I've attended 4 lessons of the module titled: 'Practical Life' for the past 2 weeks. Practical Life is one of the 6 main components of Montessori.
The class started with our lecturer Ms Pooja asking: " What does the word 'Practical' mean?" I paused for a second and thought, hhmmm.. something useful? something that we do everyday. She then continued to ask "What about 'Life'?" What is Life? I found myself quite lost for words to describe life in words as Life means different things to everyone. Someone in class answered ' the way we go about doing things daily'. Sounds right, sounds like a reasonable answer.
"So when we put the 2 words together, what does 'Practical Life' mean?" We get "Useful way of living or Purposeful way of living." Very interesting, how many of us live our lives with purpose? And I thought to myself, it does feel good to have a purpose, a reason to live.
Practical life exercises comprise of activities that we do daily such as the use of the spoon, carrying trays, pouring from a jug, pegging clothes, etc. These activities may seem like it's not of much importance to a child, and they should be concentrating on the 'more important' academic subjects. However as I have learnt from Montessori and my own experience, I know how much practical life forms an important part of a child's life. If a child as young as 1 or 2 years old can feed himself, pour himself some juice, clean up if there's any spillage, wear his own shoes, etc. The child is confident, independent and overall a happy and satisfied child.
Well I did my own little experience at home today. Since I'll need to practice my practical life presentation on how to introduce an exercise to a child, I bought some bowls and cups, dug into my kitchen and the boys toys and set up my own little corner of Montessori practical life shelves of practical life exercises.
The 2nd tray is spooning from a bowl of pebbles (only had enough seeds for the first activity, so found some pebbles that I bought from RM2 shop some time ago) to 2 equal bowls.
I intent to practice it on Trevor my 2 yr old, but my almost 5yr old was just as excited! I was planning to do as my lecturer told, step by step but, she was right what we learn in class we can only expect to fulfill about 50-80%.
I was suppose to invite Trevor to the shelves to ask him get the table mat, unroll it and then go get the material. But he was so excited he couldn't wait for me to finish asking him and took it himself. I tried to ask him to watch me as I show him first, he was so excited and took the spoon from my hand to do it himself. Half way through he got distracted and I told him I will continue to show him to spoon the seeds back.
I dropped 2 seeds outside the bowl, onto the tray and to my surprise my little Trevor whom I thought was not concentrating, quickly responded and said 'drop', he picked it up with his fingers and place back into the bowl. Wow, I didn't need to show him. This proved one of the discovery of Maria Montessori right, children loves order.
I stepped aside and told him that he may continue, and he sat there and happily work on that activity for almost 15 mins without distraction fully absorbed and focus on that activity. Nothing else seem to be bothering him. I watched him from a distance and manage to do my laundry without any hassle.
I am talking about a table mat, a tray, 2 bowls, a spoon and some seeds, not a fancy expensive toy that the tv advert promises to entertain and engage our children. I had a chat with a parent at a birthday party and he shared the same sentiments. Most the expensive battery operated toys are often put into cold storage after a few plays. They are not so 'wow' after all. I joked that the best toys for kids are those that are not battery operated and in no need or very little adult assistance. Come to think about it its so true!
Back on the topic of purposeful independent activities, I am very pleased with my first attempt with practical life exercises at home. I am so amazed by the experience. I saw so many of the principles and discoveries of Maria Montessori in action. Trevor loves order, he loves to work, he can concentrate, he was very happy and satisfied when he did the activity by himself. I realised that children are so happy when they are given the chance to perform purposeful work.
Tristan on the other hand has been Montessori trained for 2 yrs in Clover so when I tried to show him, he's like 'Mummy I can do it by myself.', and so I let him spoon the pebbles from a big bowl to 2 equal bowls. He spoon them back and put back the activity on the shelf without my nagging.
Wonderful! I thought, I should have done this earlier, and I can get some chores done while they are engaged in purposeful work! I am definitely going to set up a few more activities;)
Gotta sleep, will blog more about what's the aims or purpose of such activities, update on the boys progress and load some pics:)