Magazine article Montessori Life

Bringing Montessori Home

Magazine article Montessori Life

Bringing Montessori Home

Article excerpt

As a parent and a teacher in a Montessori Early Childhood classroom, I have noticed a glaring disparity between my 7-year-old daughter's behavior at home and at school. She does fine, independent work in her Montessori school environment, yet, when handed a broom after a mealtime at home, tearfully claims she does not know how to sweep.

At school, skills are introduced from the simple to the complex, with new elements added gradually. Challenging new work still contains enough familiarity so that the child can succeed. For example, children in my classroom practice tasks such as dry pouring, sponge squeezing, wet pouring, tray wiping, filling and carrying vessels of water, and mopping, all in advance of easel painting. Prior experience creates comfort, confidence, and skill in the child; this structured approach helps each child to work to her fullest potential.

In this pursuit of independence, a child's home and school environment can be each other's greatest asset. However, creating a Montessori classroom in my kitchen and living room is simply not practical, though the two environments can provide mutual support as philosophical extensions of the same principles. The gifts we can give our children are adequate time, an economy of age-appropriate and wellcommunicated expectations, and trust in their innate capabilities, which are the same principles that support Montessori's educational philosophy.

Very young children are capable of independent work at home, though they must be provided enough time and space to "do it myself." For example, 3- and 4-year-olds can wipe and dust tables, fold towels, and sort silverware. Older children can clear dishes from the table, fold a wider variety of clothing, and wash windows. Tasks presented without time pressures inherent to modern life give children an opportunity to focus on the job at hand and use their available coordination to attack it. Children require little more than to be kept company while working. However, we parents must be less judgmental and more willing to accept less-than-perfect results as tasks are performed to the best of the child's abilities. Finally, our children deserve to experience the small struggles that often accompany skill acquisition. In my home, a high-pitched wail signals distress but not the genuine need for assistance. Despite my intellectual knowledge and training, I still suppress the urge to rush to my daughter's rescue at the first sign of frustration. …

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