September 22, 2021
Archive for characteristics Casa Students
There has been much media coverage lately about the impact of technology, and its attendant devices, on all of us, but most poignantly its impact on the very young. Montessori pedagogy tells us that children up to about the age of 6 are sensorial learners. They learn by doing, they learn by experiencing the world through the senses. The real world! Montessori classrooms are purposely designed to capitalize on this developmental trait, but short of building a Montessori classroom in the home environment, what are parents to do if a technology-rich childhood is not the path to stroll down?
Here are a few ideas/options to consider when the temptation of the iPad looms large.
Make grocery shopping an event to share with your child.
Your child need not accompany you every time you go grocery shopping, especially if time is tight or hunger is near, but if you do have the time to devote to making grocery shopping an outing to be experienced and enjoyed, your child may prove to be a willing participant. Take time to name the fruits and vegetables around you. Smell and touch them if this makes sense. Have your child select items, counting them perhaps, or him/her them to read from and check off the grocery list if this is possible. Approach such outings not as a chore to be done, but as time well spent with your child. Enjoy.
Involve your child in household routines such as cooking, setting
the table, folding laundry, snow shovelling, raking leaves,
watering plants, making beds etc.
Children wish to be active participating members of their families with a real contribution to make. For the young child, these tasks are not something to be accomplished but rather activities which are fun in and of themselves. They nurture self-esteem and are tremendously empowering. A step towards independence. Make sure that activities are safe, materials are properly sized for a child to succeed (eg. a small shovel) and tasks are not overwhelming in their scope. Focus on the doing (“Thanks for your help with this.”) and not the end result. Competencies will build over time.
Compliment your child’s school experiences rather than trying to duplicate them.
A trip to an aquarium, florist, farm, swimming pool, library etc. will enrich his/her world in numerous ways.
Help your child learn to structure his/her own time by offering lots of unstructured time.
Unstructured time outside in a backyard, a park or any natural environment provides a host of opportunities for exploration, creativity and much needed “downtime”.
Inside, access to creative tools which have no ‘rules’ per se, such as coloured pencils, paper, scissors, glue, tape, building supplies (eg. Lego), dolls, cars, fort building materials etc. can be extremely beneficial. Keep quantities limited, access open and expectations for use and tidy-up clear.
It’s gratifying to remember that if we confidently allow children to experience ‘boredom’, imagination and creativity will flourish.
Read, read, read and engage in conversation.
Reading together and thoroughly enjoying the experience is one of the most important gifts one can give a child. If reading isn’t an option in the moment (eg. stuck in a traffic jam), consider telling a story (a true story from your day, your week or even your childhood, or a made-up story works well too). You can also simply engage in conversation, recite familiar poems or rhymes or sing songs as a way to explore words. Remember, children too need time to express themselves. Ask open-ended questions and let them reveal whatever it is they wish to.
Listen to music, sing, clap, dance….and don’t worry, an ability to sing in tune or
demonstrate Broadway-worthy dance moves is not necessary. Just have fun.
Our first blog post in this series focused on independence and the child’s work in constructing him/herself in order to become a contributing member of the Casa community. We will now delve a little deeper into the areas of language and the importance of what Montessori termed practical life.
The Toddler child acquires language by taking in that which his/her surrounding environment provides. Upon this foundation, the Casa child explodes into the spoken, and then written word. Vocabulary previously taken in is now used, and used with a greater understanding of both meaning and context. Vocabulary becomes notably more precise as a consequence of a more refined awareness of the world. The desire to acquire new and more expansive vocabulary is insatiable.
Casa children become consciously aware that language is a tool to express not just concrete objects but also emotions and thoughts. It has grammatical structure and the same word used in a different context or placement can take on a completely different meaning. Language for this child becomes something more than just an ability to name his/her world. It is something to play with, to explore and to take great delight in.
The Practical Life activities, those activities performed in daily living, help to foster independence. In the preschool environment they are very much an extension of the home. Practical Life activities, at both the Toddler and Casa levels aid the children in adapting to the environment with ease, while the role modeling of the adults furthers the children in their physical and social independence. The Casa child then is able to take these tools to further him/herself personally (fix one’s shoes when they don’t feel quite right, pour a drink when thirsty), and also ultimately contribute to the community for the benefit of the group (set the table for lunch for example). Independence allowing for interdependence.
It is interesting to note that recent neuroscience research strongly supports the importance of practical life activities in executive brain function. Brain development, as we know, is experienced based, and executive functions are the processes within the brain responsible for mental control and self-regulation.1
1 “The seeds of self-control begin in learning to control one’s own body. … Practical Life is the first step for each child in building a foundation for a better brain, in the Montessori environment and beyond.” Dr. Steve Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN For a fascinating look at Montessori and brain development we highly recommend: http://www.goodatdoingthings.com and http://www.BuildingBetterBrains.com (https://vimeo.com/stevehughes)
Who is the Casa child?
Casa children are working towards becoming even more independent. One of their tasks is to gain social independence among peers and ultimately become a contributing member of their community. They observe and imitate to construct themselves in order to transition from being an individual within the community towards being an integral part of that community. With this comes a fulfilled sense of belonging and purpose.
Like the Toddler child, they are still in a sensitive period for order (internalizing patterns and connections from the impressions of their environment). Having now entered the second half of what Montessori coined the first plane of development (0-6 years of age), they are moving from being the observer who takes in all impressions from the environment indiscriminately, to the child who can direct his/her attention towards specific interests and aspects of the environment.
They take in patterns of language and mathematical concepts, refine the impressions their senses receive (colour may now be perceived in shades for example), note how human beings conduct themselves socially and absorb many other components of their world. A child of this age is constantly striving towards mastery of his/her environment. This is an extension and further development of their will.
There are more materials in the Casa classroom in response to developmental necessity. Their senses are becoming more refined, new psychological characteristics emerge, they become more mindful and like their toddler peers are capable of great developmental work.