Oooo fun activity that teaches babies colors. Click. Link to affiliate site for other color learning activity. Click. Hmm, Montessori in your home. Click. Ten principles of Montessori. Click. How to set up a Montessori classroom. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. I’m starting to sound like the quickest typist ever on an old typewriter, and my face might as well be Wiley Coyote’s after a tussle with the Roadrunner; instead of stars dancing around my head, it was color tiles and child-sized tools.
1,000 clicks and half a day’s worth of reading later, I had dipped into a little bit about Montessori learning principles and associated activities (that mostly sound fun). I had heard about the centers, but I thought they were just daycares, not a whole principle of thought and basis for learning. So, this post is mostly for me to clearly organize my thoughts and list some of the things I have learned in one place instead of in 100 separate pins on pinterest (although a Montessori board would be very pinteresting).
When I first started reading, it sounded like the Montessori teachers would be much like a librarians trying to drill colors, shapes, and practical life activities into tiny little children’s heads. I hope you are imagining this…
But the more I read, the more interested I became. I am just starting to read into this, so don’t take me as an expert, but I wanted to share in case any other parents were interested or had advice to offer. It all started with the first woman Italian physician Maria Montessori, who founded a system of education based on observation of and respect for the child.
The following are 20 principles and practices that Montessori learning is based on (not all inclusive, and definitely put into my own words):
- Observe your child to see what your child’s needs and interests are and respect and honor those needs and interests.
- You child’s mind is especially absorbent from birth to 6 years of age. Respect that little sponge by paying attention to what activities your child seems absorbed in. If baby seems obsessed with an activity, she may be fulfilling a developmental need. When this is happening, skills in the interested area can be learned almost effortlessly.
- Allow independence and self-direct learning. As long as child is safe, let them lead activities outside, indoors, or in different environments. Freedom within limits. Anything destructive, dangerous, or disrespectful should have intervention. Help your child to help himself.
- Lots of hands-on concrete activities help learning and development.
- Emphasize practical life and sensorial activities. These include care of self, care of environment, control of movement, and grace and courtesy.
- Provide child-sized materials whenever possible.
- Don’t interrupt the child’s learning cycle allowing increasing concentration.
- Make environment orderly and attractive.
- Demonstrate how to do an activity. Do so slowly and deliberately with as few words as possible. Show one step at a time. For example, even something as simple as grabbing a cup needs to be shown as sliding two fingers through the handle and curving into position, then placing the thumb on the outside of the handle, then placing two fingers on the other side of the cup, and finally picking up the cup.
- Find points of interest.
- Have control of error.
- Let child practice.
- Check that one quality is isolated when doing activities. (If you are introducing shapes, the color and size do not vary)
- “Normalization” occurs. This sounds like teacher is putting baby molds in a tube and a perfect little child pops out the other end of the machine! Really, it just means development is proceeding normally, and the child is becoming a contributing member of a community. “One who has overcome himself and lives in peace and harmony with the environment preferring disciplined tasks to futile idleness.” A normalized child has,
- Love of work
- Sociability (Joyful work) Normalized children are joyful!
- Show the way to discipline.
- All items used for activities should be complete, in a specified place, and orderly. This helps instill a sense of calm and peace.
- Entice child to activities to awaken her interests.
- Allow child to self-teach. If child makes a mistake, he will learn the mistake through further practice with the activity.
- Once concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist. Even a “Good Job” could break concentration and end the activity.
- Allow for uninterrupted blocks of work time.
- The students are empowered to come into the environment, choose their own work, use it appropriately, and put it away without help.
- Create an environment that provides tools in order for the child to answer their own questions and solve their own problems.
- A multi-age classroom is used to encourage older children to mentor and be role models, and to grow confidence in younger children who feel supported.
I really like the idea of child-led learning. Proof of this is shown when we allow Jelly Bean to tumble off the ottoman or insert her blocks into everywhere but the rectangular slot designed for block placement. We are constantly saying, “Well, she won’t do that again,” or, “She will figure it out.” Self-correcting and learning from past experiences are key to learning in our house. Now, Jelly Bean slides off the ottoman backwards with feet first. She also successfully places the blocks in the slot that shoots the block out the back end of her toy train. These are things she learned on her own. We made sure she was safe (yes, there were pillows where she tumbled off the ottoman), and allowed her to try again.
I think I agree with a lot of the principles and ideas, but most of what I found seemed to be for kids 3+. I think there are a ton of resources for homemade Montessori materials, and I am sure I will attempt to create these materials with some modifications for younger kiddos.
Have you had any experience with Montessori? Let me know what you think of all the concepts or tell me a story of your experience. I would love to hear from anyone who would like to share!