This area of the Montessori method is the most important. Practical life teaches the child about self and about life. Children wash tables and chairs, polish glass and wood, learn to do zippers and bows, they sew buttons and make intricate embroidery to name a few. Children derive enormous satisfaction, focus, pride, self-esteem and logic. They gain awareness of the environment around them and develop a sense of community. They see the result of this work immediately, if they carry water and it spills they learned something, perhaps it was too full or they walked too fast or they talked while doing this, this is how they learn about common sense, consequences, cause and effect and responsibility. Practical life activities are an indirect preparation for math, language and sensorial work.
The purpose of sensorial education is to aid classification and organization, to facilitate the understanding of abstraction. The sensorial education raises consciousness and awareness, it strengthens perceptions, aids in clarity and greater mental order. Sensorial education is very important for children under 6 as they are in the most absorbent mind stage and are just forming the concepts and ideas of the world. This area also greatly prepares the child for mathematics as well as writing.
For a child to learn language, its mechanics and nuances, proper structure and clear pronunciation he must be first and foremost surrounded by rich language. Learning language is not a drill, endless copying and memorization of spellings. The home and school environment must be full of examples of language, such as rich conversations, empathetic listening, clear, patient and loving speaking. In our class, with the Montessori Curriculum, the children will be exposed to a lot of spoken language before they can start learning the mechanics of language. A rich variety of nomenclature cards is available on the shelf, a library with child appropriate books is at the child’s disposal whenever they want. To learn how to read and write, their body, mind and spirit has to be ready. This is where Practical life and sensorial education are very important. At Montessori in the Woods, it is our job to observe the child very carefully and see when this readiness is there. Parents must read with the children at home and parents should be seen reading themselves.
There are 2 kinds of mathematics, formal and informal. We are doing math everyday all day and so are the children. Every time we speak of time, or cut an apple, pour water in a jug. Our students have been preparing for math via practical life and sensorial education. Our math curriculum follows the “concrete to abstract” pattern, first children touch and see the concrete material and only after when the concrete quantity is clear are they introduced to the symbols, (numbers 1.2.3 etc). What meaning would a number have without the concrete representation? When a child merely memorises numbers or tables or any math facts, that is just what it is - a memorization. We want our students to have a deeper knowledge, we want them to have clarity and this only comes with touch, manipulation of concrete materials.
Our students will be exploring the world through the puzzle maps of the world, they will learn about other continents and countries; they will explore photographs from different continents. They will learn about the natural world thru discussions, books, and a variety of materials. They will be making booklets of flags, animals and draw their own maps. Students will be introduced to little bit of everything to gain overall awareness of our world.