Practical Life Lessons at Jordan Montessori School in Austin:
Maria Montessori believed, and confirmed through observation and her experiences with children all over the world, that children love to work. She wrote, “The child’s instinct confirms the fact that work is an inherent tendency in human nature; it is the characteristic instinct of the human race”. The exercises of Practical Life are defining features of the Montessori environment. The practical life activities are ordinary, simple, everyday tasks designed to respond to the needs of the child and his desire to adapt to the daily life of his surrounding culture. These exercises offer children the opportunity to actively participate in their daily live and fulfill this inherent tendency toward work.
These exercises also serve several other purposes such as
· Adaptation and orientation to the environment and culture
· Acquisition of coordinated movements
· Conquest of independence
· Development of will
· Development of inner discipline
· Satisfaction of the child’s need for order, repetition, normalization
· Indirect preparation for writing.
The activities of Practical Life are divided into several different categories: Preliminary Exercises, Care of the Environment, Care of the Person, Grace and Courtesy, and Movement. The activities making up the Preliminary Exercises are very basic presentations, including Walking, Carrying a Chair, Opening and Closing Doors, and Pouring Water. These exercises serve to help the child with the transition from home to school by giving the child guidelines for working in the environment. They use familiar objects and are an indirect preparation for further activities.
The exercises in Care of the Environment give the children opportunities to be responsible for their surrounding environment while at the same time increasing the awareness of their surroundings. Through these activities, the child learns the necessary skills to care for both the indoor and outdoor environment. Examples of activities in this category include Sweeping, Caring for Plants, Polishing exercises, and Cutting Fruits and Vegetables. These exercises truly allow the child to engage in purposeful work.
The Care of the Person activities increase the child’s ability to care for himself. Exercises such as Putting on his sweater and shoes, Brushing and Combing Hair, and Washing Hands and Nails assist the child in his growth toward independence and gives him the skills necessary to respond to his personal needs.
The Grace and Courtesy category includes activities that teach the child proper social interactions. These exercises teach children how and when to respond appropriately within different social contexts. Through exercises such as Greeting and Introducing, Making Way for Someone to Pass, and Sneezing/Yawning/Coughing, children learn grace or economy of movements in behavior, courtesy and appropriate ways of behaving towards others. Children learn consideration and respect that is given to the community around them.
The last exercises fall under the category of Movement, and consist of Walking on a Line and the Silence Game. Although very different, both of these activities encourage the child to control his movements and perfect his self-discipline. Walking on the Line serves to assist the child in the acquisition of balance, equilibrium, and stability. While the Silence Game serves to inhibit the child’s movements in an effort to make him self-aware. This exercise also depends on cooperation of the group.