Do as I say, not as I do.

Last week we attended a different music class than our usual (it was a make-up for one of many illness-related absences.) Since it’s the same program with the same syllabus, I expected the class to be more or less the same as our usual: Parents and caregivers singing and playing instruments, kids exploring and eating instruments, everyone participating in the music. Oh, how wrong I was.

I’ll expose my personal scars for a moment: as a child, I attended a Jewish day school where most of the students were… shall we say… excessively materialistic and disrespectful. It’s an ugly combination. So you know, I had all of three friends in elementary school.

Back to music class. As soon as I walked in, it was deja vu all over again. The way these moms were dressed and groomed, the way they snapped their chewing gum, and the way they spoke made me flash back to middle school. You’ll understand, then, why I was perhaps looking to find fault with them.

It wasn’t just me, though. Throughout the 45-minute session the teacher had to ask the moms to stop talking to each other and start participating at least ten or twelve times. This, in a program that clearly states its emphasis on adult participation as a way to model music-making for young children. This, in a program that costs a lot of money. Why would you spend that kind of money on a music program if you’re not willing to participate as required?

More importantly, what do you think your children are learning about music in this class? If you’re acting “too cool” to sing and play, why would your child want to do it? Besides, the child can hardly hear the singing (just the teacher and me) over the constant chatter. What a waste of everyone’s time. The whole experience made me picture this in my head, so I came home and made it:

What does this have to do with Montessori? Everything. The basis of the Montessori approach is that children want to participate in the activities and work that surrounds them – in other words, they want to do what the grownups are doing. Students at K’s school respect their teachers the way their teachers respect the students. They put things away in their places the way they see other students and teachers tidying up after themselves.

This is one of my major challenges in applying Montessori principles at home. I am not a tidy person. I’m creative and ambitious, and I flit from one project to another as the mood strikes me. Needless to say, I don’t always clean up after myself. So how will my children ever learn to do it?

I’m trying very hard. I put dirty clothes in the hamper, dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and I put my computer away whenever I’m done using it. I hope that my efforts will pay off, both in terms of teaching my children and in terms of keeping my home a pleasant place to be. But boy, is it difficult. It requires constant vigilance.

After all, a parent leads by example whether she means to or not.

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