In an earlier article on this topic, Tiffany touched on some practical ways to bring Montessori ideas and principles into your home to aid in your child’s growing independence. Today's article will touch a little more on the philosophy and reasons behind practicing these ideas at home.
Independence is one of the most important ideas in the Montessori philosophy. Allowing your child to do activities and work on their own (i.e. caring for themselves, their environment, their home responsibilities) breeds self-confidence, self-awareness, and independence. Children, from birth, are on a mission to be independent. As parents we can either hinder that mission, or help it. To us, having a stool to reach the bathroom sink may seem like a small thing. For a child, however, that stool means they are able to wash their hands, brush their teeth, or get a glass of water without having to ask for adult assistance. By caring for themselves when the need arises, the child will learn to trust their abilities, and have the confidence to do these actions independently. The more they do on their own, the more confidence they will have. This sense of confidence and independence will aid them in all areas of life, both while they are young and as they grow.
Montessorians believe that you should never do for a child what they can do for themselves. As a parent, I am aware that in the home environment this philosophy is not always an option, nor is it always easy. However, when we can give children a chance to act independently, we should. When parents interfere with a child’s independence, we become and obstacle in their education and development. We are sending the message that they are not capable, which can significantly inhibit their confidence and growing sense of independence. When life allows, it is important to let children make their own sandwich, button their own buttons, cook with us, and care for their environment (clean up toys, put away laundry, etc.). The tasks may not always be done quickly or perfectly, but the advantages of giving these opportunities are priceless. This is the best way for you to support their education by teaching Montessori at home.
Why Is Independence Important?
Independence is important because it leads to other key achievements, including freedom and self-discipline. As a child becomes more independent, he or she will be given more freedom – to move, speak and choose their activities. By providing occasions at home for your children to use their freedom, suffer natural consequences at times, but also succeed, you are helping them learn about freedom and limits, and the joys that come from both.
Self-discipline is another essential aspect of independence. As with freedom and independence, learning self-discipline starts with small acts. Teaching a child to clean up one activity before starting another sets an order to their world. It is more than just keeping the Legos from being stepped on! Having a process, even when playing, helps children practice self-discipline. Also, when it is time to clean up, teaching children to put things where they belong (not just throw everything into the black hole of the toy box) helps children practice self-discipline. They learn that in order to maintain their independence and freedom, they must maintain a sense of order, and that doing so requires self-discipline.
Honing skills such as independence, freedom, and self-discipline requires years of work. The process takes time, patience, consistency, many mistakes and a few large messes!. Allowing children to begin this self-work as soon as possible will be a great advantage. If you stop by, you will see us working on these skills in the Children’s House every day. Starting with the smallest tasks, such as taking shoes off when they walk in the door, setting them neatly side by side on the mat and hanging up their own coat on a hook at their level, hese acts of self-care can build an empire of independence for the child to draw from when needed. Allowing your child to continue to work on these skills in their home environment will help them internalize and master them even more quickly.
Arming Your Children With Life Skills
These are just a few of the important reasons why it is important to bring Montessori home. You are doing so much more than making life easier for your child by having shelves at their level, stools in the kitchen, and orderly places for their toys. You are setting them up for a life of independent success and confident ability to care for themselves and the environment, and to solve difficult problems. Priceless life skills can all start by giving them an extra five minutes to let them dress themselves.