Froukje Matthews studied for and trained as a primary school teacher in her native Holland, obtained Montessori teaching qualifications (3-6 and 6-9 cycles) in Australia as well as a Post-Grad Diploma in Early Childhood Education from the QUT (Brisbane, Queensland). She taught Kumon Math to all ages, worked as and ESL teacher in Spain and has run her own Montessori Playgroup and preschool for over twenty years. She speaks five languages and has lived in a number of countries.
Did you know that those IT guys who design ipads “so easy even a baby can use them” don’t allow their own kids to use them? Did you know that more than 50% of those Silicone Valley smart tech families send their children to Steiner schools (and many have been to Montessori schools themselves). Why? Because they observed that these children were so alert and open, so socially confident, so articulate, so observant of their environment…
Early childhood is the time that their spirits grow into their bodies, that they learn about the world by acting in it and on it and learning how to use their bodies as a tool like this little fellow who is practising to use the scissors. He is learning to coordinate his hands and eyes without cutting his fingers. He is totally focussed on the job. His brain is actually making neural pathways on which other skills can be built. Learning how to do things and do them well is a child’s job. And knowing you can do them is the basis of self- esteem and self- confidence. Don’t deprive them of that.
I have not heard people talk about ‘walking training; or ‘running training’ or ‘eating training’. Children will walk when their muscles are ready to carry their weight, run when they can confidently hold their balance and eat when they are hungry. Children will urinate and defecate when their body urges them to.
The ‘training’ really is about us teaching them how to inhibit themselves. We want to keep them and their clothes clean until we get them to a toilet, but frankly, children don’t care whether or not they are dirty or clean. They like to have a full belly, be warm when it is cold and be comforted when they are hurt, but they have no notion of hygiene or anything else. Mess? What mess? Dirty? Well, if you say so….Hygiene and cleanliness is a learned behaviour. It is really an adult problem and often turns into a battle of wills between parent and child unnecessarily. Ignorance and a perception that toileting has to be mastered preferably by the age of two are the main causes.
There are people who went to the ‘best’ schools with the ‘best’ tutors with the expectation that they would turn out to be better than their peers and become successful. Some didn’t or turned out to be sad people and what had been lacking, was the interest of their parents, the enthusiasm for the child’s endeavours, something money can’t buy.
This picture is about kindling an interest in early childhood: This dad plays drums and anything that can be drummed he will tap a rhythm on. This child is surrounded by family members who are enthusiastic about art and music and practice it whenever they can. This child may not become a musician herself, but the kernel of appreciation has been planted, because a fertile spot has been created by the adults through their enthusiasm. In time this seed may become a means of enjoyment as a listener or an outlet for an artistic expression. Who knows? The point I am making is that is the love and passion of the adults and what they are interested in, is what helps a child to become curious about it and wants to ‘have a go’.
Children like to do what they see the grownup people do. In this case it's washing of the windows.
Preston has been shown how to wash a window. He enthusiastically tried to do it himself.
These type of activities help the child to focus his attention, because his hands can't do anything unless he wills them to work. One can't "will" one's hands unless the focus is on what you want to do with your hands.
These activities will always help to settle a child, especially after he has been upset.
We have three birch trees in our Montessori Playschool garden. They have been chosen for good reasons: Their black and white textured trunks have a magical, fairy tale quality about them. The small leaves make a soft rustling sound in the slightest breeze and create dappled shade in summer time, while they blanket the grass in red-brown leaves in autumn.
Those leaves can be raked up into lines to follow like a mediation trail or pushed into heaps to jump in, on or over and the seeds, now dry and brittle are scattered in the wind or used as decoration for the children’s art & craft work.
But on this morning, under the bare thin twiglike branches, the leaves were gathered up, put in the wheelbarrow and tipped out over the empty flowerbeds and under the daisy bushes in a spontaneous and very social and cooperative activity!