Wow. I am still in shock.
As I reflect on the letter I received today (I am typing this on Friday afternoon), I thought I'd share some thoughts that answer some private questions I receive from time to time.
Basically, these questions center around the relationship between Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Montessori education - for US. In OUR family.
Quote from the acceptance letter:
"With your great Montessori background, it's easy to want to include many wonderful materials in the atrium, but especially in an atrium used for training, we need to be true to Sofia and Gianna's understanding of the essential."
I appreciate what is said here, but I have some concerns as well.
- I came to Montessori THROUGH Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Yes, I found Montessori first, but I had levels 1 and 2 formation in CGS before I went to AMI primary Montessori training. The above statement makes it sound as if Montessori came first. Then level 3 CGS and elementary Montessori training overlapped.
- AMI is foundational. It does not participate in "fluff" and it too focuses on the essentials.
- I have full respect for Sofia and Gianna, and I have equal respect for Maria Montessori. All three ladies focused on the essential with the children, yet Sofia and Gianna's work was founded on Maria Montessori's work. This is getting a bit into the chicken/egg syndrome, so the main point is that we canNOT separate the Montessori method from CGS without losing KEY QUALITIES.
- Many of those foundational Montessori principles that are given in CGS formation courses (silence game, walking on the line) are losing their strength in the passing from one adult to the next. But when such exercises are fully present in the atrium, you find children who are centered (normalized), at peace, and working deeply.
- For me personally, CGS informs my application of the Montessori method in the academics far more than Montessori affects my CGS work in the realm of faith formation. I am not necessarily taking the above comment personally, but I do feel it is a blanket statement that reflects a division between the two rather than a recognition of CGS's roots in Montessori - the condition of the roots reveals the condition of the potential flowering.
Some interesting tidbits on the relationship between CGS and academic Montessori - or how Montessori can and SHOULD apply to CGS:
- Walking on the line and the silence activity are being watered down in CGS and the fruits are not forthcoming. These are *essential* Montessori principles that CGS needs to hold onto tightly, or it will become simply a mental exercise in religious education, such as Godly Play has become.
- Evolution and Age of the Earth: The academic materials that inspired such level 2 works as the Fettuccia and Blue Unity and History of the Gifts - has NO MENTION of the specific number of years since the birth of the Earth. Yet originally these CGS materials were made to represent a certain number of years and specifically TAUGHT evolution. I will not get into evolution versus creationism vs something in-between here. I will simply state that it is NOT the place of the atrium to get into this topic either. The atrium's place is to emphasize that God created the world and provided these gifts without mention of length of time. Let the children's imaginations, their schools and parents work it out. These modifications were finally made, but only after the Montessori community looked even further down on CGS for even trying to say that a rib on the grosgrain indicates 1,000 years - pure Montessori has no such material, neither should the atrium.
- I have had SO MANY children struggle with the concept of going from a globe to this flat map of Israel, with little to no connection to where we are now (other than on the globe). This is an area that CGS atriums should be introducing a brief preliminary geography material. Starting with the globe, then a round ball of clay, cutting the clay into two (hemispheres) and rolling them flat to show the two halves of the earth on a flat surface; then showing the puzzle map of the world, with Israel and the atrium's locations marked.
- We have Exercises of Practical Life in the atrium, but so many catechists are NOT focused on the Montessori essentials and they introduce "fluff" into the EPL area, at the same time they ignore what is most essential. Yes, the children need EPL. It fulfills developmental needs that allows the catechist to then get into the theological presentations. HOWEVER, transferring puff balls from one bowl to another is not necessary in the atrium, unless you have the children using tongs to get fresh cotton balls for the polishing work.
|The tray on the left should be glass|
or hard plastic; I was using it elsewhere
the day this photo was taken.
- Polishing: I have personally streamlined my AMI album pages on glass, metal and wood polishing, so that ONE presentation can be given and the child now has all the polishing available to work on. The only differences are the actual polishes in the bottles, the type of tray, the ring and the dish for the polish and cotton ball - designed to indicate what that polish is to be used for.
- There are a few ways that the Exercises of Practical Life within the atrium can be freshened up, so as to focus on the essentials, while meeting children's developmental needs, and leading more fully into the life of the atrium, the family and the church.
- Last EPL thought: consider how the children are to be responsible for the atrium and the church; provide those materials (polishing, flower arranging, cleaning, sweeping, folding cloths (ie for the altar)). Consider what preliminary work they need in order to accomplish those works (eyedropper transfer for polishing, introductory cloth folding, carrying trays and mats). If you need a few more preliminaries at the beginning of the year, fine! Then pull them out by the second month of atrium so the children are not matching colors or transferring puff balls all year when they have other work that more fully meets their developmental needs.
- Language: Some people add far more 3-part and 4-part cards than are entirely necessary. I fully agree with CGS's current materials manuals in how much they provide, with one exception: it is nice to have the 3-part cards for the cities of Israel for the level 1 children. But I have seen some people go much, much further and label *everything*. It gets to be too much.
- Summary: So in many areas, the Montessori influence is not balanced. Too much or too little and both to the detriment of the potential of the album.