In Montessori, there is a great tool called the Three Period Lesson. It's really quite magical in how effective and simple it is, but it also relates to life's intricacies and mysteries in myriad ways. Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the three-period lesson and how it might explain why we were foolish enough to leave our lovely life in Zurich when we did.
Let's explore that more, but first you need to understand the basic mechanics of the lesson.
To give a three-period lesson, the teacher takes three related, yet different items, and introduces them to the child in three steps. Let's take the wooden fruits above. These might be an activity the child has already had a lesson on for matching. Then, once a child has displayed mastery in matching the fruits, the teacher would then employ the three-period lesson to teach the names of the fruits, taking just one apple, one pear and one plum, leaving the matches and other fruits aside. (This set is very small with only 4 matches; it would probably be combined with another set of fruits from the same manufacturer.)
The first step, or period, in the three-period lesson is the introduction: With the items lined up and nothing else in the work space, the teacher will state, "This is an apple. This is a plum. This is a pear," touching each one as she says its name. Then, she continues on with the second period, giving a series of commands such as "Touch the plum. Hold the apple. Put the pear here. Give me the apple," so on and so forth until the child is totally accurate each time. When the child makes a mistake, the teacher doesn't point out the error, per se, but rather plainly and simply says, "You handed me the ______(whatever one it is)" and places it on the table before continuing on with the next command. Finally, at the very end, the teacher will ask, "What is this?" for each object. That is the third period. If a child is successful and having a good time, the teacher might do another three. But never more than two three-period lessons in one sitting to allow the learning to stick.
The three periods can be labeled as 1). Orientation, 2). Interaction, and 3). Mastery. It is an incredibly effective teaching tool that allows children to acquire vocabulary while simultaneously understanding the greater meaning of a word. Care is taken to isolate objects in order to focus on their distinct qualities. For color, The Color Tablets are used rather than using different colored fruits, because while it is true that the fruits are different colors, they also differ in shape and texture and other ways. Isolating qualities is key.
So, how does this relate to life? Well, the first evidence is the three year cycle. Children in Montessori classrooms are divided by age covering three year spans. Zero to three, three to six and so on. It seems that as in the lesson, the children follow the three periods with each year they spend in the same classroom with the same teacher. The first year the child's focus is on orientation, the second year is all about interaction, and the third year, they achieve mastery.
So how does this apply to life beyond Montessori? Well, it seems to me that, having lived in our apartment in Seefeld for three years, we went through a complete cycle and that may have affected our feelings in significant ways.
We had already spent a year orienting to life in Switzerland in a smaller village suburb of Zurich before we moved to Seefeld. But moving to Seefeld felt was very much a new beginning. We were living in Switzerland on our terms, in the city, in an apartment we picked out ourselves and loved, rather than in the apartment our employer had selected for us before we arrived. That first year in Seefeld was unbelievably exciting. Not only were we completely pinching ourselves moving into our dream apartment, but I was pregnant! We got our little nest all set up and then brought Coco home. We spent that year orienting ourselves, both to life as new parents and to our neighborhood and surroundings. We figured out the best grocery store, the best ways to get around with a buggy, the unwritten rules of the shared laundry room, the best settings to have the radiators on and all that sort of stuff.
The second year, we really developed routines and interacted with the space and neighborhood on a deeper level. With all the basics taken care of, we found our favorite routes to walk, our favorite parks and spots for Coco to play, discovered specialty shops, went to Orange Cinema, got a season pass to the Badi and the zoo and memorized tram schedules.
By the third year, I guess you could say we had achieved mastery. But in life, it's not so much mastery as it is familiarity. We had achieved total familiarity with our surroundings, with our neighborhood, with our apartment, even with life as parents. Nothing was new anymore and I think on some level, we made the very real mistake of confusing familiarity with boredom.
Sigh. What a mistake that was. Familiarity is comfort and predictability and stability, but it is not boredom.
So now, I find myself looking forward and looking back at the same time. I regret leaving Zurich, but I also have to wonder what another year here would feel like now that we've been in Spokane for two years. I love my family, but I don't really like Spokane. I cannot say I ever disliked Zurich. I found it difficult, of course, because Switzerland is known as an extremely difficult place to be an expat. But I always liked Zurich. I remember one day sitting down by the lakeside and hearing that little voice inside of my heart wishing that my family were from Zurich. I felt like it was the most perfect place on earth, and I wished I didn't feel that constant conflict as to where to live. I have to admit that I don't feel that way here in Spokane. I don't love it or feel like it's mine and yet my family is here and I love them dearly.
But does it actually matter that I don't like Spokane? Would a third year change that? Would a third year override my ambivalence, break through the unknowns and learning curve and leave me with a sense of mastery? Would that be enough? Because, I was born here and I (mostly) lived here until I was 12, so it already feels familiar, just not in a good way. I can't help but think that that staying here actually would feel like real boredom! Sigh again.
I guess there is only one way of knowing. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for us. Regardless of what happens, I have learned that familiarity or mastery will come wherever we are. I'm going to do my best to be okay with feeling settled this time.
How long have you lived where you are? Do you feel as if you've put down roots? Do you live in your hometown? Does it feel nice and cozy, or are you bored? (You can be honest here;) Share your story in the comments below!