As this wonderful year is beginning to unfold, it is time to remind ourselves, as Montessori educators and parents, how important it is to prepare our children to develop their independence, character, and ability to learn. Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first woman doctor, developed her method of child education in the early 1900’s. She believed that within each child is a “spiritual embryo” that must be as carefully protected and nurtured as the physical body of the child. Therefore, a child must be in an environment that has been prepared specifically for them and filled with love and understanding. In order to protect and nurture that “spiritual embryo”, the Montessori teachers have four very important goals that they try to follow in their classroom:
- To awaken the child’s spirit and imagination.
- To encourage the child’s normal desire for independence and high sense of self-esteem.
- To help the child develop the kindness, courtesy, and self-discipline that will allow him/her to become a full member of society.
- To help the child acquire the necessary tools for learning by themselves (a life-long skill) which are:
- to learn how to observe
- to question
- to explore ideas independently
- to lengthen concentration and attention span
It is in the Practical Life Lessons that we can best give those four goals a good foundation. So, as Montessorians, we learn that the Practical Life area is absolutely essential as the foundation for later (more academic) work. And too often, parents and teachers rush the children through that area.
Practical Life corresponds to simple everyday tasks that even adults have to perform in order to establish, maintain, or restore the proper condition in our environment as well as to establish, maintain or restore human relationships.
With the Practical Life lessons, the children are introduced to procedures including: caring for themselves, taking care of the environment, grace & courtesy lessons, and how to move around the classroom in a quiet and orderly fashion. It is through those activities that the children learn to follow directions and develop independence, concentration, attention span, coordination, respect for others, and respect for the environment – to name only a few of the necessary tools the children will need in order to be able to learn more academic subjects themselves.
Although Practical Life activities do not resemble “academic” lessons, they are indeed as important and they ground the children. All those preliminary lessons allow children to better benefit from the more academic lessons presented. When they are invited to the math lessons, they will have the organization skills, the problem-solving skills, the sequencing skills, the concentration, and the attention span to gain as much as possible from those lessons. When they are invited to the language area, they will have the finger control, the pincher grasp, the left to right habit, the concentration and attention span, etc…all prerequisites for writing and reading that were made and practiced in the Practical Life area.
SO…don’t forget or overlook the Practical Life area, and remember to value what your children are doing when they work with Practical Life Lessons. It’s where they are building the foundation of their future!
Thanks to Ms. Kuentz from Knoxville Montessori School for this excellent article “The Importance of Practical Life Lessons”.