Tuesday, July 29, 2014
“Within the child lies the fate of the future.” ― Maria Montessori
For the third time this year, Karen (Mama Africa) is teaching a four-day seminar on the Maria Montessori method of teaching preschool age children. Ms. Montessori began her work in the early 1900’s but the schools that are carrying on her methods are still growing in number. There are Montessori schools here in Tanzania in the big cities, but my honey is bringing that expensive education to our villages for free. Using things that she can find locally, plus a few things that came from the States, she is not only teaching but equipping each school as well. She is providing them with large, lockable, wooden chests to store all the instructional tools including lesson plan pockets in the lid (she made the pockets herself, like most of the things in the boxes). They are learning by doing themselves (see picture at right) which is how Maria Montessori herself taught. Ms. Montessori believed and wrote, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” The standard of teaching here is for the teacher to recite, the students to write it down, memorize it, and then write it back on tests which is antithetical to all that we know about how children really learn. In 1971, we took our oldest son (four at the time) to a Montessori school. He loved it and still remembers Miss Mary, his teacher. It was one of the best things we ever did for him, so we believe in this having seen and experienced it first hand. The teachers here also love it and get right into it with gusto. It is thrilling to see how readily and greedily they absorb, translate, and use what they are learning. We now have preschools at Karikakari, Muranda, Balumba, Tireme, Mwanza, and here at Bunda. All of these schools are less than three years old, and we have added one each of the last two years. Our goal is have a preschool at every one of our twenty-four churches, but we will leave that to God. For now, Karen is teaching those who have established schools and will see what the future holds. As for me, I think my wife is changing the educational picture of Tanzania a little bit at a time. As the old saying goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” I am so very proud of her, and so are the pastors and teachers and parents in six villages in the Lake Victoria region of Tanzania. God never shows us how what we begin will ultimately end, it is our task to listen to the call and be obedient and available. Karen has certainly been that, as has John, and I hope I have been as well. We were not called here to do mighty works, just to do what we could, where we were, with what we have. God may turn those things into mighty works, but we just carry on and are blessed to be able to do it.