Why yes, we always build with legos in our Star Wars costumes. Don’t you???
The core principle of the Montessori method for preschool is opportunity to develop sensory and motor skills. The preschool age range is a sensitive period for development of such skills. Moreover, through the use of controlled materials, the Montessori student learns practical skills and gains some of the self discipline necessary to become a lifelong learner. An example of a Montessori preschool practical skill activity is spooning, in which the child builds small muscle skills by using a spoon to transfer objects from one bowl to the next. Seems overly simple to adults, but it is an important muscle skill that kids may need to work on. And it can be made fun!
(See a full list of typical preschool practical skills activities here.) Letters and numbers are also introduced to the Montessori student in a sensory manner through use of materials such as sandpaper letters and number rods. The sandpaper letters are already a big hit with Madelyn as she has loved learning her letters and letter sounds for quite some time. We have not tried number rods yet.
(Madelyn is watching her beloved Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD here while playing with her sandpaper letters. She liked finding each letter as they were featured on the video. This is a GREAT DVD, by the way, that teaches the sound of each letter in the alphabet.)
There are abundant resources that discuss how to employ Montessori methods at home. For anyone interested, I recommend the following books:
Teaching Monterssori In the Home: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock
How To Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way by Tim Seldin
The blog Living Montessori NOW also does a great job of rounding up resources around the Internet related to Montessori activities in the home.
Although not specifically Montessori, the blog Not Just Cute has a lot of great discussions about child development. It recently featured great summaries of the book, Mind In The Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (disclaimer: I have not read the full book, just the chapter reviews on the blog). I posted links to some of the chapter summaries on our Olson Family Matters Parenting/Teaching Pinterest Board.
I have not found as many resources related to using the Reggio method at home. The main principle of Reggio is offering plenty of opportunity for children to express themselves and learn through art mediums. This one worried me at first - remember my almost-B grade in high school pottery that I had to use my negotiating skills to work up to an A grade (and hence became a lawyer rather than an artist)? But art is not limited to clay, glue, and paint. Art includes dramatic play, music, dance, etc. Looking back at my life as a student, I realize that it was these very mediums (drama and music in particular) that allowed me to feel like I was truly expressing myself. They also helped me to grow and develop confidence. Moreover, Reggio is not just about the art (good discussion here). It is more focused on what the students are thinking and learning as they express themselves.
My favorite component of both the Montessori and Reggio methods is that the role of the teacher is to be an observer more than an instructor. My first impulse when I see Madelyn doing something incorrectly is to interrupt and show her how to do it the right way. This takes away the opportunity for Madelyn to learn from her mistakes - which is key in learning how to learn! Moreover, by observing a student’s interactions with materials or experiences, the teacher can learn about the student’s needs and interests and offer more learning opportunities tailored to things that interest the student and skills that she needs develop. I really hope that I can reign in my desire to interfere/correct and just sit back and watch more often. I think of this as an opportunity to become a student of Madelyn - to learn what truly piques her interest, how she learns, how she communicates best, etc. I hope this will pave the road for me to better help her not only in her future education, but in life in general!
- Tricia Olson, 2012