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Oh the joys of September! It marks the beginning of a new school year and the beginning of many children’s school careers. As the first month of school winds to a close, the new children are beginning to adapt and settle in to each classroom environment while the returning children build upon the foundation set out in the first few years at school. The first year of Casa truly embodies the saying “Help me to help myself.” This is fostered daily through the prepared Montessori environment and nurtured through the type of work a child is shown in these early stages.
Please scroll to the bottom of the post to download the “Toilet Learning” handout.
Every aspect of the school – from the furniture to the materials on the shelves – aim to lead the child toward independence. Child sized tables and chairs are carefully selected and set out so that children may freely move around the environment without the aid of an adult. Classroom materials are placed on open, appropriately sized shelving. The environment provides the children the freedom and opportunity to experience and work all on their own, by their own means and capabilities.
“An adult must assist a child in such a way that he can act and carry out his own work in the world. […]The work both of the child and of the adult has a definite relationship to the environment. We may say that the adult works to perfect his environment, whereas the child works to perfect himself, using the environment as the means.” (Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, chapter 26)
“[The child] lives in a sort of everlasting present. He does not hurry as we do towards the end of the action, because for him the end of the action is the action itself. His whole being is expressed in his work; he loves it, lives it, rejoices in it, perserveres in it, repeats it – because it is the means by which he is perfecting himself.” (Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, chapter 8)
“The child can only develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experience ‘work’.” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 7)
“Work” refers to the various activities shown by the Casa Directress to each child. Each activity has been carefully designed and presented in a deliberate and purposeful manner. The child learns to work within set boundaries and to respect all other children at work within the environment. Below are a few activities that may have been shown to a first year child in his or her casa classroom this September. Each material follows a logical sequence of steps that the child is able to experience through to its natural conclusion.
There are four cylinder blocks in every Montessori Casa classroom. Their main purpose is a visual discrimination of dimension. The child removes each cylinder and returns them in their appropriate space. The Casa Directress presents the material with a left to right movement along with using the pincer grip (the three fingers used for writing) as indirect preparation for reading and writing.
Spooning falls under the curriculum area of Practical Life. (Click here for the blog post on Practical Life) Its main purpose is to refine a child’s hand-eye coordination and to familiarize the child with the use of a spoon. The directress shows the child to perform the activity in a left to right motion to promote the same left to right progression when reading and writing.
Boxes and bottles also falls within the curriculum area of Practical Life. The child opens and closes a variety of boxes and bottles by various means. This fosters the child’s independence – learning to twist or pull when appropriate and experiencing the differences in mechanisms on a small scale. The child’s fine motor control is developed and the child’s problem solving skills are called upon to determine which lids coincide with each box and bottle.
The casa classroom is equipped with a variety of dressing frames within the Practical Life curriculum area. The above pictured are the button frame (left) and the zipper frame (right). These frames provide the child opportunities to practice and experience how to do and undo various mechanisms found on his or her clothing or footwear, in this case buttons and zippers. This furthers the child’s independence as he or she is then led to being able to accomplish these tasks on his or her own self.
A wide variety of classified cards can be found on the Language shelves of each casa classroom. The cards promote vocabulary, identification of items under a particular category and are often used for sound games. (Click here to read more about “Language Preparation at School and at Home”) The above pictured is a set of cards focused on fruits. Each card has a clear attractive image on its front and labels on its back. The cards above are set out on a floor mat, containing a child’s work space on the floor.
These are only a few of the materials your child has been and will be shown through the duration of his or her time with us at Odyssey. If your child has been mentioning any other work or if you are curious about a particular material you see on our shelves, always feel free to contact your child’s teacher. We are more than happy to help! Keep an eye on the school calendar for “Parent Education” evenings as well.