It has only been a few days since we have been out of school because of COVID-19 and as a parent and an educator it feels like a lifetime! Trying to figure out what your new normal is as a family has been a struggle for our family. Setting a schedule so that the kids understand that this is NOT summer vacation is proving to be more of a challenge than I thought. Although my children no longer attend Brooksfield I still approached the planning of our day as if they were.
When planning out how I wanted this extended break from school to go Dr. Maria Montessori’s quote, “To assist a child, we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop”, was reverberating in my head. How do we create an environment that allows the child to be successful and still lets the adult accomplish what they need to get done during the day?
The prepared environment in a Montessori classroom encourages order, independence, self-motivation and confidence. Everything in the classroom has a place and the child knows where everything is. All the furniture is child size and organized in a way that the child is able to navigate school successfully. Creating a Montessori environment at home is easier than you think!
The first step in creating the prepared environment is to set up a space for the child to do “work” and everything they need is easily accessible to them. With this in mind, the expectation is that the child knows where everything is (art supplies, paper, glue, scissors, etc.) and is able to access them INDEPENDENTLY! All the supplies are ideally set on a low shelf so they can be accessed by the child independently. Having a child-sized table and chair to sit at and do work is another great idea. I am in the process of doing this at our house but on a “big kid” scale; setting up a space that my kids know is the space where they can get their homework done, use the computer and can create with arts and crafts supplies. Yesterday we cut out and decorated green shamrocks to hang on the windows so we could be festive on St. Patrick’s Day!
The next step is to create a schedule. I held a family meeting and we established together what the days were going to look like. We set time aside for homework, arts and crafts, outdoor activities, and chores! It is important to remember to incorporate outside time as well! After our shamrock decorating, we went outside and designed an obstacle course with sidewalk chalk (check out the video of Brooksfield’s Facebook page). My kids loved it and they spent a good amount of time timing themselves to see how fast they could get through it. It was a great game and it gave me a few minutes to breathe! Once we were in agreement with the schedule, we posted it on the fridge for all to see.
Creating a job chart is another great way to help foster independence and self-motivation. Kids love checking things off their list. Creating a list of expectations such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, feeding the dog, folding clothes, matching socks are all great things that children of all ages can do.
Another step is to set up a designated space in your kitchen such as a bottom drawer of your pantry with snacks that you will always approve. Store your kids’ plastic bowls and plates on a low shelf or in a low drawer. Not being responsible for pouring everyone’s snacks is a huge benefit. Watching your child beam with pride after fixing his or her snack is even better!
Now that you have created the prepared environment and established a daily schedule as well as a job chart, how do you get through the day? Take a deep breath and know that we are all in this together. What works for you one day may not work the next. Today we spent more time outside creating chalk obstacle courses on the sidewalk and walking the dog. We were feeling a little stir-crazy. Remember this is a great time to create memories with your child. It is not often that we are forced to spend all this time together.
Putting together a puzzle as a family or playing a board game together have been fun activities for us (we played a mean game of Uno a few hours ago). We have also been cooking together. Letting the kids measure and pour or even peel vegetables lets them express their independence and empowers them. Finding ways to help your child to continue to be independent, be self- motivated and in control as well as have a sense of order and normalcy is the best we can do!
On the agenda for tomorrow (after a little bit of academics) is preparing the vegetable garden for planting this spring!