I used to think that independence was something we adults have to teach our children and so we love how in Montessori, children "learn to be independent". But I recently realized something important--a little shift in perspective, a more nuanced understanding that's changing my life yet again. I realized that independence is NOT something we have to TEACH the child. Independence is already his natural WORK--his FIRST work when he came out from the mother's womb (Maria Montessori said the child's "conquest of independence" begins "with his first introduction to life" when "the child leaves a person--his mother's womb--and this makes him independent of her bodily functions"). And every day since, more and more, the child's work is essentially a work of independence--in movement, language, mind, and will. And when we observe it's easy to see these. Independence is not something we have to teach--children are already doing it, working it, gravitating towards any activity or work that will help them achieve it (a stool they can pull up on by themselves, insisting on brushing their own teeth, enjoying choosing, etc). Nobody tells them, teaches them to do such and such so they can move, express, think, choose independently--they're already doing it--they already know what to do when they're ready for it. And so our work as adults is not to teach independence, but to tune in to the child so much and well so we know exactly what he is working on and to provide an environment that allows for the child's natural drive, natural work of independence. An environment with opportunities that support and celebrate their "conquest of independence". A shift in perspective and thinking--we don't teach, as Einstein (I think influenced by Montessori) said, "I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." The more I experience and experiment with and think about and tinker with Montessori, the more I begin to understand why Maria Montessori said, "If we consider this we begin to have a glimpse of reality. The child is not an empty being who owes whatever he knows to us who have filled him up with it. No, the child is the builder of man."