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Concentration in the Second Plane: 6-12

September 19, 2019

 

Just as you feel like you've mastered the pace of Early Childhood, you find yourself with an active, blooming Elementary student in your house. They're louder than they used to be. They're more kinetic. They're goofy in ways you didn't know possible.

 

This is an age that's making sense of a much larger, much more complicated world than younger children could process. The glitter-in-a-windstorm quality of the Second Plane is not intentional: it's the result of competing motivations and a developmental urgency that, believe me, kids can be as overwhelmed by as the adults who care for them are. 

 

Concentration is not their forte. 

 

Unless... in preparing your environment, you still prioritize it. Montessori classrooms are designed to allow for both this increased activity and to make space for attentive engagement, even though that engagement might be noisier than before. Learners at this age need larger-scale projects, more time to complete them, and more forgiveness for the messiness in the meantime. Because the child is drawn in so many directions, it falls to the adult to be a steady, unflappable voice of reason, reminding them to slow down and think it through. You'll see teachers offering larger, group lessons, ones that require lots of talking and social engagement. Absent are the small pouring exercises that would enchant a younger child. Instead, you'll find multi week projects clearing paths in the woods behind school or building platforms for impromptu performances. Practical Life still offers opportunities for children to practice their concentration, but we know that now, more so than in earlier stages of development, children need larger projects that involve multiple peers and allow for social time together. 

 

Children at this age already have plenty of distractions: peers, new relationships, growth spurts, issues of justice and fairness. They don't need more from their environment. Put away the screens and give them more time outdoors. Go for a hike and leave your phone in your backpack. Take a sketch pad if you want to be able to remember the view. When your kids seem unbound, let them get outside. Let them get dirty in big ways. Let them move their bodies and climb up things and ride their bikes with friends. 

 

Children at this age have plenty of noise around them. Truly, the amount of chatter that happens between children in the Second Plane is extraordinary. Simultaneous. Without noticeable beginning or end. At tones you've never heard before. Give them silence, your eye contact and your attention. Ask them questions and let them talk. Ask more questions and let them talk more. Conversation is a form of concentration. Let them stay engaged with you... even if it means you have to hear the same details a thousand times. 

 

And when you see that all those things children in the Second Plane are juggling become too much for them, when you see your child melting down or losing their cool, be that safe space. Help them to find a quiet spot to breathe or read or hug you for a little bit. Let them be small. The universe will overwhelm them sometimes-- that's when they need your forgiveness and your refuge. Their understanding of the world is changing as rapidly as the length of their legs... be the place that's steady in the midst of all that wobble. Their concentration might not look the same way now as it did when they were younger. Instead of focusing on a single activity with uninterruptible focus, they are finishing activities while being attentive to everything else that's happening around them. Get them moving. Give them your attention. Quiet down and let them do the talking, and enjoy the ride. 

 

 

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