Montessori Philosophy In The Home
It feels like a very long time since I was a student, when I wrote the article below. Funny how my dear children took me right back to home :)
Article for Parents
By Jessica Beerman
How to Make the Most of Your Montessori Investment: Ways to be consistent with Montessori Philosophy in your Home
Congratulations on your decision to send your child to a Montessori School! Now that you have made this choice, it is helpful to know what you can do outside of school to make the most of your Montessori investment. Consistency is the ticket to the child’s full understanding of their world, at home and at school.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to educate yourself on the Montessori method and philosophy, and to understand your child’s school’s interpretation of those philosophies. Beyond that, there are some simple ideas and activities you may want to incorporate into your day with your child.
At Montessori schools, your child has many choices, which can be overwhelming for the child, especially in the first Montessori year (previously choices have been made for them as babies and toddlers). At home, simple choices can help train your child to make his or her own decisions. Families can work with the child on this with little change to their daily routines. The parent can offer the child simple choices that affect the child’s day, while remaining in control of the household by not allowing the child to make all of the decisions. Offer choices in doses that will help children grow in maturity rather than frustration. For example, at breakfast a parent can offer the child two choices for juices, “Orange or apple?” The child still has a healthy juice with breakfast, yet they were involved in the decision. Choices like, “What do you want for breakfast?” can get a parent in a tough situation when the child simply answers, “Chocolate cake.” When getting dressed, the parent can offer the child two or three whole outfits, with socks, underwear, and shoes included. If the children are left with the seemingly vague choice of dressing themselves, they may end up wearing sandals and a beach dress in January. If the parent needs to ask the child to change, then the child’s motivation to choose next time may be hindered. To avoid this, it is best to ask the child to choose one outfit or another. For some children, even that choice may be onerous and the parent may need to modify the task by asking the child to choose their socks, hairstyle, or shoes. For those children who have much experience with choices and as children age, they grow more able to make choices when given more vague options.
Montessori believed that children are naturally and intrinsically motivated, without external exponents. Montessori schools don’t use rewards or punishments, rather expect the child to behave and perform to the individual’s best abilities. To further this inner motivation in your child, try to limit rewarding or praising you child for a job well done. Children need to come to their own conclusions about their progress, and giving them a status with praise can take that ability away overtime. One way to limit praising while still acknowledging the child is to say something observational like, “I see you tied your own shoe.” Or “You made your own bed.” Once the child hears these words, they are free to make their own assessment of their accomplishment. A child who doesn’t receive external rewards for carrying out their expectations is better able to adjust in the transition from home to school where rewards are not present.
Utilizing Montessori’s ideas in regards to Peace Education at home is an idea that not only maintains a level of consistency with school, but may help your home run more peacefully. Modeling guidelines for conflict resolution among siblings and/or peers outside of school for your child will help them recreate the resolution for themselves when a conflict comes up for them in play. Having a physical space for peace in the home, modeled after the school environment’s Peace Area will allow the child to find solace on tough days, and figure out sibling and play date conflicts without adult assistance. One tool that may work well for conflict resolution in the home is the peace rose (however, any object used in the same fashion will work just as well). The peace rose in the classroom represents the solving of arguments and the calming of hurt feelings by allowing only the holder of the rose to speak about the experience. That child then passing it onto the others involved until everyone is at peace with what happened. This approach at solving child conflicts avoids forced apologies, when children don’t necessarily have a grasp on exactly why they are saying sorry, and focuses the attention on how the other child may feel fostering a sense of empathy. The peace rose concept can also be used between children and adults.
It is also important to note, while thinking about peace in the home, that physical violence among siblings and friends can be reduced or nearly eliminated by not allowing the child to witness these types of behaviors on television, in videogames, or in real life situations.
The physical set up of the home can help them further develop their sense of independence, order, concentration, and coordination. Of course the home cannot be set up like a Montessori school, since the home is both for adults and children, however some minor adjustments and activities can be added to aid your child’s development. The best way to begin is by looking in each room of the home and asking, ‘How is this room helping my child to be more independent?’ You may find that the simplest of changes can allow your child to do tasks for him or herself. It is best to observe the children in your family to understand what it is they may need or not need to be more independent in their everyday activities.
In the kitchen, the child can have a small workspace where he or she can help prepare meals or snacks with the family. Cutting up fruits or vegetables, shelling peas, or pouring water for everyone are all activities in which coordination and concentration are exercised. Following a recipe by stirring, measuring and timing cooking will provide an experience for the child that is rich in order and mathematics. If the materials the child needs to get a drink or have a snack are placed in a low cabinet and are child-sized, then the child is free to satisfy his own needs independently.
The best addition to any child’s bathroom is a sturdy small stool in which to get high enough to use the sink and toilet unaided. Providing bath toys and child friendly washcloths or wash mitts will add value to the time spent in the bathtub. Children love sensorial exploring of water, squirting and transferring, and enjoy testing what sinks and floats. Hooks for clothing and towels, and small baskets or boxes to hold their small items while bathing will speak to their sense of order. Tooth brushing, hand washing, toileting, and dressing are all activities that the child must learn to master autonomously in the bathroom.
The child’s bedroom is unique to the rest of the home because it is solely for the child, even if it is shared with siblings. It need not be designed with adults in mind like the rest of the home, so the bedroom can be a place where the child can play and learn exclusive of adult interaction. If the child’s bed is low to the ground, and does not have bars, then the child is able to get up without waking the parents, as well as return to bed by themselves. Anything to help the children make their own bed with less frustration promotes independence. For example, some children find it easier to make the bed when a duvet is used in place of several layers of sheets and blankets. A small lamp, reachable to the child while they are in bed, enables the child to light the room in the night to serve their needs without calling a parent to use the light switch over by the door. Toys can be kept on low shelves so that the child can readily see what is available to them, without rummaging through the endless toy box. This also helps the child to organize their belongings in line with their growing sense of order.
The living room or family room can be a place where all ages can coexist and benefit from the surroundings. Art hanging at all levels of the eye will decorate the entire wall and allow tall and small family members to see them. Adding puzzles, crafts, and board games to the common areas encourages cooperation among family members and allows for practice in taking turns and sharing.
Parents can enrich their child’s Montessori experiences, academically, socially, and emotionally, in two main ways: Educating themselves on Montessori Philosophy, and learning ways to keep consistent with school at home. Maintaining consistency for your child will render the best results from your Montessori investment.
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