Rhythm and Movement: Chapters 13-15

Trying out instruments in Gerry's music room

Chapter 13: Rhythm

We mostly think of rhythm in terms of music, dance and drums. Although music education is a large part of Council Oak Montessori School’s curriculum, the Montessori sense of rhythm goes deeper. It is one of those Secrets of Childhood which give us insight into developing a child’s self-control. “Rhythm is not simply an old concept that can be changed at will. It is an intrinsic characteristic of an individual almost like the shape of the body.

Children take great pains to accomplish tasks, often focusing on minute details which we see as unnecessary. To the child these tasks are critical. Their rhythm is slow and deliberate. When we take the liberty to perform tasks for our children rather than letting them do it on their own, we are substituting their rhythm for ours.

Our rhythms are so entwined in our personas that it can be uncomfortable to spend much time around someone with a different rhythm. For an example try driving behind someone going very slowly for an extended period of time.

When a child needs deliberation for simple tasks it can be frustrating for us. The difference in rhythm is frustrating even when we understand the need of the child to practice their skills. It is important to make sure that we respect our child’s rhythms. Imposing our own rhythms only represses the child’s.

Chapter 14: Substitution

Children are impressionable. If we are overly excitable or forceful in our guidance we run the risk of substituting our personality for theirs. This is especially true in young children who are just beginning to be self aware.

Maria Montessori noticed that in her schools “if we show a child how to do something with too much enthusiasm or exaggerated movements, the child’s capacity to think and judge for themself is repressed.” It is not willful repression, but simply the strength of our personalities that risks holding the child back.

This impressionability comes from a sensibility or love for their environment. The Secret of Childhood is a testament to the wonder of childhood development. Children are eager to grow and learn and will watch us eagerly to see how things are done. Maria Montessori saw it as our mission to be good examples- and that requires understanding and patience.

We must be careful to allow children the space to exercise their own newly formed wills. This takes care, and a network of peers to keep us accountable. Children at this impressionable age are likely to feel the effects of their early education for a long time. 

A careful education develop’s the child’s self-control, helping them master their desires. An education where the adults are overly enthusiastic leads to children who are out of their own control, acting on impulse rather than reason.

Chapter 15: Movement

We cannot assume that reason develops automatically in children. Instead it is built up through interaction with the environment. Through movement the child looks around the room, discovers that objects fall toward the ground without fail, and explores the dimensions of their environments.

That interaction not only builds a wealth of experiences, but it also builds an understanding for the child about what they are capable of. Exercising their muscles allows them to become capable of new things. As they improve control over their body, the child’s self-control is improved in all aspects.

Keeping one’s muscles conditioned is then vitally important for spiritual as well as physical well being. Our energy levels depend on movement, as well as our concentration. Whether it is through a yoga and mindfulness program, through gardening, dance, or simply playing outside, movement is important for development. 

Movement is perhaps the deepest expression of our will and our rhythm. When children move to their own rhythm, and exercise their own will, they are fully exercising themselves, gaining confidence and self-control along the way.

1 reply
  1. Rita Kaffer
    Rita Kaffer says:

    Such great reminders and insights. It can be such a task for us adults to keep in mind that the rhythm of an individual is so key to their being. Thank you Maria Montessori—the ultimate child whisperer!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *