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:
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
“The ‘absorbent mind’ welcomes everything, puts its hope in everything, accepts poverty equally with wealth, adopts any religion and the prejudices and habits of its countrymen, incarnating all in itself. This is the child!” ~ Maria Montessori
The “absorbent mind” refers to the mind’s capacity to take in information and sensations from the world that surrounds it. Maria Montessori believed that children have the ability to educate themselves and cannot help learning. Children learn from their environment simply by living.
Montessori sees the absorbent mind in two phases. The first phase occurs from birth to three years old. Babies are born without a language and very few skills other than the instinct to survive. However, the young child unconsciously acquires basic abilities as he absorbs his surroundings in the early years in order to build and create himself. Maria called this period the period of “unconscious creation” or the “unconscious absorbent mind.” The child’s ability to absorb this information eventually allows him to acquire the skills to speak, walk, feed himself, and gain control of hands and bodily functions, all of which is necessary for future independence.
Once the child has acquired these abilities (around the age of three years old), he then moves on into the next phase of the absorbent mind called the “period of conscious work” or the “conscious absorbent mind.” During this period, the child begins to intentionally direct and focus attention on experiences that will develop those abilities that were created during the first three years.
From the years of three to six, the fundamental task of the child during this phase of conscious absorption is intellectual development and freedom; the freedom to move purposefully, to choose his own direction and to concentrate. In addition, during this phase, the child will expand his vocabulary greatly. Thus, Montessori environments are built to foster their vernacular growth.
The first six years are crucial for a child’s self-development, and we must trust that the child will unfold before us. The act of living life and adapting to their environment will create the person the child is to become.
The Association Montessori International/USA is a national non-profit organization that strives to propagate and further the teachings and work of Dr. Maria Montessori in the United States. Click here for more info.
“Great school! Children learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities! leading to concentration, motivation, self discipline, and a love of learning!”
-Submitted by a parent–