"Children absorb unconsciously from their surroundings. The importance of the prepared environment is paramount in the Montessori classroom. The prepared environment of the practical life area is uncluttered, inviting, home like, clean and orderly. The materials beautiful but not distracting, one of each activity which helps the child to develop self discipline and patience is included. The furniture is appropriately sized to meet the needs of the children, and the materials are attractive and call to the child to be held, explored and mastered.
The six basic components of the prepared environment are: The concept of freedom, structure and order, reality and nature, beauty and atmosphere, the Montessori materials and the development of community life.
The most important aspect of the prepared environment is the emotional climate; “a fearful child can not learn” and so the classroom should be both prepared with appropriate materials and also with clearly defined ground rules, understanding, consistency and love."
~~~Montessori Mama (school paper)
This is all well and good in a Montessori school classroom but how do you create this at home? (Please see my previous post: Montessori At Home (September), for more ideas and encouragement).
Making your children the number one priority in your life is a huge step in the direction of Montessori parenting. Begin by preparing your home environment to meet their needs AND your needs. Look at your home through their eyes. Are there lots of things that are off limits, behind a gate, up high, out of reach? Who lives here? Who's home is this anyway?
Think about it, where are your things? Your car keys for example? Do they hang on a hook near the door like so many of ours do? Why? So you will have them when you need them, right where you left them, easily accessible, ready to be used for the purpose they are intended.
We adults (for the most part, certainly I have been known to mis-place my car keys) arrange our belongings (let's call them 'materials') for usefulness and because it looks pretty. The coffee maker, we use every morning is out on the counter, not tucked away, but available for us to use it when we need to. Photographs are displayed attractively and at our eye level for our enjoyment.
And our music CDs are stacked in a CD holder or on a shelf, perhaps in order of type of music or even alphabetically? What works for our personal inner sense of order, is how we as grown ups prepare our environment. Yet, we throw our children's materials into a heap in a toy box, or bin? We restrict them to using the materials they desire to when it is convenient to us.
My Nana used to say, "Everything in it's place and a place for everything." Where would your child find his red matchbox car? In a small basket/tote with like items or at the bottom of a large toy box? So will he need to dump that large toy box to discover his the single treasured red car or just the one basket of match box cars? And which would be easier to clean up when he's done?
I know I make it sound easy, and it definitely is not; but making changes to accommodate
the growing needs of your children and preparing an environment that aids in their learning and development is worth the trouble. Keeping things tidy for the sake of having things tidy, is not my point. And I admit that my house often looks messy and disorganized, no one of us is perfect, (boy, would that be boring!). Perfection is not the goal here, creating a prepared environment, prepared with love and thoughtfulness for the people sharing the space and the things that interest them is.
In my house I have some cupboards that are home to things I don't want my toddler playing with right now. These cupboards have safety locks on them and are not a choice for him at this time. That's me setting limits and protecting my materials. There are however cupboards that are home to items he can explore and investigate and then clean up of these materials is made easier by baskets and totes with photo labels for my non-reader.
Creating these opportunities was work (yes, I know I am a stay at home mom working part-time out of her home right now), but I'm here to tell you, it CAN be done with very little money and a little effort. And it's worth it! My stress level has lowered and my toddler is a very happy busy learner. Clean up seems so much easier now and the other members of my house hold (boys #1 and #2) help out more. Share your ideas with me and each other, leave a comment about how you help your littlest members of your home organize their materials.
And remember, the most important aspect of the prepared environment is the emotional climate; and we are all doing our best, parenting is the most challenging job you will ever have.
Montessori Parenting is what I hope to promote with this BLOG of mine. In my home I am trying to guide the growth of healthy, happy, independent children who feel loved, safe and respected. I believe following their lead and paying attention to their natural inclinations insists that I follow Dr. Montessori's philosophy. I will post more soon about Dr. Montessori's philosophy to help illustrate why a prepared environment is so important. Thank you for your time reading this and your opinions. I welcome them!