This is our last week discussing the bridge between home and school for our children. We have talked about different academic issues and this week we tackle habits. The first habit was attention and today we talk about chores. This may seem an unlikely way to bridge school and home but stick with me.
First, practical life (teaching chores) is an essential part of a Montessori education. Yes, you pay a Montessori school to teach your child skills like polishing, dishwashing, ironing and other domestic skills. They consider this the foundation of a great academic career. The reasoning behind this is brilliant, but overlooked:
1. Learning to follow directions - If you look at the steps involved in completing these practical life activities there are a TON of steps. We may do them pretty mindlessly, but when we were first learning it required lots of focus and remembering. Watching a five or six year old successfully iron (with a real iron) is pretty impressive and requires following directions. Also, because these are physical tasks it is pretty easy for students to see what happens when you skip a step or that they didn't complete the task. I remember reading about a mom who always started the school year by giving her children the opportunity to make cookies based on her oral directions. She would say it once or maybe twice. If they did it - great cookies - if they didn't - well . . .
2. Developing fine and large motor skills - If you are polishing silver you are using small muscle groups; washing a table you use large muscle groups. Because the focus is cleaning and not motor skills kids don't even realize they are developing these muscles.
3. Tracking left to right - If you look at the Montessori instructions they seem obsessively detailed. In fact, they always instruct kids to wash from left to right. When they clean tables, children start in the upper left corner clean a row and come down to the next spot and clean across again. Why would that be? It helps them to train their eyes and bodies to move from left to right - just like they will when they read - they are tracking. It also helps them to cross the midline.
4. Sense of pride - In a Montessori classroom they help clean their own dishes, cut their own food, iron their own napkins, etc. This type of work teaches children how to care for their environment and take pride in their work. They are also serving others in the process. Additionally, when you clean something you see an improvement, a change. This is why some moms enjoy cleaning - it looks nice when you are done (maybe only for 5 seconds - but still).
As children enter into the second half of early childhood they are ready to take on more responsibility. Although they may complain at home (more than they would at school) it is worthwhile to persevere in this pursuit. This is also a good reason to consider having a pet - so that children have to learn to care for something else.
I would also consider ways that you can help your child organize and care for their school supplies and work. Many teachers have patterns and habits to help their classroom work. Ask them about their strategies and help reinforce them at home - organizing folders, etc. Some simple ways for children to take responsibility at home that ties to school:
- clean out lunch box, pack lunch
- care for clothes - fold, put them away, pick them out, dress self
- prepare back pack and homework to go back to school
I am NOT great at this on days we have co-op. However, the days that we pick clothes, pack lunches and set up backpacks the night before we have class go SO much smoother. This may be difficult to do during busy weeks but are there things that an be done over the weekend?
My parents felt that my academics were my work and didn't require me to do many chores at home. I know there was heated discussion over this issue between them when I was child. From my experience, I encourage you to continue to expect and train your children to help around the house. Children need to learn how to manage their activities and supplies as they grow older. Building these habits from an early age can be helpful for everyone in the long run. Some children are easier to train in this arena than others (witness my own group) but persevere.
Habits at home can impact and support habits at school. Think about ways that you can support your child during this transition.