Bringing Montessori Home
By: Kim Koch
Parents often inquire as to how they can replicate what we do at school in their homes. It is often assumed that what are needed are our specialized materials and they are seeking direction as to with which materials should they begin. Although it is true that the Montessori materials are the vehicle by which we introduce multiple concepts, it's actually the principles of the Montessori Method parents would find most beneficial applying in their homes.
I always want to emphasize at Back to School night that although a tremendous amount of academic learning indeed takes place, those are not our individual goals for your children. Our goals for you children include: love of learning, a sense of curiosity within the child, increased concentration, a strong sense of self, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of independence, achieved by means of "freedom of choice within a structure of discipline." These are the principles by which we recommend you bring Montessori into your homes.
So how might you do that? Keeping these goals in mind, take a look at your home from your child's perspective. Sizing a classroom to fit the child was a novel concept during Dr. Montessori's time. Are there hooks and/or clothes bars in closets at your child's level so she can hang up her own coat and tote bag? Are the shelves and/or baskets where toys are stored located at your child's level so he can easily take toys out and put them away? Are the toys sorted in an order that will make sense to your child? Books on a bookshelf, puzzles on a shelf, duplo blocks in a basket, transportation vehicles separate from the dress-up clothes? Another consideration would be the amount of toys your child has available at a given time. Speaking for myself, I learned from experience that my children had too many toys and so I began the practice of rotating toys.
You are the prime role models for your children. They love being with you and are soaking in every word and action you display. It naturally follows that your child will want to imitate you in as many ways as you will allow. The kitchen always seems to be a family gathering spot and so a good place to begin. Child-sized tools, again stored at your child's eye-level, will be used daily in their efforts to help sweep, dust, and carpet sweep when needed. Food prep is enjoyed by most children. If it's not practical to have you child work at a child-sized table, there are a number of safe step-stools available that will enable your child to work alongside you. Safe child-sized tools are also easily available enabling your child to scrub, peel, slice, cut, and stir in preparation of a meal. These are all skills the children are learning at school and will be happy to share with you at home. Of course the skills of table setting and unsetting the table will also be met with great enthusiasm!
One other example I will share (there are many!) is preparing the environment for your child to be able to prepare a snack for herself. If we use spreading sun butter on crackers as an example, you could store a few crackers and sun butter in containers your child is able to open herself at a shelf in the pantry or in a cabinet that your child can reach. Either at a child sized table or again where the food is stored you could also have available a small tray, butter knife, and napkins in a napkin holder. This way your child is able to place a napkin on the tray and carry the butter knife, sun butter, and crackers to her table. At the table your child would open the containers, spread the sun butter on the crackers, eat, and clean up. You control the quantity by the amount of food available. Provide a cup and a small container your child can handle partially filled with water in the refrigerator and snack is complete! The amount of pride these simple opportunities to contribute to the family as well as to care for their own needs provides will grow exponentially as they see themselves as valuable members of their families.
A book that has come highly recommended to me, which you may also find beneficial, is: How To Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way by Tim Seldin. Tim Seldin is a very well known Montessori educator, author, conference presenter, and has been the President of the Montessori Foundation. This book, as well as the Second edition, is an international best seller.