A Montessori home means finding ways to support your child's independence and to engage your child in meaningful tasks. A Montessori home allows children to watch the adults around them and to explore their home, learning from common objects around the house.
The Uninterrupted Work Cycle
In a Montessori classroom, children are given large blocks of time to explore their work deeply. This contributes directly to the development of concentration and provides opportunities to collaborate and problem solve. This is also the framework that fosters child-centered (as opposed to teacher-directed) learning. When working at home, try not to interrupt when your child is concentrating.
Grace and Courtesy
In the classroom, these practices help to develop a sense of community and social norms and to reinforce kindness. At home, this can also include cleanup of the child's activity.
Children thrive in environments that promote repetition, routine, and the mastery of purposeful movement. Allow your child to choose activities, and give the opportunity for periods of time without distractions. The key to a successful learning environment is order, access to a variety of choices, space to explore, and meaningful activity.
Dr. Montessori said, "He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." She felt that children learn best by learning through doing — using a material to understand hows and whys behind a concept. When working at home, try to have a real example or something for the child to interact with to learn the concept: Have a real leaf to dissect, use noodles to move when doing math, etc.
Practical life is an important part of experiential learning and is relevant to all age levels. These are life skills that our children will need to master to be successful adults. It is part of every Montessori classroom and can be mirrored at home. This includes refining fine-motor and movement skills and practicing coordination, self-care, planning, and problem solving.
The practical life experiences also provide children with opportunities to contribute to family life. Built into these activities is the development of key executive functions: decision making, organization, problem solving, impulse control, collaboration, and communication.
These skills form the foundation of a child's academic learning. For example, sequencing a task is a pre-reading skill.
Examples of practical life might include the following:
- Setting the table
- Watering plants
- Tidying and organizing rooms
- Planning an outing
- Taking care of pets
- Preparing a snack/meal
- Helping with shopping lists/budgeting
- Repairing a bicycle
- Planting a small garden
Practical life activities are engaging for children at all stages of development, and tasks are designed according to their level of coordination and independence. You can organize a "job chart" or list of family projects as a way to help guide your child's interests. Planning and gathering resources to complete the tasks is purposeful work.
For our older students, this is a time for them to further develop their sense of self by selecting work or volunteer opportunities that permit them to use their practical life skills and realize their personal vision. It is also (especially as we are learning from home) an important time for older students to recall the sense of order that was nurtured during their primary years; they must maintain a routine of handing in work and receiving feedback from their teachers.
Suggested Activities by Level
For the primary-age child, "work" and "play" should be interchangeable — a natural, fun, and exciting part of life:
- Scavenger hunt/counting objects collected, counting everyday objects (beans, pennies, etc.); sorting laundry, silverware, and plastic lids and bowls; cutting and gluing, playing "I spy," cooking, caring for the home — sweeping, dusting, doing dishes, watering plants
Many lower elementary students are at a "concrete level" and need/use materials to complete certain tasks. At home, use items from around the house for your child to move when counting:
- Cooking from a recipe, drawing and measuring items in your house, researching a country, practicing skip counting numbers while jumping rope, making a timeline (of what you do in a day or of your life), helping a neighbor with yard work
For adolescents, learning is not simply an understanding of facts and figures — it's a dedication to understanding the whys:
- Learning about current events and writing to government representatives; making a budget and shopping for groceries; learning about a new culture, country, or religion and reaching out to a local organization to learn more; learning about an aspect of car or bike care and applying that skill
Portions of this web page have been adapted with permission from the Montessori School of Tokyo. Thank you, MST, for your work in the creation of a global Montessori community resource.