Montessori During Quarantine: Everyday Life Lessons

There’s a reason Maria Montessori called the first school, Casa dei Bambini. It means “Children’s House,” because a Montessori classroom is meant to replicate a child’s home. The classroom is set up to allow children to experience and practice common life skills — the area of the classroom called “practical life” is, in fact, dedicated to it. The children practice pouring without spilling and transferring small items with spoons and tweezers. They scrub chairs and tables and they water plants and feed classroom pets.

In these COVID-19 pandemic times, many families are coming to realize that Maria Montessori was onto something! From sweeping the floor, to setting the table, and preparing food, it turns out that the family home is the ultimate classroom. So let’s take a look at some ways that you can tap into that Montessori philosophy, while staying safe at home.

Everyday Activities Count as Learning

Laundry: Still doing laundry? Of course you are! Your child can help match socks, count socks, organize socks, and fold socks. They can put away their clothes, they can load a washing machine, and they can empty a dryer. Let them. And if they don’t want to? It’s okay to insist that everyone participates to some degree. You’re not the maid and your sanity matters. This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation!

Dishes: Need to empty the dishwasher (again!)? Call in a helper. Depending on their age, most kids can manage what ends up in the average family’s dishwasher. Knives and glassware are at your discretion, but a step stool in the kitchen is the great equalizer, so walk your child through the process and show them where everything goes.

Meals and Groceries: Making your grocery list or setting up an online order? Older children can help plan meals, create a food inventory, or organize the snack cabinet. Any child can help prepare meals and most kids are quite capable of fixing their own bowl of cereal, so give them a chance to be a little more independent in the kitchen. And the messes? They get to clean those up as well. The goal is not perfection, it’s participation.

Cleaning: Ready to do ALL the organizing and cleaning? Kids love to dust and a six year-old with a vacuum is a whole new level of parenting unlocked. You’re all living in the house and making messes! Everyone gets to help clean up!

A Friendly Reminder: Consistency Still Matters

Children thrive on structure and consistency. It’s how they organize their day and develop a sense of time. Maintaining some degree of structure to your daily life will help everyone know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Get your child up at the same time each day and maintain regular meal times. Get dressed (at least most days) and get outside, when you can. Make outdoor time and movement a priority — except for Fridays and rainy days. Those are for pajamas!

If you haven’t already established a few weekly “traditions,” it’s not too late to start. Maybe Sundays are “breakfast for dinner” days and Wednesdays are “living room picnic” days. Spontaneity can be fun, but so can routine. And it helps pass the time, for sure!

Follow the Child

Your child will show you how best they learn and where their interests lie. “Follow the child” means listen to them, pay attention to what they say, how they play, and the questions they ask. It doesn’t mean “let them do whatever they want,” but in the Age of Pandemic, it does mean that it’s okay to NOT follow a rigid homeschool schedule.

Playtime is learning time and there are lots of ways to incorporate learning into everyday life and activities. Or not. We hereby give you permission to “follow the parent” and cut yourself some slack. Some days are hard and other days are harder.

So, don’t fret over “homeschool” and workbooks and online learning. In the Montessori world, home is school. So, just live the pandemic life — keep everyone safe and sane — and find ways to include your child in the home/life process in a way that works for you.

Additional Resources: (From the American Montessori Society)

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