Earlier this year I started reading about the Montessori method. I read Maria Montessori’s own works on the subject. As with anything, I wasn’t 100% sold but there is a lot about the method I am interested in applying in our home. I am no expert on Montessori but at the heart of it, it’s about encouraging and respecting a child’s autonomy and independence. This philosophy really appeals to me. I came across Montessori en Casa while researching for Spanish language resources. This site/blog written and maintained by Cristina offers a lot of information as well as resources on the Montessori method. She also hosts web seminars. What caught my eye was her Montessori challenge. The Montessori challenge is comprised of a different theme each month. Each theme embodies a Montessori principle that you adopt for the month. The following month a new theme is added, and you continue to build upon the last month’s theme. The idea is to ease you into it.
January’s challenge was to observe without interrupting. This consists of forgoing any offers of assistance to a child when they are performing a task/activity on their own unless they ask for it. At first glance I thought, this is easy. I already do this. The truth is that on more than one occasion I caught myself getting ready to offer my help when I perceived Diego to be struggling with something. When I caught myself the first time I almost laughed. This challenge wouldn’t be so easy after all. The idea behind this is, in part, to avoid bruising a child’s ego by basically undermining their autonomy. Of course these observations are performed while the child is engaged in a task that poses no risk or harm to himself or other. For example: playing with a toy, feeding himself, dressing himself etc.
February’s challenge was about order and organizing areas so that everything had its own place. This facilitates children participating in clean up, and learning to play with one thing at a time. There are other things involved such as rugs that mark their work area and thus limits where the mess goes. I did not fully adopt this challenge because I just didn’t feel that it fit in with my own wishes. What I did do was go through all our toys, sort them, and donate whatever Diego no longer uses.
This month’s challenge had to do with creating a prepared space. The Montessori Method involves preparing areas for kids so that everything they need is accessible to them. For example, in the kitchen all of their utensils etc are stored some where they can easily access and reach. Similarly bedrooms are prepared so that everything is eye level and accessible. Again, I am not at all interested in turning my life upside down in order to adapt my entire house so that Diego can pour his own milk at will but I did make some changes in the kitchen so that he now has access to his crockery and silverware. Now whenever I am plating up dinner I tell him to fetch his plate and fork and he is able to go to his drawer. Similarly, when putting away the dishes he is responsible for putting away his own.
I have been enjoying these challenges and adapting them to fit my lifestyle is part of the process. The past few months have seen a lot of changes in Diego, and it’s been fascinating to witness his development. Giving him responsibilities has, in my opinion, boosted his confidence and self-esteem. I have noticed that he is more independent and enjoys doing things on his own. I can’t say for sure that these challenges are to credit but in any case they have made it easier for me to watch as it all unfolds.
Below are some photographs that illustrate what I’ve discussed above.