Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thinking Thursdays: The Montessori method

[This post apparently got deleted by Junior J after I published it yesterday, so I have to retype it again.  Remind me next time never to let the boy play with the computer keyboard!]

Singaporean hold Montessori-based kindergartens in high regard, looking at the amount of money they are willing to fork out to send their child to one (usually, Montessori programmes cost 10 to 15 times more than the regular kindergarten!).  I've always been skeptical about the Montessori method though, and started reading about the method in earnest last week.  200 pages into the book, and I'm convinced the method makes alot of sense (even though it does seem to go against some conventional childcare practices).  For example, one quote in the book that struck me was:
"We are inclined to believe that children are like puppets, and we wash them and feed them as if they were dolls... nature has furnished him with the physical means for carrying on these various activities, and with the intellectual means for learning how to do them.  And our duty towards him is, in every case, that of helping him to make a conquest of such useful acts as nature intended he should perform for himself."
-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method
Maria Montessori's method treats children with respect, and encourages caregivers to allow children to have the freedom explore the world around them.  It also aims, through the setting of detailed routines and the step-by-step demonstration of activities, to help the child to pick up essential motor skills as well as master personal care skills (such as preparing food, bathing and grooming).  The method actually starts from Day 1, but we've only started implementing some of their recommendations when Junior J was 13 months old, so we're doing it bit by bit.

Firstly, we've tried setting some detailed routines for the day.  Previously, Junior J used to play on his own in his cot while I got our breakfasts ready.  Now, I show the boy how I make the bed after he gets up (and he's started to imitate me and smoothens the sheets out), and we then head to the kitchen to pour out the cereal and make my coffee, where I describe and demonstrate each step that I take to the little boy.  Right now, I'm doing most of the steps on my own (with one hand since I have to carry him too!), but he helps to take a sachet of coffee powder and a spoon, and places it in my cup before I pour the hot water in.

I'll wipe the table, Mama, but I'm still not going to finish my food!

During certain meals where he gets water instead of prune juice, we let him drink from a tiny cup (I used a small tupperware container the size of a shot glass, since the usual medicine cups are made of plastic that tends to crack when the boy chews on them) instead of using a sippy, to allow him to learn how to drink from a regular cup.  He's always been uncooperative during meals and its a challenge just to make him finish his food, so we've not graduated to giving him the spoon and letting him try to feed himself yet.  But he does get to feed himself Cheerios for breakfast (but we always have to ensure he puts them in his mouth and not feed the dog!).  One interesting development we noticed was that he started trying to wipe the table with a cloth after we demonstrated that step at the end of the meal after a few days!

After his meal, we carry the plates and cups to the sink, and also demonstrate how we wash his bib and place it into a basin for soaking.  Then we head to the bathroom for the boy to brush his teeth.  He has a little toothbrush holder that opens when you pull on the toothbrush, and snaps shut when you push the brush in.  After 3 days of demonstrating how to take the brush out and brush his teeth, he's started doing it on his own (but of course, we have to help him with the actual toothbrushing!).  Its really quite amazing how fast they pick up certain things, if they are shown the activity in a step-by-step manner!

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