Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't sit still - the importance of movement in Montessori education

“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...


  1. Aaah! This is such a battle for me with Tori during her reading lessons. Now, the lessons are always her idea. "Mommy we need a reading lesson today!" She's only four, I'm surely not pushing it but we are blowing through first grade books already. Anyway, the issue is that during her lessons, she doesn't sit still. She moves from my right to left, hangs upside down off the couch, etc. She doesn't want to stay STILL. But she is four and reading first grade books so I guess this blog entry makes me realize it really doesn't matter, does it? If moving around, getting up to move around for a few moments, etc, is what gets her through the lesson, than great, right? I guess I need to chill out, hahaha.

  2. The longer I'm a parent the more I realize that about 90% of parenting is not trying to control everything and chilling out, but it's the hardest part! We had quite the failed puzzle activity this evening because I was trying to control too much. Ugh!

  3. ya, very true!! The significance of the movements in child's life is greater and we, adults ought to understand it. We should encourage children to participate in activities of the practical life with great patience and care. Never ever discourage children by insulting them or forbidding them from 'work'. With love and care they need an them to develop in all sense and the results will keep us amusing.