Natural Mom: Teaching Montessori at Home
I have long admired the Montessori Method of learning. Developed by Maria Montessori at the turn of the 20th century, the Montessori Method respects and celebrates the individuality of the child and allows children, in environment designed to enhance creativity and encourage self-discovery, to learn at their own pace.
The approach is to allow children, through play, to become independent learners. It focuses on sensory exploration, kinetic movement, small and large motor skill coordination, and concrete knowledge to develop an understanding of both cultural environment and academics.
Montessori schools – and there are several in Tulsa – teach children from birth through high school using the methods and philosophies established by Maria Montessori. Unfortunately, most of these institutions require a pricey tuition fee that isn’t affordable for many parents. I certainly can’t afford to enroll my boys in a Montessori school, though I would like nothing more.
The good news is that the Montessori Method is something that can be easily incorporated into your home, so you can still foster creativity and independence using Montessori methods.
Montessori environments revolve around children. The furniture is child-sized; all toys and playthings are within the child’s reach, so he or she may explore independently and unfettered. Maria Montessori called her Italian center for education “The Children’s House,” because it was designed and created specifically for children.
To create a Montessori-inspired bedroom or play space for your child, first get on your knees and consider how your change in height has changed your perspective. Are the furniture, the toys, the books within reach? Is there anything that’s within reach that shouldn’t be? The space should be safe for the child to explore even if you are not in the room.
Rather than dumping toys in a big box, sort them on low shelves and in baskets or trays. This makes them accessible to the child and easy to clean up. Also, put the child’s clothes and shoes within reach to encourage him to dress himself. You might consider putting his mattress on the floor, rather than high on a bed frame, so that he can easily get in and out of bed on his own.
Also have a child-sized table and chairs where your child can work puzzles, draw and color, and eat snacks.
Hang artwork so that it’s at his eye level, not yours. Keep his area neat and organized and incorporate bright colors into the décor. For toys, consider wooden blocks, a kitchen set, art supplies and dolls. These items all encourage creativity and life-like play.
The Montessori Method focuses on quality, not quantity, so consider minimizing the number of toys and books in his room. This will allow you to rotate items so your child doesn’t get bored. Also, children can get overwhelmed by too many things and too much clutter, so spaces that are simple, clean and neat are attractive and comfortable.
Have a space in each room of your house that is dedicated to your child, where his items are available and at reach.
When you play with your child in a Montessori-inspired space, let him guide the activity. Encourage him to solve problems on his own; you may help him, but try not to just give him the answer. Let him discover it on his own. Try not to correct him too much, and when you do, be positive about it. Encourage the child to clean up one play area before moving on to the next.
I was incredibly disappointed when I realized I couldn’t afford to send my children to Montessori schools, but after doing some research online, I realized I can use the principles to teach my children at home, and I can choose day care centers and schools that, while they don’t boast the Montessori name, encourage creativity and independent thinking.