BY PAT WERNER, HEAD OF SCHOOL
Back to School Night, September 14, 2017
Whether it’s your first year or 14th year, as is the case for some families, at WMS, we welcome you.
Over the past few years, I’ve talked about a few of the important qualities we hope for in our students—last year was growth-mindset, the year before that was gratitude and before that, grit. When I started thinking about what I’d like to talk about this year, I kept coming back to a book I read many years ago and an idea that has always been important to me—and really an idea fundamental to the WMS experience.
And that is developing self-reliance in our students. We’ve always believed encouraging self-reliance and independence to be one of our most important responsibilities even from the very beginning, but it’s perhaps even more so nowadays with the more complex world we’re raising our children in.
The book “Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World” resonated with me when I read it back in the 80s. (It was considered groundbreaking back then) I’m simplifying a bit, but the book addresses the difficulty of raising children in a world that offers immediate gratification and lacks in consequences.
Many years ago children learned lessons from very real life actions. If a child was assigned to milk the cow and that child forgot for a couple of days, the family went without milk until the cow had another calf. If a child didn’t pull the weeds, the vegetables wouldn’t grow. If he didn’t collect the eggs, there’d be no breakfast.
There were inherent consequences and rewards to their daily lives. Kids had purpose, meaning and a sense of control over their lives. Becoming capable and self-reliant was a natural result.
We don’t live like that anymore, so if we want to raise capable, self-reliant individuals and I think we can all agree that we do we have to be more proactive.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to run out and buy a milking cow.
Montessori emphasizes independence even for the youngest of students. The entire program at WMS is carefully planned and intended to support each child’s progression toward self-sufficiency and independence. And I promise you that many years from now when they are leading successful adult lives, they will be drawing from the lessons they learned here whether they know it or not.
And there are small but important things you as parents can do at home to help your child develop this sense of independence. (Your Head Teacher may have given you our guide “The Road to Self-Reliance.” It’s an outline of tasks children can do on his or her own at certain ages.)
What I like to think is the most important part of our guide is the last page. It reads “the road to self-reliance is not easy. It’s okay if…
…your young child wears clothes he or she picked out that are not perfectly matched.
It’s okay if your 6 to 9 year old eats whatever the teacher can find for lunch because lunch was forgotten.
It’s okay if your 9 to 11 year old turns in projects that look like your child did them, rather than an adult.
And it’s okay if your 11 to 13 year old makes self-image and friends a top priority.
It’s okay if your children make mistakes, because that is how they learn and it allows them to become self-reliant individuals. So as we look ahead to this new school year, my hopes for your children are lots of growth in all respects
…and plenty of space for mistakes!