrating on the areas of practical life, sensorial, understanding the world and creative activities offers the opportunity to reflect and articulate to parents the value of the indirect preparation for literacy and numeracy, and highlight the importance of giving children time and space to be – so that their personalities can really unfold and reveal their true potential. It should also enable us to continue promote outdoor learning; especially today when young children need to play together, giving them agency and opportunities to connect and reconnect during the social embryonic stage in their first plane of development.
Do re-read the chapter on social cohesion in the Absorbent Mind – it reminds us of the children’s need to be with other children and share their learning with each other. This is at the heart of what being a human means – learning to collaborate, to accept each other for what we are, to be compassionate and supportive without being overbearing, not imposing our ideas and being able to contribute to each other. To show caring and love as we share in the trials and tribulations of being and learning to be together. In my view, personal social and emotional development should be the focus of pre-school education. Understanding what it really means to be away from our families and learning to navigate the world of others in a respectful, sensitive way should guide our work with young children.
You may remember our earlier webinar where we focused on introducing the concept of “mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors”. I would like to encourage you to think about your work with children as an opportunity to offer them ‘mirrors’ to reflect themselves and the communities in which they are growing up in, so that they can become stronger individuals and get to know and value themselves and others. By opening ‘windows’ you will be able to offer a glimpse not only the natural riches of our planet but also of the cultures of the many communities who share the Earth with us – this will model respect, admiration, joy, solidarity and joy of being. For me it is a huge privilege to be that ‘sliding door’ which connects the world of our children to Montessori’s vision of peaceful harmonious co-existence. And this brings me back to our next webinar.
Wendelien and I have reflected on how best can we serve your needs and would like to contribute our understanding of the EYFS educational programmes that support the areas of learning, explained in the context of Montessori pedagogy. We will be working on this project during July and hope to share it with you in August. This is a little taster of what we are attempting to do, focusing on the key prime area of Personal Social and Emotional Development of the child. As you will see we also include the Birth to 5 Matters definitions because they very sensitively and respectfully consider the holistic development of the child.
We hope that, when ready, this document will contribute to your important work with young children, and will help to reinforce your commitment to the Montessori principles of trusting and respecting the child’s capacity for spontaneous learning in an environment prepared with them in mind as you continue to observe, reflect and learn from them.