Sunday, March 21, 2010

The prepared environment at home

According to the Association Montessori Internationale, there are four characteristics of the prepared environment:

Beauty, order, reality, simplicity and accessibility.

Children must be given freedom to work and move around within suitable guidelines that enable them to act as part of a social group.

Children should be provided with specifically designed materials which help them to explore their world and enable them to develop essential cognitive skills.

Mixed age groups (eg. three to six, six to nine, nine to twelve) encourage all children to develop their personalities socially and intellectually at their own pace.
All of these things are easily accomplished at home. As a family with both children and adults, you already have a household of mixed age groups that your Montessori child can learn from even though it might not be the age groups as outlined above. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have ;)

If your home doesn't already have beauty, order, reality, simplicity and accessibility for you, it should! We all want these things in our homes and we should expand this to an awareness of how our children experience the space as well. Keep your house well organized, clean and don't collect a lot of stuff that will interfere with the simplicity and beauty of your home. It should be easy for your child to understand how to run your household and to be able to emulate your routines. To be honest, this is an area I have a hard time with. I have a tendency to let things pile up (mail, work, toys) and I don't always have an orderly place for everything I use regularly. Ryann has too many toys (still, I'm trying!) and it's hard for her to understand where they all go, and there are too many to keep in an orderly fashion. The goal here isn't a minimalist household, but an organized and easy to use household that everyone can appreciate.

Freedom of movement can be a challenge depending on the age of the child. When they are young, you really must babyproof everything and not rely on restrictive playpens and baby gates to keep them away from danger. Instead of keeping toddlers out of the kitchen and bathroom, keep safe supplies down low and dangerous things up high. This will likely take rearranging over time as the child's skills change. I kept a lot of my low drawers in the kitchen and bathroom empty until Ryann got past the dump everything stage. You want to create a "yes" environment, where the child can touch and interact with everything within their reach. So if it's not dangerous, they should be able to use it. If they can't use it, teach them!

Finally, we get to the specifically designed materials. This is where the low table, child-sized brooms, little cups and saucers and the like come into play. Everything that you use every day should be accessible to your child in a size that is easy for them to manipulate. This isn't always possible at home with each and every item, but it is important to try and make it as easy as possible for your child to do things for themselves. Keep their dishes, food, toothbrushes, clothes, coats, etc. in easy to reach places. Keep a stool or two handy so the child can reach the sinks and counters without any restrictions. Ryann has a stool her Grandpa made her a couple Christmas's ago and it is used many, many times a day. Unfortunately, it is not quite tall enough for the kitchen sink and I haven't found one that is other than the Little Partners Learning Tower, which is (more than) a little out of my price range.

My house is far from perfect, but I do strive towards all these things and have even before I started researching Montessori schooling. It just seems right to include my daughter in everything I do. As a result I have a fully capable, independent child who sees accessibility problems as the highest form of injustice.

1 comment:

  1. Well-explained post! :) I love how you keep it real by admitting that sometimes it's very challenging - but worthwhile - to encourage order and independence in the home.