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ProgressAt Wilmington Montessori School, we have just sent out a new progress report and are in the process of conducting conferences with parents. As we worked to help parents understand the new format of the reports and think about the reasons for including each element on the report, I have been thinking about progress. Now, you may be nothing like me in this way, but in my life I have progressed and regressed many, many times – probably more times than I would like to consider. Interestingly, as we observe children and their growth, we look for and yearn for steady progress with few, if any, bumps along the way. Is this realistic?

Children grow in predictable ways. We know they generally triple their weight in the first year of their lives. They walk between 9 and 15 months of age. And, they begin to talk sometime before they are 2 years old. There are exceptions and there are children who follow these trajectories like clockwork. The same is true for their learning.

Each child in our school is unique, although they are all children of a certain age and are predictably learning in their own unpredictable ways. We recognize the standard patterns of growth and development as well as those that may be a bit less typical. We pride ourselves on being able to match lessons to the students’ needs; we don’t give lessons just to meet curricular or teacher needs. We very much want all of our students to learn at the pace that suits them best and to learn what they are ready to learn when they are ready to learn. Just as some of us run faster than others, we learn things at different rates.

Learning is a recursive process. Progress will be made in fits and starts. The way to ensure that children will want to learn more and will find the wonder in learning is to be keenly aware of who they are and how they learn, then wait for the moment to dangle the carrot that entices them to go further than we might have imagined. They most definitely won’t always progress in a straight line and they will have bumps along the way, but they, and you, will be glad they had the opportunity to do it their way with the appropriate support, opportunities and encouragement.