It is always the goal in a Montessori classroom to encourage children to be independent and be able to do things for themselves. This happens when children are given opportunities to do tasks for themselves such as dressing themselves, cleaning up after themselves, choosing which works they want to do, and to help the adults with tasks. When children are able to do things for themselves, it increases their self belief, self confidence and self esteem. This will carry on throughout their lives.
Maria Montessori understood that in order to be free, one needs to be independent. Parents who are new to the Montessori Method can misunderstand this concept, and expect a child to become independent by granting her/him freedom of choice without limits. Instead, the Montessori classroom offers children freedom within limits. There are many rules in a Montessori classroom that aid in fostering independence. When children understand the rules, they can independently work within the structure of these rules.
STOP! Let Your Children do that themselves!
What does each of us want for our child? Do we want our children to become adults who can make good decisions, who feels confident? Do want to raise children to be adults who can both accept their reality and work to make the world a better place? The foundation for this independence is laid in the early years of a child’s life. Most importantly between 2 years and 6 years of age.
An aid to life.
Maria Montessori had an innovative perspective regarding education. She did not look at a set of skills or a body of knowledge. Instead she focused on the development of the whole person over the course of gaining maturity: therefore preparing children not just for future education but also for life!
“Montessori saw education as a means whereby children might develop their personalities so as to eventually achieve a mature and independent adulthood.”
(Mario Montessori, Maria’s son in Education for Human Development)
So how does a Montessori teacher foster independence?
With many concepts in a Montessori classroom, observation, or watching the child is an intricate part of the method. It is the teachers job to spend time watching children and to see how they are doing their work, enjoying themselves, and exploring their environment. This was the simple method of how Maria Montessori gained insight into how children developed in three year stages. This sis how she developed her theories on child development. She observed without preconceived ideas. This helped her develop materials that the children needed to aid in their development along with things they were interested in. Observation is a the way teachers learn about the child’s needs and where to guide them yo meet those needs.
For example, if a child struggles to hold a pencil while learning to write his/her name, it may indicates that his/her fingers are not strong enough. Therefore introducing the child to manipulative activities that help strengthen hands and fingers is what is the developmentally appropriate work that needs to be introduced. Then after the child’s hands and fingers are stronger he/she can go back to writing and be more successful. It is through observation that teachers are fulfilling the child’s current needs.
To help children reach their full potential, we try to understand their inner drives and needs, and then offer the best support and guidance in the classroom environment in which that foundation of the personality and academic needs can be formed. Montessori saw that only children can achieve their own self-construction. Adults have the responsibility to assist them in that construction. Teachers understand the stages of growth and prepare the classroom environment to foster that growth. Then they can watch with support as the child strives to be independent to grow and to learn. It is the child’s process. While it may be believed that “doing for” the child is our “job” when it is in fact, we are here to encourage and support children in their own efforts, not always interrupting, and possibly becoming a hindrance to their growth. By doing something for children that they are capable of doing themselves, may give a child the message that they are unable to do the task therefore sending a message of dependence on others to do things for them.
The Montessori motto is: “Help me to help myself”
“Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves and what area they need to be challenged in. The aim of the children who persevere in their work with an object is certainly not to “learn”; they are drawn to it by the needs of their inner life, which must be recognized and developed by its means.” – Maria Montessori
STOP! Let your children do that themselves!
How do parent go about encouraging independence in their children? Here are some helpful ideas for parents to incorporate Practical Life activities at home, and foster the confidence and positive development as part of the Montessori philosophy of an “education for life”.
A great place to start……
Personal care and hygiene.
Allow your young children do things for themselves, such as dressing, bathing, brushing hair and teeth, toileting/cleanup, etc., with your guidance and supervision while they learn. Assist only when needed. What if they can’t reach the sink? Provide a step stool. What if they can’t see that they are missing part of their head when washing their hair? Hold a hand-held mirror for them to see. Montessori told us to let the child do for himself that which his is capable and to provide the tools necessary for success.
STOP! next time you catch yourself doing something for you child and ask yourself , “Can my child do that by himself/herself?
When you hear these words from your child “I did it!” It will be music to your ears!