So now that we’ve learned what Montessori is about and what Maria’s theories were, let’s talk about how to use Montessori. It’s all well and good to know it exists, but it’s not very useful if no one ever tells you have to do it. Now there are a lot of places out there that claim they can teach you Montessori for an exorbitant amount of money…or you can be cheap like me and do as much reading and research as possible and do the best you can. I look up a lot of the activities we use or will use with Freya in books or on Pinterest. I think I have a link on my Pinterest somewhere on my page. If not I will be adding one soon.
The biggest thing parents can do is help their child learn life skills early. I’m talking about teaching a child to help you do the laundry, dishes, or generally help you do whatever. I’m not saying that our children need to become our slaves and do everything, but it doesn’t hurt a child to learn how to do something so they can help if you need them. Nor does it hurt to let them help you while they want to.
Our children watch and try to do everything we do. I can’t even begin to describe the difference I’ve seen in children whose parents use Montessori and don’t. The look on a two year olds face as he helps mom cut up veggies in a YouTube video is priceless. So is watching the intensity with which the child attends to the task.
What’s even more exciting is that our children aren’t just developing motor skills when they do this. They are also developing vocabulary and potentially social skills depending on the activity. All of this can do a wealth of good for a child’s confidence and self-esteem. Right now we just explain everything we’re doing to Freya while we do it, but when we see that she’s ready for an activity, we’ll let her help us by trying to do something as simple as wipe down the table.
Do’s and Don’ts of Practical life activities
However, Montessori had a few do’s and don’ts when it came to introducing life activities.
- Never give a child pretend tools. If they can’t do what you’re doing with the tools you give them, they are just going to get frustrated and potentially give up.
- When you provide real tools, find tools that are the right size for your child. There are tons of Montessori sites out there for this or sometimes you can just find stuff like this at the dollar tree. I’ve been picking up what I can on the cheap as I go and as I find it.
- When you show a child how to do something, take it slow. Make each movement deliberate and explain it. If you go to fast it’s going to be harder for them to absorb. A sponge can’t just soak everything up in five seconds and neither can a child.
- If necessary take the child through the activity step by step. And make sure that they understand step one before you move on to step two….you would think this would be common sense, but you’d be surprised.
- Let the child repeat the activity as many times as they like. This is how they learn.
- Try to plan out what you are going to do before you do it (we’ll talk about this more in a moment).
Three Focuses of Montessori
- Developing Personality:
Montessori viewed each person as an integrated whole and believed that children build their personality through active participation in their environment. This is congruent with current research as well. To this end she identified several different stages of development of personality. She also believed that their success depended on satisfactory progress through each state.
In infancy she felt that the child needed to be made to feel secure and have a decent relationship with us, the parents. In the next stage, they need to start developing independence. They still need us, but they need to do as much as possible (and safe) on their own. If they fail too often it hurts their confidence and self-esteem. Montessori was convinced that by three a child had already laid down the foundations of their personality.
And in the final stage of basic personality development (3-6) a child is malleable enough to learn to be comfortable with themselves while adjusting to societal norms and expectations. If a child can find a balance between their needs/wants and the expectations of society upon them, then they are generally happy and content.
The parent’s role in this is to be first aware of our importance in this process. Second is to allow them freedom within limits. Third is to respect their individuality, and finally, to resist imposing our own wills and personality onto our children.
- Helping Social and Emotional Adjustment
By around age six a child is fairly well emotionally and socially adjusted, or at least should be. They should be okay with you leaving for a short while. A part of this process involves how you encourage your child and methods of discipline that you use. Montessori highly recommended instilling a sense of self discipline in our children.
So let’s talk about her stages here. In stage one (birth to 18 months) there is almost no obedience. However, you can still work on a relationship and consistency with a child that builds those foundations for discipline. In stage 2 (18m to 4 years) we begin to transition into understanding the concept of listening to parents etc. One of the important aspects of this stage is explaining why an action is wrong.
Stage three (3-6 years), our children learn exponentially. By age six a child should be able to listen and do as they are told. Most children of this age don’t really want to be different. While it’s nice for a child to listen, I agree with Montessori that the ultimate goal of discipline is about helping a child to grow up independently with respect for others. It’s about developing self-control.
It takes time and patience for this to happen though. The limits that we set have to be appropriate to age. And that means that even I’m going to have to do more research into child development to prevent mistakes on my part. It’s also important to be as positive as possible when we take this approach with our children. I know I have a negative streak, but I want to try to prevent Freya from inheriting that. Not to mention it’s good for my own continuing self-development.
Which brings me to my next point. We cannot expect our children to do anything that we are not prepared to do ourselves. We have to set rules and guidelines that we will live by as well. We have to establish rules that (for the most part) will be adhered to be everyone in the family. I mean we’re going to have some well you can’t have this because it isn’t safe, but on the other hand, we still need to use the same table manners we expect of our children.
Essentially, if a child is always breaking a rule it may not be developmentally appropriate for your child at that point. In addition Montessori did not believe in rewarding actions with presents. She believed that it would cause them to participate for rewards instead of the pleasure of the activity. I agree with this personally.
What can we do? First, we can’t be over protective or possessive of our child as this can create anxiety in the child. Second, we can’t make excessive demands on our children. Third, don’t lay down the law in an authoritarian way. We want them to be a part of the process so that they understand the process and why the rules are in place. Nor do we want them to rebel by making them feel that they have no say in the process. I can say from experience that this worked well in my own childhood. Fourth, we also don’t want to be over permissive.
- Developing Intellectual Capacity
In this case intelligence is defined as the capacity to learn new skills. This includes the ability to use those new skills to adapt to the environment as it changes around you. This is something vital to our children as they will need to learn to adapt to the world around them. This includes problem solving, fact learning, and the ability to use and apply information learned.
This is why it is important to let our children learn in their own time, because each child will develop these skills and intelligences at a different rate. If Freya walks at 11 months great. If she can’t figure out how to say grandma till much later than she should, that’s also okay. Now, if it goes too far I might ask the good ol’ doc if something is wrong, but I’m still going to let her learn at her own pace.
To achieve this goal we also have to do the following. First, we have to allow the child to be active and learn through their senses as much as possible. Second, we have to recognize those sensitive periods and encourage those particular developments at those times. Third, recognize the importance of motivation and how it affects learning.
As a side note, Montessori style motivation is the final post for the week. I know it’s been a lot, but it can be really hard to find good information on this topic, so I really want to share the keynotes of everything I’m learning. I borrowed the sourcebook Montessori Play and Learn from the Louisville Library. You can probably buy it on Amazon or be cheap like me lol. Either way, I hope this post has taught you more about the Montessori Method and how vital a part the parent plays in the process.