Each year, Montessori Tides School offers a three-part Parent Education Series to help parents learn more about Montessori education. Our first Parent Education session addressed Montessori at Home. Here’s a snapshot from each of those sessions.
Miss Johanna and Miss Meghan provided parents with a tour of Room 5. Their discussion centered on how the room was set up and how parents could create a child’s space in each room of the home.
In the play area, Miss Meghan talked about how to make the space safe. Think about whether your play space would be safe if your child were there alone, she said. Ideally, the play space could include an area for big movements for children to work on gross motor skills. In the classroom, a small trampoline with a handrail is available for children. An area with open-ended toys, such as blocks, is included in the play space.
The classroom also has an “office” space with an old telephone and a box containing phone numbers so they can “call” friends. Miss Johanna said the exposure to the numbers and letters in this play office helps the children build the foundation for future learning.
As the child grows, of course, the child can learn how to set up and clean up the play area.
In the Primary session, one discussion focused on redirecting children’s behavior and how to communicate with your child. This led to a parent’s question about how to handle the word “no.” Miss Teya answered by talking about the primary child’s dislike of being given orders.
“It’s the way you say it,” she said, adding that one needs to be gentle and firm.
Her advice was to think about what you want to say and rephrase it to help avoid a power struggle. Putting a hand gently on the child’s back and leaving it there and using phrases such as “let’s put your shoes on” also helps to avoid conflict, she said, noting that “let’s” is a great word to use because it is an invitation for the child.
Parents also can tell the child what they see, such as “I see you are still in your pajamas,” as a way to move the child toward getting dressed in the morning. Recognizing positive behavior and encouraging it helps reinforce the behavior in the child, too.
She also noted that children don’t hear every word spoken to them; they hear the end of the sentence. So, if you tell a child to “stop talking,” then the child only hears the word talking and will then talk more.
Providing a child with choices, such as “You can put on your clothes by yourself or I can help you,” gives the child some power over the situation and can help, too.
“They don’t like orders,” she said. “That’s why we have to ask.”
Miss Nancy talked some about helping Lower Elementary students gain critical-thinking skills. She said the teachers usually respond to the children’s questions with questions of their own, such as “What do you think about that?” She encouraged parents to help their children develop their problem-solving skills by not answering every question presented.
Another way this is done in the classroom is with the community meeting, something that could be done at home, too. The classroom has a notebook where the children can write about things they would like to change. The class historian brings up these items in the community meetings, where the group can vote on changes or reassess whether something is working.
Families can hold community meetings to address things such as chores. If you need help around the house, tell your child about the difficulty and then let the child come up with some solutions. If the child offers to vacuum the house, for example, be sure to give a lesson on how to vacuum to set the child up to succeed at this task.
By letting a child bring suggestions and help solve problems, you are helping that child become independent, Miss Nancy said.
Children in Montessori classrooms are responsible for helping to keep the classroom neat, especially on the elementary level. Miss Jess told her group of parents that she plans to make sure that her students work on that at home, too. Starting in October, the Upper Elementary students will take up a new job at home each month. As part of this chore-building activity, the students will have homework where they will reflect on how things are going. Miss Jess will provide feedback to the students as they discuss their tasks.
She also talked about the importance of coming together as a family to discuss problems and to just share. Her class, she said, typically has three community meetings a day. She also acknowledged today’s busy family schedules.
“Forgive yourself when things aren’t perfect,” she said.