While it may be acceptable to be late to parties or social engagements, is this something appropriate for school? Some parents bring their children consistently late to school, 30 minutes or even an hour or more. Since Montessori focuses on individual learning, what impact can this chronic tardiness have on the child and on the class as a whole? Parents of preschool children often don’t see their child’s time at school as academic and so they see no harm in dropping their child off at whatever time they wish in the morning. It’s just playtime, right? In my experience, these are the impacts I consistently see among children who arrive 30 or more minutes late almost every day.
- Children who enter late disrupt the focus of the children who have already settled in to work.
- The child who is chronically late keeps the other children waiting to start their day because some children cannot settle in to work until they know everyone is at school and will wait until everyone arrives.
- Children who enter late disrupt their interactions with peers – they miss the morning greeting time before children settle in to work. Thus they often seek attention when they enter rather than quietly beginning work.
- Children who enter late do not participate in morning classroom set up responsibilities. They do not act as full members of the group, sharing in preparing the classroom for the day.
- Chronic tardiness can translate into a large number of missed hours of learning. Children who enter late risk falling behind their peers and missing out on their own potential learning.
- Children who enter late disrupt the plans of the teacher and the schedule of the classroom. They may miss morning greeting time and special projects planned by the teacher.
- Children who enter late disrupt the 3-hour work cycle. They don’t experience a full 3-hour uninterrupted work cycle and thus don’t have the full time needed to develop important skills such as focus, concentration, self-direction and more. They do not acquire the full set of skills like the children who arrive on time each day. Their path toward Normalization takes longer.
- Being chronically tardy to school is a poor preparation for future school, social and work life.
These reasons should hopefully be enough to motivate parents to bring their children on time each morning. Plan ahead the night before to make sure the morning goes smoothly. Lay out clothes; have breakfast items ready; have lunch made or the items easy to assemble. Have a place near the door to keep all items needed for school ready and easy to find. Get to bed on time (or early) to ensure everyone is well rested and ready to face the day. Turn off all electronic screens such as the TV, video games and iPad, cell phone or Kindles for at least an hour before bed. Develop a consistent routine and everything will fall into place. Life happens and so it is unavoidable to sometimes be late. As the adult, the child depends on you to organize and keep things running smoothly. If chronic lateness has been a problem for you, resolve to take small but real steps to reduce tardiness to help your child reach his/her full potential in school and life.
Marla Nargundkar, AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Atlanta.