A Montessori classroom is an excellent place for children to grow and learn. They develop skills that carry over to the real world, all the while expressing themselves uniquely. Yet, bringing the essence of such a classroom into your home comes with a bunch of questions. If you want to support the work your child is doing in their Montessori classroom, you are in the right place.
Here are 5 frequently asked questions about Montessori at home:
1. What Montessori materials should I purchase for home?
It’s one of the first questions parents ask: do I need to get special materials for my home? Are there any Montessori-specific items I will need? And it makes sense that if there is something your child is enjoying at their school, you would want the same thing for their home as well.
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The best materials to have for Montessori at home are things that you already have. In other words, you don’t have to go out and make any special purchases. Having your child participate in your everyday living will cultivate practical life skills just like they do at school.
Imagine eating your same favorite food every day, over and over again. You would soon grow tired of it. This is why it is best to have a few select things in the house that your child has an interest in, like books. Cycle those things out every few weeks or months so that they don’t grow disinterested in their belongings too soon.
Also, think about things that will help your child learn about the world and connect with them over it. Cook together. Exercise outside or weed in the garden. Buy them building blocks or Legos. Read books together. Everything has a practical application, such as learning math, writing, creative problem solving, and more. The more rich language you engage your child in, the better.
2. How can I get my child to hang up their coat and belongings at home just like at school?
At Montessori schools in PA, the classroom is known as a “Prepared Environment”. It’s a major theme in Montessori philosophy. You might notice some unique things about the setting. The shelves, sinks, toilets, and other appliances are installed at a height for younger children to easily use. This means the children can clean up after themselves, for example, because they can reach the paper towels without a struggle.
Adults are also a part of a Prepared Environment. You model ideal behaviors, such as putting back a book when you are done reading it or washing out your mug after drinking some tea. This is also taught in a Montessori classroom; you can also use such modeling in your home.
Although your household might not be organized entirely like a Montessori school, you can give your child low shelves in the pantry; set up their room with open shelves for easy access; and provide a chance for them to mimic your behaviors more clearly.
In short, if you want your child to do something, make sure, first, the option is available to them. If they can’t hang their coat on the coat rack, bring it to their level. If you want them to do what they learned in school, you must also do it.
3. Are chores okay for Montessori at home?
Chores are excellent. Your children are part of the household, and so they should also contribute. Chores are also something that is expected of us throughout our lives, no matter how old we are. What matters is that you choose an age appropriate chore for your child to do.
Even young toddlers can participate in cleaning up after themselves whenever they play with toys or eat snacks. They can begin the next activity once they help clean up the first.
For example, a five year old may have played with their toys. You should have them tidy up their space before starting the family movie night. If your eleven year old didn’t wash their dishes after breakfast on the weekend, they should do it before they go outside to play.
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4. How much responsibility is right for a two-year-old? What about a five-year-old?
This is a great question. Children develop at different rates, and so one five-year-old may be more prepared than another for some responsibilities. This works for all ages. At Montessori schools, we assess each child to see where they are and, based on observation, see what they are ready and willing to do. We move on from there.
You can reverse-engineer a number of tasks. For instance, let’s say you want your teen to pack their own lunch. You might make them a lunch and see if they take it to school and bring it back with everything eaten. From there, you could ask them to choose the contents of their lunch bag. Progress from them helping making it to letting them gather all the ingredients and packing the entire lunch on their own. Later on, this may even translate into your child cooking meals for themselves or the family, especially if that is an area of interest.
5. How should I react when my child does not want to do what we ask of them?
Perhaps the most important way to implement a Montessori lifestyle in the home is with positive discipline. Montessori encourages parents to give their children freedom within limits and to be kind and loving, yet firm and consistent. It is the role of the adult to guide children in a caring and respectful way.
Children need consistent boundaries in order for them to feel like they live in a safe and predictable environment. A child will learn that they push the limits when they want something; and because you want to avoid the confrontation and negative emotions that come with it, like a tantrum, you might continue giving them what they want when they cry for it. Giving in to whining or crying will only make your child whine or cry more next time.
When asking your child to do something, give choices. Pose statements in a positive way and give your child a couple of options that you would like to see happen. Instead of saying, “can you please clean up your toys?” say, “would you like to clean up your trucks first, or your legos?” Also, remember to model the behavior you want to see, “I can help you clean up all of these legos, then you can put away your two trucks after.” Structure the support your child may need to succeed and give them choices so they feel some autonomy.
Giving clear, consistent, and firm boundaries is a very important way to use Montessori at home.
Including Montessori methods can be confusing, especially for parents who are putting their child into a Montessori school in Philadelphia for the first time. Hopefully, the answers to these frequently asked questions have helped you understand more about Montessori and how you can use it at home.
Want to learn more about Montessori or wish to enroll your child in a Montessori school near you? Give us a call at 215-821-1455 for more information.