CGS – great training ground for trusting the child

CGS has been the ultimate training ground for the “directress/catechist/guide” as it requires so little intervention as compared to a Montessori classroom. Very often, homeschoolers and even Montessori schools are required to abide by legislation that requires “standards” to be met regularly. So we are constantly trying to “seduce” the child to get interested in various parts of the environment – especially math and language (science never seems to be a problem with most kids).

With CGS, on the other hand, there are often no “prescribed standards”, although often, as adults who went through the “teach more learn more” conventional schools, we sometimes fall into the trap that “the child needs to know this”. When I went for a refresher course in September, I was reminded – the child is a mystery – you present the work and leave the rest to him and God! Of course, it sounds easier than it really is. A lot of observation on the part of the catechist is crucial. Knowing the child, his background and where he is likely to go is important, but sometimes, we just don’t know what is going on in the child – and that is perfectly ok!

This year was a wonderful year for me and CGS. I think doing the Montessori co-op for elementary children in tandem with CGS for older children was a good thing. I saw children with newer eyes and approached them with a different heart. Normalization is NOT an obedient, compliant or well-behaved child. Sometimes the most bouncy and apparently “off” child is the normalized child and the quiet child who constantly sits at the table drawing or writing is not.

It is whether they are “free to choose”, their inner self free from environmental factors that prevent them from finding what their hearts truly desire. There were 3 such children in the CGS environment I worked in this year – but that’s not to say the others didn’t sometimes emerge out of their adult-imposed selves.

One such child LOVED to go for confession. She has been going every week since she first received the sacrament. She realised, not because anyone told her that she has to go because she is a sinner, but that she wants to prepare herself before each mass to receive the Body of Christ, free from sin. She offered, without anyone telling her to, to stop being antagonistic with her siblings on the grounds that if she did so, she would be doing something wrong that would require confession. And all that came from the CGS approach – which is – we don’t lecture the child about what is sin and what WE adults see as sin. We merely present the parables of mercy – the true vine, the prodigal son, the found sheep, the found coin – and explain what the process of reconciliation is (without imparting the negative view that we adults were indoctrinated with). The true vine talks about how much Jesus wants us to be part of him that when we make wrong choices and act on it, we are apart from Him. The other 3 focuses on the unconditional love He has for us and the joy He feels when we return to Him. Pretty powerful stuff.

Another child, when presented the synthesis of the advent prophecies exclaimed (when asked why a King would be born in a small town in a tiny stable), “The greatest things come out of the poorest of places.” or something to that effect. I was amazed. This is something theologians come up with – we didn’t “teach” him that. And yet….

The third child, listened, mouth opened, when I delved into Parousia as I talked about Isaiah’s Prophecy (Is 40:3-6). It didn’t matter that the other child, his buddy, was prancing around, making fun of the words I spoke. His eyes spoke of a hunger within him – that the discussion of His coming again – and the end of the world when God is all in all – was able to finally satisfy.

These moments I truly treasured. They taught me how we can never ever know what is going on within the child. We need to be humble, but we must work hard, so that we can support and provide the right environment to nurture the child’s inner self. Leaving a child to do whatever he wants is not Montessori. It’s really about providing the keys and helping the child help himself. And yet, it takes a huge amount of faith and trust and – much more work than I ever realised!

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