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Living Montessori in the Summer

If you’re reading this, you’re either:

  1. Sending your child to a Montessori school and totally dedicated to the philosophy, or

  2. Very curious about whether Montessori might be a good fit for your family.

Either way, you can create a Montessori-style summer that will either continue the experience or give you a chance to try it out.

Maria Montessori cared deeply about honoring human development. From the materials she created to the environments they are placed into the delivery of the model, great attention is paid to the specific developmental phase a child is in. You can do the same, simply and with just a little forethought...

Keeping your child’s needs in mind

So what exactly did Montessori have to say about the different stages of development? Here’s a very quick rundown:

Infants and toddlers: Children in the earliest years are making great strides in the development of movement and spoken language. Though they will seek some level of independence, they still need quite a bit of support and lots of nurturing. Children of this age display a strong preference for order.

3-6 year-olds: The sense of order continues in this stage. Primary-aged children want to do things for themselves, often literally saying, “I can do it!” We try to let them, and modify their environment to make this possible. It is also a time of huge growth in language, sensory refinement, early reading, writing, and math. Children tend to work beside their peers, but independently.

6-12 year-olds: The strong sense of order tends to disappear around this time, and is replaced by an emphasis on justice and social development. Children at this age care very much about friendships and spend much of their time figuring out how to resolve conflicts together. They are inspired by storytelling, science, history, and geography. They continue to make great strides in the core academic areas. They want to think for themselves.

Adolescents: Montessori recognized that adolescents are trying to balance their need for independence from adults while still requiring quite a bit of support from them. Increasing their responsibilities and providing them with challenges helps them work through this time. This is a great time to start teaching children the skills they will need to master when they are finally ready to set out on their own.

Consider the routine

Routine is helpful for most humans, important for children, and critical for young children. While vacations and daily activities will certainly mix up any routine, it’s a good idea to establish one anyway. Routines give children consistency, which makes them feel safe. It reduces behavioral issues and gives children the freedom to explore their world and take safe risks. Consider the following:

  • What does your child need to do each day upon waking? Depending upon their age, what can you do to support their independence in this area? A toddler may have a floor bed so that they may physically rise on their own, while a six-year-old might be responsible for getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and preparing their breakfast.

  • What can your children do during the day (especially on days when there are no specific plans)? Is there a bookcase containing age-appropriate books? Are toys, games, puzzles, and art supplies organized and accessible? Do your children feel free to explore these things independently, and have the knowledge and sense of responsibility to clean up when they are done?

  • Do your children have independent access to snacks and water? Allowing them to listen to their bodies and self-identify those needs is a precious gift.

  • Depending upon age, might your children help prepare meals?

  • Is there a balance between active time and quiet time? Between togetherness and independence?

  • Just as it’s important to have a morning wake-up routine, consider what type of routine you want to establish for bedtime. Though this might vary a bit from the regular school year, it’s still helpful to keep it consistent.

Integrate academics

This is totally possible to do without evoking moans and groans. First of all, most Montessori children delight in academics. Secondly, it can be done in short, effective bursts. Some ideas:

  • Read daily. Read to them, have them read to you, to each other, to themselves.

  • Find math in everyday life and talk about it. The kitchen, shopping, driving - the possibilities for real-world word problems are endless.

  • Spend 5 minutes a day on math facts. Make it fun with sidewalk chalk, silly songs, jump roping, or dry erase markers on the living room window.

  • Explore! Dig into science, history, and geography by visiting local museums, parks, and landmarks. Encourage their curiosities and research more together.

  • Older children can journal their experiences. This is especially effective with a fancy notebook and pencil.

“Going Out”

A hallmark of the Montessori elementary years is “going out”, or small groups of children organizing and executing a field trip to further their individual interests. Are your kids into dinosaurs? See if there are any nearby fossil sights or museum exhibits. Do they love sea creatures? Check out an aquarium or visit the beach to explore tidepools. The key is to listen to your children and let their interests guide the trip.

Embracing nature

People simply feel better when they spend time in nature. Ideally, we should all get out there at least a little bit each day. If you live in a place adjacent to a natural area - say a body of water or forest - then this should be easy. But even in urban areas, there are options. Does your family have a favorite park? Does your city have a botanical garden or arboretum? Is it possible to drive a short distance to more natural areas?

Keep your child’s developmental phase in mind when planning outdoor experiences. It can be easy to get excited about a hike only to find out little legs can’t make it as far as you thought. Build-in breaks, bring snacks, and take lots of pictures!

Making time for the arts

It’s fun, easy, and important to build art into your summer plans. Children can both appreciate the art of others and create work of their own.

It’s likely that your local community has more art on display than you may realize. Search for not only museums, but galleries, sculptures, and street art such as murals. Older children can have fun making art scavenger hunts for younger siblings.

Drawing might be inspired by art they see, their outdoor adventures, or even tiny plants and creatures in your own backyard. It can also be fun to participate in a daily sketchbook challenge such as this one:

Other art possibilities are endless. For infants and toddlers, it can be as simple as giving them a paintbrush, cup of water, and a smooth rock warmed in the sun. They can paint the water on it, watch it disappear as it dries, and repeat for as long as the activity holds their interest. Older children may want to experiment with a wide variety of art mediums. Think pastels, watercolor, clay, collage, or charcoal. Let them experiment and find new ways to use the materials.

Hopefully, this post gives you some ideas for blending Montessori with summer home life. Let us know how it goes!

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