The Montessori Approach in the Home – how parents can help in their child’s development
“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson
Respect and independence
Children who spend their time in Montessori schools learn to think of the world as an exciting place full of possibilities. They begin to know themselves as powerful people who can do all sorts of things for themselves. They think of adults as helpful friends who are always there if needed, but who never try to overly interfere or control their activities. This is because Montessori teachers really respect young children as individuals and treat them as dynamic natural learners.
Nurturing creative curiosity
Your Montessori child will come home buzzing with ideas about what has gone on earlier in the day – from cookery projects, to learning about the life-cycle of butterflies, to the joy of discovering the skills of counting and writing. They will also buzz with the expectations of tomorrow.
It is really helpful, therefore, if parents can provide home environments that support this burgeoning confidence and creative curiosity. Your child needs you to slow down to his or her pace, to spend time sharing the things that he or she is excited about or interested in. Depending on the projects they are studying, many Montessori children become incredibly knowledgeable about such things as the different types of beetle, the shapes of leaves or the names of geometric shapes. It can be crushing if a mum and dad are too busy or too tired to share in their child s new knowledge or excitement.
Providing the tools
At school, Montessori children can access all the things they need without the help of adults. They may want to draw, cut, stick, count, write, make books, build towers or read. At school they learn that everything can be found in its own place and that it helps others if things get put back again in the same place. So Montessori children tend to be tidy and thoughtful about the needs of others.
If you can provide the same thing at home it will help your child to maintain the same level of consideration and independence. Special cupboards and shelves, all easily accessible, and beautiful materials and activities, all carefully laid out in boxes and trays, help the child feel that his or her work really matters. And if you ask your child’s teachers they will let you know what things your child is particularly interested in at the time. One of the most important things we can do for children is to follow their interests – to really know what they are excited about and to provide as much support and further activities as possible for them to explore and understand.
Holding your ground
We live in a world that is full of pressures and external expectations. The early years of life are recognised as the very foundation upon which everything else is built. Each child is full of natural curiosity and the desire to learn so needs only to be set free within the right environment. This way of learning is characterised by a concentration and passion that is rarely ever exhibited in adult life. Montessori practitioners think this is the most important quality that we can preserve in our children.
But all too often this precious natural resource is threatened by pressures from outside: pressures to learn all their numbers faster than anyone else, pressures to be able to write their name, to colour shapes in accurately, to draw things that look acceptable, to count to ten, to sit still and wait to be told what to do. And pressure on boys to do all the things that girls do, even though we know that boys and girls are very different in their learning processes.
Whereas pressure from the inside is a good thing and makes us want to explore the world and learn more, pressure from the outside can also be very dangerous. It can interfere with all our natural processes and make us fearful rather than become the wonderful risk-takers we naturally are. It can tell us that we are only valued by our results and can make us see work as something that you only do if you have to, rather than something that excites us and makes us feel good. So we ask Montessori parents to really trust their children, to try to ignore such outside pressures, and to celebrate the very individual talents and abilities their children possess and enjoy.
The love of a child is like no other. At no other time in their lives will our children be so dependent on us getting it right. By choosing a school environment that is full of happy, sensitive, loving teachers and by providing a home environment that re-affirms to the child that he or she is an important person in the world, we allow each child to grow in trust and confidence and to become someone who cares about self, others and the larger world in which we live.