The Journey All Parents Should Take
We all want what is best for our children. We work hard to prepare them for a successful future by providing the best education possible. The environment we inhabit is dynamic, and learning to learn is the most valuable skill we can give our kids to ensure their future success.
At MSH, we believe that the very best method for teaching children is one that began 108 years ago. The Montessori curriculum followed here at MSH is comprehensive, individualized and delivered in a beautiful, organized way. The materials and methods are incredibly specific, and the training required by our teachers to implement these methods and materials is very detailed.
However, you don’t have to take our word for it. You can experience it for yourself and you should. When you hear about the pink tower, stamp game, or checkerboard you should know the myriad of skills that align to each material. When your 3 year old comes home with red and blue letters on his arm, you can understand why they are presented in a particular order. When your daughter mentions that she held the peace rose today, you will know how this item is used on a regular basis for resolving conflict and teaching self-advocacy.
On January 30 from 8am-12pm, we hope you will join us to experience your child’s school day first hand, by participating in the Montessori Journey. Our teachers will take you through highlights of the curriculum and answer your questions about our materials and our methods. Get answers to all your questions and learn so much more about the Montessori Method by experiencing it for yourself. It’s a journey every parent needs to take.
The Montessori birthday celebration, referred to as the “Celebration of Life,” is one of the most moving traditions we come together for in our classroom and school community. Parents are encouraged to attend this special event honoring their child, typically beginning when the child enters the Primary classroom. The child who is being honored is tasked with the responsibility of setting up the months of the year around a candle (which represents the sun). The child is encircled by her parents, teachers and friends as she begins her journey (walk) around the sun while holding a globe. Each orbit around the sun represents 365 days, 12 months, or one year of that child’s life. As we say the months of the year together, this ritual is a reminder that on a deeper level, the child is experiencing time and place, geography and even history. The children listen intently as Mom and Dad show photos of their child and discuss major events and milestones that have occurred since the child entered the world.
Unique to a Montessori classroom, the mixed ages allow children to reflect on what they were like at three years old and envision what they will be like when they turn six years old. Often, a child who was shy her first year, evolves into a confident second and third year student who proudly orbits the sun and even begins to interject her parents and tell her own story. It is a time for the child to reminisce on her life, to engage in public speaking, and to be celebrated by friends and united by love. The most beautiful aspect surrounding this occasion is the emphasis on being connected to the planet and share the miracle of human existence.
“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”
Practical life is the heart of any Montessori Toddler Classroom and plays a major role in the development of children for years to come. Practical life offers several major benefits to the child: the acquisition of a practical skill, the development of focused attention, and preparation for writing and reading.
The acquisition of a practical skillOver the course of the two-year cycle in the toddler classroom, your child will have the opportunity to develop his/her skills in increasingly complex fine motor activities, care of self activities, care of the environment activities, and water activities.As a part of the care of self curriculum, your child will be learning to dress him/herself, hang his/her own coat up on a hook, as well as use velcro, buttons, zippers, and snaps. Threading beads and lacing work offers preparation for more complex dressing skills they will work on in the primary classroom (such as lacing and tying shoes).The care of the environment and fine motor skills curriculum is vast. Your children will have the opportunity to learn opening and closing various containers, spooning items from one bowl to another, dry pouring, pouring of water, transferring items by hand and with tongs, dusting, hammering, carrying a chair, folding a variety of cloths with a variety of folds, washing cloths by hand, washing dishes by hand, washing a table, sweeping, using a dust pan & brush, mopping, setting a table, and many more!
It is important to note that these are the opportunities every child will have in the toddler classroom, but every child will not master every skill. Because the children have the freedom to develop themselves, there will be a great variety of skill acquisition. However, there are only good choices of activity in the classroom, so you need not fear that your child will spend hours idle. All work is important work, and we get to see how each child uniquely unfolds!
The development of focused attention
According to the material originally designed by Dr. Montessori, the child will first develop focus in the practical life areas. Toddlers, as well as 3 and 4 year olds, naturally gravitate to these areas. Dr. Montessori noted this and developed the curriculum so that the activities start simple and slowly increase in difficulty, with specific areas of focus. The child will learn to concentrate well by spending much time in practical life. With this foundation in toddlerhood and up to around 4 (or sometimes 5), he or she will be ready to spend focused time in other ares of the classroom, becoming much more competent in these more abstract areas when they are developmentally ready for them.
With so many new children and families entering Primary II this year, Monica and I realized that it would be beneficial for us to address the incredibly important area of the classroom known as Practical Life. Perhaps your child has come home and told you she did pouring work, polishing work or even arranged flowers. Maybe you have watched uneasily during drop-off as a child carried a tray full of glass objects and just were not sure what the point of all this was.
It is in the Practical Life area where children learn the foundation for all other areas of the classroom, what you may have heard us refer to as O-C-C-I, which stands for order, concentration, coordination and independence. While the activities may appear simple, they are highly purposeful, and can be quite complicated with many steps. It is in Practical Life children learn the basics of self-care, care of the environment, and activities that encompass everyday living, or “domestic curriculum.” These activities are meant to fill in the gaps of a child’s life because it is here she will learn to dress well, speak well, and become capable of taking care of her own hygiene. Children begin to understand the importance of manners, what we call in a Montessori environment, “grace and courtesy”. These skills when developed repetitively over time lead children to a greater sense of independence and accountability for their actions. In Practical Life as in all areas of a Montessori classroom, it is critical that the environment is beautifully prepared, because when we use objects that are real and beautiful, and come from nature, items like glass and wood, and we provide work that imitates adult activities but are child-sized, children find tremendous value in their work. They are called to the materials, and they become tuned in to the process of actually doing, and making mistakes along the way, as opposed to focusing on the final result.
The independence and the pride children feel upon completing tasks, as individuals, will ultimately lead to interdependence in the classroom community and beyond.
Practical Life is also where children will learn principles that remain with them throughout their three-year cycle and in all areas of the classroom. They will learn that we always begin with the concrete before the abstract, and they will work from left to right, top to bottom (setting them up for pre-writing and reading).
Each of the senses has to be developed before the intellect can develop. Children learn in practical life how to control their physical bodies by first being able to navigate tactilely. When a child is using a dropper, using a button frame or pouring, she is refining her muscular control. The muscles in the hand need to be used and refined in order for a child to later be able to grasp a pencil and put the appropriate pressure on the pencil. Practical Life also lays the foundation for how to go through a process until it is finished and put back on the shelf exactly how the child found it. Upon completion of a practical life work, a child learns from the very beginning of her Montessori journey that confidence and self-esteem do not result from someone else proclaiming, “good job!” Children beam with smiles and enthusiasm when they declare, “I can do it myself!” A child may choose the same activity every day for weeks, but she will know when she has achieved mastery and are ready to move on. This self-awareness and knowledge provide a sense of security, but it also becomes a model for future academic and personal achievement.