Personal Independence

For America's Independence Day, here is a wonderful story of a child's personal independence, told by Maria Montessori's first American pupil.

As soon as the children found their objects of interest, disorder disappeared. … They now had a new and serious purpose in life, and with this power of concen­tration came a real independence. Children who had previously hung upon each other, their nurse, or their parents now struck out for themselves. Of their own volition they found a practical application in the buttoning and tying games, and began to dress and undress them­selves. Others who had not yet mastered the art of feeding themselves now began to resent the assistance of their nurses and to do it themselves. In the schoolroom they continually showed their growing independence by ceasing to imitate one another.

There was one little three-year-old girl, in particular, who had been dependent upon a precocious sister of five. Whatever the older sister did the younger implicitly imi­tated. If one had a blue crayon, the younger must have a blue crayon too. The younger could not even eat her toast unless her older sister ate hers at the same time. This went on for some time, when suddenly the little girl became interested in the ‘pink tower’ and began to work inde­pendently at it. One day Jean, the older sister, saw with amazement that Dorothy was busily engaged with this new toy. “Why, sister,” she said, “I am fill­ing in a circle and you are making a tower!” For the younger child the act amounted to a declaration of independence; she now began her real life as an individual, and ceased to be merely the little sister of a very precocious child.
— Miss Anne E. George, McClure’s Magazine, 1912