Allowing Children to Concentrate
As a parent, in order to get my child's attention, I often catch myself shouting my
child’s name across the room, house or yard. It is not always met with a resounding
“What mom? Do you need me mom?” Often it is met with silence. I may question in
my mind “Why doesn’t he answer me when I call to him” or “Did he hear me?” or “Is
he purposely ignoring me?” The answer to these questions is often made clear
when I approach him and find that he is intently shooting basketballs in the yard or
is reading excerpts of Harry Potter for the ninth time. He’s not ignoring me; he’s just
deep in concentration, a concentration that I have very disrespectfully possibly stolen from him.
The following article outlines the importance of facilitating a child’s development
of concentration, a primary goal here at Pine Grove. If we can have your help in this
process, the more successful your child will be. So we hope that you will try to
remember to look before you shout/talk and respect your child’s sense of
concentration. Just as we hope to allow them to do many things for themselves
independently in order to encourage independence we also need to allow them to
develop their concentration skills.
Allowing Children to Concentrate”
From: Tomorrow’s Child Magazine, September 2014
I like lots of parts of the Montessori system. But I am confused about why children are supposed to be quiet and calm all the time. When I watch my children at home, they seem to need to scream, run and jump almost constantly. It seems that the Montessori schools go against what is natural for children. But I wonder….Is it really possible to teach my children to be calmer?
- A confused mom
A fully functioning Montessori classroom is indeed a quiet and calm place. Parents who observe the classroom for the first time are often amazed and impressed by the serene focus they observe. However, although the classroom is tranquil, it is not silent; nor is this quiet and calm unusual for young children. It is simply the result of children joyously concentrating.
In a Montessori classroom, children have the freedom to choose any activity that calls to them. They learn how to use it, and then they use that material, calling it a “work”, until they have completed it. During this time of interaction there is usually a calm spirit around the child. She removes the work from the shelf, gets it set up, and begins. As she works, her concentration deepens, and she is often not really aware of anyone else or anything else that is happening around her. She is merely focused on the task at hand. Once the activity is completed, she cleans up, puts everything away, and then replaces the activity on the shelf where she found it.
The teachers in the room support her activity and the development of her concentration by ensuring that no interruptions occur to distract her while she is working. They do not ask for anything from her, speak to her or, allow others to interrupt her if at all possible. They actively protect her concentration and allow it to develop naturally. Over time, the length and depth of a child’s concentration increases, and her satisfaction in task completion increases, as well. Through this, the child develops a strong work ethic, as well a sense of internal motivation and joy in learning. In her book, The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori said, “An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather then fatigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities and leads him to self mastery.”
Between activities, children chat with each other, make plans to do a partner activity or have snack with another child, comment on something in the room, or simply socialize. Thus, the class has a calm, happy, natural buzz during most of the work time.
Parents can indeed encourage children to be calm and focused at home. The best way to reinforce this is to be purposeful about your home environment. Create areas where it is OK to jump and run. For most families these activities are done outside. But in some climates, a basement or garage may be an acceptable place as well. Indoors, create a space where you can provide interesting things on which your child can concentrate. Create activities and display them in a place where they are easily visible and readily available to your child. Low bookshelves work well for this purpose. Place all the parts of each activity together in a box or basket so it is clear that they go together.
The existence of external order creates the internal order in the brain. Encourage your child to choose an activity conscientiously and to interact with it on a deep level. Protect your child from distractions during this time. Encourage your child to complete the entire activity before putting it away. Be certain that you or other adults are not a distraction to your child’s concentration. Once the child is finished with that activity, teach him to replace it before getting another. You may need to help as your child is learning this skill. This consistency between home and school is enormously helpful in helping your child develop concentration as well as organizational and decision making skills. These skills will not develop overnight. Your child may need you to: show him how to choose, complete and replace an activity before selecting another; how to clean up; and how to organize materials. With time and repetition, this will become habit and your child will be calmer and happier.