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Independence!

Young children have an insatiable desire to reach out, touch, handle, and learn how to operate in our world. Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children are born with a dynamic, powerful inner teacher and guide that leads them to seek out the experiences they need in order to create fully functional people. Trusting that inner teacher is the heart of Montessori.

This drive to be independent can cause problems. Montessori mentioned the ‘conflict between the adult and the child’. Our world is designed for adults. Add in millions of young children reaching out to touch and explore everything and you have a recipe for trouble! “Don’t touch”, “No, no”, “Put that down”, “You can’t have that”, “That’s not for you”. These are said a lot as we try to keep children from destroying things! 

Photo: Discovery Days & Montessori Moments

Maria Montessori saw the need for a specially prepared environment where children could follow their inner drive to freely handle, touch, explore, and learn. She created the first Casa De Bambini – Children’s House; starting a revolution in how we view and care for young children. For the first time, young children could reach out and explore the world to their heart’s content. There are now over 20,000 of these Montessori environments all over the world.

Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now & I are putting together an ebook of contributions from Montessori Mom Bloggers about their favorite Montessori activities and their recommendations for parents. Their tips about Montessori invariably advise parents to allow their children to actively participate in your family’s daily life. Dressing, food preparation, cleaning, fixing things – find ways to involve your child in all of them.

It takes a lot of patience and a willingness to set aside your ultra-efficient, multitasking, get ‘er done, get to the end approach to these activities. You have to make a decision that your child’s development is more important than a perfect looking house or accomplishing fifty tasks a day. The years before six fly by; it’s ok to do things differently during this special time. The result will be a happier child who realizes more of her potential for life – isn’t that worth it?

Photo: Cooking With Chopin, Living with Elmo

Check out this video of a 23 month old boy getting himself some yogurt. These skills did not just happen that day. I guarantee you his Mom observed a lot of practice and mistakes, and cleaned a lot of messes before he got to this point!

A 23 Month Old Gets Himself Some Yogurt

Watch when he tries to get the top off the yogurt. Mom, as we all do, immediately offers to help, but the child will not give up the yogurt and keeps trying until he gets it. That’s the activity we need to encourage in our children. Montessori said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” 

Car washing can be a fantastic opportunity for a family activity that allows kids to contribute and feel great working right alongside you!

Photo: Training Happy Hearts

It requires no special training, a teaching degree, or a book to do these things. Just involve your child in doing what he can, teach him how to do new things, and give him the space to practice and make mistakes while you encourage his efforts!

In the words of Coedith Mess, a Mom Blogger at School In A Pink House who contributed to the upcoming book:

My suggestion to any one just starting to incorporate Montessori into their home is to spend time observing your child and their environment.   Look at everything from their point of view (I have been known to crawl to do this). Now ask yourself how you can guide them to as much independence as possible in your home.  Helping them “do it myself” is more important than any materials you may want to rush out and buy.”  

Well said!

 

 

6 Comments

    • John

      Thanks! I think the unanimous advice of the Mom Bloggers about starting with Practical Life at home is such an important point, as many parents see Montessori as primarily about early reading, writing, and math.

  • Martianne

    Thank you for all you do to share wonderful ideas. I love your book and think it’s great that you and Deb are so dedicated to connecting all of us who are interested in Montessori at home with links to one another’s ideas and work. THANK YOU!

    (And, thank you for including a picture of my little family in this post. I’m honored to be a part of what you share…)

    • John

      Thank you, Martianne! Parents like you give an example to others of what can be done in the home to further children’s development. It is I who am honored to have met so many wonderful parents and bloggers through this project; and to be able to help spread the word about doing Montessori at home!

  • Stephanie

    Great post! Time and opportunity are the best things you can give a child! Thanks for all you great advise! The book is amazing and I am honored to be a part of it! I am telling everyone about it! :)

    • John

      Great, thanks Stephanie. I recommend your blog to everyone, too! Your kids may be even more famous soon – I’m having the book converted into ebook formats for the Kindle Fire, Nook, & iPad so it can go on sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

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