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