Metamorphosis Elementary School Of Monticello Inc

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


We have a tradition of celebrating every major holiday at our school, but after going with the flow of our culture for the first few years, we learned to tone down our celebrations. Montessori noted that sometimes "parents abandon children to the culture." Teachers and other adults do as well. However, even with her astute insight, surely she couldn't have forseen the over-the-top direction our culture would take - with just about everything. And it's easy, as a parent to just give in and say to oneself, "Everybody else is doing it." I've written a study regarding this subject, and have plenty to say about it, but it will take a series of posts. Today I'd rather share our most recent celebration...Valentine's Day.

Each year, close to the beginning of school, I like to start introducing the concept of celebrations. I read books from various cultures, we look at photos of people celebrating, and we talk about the components of a celebration. The children love knowing that there are some consistent traditions that humans from all over the world incorporate into their celebrations. We like to talk about this and list them again and again. We say, "We celebrate with clothing. We celebrate with food. We celebrate with decoration and art. (environment, face-makeup, cards, etc.) We celebrate with music. We celebrate with dance. We celebrate with fire." The children love this and actually begin to notice these different aspects of celebrating within the school community and within their outer community. To me, it is crucial that children get these kinds of lessons about the lives we are living. Otherwise, things are just thrown at them out of context, becoming just another thing to be whizzed through, thrown away and forgotten. On to bigger, better, louder, more expensive, and on and on. It's all dizzying to children and adults alike. I believe that this is a contributor to the rise in childhood depression that we are witnessing. They've seen it all and done it all by the time they are ten! What's left? So, instead of over-doing our celebrations, we make them truly special events that have meaning for the children. And that brings me to valentines.

It's taken a number of years to get all parents on board, but for the last several years we have had a commercial valentine-free celebration. We have included instructions in the parent handbook, and send home a reminder sheet weeks ahead of time. And voila! No store bought valentines come to school. Dr. Montessori said, "Of all things, love is the most important." I personally do not believe that buying a pack of Spiderman cards at the grocery the night before is teaching a child to love others. Love involves thought, and doing for others, and yes, a little work. So we insist that each child make the valentines. We also let our families know that parents are not to make them for the child. Assist? Absolutely. So we get great outcomes, including time together well spent, talking and laughing and making a mess and cleaning it up, and so on. Hopefully they start the project weeks early, but if they do it all the night before, a lesson is learned there too. It is the process, not the product that we are encouraging. And oh how the children love this! For weeks we've had various heart cutting materials on the shelf, along with gluing shapes, and fancier ideas for older children. Now they can set to work with an idea of what they are trying to accomplish. The day before the big day, we all take turns painting our mail sacks. Everyone is happy and excited. But the most astonishing thing to me is that on Valentine's Day itself, the children work throughout the morning as usual. They are not overly hyped up, just beaming with anticipation. In fact, this year, I put out some extra table materials that were new and enticing in case someone couldn't choose their work. I heard a first grade child invite another first grade child to play with these new things. The other child responded, "No. That wouldn't be a good idea. I have an equation I need to do, and if I play this I won't be finished before the party." The child who declined the invitation to play was not sad, in fact she went off happily to do her math problem. She's been in Montessori since age two, now she's six, and she knows her mind. Intrinsic motivation in bloom!

When the music box plays to call children to circle to celebrate, they put their work away and come carefully. We've talked, read stories, and prepared the children for this celebration for days now. The children know what this is all about. Children whose parents tell us that they cannot sit for five minutes at the dinner table, sit for a very long time indeed while cards are "mailed."

We take our time, and "ooh" and "ahh" over each child's creations. Children have cut special pictures from magazines, glittered, glued, drawn and painted. Some, from little ones, are just a tiny piece of paper with a crayon mark on it. But the children are so proud and shining as they give this gift to each of their classmates. When we are finished, we applaud, and have a dance. We've practiced our dance steps and we are ready. We've taken time to create our celebration, and we know how to party. We are a family of friends, sharing a peaceful tradition with meaning - and most of all, with real expressions of love.

FURTHER READING: This is an excellent article that has been featured in several publications. (I'm a braggy mom!), written by my oldest daughter Christina. Hope you will read and share.
 "Killing Special" by Christina Sanantonio

And finally, I would love some of you readers to become followers of this blog. I'm lonely here! And I would like to hear your comments and experiences with children, Montessori, and such! Please join and join in!

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