At Little Flower Montessori School, our main goal is to provide an environment that fosters children’s independence. We do this by providing opportunities for a child to do things for themselves, such as dressing themselves, pouring water, choosing what they want to do, preparing a snack, and cleaning their work space, all through a prepared environment. Materials and activities that encourage the child to “do for him/herself” and nurtures developmental progress, confidence, and self-esteem are the foundations of the Practical Life curriculum.
As Maria Montessori said, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
We practice freedom and discipline everyday by allowing children to have the freedom of choice – the freedom to choose their activities for themselves; and time – to freely work with an activity for as long as they choose.
This freedom leads to discipline. The traditional approach to education believes that children are impulsive, disorderly, and must be disciplined externally through rewards and punishment. But unfortunately, the issues remain the same. However, Montessori education helps to develop the child’s character through their ability to make choices by listening to his or her interests. As natural limits exist, the child is able to practice the inhibition of those impulses. For example, in a prepared environment, there are only one set of materials, such as one easel for painting. Thus, only one child can paint at a time, and the activity is only complete when everything has been put back in its place and is ready for the next person to use.
Parents can encourage their child at home to participate in ways that help to induce self-discipline, confidence, and independence. Here are some helpful suggestions to incorporate Practical Life activities at home:
- Making Decisions: Encourage children to make smart decisions by giving them limited choices. For example, “Would you prefer to clean up your bedroom before or after dinner?” Rather than asking the child whether or not they want to clean up, you are simply asking them when they would like to do so.
- Include them in family decisions: Ask your child for their input. This lets them feel like they are part of the planning, and will make the experience more significant because they feel like they are partaking in major decision making, giving them some control over the situation.
- Taking care of themselves: Allow your children to do things for themselves such as bathing, dressing, brushing their hair and teeth, as well as cleaning up after themselves, as they learn with your supervision. You should only assist when needed. Montessori tells us to let the child do for himself that which he is capable and to provide the tools necessary for success.
In order for a child to have freedom, they must have self-discipline. Self-discipline is something that must be taught, modeled and practiced. Thus, in order for a child to be independent, they must engage in continued concentrated activities of their own choice, so that they can grow in inner discipline. This “normalization” is the most important goal of the Montessori philosophy.
“The child has to acquire physical independence by being self-sufficient; he must become of independent will by using in freedom his own power of choice; he must become capable of independent thought by working alone without interruption.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori
Daily Montessori. (2014). “Montessori Theory.” Retrieved from: http://www.dailymontessori.com/montessori-theory/.
Michelle Irinyi (2009). North American Montessori Center Montessori Teacher Training (blog). “Parenting for Independence the Montessori Way: Fostering Self Discipline and Confidence.” Retrieved from: http://montessoritraining.blogspot.com/2009/06/parenting-for-independence-montessori.html#.U-pPY_ldWSo .
Absorbent Minds Montessori (n.d). “What is Montessori.” Retrieved from: http://www.absorbentminds.co.uk/acatalog/What_is_Montessori_.html