“Discipline must come through liberty. . . . We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.”
If there was ever one thing I was skeptical about in the Montessori method, it would have the be the calmness of the activities I read about. Even from birth my daughter was active and not easily focused or calmed down, how was the proper activity going to keep her in one place? That always seems like the goal, right? Sit here and do this how I told you. Not only does that seem impossible, I don't even think I believe in being so ridged.
I've been reading Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook and it's really shed light on this aspect of the method for me. Maria Montessori says that the movements children make that adults see as fidgety and distracting are just the ones they need to develop coordination. It is pointless to try and keep children in check by telling them not to move, it's not going to happen. While you don't encourage your child to jump around and flit about, don't get upset when they do either. Instead, teach more controlled, useful movements that will serve them well in everyday life. This is where practical life activities such as setting the table, washing hands, dressing, sweeping, etc. come in. Montessori believed that children need and like to have a purpose for their activities and movements. This has the appearance of being ridged, but really isn't. It's just that instead of giving a child toys to pretend to do real life activities with, you give them real life to interact with and the tools to do it correctly.
So as you go through your day, model the proper way to do things through slow and controlled motions. You don't have to say anything, your child is always watching you and as they gain control of their bodies, they will emulate you. According to Montessori, "this education of the movements is one of the principle factors in producing that outward appearance of 'discipline' in the Children's Houses."
So THAT'S how they do it...