47. Practical life

Are you attracted to the Montessori method? What is it that appeals? The beautiful environment? The organisation? The practical activities?

As a teacher, what I notice most in a Montessori classroom are what’s called the ‘didactic’ materials. If you walk over to the practical life area, you’ll know what I mean. Trays with tongs and objects to sort; flaps of fabric with different fasteners; shoes and polish.

But it’s hard to say that Montessori means learning through play. The materials are self-correcting. There’s a ‘right’ way to use them and you simply have to practice to get better. There’s less scope for trial-and-error and for creativity.

To me, Montessori feels like a missed opportunity. A chance to spend the day exploring and making the kind of mess that we won’t ever be allowed to make again in our lives.

My children are going to learn to do up their zips and buttons anyway. They don’t need to spend all day practising at nursery (although it certainly helps). What I can’t offer them at home is the chance to make a huge mess, to explore materials freely, and to work on a large scale.

I don’t mean the above to be as critical as it may sound. My daughter goes to a Montessori and is very happy there. But the approach they take is not completely aligned with my own philosophy on play and knowing how they work allows me to offer experiences at home that might not be available in the nursery.

The Montessori method was groundbreaking in its time and it still has a lot to offer. If you choose this path, I’m sure your child will thrive. Just keep an eye out for opportunities to add a dash of creative play when you can.


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