We tend to use the word “Montessori” in conjunction with the educational method for which Maria Montessori is known. Students spend approximately seven hours a day practicing her method of learning both academics and social skills at school; however, they might not continue to practice at home.
Is it possible to practice at home? Absolutely! If we consider Montessori to be more a way of life than a method of teaching academics we can accomplish this. It is not necessary to go out and buy the Montessori teaching materials. Families can begin by encouraging their children to do more at home, such as setting and clearing the table, helping to wash dishes or put them in the dish washer, helping fold laundry, making their own lunches for school, choosing their outfits, sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming.
Parents can start this with them when they are infants from the moment they can stand. Encouraging an infant to use mops and wipe tables will help develop fine and large motor skills.
Out of curiosity I polled my lower elementary students to find out how much they are expected to do at home and how much they actually want to do. I asked the following questions:
How many make their own lunch for school? 12 children responded: 1 yes, 6 sometimes , 5 no
I asked them if they want to make their lunch. 6 yes, 4 sometimes, 2 no
How many bring their plate to the kitchen when finished eating? 8 yes, 3 sometimes, 1 no
How many of them choose their clothes? 5 yes, 3 sometimes. 4 no
Out of the four that said no, 2 want to choose, 1 sometimes wants to, 1 is happy not to select their outfit
The point behind this poll was actually twofold; first, I taught them how to take a poll and use tally marks, and second, I wanted them to think about what they are able to do versus what they are expected to do.
Adults tend to take on more than we need to, not realizing our children have an innate desire to be independent from birth. They need our guidance, instruction, and many opportunities to practice these skills. While we may do chores for them because we love them and want to help them, we are unintentionally sending them the subliminal message that they aren’t good enough at it, or incapable of it. The last question on my small poll tells us something else: three-fourths of the children would be happy taking on additional responsibilities!
Honestly, they might not be masters at first, but given time and practice, they will be; making the transition between home and school much more cohesive. Remember, their goal is to become productive members of society and ours is to offer them the opportunity to be successful.