Characteristics of a Montessori Home
"The adult works to improve his environment while the child works to improve himself. Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” —Dr. Maria Montessori
If you want your child to have a sense of order and be motivated, focused, independent, self-disciplined, cooperative, and willing to take on challenges, then think back on how the furniture and objects at home is organized and the way family members behave. Do they show the following Montessori characteristics?
1) Movement enhances understanding and thinking
"Mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it” - Dr. Maria Montessori
Children mostly learn through movement, yet many parents or even educators have neglected children’s most important learning tool—their hands. Children’s hands are the tools that stimulate and refine thinking. Have you prepared good tools or educational materials for your child to manipulate, or is there an overemphasis on listening and seeing (e.g., reading)? Also, is your baby placed in a cage-like play-pan or crib where there is limited space to practice his/her large motor skills? Remember, good motor skills are the building blocks for coherent behavior.
2) Learning is more effective when children can freely follow their interests
"The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”
The Montessori baby bed is simply a few-inch-thick mattress placed on the floor. Since a few months old, the infant can safely crawl off the bed to explore the room and find interesting toys when he or she wakes up; there is no need for adult assistance. Being able to master a skill (e.g., get an object by him/herself) builds up children’s confidence. When the young child has a sense of control and can make decisions, he or she will become independent and proactive. Of course there are boundaries and limits on children’s freedom even in a Montessori home, but compared to a traditional home, there are more opportunities for children to develop and learn on their own.
3) Extrinsic rewards undermine intrinsic motivation
"She (the directress) understands and believes that the children must be free to choose their own occupations just as they must never be interrupted in their spontaneous activities. No work may be imposed - no threats, no rewards, no punishments." - The Absorbent Mind
Often when children don’t want to eat, parents use toys to lure or bargain with them, “you can play with this if you finish your food”. While it may work in the short-run, it will take more “bait” in the future to make them eat again. Montessori believes that external rewards such as presents or letter grades will destroy children’s concentration and their natural learning motivation. Concentration is very important in Montessori education; even young children are capable of staying focused for half an hour and more! Actually, when a child completes a task, the satisfaction and confidence they gain can nurture their inner core and mental mind, which is the ultimate best reward.
4) Learning must start from meaningful concrete experiences and then transition to more abstract mental concepts
"The objects are a help to the child himself. He chooses what he wants for his own use, and works with it according to his own needs, tendencies and special interests. In this way the objects become a means of growth” - The Discovery of the Child
Let children have more concrete experiences in life first; let them have more options to choose from, and let them feel free. When the sensitive period for symbols and writing has arrived, you can pair those experiences with words or numbers to further their learning of abstract concepts.
5) The role of adults
"This is role of the adult: to prepare an ordered environment in which the child is free to teach himself. It is not the place of the adult to control the child. We can influence the child's self-control and choices, by controlling the environment. That is the limit of our influence.” – Angeline Stoll Lillard in Montessori the Science Behind the Genius
The term “educare” represents the interconnectedness between education and care—they should happen simultaneously. A Montessori parent or directress (teacher) inspires children through his or her caring love and allow children to self-learn and self-correct. Adults should not interrupt children when they are concentrating on a task because this is the time when numerous brain cells are connected. At the same time, adults need to use their inner visions to observe children and respond to their needs accordingly.
6) Develop a sense of order
"The child is not interested in finding the object but in finding it in its place”
Having a sense of order and security is critical to learning, it is a capacity that children must have. We need to let children experience the order of this universe as well as the order that exists in language and mathematics. If there is no order in your home, once children pass the sensitive period for order by the age of 4, it would be much harder to establish a sense of order again.