Practical Life in the Elementary Classroom
By Mary Donovan
In the Elementary years, the child’s academic learning increases. Geometry, Physics, Biology, Grammar and Algebra are only a few of the subjects that children begin to explore. All of these lessons are important for children as they grow and learn but perhaps one of the most important lessons they will learn are the lessons of Practical Life. These are lessons that help them learn skills they will need to help them be independent. These skills include sewing, tying their shoes, laundry, watering plants and even lessons in being peaceful and self-regulating. Montessori said, “…the fact that everyone in the world must move with a purpose and must work, not only for himself but also for others.” The purpose of practical life work is not only to serve the child, but also to teach the child how their acts of service can benefit others.
Many of you may have noticed the job chart in the classroom. Each child is assigned a job they will do for two weeks. We talk about the importance of the jobs at school and how when each of us works together, we are helping the classroom community. By caring for the environment, we are helping each other work and learn in a beautiful classroom!
Children in the 6-12 stage of development are seeking to be active members of a community. They thrive in knowing their roles and expectations. This can also apply at home! By giving children home responsibilities, we are telling them that their input matters. When we allow the child to help with household jobs and decisions we are validating that they are an important part of the family. This responsibility is important and affects the other members of the family as well. There are many routines in place at school that ensure that each child plays a role in our classroom community. These can also be recreated at home!
- Responsibilities or “jobs.” By giving your child responsibilities at home, you’re letting them know that their contributing to the family in a meaningful way and they’re contributions are needed!
- Family meetings. We end our day with classroom meetings. We share about our lives outside of school. We show each other the things in our life that our meaningful to us. We talk about what is going well in the classroom and we make suggestions for things that could be better. We end each meeting by “filling our buckets” or complimenting the class leader and letting them know what we appreciate about them. This builds a culture of teamwork and togetherness.
- Share your passions with your children! Sewing, painting, poetry, music and cooking are all wonderful things for children to partake in! If you are passionate about something, invite your child to share in that activity with you! This may inspire them to find their own passions in life.
I hope these suggestions have been helpful and share more insight into the work that your child does each day at school! I will leave you with one of my favorite Montessori quotes, “The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”