How to Implement Montessori Education at Home
The Montessori Method of Education has been meeting and exceeding the expectations of parents worldwide—not only as a method of education inside the classroom, but, in a greater sense, as a means of looking at the way human beings learn throughout their lives.
Although formal Montessori education takes place within a classroom, the human mind begins learning from the first moments of life and every day after that. This ability and curiosity to learn are never-ending.
Maria Montessori believed that learning “is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment” parents and teachers “can only help the great work that is being done, as servants help the master. Doing so, they will be witnesses to the unfolding of the human soul and to the rising of a New Man who will not be a victim of events, but will have the clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society"
These are noble goals which can be obtained in simple ways by making small changes to the home and by considering the parent’s role in this environment. Maria Montessori stressed the importance of the child’s environment because it allowed the child to move and explore, and that rather than teach, a caregiver would facilitate the child’s natural learning process.
These and other Montessori philosophies can be applied in the home with amazing results regardless of the school the child attends. I have laid out some easy ways that you can apply this philosophy in your own home:
1. One of the first things that you will notice if you look around a Montessori classroom is low shelving with almost everything accessible to the child. This allows the child to choose their own activity, based on curiosity and since the interest is there, they are most likely to stick with it.
YOU CAN: Apply this concept in your home by keeping safe toys and items within reach and changing them as necessary once the child tires of them.
2. Accessibility also means making the things the child needs most accessible to them.
- dedicate one low kitchen cabinet for your young child with child safe cups, plates, bowls etc.
- hang low hooks in the entryway for coats.
- allow access to their clothes so they can choose their own clothes and assist in laundry work such as sorting, folding, distributing etc.
- each room can have an area dedicated to their use with neatly placed child safe toys and books.
3. Beds, furniture and basically all the things that a child uses are ideally at their own height, this allows the child to be completely engaged in their environment. Maria Montessori states “Having equipment made proportionate to the size of the children satisfies the need for moving about intelligently.”
4. Give your child time in any activity that they are engaged in, without interruption. Allowing your child this uninterrupted time is one of the secrets to expanding a child’s ability to concentrate. This will reap great benefits for them both now and later in life when they can stay on task. When human beings are able to concentrate for longer and longer periods of time they are gaining not only the ability to focus and accomplish great things but getting to know themselves better.
5. ‘Respect’ is a highly valued quality in the Montessori classroom. It is this respect that teaches children to both value themselves and others as an extension of all living things. This being one of the highest goals of all. Manners are synonymous with respect.
- Read books about manners.
- Be a model of good manners
- Speak to your child and listen to what they have to say because valuing each person’s opinion is a sign of respect for the individual.
- Use puppets to role play both good and bad manners.
6. Take the time to teach your child how to do something using a detailed explanation. If you would like your child to learn how to make their bed, describe it in detail and step by step. It is easy for parents to overlook explanations for things they have long since mastered. Other things to explain are:
- What to do when you walk in the door; such as hang up your coat, wash your hands etc.
- How to read a book and return it to the shelf.
- How to clean a window.
- How to use a dustpan.
7. When requesting that your child do something, state it in a detailed way, “clean your room” is vague but “pick up all your toy cars” is specific. “Get ready for bed is general” but “brush your teeth” is specific. Even brush your teeth may have to be broken down into “please get your tooth brush” etc.
8. Mixed age classrooms in Montessori Schools replicate the sibling home environment. When an older sibling teaches a younger sibling, the benefits are compound. Beyond the bonding that takes place between the two siblings, the learning for each of them is mutually beneficial. If one child has mastered making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that is one level of accomplishment, but if he then teaches this skill to a younger sibling he has to convert the knowledge into a lesson which requires an even more advanced set of skills. This is a win-win for all involved.
YOU CAN: Encourage your children to teach skills to one another. It is a beautiful thing!
9. Cleaning and chores are another part of the Montessori classroom called practical life. Montessori students learn to wipe the table and sweep the floor. You can teach your child to do these things at home. By doing this they will feel like a valuable part of your family. By participating in this way they are also learning self-sufficiency which builds confidence. All of this confidence building will bring them to their next challenge (whatever that may be) feeling stronger for having accomplished the last challenge. It is a confidence building approach since learning is broken down into simple steps, the possibility to learn is boundless. Here Maria Montessori explains the benefit of teaching children to care for themselves:
A man who acts by himself, who expends his strength on his own actions, conquers himself, increases his strength, and perfects himself. If men of the future are to be strong, they must be independent and free
YOU CAN: Have a child accessible broom, dust pan, child safe window cleaning supplies and have a ‘can do’ attitude.
10. Montessori schools offer an international multicultural approach which can be easily incorporated into the home by cooking international foods, reading stories from other cultures and modeling a tolerance for differences. This philosophy is on trend with the direction technology is taking the world.
11. Montessori classrooms not only have a variety of fine art on the walls, it is often rotated throughout the year. This is an easy, yet effective way to introduce art appreciation and create a sense of beauty in the environment.
YOU CAN: Buy a fine art calendar and hang it or frame the artwork itself and rotate the images. Place the artwork low where you child can see it. Each time you change the art work you can discuss the new image with your child.
12. Montessori kids cook! Cook with your kids. Invite you child to participate with you anytime you are making something and you have time to teach it, it may take longer and be messier but it is worth it. Maria Montessori states “if teaching is to be effective with young children it must assist them to advance on the way to independence”
YOU CAN: Teach your child how to make their own snacks by providing accessible items that a child can get and eat for themselves, such as fruit and crackers. As children get older they can be taught to make a sandwich and even cook eggs with supervision. When introduced to the concepts of cooking at an early age many children can cook almost independently in the kitchen by the age of 11.
Some may say that Maria Montessori was a genius, while others have criticized her ideas, saying that the Montessori classroom is limiting and lacks creativity. Either way, Maria Montessori cared deeply about children and the role of teachers and caregivers. She did not simply create a method of education that would be useful for children in the confines of a classroom but reshaped the ways in which we look at learning. I hope this article inspired you, gave you some concepts that may be useful in your home, or helped you to better understand what the needs of children really are, as well as the parent’s role in raising them.
That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.
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© 2012 Tracy Lynn Conway