My experience was that how the children and materials were treated was very school dependent. I was trained to teach the use of the materials in a way that helped the children feel comfortable using them and how to care for them but that was very little more than a basic way to use them with lots of encouragement to figure new/more ways to use them. I also got to work with children this way in my student teaching classroomss. When I went to a teach in a full time class it was at a school that taught all the ways to use the materials and didn't allow any experimenting, my leading the children to freedom was unappreciated, I was reprimanded. It was soon after that I stopped teaching, instead I started homeschooling my own girls. There is such a strong drive in the educational system to train children that many schools that offer Montessori, Waldorf and other alternative methods end up training and forget what the method was intended to do...educate.
In my training to be a directoress or guide in a Montessori preschool classroom, we learned that we don't teach the children, we guide them to make discoveries. We spent as many hours in our training classroom making discoveries with the Montessori materials as we did in lecture, as a requirement, so that we could understand what it means to guide rather than teach. This was the first time I received an education, my mind was opened and I made as many discoveries about myself as I did about Montessori and children that year. More importantly, what was begun that year continued to grow. When I was in my first classroom guiding children to their own discoveries I first had to overcome something, these young people had already come to depend on being told what to do and how, they were only 3-6 years old but they insisted that I tell them what to do nearly each step of the day. A Montessori classroom is child driven, but only If the children are free to choose, move and discover. As I helped the children become reacquainted with freedom, I recognized all the ways I wasn't allowing freedom and discovery in my life. It has been many years but I'm still learning to be comfortable with freedom. Though I no longer work in a classroom the education I received in Montessori Teacher Training is still quite relevant. An education is alive and continues long past the time with the teacher, professor or school.
Tonight I received a reminder as my seven year old daughter came to me after I had tucked her into bed:
Sabina "I feel angry and sad and I don't know why. Why?"
Mama "Your feelings don't need a why. They are just there. Often the why comes after the feeling anyway."
Sabina "I feel like I need to cry. Why?"
Mama "Perhaps you are tired or got into a ray through the universe or have something deep inside that says 'This is a quiet moment and it is a good time to speak and be heard.' It doesn't really matter why, just let the crying come. Remember when I told you that often people believe it is not ok to feel so they squash their feelings inside? Sometimes they are difficult like pain and sadness and anger and sometimes they are the opposite like a lake of joy. For some reason it was said or at least believed that it isn't ok to feel so then the sadness came that it can't be felt. Then the fear came that it might be felt anyway. Then the anger came that there is fear. Beneath all is that feeling waiting to be felt. Perhaps your need to cry is these feelings calling to be felt. You could go curl up in bed with a comfy stuffy and quietly let it come. It seems to want quiet."
Sabi nodded her head then went bed while I waited to turn off the light. "I will be awake for a while if you need me."
The tears didn't come but in a few minutes she came to me and fell asleep almost before finishing her wiggles.
She was peaceful.
Allow is what the word has been for me and the universe has amazing ways to remind me, often by having me say to my daughters exactly what I need to hear.