So last year I transitioned from a drop-my-kids-at-school-work-all-day-pick-them-up Montessori mum, to a Montessori-homeschooling-have-my-children-24-hours-a-day mum.
Anyway, having now been on both sides of the fence, I have an even greater respect for Montessori guides around the world who teach children – not their own – not only academics, but all of the other aspects of Montessori that go far beyond what is usually taught at school (grace and courtesy instruction, plus many other character development skills that are too numerous to mention here).
I take my hat off to all teachers, and to Montessori guides most of all.
It can’t be easy to remain graceful and respectful of our children (all 30 or more of them) at the end of a long school day.
And it has occurred to me as I homeschool and think back to our drop-them-at-school-each-day life, that I can see so clearly now what it is that our Montessori guides really want us to be doing at home (assuming your child attends a Montessori school).
So here are my Top 5 tips – the things your school wishes you were doing at home.
Jobs, chores, family contribution, help. Whatever you want to call it, your child should be doing some.
This is not about care of self (that goes without saying) – this is about stepping up and contributing to family life. It is about doing for others, the community they are a part of. At home, that is the family. At school, it is the classroom. And outside of school, it’s the broader community.
The older a child gets, the more jobs they should be doing and the more complex the tasks they can undertake. As they get older, your child will also become more aware – and keen to contribute to – the broader community around them, at home and at school.
We hold regular family meetings at our house with ‘jobs’ a standing agenda item. My children lead the discussion and take it in turns to chair the meetings and ultimately they choose the jobs they want to do, with jobs rotated if requested.
You might think – what do the guides care if my child is doing jobs at home?
They care! Believe me, they care. A child actively contributing at home won’t think twice about actively contributing at school – often without being asked. Our guides can absolutely tell which children are living in a Montessori-inspired home and which ones are not. Guides tell me they can pick them a mile away.
2. Make their own lunch
Even children as young as 3 or 4 can starting helping to make their own lunch, whether it is getting an apple from the fruit bowl or refilling a water bottle. From about 6 or 7, your child should be making their whole lunch without any input from you. Of course, having healthy foods within reach (we allocate the bottom shelves of our fridge and pantry) and teaching your child the necessary lessons are key. Then stand back! They can do it.
Not only will your child benefit in terms of learning skills in food preparation, time management and organisation – an added benefit is that there are no surprises when they get to school and open their lunchbox. I had far fewer complaints of ‘but I don’t LIKE that!’ once they were making their own.
And guides want children to eat. They really do. We know hungry, cranky children in the afternoon are never a pretty sight – imagine 30 of them!
And while we’re on the subject, the same goes for packing for school camp. If your child chooses what to take and then packs their own bag – not only will he know what he has and where everything is, but you’re far less likely to find a bag full of untouched clothes (and an untouched toothbrush) at the end of three days.
3. Dress themselves – every day!
I know it goes without saying that your child should be dressing himself each day, but it’s the little things that are possibly driving your Montessori guide to distraction.
So it’s worth checking (and doing a dry run at home) – can your child buckle and unbuckle that belt? Those shoes? Do up the little buttons on that cardigan? And did your child choose their own clothes in the first place?
My son carried a jumper to and from school through two winters before I realised he never wears a jumper and is never going to. He’s a shorts and t-shirt kind of kid, regardless of the weather. It was me who insisted he take it ‘just in case’, until I realised the futility of the exercise (and that it was actually all about me looking like a good/caring/conscientious mum, not about him at all).
Of course, we were living in Queensland, Australia so the winters aren’t exactly arctic. And now we’re in Darwin (90% humidity, anyone?) – so needless to say anything beyond undies and/or board shorts when we’re home is a minor miracle.
4. Go Out
Whether your guide has mentioned this to you or not, they want you to (a) know what your child is learning at school and (b) extend that learning at home and into the community.
The more opportunities your child has to interact with people outside of school, to plan and execute their own Going Outs and experience real-life learning opportunities beyond what your guide can provide at school, the happier and better off everyone will be.
Is your child learning about France? Head out to a French restaurant or cook a French meal at home. Invite your French-speaking friend over to teach your child a few phrases or watch a movie or read a book together based on France. Research French poets, French history. Check out some books from the library. Find out which words we use every day have a French origin.
With only a few minutes of brainstorming together, you’ll be amazed at what you can come up with. And the cementing of the learning in your child’s mind (not to mention your stronger connection to your child’s learning) really does make it all worth it.
And finally, read.
Read, read, read – and then read some more. In fact, read as much as you can! Read together, read separately, read silently, read out loud. Have books in every room of your home and encourage reading at every opportunity.
It was the best thing we ever did.
Our local library was always a regular haunt for us, but even more so now that we’re home schooling. We wheel a small suitcase down there a couple times a week and my boys are in heaven.
I get at least a couple of hours (in the air-con) to work or plan lessons or whatever, while my boys hungrily seek out titles and the ‘take home’ pile next to me grows and grows. (I’m actually writing this as I watch them in a swimming lesson, but you often hear from me from the hallowed halls of Darwin City Library).
We must wheel hundreds of dollars worth of books home every time. Thank heavens (or local councils) for libraries!
My husband and I are big readers, so it’s not too surprising that our boys are book worms too, but I have to say I think a HUGE aspect of their love of books is the dearth of screens in our house. No TV, no computer games, no Xbox, no iPads. I do have a laptop which the boys use from time to time for online research and to type up school reports and learn how to create PowerPoint presentations. And we all watch a family-friendly DVD movie once a week on ‘movie night’. But that’s it.
So for my boys, other than catching up with friends, playing board games, camping, Lego, swimming and the like – books are their primary source of entertainment. And the trips to the library are the highlight of their week.
It’s a sight to behold, it really is. And it’s one your guide will thank you for! You’ve just made their job a hell of a lot easier.
Until next week,
PS – Do you have any to add to this list? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
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