Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Development of the Will of the Child: the child in the pk/k primary classroom

If we consider any of our voluntary actions, they are the consequence of the will. We chose the exercise the will each time we come to the impasse to action. Our first response, I want to touch that mushroom, before responding as to whether I will or not. When I exercise the will the impulse may also direct the movements more precisely, as an intelligent direction of movement. The intelligence guides our choices. In many small ways, we are constantly adjusting between impulse and restraint.

All of our voluntary actions are a result of the will, but when we repeat certain movements, there is less and less an action of the will. Tasks move out of conscious memory and become a part of the habitual memory.

What is the will? What does it help us do?
An exercise of the will is not complete unless it is also an action. The child has to persist in the choice of the will and keep acting on it until it is done.

The instinctual yields the intentional, yielding the voluntary, conscious decisions. To function as a full human being, we need to focus on the will as much as the intelligence. Then, there must be a natural path to the development of the will, too. In working at various activities, the child is becoming more aware. What started as an impulse becomes a conscious act, to bring instinctive movements to a level of consciousness. (An example would be the child attempting to repeat a random discovery, like a sound or a whistle.)

In the Montessori casa, when the child comes to the classroom, the consolidation of the will can only come about through activity and practice. It is our role to make sure that the child has the appropriate materials to exercise the will in this environment. We resent a variety of materials so that they can chose between similar items, for example, in spooning and pouring activities. Consistently, we are offering choices within the capacity of the child. Everything in the room is going to be appropriate for the child ages 3 to 6. Any time the child has to do an activity, they can chose where they will sit. They have to decide how to get to a table or a mat as a place to choose.

Continuously in the classroom, the child is exercising their will, not having an assigned seat. And even in doing the activity, we offer the child an image of what the activity will look like. Only then can we act on the basis of our choice. So, constantly, we are developing our capacities and constantly do the activities in the context of so many other activities, needing to harmonize our wills together.


In The Advanced Montessori Method, she writes that children are constructing their own wills through judgment and comparison and make their intellectual acquisitions with order and clarity. They can decide in every act of their daily life. The work of building the personality takes place in the context of making decisions. Doubt and timidity disappear, and the child becomes an independently functioning individual.


Jeannot Jonte Boucher is a Montessori educator and parent in Dallas, Texas. 

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