As Montessori parents, we are giving our children a great gift that does not just start at 8:30am and end at 3pm. This gift should be nurtured, honored and recognized at all times, particularly in the home. Donna Bryant Goertz wrote one of my favorite Montessori books about classroom management in the Lower Elementary classroom, 'Children Who are Not Yet Peaceful'. This book highlights the value of community and truly honoring and trusting each child to develop in their time, in their way, and in absolute authenticity. It is powerful and inspiring for educators and parents and I highly recommend it to those of you who are raising Lower Elementary age children or who will be doing so in the near future. However, its values are appropriate for children, parents, and educators of all ages.
In her book, Donna presents some wonderful tips for how to best support children in the home. Family life for the [early elementary] child should include as many of the following elements as possible:
- A slow-paced lifestyle with long hours of sleep on a regular schedule, a nutritious diet high in protein and fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of exercise, and a generous amount of time in nature.
- Someone to behold the child's face with joy, hold her, hug her, and treasure her for herself alone.
- Someone to read chapter books aloud for twenty to thirty minutes every day, at a level three years beyond the child's reading level.
- Someone to recite poetry every day, a new poem each week.
- Someone to sing every day, a new song each week.
- Someone to tell delightful stories of the child's own life.
- An atmosphere of open curiosity and inquiry, in which everyone in the family treasures learning.
- Responsibility for caring for himself and his own things as well as contributing to meal preparation and the care of the house, garden and pets.
- A two hour weekly limit on all screen media - movies, videos, TV, and computer games combined.
- Freedom from being dragged around on errands.
- Freedom from the cynicism and sarcasm appropriate to later years.
- Parents who say no cheerfully and mean it.
- Parents who wait until their children are in bed to listen to music, watch movies, play computer games, and watch TV programs, even the news, that are not appropriate to the children's ages or that would give the children more media hours that is best for the development.
- Parents who establish and uphold a family child-rearing culture that is appropriate to the child's age and who support age-appropriate independent thought and action and an age-appropriate role in decision making in as many areas and as often as possible.
TEN TIPS FOR SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD AT HOME:
- Prepare every room of your home so your child can participate fully in family life. Example: Solicite your child's help in creating a menu, stock the pantry and fridge with food they are allowed to eat, give your child a lesson on how to serve themselves from start to end, including the clean up process, set them up for success.
- Differentiate carefully between age-appropriate and age-inappropriate participation in family life. Example: Be clear about the movies, games, etc. they are allowed to view and why those are appropriate. Stand your ground.
- Include the child in plans if you don't want a bored child on your hands. Example: Before you make a new purchase, such as a new dishwasher, show her the features you are looking for, the price range, etc. and allow her to help you while at the store. Consider giving her a clipboard for note taking, listen to her opinions and explain when, why and how you are making your purchase decision.
- Organize family life to fit the needs of your child's age and personality. Example: Organize a bedtime ritual that is appropriate for your child's personality and respect that routine regularly. Avoid variations of schedules and consider individual needs.
- Welcome all feelings and help your child to express strong emotion with clarity and respect. Example: Give your child appropriate language. "I can see you are angry and I understand how being excluded from your brothers play date can be frustrating. You wish they would include you. Have you thought of a way you can express your desire in a way that might make your brother want to include you?"
- Explain carefully what's going on in the family, while staying on an age-appropriate level in keeping with your child's understanding and interest. Example: Mommy and daddy are speaking in private often because we are concerned about your brothers school work. We want to talk about ways we can help him and although we are all upset, we love each other no matter what."
- Maintain cycles of activity in balance with basic needs for nutrition, sleep, exercise, quiet concentration, solitude, and companionship that fit your child's temperament. Example: If your child fights with a particular friend during a play date, together make a carefully organized plan for the play date. Consider how they will spend their time, what they will do if they have conflict, etc.
- Participate three times a day with your child straightening his room and bath and putting away his toys, materials and games. Example: Keep only one-tenth of your child's possessions neatly stored and handsomely displayed on shelves. Store the others away and rotate the possessions about once a month, with your child's help, allowing them to choose what is unpacked.
- Treat your child's behavior as "in process" and developmental, never simply as good or bad. Example: Avoid praise and stick to acknowledgement. " I noticed you were so mad and Sandy and you yelled instead of hitting, that shows great impulse control." "I see you threw your socks in the laundry, that is very responsible. Soon you will place all of your clothes in the laundry."
- Balance firmness and consistency with a generous measure of hopefulness, good cheer, and joy. Laugh a lot. Tell wonderful little stories of your child's life, often. Example: Calmly and quietly put away your child's bike and make it unavailable to him when he leaves it out in the rain again. Make a date for buying wax and showing him how to repair it before he uses it again. Have fun together repairing the bike and laugh and take pictures of one another, don't focus on the mistake. Remind your child, "Next week when you put your bike away every day, we will ride to the park together."