I was making dinner last week and my five-year-old came in asking how much longer until dinner. I told him that I was going to start preparing our meal and that I could use his help. I gave him a choice of three vegetables to add to our meal: broccoli, frozen peas or green beans. He chose green beans. I reminded him, “the beans need to be washed and snapped before we eat them.” He agreed and walked over to the drawer to get the vegetable scrubber. He dragged his stepping stool over to the sink and began scrubbing.
After he finished the whole bag (even though we only needed a handfull!), he got a bowl by himself and proceeded to snap green beans into chewable bites. When I thanked him for helping me, he simply responded, “No problem mommy, that’s what I learned at school.” It was a beautiful Montessori moment.
You may have heard the comment, “Montessori is an education for life.” But what does that mean? It means Montessori children have their days filled with more than simply academics or entertainment. As young as 16 months, the children in Montessori have real life experiences in being part of a community. Whether that means washing fruits and vegetables, setting or clearing a table, washing dishes, folding napkins, watering plants, or watering the garden. Real work in this way prepares them for real life. Children develop more completely and feel far better about themselves when they can naturally join in the family “work,” which is the term used to describe all of the children’s activities in a Montessori classroom. In addition to what he learns, allowing a child to participate in the life he sees going on around him shows great respect for and confidence in that child. It helps him feel important. It helps him feel needed. Think about it for yourself – would you rather be a guest in someone’s house who is completely served and waited on, or one who is welcomed into the kitchen to talk and laugh (and drink wine) while the food is being prepared?
On a regular basis, children show us their interest in practical life by pretending to cook and clean, taking care of a doll, mimicking adult conversations, etc. But when given the chance, children would much rather be doing the real work of the family and community, instead of just pretending. And as they are doing their academic “work,” they are learning to make good choices, to become independent and responsible, to concentrate, to act with care, to contribute. They are learning the skills to be successful in life.
What kind of “work” does your child love to do?
Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to the conversation!