I forgot my lunch!
One of my favorite things about being a Montessori/Acton mom is how often I am surprised and delighted by something one of my kids comes home doing that I had no idea they were capable of. I will never forget the first time my 18-month-old came home from a Montessori classroom putting on his own coat or finding out that my 5-year-old had known how to tie her shoes at school for six months before I ever saw it at home.
In theory, we know that the guides aren't *actually* magical, but what is their secret!?
If you ever get the pleasure of observing Ms. Marcela's studio when the heroes are putting on shoes or coats, you might see a little hero get flustered if they start to rush, but you'd also see Ms. Marcela stay the very picture of calm, still patience and gently remind them, "Take all the time you need." You can see little bodies visiby relax and slower hands start to find success.
It's so much faster and easier to fold laundry for them, to fill the water bottle for them, to tie their shoes or to button their coat as we rush out the door. It's so easy to lose that vital, still space that can be the difference between a struggle that ends in panic and tears verses a struggle that ends in success and empowerment.
That line between challenge and panic is at the forefront of a guide's mind every day in every single studio. We are carefully observing, encouraging when needed, and stepping back when we know they are ready. We talk often about failing "cheaply" or "safely" and one thing that means is that we never, ever step in to rescue a hero who is struggling but not in obvious distress. It's easy to imagine what that might look like in the case of a three-year old putting on their rainboots, but what about a middle school student who is not keeping up with the quest? What about an elementary hero who forgets their lunch?
Let's talk about the lunch example because it is an instance when, as parents, almost every single one of us will jump in to rescue without even giving it a second thought. At Acton, even in the case of forgotten lunch, our first reaction would never be to jump in and fix it for elementary or older heroes. Ok - Stay with me. Don't panic. Let me reassure you that we would never, ever starve a hero. We have an arsenal of forgotten-food options (even on outdoor days!), but that doesn't mean we would jump in and offer immediately. We would approach the situation the same as a hero facing any challenge or problem - the same way we approach a three-year-old struggling with boots - we would give them the space to get as far as they are ready to get towards solving their own problem before we step in. On one extreme, imagine a young elementary hero who is immediately visibly distraught. In that case - we would step in - but even then it would be with two options, so that even in a moment of panic, they have some autonomy towards solving their dilemma. Something like, "Would you like to call your mom, or would you like to make yourself a sandwich?" In another case, you might see a hero who is obviously not pleased, but thinking through their options. This is where the magic happens. This is where the who-will-solve-this-for-me? mindset turns into the how-do-I-solve-this? mindset we are all aspiring to. Maybe the victory that day is as simple as being brave enough to ask for help without it being offered. Maybe the victory comes when they solve it as a tribe by showing the hero where extra food is, without a grown up stepping in, or even by sharing a tiny bit of every lunch. In the meantime, we'll watch and step in if they hit a wall. The bottom line is that our goal at Acton is for them to at least *seek* a resource instead of sit and wait for rescue to appear from thin air, and for most of them that happens in baby steps, one victory at a time.
As Acton parents, we are united in our desire to foster independent, curious, capable little humans. This week, let’s challenge ourselves to think of one area where we personally tend to provide rescue without waiting to see if they need it. Maybe that’s actively giving them some calm, patient space to take all the time they need for shoes. Maybe that’s asking “Oh no! Well, what should we do!?” instead of offering them an immediate solution. Maybe it’s asking “What part can I help with?” Instead of assuming they still need us to do the whole thing.
You already know that one small struggle at a time is building your hero’s confidence and capability, but don’t lose sight that it’s the same for you. Challenge yourself. Give yourself space and grace. You are doing an amazing job in this crazy adventure of parenting. We are so glad you are in our tribe!