The Milford Montessori Preschool
By Miss Carla
In the Milford Montessori classroom, the teacher provides opportunities for the children to teach themselves. This is achieved through the work provided, the lessons given and the careful observation of the children. The teacher prepares the environment with work that is appealing, appropriate and meets the needs of the child.
The everyday living area or the practical life area as it is known is the heart and soul of our Milford Montessori preschool classroom. It is from these activities that a child will be able to fully develop. The every day living area is the first area seen in the classroom. It is a beautiful, inviting, challenging area that calls to a child's need for real work. It will also be where the child will perform their first works. Each work we provide the child is designed to develop concentration, coordination, order and independence. These skills are what will be the very foundation for all further learning and life skills to follow.
Body management is how we carry our bodies through space. All of the things that we as adults do without thinking have to be learned, practiced and perfected by the child. In the Milford Montessori Preschool we show the child the proper way to move their bodies so that they can work independently and safely. We show the child how to carry a rug, a tray, a pitcher, a chair,table, a bucket and countless other things. The point is for the child to perfect his movements. Once a child is shown how to carry a tray so that things don't fall off it he will strive to do that. We also do the movements on the line so that the child can further build his coordination and concentration. Finally we instruct the child on how to cease all movements with the silence lesson. It is an invaluable skill for children and adults alike to be able to come their bodies and minds.
Primary movements of the hand
There are at least 16 possible movements of the hands. As adults we go about our business without thinking about the complexities of the hand movements needed to accomplish our daily tasks. These movements are unfamiliar to the young child. We can open a jar without ever thinking what exactly we are doing and how many movements we are making. The child may not even know that the lid needs to be twisted nor does he know in what direction to twist or that the jar must be supported at the same time. The primary activities in everyday living in our preschool classroom are designed to develop the movements of the hand, practice real life skills as well as developing concentration, coordination, order and independence. Scooping, squeezing, twisting, pounding, stringing, rolling, folding, eating, grasping and controlling are the activities designed to isolate these movements and allow the child to gradually perfect them. The beginning of the year will have fairly simple activities but as the children perfect these, more challenging works is provided. The materials are beautiful, the utensils and tools real and the work is inviting to the child. The activities are practical in that it is practice for the real world. The skills that are being mastered are the ones that we use every day as we go about the business of running our lives. The works are sequenced in our preschool classroom on the shelves, left to right and top to bottom, simple works to more complex works. In this way the children in our preschool know what the next skill is and can build on their own knowledge.
Care of the person
Children have a drive for independence yet many times before they enter the school they are not allowed the time to learn to do things for themselves. Many times it is easier to dress a child than to show him how to dress himself and to give him the time needed to perform the task. We give our preschoolers lessons on how to take care of their own needs and provide them the time to complete the task and practice as much as they have a need. The children are eager to learn how to put on their shoes, put on their coat, how to use the bathroom independently or how to blow their nose. The children also can practice with the dressing frames gaining skills needed for full independence. One of the greatest gifts we can give a child is the time to perfect himself.
Care of the environment
Maria Montessori states in The Secret of Childhood, “ a child's desire to work represents a vital instinct since he cannot organize his personality without working: a man builds himself through working.” The children are driven by a deep desire to work and especially to do meaningful work. The environment of the classroom belongs to the children therefore the children take pride in caring for it. We give lessons to our preschoolers very clearly and precisely on how to perform the task and provide the necessary equipment sized for the child. The children have great pride in seeing the environment getting cleaned by them but also great pride in being able to succeed in performing such a long and complex work. Very often after completing such a work a child may be ready to settle down for a more “academic” work feeling refreshed and energized.
Children love to see plants grow and are curious about the world around them. Gardening provides an opportunity to discuss the environment, composting, pollution, recycling and life cycle of plants and where food comes from plus much more. Children bring in a plant and take care of it and watch it grow.
Just as the other areas of everyday living are imitating adult life and preparing the children for the world, so too is food preparation. Cooking, preparing food, serving others and eating politely are things that we adults dedicate a great amount of time to. Children love to learn about cooking and preparing food. It builds on the skills that they have acquired from the other areas of everyday living and provides much opportunities for discussions. Children get a great sense of satisfaction knowing that they can take care of their own needs by preparing and eating snack when they know that they are hungry. In addition to the organization needed to accomplish the task the child learns grace and courtesy as well. The child learns how to invite another child to join him for snack and to wait for a friend to have his snack before he eats. They also learn how to have a polite conversation while eating as well.
Grace and Courtesy
Too often children are disregarded and not treated with respect nor are they taught to act in a polite way. The grace and courtesy lessons are essential to the classroom. The children are shown how to invite someone or how to greet someone. They are shown how to interrupt and how to observe. Almost anything that has to do with how we interact with other people should be a grace and courtesy lesson.The children learn these lessons and are treated in the same way. These lessons are paramount as the children learn a respect for each other, for the environment, for the community and for the world.
As already mentioned the practical life works have the direct aim of building order, concentration, coordination and independence. This is vital to the development of the child since all learning that will follow will directly depend on these skills.
The development and nourishment of all kinds of action: motor, mental and social, and really one process. The ability to concentrate and make decisions, the ability to analyze component, essential and sequential movements, and the ability to select, arrange and use materials appropriately are a necessary basis for all creative art, higher learning, effective human relationships and productive action.
A child that has a sense of order is able to organize himself to do complicated studies. A child that is able to concentrate will be able to learn new information with ease. A child that can be independent will not have to look to a teacher for direction but will be self-directed. A child that has achieved coordination will be able to write well and have the physical capabilities to do almost anything. Success in math, language, writing, cultural studies and other subjects will come with more ease for a child.
Growth and development depend upon a continues narrowing of the relationships between a child and his environment. The reason for this is that the development of his personality, or what is called his “freedom,” cannot take place unless he becomes progressively independent of adults. And this growth is effected by means of a suitable environment, in which a child can find the necessary means of development of his own proper functions.
( Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, p185)
A Montessori classroom, and especially the everyday living area, fosters this independence the children need. The children are allowed to choose the works they wish to do and work with them for as long as they want to. The children are given the freedom to care for themselves, the environment and others. The children are shown respect and they give it in return. By giving children the freedom to follow their own instincts in a well prepared environment, they are set up for success in all areas of life.