One motif found throughout Montessori-inspired education is known as The Gift of Time. This concept comes up in a variety of ways when working with Montessori students and educators, but always implies a similar idea. When a student (or anyone, for that matter) is hard at work with something, we give them time and space to work out a conclusion.
The Gift of Time
The Gift of Time aligns closely with the theories of independence and self-selected work that Montessori theory hinges on. Without The Gift of Time, independent, sustained concentration on work would not be possible.
Across Age Levels
Depending on the age of the child, and the work being done, the time that we allow students may look different. Younger children need time to explore the world around them, and develop a sense of understanding and routine. Older children need time to reason, and internalize abstract concepts.
As Maria Montessori famously stated, "play is the work of the child." Throughout childhood, children need the time to play on their own terms. As they become young students, they need time to engage with ideas and concepts, explore the ramifications of those concepts, and cement them into their knowledge base with repeated practice. Even when things seem difficult, when the first attempt, or even the second and third, doesn't work according to plan, students need time to try, to struggle, to adapt, and to overcome.
The foundational skills that Montessori learning is built upon are order, coordination, concentration, and independence. Each of these skills takes dedicated time to cultivate, practice, and display. Sustained concentration necessitates an extended period of uninterrupted work. Independence requires the time to develop skills and confidence, and more time to engage with the concept after.
Students need time to build not only their knowledge of a subject or task, but their soft skills, as well. Time helps students to build resiliency, confidence, independence, and perseverance. As students get older and begin addressing more complex, abstract topics, it becomes more important to give them time and space to internalize.
Montessori work focuses heavily on the use of materials and manipulatives throughout the younger ages, but as students age, they reach greater levels of abstraction, and begin attempting to incorporate non-concrete topics they may have never encountered before, in an ever-widening schema. While the work of an older Montessori student may be more specific, with greater depth, they still need their own time to work through and internalize their thoughts.
We know that young students need our time. They need our guidance and expertise to navigate new concepts or difficult situations. We, as educators, are more than happy to give our time to our students. Sometimes, the biggest challenge is standing back and giving students their own time. But the results are always worth it!