Child-led learning: Montessori’s tips and advice on home learning

young-girl-working-on-a-computer-stem, Montessori educationThis is undoubtedly a concerning time for many parents dealing with the very real impact of school and nursery closures.

Particularly, if you are one of the 4.9 million working mums juggling remote working with kids in toe. One week in, many still feel pressured to make every moment “an educational one”, and to replicate the structure of formal education. But, it’s important to take the pressure off and be kind to yourselves.

Particularly in early years, children learn best through experiences and everyday activities – many of which are readily accessible in the home. Involve children with your daily routines, embrace not being pressurised by time restraints – they will benefit just from being with you.

If you have older children, talk openly with them about what they need to adjust to this new situation. Give them responsibility – whether that’s in determining what they learn and how, helping with younger siblings, or if possible, getting involved with community aid. All of this will help build valuable skills such as collaboration, empathy, and communication – all essential to adult life. The key for any age, though, is to make learning fun.

Here are eight tips on how to bring Montessori education to the home as the environment becomes a place for life, work, and learning.

  1. Create a daily routine. Your child may find it difficult to adjust from the normality of the school day, and the lack of peer support to keep them engaged and motivated. Help them to set up their own routine that works for them – this may be working in periods of time (led by the child), or at a particular time of the day when they feel most receptive. Ensure the day is broken up into manageable activities and scattered with lots of breaks for unstructured learning and downtime, and let your child decide when they are ready to move on to something else.
  2. Set up a home-school area. As always start with your child. First, choose an area and simply observe how they use the space: Does it allow mobility, the freedom to move, explore, and choose? Are the things the child needs within reach? Are the things the child needs well organised and easy to locate? Often a small change can make a big difference in how children use a space; think about what you want them to get out of the space and make adjustments accordingly. For older children, if you can, position a desk in a quiet space in your home where they can keep their laptop, textbooks and any notes. Having their own dedicated learning space will help them to focus.
  3. A dedicated play area. For younger children, rather than having a toy box to hold your child’s toys, organise a special area, designed just for them. It could be a corner of a room with a rug that they play on. If you can, perhaps create low shelving where children can access their toys and equipment and put them back neatly. These make your child feel that his or her work and belongings really matter.
  4. Use digital to aid your child’s learning, but don’t over rely on it. Instead, slow down to your child’s pace. Spend time sharing the things that they are interested in. For toddlers, aged 2-3yrs, engage them in practical learning through taking part in daily household routines such as setting a table for meals, helping to wash up or load the dishwasher or washing machine, and organising cupboards. Give them little tasks such as making sure that their shoes are neatly put away and their coat is hung on a low hook.
  5. Learning is all around you. Encourage imagination through ‘loose parts play’ and use household objects to create toys. You could experiment with a variety of objects that will make interesting shadows, explore ways of changing the shape and size of their shadow patterns. Get them to make drawings of the shadows and talk about their representations. Simple activities like this have a range of benefits for younger children, helping to familiarise them with vocabulary, improve skills such as writing, drawing, and tracing.
  6. Dedicated roles and responsibilities.For primary school children, this could mean looking after their own room and keeping it clean and tidy, or managing an aspect of running the household. For example, helping to plan and cook simple, healthy meals based on food availability provides a great opportunity to learn about new cultures, how to be frugal, and utilise the resources they have available – and it could even become a long-term hobby or spark a career!
  7. Nurture nature.If getting into the outdoors is tricky, look to bring the outdoors into the home. This can be done by encouraging children to tend to plants, or planting seeds in window boxes, or out in the garden. Observing birds through a window is also a great activity. Notice their shape, their beaks, their wing size, their colouring, and research them further online.
  8. Enriching the mind with music.Try making your own instruments and musical games out of what’s around you. For example, rice in sealed container could make a percussion instrument, a chopstick and a bottle with water can be used to create a sound. Record instrument sounds and play them back to see if your child can get the answer right, or create a music trivia game where you act out the answers.

For more tips and advice, parents can sign up to The Montessori Network, a free online resource hub which gives access to learning from around the world and a range of tips on how to bring elements of Montessori into your life:

Leonor StjepicAbout the author

Leonor Stjepic, is a social enterprise entrepreneur and childcare expert, whose career has spanned both the private and NGO sectors. She is Chief Executive of the Montessori Group as well as Chair of the Board of Directors of Montessori Centre International.

In October 2019, Leonor was awarded the TIAW World of Difference Award in the NGO sector and she has been shortlisted for a Top 100 Leaders in Education award.

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