The Montessori Lifestyle

One of our most popular parent education topics is “Montessori in the home”. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a desire for consistency between home and school. Parents are very curious as to what their child is doing in the classroom, but more importantly, parents want to know what they can be doing in their home environment to continue to help their child thrive. Consistency is key!

Montessori is a wonderful concept that can easily be incorporated into any home setting. Focus on your child’s independence above all else. Do they have everything they need to succeed independently? For example, can they choose their own clothing in the morning, is there a stool in the bathroom so they can brush their teeth or wash their hands on their own, do you have an area of the kitchen set aside for them to grab eating utensils or a drink of water whenever they feel thirsty or hungry, do they have works and activities that stimulate their senses while strengthening their concentration and inner motivation? There are several factors to consider while implementing Montessori in the home. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Develop a Routineimage (19)

Children have a great need for order and routine. The child’s sense of order is similar to a child’s thirst for water, or hunger for food. A child cannot succeed until there is order in their life. E.M. Standing said that “everything in [the child’s] environment should be kept in its accustomed place; and that the actions of the day should be carried out in their accustomed routine.” (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work) It’s really no different than us adults needing routine in our life.

When a child knows their routine, and can predict what’s going to happen next, they’re able to be more independent. Place a few baskets in their closet, filled with clothes for the day so they can easily put them on, on their own. Offer choices as to what they would like to eat for breakfast, encourage them to help prepare the food. Place objects around the house to help them easily access the things they need (for instance, a stool in the bathroom to help them reach the sink).image (21)

Transitions are part of the child’s routine. Explain everything that you’re going to do, before you actually do them. This will help your child know the expectations, and not be surprised at the sudden change of activities.

Responsibility

Children want to have responsibility; to feel needed in their home environment. How much responsibility does your child have throughout their daily routine?dsc_0260

Encourage your child to make their bed every day, put dirty clothes in the hamper, fold/put away clean clothes, feed pets, put away toys or works after each use, help set the table for meals and clean up dishes afterwards, sweep/mop/vacuum floors, and so forth. These responsibilities don’t just come at a certain age, they can be provided as soon as your child shows an interest, or “readiness” to help around the house. Model for your child how to carry out each task, and share in their enjoyment once complete.

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” (Dr. Maria Montessori)dsc_0306

Grace and Courtesy in the Home

Grace and courtesy is a major component of our Montessori environment. Grace and courtesy lessons give the child the vocabulary, actions, and steps required for him to build his awareness and responsiveness to those around him. When we sneeze, we cover our mouths. When we have a runny nose, we use a tissue and throw it away afterwards. We say “excuse me” when walking around others who might be in our way. We say “thank you” when a friend helps. We know not to interrupt a guide during a lesson, but to wait patiently instead. The same practice can be done so at home. If you wish for your child to say “please” and “thank you”, you must do the same.

You can provide activities to help your child learn grace and courtesy. For instance, practice setting the table. Ask your child to help bring a few dishes, napkins, silverware, etc. to the table, remember to say please and thank you after each exchange. Practice different scenarios where your child would need to use grace and courtesy to achieve the end result.

Care of Environment/Care of Self

Our children are constantly tidying up after one another. When we spill water, we clean it up. We wash our own dishes after meal times. We clean the tables and chairs whenever needed. We care for plants through watering the soil and polishing the leaves. Often times, you might see a whole classroom full of toddlers cleaning or doing “practical life” works. This is very normal. Through care of environment, the child learns self control, scope and sequence, control of error, discipline, focus, and so much more.dsc_0226

You can encourage your child to do the same at home. Allow them to tidy up after themselves. Remind them to put away works when they’re through. Clean the table after mealtime. If you have a garden, allow your child to help water and harvest. Encourage them to help bathe themselves during bath time, brush their hair, teeth, and so forth.

There are so many other things that you as a parent can do to help your child succeed, while implementing Montessori in the home. Practicing Montessori in your home is a beautiful gift that you can give to your child. By doing so, you’re allowing your child the opportunity to grow and flourish successfully in an environment prepared specifically for them.

Less is More – The Beauty in the Simplicity of a Prepared Montessori Environment

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

Prepared Environment_Flower Arranging

Whether it’s at school or at home, the way you prepare your learning environment is the most important influence on how your child will learn. If it’s an environment well equipped with all the tools they need, including supplies to replenish the ones that are used, then surely they will succeed. If it’s an environment that has clutter, over-stimulating toys, “busy” colors on the wall, items that haven’t been restocked, etc, then you can more than likely expect the same learning experience for your child. The prepared environment is key to their academic success. Especially during their first 6 years of life (and after), a thoroughly prepared environment promotes organization, concentration, order, and an opportunity for the child to capitalize on their spontaneous sensitive periods of development.

Beauty. Simplicity. Order.

Prepared Environment_Plant Polishing

Simple and aesthetically pleasing, the leaf polishing work includes basic, clean and organized materials to help the child focus on the task at hand. Clutter, or too many items on the tray, confuse and frustrate the child, blocking their creative energy.

The most precious gift we can give our children is the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, by fostering an environment prepared to meet each of their learning needs. Children appreciate beauty and organization. The desire for beauty in the environment is not a luxury, it is a need for the child; a way for them to connect to the environment. Dr. Maria Montessori’s works were created with the intention of doing just that; to create materials so that they are beautiful and enticing to the child. She believed that objects should be fragile and beautiful. Children then learn to respect their surroundings by the way that they carry themselves, careful to not knock over or damage the objects around them. These things are precious and beautiful to the child; they are to be respected. Preparing your learning environment is an art, by implementing a layout that requires thought and careful movement from your little ones. Each item should serve a developmental purpose of some sort.

Beauty refreshes the tired spirit.

A classroom well-lit from natural light promotes beauty. Studies have shown that children who work in classrooms that have large, open windows are more successful than those who are kept in classrooms with no windows for the greater part of their academic career. Incorporating sunlight and nature as part of your child’s learning experience greatly enhances their spirit!

The child’s sense of order is extremely essential in their overall success. Unless you’ve had the proper child development training, one often does not consider this factor as an important step in their learning process. Order is key. In order for a child to comfortably and confidently grow, they need to know that the learning material will always be in order and ready for them to use. Order gives the child a means of orienting themselves to their environment. Just as we expect everything to be where we last put it, children work much better if they know exactly where everything is, and that it will be in the same place every day. When a child finds himself in a beautiful, ordered environment, he will work to keep it that way.

Prepared Environment_Cloth Washing

The cloth washing work is always available to the children, complete with all of the necessary tools needed to complete the task. An apron symbolizes that the child is doing important work, while keeping their clothes dry. The mitt is used for wiping up access water spills. The child is able to complete this work successfully because the guide has gently prepared all of the items in advance.

The beauty in Montessori is that it focuses on simplicity and order. Everything in the classroom environment, down to the finest detail, is prepared well in advance with the intention that it will be used to enhance a specific aspect of the child’s development. When preparing your classroom or home learning environment, take the time to quietly sit in silence for a few moments. How do you feel? Is the room inviting, comfortable, soothing? Are there interesting works that will capture the child’s attention? Is each work and activity prepared so that the child does not need to rely on you for help if they run out of something? Is there sufficient table and floor space for working? Try to look at the room from the child’s perspective, and prepare it in such a way that they can work with little to no assistance from the adult.

A Little Morning Mirror Polishing

 

This morning, we got a lesson on mirror polishing. Through this work, we’re given the fundamental principles for cleaning other objects in our environment. Our concentration is developed through order and sequence as we learn each step of this careful process.

“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” – Dr. Maria Montessori, the Absorbent Mind

 

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Montessori in the Home: Morning Routine

A child’s need for order is extremely important. As parents, we need to foster an environment that caters to their independent growth by providing enough space and materials to allow them to complete each task on their own.

Pictured below are a few glimpses into the Crawford family home, and how they’ve implemented Montessori into their daily routine. By providing adequate space and materials for their son to use, they’ve given him the ability to successfully complete his morning routine on his own. He can start each day, confidently, knowing that he will have full access to all of the materials needed to fulfill his personal needs.

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“A place for everything and everything in its place.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

 

Setting the Table; an Exercise in Practical Life

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Setting the dinner table can be defined by many adults as a “chore”, but for a child, it is a purposeful, meaningful, and fulfilling work that stimulates all of their senses. The child learns self-control, and develops a healthy self-image because the work is real and necessary. Works such as this teach “care of environment”, as they prepare the table for their friends.  With very little instruction from the Guide, the child knows exactly where to place each place mat, plate, utensil, cup, and beautiful, fresh flowers. They understand that this is important work, and gain self-confidence as they see the outcome of their efforts; a room full of happy children eating and socializing in a well prepared environment.

Source: Michael Olaf, the Joyful Child, www.michaelolaf.com

Montessori In The Home: Mudroom Organizer

A place for everything and everything in its place!… this is a mantra that most Montessorians live by and should be embraced within the home too. A  mudroom or entryway shelf organizer can provide an easy and accessible way for your family to store their belongings. It also provides your children the independence needed to prepare for coming and going. We all know that mornings can be hectic, save your self valuable time (and headaches) by embracing a similar system. So long will be the days of searching for backpacks, coats and that missing shoe.

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IMG_3146IMG_3144“…the little child’s need for order is one of the most powerful incentives to dominate his early life.” ~Maria Montessori