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From Here to There -- Without Detour
"Getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, doing the day's
work, preparing dinner, going to bed -- all are occasions for
adults to step back and see the home through the child's eyes."
--Patricia Oriti, _At Home with Montessori_
The family home, like the Montessori classroom, is a social
environment. Children learn to function in the world according to
what they experience on a daily basis at home and school. As
parents we often forget that the patterns we establish are the
foundation for our children's ability to adapt. That's why our
routines are so important. And, no matter how much our homes are
"child-centered," we, the parents, set the tone.
Consistency is one of the features of a Montessori classroom,
and children benefit from consistency at home, as well.
Consistency is particularly helpful around transition times -
transitions from sleeping to waking, from home to school, from
play time to bedtime. Due to busy schedules and competing
interests, families often adapt to the pace and needs of adults
rather than to those of children. With a predictable schedule and
patterns of behavior, we can smooth the way for ourselves and for
Though young children often seem very wise, they are not little
adults. They have their own internal sense of order and usually
give us signals when something is askew. It's important for us to
try to understand our children's actions, especially when they do
not have the words to explain their behavior. When our children
show signs of distress, it's a good time to review our routines
at home, making sure they meet the needs of our children for
secure, reliable transitions.
From Sleeping to Waking
The morning sets the tone for the day, and no one thrives when
rushed and stressed. To experience a calm morning, you might
* Preparing the night before: Pack the lunches, help your
children pack their backpacks and lay out their clothes; talk
about the next day's events.
* Waking up: Warm and positive morning greetings and responses
help start the day. Rituals such as snuggling together or reading
might work in a family where children wake early. Awaken late
sleepers gently, allowing plenty of time for them to get ready.
* Getting dressed: Adults model by getting themselves dressed,
helping children only when needed. Allow ample time for children
to be independent.
* Breakfast: Plan enough time for a somewhat leisurely
breakfast, so it doesn't have to be eaten in the car.
Getting Out the Door
When things don't seem to be working smoothly, it often helps to
step back and look at the situation through your child's eyes.
Adjust the schedule if more time is needed. If there is a certain
task your child is having difficulty with, such as zipping a
jacket, practice when you're not about to fly out the door. Offer
help with calmness and respect. Consider the following tips:
* Some children respond well to the use of a timer to let them
know they have five minutes left before departure. For others, a
verbal alert is all they need.
* Have children be responsible for putting on coats and
gathering their own belongings. Help the youngest children, if
* Give children information about any change in the usual daily
* Say your formal goodbyes to one another and to other family
The Evening Routine
An organized home simplifies daily routines. If there is a place
where children can easily hang up their coats and store their
belongings, less time will be spent looking for "lost" items. It
also will become automatic after a while (even though children
may need reminders from time to time). Your evening might include
* Consider using the first 30 minutes home as "downtime,"
giving everyone time to decompress.
* Have children help with dinner preparations or other tasks,
according to their ability. Even a two-year-old can help set the
table, one utensil at a time. A three- or four-year-old can help
chop vegetables, or feed the dog.
* Dinnertime is a perfect time to practice manners and converse
about the day. Children learn by example and will soon catch on
by asking for food to be passed, or maybe they'll even remind you
not to talk with your mouth full!
* Time after dinner can include more active play. Everyone can
help clean up and then have time together to play a game or take
* Transition to quieter activities as bedtime gets closer.
(Screen time is very stimulating for children as well as adults,
so save computers and television for other times.)
School-aged children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day.
Toddlers need more. Even though working parents want to extend
the time they have with their children, a reasonable bedtime is
crucial. This is another way to respect your child's needs. Some
* Your presence and attention as children get ready for bed is
* Be committed to maintaining the routine. (Of course there
will be occasional exceptions.)
* Baths before bed can help quiet the active child.
* Help your children participate in the routine by letting them
brush their own teeth, choose a book to read or music to listen
to, turn down the lights, and arrange their bed.
* Children need to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep. If
you create a warm, loving routine, it's likely the transition to
sleep will be smooth.
Making Life Easier
Being able to internalize even a few regular routines will help
children learn, listen, and adapt when new circumstances arise.
Once the schedule is learned, there is more room to be flexible
and adjust to something unexpected without upset.
"Children thrive when given clear, solid structure, respectful
communication and emotional warmth. They fare best when parents
set firm guidelines within which their children are allowed
--Angeline Stoll Lillard, _Montessori, The Science Behind the
-- by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant
at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori
directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She
has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools,
Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with
developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps
individuals, couples, and families.
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