Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Three Aspects of Independence for Early Childhood, for the Primary Classroom

Functional independence is taking care of oneself, taking care of the environment, and in interactions with others.

Intellectual independence, on the other hand, is developing one's mind through one's own experiences, not through the experiences of others. It is composed of the ability to classify and categorize, the discriminate the relevant from the irrelevant, and to master the tools of learning. The child's learning happens best through her own efforts.

Emotional independence is the sense of developing one's own identity. The child learns to engage emotionally with the "other". She learns to act altruistically toward the other. She learns to share emotions and ideas with the other. She develops empathy toward the other. It is connected to the knowledge that everything I do contributes to the life of the community.

In the trajectory, it is the child's experience and learning that leads to independence. Understanding this trajectory, our role is to facilitate that independence. Furthermore, independence is not a static goal, but it is a continuous conquest in order to reach not only freedom but also strength. In the words of Maria Montessori, the work of perfecting one's powers is following the path of unremitting toil.

Even as Montessorians, we sometimes fail with giving children the opportunity to use the skills they have gained as a contributing member of that community. Work is the experience of exerting her powers, with the independence that she has gained. Development does not happen spontaneously; it is a product of experience in the environment. The child's independence will come from work, to perceive it from her own independent efforts.

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