So your child is going to a Montessori School
When parents choose a Montessori school for their child, it may be for a myriad of reasons. The convenience of the school being in the same neighborhood, acquaintances who send their child to the school, reputation of the school or perhaps that they want their child to be prepared for grade school and with skills that are required for being successful academically.
Seldom will parents consider sending their child to a Montessori school because they want their child to be independent, learn life skills following natural developmental periods or thrive in the joy of learning. But shortly after starting school, that is exactly what parents begin to discover! Children who willingly accomplish simple and complex tasks independently. Toddlers whose language skills explode and preschoolers actively engaged in the joy of learning. In a Montessori school, the educators have knowledge and understanding of the natural periods of development in the young child. Classrooms are prepared with interesting activities taking these developmental periods into consideration. Carefully prepared classrooms invite children to learn by exploration and manipulation of specially designed didactic materials. That is how the joy of learning is cultivated in young children!
The classroom activities and materials are called “work” – not toys. The act of interacting with them is called “working”- not playing. Dr. Montessori talked about the child’s work “But the child too is a worker and a producer. If he cannot take part in the adult’s work, he has his own, a great, important, difficult work indeed – the work of producing man.”
“It is through appropriate work and activities that the character of the child is transformed. Work influences his development in the same way that food revives the vigor of a starving man. We observe that a child occupied with matters that awaken his interest seems to blossom, to expand, evincing undreamed of character traits; his abilities give him great satisfaction, and he smiles with a sweet an joyous smile.” (Dr. Montessori, San Remo Lectures)
The materials in the classrooms have a specific purpose of teaching a concept or skill and are intentionally placed in the environment by the teacher. Children are encouraged to work with the materials at their own pace and repeat the activities as often as they would like. If others are interested in a particular activity which someone is working on, self-discipline is inculcated by learning to wait on the classmate to finish the activity.
Young children cannot be expected to sit still or quietly for extended periods of time. Purposeful movement is integrated into the Montessori curriculum and many opportunities are provided during the entire work period for purposeful movement. Children have a choice of working on the floor or at tables. The material is child sized as is the furniture which makes it easy to move. The classroom is prepared to offer autonomy to the young child. The materials are attractive, to invite activity; the environment calm to support concentration, repetition, and quiet socialization.
Montessori environments are calm and orderly. Have you noticed how organized and orderly our classrooms are? Have you marveled how children put work away where they found it or an older child helping a younger child? Montessori classrooms are cooperative, collaborative environments. Socialization is encouraged. Role models are nurtured and independence is valued. Peace education is the guiding principle and cultivating self-esteem from tasks successfully completed is fundamental to the Montessori approach.
The teachers (guides) gently direct children towards purposeful learning, present new lessons and ignite the spark of learning – their goal is to facilitate learning and to inspire rather than instruct.
The toddler environments have attractive materials displayed for language, sensori-motor and fine motor skills development. Toddler teachers are aware that toddlers need to move. The day and classroom is structured to include plenty of gross motor activity.
The primary environments are geared for children ages three to six years. The intentionally prepared environment attractively displays materials for the refinement of fine motor skills, sensorial awareness, mathematics, language and cultural arts. These multi-aged environments display the full complement of the Montessori materials which are sequentially organized to invite independent activity by the child. The logical order of the primary Montessori environment is Exercise of Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Language, and Cultural Arts. Montessori materials are auto-correcting. They encourage the child to problem-solve and think through errors independently thereby figuring out solutions. The adult can assist in problem solving versus identifying mistakes.
Each level of activity builds on material that has been mastered. There are few chronological restrictions. Material has to be mastered before moving on to the next level of complexity. Mastery in learning is important and it is achieved by independent work which includes concentration and repetition. Satisfaction from correct completion of activity develops self-confidence and promotes learning. Children develop self-esteem because they know they are capable. “Help me to do it by myself” is the motto of all Montessori environments.
Montessori is an all-encompassing philosophy and it is important to complement it at home. Here are some ways you can incorporate Montessori principles in your home with your child:
– Create an orderly and organized home environment and a space where your child can find what s/he needs and be able to put it away when done.
– Provide cleaning up items which are easy to use for small hands
– Create a child sized space in the family living area which encourages independent activities with few distractions.
– Encourage your child to help with home chores which develop real life skills.
– Place toys or art materials neatly on a shelf or a simple space created for ease of access and cleaning up. Rotate toys to keep the interest level up. Remove the toy chest.
– Prohibit electronic screen time. Provide manipulative toys and activities that encourage concentration without interruption. This develops self-esteem and inner motivation.
– Arrange play dates with friends and encourage participation in art, dance, music, classes.
– Read to your child daily. Please steer away from books based on fantasy characters. As your child gets older, begin reading longer chapter books.
– Make the public library and the city parks and playgrounds your best friends.
– Attend parent education meetings to learn more about Montessori and how you can incorporate it into your home.
– Refrain from constant rewards and discipline situations such as treats and time outs etc. Let the child rejoice in successfully completing simple or complex tasks. Offer choices and use specific Love and Logic phrases which help the child make acceptable choices and feel valued and loved.
“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
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