While the world is working to return to some semblance of normalcy, parents of school aged children recognize that things are still not “back to normal.”
Many may find comfort and insight by reflecting and emulating some of strategies developed by Italian physician, Maria Montessori over 100 years ago. According to “Montessori at Home: A How-to Guide for Parents,” ideal environments for children are created when there is focus on the full complement of students’ growth, physical, cognitive, emotional, and social.
Whether one’s children are actively attending school outside of the home or engaged in full-time homeschooling, Montessori principles are proven methods designed to enhance children’s curiosity, facilitating their initiative to learn for the rest of their lives. The principles of Montessori are not income dependent or driven by a standard set of tools or strategies. They are constructed with the utmost of flexibility in mind both for the child as well as his or her environment. The constant for a Montessori-driven experience is to ensure that the child is consistently learning by doing. Whether that’s by experiencing his natural environment learning about the plants and animals in his area or by reading about them and drawing images of the symbiotic relationship they maintain, the consistent driver is the student’s intellectual curiosity.
Some of the more basic strategies for establishing a Montessori-like environment at home include storing clothing in low drawers and adjusting the clothing rod in the closet to allow children to begin selecting their own clothing; adding stools in the kitchen and bathroom areas to allow the children to help with dinner rituals and take charge of their own needs like teeth brushing; and storing healthy snacks in lower drawers for easy access.
In addition to these suggestions, the practices also include teaching a shared responsibility. In addition to getting their own snacks, they must also learn to clean up their own messes. This establishes early independence and pride in self-care.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Montessori education includes the focus on the child’s interests. For example, if a child has an intense interest in dinosaurs, encourage his or her passion by selecting reading materials on this topic, crafting Playdough toys in this area and having open discussions about dinosaurs. Discussing not only the types of dinosaurs that existed but where they lived and which ones lived where the child resides helps invite the child into the narrative. Rather than just telling him or her facts, Montessori learning incorporates the child’s entire environment.
While Montessori learning emphasizes life skills, one major component is to teach children to concentrate. Focus comes in different dimensions and is attainable in various settings based on the child’s temperament. However, what is key is that the child begins to be able to develop the ability to work on his or her activities without continual adult intervention. Once the child realizes his or her goal, Montessori encourages heavy doses of verbal praise and limited extrinsic rewards like toys or candy.
For parents interested in adding some Montessori elements to their child’s environment, some suggestions for fall include projects with gourds, apples, or acorns, as well as books about seasons, and even colorful mums. Each of these is items can be connected to nature, the environment, the seasons, and even to the web of life. Key to Montessori learning is to encourage children to take active rolls in their homes, families, and communities while allowing their own personal interests and curiosities to guide the quest.