By Tzvetelina Sabkova
This school year will be unusual for everybody. Teachers have dedicated themselves to finding new learning methods to make sure no child is left behind. Parents will have to juggle school schedules and work, while students of all ages will need to adapt to the lack of clear separation between the home and school environments.
At MyLibook we share the concerns and questions many parents have, and hope to provide some practical ideas to support parents and children during this distance learning experience.
All of the activities and resources MyLibook has developed are inspired by the Montessori education principles, which foster children’s independence with many hands-on, multi-sensorial activities that give kids time away from screens.
We interviewed Letty Rising, an international Montessori expert, and education coordinator, about how the principles of the Montessori approach can be applied during distance learning. She even gave us some great tips on how parents can easily integrate the approach into the home environment.
What exactly is the Montessori approach?
Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian educator, physician, and scientist. In 1907, she opened her first classroom in Rome, where she based her work on observing and supporting the natural development of children. The Montessori method helps develop creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and time-management skills and is adapted for different age groups from infants to high school.
The environment of a Montessori classroom enhances the “state of flow”.
Being in flow happens when children find a subject they are really excited about and they fall into a deep concentration, enabling them to stay focused for longer periods of time. When in flow, children are occupied and interested, and they demonstrate a very strong sense of purpose.
What are the benefits of the Montessori approach, especially in the context of distance learning?
With the Montessori approach, children follow their interests and work on projects they are truly passionate about.
Children learn how to initiate a project, gather the materials and supplies, outline the steps, and then execute the activity.
This is very different from a traditional setting where all teachers are often bound by the curriculum and need to fit the classwork into a set schedule.
How is the Montessori approach different from what parents and educators have experienced during their school years?
The main challenge for parents and educators who have not experienced Montessori in their own education comes from the fact they do not have the same muscle memory to draw upon. Following the Montessori method can seem intimidating, so teachers benefit from mentorship programs in the first couple of years. However, parents willing to include the Montessori approach in their children’s education can achieve much by being open to their children’s learning interests and desires and giving them the gift of time.
In a Montessori environment, the child is invited into the process of taking ownership of the learning. Children in the same class work on different activities or lessons simultaneously.
Montessori also teaches independence and self-direction. For example, during class time, children have freedom of movement, they can help themselves to a snack or go to the bathroom when they need to do so. In traditional settings, these things are often run according to class schedules.
The Montessori approach encourages intrinsic rewards. Children do not receive a sticker or a piece of candy for their performance. In fact, research has shown that, when children are offered extrinsic rewards for their learning, they tend to focus more on the reward and the way of obtaining it instead of the learning process. The Montessori environment fosters the love of learning for the sake of learning.
How can parents implement the Montessori method to support their children while distance learning?
The most important advice would be to maximize children’s independence and these are few ideas on how parents can achieve this at home.
- Parents often share their experiences of children constantly asking for snacks. To avoid this, a few options for healthy snacks can be served on a tray for children to choose from. As younger children may be tempted to explore more than one snack at a time parents can limit the quantity and explain that these are the snacks for the day. It can be a great learning opportunity.
- Provide open shelves at your child’s eye level to access materials for the hands-on activities. Make sure the supplies are age-appropriate and do not require constant parental supervision or intervention.
- Some smart and easy ideas for organizing your home environment are available here.
- Invite children to reflect on their work from the day. Younger children can talk about the things they enjoyed doing and older children can share orally or write in a work journal.
- Approach every activity as an invitation to foster children’s curiosity. Parents can find some inspiration from activities such as these chalk games.
- Relating the work to real-world experiences is ideal. Have children practice activities that involve cutting, sweeping, washing, and scrubbing. Practical life experiences offer real-world opportunities to contribute to family life.
- Parents can find support and resources by reaching out to teachers. Since the beginning of Covid-19, teachers have been working hard to deliver the best online education. Distance learning during a pandemic is a completely new experience. We have never faced this before so we are all learning and growing together.
Learn more about the principles of Montessori education. The American Montessori Society website, as well as the AMI USA website, offers helpful information and resources for parents. Trilium is another great resource for printable and online courses.
Have you tried to integrate the Montessori approach at home? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.