Did you know that potty training, or “toilet learning”, as we call it, should start before 18 months of age? In our school, children begin the toileting process as soon as they can pull themselves up and support their bodies. It’s not about setting high expectations, assuming child will learn how to use the toilet and control their bladder right away, but more of establishing a routine, and providing all of the tools the child needs to succeed. In time, they will recognize that using the toilet is a common routine. They will internalize the concept, ‘my urine goes in the toilet, not in my diaper or on the floor’. They recognize that you respect their time and space by providing a safe place for them to fulfill their bodily needs. Each meticulous step in the toileting process, is a step towards the child’s overall independence and self confidence.
We reference the child’s daily activities as “work”. “The task of the child is the formation of man” (Dr. Maria Montessori). In other words, the child’s “work” is to create the type of person they will be for the rest of their lives. Their work is extremely important. These early years of their childhood are very precious. Their work is to be honored and protected, both at school and home. Giving them the opportunity to explore and learn from the tools in their environment is extremely critical to their development.
The term “play” is referenced as “work” in a Montessori community, because the children “play” with a purpose. Work is purposeful. When a child plays, it does not always need to be imaginative, overly-stimulated, chaotic, loud, or involve physical activity. When young children play, their purpose is to develop an executive function. Playing can involve many things, such as refining a fine or gross motor skill (small and large muscle movement), playing emphasizes emotional and social interactions, problem solving, patience, developing hand-eye coordination, balancing their bodies, learning to prioritize in order to carry out a particular task…the list is endless. A Montessori classroom caters to all of these functions of “play”.
“The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 5)
As Montessori Guides, our main responsibility is to engage the child to the environment, therefore letting the materials teach the child. We do not present a lesson, and afterwards put it away in a closet, never to be touched again. The entire environment is available to the child (considering they’ve been given the proper lesson). They’re given the opportunity and freedom to work with whatever their driven to do for that day. The child experiences many different, spontaneous “sensitive periods”, where they’re internally driven to fulfill an inner desire. Often times, they’re desire is as simple as practicing to walk so that they can refine their balance and composure. Or, it could be that they want to work with water in the “practical life” area (as many children do), so you may see them washing their hands, cloths, tables, dishes, or watering plants for the entirety of the work cycle. Whatever it may be, it’s important to make sure the environment is fully prepared to meet their individual needs.
“The child has a different relation to his environment from ours… the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.” (The Absorbent Mind, p.56)
Simply put, the child absorbs everything. Every object, sound, smell in their environment plays a vital role in their daily learning. Stop and observe your children every once and a while. Watch their careful, gentle movements and observe how they carry out their work. Try to understand what they desire most, and capitalize on these spontaneous learning opportunities. Through the child’s work, they feel a sense of purpose; that they are contributing to a greater good. They are developing and refining skills, and shaping their personality, which will further build the kind of person that they will be for the rest of their lives.
Photos credit http://melmphotography.com/
Article Credit: The Dallas Morning News
Sir Ken Robinson is a British education expert and author whose 2006 TED talk “Do schools kill creativity?” is the most watched talk in the history of the TED program, with more than 27 million online viewings. One official TED blog called him the “sneezing baby panda of the TED ecosystem.”
Partly, his presentation and its sequels continue to attract an audience because he’s an academic with the delivery of a standup comic. Partly, though, he hits a nerve: “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status,” he said. “…[W]e’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
Robinson was in North Texas this week keynoting EdShift2016, a national conference of school officials seeking to come up with better ways to make public education more successfully engaging. In his speech, Robinson offered this observation:
“We know what good teaching looks like. We know what’s wrong with assessment.”
Afterward, he sat down for a conversation. Here are some excerpts:
One of our primary community members spent the last 3 weeks writing every number from 1 to 1,000. The scroll of paper expanded across the entire classroom! This is a great example of the concentration, focus, diligence, and hard work that goes into each work that our students participate in. How neat is it that he actually gets to see the “length” of counting from 1 to 1,000; further internalizing just how great of a number it truly is. The child also learns place value as the numbers progress. Montessori allows children to understand the quantity of a number, to feel it in their hands, and to understand the weight of the increasing amount, rather than just memorizing how to write from 1 to 1,000. Thank you for sharing your special project with the entire school!
As parents, we’re always trying to find clever ways to make a gift out of our child’s hand/feet prints. It’s almost an obsession. We have to document their precious little fingers and toes for every year they’re alive. They make for irresistible gifts for loved ones. And thanks to Pinterest, there are so many varieties of gifts you can make with hand and feet prints, how could anyone resist?!
Handmade gifts will always hold a sentimental value for whoever receives them. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best presents to make with the kids, to help make this holiday gift-giving extra special.
(links have been added to each description/photo)