Cultivating Stillness in Primary II

The method in the Children’s Houses prepares the children in the daily life of the classroom by exercises which are, in themselves, quite independent of religious education, but which seem to be a preparation for it. In fact, they aid in perfecting the child, in making him calm, obedient, attentive to his own movements, capable of silence and recollection. – Maria Montessori

Finding silence in our busy days is challenging. We are continually surrounded by the external noises of traffic, toys, video games, t.v., dishwashers, and other every day activities. It is hard to find that moment of peace and most often neglected. “Silence,” Montessori says, “often brings us the knowledge which we had not fully realized, that we possess within ourselves an interior life. The child by means of silence sometimes becomes aware of this for the first time.”

One way we practice silence in Primary II is through group lessons, which can include using the sand timer or ooze tubes, or deep breathing guided by the teacher. These lessons are a great introduction to hearing silence or finding peace in the body. The ability of the child to sit calmly and quietly is most apparent in this setting. All children are gathered in a circle, so any movement or sound can be detected easily.

The children learn that through cooperation, silence can be attained. The silence arises slowly, through the control of even the slightest movement, and extends to envelop the whole group of children. This lesson lets the children experience the peace of stillness and teaches them that silence is not automatic, we have to make an effort to attain it.

Another way we practice silence is through individual lessons, which can also include the timers or ooze tubes. These lessons enable an individual child to choose to be silent or motionless at any time during the class. Maintaining this individual silence is more difficult than group silence because other children in the class continue their normal activity. This is an uninterruptible exercise. Other children are asked not to speak to, bump against, or disturb in any other way the child who has chosen individual silence.

It is rather impressive watching even the very youngest choose the silent lesson as their work, while all the children around them are busy with other activities. It is a wonderful lesson to observe. You can see a very active mind and body transform into a very attentive and calm soul. It isn’t uncommon to see a child sit quietly with a timer up to 20 minutes.

There are other lessons that promote calmness, stillness, and silence in the classroom. They include silent lunch time, a time where children can bring greater awareness to the act of eating and digesting. The children also have access to a sign that simply reads “quiet’. If a child recognize the need to lower the volume in the class, they simply walk around the classroom carrying the quiet sign. There is also a quiet chair where a child can sit in a cozy setting to reflect in peace. Again, the child practicing silence/peace is not to be spoken to or interrupted.

Silence is a learned behavior and activity. The more the children are exposed to this practice in the classroom, the more aware they become of their environment. They begin to notice their need of time to reflect, their need to calm their bodies, and their need for personal space. Silence is a wonderful guide to obtaining inner peace.