Montessori is not just a method of education, it is a philosophy and a way of being, and peace is at its very core. Maria Montessori lived during a time of war and turmoil and she viewed children as the hope for the future. Thus, peace education was and is an extremely important part of Montessori.
When I think about peace, I picture concentric circles with peace radiating outward. It all begins with inner peace, peace with one’s self. Then comes peaceful interactions with people you know. Global peace, or a peaceful outlook toward other countries and cultures and humankind, follows.
This may seem like a lofty topic for babies, but how could it ever be too early to incorporate something so essential? The early months and years are when a person forms his sense of self, who he is going to be. What better time could there be to think about peace?
With that in mind, I’ve been trying to incorporate some peace “activities” into our routine. I really believe that so much of this comes from modeling – children watch how we treat people at the grocery store, they listen to how we talk about people when they’re not there, and they sense how we feel about “others,” or people outside of our own culture. Still, I think there are some things we can do to intentionally incorporate peace as well.
This may seem impossible with young children, but if you catch them in the right frame of mind, it can be beautiful. I feel like people often think of children as silly and playful, which they certainly can be, but they also have such deep, beautiful souls if you give them the chance to show you.
In the Montessori classroom, children play the “silence game”. This is NOT like when an adult challenges a rowdy child to be silent for as long as possible. The thing about the silence game is you have to catch a child when they can succeed. If you asked me to be silent when I was in the middle of excitedly telling you something…or right after my second cup of coffee, I would fail too.
But if you notice when a child is already calm and peaceful, you can stretch this and cultivate that sense of peace by sitting in silence. In the classroom, we would sometimes use a candle or an hourglass timer to mark the game. We would also sometimes play it while sitting outside and then talk about the sounds we heard.
Obviously this looks different with a baby, but I like to take James outside and sit in silence when he is peaceful. Often we do this first thing in the morning. He will eventually start to babble and then we sing songs or talk about what we see outside, but I want him to know that it’s also okay to just be still, to sit without words.
Use Peaceful Language
To encourage peaceful interactions with others at this stage, I just try to use peaceful language. I know that he’s always watching and listening and I strongly believe that he will pick up more from watching us interact in the world than from us telling him to “play nicely” when he’s older. I also talk to him about being “gentle” when he reaches out to touch his baby friend (or tries to roll right into her…) I have no idea how much of this he understands right now, but I figure it’s never to early to start.
Explore Other Cultures
This is a fun one! I think familiarity with other cultures is a big part of avoiding prejudice. Some of my favorite memories of attending Montessori preschool as a child are of celebrating holidays from other cultures – exploring their dress, trying their foods, and listening to stories and songs from other countries.
With James, I’m loving the book Global Babies right now. It shows babies from countries around the world and talks about how they are all beautiful and loved. He likes looking at the pictures of different types of faces. I also try to sing peaceful songs with him and look forward to introducing him to foods from different cultures as he continues his journey with solid foods.
For older children, Same, Same but Different is an excellent book. I also remember loving this book when I was a child and hope to do more things to celebrate different cultural holidays as James gets older and becomes more aware.
These are just a few easy things we try to incorporate into daily life. Hopefully we can do more as he gets older!
Were you exposed to different cultures as a child?
If you have children, do you have any tips for incorporating peace / any book ideas?