There are times when children are working intently – focused and attempting work that is not on the surface challenging. But this time must be cherished and not belittled. We want children to work and work hard. However, our definition of hard work must not be boxed into “academic” work only.
In the second plane of development, the child’s “consciousness is thrown outward” (as Dr. Montessori called it), and the teaching “must only answer the mental needs of the child, never dictate them.” These mental needs are like a spider’s web which is stretching farther than does the animal itself. The wider the web’s anchor points, the wider the web will be. The job of the elementary teacher is to allow the child’s world to be wide.
To provide this freedom to observe, process, and respond we must provide several approaches to learning: 1. the Great Lessons and the support lessons (strike the imagination of the world), 2. lessons in the realm of pure academia, 3. going outs (field trips which are child directed), 4. spiritual and social chores to maintain the social fabric of the classroom, and 5. lessons which provide time for socialization, experimentation, and moral acquisition.
This last group of learning moments allows the lower elementary to become places which prepare children for life.