Recently we invited our parents to a wonderful coffee and conversation about Grace and Courtesy in a Montessori classroom and how to apply some of these ideas at home. What is Grace and Courtesy? Grace can best be defined as being the harmony between one’s body and mind. For a young child, grace is the ability to complete a series of simple gestures and movements with dignity. Courtesy is a harmony between an individual and their society; this can be expressed in situations without any direct social interaction as consideration and independence. It is also a way of refraining oneself from disturbing someone who is concentrating or making room for someone entering a crowded place or being aware that others are interacting and not interfering one another.
Courtesy is achieved through social etiquette, by following a society’s norm which is expected by all members and by demonstrating ‘good manners’, a child signifies one’s own understanding of the code of conduct and that everyone involved considers this conduct to be the preferences of the whole social group. However to fit into this complex code of behavior each individual needs to use self-control both by their movements and by their social graces.
The acts of ‘Grace and Courtesy’ lessons are not inherited but are locally styled by each social environment a child will encounter. A child needs help in adapting to local social customs. developing gracious manners and tact. Once the child is initiated he/she is able to harmonize his/her own contribution to others in the group. These lessons help children to have also the vocabulary needed as well as the etiquette required to build confidence and awareness of those around them. These lessons assist the child in understanding how to politely navigate not only in the classroom and among his peers, but also out int he bigger world.
In this way the Montessori children gradually build the social skills of a polite society. As they are taught through activities which help them in their interaction with their peers they meet their inner need for self-development and as their space is respected, a sense of calm and purpose settles throughout the classroom. Children begin to build themselves from within while learning to treat themselves and others with respect and dignity.
Some Grace and Courtesy lessons are primarily directed to each specific area of the four planes of development and we talked about the differences that occur with a younger child versus an older child. We also discussed a few topics that some of the families are experiencing in the home environment and shared ideas on how to address these needs. One topic of interest was ‘What can you do when your child continues to interrupt you when you are on the phone talking or at the computer working? What are some ways to set up a working system so that your child can still graciously get their needs fulfilled and still not interrupt you. A lot of brain storming took place and many of the ideas that we discussed would be ideal to try and put into practice. We also took the opportunity to role-play what it is like to be children in a very busy working environment and how they must problem solve in order to navigate when trying to get from one place in the classroom without disturbing others. I also highly recommended that parents read the following books called “365 Manners Kids Should Know-Games, Activities, and Others Fun Ways to Help Children and Teens Learn Etiquette by Sheryl Eberly with Caroline Eberly, Montessori; at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy by Deb Chitwood, M.A., and The Absorbent Mind by Dr. Maria Montessori.