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Social Development in a Montessori School

In a Montessori school, educators don’t merely teach lessons out of a textbook everyday, like you may see in a traditional school. Many of the lessons that Montessori educators teach are valuable life skills that a child will carry with them for a lifetime. Montessori schools focus on developing every aspect of the child – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. These elements make up what Dr. Montessori calls the whole child.

We know human beings are social creatures by nature. We not only depend on each other to fulfill our physical needs, but emotional and spiritual as well. The idea of “culture” is based on the myriad of different ways that groups of humans have devised to meet these needs.

In the Montessori classroom, you will notice that social development takes place in many forms. Some of these include:

Mixed Age Groups

Mixed age classrooms are a signature element of a Montessori school because Dr. Montessori believed that children learn from one another. This is proven in the Montessori environment where you will often see an older child happily helping his younger peers and gaining social maturity from being a role model. The younger child may learn new concepts from the older child and as she looks up to the older child, she will begin to see that she too, will be just as capable one day. Growing together is natural, as children instinctively know when to offer help, encouragement, and comfort to those around them. Hence the mixed age group means that children have the opportunity to interact with both older and younger peers, all of who are at varying levels of individual development. The mixed age group provides daily opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, and receiving or offering assistance. Younger children look to the older children with admiration and for inspiration, and in turn, the older children help and teach the younger children.

Mixed age groups are also a contributing factor competition avoidance among children in the classroom. In the structure of a mixed age classroom, children feel less pressure to compete and more motivated to collaborate and assist one another. The social discipline that Montessori observed describes how children spontaneously interact with each other. Children show:

  • Self-controlled and purposeful interactions with others
  • Mutual spontaneous respect
  • A willingness to help others
  • Spontaneous responsiveness to the needs of others
  • Evidence of feelings of benevolence and sympathy towards others in the group
  • A non-competitive attitude

Small Group Lessons

Although the Montessori focus lies in individual progression and many lessons are presented individually to the students, some lessons are presented to students in small groups. These small groups are great for dialogue and encourage children to share their thoughts regarding particular subjects. The safe environment of the small group also makes children feel comfortable expressing novel ideas with their peers. The small group sessions improve a child’s conversational skills and helps them grasp and understand important concepts.

Set Amount of Materials

Too many materials in the classroom could cause clutter and confusion. However, if there is one complete set of materials for the classroom, then the children will benefit from a sense of order. If a child wants to work on something that involves a material already being used by another child, then they will have to respectfully wait their turn. This teaches the child the virtue of patience and provides them with the opportunity for maturity.

Lessons in Grace and Courtesy

Developing the social skills of grace and courtesy is a key component of the Montessori curriculum. In a Montessori environment, children learn how to interact appropriately with each other and with adults through dialogue. Some of these interactions including greeting and hosting guests into the classroom, preparing and sharing snacks with peers, and exercising appropriate mealtime behavior. One of the main values that are taught in a Montessori classroom is respect. By teaching respect for their peers, materials, and themselves, Montessori educators plant a seed of compassion and empathy in the children.

In a Montessori classroom, children learn how to resolve conflicts and issues by making peace with others. This is often done at the “peace table” and achieved through sharing a “peace object” of some kind, such as a rock or a flower, which is passed back and forth as the children acknowledge their feelings and express themselves.

Social Development at MASS

Montessori observed that there were “phases through which social life must pass in the course of its natural unfolding.”

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we have created a rich, well-prepared environment designed to meet the needs of our young children. The classrooms at MASS are carefully constructed to help children understand the world around them. Our educators focus on helping children form a positive self-image and develop respect for all life.

 

 

Montessori Education: Creating a Garden with Your Child

Nature is an important element of a Montessori education. When you watch a seed grow into a flower, you get to witness one of the many miracles of nature. In the same way, seeing something you nourish with the proper nutrients develop into something beautiful is exciting and gives you a sense of accomplishment. At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, our outdoor garden allows our students to experience these feelings daily.

A great way to incorporate these environmental principles of a Montessori education outside the classroom is by creating your own garden at home. By creating a small garden in your yard with your children, you can share these joyous feelings with your little ones and expose them to the wonders of nature.

What to Grow with Your Child

While there are dozens of different crops that can be planted in a backyard garden, it is a good idea to choose crops that are easy to grow, grow relatively quickly, and are fun to harvest. In this way, children do not lose interest in the garden because it is taking too long for it to grow.

One of the best crops for a child to grow is a sunflower because it begins sprouting in one week, and once it is taller, it will grow hundreds of seeds that can be eaten or replanted. Not to mention, the vibrant yellow color of the flower’s bloom is beautiful to look at every day. Lettuce and snow peas are other great options because they grow quickly as well as deepen a child’s appreciation for vegetables. Many children tend to love cherry tomatoes and carrots because they are particularly fun to harvest and eat!

Tips for Gardening with Your Child

In order to make gardening a fun experience for your child, there are several things you can do. Give your child their own gardening plot or put them in charge of a particular crop. This will keep them engaged, as they will feel responsible for their section of the garden. Giving your child real gardening tools instead of the plastic one made for kids is usually a better idea – as long as you are supervising – because the plastic ones break easily and often frustrate the child. This also makes your child feel that their work in the garden is just as important as yours.

Instead of buying garden starters, you should begin by planting real seeds. This will help your child gain a better understanding of a plant’s life cycle and feel a greater sense of accomplishment once they harvest their crop.

Lastly, you can help your child build a scarecrow for the garden. This is especially useful if your child starts to become bored with gardening, since it will help regain their interest in protecting their crops.

Virtues Learned from Gardening

There are several important virtues of a Montessori education that your child will learn from gardening. Growing a crop does not happen overnight; it requires patience, dedication, and hard work. A child will learn that they must continue taking care of their crop in order for it to grow. They will enjoy seeing it blossom as it goes through different stages of its life, but they must continue nurturing it in order for it to fully grow, bloom, and produce fruits or vegetables.

Children will also learn responsibility and ownership through an at-home Montessori education involving the environment. If they are put in charge of growing a particular crop, that crop becomes their responsibility and they will feel a sense of ownership over it. Once it is fully grown and harvested, they will feel proud that their hard work created something useful for their family. Studies have shown that children who garden are happier and more confident in their abilities.

 

What is Virtue Education?

In a Montessori school system, our primary focus is the whole child. As part of developing all of the elements of the whole child, the Montessori Method concentrates on educating the human potential. Through character education, we are able to help each child unlock their personal potential. Virtue education allows each child to explore the field of morality and learn to discriminate between good and evil.

What are the Virtues?

Virtues are universal and are recognized by people of all cultures. They are necessary for a child’s well-being and happiness. Once they are learned, they will last the child a lifetime.

We make sure that our students learn the following virtues:

Wisdom, courage, perseverance, honesty, kindness, patience, helpfulness, humility, compassion, hard work, creativity, independence, confidence, respectfulness, grace, courtesy, sociability, responsibility, self-sufficiency, curiosity, joyfulness, gratitude, and service.

All of these virtues help build a child’s character and inspire others around them to be better people.

Developing the Virtues

In The Discovery of the Child, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote “She must acquire a moral alertness which has not hitherto been demanded by any other system, and this is revealed in her tranquility, patience, charity, and humility. Not words, but virtues, are her main qualifications.”

In order to develop these virtues, we expose our children to stories and experiences that model them. We make sure that our guides make it a point to display these virtues on a daily basis, so they serve as role models to the students. We also concentrate on positive activities in order to prevent the formation of negative traits. In a Montessori environment, bad habits such as laziness and disorder are quickly replaced by good qualities such as self-sufficiency and hard work.

Cultivating virtues leads a child to develop a more purposeful life. In Montessori classrooms, students learn virtues like service and helpfulness by participating in practical life activities. Such exercises include teaching children to care for the environment and peer to peer collaboration, in which an older student helps a younger student.

What You Can Do at Home

Understanding that learning doesn’t start and finish in the classroom is essential for Montessori parents who want to support the development of the whole child. Children are learning at all times, so the child’s learning experiences at home and at school should be cohesive. One way to form this cohesion is through communication with your child’s guide.

It is important for you to know when and which virtues are being taught in class. For instance, if you find out from your child’s guide that honesty is being covered in class next week, you should find ways to incorporate practicing honesty at home also.

Role play is a great way to do this.  Explain situations that your child can easily understand and give your child various options of choices they could make in that situation.  Be sure to provide some choices that emphasize honesty more than others. Then discuss your child’s choices, and the possible consequences of each choice, as well as why it’s important to be honest both at home and in school.