Monday, September 18, 2017

Why is my child washing tables and cleaning windows at school?

Practical Life: Starting Off Strong

When your child comes home and proudly announces “I washed a table today, or I washed the windows.” naturally we can’t imagine how those activities fit into a school setting.  Montessori is unique in its approach to the social and academic development of the child.

 Practical life is the most important area of the Montessori classroom. Practical life exercises form a basis for all that follows in the classroom and in life.

The exercises are not an end in themselves, that is, their purpose is not “cleaning a table” but are designed as an aide to life and to help the child become an eager and engaged learner.  Practical life leads the child to independence and competence,  both physical and intellectual. It increases concentration, the ability to take a task from start to completion, and reinforces left to right orientation for later academic skills.  Sequencing, concentration and the ability to follow many steps are skills that come from the practical life lessons.   

There are several important points at the base of the practical life work.  Every child has a need to adapt to his culture and environment.  Practical life exercises are everyday activities, which the child may see at home.  Properly prepared and presented they become a bridge between home and school.  The work must be based on reality, for it is only through reality that the child can be secure and become comfortable in his world.  All practical life lessons involve movement as the 3-6 year old needs movement to learn. The four areas of practical life are:  care of the person, care of the environment, grace and courtesy and control of movement.  The child needs opportunities to work in all four segments of practical life.

Another basic need of the child is to develop and coordinate his movements.  In order to reach this goal he must be free to move and to repeat his work.  The child is encouraged to choose work that is interesting.  The teacher observes and presents new lessons to help the students to move forward as they are ready.

The work is in absolute order, color coordinated, without flaws, and perfectly clean at the beginning of each day.  This presentation of beautiful work calls the child to use the materials with care and interest.    Only then can the child benefit from the work.  
Care is taken to use natural materials as much as possible.  Glass, wood, lovely fabrics, pictures and items from nature speak to the soul of the child in a way that artificial materials cannot. We honor the life of the child by bringing beauty into his life.

Every child has an innate need to achieve independence.  This begins at home and continues in the Montessori classroom. Practical life exercise develop a strong independence that the child can care for himself, the classroom and to be socially adept.

Every child has a need for order, especially in the 3-6 age group.  Order in the environment creates order in the mind.  Order is essential for logical thought so all practical life work is based on order with sequence.  Materials are set out in order of use, from left to right.  The work is always in the same place in the environment.

Other basic needs of all children are movement and repetition to achieve perfection.  All practical life exercises allow for activity and repetition.  The child learns that repetition (practice) results in perfecting the activity.  This skill is essential as the student moves into academic work.

There are four types of lessons in the practical life environment:
1.    Preliminary exercises:  this work prepares the child for life in the class by giving the skills to use in the following lessons.
2.    Exercises for control of movement:  This work involves the whole body.  For example, washing a table requires setting out the work, filling, carrying and emptying a pitcher, controlling the soap suds, sponging off the soap and drying the table then cleaning and replacing the activity to the shelf.  Great concentration and control is developed as the child practices this, and all the other practical life work.
3.    Exercises for movement of hands.  This work always progresses from very simple to complex.  For example the dressing frames are presented easiest (large buttons) to most complex (pinning).  These activities create independence, focus and the ability to stay with a difficult task, all skills that will be required as the child begins to read, write and do math. These lessons also prepare the hand for writing.
4.    Exercises for control of movement:  this work is a point of arrival for the child.  Self control is necessary for success in school and life.  These lessons give the child the tools needed for this important growth.

Montessori teachers give lessons in a quiet, consistent manner are always observant of the child and focus on him as a whole being with mind and body growing together.  The teacher’s delight in the practical life area of the Montessori classroom will results in children who are comfortable in the classroom, are growing toward independence, have a strong sense of order and are cooperative members of the school community.  Without this essential base, the work of the child cannot go forward. 

 True self esteem does not come from praise but from meaningful work done with a sense of joy and purpose.   

Our own attitude toward work is important as we model the qualities we hope to see in children.  Now that you understand the importance of washing, folding, cleaning windows, feeding the birds, washing cloths, preparing snack and all the other wonderful practical life lessons you can respond with joy when your child replies:  “Oh, I washed a table today.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Want to Know More About Montessori:? A short book list

As your children begin their Montessori journey at AMCS you may want to know more about this proven and effective way to educate them for a successful life.

Here is a short list of books that you may enjoy.  Most are available on Amazon and some are available at public libraries.  

Child of the World: Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+

Susan Mayclin Stephenson 
An easy to read introduction to Montessori, filled with insight and beautiful illustrations

The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three

Susan Mayclin Stephenson
A companion book to Child of the World 

Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work

E.M. Standing
 Part biography and part exposition of her ideas, this engaging book reveals through her letters and personal diaries Maria Montessori's humility and delight in the success of her educational experiments and is an ideal introduction to the principals and practices of the greatest educational pioneer of the 20th century. 

The Discovery of the Child

Maria Montessori 
Montessori developed a new way of knowing and loving a child. In THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD, she describes the nature of the child and her method of working more fully with the child's urge to learn. With 16 pages of photographs.

Look for an expanded book list in the weeks to come.  I welcome your comments and questions on your reading or Montessori and parenting.