We are sharing much more information than ever before, and perhaps this helps to dispel some of the mystery surrounding Montessori materials. Carissa and I enter short notes almost daily, recording the children's main lessons online instead of on paper. All the photos that we post remain in each child's ongoing records; parents can read up on the lessons if they choose, and easily follow their child's progress through the months and years.
So parents are getting lots of messages about their children's activities. Reports are that it is wonderful to get glimpses like this one, of Eva discovering the colored beads - a window into your child's day. It seems that we've taken a significant step further into the 21st century!
But here's the thing: it's impossible to describe even a single day at Chickadee. Parents have a more transparent view of their own child's activities as we report them, but not of what other children are doing. And without this larger view, the picture is incomplete.
Each child has her own inimitable experience, moving within her personal time and space amidst countless encounters, conversations, activities, and shared moments. Life is unfolding naturally, and it's all happening within the sheltered community of our Children's House. How can it be described? Perhaps general adjectives come closest: amazing, challenging, peaceful, fluid, heated, funny, rich, interesting, nurturing, relaxing - every day new, every day different.
So I've been reflecting recently on what is missing in this new system of ours, and wanting to remind parents to hold that larger view in mind. That's where this blog post comes in...
...because what is missing are the innumerable experiences and impressions that fill every child's day. We might manage to send one photo, and record one or possibly two lessons, for some of the children; we don't post for every child every day. And yet think of it, every single day every child uses one material after another, engages in one conversation after another, moves from one interest to another, and feels one upset or hurt or joy after another.
What is missing? The fullness of unfolding life in a Children's House. Here are some examples:
Imagine our daily group times - so much happens there that we do not express in Transparent Classroom. For instance, last week Carissa introduced a new science experiment with celery, and to begin, she passed around small pieces of celery for each child to examine and then chew. See all the hands raised here? The kids got really excited finding words to describe what they were noticing. Then as they chewed, more descriptions. Even the child who declared that she hated celery got into it. The children's interest was increased and influenced by each other's excitement, all this from simple pieces of celery.
What else is missing? All the sounds and noises that fill our day - the talk, the hmmm of active children, the questions and answers, the funny and serious conversations, the shouts and (if we're lucky) whispers. Then there is the whole dimension of music - our frequent songs, practice with rhythms and games, and now the new work listening to recordings of instruments of the orchestra. Music always helps to gather their energies and stimulate their minds - it's a vital dimension of being, which we can barely indicate with a few words or a photo.
- And so important, the warm-hearted friendships and connections between children cannot possibly be conveyed in Transparent Classroom in any substantive way. A flowing variety of children playing and interacting with different children in familiar and new ways is always happening, inside and outside. Last week, for instance, Julian and Seamus were the first to sew their panda pouches, and they instantly became "panda brothers," inseparable. Their love for each other echoed through everyone's day. Next week they may continue on, or things will shift again. It's beautiful that they have the freedom and the comfort to explore what it means to be friends.