Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Montessori in Our Home (Part Two)

I wrote here about the reasons I was drawn to Montessori and how I feel it fits our family and specifically the boys. I touched a bit on how it fits me, and I'd like to continue that today.


One of the things I like the most about Montessori is the sense of order and routine that it introduces to the child. The reason that appeals to me is that that is the way that Big Kid is built. He has a natural sense of routine that he relies on to make his world work. This is the way Superman works too, and frankly it's something I've had to get used to. My upbringing was the opposite of routine and organized so this is a skill I've had to learn throughout our marriage. I feel like Montessori's approach to routine, but still giving the choice is very important. Big Kid takes great comfort and satisfaction in the ordered portion of his work (always laying a mat to work on, putting things away before getting other things out), and the choices he has to make encourage him to reach out and take steps forward.


One of the things I've loved everytime I visit a Montessori classroom is the organization of the materials. Less on the shelves, very beautiful and inviting materials, always using a mat or carpet to work on- all these things organize not only the room but the child's thoughts and actions as well. The emphasis on using higher quality materials has been interesting. The idea is that the more beautiful the item the more irresistible it is to the child, but I wasn't sure that that would be true for my son. In fact, it is! It was a surprise to me, but we're making a big shift in the direction of investing in fewer items, but items of higher quality.

This kind of organization and reasoned placement of materials has affected how I organize all of my home. I've started organizing my own items with these ideas- having fewer things out, but more beautiful inviting things.


Practical Life

Presenting practical life skills to the child blew my mind a bit. The idea that you can show a child to wash a table with water and a sponge at 15 months old? I thought that was a little silly at first, but I tried with my youngest. He not only could do it, but he thought it was great fun and laughed much of the time. It's still one of his favorite works! Not only is it fun for him, but it improves his coordination and gets my table cleaner than it was before. I think that's a great combination!

For my 3-year-old some of the practical life skills are things we were working on anyway- dressing himself, working on buttons and zippers, and other kinds of personal care, so that part of seems to have fallen in place naturally for us. Some things, like pouring his own milk or water, had me a little nervous, but he does very well, and I can see the pride he has in being able to do it on his own. I was especially nervous about allowing a glass pitcher for him, but he treats it very carefully; I think if it was plastic he would not pour as accurately as he would treat the entire process a little more carelessly.


Montessori almost fills a need within myself in these areas, and that is admittedly part of the appeal. It has helped me to understand my older son a little better since he is so very ordered and structured in his personality. I'm understanding the whys behind his decisions in every day life now that I'm looking at it all from a more structured place. For my younger son, the "choices within limits" structure has been a good thing so far as well. He will learn to sit through an entire work  when he is able, but still to choose what interests him most.

I can't wait to see where Montessori takes us.

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