Monday, 8 January 2018

Simplifying Montessori: Practical Life

Along with my new series on Montessori Practical Life, I thought it would be helpful to write a short post on what, exactly, practical life is.

If you were to search Montessori practical life on Pinterest, you would find trays set up for sweeping cotton balls into a square, many different ways to practice scooping and spooning, a work devoted to squeezing bits of sponge in a garlic press.

While I think these types of practical life works have a very meaningful place in the Montessori classroom, I do not feel it is necessary to replicate these types of work in the Montessori home.

Practical Life From a Montessori Perspective

In the Montessori method, practical life exercises are categorized into four different groups based on the nature of the work: Preliminary Applications, Applied Applications, Grace and Courtesy, and Control of Movement. I love the way Marnie at Carrots are Orange describes the practical life sequence and I highly recommend reading through her posts on practical life if you would like to learn more, as well as to see some highly detailed explanations on how to give practical life lessons, such as this handwashing or this sponging lesson.

  • Preliminary practical life includes lessons on carrying a mat, open and close exercises, and learning to handle materials and furniture gently.
  • Applied applications involve care of self, such as hand washing or dressing, as well as care of the environment, such as setting a table or sweeping.
  • Grace and Courtesy teaches children how to politely greet a new person, yawn, or offer help. (This is on my list of things to research and implement with my children, as I have noticed a need here.)
  • Last of all, Control of Movement encourages children to seek silence, and to control their movements through walking the line.

What Makes Work Practical?

Practical life is well described in this primary guide, distinguished by its aim to help the child to "gain control in the coordination of his movement, and help the child to gain independence and adapt to his society."

If the aim of practical life is to help the child to be a contributing member of their society, in the case of Montessori in the home setting, the home, it is of utmost importance that children are allowed to engage in meaningful, real work within this society.

In Montessori training, teachers are told that practical life exercises must resemble everyday activities as much as possible.

In the home setting, we do not need to create activities which resemble everyday activities, as the home is already abounding with practical, and important, experiences ranging from the very simple lessons of handling a book gently or moving a chair, to moping up a spill or preparing a snack independently.

Another Montessori blogger I follow on Instagram, the Prepared Nest, shared this quote the other day which I feel really expresses what practical life in the home is meant to be
If we were to establish a primary principle, it would be to constantly allow the child's participation in our lives. For he cannot learn to act if he does not join in our actions, just as he cannot learn to speak if he does not hear. - Look at the Child, Aline D. Wolf

It is not always easy to include our children, as they most definitely slow down the process and make it much messier, but I always see immense improvements in behaviour, due to the meaningfulness and the sense of accomplishment of doing real work. It is important for children to have real, meaningful motives, and to use real materials and tools, requiring them to use caution as these materials are often breakable or are harmful if used improperly. 

In our home, you will not often find my children working with trays for pouring or works designed to practice sifting or spooning. Instead, you will find them spooning flour into a batch of biscuits, rinsing berries in a colander, preparing a smoothie and pouring it for themselves. 

Thank you for reading! For more posts in my simplifying Montessori series: Following The Child | The Work Cycle | The Value of Concentration | Obedience and Self-Discipline

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. And if you are interested in following along in our daily adventures, follow us on Instagram where I post daily. 

God bless,
Olivia Fischer

1 comment:

  1. Interesting articles, children should be more hands-on, practice more, let them learn some skills.